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Menus as Tales of Love and Adventure

Updated: Apr 8, 2022

What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!—and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons? I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.

I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel? Excerpted from Allen Ginsberg, A Supermarket in California

A good menu should have the musicality of a poem – a texture and rhythm, with a uniting thread through it. Our brains crave familiarity and novelty at the same time. We want comfort, but also to be excited. (This is why relationships can be so challenging!) Chefs know this – they must be trustworthy, yet creative.

A menu also tells a story of a time and place. Like narrative, it has rising action that should draw people in, a climax, and a denouement. When creating a menu, I always consider, what story am I trying to tell. One of dappled shade and light? Of the impact zone on the beach?

Ultimately, we are all telling our own stories through food – of nature and nurture, where we came from, what we see and love, and in our most ambitious moments, we stretch out of our culinary comfort zones to who we want to be. If we believe the adage, “Every story is a love story”, then each menu we create is a love story. For me, that means bridging wilderness and regenerative farms with the people I cook for. Oysters, seaweed, and porcini are my love language.

For the Morel and Porcini Foraging event at Camp Earnest in the Sierra Foothills this May, chefs Beverly Torrez-Petty and Dave Ingram both trained at top bay area restaurants. Beverly was at Gary Danko’s for eight years, and Dave at Insalata’s in Marin. They are incredible overall chefs, but I’m in awe of their desserts.

Dave is throwing down with Grilled Honey-glazed Apricot in a Filo Nest w/ Vanilla Yogurt Cream & Blackberry-Candy Cap Compote

And Beverly has two desserts, Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart with candied pistachios and espresso chantilly along with candy cap panna cotta, reishi chocolate crumble, miso caramel, meringue mushrooms and wasabi furikake.

To see their savory dishes as well, visit Morel and Porcini Camp

Ona Lee is the chef at Lummi Island Wild Food Camp in June. She’s a fifth-generation Washingtonian who trained at the Michelin Starred Spotted Pig in New York City. She owns and operates Clara’s Canning Co. Coming from the Washington Coast, she knows her way around seafood. She’s making clams two ways and spot prawns three ways.

"Steamers in natural white wine from Siefert & Jones, with herbs from Nettles farm, local young garlic, Clara's scratch-made butter, and some with dried local chilies from Slanted Sun Farm.

Fire-grilled clams served as is with a saucy gremolata

Both ways are served with Rufous Sourdough, naturally leavened made with local grains in Bellingham


Local skillet roasted potato wedges seasoned with salt from Full Bloom Farm on Lummi Island

Sweet pea salad with scallion, sesame, and mint

Full Bloom Farm greens and flowers salad with charred onion vinaigrette

If Available: Spot Prawns served 3 ways:

  • Shrimp boil fashion, with potatoes and artichokes

  • Sashimi with harmonious soy and salmon caviar

  • Aguachile style, dressed in mild peppers, with cucumber and cilantro, served with a steamed corn tamale made with Fairhaven Mills dent corn, nixtamalized and ground on-site mixed with stock made from Riley's chickens, and Clara's butter.

  • Served with assorted salad

For the full menu, visit Here and click on “Read More”

They’ve inspired me to up my menu game in Alaska. During our day of kayaking, I’m planning on a beach fire lunch with needle flaming mussels with fire toasted sourdough bread and kombu/shiitake jam with ricotta cheese. Served with a salad of roasted fennel, arugula, shaved apple and pepitas.

For the full menu and details, visit: Wild Food Camp Alaska

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