I am about to outline the Perfect Summer Day.
So Ms. Five-and-a-Half and Mr. Thirteen have been trying to organize a trip to the Webber Ranch for ages, and FINALLY we succeeded. The Ranch is where Ed and Kathleen Webber of Della Fattoria (the local favorite artisanal bread makers) got their start and their daughter Elisa and her husband Junker do a phenomenal job hosting these summertime get-togethers.
For some $50 a person, plus corkage for any wine you bring along, you get a lovely home cooked meal, a lesson in how to shape bread (which you'll get to take home), and a relaxing day on the farm.
The Webbers describe the farm as quirky, and that it is. There's a menagerie of dogs and cats, along with sheep, chickens, small crops of corn, a vegetable garden--basically it's everything I want in a home.
The food is cooked up on Junker's wood-fired cooktop, which he created himself -- essentially a large steel cooking surface heated from underneath, on which he made everything from fabulous roasted padron peppers to pork and chicken. And yes, it smelled divine.
Local cheeses, including some Cowgirl offerings, of course. Also in the small dish are some of Elisa's homemade cornichons, made with pickles from her garden.
The table under the tree was near a giant barrel-like vat that looked like it was for making sauerkraut. about 30 gallons of it...
The breadmaking is one of the highlights of the day. The dough is already made, and has risen, but needs to be shaped.
After bread-making, there was time to wander the farm, say hi to the chickens and stare down the sheep.
While we were there, Elisa was nice enough to give me a bunch of pickles from her garden--and her cornichon recipe which is stellar. Make these babies and you'll never go back to store-bought. If you grow the cornichons in your garden, be sure to pickle them the day you pick them -- the flavor is incomparable when they're pickled fresh.
The farm is also home to a wide range of non-human folks, who are happy to wander about and mingle with the guests.
On the table, a carafe of water with a branch of lemon verbena in it. One of the things that really makes the whole dinner are details like these.
The updated Webber Ranch tour information is here.
And see video of the bread shaping technique here.