Have you ever wondered how an Iron Chef lives? I got the chance to find out recently, when I was invited to travel down to Pennsylvania to have lunch and tour Luna Farm, chef Garces’ 40-acre spread. Here, in no particular order, are my discoveries from that lunch:
1. Having a car and driver is a great way to start off. This was especially true as Luna Farm is well off the beaten path and would be hard to find without the help of a good GPS.
2. Equipment envy is a dangerous thing! Besides the incredible Blue Star ranges being demonstrated that afternoon, out on the deck, Jose Garces has a huge "plancha," his flattop grill, alongside a wood-burning pizza oven and we hadn’t even hit the kitchen yet!
3. While the kitchen itself wasn’t huge (OK, mine’s bigger), the appliances were all professional grade. It was a warm and inviting space, which anyone would be happy to play around in.
4. Like his kitchen, chef Garces was also warm and inviting, happy to take us on a farm tour after lunch and answer all our questions.
5. Oh, and did I mention, he can cook?
6. Time to rethink prosecco? The cava served with the passed appetizers was a gorgeous color, cool and crisp with good fruit. Just the beginning of a series of thoughtful wine pairings.
7. Lamb and bacon? Sure, why not? Chef Garces skewered lamb and some Luna Farms eggplant, wrapped it in bacon, and seared it on the plancha (or griddle for you gringos) then paired it with a basil chimichurri. Terrific way to start our lunch!
8. Pork belly so 2013? There’s a cut of pork that you’re going to want, but you can’t have it. It’s called Ibérico secreto and it’s the pork version of a skirt steak. We had it marinated in thyme, garlic, and olive oil and grilled. Trust me, you want this!
9. Gazpacho leave you cold? In the hands of an Iron Chef (with a Vitamix) it’s a thing of silky smooth luxury. Chef Garces says the secret is really good olive oil and a lot of time in the blender. The surprise lump of crabmeat at the bottom of the cup just made it unbelievably great!
The Epicurious Blog
Yesterday, I had a chance to visit Chef Jose Garces&apos Luna Farm in rural Pennsylvania (northern Bucks County, for those wondering). The Iron Chef held a lunch to launch a new line of BlueStar gas cooking equipment, and after, he gave the group a tour of Luna Farm, the 40-acre property he&aposs been farming for the last three years.
While the farm does provide produce and eggs for his Philadelphia and Atlantic City restaurants, it also hosts children from the area for spring and summer field trips to teach them about farming and healthy eating.
See more photos from the farm after the jump.
Currently the farm has about 40 Barred Rock chickens, which roam a caged area of unused field.
The farm&aposs manager, Jillian Herschlag, was harvesting Orient Express eggplants in the field when we met her.
They&aposve had some drainage issues, she said, which made parsley and spinach difficult to grow as they don&apost like the wet, but they had a plethora of organic lettuces, peppers, and tomatoes.
The mobile chicken coop is to the far right.
Four types of heirloom tomatoes are growing in the hoop house to the left: Cherokee Purple, Cherokee Green, Striped German, and Prudence Purple. That&aposs kale, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and broccoli rabe under the tarps.
Jalapenos and Shishito peppers are among the chilies growing on the property.
One of the three beehives on the farm.
Young lettuce growing in the greenhouse.
Argula from the farm in a salad.
Although the farm is not currently open to the public, Garces says he&aposd like to start a series of private dinner events at Luna Farm soon.
Garces Summer BBQ at Luna Farms
We were lucky enough to spend this past Saturday, September 10th with with the Garces Foundation and Chef Jose Garces at Luna Farm in Ottsville, Bucks County, PA for one of our last barbecues of summer 2016. This barbecue picnic allowed guests to enjoy the beautiful scenery, good food, and learn more about the Garces Foundation and Luna Farm.
Photo by Phillymag.com
Named for the Garces Family’s adorable Bull Dog and the region’s breathtaking harvest moons, Luna Farm is a sustainable, all-organic 40-acre farm. The farm hosts and caters events seasonally, and supplies our East Coast restaurants with the finest locally grown organic vegetables, fruits, eggs and honey year-round. Much of Luna Farm’s produce can be found at our Philadelphia and Moorestown restaurants. While, Luna Farm is not open to the public on a daily basis, the Farm does host tours and events seasonally. Please view the Garces Foundation website for upcoming event details.
Luna Farm also plays a critical role in supporting the Garces Foundation and its mission: to educate children about the nutritional benefits of sustainable agriculture, meal preparation and healthy eating.
