Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Must! Table-to-Farm with FIG's Chef Ray Garcia at McGrath Farm

The phrase "farm-to-table" is everywhere, but Chef Ray Garcia from FIG at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica brings the table to the farm, quite literally.

FIG has frequently had Farm Dinners before, where a local farmer will come to the restaurant and talk to the diners about their products. Well, now they think it would be better if the guests come to the farm and see directly where the produce grows! And whoever thought of it, they were right. Our farmer's dinner at the McGrath Family Farm in Camarillo was one of my favorite dining experience to date.
Beet and Triple Creme Goat Cheese

They will soon open this farmers' dinners to the public and I was fortunate enough to join a sneak media preview at McGrath Family Farm. We took a bus from the Fairmont Miramar up the coast.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Phil McGrath, who then personally gave us a tour of his farm. McGrath Family Farm (and the Camarillo/Oxnard area in general) is known for its strawberries, which they said was one of the most expensive crops to grow. At their market, they had both Gaviota (big and juicy) and Seascape strawberries (small and sweet).
McGrath Family Farm was started by Phil McGrath's great grandfather who bought 700 acres back in 1871, but they were divided between his many children. In its current form consists of 300 acres, but over 200 acres of that are currently being leased to Driscoll as their organic headquarter farm. Phil McGrath made the commitment to organic farming in 1995. According to Mr. McGrath, the secret to organic farming is to plant many different things and grow what's in season. He plants 3 acres of 50 different plants every month (although he does plant strawberries 2-3 times a year).
Phil McGrath
After the tour, we saw the beautiful table setting they had set up in the middle of the farm, next to a tent and grill where Chef Ray Garcia is cooking. We had no idea what a feast he was preparing!
Chef Ray Garcia cooks up a feast
Since we had fresh produce from the farm, we of course started with a great selection of salads.
Lettuce Parmesan Salad
With vegetables this good and fresh, all you need is some parmesan shavings! This is a theme throughout our dinner. Nothing here is overdone, just great produce and meat with simple preparation and great execution.

My favorite was the amazingly sweet and juicy beets with Coach Farm's Triple Cream Cheese from the Hudson Valley. The little market at the farm also sells these beets. I was very tempted to get some and try to replicate this.
Beet and Triple Creme Goat Cheese
It's hard not to fill up on these superbly fresh vegetables, but our main courses and side dishes were still coming, from a simple yet perfectly grilled whole fish to bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, and much more.
Whole Fish

Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin
We loved the tender quail as well, still pink near the bone. I wished I could've fit more in my stomach.
Fried pork trotters! Hold your trotters, these are neither too greasy nor mushy. They are fried perfectly crisp on the outside, and while you get tiny gelatinous bits inside, it doesn't overwhelm you with fat.

The side dishes are also not to be forgotten. In fact, there was not a single miss in our meal.
Kale, creamy polenta, parmesan
I love the unusual sweet creaminess in the spinach with walnuts and dates, and the tender carrots cooked in mandarin and tangerine juice with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.


The red beet risotto was many people's favorite side dish. Creamy yet not overly heavy, the sweet flavors of the beets really shone through. You can find the recipe here.
Beet Risotto

Desserts were not to be outdone. We had moist carrot cakes, a "strawberry shortcake" which showcases the sweetness of the McGrath Farm's strawberries, topped with strawberry sorbet, and a warm strawberry rhubarb crisp.
Carrot Cake
Instead of your usual strawberry shortcake, Chef Garcia's version layers fresh strawberries with a small amount of the shortcake, then topped with strawberry sorbet.
Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
We learned about the farm where our food came from, how things are grown, and the philosophy of the people behind the produce. We toasted, drank wine, ate a meal of a lifetime overlooking the farm where the vegetables had come from, conversing with like-minded people who love and appreciate sustainable great food. It is truly a must-do experience.

You can check out more photos from the trip in this Facebook album. When they start doing these farm dinners for the public, be sure to check it out!



How do you get on the mailing list to get informed about these dinner?


Hi Abby,

They haven't started these dinners so I'm not sure. I can let you know when they do though!

Lori Lynn

Sounds fabulous. We need to get on that mailing list too!

Kung Food Panda

Looks like it was a pretty amazing meal!


sounds incredible. i would also like to be placed on this list. hahahaha

i never even knew these kinds of meals happened

fig happy hour is one of my favorite things in life


have they started having these dinners yet? I would love to get more information...

waiting patiently..

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