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Posts Tagged ‘Rachael Middleton’

The Tiki Hut at Three Sisters Farm.

The Tiki Hut at Three Sisters Farm.

Farm Meal
Saturdays 5:00 to 8:00 pm, October through March
Reservations required / cancel 24 hours in advance
Adults $85 per person. No children.
Accepts credit cards

This is the second season for Farm Meals, as they are called, elegantly rustic five course dinners prepared with ingredients grown at Three Sisters Farm, which is located across the street from the Fruit and Spice Park. The Meals are owner Chef Jon Gambino’s love song to many different things growing on his farm, expressed with menus that change with the season. (If you attended GrowFest! back in October, you might have sampled Chef Jon’s wood oven pizza, or tasted his sorrel drink or lemongrass tea.)

The Meals are held in the upper level of a large two story Tiki Hut, which stands at the end of a grassy drive. Rachael Middleton, one of the farmers, greeted guests as they arrived. (If they come early, she will give them a tour of the farm.) She served each person a bright red drink called sorrel. It was both tart and sweet, made from the fleshy thick calyxes of the red sorrel or roselle plant.

She directed us to narrow wooden steps leading to the upper floor of the hut. We entered a large open area with a vaulted thatched roof, and railings made of gnarly tree branches. Being in that space felt like riding in an ark over the shadowy seas of treetops. The room held a grouping of different sized tables that can seat 20. A fresh cool breeze made candles flicker. Jazz softly played from a modern record player designed to look like an old fashioned gramophone. A stack of records were nearby, and guests were encouraged to pick something to listen to (or bring their own from home).

Dining upstairs in the Tiki Hut.

Dining upstairs in the Tiki Hut.

On the night I came to visit, two families were dining. A large, lively group sat at a big table, celebrating a family event. This was the second visit for most of them, who drove down from Broward. At a previous meal, they had dined on fresh pizza topped with arugula and papaya, baked in the wood burning oven, accompanied by yuca fries.

I was invited to join the small group, three visitors from New York. They spent their day exploring the area and it was their first dinner at Three Sisters. They brought a bottle of white wine, which was quickly set to chill on ice.

Tostones with chunky guacamole and black bean spread.

Crispy tostones with chunky guacamole and black bean spread.

As we settled in at table, Eddie the server brought thin crispy tostones the size of small tortillas, which were arranged on wooden planks, accompanied by small pots filled with cilantro-laden chunky guacamole and a garlicky, spicy black bean spread. The tostone was as thin as a cracker, and I dabbed it with the different spreads.

Next came tropical sushi rolls that were very vegetarian, without a hint of seafood. I identified jackfruit, cucumber, mamey, and rice but was baffled by something crispy which turned out to be fried yuca. It was accompanied by two dipping sauces — deep sea kelp infused black sapote, and pickled umobeoshi mamey sapote — plus another plate with thin strips of pickled half-ripe papaya, and thin slices of vinegary cucumber pickles. A dab and a slice on a roll made for sweet bumping against sour with two kinds of crunch.

Tropical vegetarian sushi.

Tropical vegetarian sushi.

Service slowed down a bit, but no matter, this is not a meal to rush through but to savor and discuss. Part of the pacing could be due to the small staff. Chef Jon and sous chef Michael Bayramian prepare food in a small kitchen shed nearby, and the different courses are carried up the narrow Tiki Hut steps by Rachael and Eddie.

The third course was strawberry hibiscus coconut soup with chunks of green banana. The pale mauve broth was both sweet and sour, and starchy chunks of banana lurked at the bottom of the bowl. Their taste and texture were more like a root vegetable than the familiar sweet fruit.

The main course was plantain pappardelle with Jamaican style kale, and for those who requested fish, broiled local grouper. The fish was fresh and lightly seasoned. Wide pasta ribbons were made fresh and had a mild sweetness of plantain that was a nice bed for stronger flavored greens seasoned with tomato and lots of garlic. Rachael explained they grow lots of greens on the farm, kale being available now, and callaloo later in the season. The pasta was filling and satisfied even the pickiest eaters at the table.

Pappardelle with Jamaican style kale.

Pappardelle with Jamaican style kale.

Lucky for us, we were regaled with two desserts that night — and there’s always room for dessert! The first was banana sorbet with jaboticaba sauce. Jon has a good hand with sorbets, and the banana came through with a rich, almost earthy, flavor. It was a solid base for tart, grape-like jaboticaba sauce, and the combination sang from the first bite. Jon has a passion for this fruit, and has become familiar with its nuances, such as how many days it needs to ripen before its skin sweetens and mellows.