Photo from BillyPenn.com
Guests at the farm enjoyed personal tours of the farm, souvenirs from Tito’s Handmade Vodka’s infusion workshops including instruction and a take home jar of your personally crafted infusion, and make and take herb seed plantings. Chef Garces was in attendance to greet guests and sign copies of his cookbooks, The Latin Road Home and Latin Evolution. Guided hiking trails, about a 20 minute walk, were also provided where guests learned more about poisonous and edible plants as well as natural remedies. The barbecue lunch was provided by Garces Group, Rock N Roll BBQ Sauce, Franklin Fountain Ice Cream, and more. We enjoyed refreshments from Fiji water, Fat Tire and Narragansett beer, wine from Chaddsford winery, specialty cocktails made with Tito’s Vodka and Cucumber Rosemary Lemonade.
Our favorite part of any barbecue is obviously the spread. We loved the Pulled Pork Sliders with homemade potato chips, Sausage and Peppers on a onion roll, Hamburgers, Hot dogs, and variety of cold salads including Bean Salad and Potato Salad. To round it all out Franklin Fountain provided Rocky Road and Black Cherry Ice Cream that we devoured quickly.
Our basil and cilantro seedlings were a great souvenir reminding us how the Garces Foundation teaches children the importance of sustainability and organic farming. It was great to see so many children and families taking advantage of this event and the educational aspect it offers. For the adults, the Tito’s infusions were also a nice touch with flavors such as Pineapple Jalapeno, Strawberry Basil, Mixed Berries, and Cucumber Basil. Overall it was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday and left us feeling much better informed about the Garces Foundation and sustainability.
Luna Farm is a 5-acre vegetable farm that grows produce for the Garces Group restaurants in Philadelphia and Atlantic City. Luna Farm, owned by Chef Jose Garces, is a farm-to-table operation with 5 acres in production.
Located in Ottsville, PA, Luna Farm grows its produce following the organic standard. You can find Luna Farm vegetables and herbs at our Philadelphia and Atlantic City restaurants: Amada, Distrito, Garces Catering, GTC, JG Domestic, Tinto, and Village Whiskey. Luna Farm also has a small CSA that runs for 22 weeks from June through October.
Today was Jillian's last day at Luna Farm!
She was the farm manager for the past two years and she did a truly miraculous job! Jill was a wonderful boss and a great friend. What will the farm do without you?
Good luck in your next venture and thanks for bringing this farm to life!
And a Happy New Year to all!
Today was Stormie's last day at Luna Farm!
She has been our Assistant Manager for the past year and a half and the farm is sad to see her go. She was so much fun to work with and did a great job in her first managerial role. The bees and the microgreens will certainly miss her.
Good luck in your travels and stay safe! Thanks so much Stormie!
Jill and Stormie
#TBT Remember when we were all wearing shorts and sandals? That was nice.
Snowy Hoop Houses
December 11, 2014
Seasonal shots of Luna Farm from Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2014
From top to bottom, left to right: Winter, Spring, Fall, and Summer
Happy Thanksgiving! At Luna Farm we are happy for a prop house full of micros and two hoop houses filled with chard, kale, rosemary, arugula, and lettuce!
The Luna Farm Crew:
from left to right
Cindy, Jordan, Stormie, Brian, and Jill
A peek of sunrise between the horizon and cloud cover, November 20, 2014
Romanesco, one of nature's most exquisite vegetables, is one of our last field crops this season. Akin to broccoli and cauliflower, romanesco is delicious both cooked and raw.
A big thanks to the Luna Farm crew, Cindy, Brian, and Jordan, for a great season. You were so much help and so much fun! We'll miss you!
-Stormie and Jill
Savoy Cabbage, one of our last field crops. Great for slaws and if you're down for some fermentation, kimchi!
Late season farm clean up! Pulling up lots of mulch and stakes, ripping out frosted plants, chisel plowing and rototilling!
Recipe for Butternut Squash Gratin with Onion and Sage!
Courtesy of our CSA member, Brooke Everett
With the heirloom season over, arugula, rosemary, swiss chard, kale, and hakurei turnips are now growing in Hoop House #2. The row covers act as both insulation and bug barriers.
Baby Hakurei turnips from the raised benches in the prop house and raised beds from Hoop House #1
Microgreens growing strong in the propagation house
Newly germinated Carrots and Hakurei Turnips growing in Hoop House #1
Watermelon radishes from one of our raised beds. They're lots of fun to grow and even better to eat!
Farm Job: Behind the Scenes With Jose Garces' 26-Year-Old Farmer
She did it again! Our leading lady, Jillian Herschlag, stars in this spotlight clip from Zagat.
Kinda makes you want to farm, don't it?
30 Under 30 honoree Jillian Herschlag is the green thumb behind the fresh produce served at chef Jose Garces' Philly restaurants. Learn how the Dickinson College grad got her start on the farm in our video above.
