Chez Panisse, the Berkeley restaurant run by Alice Waters which popularised the farm to the plate movement – turned 40 in August.
Among the dozens of birthday fund-raising celebrations held in California to raise money for Alice’s Edible Schoolyard programme, was a backyard BBQ at the Berkeley home of Michael Pollan and his wife Judith Belzer
Michael Pollan is famous for his books on food and gardening. He’s doing a 22 hour roast pig for 50 guests who’ve come here from all over the US – and Sydney! It’s crackling away under this makeshift igloo- shaped oven.
Michael’s converted his lawn into an edible forest using raised beds.
These boxed beds allow him to grow dozens of herbs and vegetables organically….
… and monster beans
guests mill about in the front and on the lovely back deck overlooking the valley
fresh fruit bellinis are being prepared
The Pollan’s wonderful homey kitchen is the nerve centre for the Great Pig Rosti Dinner
Produce has been supplied by Devil’s Gulch Ranch, Dirty Girl produce, Riverdog farm and Blossom Bluff Orchards.
Then it’s the moment of the big reveal…… will it be cooked to perfection?
Vegos look away now…. the covers and foil are removed to reveal a beast fit for a king.
Michael and his assistant chef carry the crispy carcass to the table for serving
Michael seems genuinely in awe of how to break it down…
yes…. let’s just get stuck into it…
The juicy flesh falls away from the bone and the crackling breaks into noisy shards of pig skin
ooohhh… well worth the trip from Oz.
The hungry hoards grab a spot on the terrace or garden and the night is quiet and still as we all hoe in.
Michael then gives a speech thanking everyone for their support and helping to make the BBQ such a memorable occasion.
Alice’s Edible Schoolyard Programme is teaching school children – many from disadvantaged backgrounds – how to grow, cook and eat. Michael is a big supporter and an advocate of the importance of knowing where your food has come from.
Then it’s on to dessert for … pie. Three different types of pie – apple and rhubarb, apple and plum and just plain apple. All with a thin, crispy, sugary crust.
No-one does pie better than Americans.
And a beautiful hand-churned vanilla ice-cream tops off the bliss.
This pie was almost as memorable as the pig. Almost.
Then it was talking late into the night about food, and farming, and that pie recipe!
The Pollan BBQ was one of the most memorable experiences of my many foodie adventures.
Michael and his wife Judith were really lovely people as well. I got to meet one of my gurus and sit down and enjoy a meal he had cooked for me. Not many people can say that.
Oh, and by the way, Michael now has a copy of my book The Edible Balcony which was inspired by his writings!