The second dessert was pumpkin pie made from calabaza with a chocolate cookie crumb crust. Its flavor was rich and its color was darker than regular pumpkin. It was served with a pot of whipped cream. Coffee arrived, strong and rich, and each guest got their own french press of brew. (Lemongrass tea was available too.)

Chef Jon Gambino

Chef Jon Gambino

The Farm Meal dining experience is unique because the menu changes with the seasons, based on what is available on the farm. Guests have to be adventurous and willing to try anything. From this Meal I could see that Jon likes to take a familiar dish and play with the ingredients, making substitutions or changes, until something new breaks forth. He has a light touch with seasonings, allowing the fresh flavors of the ingredients to shine.

Almost every ingredient (except for coffee, cream, chocolate, beans and rice) was either grown there or procured locally. Jon considers his farm as a large, living pantry, where he can step out and gather what he wants to eat that day. His eyes light up when he talks about what he will plant and cook next. He admits he still has a lot more to learn about farming, but doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty and working hard. He is living his dream.

Location:
Three Sisters Farm
18401 SW 248th St

Homestead, FL 33031
305-209-8335

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(part 2 of 2)

There was plenty at GrowFest! to feed your body, mind and soul. Maybe the best part was all the delicious locavore treats. You could seriously nibble your way from one end of the festival to the other and leave with a full belly.

Front and center, right when you entered the park, was the Urban Oasis Project’s tent where Melissa Contreras, Art Friedrich and Carl Templar set up a mini farmer’s market. Tables were piled with all kinds of fresh local produce in season — starfruit, dragon fruit, longans, jackfruit, okra, eggplant, avocados, tomatoes, baby arugula, seminole pumpkin, plus oyster mushrooms, raw honey, organic rice and heirloom tomato seedlings. If you were hungry, you could dig into an addictive bag of Shawnee’s Greenthumb spirulina popcorn. And, if you’re hungry for knowledge, Melissa’s book “Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in South Florida” is a useful resource geared for South Florida gardener. (You can find it at the Upper Eastside and Southwest farmers markets, or get it on Amazon.)

Art Friedrich answers questions about tropical fruit.

Art Friedrich answers questions about tropical fruit.

This year, GrowFest! donated over $1000 to Urban Oasis, and Melissa was thrilled by the gift. “We will use those funds for food and nutrition education at the Verde market,” she said. Her non-profit was recently given a contract to manage the market and farm at Verde Gardens, a low-income housing community in Homestead. Urban Oasis operates several farmers markets in underserved neighborhoods. Event organizer Margie Pikarsky said, “This year I chose Urban Oasis Project for their efforts to bring affordable food to underserved communities. I decided that each year the event will benefit a nonprofit organization which supports/promotes/educates about local food and local agriculture.”

Chef Jon Gambino makes pizza the way the old Italian guys taught him.

Chef Jon Gambino makes pizza the way the old Italian guys taught him.

Delicious aromas of wood fired pizza — yes, pizza! — wafted through the festival. Chef Jon Gabino of Three Sisters Farm brought his pizza oven, pizza dough, and carefully stacked wood next to his work table. Jon’s hands danced with circles of dough, and finished pizzas flew out of the oven as fast as he could make them. Rachael Middleton offered roselle and lemongrass teas and jaboticaba sorbet to complete the meal. Pizza is one of many vegetarian dishes that Three Sisters Farm offers on their Saturday night Farm Meal. Nearly everything on the menu is super local, sourced from the farm or growers nearby. Make your reservations online here.

Jon Gambino and Rachael Middleton serve up pizza while it's hot.

Jon Gambino and Rachael Middleton serve up pizza while it’s hot.

Beekeeper Rigo Delaportilla tells it like it is.

Beekeeper Rigo Delaportilla tells it like it is.

At the demo tent,  there was lots of information to feed your mind. Workshops were scheduled through both days on many gardening topics. Urban beekeeper Rigo De La Portilla spoke on backyard beekeeping. He is one of several local beekeepers who captures swarms and home infestations without killing bees.  Other popular talks were on plant propagation, growing mangoes, vermicomposting (using red wiggler worms to make compost), raising chickens, and setting up a rain barrel.

Robert Morgan Jazz Combo

Robert Morgan Jazz Combo

No festival is complete with without music. This year, music students from Robert Morgan Educational Center’s string quartet performed on Saturday. They had so much fun last year they came back again, and brought the jazz combo with them. On Sunday, members of the South Florida Bluegrass Society livened things up with their old timey tunes.

Cliff and Friends from the South Florida Bluegrass Association

Cliff and Friends from the South Florida Bluegrass Association

Eliza Delaportilla

Eliza Delaportilla with local raw honey, beeswax candles, and some tools of the trade.