Our resident fisherwoman, all set to bleach seeding flats
Sunrise at Luna Farm 6:55am, September 18, 2014
Recipe for Kabocha Squash Soup with Lime and Coconut Milk:
Vegetable Stock, 5 cups
1 medium kabocha squash, about 3½ pounds, cut in half, seeds removed
1 Tbsp.vegetable oil or olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped, about 2 cups
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
3 stalks lemongrass, tough tops and outer leaves removed, finely chopped, about 1/3 cup
1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
1 or 2 lime leaves
One 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
10 to 15 Thai basil leaves, bundled and cut in thin ribbons, about 2 Tbsp.
• Preheat the oven to 400º F.
• Make the stock and keep it warm over low heat.
• Place the squash, cut side down, in a baking dish with a little water. Cover and roast until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out of the skin. You should have about 4 cups.
• Heat the oil in a soup pot and add the onions, ½ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper and cook until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, lemongrass, and ginger and cook for 2 minutes. Add the squash, the stock, and the lime leaf and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes.
• Remove the lime leaf and puree the squash mixture in a blender until smooth. Pass through a food mill and return to the pot over medium-low heat. Add the coconut milk and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with Thai basil.
Autumn is upon us!
Baby Purple Carrots from the grow benches in the Prop House and Big Papa Carrots from the raised beds!
Farming is very serious business
This week's CSA: kale, garlic, golden beets, field tomatoes, chile peppers, sweet peppers, lettuce, arugula, zucchini, tomatillos, husk cherries, and thyme!
We found Brian hiding out in the sungolds.
Make sure to have a glass of milk on hand, these Jalapaños have a kick!
Zagat 30 Under 30 - Philadelphia | 2014 Innovative Restaurants
Our very own leading lady, Jillian Herschlag, just got named one of Zagat's 30 under 30! We all knew she was a total BAMF and now everybody else does too!
Zagat 30 Under 30 Philadelphia chefs, bartenders and foodies review. These innovative game changers are redefining the way we eat, drink and interact with food.
"The precise control available to me from my BlueStar oven ensures a perfect result every time."
Since opening his first restaurant in 2005, Chef Jose Garces has emerged as one of the nation’s leading chefs and restaurateurs. Today, he is the owner and operator of more than a dozen restaurants in five cities. He is the 2009 winner of the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef Mid-Atlantic” award and one of only a few chefs in the country to hold the coveted title of Iron Chef. In addition, Chef Garces is the owner of 40-acre Luna Farm in Bucks County, PA, where he and his team grow much of the produce for his Philadelphia restaurants. He is also the proprietor of one of the nation’s best-loved food trucks, Distrito Taco Truck, which is available for private events. His newest cookbook, The Latin Road Home (Lake Isle Press, October 2012), is a culinary and cultural tour of Ecuador, Spain, Mexico, Cuba and Peru.
Chef Jose Garces Introduces Wok Cooking on a BlueStar
See how Iron Chef & BlueStar All Star Jose Garces utilizes the integrated wok cooking feature on his BlueStar range. The searing 25,000 BTUs of power let you experience wok cooking in a way that is close to restaurant quality as you can get in a home kitchen.
Celebrating Farm-to-Table: A Day With Celebrity Chef Jose Garces in His Organic Garden
A tantalizing aroma of onions, jalapenos and tomatillos rises from the grill as chef Jose Garces gets ready to prepare his special salsa verde.
“We’re going to do a little cooking today,” he says. “I want to show you some of the things you can make quickly and easily with fresh-from-the-garden vegetables.”
We’re standing in the luxe outdoor kitchen on the back patio of his home, Luna Farm, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Situated about an hour north of Philadelphia, the circa-1833 farm isn’t just a retreat for his family, but also a means to bring the freshest organic edibles to the dishes offered at his East Coast restaurants.
“From the grind of the city and all the restaurants, Luna Farm gives me a nice place to relax,” says Garces, one of Philadelphia’s, if not the country’s, most celebrated chefs. In addition to his seven ethnically diverse Philly establishments””ranging from Andalusian tapas, to Peruvian Latin-Asian fare, to gourmet burgers, to farm-fresh artisanal American food””as well as the city’s popular Guapos Tacos truck, Garces also operates eateries in Atlantic City, New Jersey Scottsdale, Arizona Palm Springs, California and Chicago. In May 2009, he received the coveted James Beard award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, and later that year, he took home the title of Iron Chef on season two of the Food Network’s Next Iron Chef.
But Luna Farm is much more than simply a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of running a food empire.
“It fit the criteria,” he says. “And that criteria was a place where [the family] could retreat, but also a place where I could have a farm.”
Farm-to-table may be a popular food-industry buzzword, but for a discerning chef like Garces, owning a farm is more than an industry status symbol. It gives him the ability to personally oversee what products are going into his culinary creations.
