Al Fresco Feast in Wine Country and A Food Lover’s B and B

An Al Fresco Feast in Wine Country & A Food Lover’s B & B

Photos and Text by Guest Writer Andrew Harris

Andrew is the Food & Travel Correspondent for “Living the e-Life” heard on KFWB NewsTalk  980 (a CBS owned property) in Los Angeles, and a Food, Wine & Travel Journalist based in Marina del Rey, CA.

The growing farm to table movement whereby the freshest of local, quality ingredients are added to the menu is having a profound influence on all levels of restaurants and diners. In 1999 this was taken a step further by Outstanding in The Field, a roving culinary adventure enterprise that organizes an annual series of lavish dinners prepared by prominent local guest chefs typically staged on working family farms from Hawaii to the East Coast. The concept is to keep the ingredients as local as possible and many of the fruits and vegetables on that night’s menu are actually gown on the host’s

Chef Team: Dean Thomas, Leah Di Bernardo, Alex Carballo

Temecula’s (Southern California) Chef Leah Di Bernardo of E.A.T. (extraordinary artisan take-away) has been inspired this year to create her own outstanding series of farm to table, wine-pairing dinners at reasonable, wallet-friendly prices representing a significant value. Chef Leah also heads (as a volunteer) the Temecula chapter of the non-profit, Slow Food USA. A portion of the proceeds from Chef Leah’s farm to table dinners benefits Slow Food with a mission of supporting a world where food and farming are sources of health and pleasure for everyone.

The second gathering in the popular 2011 series was at the 25-acre Peltzer Farms (owned by the dedicated “Farmer Charlie” representing 4th generation family farmers) for a Farm Harvest Supper in early October where 80 enthusiastic guests dined on four appealing courses at two long rows of decorated picnic tables surrounded by growing stalks of corn, herbs, sunflowers and squash. The living centerpiece of the outdoor dining room was a vibrant herb garden planted in the bed of a retired farm truck.

Herb Garden at Peltzer Farms

During the reception the guests enjoyed three styles of microbrewed craft beer from Blackmarket Brewing Co. of Temecula poured from properly chilled growlers while they explored the farm. Once seated the diners were served a refreshing and exotic Fall pumpkin-tini cocktail with sparkling wine, a jam base, and hibiscus. The tables were decorated with a plentiful assortment of mini-pumpkins and fresh sunflowers from Peltzer Farms.

Each of the four courses was matched with an appropriate wine from Europa Village (Bolero Cellars and C’est La Vie Wine Chateau wineries were represented) and Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery (which only produces 1,500 cases per year.) The managing partner of Europa Village along with the cellar master from Palumbo were the guest sommeliers for the evening and they were generous with their pours. Both shared in the actual serving duties and amiably chatted with each table about their distinctive premium wines.

Representative of the evening the roasted sweet corn that was an accompaniment to the first course of a trio of handmade empanadas was from the farm. Other produce came from nearby Terra Bella Ranch and the organic duck eggs used in the upside down citrus and apple brown sugar cakes (one of a tempting trio of desserts) were courtesy of prominent organic San Diego farmers, Scott and Laura Murray, who also participated in the dinner. Scott spoke about the benefits of sourcing local produce.

Temecula Olive Oil Co, which is very community spirited, donated their extra virgin oil  to the evening. This fine local oil was used in the food preparation and bottles were on the tables to enjoy as a condiment. Their 20 varieties of olives are grown on their ranch in nearby Aguanga. One of the owners, Catherine Pepe, was a guest at the dinner.

My favorite course and wine match was the fork-tender, braised Brandt beef (San Diego) served with sautéed wild, local greens paired with the just-released Palumbo ’09 Sangiovese. Significantly, and a big WOW, the Sangiovese grapes were grown right there on the farm!

Having enjoyed the pleasure of the chefs’ sumptuous table and the fermented fruits of the vine I didn’t want to navigate back to Los Angeles that night. Chef Dean Thomas was gracious enough to find me room at the inn (Inn at Europa Village, formerly the Loma Vista Bed & Breakfast) on a capacity night.

The other toque Dean wears is as personable innkeeper. If you find conventional hotels a bit on the sterile side and impersonal then let Dean and Nicole Thomas show you what gracious and relaxing hospitality is all about. The ten-room property, designed in Spanish Mission style, is located on the crest of a hill which affords an eye-popping, 180 degree view of the surrounding vineyards.

Typically Chef Dean (or Nicole) greets you on your arrival and personally shows you the property and then escorts you to your room. He’s also the ultimate wine country information concierge. Dean suggests appropriate wineries and restaurants to guests tailored to their specific tastes. After you’ve dined at one of his recommendations he even cares enough to ask how the experience went. That’s real service!

Temecula View from the Inn at Europa Village

While the Inn is comfortable (and being enhanced on an ongoing basis) nothing equals the personal VIP experience of having Chef Dean, a working culinarian with impressive credentials, prepare and serve each guest a changing two-course breakfast with all the accompaniments starting with fresh-roasted, organic Sumatran coffee and even local honey used as a sweetener. The seasonal menu is typically a fresh fruit course and then an egg offering.  My Sunday morning meal started with a rainbow-colored plate of bruleed bananas with French melon, pomegranate seeds, strawberries, kiwi, and fig puree. Incredibly most of the fruit was harvested from the property or grown in Chef Dean’s own garden at Peltzer Farms. A star career chef with a green thumb, too!

The finale was a perfectly prepared French crepe gently seasoned with clove and bay leaf and stuffed with cheese, mushrooms, and caramelized onions and topped with two sunny side eggs dusted with dehydrated tomato. It was plated with a tomato and arugula salad with the produce also grown in Chef Dean’s garden. You’d pay a pricey $20, or more, for this meal in a luxury hotel without any of the incredible local atmosphere!

Chef Leah Di Bernardo’s concluding farm-to-table repast for the 2011 season is set for Thursday evening, November 10th at the atmospheric wine cave located on the Europa Village vineyard estate property. It’s an attraction in itself. Europa’s own, Chef Dean Thomas, will again be part of the accomplished culinary team. It’s four courses artfully  matched with four local premium wines. A local craft beer will, again, be served during the reception. This represents an incredible value at $95 per person and seating is limited to 40 discriminating food lovers. All the information can be found @


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