Visiting a strawberry farm with the California Strawberry Commission

In March, I was invited by the California Strawberry Commission to tour a strawberry farm. This invitation came about after I recently passed through Oxnard on a road trip, where there happen to be several of strawberry farms, and I shared a photo on Instagram and Twitter, asking whether there were any farms that gave tours. The fields and roadside strawberry stands in Oxnard reminded me of Irapuato, a central Mexican town best known for its strawberry fields and the quaint roadside stands where you can get fresh fresas con crema. I’m always interested in knowing about where my food comes from, and living in California, there’s an abundance of local, fresh produce year-round.  I was excited to visit a California strawberry farm and have the chance to ask the farmers questions about where my berries come from and how they’re grown. This post is sponsored by the California Strawberry Commission, but all experiences and opinions are my own.

On this visit, I learned that nearly 90 percent of strawberries grown in the U.S. come from California, and strawberries are grown here year-round (with a peak season in March and April) due to the optimal climate, sandy coastal soil and ocean exposure. There are more than 400 strawberry farmers who grow both conventional and organic berries, and California is also the biggest grower of organic strawberries worldwide. Oxnard, where the farm we visited is located, is about 60 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

California strawberry farm visit - More on theothersideofthetortilla.com

The farm that we visited was a family farm that has been farming in Ventura County, California, for more than 110 years. Farmers Edgar and William Terry gave us a tour of their farm, a chance to taste berries fresh from the field and ask questions—even the hard ones. Although the farm we visited was not an organic strawberry farm, I learned a great deal about the methods for growing strawberries and food safety issues (both food safety practiced in the field by the people picking your berries as well as pesticides used and how they affect our health), as well as who is growing and picking my strawberries…. 

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Wordless Wednesday: What I ate at L.A. Restaurant Week

Since we’re still relatively new to Los Angeles, we decided to get out of the house during L.A. Restaurant Week after I saw the #dineLA hastag on Twitter. We hadn’t been downtown yet, so we decided to head into the city for an experience. We ended up at Rosa Mexicano (the LA Live location) because I’d eaten there in another city when I was traveling for work a few years ago and liked it quite a bit.

Here’s what I ate at Rosa Mexicano for L.A. Restaurant Week:

Appetizer: Tacos dorados de pollo (also known as flautas) served with crema Mexicana, cheese and salsa verde.

flautas tacos dorados Rosa Mexicano

Main Course: Carne asada, frijoles con chorizo, esquites and a fresh salsa verde. The esquites were so good that I had to steal José’s since he’s not really a fan. I couldn’t let them go to waste!

carne asada and esquites Rosa Mexicano

Dessert : Espresso flan with a cinnamon whipped cream and nueces (pecans). The galleta on the bottom was divine!

espresso flan Rosa Mexicano

I also loved this little detail in the decor on the walls at this location that reminded me of the cliff divers in Acapulco.

Acapulco cliff diver art

  • Rosa Mexicano has a Festival de Helados going on through August 26 (at all locations) with paletas, raspados, helados and more in interesting flavors such as guava, chile de árbol and huckleberry, honey-amaranth crunch, plantain and peanut butter, and others. Check RosaMexicano.com for the addresses of locations in New York, L.A., Miami, Boston,  Atlanta, Washington D.C., Minneapolis, San Francisco and other cities.

Wordless Wednesday: Store-bought Tepache

As I’ve been checking out as many Mexican grocers in Los Angeles as possible, I’ve noticed one product (made by a few different brands) that was not common to find in the Mexican supermarkets in Chicago: bottled tepache. I haven’t tried any yet, but I think I will soon just because I’m seeing it everywhere and I’m getting more and more curious how it tastes compared to the homemade tepache I’ve had in Mexico and Chicago from taquerías and street stands.

tepache_TOSOTT

The fermented pineapple drink has a hard cider quality and is originally from the state of Jalisco.

For a home-brewed recipe, check out this step-by-step tepache recipe and tutorial from my friend Pati Jinich from Pati’s Mexican Table.

I used to frequently find tepache at an aguas frecas stand at the Maxwell Street Market (every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; free admission and most vendors only accept cash). For more places to find tepache in Chicago, check out this August 2012 article from the Chicago Tribune.

  • Have you had store-bought or bottled tepache? Is it any good and do you have a preferred brand I should try?

Wordless Wednesday: Finding a good concha

If you’re a frequent reader, you know all about my deep love for pan dulce and all kinds of Mexican pastries and other baked goods. So, of course it was one of the first things I sought out during my first week living in Los Angeles. A good friend introduced me to this place and I can’t seem to stay away!

concha_pan_dulce_la_monarca_TOSOTT

This perfect concha is from La Monarca Bakery in Santa Monica (they have two more locations: Huntington Park and South Pasadena). I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this place soon, as I like to stop by there whenever I can since it’s not too far from where I work.

  • Is there a perfect piece of pan dulce in your neck of the woods? Let me know in the comments where you like to buy your pan dulce, wherever you  live!

The Tortilla Test Kitchen moves West!

I’ve been wanting to write for weeks, only I couldn’t find the words and I feel as if I owe some sort of explanation for the long absence here. In January, I accepted a new job on the West Coast. In early February, we said goodbye to our home, friends and family—and the Tortilla Test Kitchen—in Chicago, and boarded a flight to Los Angeles to start a new chapter in our lives. Now that we’re starting to get settled in and the kitchen is (mostly) unpacked, I’m starting to get back in the kitchen and testing recipes.

The Original Tortilla Test Kitchen

Moving cross-country is not for the faint of heart; least of all if, like me, part of the reason that you’ve always been a little scared to move away from home is because of the unknown and unfamiliar. Where will I go for carnitas on Sundays? Where can I get a good bowl of pozole when the weather is cold? My beloved pan dulce or a tres leches cake for special occasions? And most importantly, where will I buy tortillas? Some of those questions have yet to be answered in our case, but we’re finding our way little by little with help from friends and a lot of trial-and-error research.

As I find my way around the markets here, and continue getting my new test kitchen in order, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite places in Chicago that were such a big part of this blog and our lives. I hope you’ll join us as we continue our journey from the new test kitchen (which is admittedly a lot smaller than the original test kitchen), find new restaurants to enjoy and share new travel experiences too.

I leave you with a photo of the original Tortilla Test Kitchen back in Chicago—it’ll be tough to ever replace, and I’ll miss the East-facing windows in the morning, with the sunshine streaming in. I’ll miss the island and my great big refrigerator and tons of deep cabinet space. But most of all, I’ll miss all the memories made in that kitchen.

  • If you’re in the Los Angeles area and have suggestions for your favorite places for everything from tortillas to where to go grocery shopping or buy the best conchas, please leave a comment below so we can check out your recommendations on how to live la vida Mexicana in LA!
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