Mother Nature looks to be cooperating with our annual Harvest Retreat. The weather was sunny and in the sixties when I pulled into Sacramento Monday for the retreat, defying earlier forecasts for showers. Not that we dislike rain. But when you’re showing some dozens of chefs and other culinary types around your olive groves and milling facilities, it can make for a soggy visit.
The Harvest Retreat is a huge event for us each fall. Early Tuesday morning, my colleagues and I will climb into a bus along with a big group of chefs and wholesalers. We’ll head north up the interstate about a hundred miles to the town of Artois. There, we’ll give our guests a firsthand tour of how we harvest and crush olives into extra virgin olive oil at our mill. Later, we’ll hold an EVOO tasting led by a trained taster. And we’ll eat great food, all featuring EVOO.
Three of my colleagues and I were catching up on some last minute business at the Grange Monday afternoon when Chef Tuohy came to say hello, holding a cup of espresso. He was preparing for the evening’s festivities and agreed to give us a look inside the kitchen.
We immediately asked what’s it’s like cooking a big dinner for other chefs?
“Are there chefs here?” he deadpanned … before cracking a smile. “I don’t even think about it.”
Inside the kitchen, staff members were chopping oregano and parsley, preparing the halibut crudo for the evening’s dinner, checking the rack of lamb, and washing up.
Tonight’s menu, in fact, will feature our EVOO in every course: From the locally sourced olive oil-marinated goat cheese being served as an appetizer, on through the first course of roasted butternut squash soup and the main course of rack of lamb with EVOO-crushed potatoes. Dessert will bring orange-almond olive oil cake.
This evening’s dinner, for some 65 guests, wasn’t exactly a cakewalk. “We’ve got some logistical challenges,” Chef Tuohy explained. The dinner was being held in a large room seven floors up from the kitchen. Much of the preparation would have to be done with transportation issues in mind.
For example, Chef Tuohy already had seared the lamb rack — which, by the way, was raised just 20 minutes south of here. He planned to cook the racks more fully right before serving. “We’ll cook them to 135 degrees F. down here and bring them up in a hot box,” he said.
The halibut crudo, meanwhile, would be finished upstairs at the dinner.
Hours later, now that I’m back in my room, I can tell you the logistics weren’t a problem. The food was great. The conversation was great. Now it’s time to hit the hay.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch