Posts tagged ‘Field to Fork’

Los Poblanos Historic Inn an organic oases in Albuquerque

It’s not surprising that Maggie Gyllenhaal and Neil Patrick Harris would bring their kids to Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, the Albuquerque inn that Bon Appetit just chose as one of the top ten best hotels for food lovers.

Harris, of course, grew up in Albuquerque and while he once told a reporter he’d never dream of staying anywhere except with his parents at the home he was raised in, he and partner David Burtka now have two-year-old twins. Enough said. Besides, it’s never too early to teach Gideon and Harper, the twins who were born October 2010, where their food comes from, a lesson about which Los Poblanos is avidly passionate.

The 25-acre organic farm, not only grows 60 percent (90 percent during growing season) of the hotel’s meticulously-prepared food, but it has chickens, cows, honeybees and giant purple-blue lavender fields.

As for Gyllenhaal, she hopes to instill the same field to fork-style knowledge into her New York brood, offering them a chance to gather eggs and milk goats. And, besides, she and her brother Jake have a thing for exquisite food. The duo, along with their mom, appeared on two episodes of Molto Maria, an Italian cooking show on the Food Network.

San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers, has been watching over the growing of food at Los Poblanos for some 81 years. In 1932, Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms, a former Congresswoman from Illinois, and her husband, Albert Simms, a congressman from New Mexico, started an experimental farm on 800 acres that stretched to the Sandia Mountains. They started New Mexico’s first dairy, experimented with sugar beets and other crops and built a greenhouse for new varieties of roses and chrysanthemums.

They also commissioned famous Santa Fe architect John Gaw Meem to renovate their ranch house and design a 15,000-square-foot cultural center for political and community events.

La Quinta, as they called the cultural center with its carved doors and mantels by Gustave Baumann, tinwork by Robert Woodman, ironwork by Walter Gilbert and fresco by Peter Hurd, still hosts meetings and weddings and still serves as the cultural heart for this inspiring farm that, needless to say, holds a prominent spot on the National Historic Register. Since 1976, when it was purchased by Penny and Armin Rembe, who raised their four children on the property, it has been lovingly overseen by three generations of the Rembe family.

As I drove up the cottonwood-lined lane leading to Los Poblanos’ hacienda-style courtyard and sun-drenched dining room, past the expansive lavender fields, strolling peacocks, kitchen gardens and pond with lotus blossoms—I could feel the extraordinary energy of this landmark New Mexico ranch.

As I feasted on the locally-sourced cuisine, melons from nearby fields and eggs from hens that strut through the property, I felt as if I’d entered a different time, a different place with no clue that I was in the desert or a short four miles from one of the largest cities in the Southwest. Executive chef Jonathan Perno, a New Mexico native who trained in France, London and San Francisco, makes good use of the farm’s heritage, heirloom and native crops, incorporating things like tepary beans, chiles, cardoons, figs, parsley root, jujube dates and epazote into what he calls “Rio Grande Valley cuisine.”

And while scheduling didn’t permit taking one of the many workshops offered at Los Poblanos (things like aromatherapy, botanical art, field sketching, wine tasting, barn animals 101), I learned a lot just walking around the gardens, being inspired by the ecological consciousness subtly perpetuated by the living museum’s water conservation programs and use of natural biodegradable cleaning products.

As Kenyan manager Nancy Kinyanjui said, “We don’t want to hit people over the head with it, but we hope they recognize our commitment to sustainability and possibly take a little green consciousness home with them.”

The inn’s 20 suites and rooms have adobe kiva fireplaces, hand-hewn ceiling beams, hardwood floors, folk paintings, painted viga ceilings and, of course, the farm’s signature lavender spa amenities. Breakfast, also made with ingredients from the property’s organic farm, is included.

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Cultural Center, 4803 Rio Grande NW, 505-344-9297.

Amalfi Coast pizza in Sheboygan, Wisconsin

In 2005, Jean Feraca, host of “Here and Now,” was in Naples, Italy looking for an authentic pizzaioli. Not a bad place to look. Naples, after all, is where pizza was allegedly invented. As the story goes, Neapolitan chef Raffaele Esposito created a tomato, mozzarella and basil pizza (red, white and green, the colors of the Italian flag) for Italian Queen Margherita in 1889.

Feraca, who traveled all the way from Madison, Wisconsin, wanted to interview a pizza maker who still practiced old school pizza. According to the Naples pizza police, real pies must be baked in a wood-burning oven, using authentic farina-based Caputo flour, Italian plum tomatoes and freshly-made mozzarella. When the Naples pizzaiolis found out where the NPR radio host was from, they laughed and told her about an authentic pizzaioli only two hours from her home.

Stefano Viglietti, an Italian-American from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, makes authentic Pizza Napoletana. He traveled to the Amalfi Coast in 1999 to train and become the fifth American to meet the strict set of guidelines set down by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, a prestigious Naples-based non-profit that protects the methods and ingredients used in making Neapolitan pizza.

To this day, Viglietti makes annual pilgrimages to Italy where he looks for “small places where I can cook beside mothers and daughters.”

When he opened Il Ritrovo (it’s Italian for “gathering place”) in 2001, an old school pizzaioli traveled from Naples to this little town on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan to confirm he met the valued standards and to train his staff.

Viglietti took the Italian Slow Food movement to heart. Next to Il Ritrovo in downton Sheboygan, Viglietti and his wife Whitney run Field to Fork, a café and grocery that serves nothing but organic, local and natural products. Viglietti’s chefs bake all their own breads and deserts, roast their own coffee, make homemade soups and squeeze their own juices.,