“I think that I enjoy challenges, and this seemed like a great challenge for me,” says Garces. “There was something that clicked in me, in terms of being able to control the vegetables that I grow. I said to myself, wouldn’t it be amazing to grow my own food, to nurture the food, to nurture the crops, to make sure that they come out great. I’m now growing all of the ingredients I’ve loved to cook with for the last 20 years. There are different heirloom vegetables. We’re making honey. We’re growing mushrooms. And passing along what we’re doing here to our customers has always been the goal.”
Just a few hours earlier, I got an up-close look at the operation as Garces took me on a tour through the gardens, which comprise 10 of the property’s 40 acres and which marked their first full year of production in 2012.
To help ensure the farm’s success, Garces hired successful and well-known Bucks County organic farmer Alex McCracken to serve as farm manager. McCracken and his small staff of paid employees and volunteers plant and harvest more than 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables. There’s tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, zucchini, cucumbers, chard, radishes, beets, carrots, haricot vert, fava beans, cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon, squash, parsley, leeks, cilantro, rosemary, basil, and oregano, to name a few. Seventy-five Rhode Island red and barred-rock hens provide eggs daily, and two apiaries of honeybees produce about 100 gallons of honey.
In its first year, the farm produced one thousand pounds of produce weekly””about 25 percent of the total amount used in Garces’ Philadelphia and New Jersey restaurants. He hopes that someday soon it will become the main source for some ingredients, such as microgreens. And everything is fresh, organic, and sustainably grown.
No chemical insecticides or fungicides are used neem oil keeps insects at bay. Rainwater is captured for irrigation. Fryer oil from Garces’ restaurants is recycled into biodiesel and used to power the farm’s tractor. Even the honeybees offer natural pollination for the crops. It’s all part of Garces’ desire to offer his customers the best ingredients in the best dishes.
As we wander through the rows of fresh greens, Garces reaches down and plucks off some fresh Sun Gold tomatoes and offers them to me. The small orange varietal of cherry tomato burst with a delectable sweetness. “These are doing well, and the restaurants are using them like crazy,” he says.
Earlier that morning, a group of children from inner-city Philadelphia had toured the farm. “They tore through these [tomatoes],” says Garces. “They were so excited about eating something right off the vine.
“That’s why I started the foundation,” he adds. “I want to help children understand where their food comes from.”
In late 2012, Garces and his wife Beatriz, a dentist, started the eponymous Garces Family Foundation, which is geared toward helping the underserved immigrant community in Philadelphia. Partnering with Puentes de Salud, an organization formed by volunteer doctors that offers medical and dental care to uninsured immigrants, the foundation will provide nutrition and health education and outreach to poor and immigrant children throughout the Philadelphia region.
“The group that was just out here was from the Urban Nutrition Initiative,” says Garces. “They take inner-city kids and teach them about nutrition and health. So we had the kids out here for a field trip. It was our first one where we entertained kids and got to really interact with them. They went out in the field and picked some vegetables. We got to talk about the vegetables, and then they came back here and I did a few demonstrations for them. We all tried the things they picked. It was a great day.”
And then just like with the kids, Garces then proceeds to demonstrate his cooking skills for me.
On a Sunday afternoon at Jose Garces’ Luna Farm
I’m so glad you invited me, Theresa said as she leaned toward me. It wasn’t the first time she’d thanked my buddy Kristin and me for asking her to come along to a summer barbecue on the way-out-of-town Luna Farm of the Iron Chef Jose Garces.
I understood exactly how she felt. We were sitting at a table under a gigantic white tent, a playful breeze cooling us on a day when it was not as nearly needed but welcomed, surrounded by stations of great food and a carpet of beautiful green grass. The sky was clear and blue, and soul music from a band on the deck made us want to move our shoulders and wiggle our hips.
What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Mixed fruit kombuca sorbet and Tahitian vanilla ice cream from Owowcow.
But it was not all for pleasure and relaxation. The three of us and more than 200 other people had paid a little cash for all of this – an amount very small considering the why of the barbecue: to raise money to help fund programs for the Garces Foundation. The organization offers community health days with free dental (Garces’ wife Beatriz Mirabal-Garces is a dentist) and other health care services, literacy and related classes for restaurant workers and field trips to the farm for students.
The 40-acre organic Luna Farm in Ottsville, PA, an hour north of Philadelphia, is both the family’s home-away-from-the-city and the supplier of vegetables, fruits, eggs and honey for the chef’s dozen restaurants in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This was the second year of the barbecue hosted by the foundation and Garces, who in shorts and shirts mingled, welcomed and chatted with the guests.
