The results for the 2010 Yolo County Fair Olive Oil Competition were posted Saturday night. We were delighted to discover that our 2010 Napa Valley Select was awarded a Gold Medal for Organic Tuscan Oils - Moderate Flavors and our oil was also named Best In Category among organic oils.
This is another "big deal" for us. As I wrote in February when we won a gold medal at the California Olive Oil Council annual meeting, these evaluations by our peers in the industry are very gratifying. Winning another gold medal is very pleasing, but Best in Category means even more.
Napa Valley Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil is our "mixing and blending" oil made from a blend of cultivars, primarily Frantoio, Leccino, Morialo, and Pendolino. It is our favorite for salads, pesto, and Tuscan beans.
We are very proud to receive this additional recognition for our organic farming and oil production practices. Bravo to Jason, Frank, Pilo, Todd, Lauren, Sean, and all of the crew.
In the Marine Corps we had a phrase: "Remember there is always 10 percent who don't get the word." Never thought we'd apply it to a restaurant critic.
Farmstead is doing really well. We opened the outdoor bar earlier in the week and our dining patio for the first time on Friday. We have enjoyed a rousing reception from the local community.
As the weather improves the trajectory is clearly up. And, the 'buzz' has been really great. We have had numerous positive references in print, online, and on-air media. We have moved into the top 10 of "Most Booked in Wine Country" on Open Table.
Most importantly, we have been very highly rated by our guests. We strive to respond objectively and professionally to comments and criticism. So, we look hard at the facts. Consider this: over 125 diners (an ample sample size) who made their reservation through Open Table have written a review of Farmstead.
Our Overall Rating on Open Table is four stars (out of five) and fully 76 percent of the reviewers have rated Farmstead four stars or higher. Further, Farmstead is rated fours stars in all three subcategories: Food, Ambiance, and Service. Take a look. Similarly, Yelp! has consistently rated Farmstead at four and a half stars (out of five).
Farmstead has also enjoyed repeat visits by the who's who of the local culinary community (hardly a group of hicks from a backwater). We respect their opinions and have appreciated the many compliments and occasional suggestions.
So, imagine our surprise when a food critic from the San Francisco Chronicle writes a story in today's paper that paints a substantially different picture about Farmstead's food. He writes ". . .the combinations are among the strangest I've encountered. . ." Hmmm.
Of course, we will take the story seriously and will treat it as an important piece of data. But, funny how the three dishes most criticised - the hamburger, short-rib hash, and carmelized beet salad - are the three highest selling dishes. And, funny how our customers use descriptions (documented in their reviews) like "the best burger of my life" as opposed to "screwed up." (They even understand that the substitution of cauliflower dill pickles for cucumber dill pickles is an inventive seasonal twist.)
Perhaps a city-slicker thinks "locals and tourists" (his words) lack the sophistication and broad palate exposure to understand fresh, local ingredients prepared using truly authentic American farmhouse recipes. Funny, too, how a major national magazine is doing an exclusive story on Farmstead and is setting up tomorrow for a major photo shoot over the next three days. And, after extensive tasting and research, the editors have asked to feature up to six of Sheamus Feeley's recipes.
Makes you wonder.
The only explanation is that there is always 10 percent. . .
Lady bugs and praying mantises are now available at Whiting Nursery. We think that is "really cool."
One of the biggest challenges early in the growing season is the damage that sucking insects, primarily aphids, can cause to tender new growth. For the past twenty years we have been creating habitat and fostering large populations of lady bugs to help maintain our vineyards' health.
Lady bugs, praying mantises, leafy winged scavengers, and other "beneficial insects" are a key component of our organic farming systems at Long Meadow Ranch. Mantises, in particular, are aggressive hunters and will eat a wide range of garden insects including aphids, mosquitoes, caterpillars, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, crickets, leaf hoppers, moths and many others.
Now home gardeners can get a head start by purchasing some of these beneficial insects for release in their home garden. Of course, there is no substitute for creating the right long-term habitat for the insects (otherwise they'll either just fly away or won't properly reproduce), but that is a longer story than a blog posting.
Whiting Nursery, a core element of our farm-to-table offering at Long Meadow Ranch & Farmstead in St. Helena, is now a wonderful resource for the home organic gardner and small scale grower. All of the new vegetable starter plants are organically raised, a wide array of organic fertilizers is in stock, Kevin Twohey is a rich source of horticultural knowledge, and, of course, we now have beneficial bugs. You can even buy organic chicken feed, too.
Our "big" idea is really starting to take shape. Explore, see, learn, eat, enjoy, and take-it-home. These "full cycle" experiences are all part of what we hope to provide to our community and to visitors at Long Meadow Ranch Winery & Farmstead.