Teresa Olczyk and Jeff Wasielewsky from the UF/IFAS Extension office.

Teresa Olczyk and Jeff Wasielewsky from the UF/IFAS Extension office.

Congressman Joe Garcia makes friends with 4-H members.

Congressman Joe Garcia takes a picture with 4-H members.

The celebrity sighting, as it were, came on Sunday afternoon. As I was hanging out by the Extension tent, Congressman Joe Garcia, accompanied by Kevin Chambliss, sauntered into the park and started greeted people. Everybody ran to take a picture with the congressman. You know that your event is on the map when local politicians come to visit!

GrowFest! will be back at the Fruit and Spice Park next year, bigger and better. See you there!

Cuckita “Cookie” Bellande and her daughter of Rochelois Jams

Cuckita “Cookie” Bellande and her daughter of Rochelois Jams

Tom of Florida Keys Sea Salt offers a sampling of salt on an apple slice.

Tom from Florida Keys Sea Salt offers a sampling of salt on an apple slice.

Master Gardeners were on hand to solve problems.

Master Gardeners were on hand to solve problems.

Hani Khouri builds a hot, fresh falafel for hungry customers. His special hot sauce made from ghost and Thai peppers was amazing!

Hani Khouri builds a hot, fresh falafel for hungry customers. His special hot sauce made from ghost and Thai peppers was amazing!

Miguel Bode brought his wide assortment of honey.

Miguel Bode brought his wide assortment of honey.

King Moringa: The world's most nutritious tree

King Moringa: The world’s most nutritious tree

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This weekend, come meet farmer Rachael Middleton and chef Jon Gambino of Three Sisters Farm, which is located, quite conveniently, across the street from the Fruit and Spice Park. Rachael and Jon are bringing plants and tastes of their farm to GrowFest!

The farmer and chef couple will have an assortment of edible plants for sale, whatever they are able to haul across the street for the weekend. “We have some interesting different fruit trees, and cool tropical roots, like malanga. We have a good variety of heirloom tomato seedlings and some different peppers,” Rachael told me. Besides vegetable seedlings, they’re also offering larger plants as well.

“We have a lot of big stuff that we can’t bring across the street, but we will have a plant list and give a sampling of what our nursery has right now. Since we are an active farm year round, we are always producing root stocks and pups, and have suckers in abundance at the farm. People are welcome to contact us if they are interested in getting plants anytime throughout the growing season,” Rachael said.

Tastes will come mostly from whatever is in season at their organic and biodynamic farm. “We will offer a variety of drinks, including a sorrel drink (it really tastes like Hawaiian Punch). We’ll also have jaboticaba sorbet (and a limited quantity of fresh jaboticaba fruit!).”

Chef Jon recently acquired a wood fire oven, which he has been using to bake fresh bread for his Farm Meals. “The oven is one of our favorite new things this season,” Rachael said. “It’s amazing, and we have been doing a lot of baking at the farm lately because of it. We are going to bring the oven over to the park and bake fresh bread and make pizzas.” Come find out what kind of tropical toppings will grace goodies hot out of the oven at GrowFest!

Three Sisters Farm

If you would love to visit and dine at Three Sisters Farm, chef Jon Gambino offers a Farm Meal every Saturday by reservation only. “The meal begins with a private tour where you get to see everything we are growing on our active, working, natural farm,” Rachael said.  “At the end of the tour, you are seated on our beautiful tropical tiki deck, where if you time your reservation right, you will be able to catch a beautiful view of the sunset.

“The farm meal uses all of our own ingredients (sometimes supplementing with some of the best of what our neighbors have to offer) to create a multi-course gourmet tasting feast. Our ingredients are a wide variety including tropical fruits, veggies you know and love and some you may not know you love yet, tropical roots, and spices.  What Jon does with all those amazing ingredients is equally varied and exciting. He also makes delicious handmade pastas, fantastic breads and pizzas (baked in our wood fire oven, which you can see from the tiki deck).

“The Farm Meal is $85 a person and we sometimes offer a fish option for an additional $15. Don’t worry about not being full, it’s a multi-course (at least 5) feast. Do dress comfortably for walking around on the farm and outdoor dining.  It’s BYOB, no cork fee.”

The next Farm Meal is scheduled for Oct. 26th. This Saturday, Oct. 19th, there is no Farm Meal because of the festival. “We are pretty much a two man (sometimes three) show,” Rachael explained.

For reservations and more information:
Three Sisters Farm
18401 SW 248th St.
Homestead, FL 33031
305-209-8335

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