We had choices of barbecued chicken and pork, goat tacos, roast pork, burgers, hotdogs, Sangria, lemonade (with or without vodka), salads, water and more from nine stations/tables under the tent or on the lawn under the trees. At one table, we infused jars of clear vodka with strawberries, raspberries, cucumbers, rosemary, mint and/or blueberries. It should be drinkable in a few days. Vodka anyone?
The infused vodka that Theresa, Kristin and I concocted.
We partook of just about everything (except, for me, the pork) two, three and then-we-stopped-counting times. We didn’t pig out, we hogged out.
On the deck, the American Deluxe band with Clay Sears on guitar (he’s played with such folks as Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, Pharrell Williams, Melissa Etheridge and Britney Spears) and its three singers kept the tunes coming, from Prince to Chaka Khan and other soul singers.
I’ll let the photos tell the story.
The American Luxury band, with Clay Sears on guitar in black T-shirt. The band and its three singers – the drummer and two women – made the day.
My most favorite dish, from Garces Catering: lima and fava beans.
Tour guide Alex stands atop an overturned tree. Along a short walking tour, he pointed out several plants, including poison ivy, goldenrod and yarrow.
Grilled hotdogs and hamburgers from Harry Spivak Catering/Consulting.
A guest reads a copy of Jose Garces’ book “The Latin Road Home” that he signed at the barbecue. She also has two pots of basil and cilantro seedlings that she planted.
Sangria (right, another of my favorites) and Niagaritas from Chaddsford Winery.
Kid goat (el cabrito) tacos from the Garces Catering. At left, a goat marinating nearby demonstrates how the meat was prepared (cooked for 11 hours in banana leaves over coals).
A hotdog and barbecued chicken, along with my cup of Sangria and my Ball jar of infused vodka.
Chuck the beekeeper, of Bucks County Apiaries, answers questions about the beehives that he tends on the weekends. We could see a few of them a distance away. In the background are the fields, which are now fallow and mostly planted with rye grass.
That’s me eating the mixed fruit sorbet and Theresa in the background listening to the music.
Gone Country: Cruising to Chef Jose Garces’ Luna Farm for Summer BBQ
Yes, we know… You hate driving long distances out of the city into the country. So we did it for you!
After about an hour of driving, we parked at Palisades Middle School (4710 Durham Rd, Kintnersville, PA 18930) that provided yellow school bus shuttles (not the short bus) to Luna Farm as parking at the farm would have been packed. Upon arrival, port-a-potties awaited those who took the hour-long drive from the city and 20 minute bus ride. And although no one actually likes using them, they were some of the cleanest around!
This was the second annual Garces Foundation Summer Barbecue at Chef Garces’ Luna Farm in Ottsville, Bucks County, Pa. on Sunday, June 7 from 1-4 p.m. Tickets were $75 per person, $30 for children (ages 5-12), free for children under 5 and a 30% discount for Young Friends members.
The local barbecue lunch provided tasty bbq eats by Garces Catering, Fat Jack’s BBQ, owwowcow creamery, Rosati Water Ice and other area restaurateurs. M usicians American Deluxe with Clay Sears and Matt Cappy kept the funk flowing with an eclectic mix of smooth sounds, soul and ending with some sweet cooing of Prince.
The Luna Farm tour took off every 30 minutes and fearless groups toured Chef Jose Garces’ farm through mowed paths winding through the woods behind his summer home. This may have been what was considered the “guided hiking trails” which were a 20 minute walk around the 40 acre property. Some not-too-outdoorsy folks left the group when the words “poison ivy” and “ticks” were mentioned by the fearless tour guide.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka had a stellar idea for the vodka infusion workshop, providing fresh fruit, herbs and veggies to put inside mason jars. Let it sit a couple weeks, pop a straw in… haha just kidding. Mix with tonic water or something refreshing and viola! An organic, tasty “homemade” vodka without all the mess.
Refreshing Fiji water with straws poked inside caps, beer (including cider), wine (and sangrias), specialty cocktails (a Chaddsford Winery niagartia – a new kind of stiff, delicious addiction) and (spiked) lemonade.
Near the green house, there were make-and-take herb seed plantings, including basil and mint. Meanwhile, Chef Garces was signing copies of his cook books, The Latin Road Home and Latin Evolution .
A very family friendly occasion, there was a m oon bounce and lawn games for kids – and playful (or perhaps tipsy) parents. We only wished it lasted longer and with a pool party to cool sizzling summer skin!
Tents give some shade in the bright sunshine at Jose Garces Luna Farm BBQ.
This goat seemed done for the day as some children screamed and pointed at it.
Luna Farm looks so far away but wasn’t at all.
Our tour guide liked climbing on tree roots.
He also liked to climb tree roots.
The tour guide loved to climb every tree in sight.
