How many times do you get invited to lunch with an Iron Chef? Recently, the Accidental Locavore was whisked down to Chef Jose Garces' Luna Farm in Pennsylvania for lunch. It was a gorgeous day, the kind that makes you start to really like September, a beautiful setting, interesting company and, oh yeah, great food!
The day was a launch party for BlueStar's new Platinum line of ranges. They're made a few miles away from Chef Garces' farm and if you haven't started your Christmas (or whatever) wish list, you have now. And it will probably take you that long to pick your options, starting with the 750 colors you can choose from. If that's not enough, pick your size and burner options. They all come with easily changed grill/griddles and remove a burner and your wok fits right into the 25,000 BTU burner. So far, I've narrowed it down to about six colors, but haven't moved onto the burner layout yet - Santa are you listening?
Ok, so now that you know about my range lust, what did Chef Garces actually cook on it? We started with flutes of cava in a deep pink color. What a nice change from prosecco and something that I'll definitely be serving soon. The best of the passed hors d'oeuvres was a skewer of lamb and eggplant (from the farm) wrapped in bacon and done on the range's griddle. Lamb along with the smokiness of the bacon and eggplant was a great combination.
The main course was the real star of the show. If you've had enough of pork belly, the next trendy pork part to lust over is Ibérico secreto. It's the pork version of a skirt steak (however, if you can find it, the price tag more resembles an expensive aged rib eye), well-marbled and, when marinated in olive oil, thyme and garlic and grilled by an Iron Chef, probably the single best piece of pork I've ever had! This was served with a platter of eggplant and padron peppers that were grown on the farm and some creamed corn he made with bacon and smoked onions. Before the Ibérico secreto, Chef Garces served a superb gazpacho. His secret? Really good olive oil and a lot of time in the blender.
And speaking of olive oil, I've wondered for a long time about olive oil cakes and now I know, they're delicious! These were served in little jars and topped with cream, plums and pistachios so they not only looked good, but tasted good too.
After all that great food, a much needed walk through his farm. Farmer Garces has 40 acres, growing organic produce for his restaurants. Along with that are a flock of chickens and a couple of bee hives. He has spent a lot of time and money working the farm and improving the drainage. One thing that really resonated with me, as we were leaving the farm he said that while they would never recoup the money invested in the drainage system, "at least the ground would be growing food for a long time."