Come Taste The Most Wonderful Heirloom Tomatoes in California

Laurie Steele of Kellogg Farms in Sonoma County has been supplying our restaurant with tomatoes, pears, figs, green beans, and various seasonal produce for a decade now. Every year we look forward to hearing from her when her tomatoes are ripe and ready. We serve them simply to honor all the skill and attention she puts into cultivating her strains for the best flavor, color, and texture. She truly produces the best Tomatoes in California. The best.  

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For us it is an honor to work with farmers like Laurie. We interviewed her about her passion for Heirloom produce. Read her answers below: 

  • How did you get started farming? I grew up in Indiana where summer corn and tomatoes are legendary. There was an organic farmer, Mr. Culver, who grew the best corn and tomatoes I ever tasted. He was way ahead of his time and I spent time at his farm and caught the bug then and there. Also, my mother was a gardener - mostly flowers - and a fantastic cook, way ahead of her time too. From her I learned the value of excellent fresh ingredients and good cooking.

    I always insisted at every place I lived that I have a “piece of dirt” to grow vegetables.  Mostly I was transfixed by tomatoes.  They just were the thing I always wanted to grow. My backyard in San Francisco had raised beds with lettuce and chard but tomatoes were not very happy with so little sunshine.  In 2000 my husband and I bought a property in very northern Sonoma County, on Mount St Helena and there were ideal conditions to really have a sizable garden. Lots of sunshine, creeks and springs, and good soil.

  • What core passions drive you to do this work? The turn of the seasons thrills me; watching things grow in a changing landscape is so satisfying. Growing vegetables, harvesting them - making them the best I can - getting them to chefs who have the same respect for good produce and present them simply and honestly - that makes me happy.

  • As a farmer, what do you think consumers need to know about your work? I am a small farmer, I do it all myself and so I care especially about the plants and the outcome. I grow my tomatoes from seed, save the seed from the best of my varieties and plant that seed the following season. It is hard work, very constant work and very unpredictable. There may be a year of rain when I can’t get plants out into the garden from the greenhouse until June, years when it is too cold to put them out, heat waves that shut the plants down, the constancy of watering through different temperatures, preparing the ground, getting the drip lines replaced every season and so on. I know every plant and every variety. I care about every tomato I plant, pick and pack. I want and hope that my chefs and consumers will have the same care and respect for every fruit I deliver. It really matters to me.

  • How do you personally keep yourself focused and moving forward when you face challenges at your farm? Nature rules; there is only so much I am in control of. Heat, cold, wind are all factors through the growing season. I keep my soil enriched and healthy and that has kept my tomatoes almost entirely free of bugs and pests.

  • What creative solutions have you come up with over the years, to produce the highest quality tomato that you are most proud of? First, I grow a cover drop in the winter to add nitrogen to the soil. I add in organic chicken manure and grape pumice, cow manure from an organic herd and other organic supplements to make the already great soil even better. We are blessed with good underground springs, and having tested the water, I know it is pure and good for the plants. Every season as I am working with the plants I taste every variety and save seeds from the ones I think are exceptional. I want some that are sweet and fruity, some that are more acid, but all with good strong taste. I like green tomatoes (Green Zebra, Green Vernisage, Limey Delight), yellow tomatoes (Kellogg Breakfast and Pork Chop), the newer varieties of black tomatoes and all the varieties of reds. Every year too I study the seed catalogues, talk to other tomato growers and go to tastings and select new varieties to try. Some I like and some I don’t. I do have a core of favorite tomatoes that I grow each year, and that will never change. And I have hybrid varieties that have popped up in the garden that are mine alone, and I keep those varieties going. And every season, during the season, I am looking ahead, planning and anticipating with excitement the tomatoes I will grow next season. 

  • What is your take on work-life balance as a farmer? (what rituals and practices do you maintain to stay sane?) I get up very early and walk among the tomatoes - and all over the garden where I grow beans and peas and chard, kale, cucumbers, melons, squash, pumpkins, carrots, grapes, herbs and broccoli - and have many, many roses and fruit trees as well. I attend to the plants and always, always there are weeds to be pulled! In the hot of the mid-day I usually go inside and do some cooking or reading, emailing, calling, etc. Back out at about 5, until about 8. The long days of summer are a boon. I love to take walks with my dog, watch birds, deer and turkeys, admire the trees, the sky, clouds, the beauty. Breaks from the garden make me eager to get back to it.

