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The Rare and Inspired Flavors of Chino Farms

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I've had the most wonderful morning. Because we're wintering in San Diego Jim and I get up at around 5:00 am because his first meetings start at 8:00 am eastern time. Sounds gruesome right? Absolutely not. What this means is that we're done by 2:00pm and because both of us work remotely on occasion meetings can be handled in the office known as the car! This morning we settled on the Starbucks in DelMar where we worked for more than a few hours. At lunch time I went to the Venissimo Cheese shop and bought us a few little bites of cheese to snack on. Brilliance struck at the same time for us..."let's go to Chinos Farm and get some strawberries and a bag of Valencia oranges! " I've become addicted to their Valencia oranges. Soft and globular, they are impossible to peel and delightful to eat. I've never seen flesh like this on an orange. They warned me "don't peel them!" but I tried anyhow and ended up covered in juice. What I've learned is to slice them in half like an orange and eat them with a spoon like a grapefruit. It's the only way....decadent and absolutely wonderful!

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If you don't know Chino Farms they were the little organic farm in Rancho Santa Fe that found themselves at the forefront of the Farm to Table movement in this country a couple of decades ago. Luminaries like Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck have imported the beautiful organic produce into their restaurants for well over two decades. It is literally the best produce that I've ever eaten. Everything is so special and everything is so fresh that you feel like it could have been picked an hour before. (which it probably was!)

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I love living in Southern California because I can buy this same gorgeous produce myself, any day of the week and I promise you ... You haven't lived until you've enjoyed one of their 4 varieties of strawberries ( two of them French!) straight from the patches, still warm and wonderful! A home chefs dream come true!

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Today, I bought two pints of two different varieties that I hadn't tried yet and by the time we'd driven the three miles back to town they were gone. These are strawberries the way that many of us remember them...soft, juicy and sweet with no bland or hard spots. Absolutely perfect. Today when I got there I found a wonderful plant that I'd never seen before called Ice Lettuce. I asked the young woman about it and she smiled and gave me a taste! It was remarkable, crunchy, lemony and salty with little nodules that burst on my tongue. Ice Lettuce is a salad plant that grows near the sea (I think that I got that right!) and it protects itself by keeping the salt and water close to the surface of its leaves, making it by nature a succulent, but also making it a perfect salad plant, one that would remind you a bit of the common purslane. Any salad made with it would not need salt in its dressing. A simple dressing of an herb infused oil with a bit of fruit juice and mustard to flavor it would be perfect! You can learn more about Tom Chino and his amazing farm here: www.chinofamilyfarm.com