Unless there’s bees in them, then don’t smell the flowers.
Always stop and smell the flowers.
Follow the … green grass road?
He also explained how one simple plant is much more potent than coffee.
The tour guide was showing guests which plant to rub on before and after being exposed to poison ivy.
This is the exact opposite of the city, which sometimes is what you need.
Cornhole is up next while waiting for the farm tour.
Chuck from Bucks County Apiaries shows guests some honeycomb that formed an almost artistic shape.
Chuck from Bucks County Apiaries explains to guests where the queen may be hidden in the hive.
A smoker, to move the bees around without making them angry.
Bucks County Apiaries truly loves their bees – and the country life.
Chuck from Bucks County Apiaries tells tales of saving cows.
The greenhouse where a lot of produce magic happens for Jose Garces.
To the left sits a country pickup truck which beckons.
If the tent didn’t strike your fancy, there was tree shade available too.
A view of the back of Luna Farm.
Never usually a fan of cider, this Strongbow with honey was refreshing and delicious and not too sweet.
So savory and smooth, you wouldn’t know it went bah once.
Chef strikes a cheesy pose. The deal was photo for samples!
Waiting for a taste is torture.
Garces Events shows they know how to cook a mean BBQ goat.
Where the magic happens, inside this roasting box.
A goat’s leg peeks out of the banana leaves.
After being encased in a metal top with some water, the cheese is perfectly melted.
Sliding onto the bun with cheese perfectly melted.
And a perfect burger is made – and eating in record time.
A view of the refreshing, tempting pool and fire pit.
A condiment table fit for any chef waited to pile on top of the burgers and dogs.
Chefs in the outdoor kitchen kept busy with hungry guests waiting for hot dogs and burgers.
American Deluxe with Clay Sears and Matt Cappy were the perfect mix to the bbq vibe.
Chef discusses how to cook a goat after being wrapped in banana leaves.
Some of the best lettuce we’ve ever tasted.
A veggie heavy potato salad is perfect for hot days.
Tortellini and cheese are quite addicting.
BBQ fare began with white beans.
A colorful mason jar, ready to marinate in the vodka.
Guests full up mason jars with fresh fruits, herbs and veggies into the Tito’s vodka.
The booze table had some stellar and refreshing options.
Latin Evolution and The Latin Road Home were available for purchase.
Chef Jose Garces signing books for fans at the summer bbq.
Guests lined up to buy copies of Jose Garces’ books and get them signed asap.
A white wine sangria with fresh fruit.
Mixing up fresh made sangria with white wine.
The niagarita was amazing and a little too smooth, almost like water but had 10% potency!
Chaddsford Winery came out to offer one of the most addicting and delicious cocktails alive!
Rosati Water Ice had everyone’s favorite – mango!
Owwowcow Creamery slinging out cool, creamy gelato always makes people smile.
For a sweeter side of things, these sweet flavors were a nice compliment.
Holy mole! The chocolate mole gelato had a nice kick at the end.
Tony Luke’s delicious, mouth-watering sandwich never disappoints.
Tony Luke’s representing Philly in the country.
Cucumbers, raspberries and fresh herbs were available to full the Tito’s Vodka mason jars.
And behind Tito’s there was the bouncy house for kids.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka had mason jars prepped with vodka for guests to take home.
Fat Jack’s BBQ was deliciously tangy with pork and chicken options.
Lunch at Luna Farm with Chef Jose Garces - Recipes
Named an Iron Chef in 2009, Jose Garces has since risen to the top of the culinary arts industry. Foodies love him. His peers respect him. His kids? Well, they just like hanging out and cooking with him. But wherever he is, one thing is for sure: Chef Garces knows how to cook – and run an empire.
When you run a culinary empire – say, 14 restaurants in six states – you need continuous inspiration. Chef Jose Garces, 33, has developed the flavors and food that have shot him to stardom by using his experiences from his travels around the world – and his time in his grandmother’s kitchen.
“Before I opened the original Distrito, I traveled to Mexico City with my friend and fellow chef Tim Spinner,” he says. “We had barely dropped our bags on the ground before we headed out the door to start our eating tour.
“We followed the scent of roasted corn down the street until we hit the first – not our last – food cart, where we purchased steaming hot esquites, fresh, sweet corn with a strong Mexican herb called epazote, oregano topped off with queso fresco, mayo and a nice shake of chile pequin powder and a squeeze of lime. It was one of those pure moments of food bliss that just stays with you, the taste of real street food in the heart of one of my favorite places on earth.”
But his days cooking alongside his Ecuadorian grandmother – Mimita Amada – are what formed the foundation for Garces’ cooking prowess. “Latin food is in my blood, and it all began back home,” says Garces, who grew up in Chicago.
