Mariquita Farm Inspired….
The genius Danish brewer Niels Thomsen (wintercoat.dk) aka Euro-man and his wife Disa Fink (my oldest friend in the world, who I met on our first day of Kindergarten) were in town visiting Disa’s parents. We decided that we needed to take a road trip together for a couple of reasons (actually we planned it before they came in to town) to see Julia Wiley and Mariquita Farm in Watsonville and then drive down through the Big Sur Coast and home. We started on Friday, February 15th with our first stop, Los Olivos in the Santa Ynez Valley. It was a gorgeous, warm day and we took this photo of the four of us in town.
We piled into the car and headed on down the road with Disa DJ’ing. Our next stop was in Paso Robles where we had dinner at Thomas Hill Organics (thomashillorganics.com) recommended by my friend Julia – really good. Then we drove on up to Pacific Grove where we stayed at the lovely Centrella Inn (centrellainn.com).
This is a photo of Disa in front of the Centrella Inn, Pacific Grove, CA.
In the morning we drove up to Watsonville to Mariquita Farm (mariquita.com) where we met the inimitable Julia Wiley and her stunning daughter. Julia is the daughter of Fran Wiley who is Nenna Fink’s BFF. Nenna Fink is Disa Fink’s mother. Disa met Julia last year when Julia, her Mom Fran, and her daughter travelled to Denmark to visit Disa on her farm/brewery (wintercoat.dk.com). I heard about Julia a couple of years ago from her mom Fran who was bragging about her (with cause) and then this past summer from Disa (who had just met her in Denmark), and I really wanted to meet her.
What I knew was that Julia lives on a working family farm; that it is an organic vegetable farm; that the farm is her husband’s family farm and has been a family farm for multi-generations; that the farm provides organic produce to many of the very snazzy restaurants in the Bay Area; that the farm participates in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for Silicon Valley; that Julia is an energetic, entertaining, warm, wonderful, and lovely woman. Julia is great. Her home farm is great.
We saw donkeys, mini-goats, dogs, cows, fancy turkeys, a super cool pizza oven (I’m kind of obsessed with pizza ovens as my husband will tell you), lemon trees, lime leaf trees, fruit trees, a windmill, plowed fields, etc.
We did not see the farm’s acreage where they grow the vegetables that show up in the CSA boxes or that get trucked up to San Francisco to the fancy restaurants but I do not believe that our day was any less extraordinary because of that. It was truly a stupendous day. Julia ordered a CSA box for herself and we cooked with her – lunch. It was great.
Niels sautéed turnips, potatoes and baby carrots and steamed baby cauliflower.
Disa made a beautiful coleslaw with purple cabbage and apples.
I roasted baby Brussels sprouts and made a baby wild arugula salad with diced preserved limes that a neighbor gave to Julia (inspiration for a day of preserving this weekend) decorated with Borage (an edible, blue flowering plant).
Alan chilled out. He drove our entire trip so any opportunity he got to rest, I supported!
After lunch Niels, Alan, Disa, and I drove back to Monterey and went to the Aquarium and Julia and her daughter joined us. What an Aquarium. I’m telling you the floor to ceiling fish tank was awesome and we caught the 4:30 feeding. Then we wandered through the rooms of jellyfish. Ethereal, rhythmic, beautifully mysterious, colorful, bizarre and lovely – even though you really don’t want to get stung by one of them!
Then dinner in Carmel at Mundaka (mundakacarmel.com), a Spanish tapas restaurant – dinner arranged by Julia. Of course Julia knows the owner Chef and we had an amazing meal. Full and exhausted we said our good-byes to Julia and daughter and drove back to the Centrella Inn and went to bed.
The next day we were off early. First a visit with Alan’s old friend and colleague Bill Duros and his wife Mari and their adorable boys. Then down the Coast stopping at Andrew Molena State Park in Northern Big Sur, with a spectacular hike to the beach.
Niels is a landscape architect in addition to being a brewer and he and Disa know all the plants and plant stories so it was pretty cool hearing all sorts of things about the vegetation. Then we drove to Nepenthe for lunch at the Café with mediocre food but incredible, incredible views. In fact the views all up and down the Coast were spectacular.
and then off to Sand Dollar beach – I was hoping for some good sea shelling but no such luck.
Then and then and then our next stop – the piece de resistance of the day…… we pulled over and snuck through a barbed wire fence and hung out with the Elephant Seals just north of San Simeon.
That was an amazing experience.
From there, home. Exhausted and happy. It was a great weekend. Disa and Niels seemed pleased with the respite and the experience. It just couldn’t have been more pleasant. (wintercoat.dk)