September 18, 2019 by Gina Teichert

For a new generation of chefs and independent farmers, the wide-open spaces of Lake County look and feel like home. There’s a blossoming farm to table scene in our backyard, and we can’t wait to share it with you. Eat local and see what it’s all about.

Situated at the base of Mt. Konocti, Big Valley is a hotbed for farm to table hospitality.   Also a wine-growing AVA, the low lying region along Soda Bay Road is host to traditionally grown crops like olives, pears, and walnuts, and some new additions to the Lake County landscape.

Peace and Plenty Walnut Oil. Photo: Melinda, Peace and Plenty

“We wanted a high cash niche crop,” says Peace and Plenty co-founder Melinda Price, “but we didn’t want pit bulls or guns,” she smiles. She and partner Simon Avery dove headlong into the saffron business after hearing an NPR story about the pricy spice.  Though a high-value crop, saffron farming isn’t exactly easy money she tells us. Hand harvesting the crocus “threads” involves early mornings and tedious hours, not to mention an aggressive gopher abatement strategy.

Saffron

Lake County Saffron. Photo: Melinda, Peace and Plenty

Down the road at Dancing Poly Farm & Food, you can enjoy elegant pop-up dining events in a retrofitted barn, and sharpen those culinary muscles with classes on everything from stuffing grape leaves and canning fresh produce to regional French cuisine. Keep an eye out for co-founders Bess Giannakakis and Blaise Bahara at food festivals, farmers markets, and community events around the county.

Lake County Pears

Lake County Pears. Photo: Gina Teichert

On the other side of Clear Lake, another culinary rarity is getting attention. Claudia and Fabrice Caporal are laying the groundwork for a cash crop of their own at Clos Racines truffle orchard. Widely praised for their buttery umami quality, French black Périgord truffles were once only found in Europe. Lucky for us, American mycologists have reined in the fungus responsible for forming the precious delicacy, and farmers like the Caporals are taking the gamble on trees inoculated to help spur on its growth.  Saffron isn’t easy money, and truffles aren’t fast money, however. Cultivators can hope to see their first “black gold” in five to seven years.

They say the best way to get to know a place is through their food. So, next time you’re in Lake County, pull over when you see a farm stand with charming hand-painted signs, keep an eye out for restaurants with locally sourced ingredients, and swing by a booth at one of our many food-focused events.