“She was a big part of my childhood and upbringing,” he says. “She lived in Ecuador but would visit us regularly when we were kids. She was the matriarch of the family, and she taught everyone how to cook. I picked up lessons from her and from an early stage of life, I became influenced by this woman who was an amazing cook.”
When Garces landed in Philadelphia and opened his first restaurant in 2005, he paid homage to the woman who inspired him, naming the restaurant Amada. Now 93, Mimita Amada has visited her namesake restaurant, at first not knowing of the honor.
“She was actually asking for some royalties for using her name,” jokes Garces. “We put Amada’s Empanadas on the menu, which are based on her recipe for green plantain dough empanadas. That is her favorite dish, because it’s one of the things she does really well. The name Amada is not really reflective of a Spanish tapas bar restaurant it’s just kind of an emotional connection for me. The fact that it had so many connotations made a lot of sense.”
That family connection transferred perfectly to his latest restaurant: Distrito in Moorestown Mall, which opened in July. Garces says he worked with his kids, Olivia, 12, and Andres, 7, to develop some of the menu items, especially the kids’ menu. Acknowledging that even his own kids enjoy standard kid fare like chicken nuggets and hot dogs, Garces went a different route.
“There are more homemade touches – fresh quesadillas with fresh homemade tortillas and salsa served on the side, and homemade macaroni and cheese with the sauce made from scratch,” he says. “We are applying fresh ingredients and fresh techniques. No freezer bag stuff that you would normally find on a kids’ menu.”
Garces spent a lot of time designing the new restaurant for families, since it would be located in a mall. “It was natural for us to consider how to serve them best,” he says. “We have so many foods you can share, crowd-pleasers and finger foods that kids of all ages like to dig into. The look on kids’ and parents’ faces when a server delivers a complimentary round of shaved snow cones reminds me of why I love the hospitality industry.”
A wall of Mexcian wrestling masks at Distrito in Moorestown Mall (photo by David Michael Howarth)
Even the walls of the new restaurant offer something for families. One is covered with colorful masks that definitely capture your attention. “Lucha libre is a style of professional wrestling found in Mexico, and the masks are an unmistakable element of a match,” he says. “When I was doing research for Distrito in Mexico City, we snagged tickets to a wrestling match, and we noticed that right outside of the arena, there were 30 to 40 lucha libre mask stands. They are dramatic, colorful and authentic, all elements we wanted to bring to the Distrito dining experience.”
For his family, Garces considers his 40-acre Luna Farm in Bucks County, Pa. their sanctuary. While it serves as a family haven, the four-year-old farm also supplies organic vegetables, fruits, eggs and honey to Philadelphia restaurants year-round. Distrito in Moorestown uses the fresh produce.
“I’ve gotten food delivered to the back door of my restaurants for many years as a chef, without really knowing how it got there,” says the city dweller, who lives in the Logan Square section of Philadelphia. “This has been a learning experience, getting to know what it takes to deliver food to the table.
Chef Garces checks the fresh vegetables at his Luna Farm
“Over a weekend at Luna Farm last year, Olivia and I cranked out hundreds of cookies. She loves to bake, and it’s one of the ways we spend time together,” Garces says. “We make ice cream together, too, and Andres gets involved in that. It’s fun to let them experiment with new flavor combinations.”
Garces jokes that he can sometimes use the farm to his advantage. “If the kids are in trouble, they have some farm labor they owe me,” he says with a laugh. “Living in the city and having that ability to go out to the farm and experience nature and agriculture make it special for our family.”
Luna Farm is also instrumental in the work of the Garces Foundation, which runs a field trip program. “We teach inner-city children what the process is all about,” he says. “There are so many life lessons that occur out there. It’s a great way to live and a great way to learn.”
Last year, 160 students toured the farm, learning how to grow and harvest food, and prepare healthy meals and snacks. Each child went home with a full stomach and an easy recipe to share.
Of course, when he isn’t on the farm, Garces is the head of a major corporation, the Garces Group, which owns and manages 14 restaurants, an event planning division and a food truck, called Distrito Taco. A single day might take him from DC to NJ to PA. He says he tries to be as hands-on as possible.
“My role as the CEO of the company is to help make some of the bigger-picture decisions for the group,” he says. “I have a talented senior-level team some great folks who help me manage, control and grow what we have going on. I built the team, so I can focus on what I do best, which is cook the food. That’s where I will be hanging my hat for several years.”
Despite having that CEO title, there are times when the acclaimed chef has to do whatever it takes. After being named the Food Network’s “Iron Chef” (he’s one of six chefs in the country to have that distinction), Garces opened Tinto in Philadelphia to great fanfare.