  • What exciting projects or goals do you have in the works for 2019? It is always exciting to think about the next growing season. About November, things are “finished” - plants turned under, fruit picked, drip lines taken up, cover crop sown, and for a month I can sit back and read all the seed catalogues that have poured in.

    Then in January,  seeds, new varieties and old favorites. are put into the soil trays and it all starts up again.  Nurturing them, watching them grow to plants I can get out into the ground, I look forward to it all, always hopeful for better than the year before, always feeling optimistic.

Cantina del Pino Barbaresco Wine Makers Dinner, Monday, March 5th, 2018
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Sociale Wine Maker Dinner - Cantina del Pino Barbaresco
Monday, March 5th, 2018

 
 
Please join us for a spectacular dinner with Renato Vacca, esteemed wine maker of

Cantina del Pino Barbaresco
 
This is an all Barbaresco dinner. No white wines. All wines poured from magnums.
 
Four generations of Vacca family members have produced grapes in Barbaresco, primarily clustered around Ovello hill. Ovello is one of the most important crus in Barbaresco. The property’s alkaline limestone soil composition and unique microclimate produce a structured, age worthy Barbaresco. The Vacca family uses no chemical fertilization, no pesticides, nor herbicides. They manage the details in production and control with a hands-on mentality that follows the older natural ways that respect that same land.

We will showcase 10+ Barbaresco’s plus some treats from Renato’s cellar to be paired with a
 four course Piemontese style feast:

2006 Classic
2006 Ovello
2009 Classic
2009 Ovello
2011 Classic
2011 Ovello
2011 Albesani
2013 Classic
2013 Ovello
2013 Albesani
 
Good friend of Renato’s and Sociale’s former “Wine Guy,” Jim Kennedy, will be guiding you through this special evening.
 
Monday, March 5th at 6:30 pm
$185 per person exclusive of tax and gratuity
This event is limited to 20 people
 
415.921.3200
gm@caffesociale.com

Tasting Notes with JMAN | 'Radice' and Tuna Crudo
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2016 Paltrinieri, Lambrusco di Sorbara, 'Radice'

This wine comes from the Lambrusco Sorbara DOC. Old school style done with indigenous yeast left to ferment in bottle and sealed with a crown cap. Unlike many that have a deep ruby color this style is a delicate salmon color. Produced from 100% Lambrusco grapes, located in Sorbara, just north of Modena, in the region of Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

-COLOR:  Pale, cranberry red

-NOSE:  Youthful, pronounced aromas of watermelon, guava, citrus, and touch of some savory notes.

-PALATE:  Dry, lip-smacking (high) acidity, flavors of grapefruit skin, ripe red fruits and tangy citrus notes. … unique and tasty.  Drink now!

Cheers,
Josh, The Sommelier

This bright, acidic wine pairs beautifully with the rich, creamy texture of ahi tuna paired with sea beans, avocado, fermented garlic, pickled onion, and a crisp poppyseed almond cracker. I find this dish to be particularly satisfying as the fresh, crunchy combination of ingredients when eaten together truly satisfies the palate. I appreciate the dimensions and textures at work in our Tuna Crudo - come in for a glass of wine and enjoy the dish before we change the menu. 

Tasting Notes with JMAN | Pici Bolognese & Brunello di Montalcino
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1/11/2018

2006 Casanuova Delle Cerbaie Brunello di Montalcino

A classic red from Tuscany, Italy. When many people think of Italian wine, Tuscany is a major player in the history and present day red wines. This wine is made from he greatest noble red grapes in Italy, Sangiovese. Sangiovese Grosso is the specific grape/clone used in the production of Brunello's and traditional producers only use native Italian varieties to make these wines. 

Cerbaie produces wines that offer, with age, a rustic quality and compliments food very very well. So if you find some from a "great" vintage, lay some down for ten to twenty years.......exciting to see how they mature. 

