Saturday morning: Rudi calls: "Are you coming with us to the farm?"
"Um, no, I thought you said I didn't have to go to the farm, I could just come for lunch at 11."
"Well, you don't have to, but we are meeting at the restaurant, and if you want to come to the farm, get here by 10 or 10:15."
So, I packed my bags as quickly as I could, and found my way to quaint, upscale Rancho Santa Fe, to the meeting place, which was the restaurant Mille Fleurs.
I got there too late, about 10:30. Luckily, when I called Rudi, he said that chef Martin of Mille Fleurs was returning from the farm with his vegetables, and I could follow him back if I wanted to see the farm.
So I did - met Chef Martin of Mille Fleurs, who was super nice, and because he had to drive people back to the restaurant, I followed him in my car to Chino Farm, just about a 5 minute drive from his restaurant, along some pretty country roads.
Chino Farm, a place I only learned about this past weekend, is apparently a well known high end local farm situated in Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego county, and supplies high end restaurants, but ships to none of them except for Alice Water's restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. All other restaurants have to shop there personally and pick up the veggies and fruits, like Chef Martin does every day. Which I thought was pretty cool.
The farm seems to specialize in miniature organically grown vegetables - everything from mini radishes (some purple, some red), beets, fennel, leeks, zucchinis, other squashes, cauliflowers and asparagus. They also have French strawberries, those wild ones, which are red all the way to their core. Rudi bought some of those to share with the group, and they were very good. It is open to the public, and seemed to have a bit of a following, and the oddity was that no prices were posted - all the service seemed personalized, with the owner behind the counter filled with veggies and fruits.
Back at the restaurant, a group of 25 or so people mingled for a bit with 2009 Schnaitmann Evoe Rose from the Wurttemburg region, a rose blend from 60% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier, and 20% Trollinger. When we sat down for lunch, we got a taste of those farm fresh veggies right away with an exclusively vegetarian meal. A gorgeous green soup, a plate of grilled assorted baby vegetables, and after that, a homemade veggie ravioli topped with cave aged gruyere - rich and heavy that would help our group prepare our tummies for the wines about to be poured: a tasting of trockenbeerenauslese Rieslings all over 50 years old, Rudi's private collection (supplemented by a few recent purchases and contributions) that created this incredible, seriously once-in-a-lifetime tasting.