“There was a lot of anticipation and we had many customers who stormed our doors the first night,” he recalls. “The restaurant was like a townhouse. It was packed, and we had only two restrooms on the lower level. It came to be that the restrooms were getting a lot of use. All of a sudden there were, let’s just say, back-ups in the restrooms. Here I am, my first night, really nervous about just service in general, and our basement is basically flooded. I scrambled up to our office where there happened to be a residential bathroom and I started cleaning it myself, getting it ready for our customers who would inevitably need a bathroom. That was a moment I’ll never forget.”
Garces has also written two cookbooks: “Latin Evolution,” and more recently, “The Latin Road Home: Savoring the Foods of Ecuador, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru.”
“I think it’s great to tell a story and share your knowledge of cooking, recipes and how the chef gets to that final place of delivering a meal,” he says. “For me it’s a great way to catalogue all those different memories, travelogues and recipes, and I’m fortunate to be able to share that with people who care about cooking. While I own restaurants and want people to go out to eat, I think cooking at home is also very important. I advocate that. It’s healthy it’s good. And it’s a great activity for couples and families to do together.”
Lunch at Luna Farm with Chef Jose Garces - Recipes
Luna Farm: Farm to the Table Exclusive Dinner
Chef Jose Garces put together a once in a lifetime Luna Farm dinner as an auction item during the Garces Foundation Gala that will be held on Saturday, June 6. Chef Garces will create a farm to table collaborative dinner prepared by fellow chefs, Rich Landau, Kevin Sbraga, Peter Serpico and Greg Vernick who will cook a private dinner at Jose’s farm with wine pairings. Tickets are $1500 each and are limited to eight attendees. Chef Eli Kulp was originally planning to join the chefs as one of the collaborators of the dinner, The Garces Foundation will donate the proceeds from the dinner to the Kulp Family Medical Fund. For tickets or more information call 267.284.7905 or visit www.garcesfoundation.org.
The Second Annual Garces Foundation Summer Barbecue
The Second Annual Garces Foundation Summer Barbecue celebratessummer with a barbecue lunch at Luna Farm in support of the Garces Foundation, the nonprofit organization committed to ensuring that Philadelphia’s underserved immigrant community has access to health and educational services. Guests will enjoy live music, farm tours, and much more on Sunday, June 7, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. for more information or to purchase tickets visit: call 267.284.7905 or visit www.garcesfoundation.org.
Open Source: Steps and Pyramid
Accidental Locavore: Lunch With Iron Chef Jose Garces
How many times do you get invited to lunch with an Iron Chef? Recently, the Accidental Locavore was whisked down to Chef Jose Garces' Luna Farm in Pennsylvania for lunch. It was a gorgeous day, the kind that makes you start to really like September, a beautiful setting, interesting company and, oh yeah, great food!
The day was a launch party for BlueStar's new Platinum line of ranges. They're made a few miles away from Chef Garces' farm and if you haven't started your Christmas (or whatever) wish list, you have now. And it will probably take you that long to pick your options, starting with the 750 colors you can choose from. If that's not enough, pick your size and burner options. They all come with easily changed grill/griddles and remove a burner and your wok fits right into the 25,000 BTU burner. So far, I've narrowed it down to about six colors, but haven't moved onto the burner layout yet - Santa are you listening?
Ok, so now that you know about my range lust, what did Chef Garces actually cook on it? We started with flutes of cava in a deep pink color. What a nice change from prosecco and something that I'll definitely be serving soon. The best of the passed hors d'oeuvres was a skewer of lamb and eggplant (from the farm) wrapped in bacon and done on the range's griddle. Lamb along with the smokiness of the bacon and eggplant was a great combination.
The main course was the real star of the show. If you've had enough of pork belly, the next trendy pork part to lust over is Ibérico secreto. It's the pork version of a skirt steak (however, if you can find it, the price tag more resembles an expensive aged rib eye), well-marbled and, when marinated in olive oil, thyme and garlic and grilled by an Iron Chef, probably the single best piece of pork I've ever had! This was served with a platter of eggplant and padron peppers that were grown on the farm and some creamed corn he made with bacon and smoked onions. Before the Ibérico secreto, Chef Garces served a superb gazpacho. His secret? Really good olive oil and a lot of time in the blender.
And speaking of olive oil, I've wondered for a long time about olive oil cakes and now I know, they're delicious! These were served in little jars and topped with cream, plums and pistachios so they not only looked good, but tasted good too.
After all that great food, a much needed walk through his farm. Farmer Garces has 40 acres, growing organic produce for his restaurants. Along with that are a flock of chickens and a couple of bee hives. He has spent a lot of time and money working the farm and improving the drainage. One thing that really resonated with me, as we were leaving the farm he said that while they would never recoup the money invested in the drainage system, "at least the ground would be growing food for a long time."