Patti Bess: Fog Dog Farm | TheUnion.com

Patti Bess: Fog Dog Farm

Patti Bess
Columnist

Wil Holland and Kristin Draz dig each other. The two met when both were working on separate farms in the city of Sonoma.

Wil Holland began helping his father, Stan, at the Davis and Placerville Farmer's Markets when he was only 13 years old. After high school he went directly to an apprenticeship at Soil Born Farm in Sacramento and then worked nine years at Paul's Produce, a well-established farm and market in Sonoma County.

Kristin Draz received her degree in English Literature from the University of Texas in Austin. Not knowing what to do after graduation, she signed up for an apprenticeship at Green Strings Farm in Petaluma.

The two moved to Nevada County three years ago and, like many young farmers, they lease the land they farm and live on. It's a good way to start out, especially if expensive infrastructure like fencing, water systems, and greenhouses are already in place.

Wil and Kristin lease the Heaven and Earth Farm from Amigo Bob Cantisano, nationally known organic agricultural adviser. Mentoring comes with the territory.

A story with the name

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It's a long story, but Wil and Kristin happened to see the definition of the words on the day they signed the lease agreement. So Fog Dog it was. The word means "bright spot appearing through fog." Not much fog in North San Juan however.

"The Nevada County farming community is exemplary," Wil said. "People are friendly and very helpful. When we began farming here, we found that the staple crops were pretty much covered by the established farmers so we are focusing on specialty items that are not as widely grown. One of our goals is to expand people's awareness of vegetable varieties that, perhaps, customers might not normally purchase or cook with."

"We do quite well at the Nevada City Farmers Market with broccolini which is a hybrid between traditional broccoli and gai lan, or Chinese kale," Kristin said. "It's a lovely looking vegetable with slender stalks and tight, compact florets and has a sweet, mildly grassy flavor."

Chopped broccolini, shredded cabbage, roasted cashews, carrots and/or radicchio makes a delicious slaw with either a lemon-yogurt sauce or a citrus vinaigrette.

Arugula is one of Fog Dog's specialties as well as Mediterranean cucumbers, salt & pepper cucumbers, okra, and Dragon's tongue beans to name just a few. Their salad green mixes are filled with textures and colors that take salad to a whole new dimension. In late summer Fog Dog also sells an abundance of padron peppers, small Spanish frying peppers.

Many of us, when we shop, grimace at the price of organic garlic vs. commercially grown supermarket varieties. But, as a long time cook and garlic lover, I can attest to the fact that two cloves of organic garlic is easily equivalent to four or five of commercial garlic cloves, saving time and giving a more robust flavor.

Several chefs in town agree. Three Forks and the New Moon restaurants buy out the total harvest most weeks.

Irene's Red Garlic is one of Fog Dog's best breadwinning strategies. It came from a farmer in Laytonville named Irene, who saved her seed for many years.

As small scale farmers, the most profitable crops are ones that Wil can sell directly to an end user instead of selling it wholesale to a retail outlet. Wil enjoys building these personal relationships. With their limited human resources, that is two workers, the demand for garlic is keeping up with their ability to produce supply.

Stop by the Nevada City Farmers Market, to say hello to Wil and Kristin and check out their supplies.

Winter Markets are held on the first Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to noon, January through May. Summer Markets are from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday starting June 2 and continuing to Nov. 17.

Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author from Grass Valley. She can be reached at bess.pattia@gmail.com for questions or comments.

Recipes

This is a somewhat simplified version of a melt in your mouth pasta dish created years ago by Michael Chiarello from the Napa Valley restaurant, Tra Vigne.

It has the perfect balance of strong garlic, subtle mushrooms and a fresh tomato sauce. Just tossing the arugula with the warm sauce is enough to soften but not cook it, retaining its perky flavor and crisp texture.

Fusilli Michelangelo

12 ounces fusilli pasta

Salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3/4 pound mushrooms, sliced

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

3 tablespoons sundried tomato julienne

1 bunch arugula

Black pepper

1 quart fresh tomato sauce (recipe following)

4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 cup pine nuts

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until firm to the tooth, about eight minutes. Run under cold water to stop the cooking process; and set aside to drain.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil to medium and add the mushrooms; cook for one minute, stirring. Add the garlic and cook until lightly browned. Stir in the pasta and sundried tomatoes and heat throughout. Toss is in the arugula and pepper.

Immediately turn onto a hot platter and spread with the heated fresh tomato sauce. Serve and sprinkle with cheese and pine nuts.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

10 medium-size, dense tomatoes

12 leaves of fresh basil, torn in half

2 tablespoons butter

Prepare tomatoes for peeling by dropping them for one minute into a pan of boiling water; then, with a slotted spoon, immediately slip the peels off, if you desire. Chop tomatoes into a medium dice.

In a heavy gauge sauce pan, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and sauté to a golden brown. Add the tomatoes and simmer approximately 15 to 20 minutes until the juice has reduced and begun to take on body.

Season to taste with salt, pepper and two tablespoons red wine (if desired). Finish with fresh basil leaves and butter.