COLOR: Ruby core, garnet rim...

NOSE: Developed bouquet of roses, black cherry, wild strawberry, dried figs, anise, and forest floor...

PALATE: Dry, medium-high acid, lean yet firm tannins that are well integrated. More cherry, black licorice, and spice notes. Finish is medium-long. Drink soon!

Cheers,
Josh, The Sommelier


This wine pairs well with one of our staple dishes, Pici Bolognese. There is a fun story associated with the creation of this classic pasta dish on our menu. Many years ago Dave and I took a trip to Italy to attend Vin Italy (the largest wine exhibition in the world). It was my first time in Italy tasting authentic Italian food and when I returned, the dish that most inspired me and settled in my memory was one very simple pasta I had in Sirmione: Bolognese with Tagliatelle. What made this meal so magical? Simplicity. Butter, Parmigiano Regiano, fresh pasta, and a classic, succulent meat sauce. We serve our dish a little differently; our Venison, Pork and Veal Bolognese is accompanied with a  thick, fresh, spaghetti shaped noodle that also comes from Tuscany called Pici. I order our Pici noodle fresh from Marin Pasta Works, the owner Johnny is a good friend and truly makes an exceptional product. I had many fabulous meals in Italy and one epic dinner in Venice at Alle Testiere, but still to this day, the echoes of that trip to Lake Garda are heard in the form of tongs hitting sauté pans here at the Sociale kitchen. Mangia Mangia! 🍴 Tia Harrison

Pici Bolognese 

Tasting Notes with JMAN | Pork Belly & Germano Ettore Brut
Pork Belly & Ettore

2014 Germano Ettore Brut, Piedmont, Italy

Bam! Nice surprise when I first tasted this stuff.

Ettore produces fantastic Barolos but this sparkling wine made from 100% Nebbiolo is so delicious and complex. From a winemaking standpoint Nebbiolo is a challenge in the vineyard and at the winery, so it must be a challenge for the winemakers to turn Nebbiolo into a traditional method Sparkling rose.

From the Northwest region of Piedmont, Nebbiolo is one of the most famous Noble grapes of Italy. It’s high acid and tannin levels make this a red wine that has real potential for multi-decade aging.

-COLOR:  Light Salmon

-NOSE:  Aromas of black cherry, white flowers, earth, and some solid mineral notes to keep in balance

-PALATE:  Dry, medium-full body, lean, rustic, with a touch of tannins on the finish!

This is a great gift for wine enthusiasts who enjoy good quality and unique wines!

Cheers
Josh, The Sommelier


This tasty sparkling wine pairs perfectly with a new item on our January menu. I really love this dish - it has just the right amount of fun, flavor, and decadence you look for in a starter. We slow braise strips of pork belly that have been cured in salt and spices overnight. We then chill it and slice it to sear on the pick up. The crispy, savory, and rich meat is contrasted by house-made harissa and horseradish aioli. Fried chickpeas and micro cilantro finish the dish. 🍴 Tia Harrison

Pork Belly
Harissa, crispy chick peas, horseradish aioli, cilantro

 

 

 

Tasting Notes with JMAN
Ferghettina

Time for more bubbles?

For my first blog, it felt fitting to showcase a Franciacorta DOCG wine from the Lombardy region in Italy.

When it comes to the best sparkling wines of Italy check out Franciacorta. Franciacorta is classified as a DOCG area. Producers are allowed to use Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Bianco, but this bottling from Ferghettina is made from 100% Pinot Noir. 
Franciacorta is vinified in the traditional champagne method and goes through the same aging process (in the bottle) as Champagne.

-COLOR: is deep salmon pink, with tight bubbles

-NOSE: Delicate and inviting aromas of fresh red fruits and a touch of herbs.....

-PALATE: Youthful flavors of more red fruits, citrus, and a touch of toast. Medium in body, dry and a long finish. 

Though this wine is perfect on its own (and good friends) it echoes food well and can stand up to some of the heavier pasta dishes on our menu like Pappardelle Pasta with Braised Duck.

And it's PERFECT for breaking the New Year's Eve!!

Cheers
Josh, The Sommelier