Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Be Wise Ranch CSA Harvest Dinner

Earlier in July I was lucky enough to be invited to Be Wise Ranch's Harvest Dinner. I have talked about Be Wise again and again...their produce and CSA membership is simply wonderful.

The dinner was truly lovely. The farm is very pretty with huge bushes of tomatoes and other wonderful produce everywhere. The farm is in Escondido and began in 1977. Bill Brammer owns the farm and has seen it through many changes over the years. Most recently, The Witch Creek  Fire (which was so damaging to San Diego County) damaged quite a bit of the farm. They are still working through the damage, three years later. Sandra Broussard manages quite a bit of the farms operations, all of the CSA memberships, etc. She is wonderful and you can tell she is very passionate about what she are all of the people at Be Wise. They do not currently have any public viewing available, but you can certainly join their CSA or buy their products at San Diego grocery stores.

For any newbies, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You basically pay a small membership fee and then every week or every other week, you get a huge box of wonderful organic produce. With Be Wise, they have 30-40 drop spots in San Diego County, so you can certainly find a place near to you. I get a large shipment every other week. The shipment is $30. The produce lasts me and my boyfriend for the whole two weeks! It is such a great deal, you get to try such fresh stuff, and you get to try produce you might not normally buy...which leads to creativity in the kitchen! And if you don't live in San Diego, seek out a CSA in your area!  It is so great for the farms, and you get excellent, fresh, in season produce. You will be protecting you and your families health from pesticides and other nasty things that conventional farming does. You will also be helping a local company and saving our environment from all the damaging effects of conventional farming. If you can't join a CSA, at least shop at a farmer's market for your produce. Support local farmers! It is so important. Last, if you can't find a CSA, and you can't find a farmer's market, go to Trader Joe's and look for local produce. Trader Joe's buys some of their produce from Be Wise and I am sure that they practice that in other areas of the country as well.

Please look at their Be Wise's website for lots of history and more information on the CSA.

It is truly amazing that a local farm produces this high quality produce right in a suburb of San Diego in this day and age. Not only do they grow wonderful stuff, they also create a wonderful workplace for their employees...most of their employees have been there at least 15 years!!!!

Now...onto the good stuff!!!!

Here is Sandra giving me a tour of their state of the art packing facility. This is a new building because the original was burned in the fire.

They have lots and lots and lots of smelled like blue cheese in there to me strangely, but Sandra said it was all these beauties I was smelling:

Here is the room we had champagne in and also got to hear Bill talk about the farm and how important the CSA program is. They have about 2500 members!!!!

This is where we were setting up along with the caterers, Dining Details

Here are some pictures of the farm in Escondido. Those are all tomatoes! All kinds of varieties.....

The farm is part of the San Pasqual Valley Agricultural Preserve, so they don't own the land, they lease it.

Here is where the dinner was! So whimsical...It really seemed like something out of an Anthropologie Catalog. It kind of reminded me of a scene from the most recent Marie Antoinette movie by Sophia Coppola.

This was the area for the band and cocktail hour. Again, so whimsical with all the random upholstered chairs. I loved it. I really felt like I was in a fairy tale!

Baby lettuce for CSA members....

This piece of equipment actually can fit over and around all those rows of tomatoes for spreading minerals or other natural ingredients to make those maters grow big and juicy!

After my leisurely tour of the farm with Sandra, a bit of panic set in. There were about 25-30 flower arrangements that needed to be made! Sandra asked if I would mind helping and of course I helped! She had a huge box of basil and squash blossoms to mix in with the flowers. It was SO fun. I felt like I must have been in flower heaven. 

Here is where the madness began:

Here are some of the finished products...literally in the nick of time.....

Here is the bar set up complete with white wine, red wine, and a local beer on tap:

And here is the set up with the tables, flowers, etc:

Here is the band...jamming away!

Here are some guests:

This little shrimp and gazpacho was unreal. The soup was nice and chilled and it was great to cool was about 98 degrees out there....

Everyone was called to the table and there were all kinds of little heirloom tomatoes decorating the tables. 

The table also had bread with almonds, various sea salts, and avocado butter. It was all delicious.

The first course of dinner was some kind of shortrib, so I did not try it. 

Next was an "intermezzo" which had tomato granita, dill, cucumbers, and radish. It was so refreshing and even though it was a fancy preparation you really could taste all the vegetables and herbs so well. Dining Details did a great job of using Be Wise produce and really making the natural flavors shine through. 

Next was this salad which was delectable! It had a goat cheese stuffed squash blossom, tomatoes, avocado, green onion, cilantro and grapefruit. It was so interesting with all of these different layers and textures. Plus, if it has goat cheese, it wins me over. 

Then came the main course. There was a vegetarian option of a stuffed tomato, but I love fish. This was wild salmon with a basil and mustard crust, beet risotto, zucchini ribbons, corn puree, and cherry tomatoes. Again, this had so many layers of flavors and textures...and although it was a fancy preparation, all of the flavors of the produce really stood out. 

Last was dessert. We each got two little desserts: peach pie and almond sherry cake with blueberry compote. They were both unreal. 

I feel so lucky to have attended such an eloquent dinner with such a passionate farm. There were so many heartfelt, dedicated people working at the farm, you could feel it in the air. Thank you Sandra for inviting me! 

Here Sandra and I are together:

Thank you Be Wise Ranch for an incredible night, and for bringing me so close to my food. 


  1. Amanda
    Thank you so much for all that you did to help me at our Harvest Dinner. You were so gracious and I was so happy to have met a new friend. Everything turned out better than I could have ever expected and even with a few obstacles it still was one of my most heart felt and memorable occassions. I really do love rhe farm and I am so happy that I was able to share it.
    I will call you dinner and cocktails is a must. My husband Ronald and I are having dinner tomorrow night with Chefs' Robbie & Julie Frans of Dining Details:-) thank you.

  2. Yeah! Thanks Sandra and please let me know when you have time to get together.

  3. What an incredible evening! I LOOOOVED your flowers :-)

  4. What an amazing event and I am definitely going to look into a CSA in the area!