Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Gardening

Mokichi Okada Assn. Wellness Center in West L.A.

MOAThe Mokichi Okada Assn., also known as MOA, was established in 1980 to continue the work and founding principles of Mokichi Okada. In the 1930s, Okada developed a healthcare system based on new medicine with the intention of nourishing the body, mind and spirit by creating a healthy civilization in harmony with nature.

Through the fields of medicine, agriculture and the arts, MOA aims to prevent illness and promote wellness. The organization also includes the Okada Health and Wellness Program, structured to incorporate the practices of the three major enterprises of MOA -- the Okada Purifying Therapy, Nature Farming and Arts and Culture Therapy -- into everyday life. Activities such as the Japanese tea ceremony and flower arranging are believed to act as therapies fostering physical and spiritual health. 

The organization, which has centers scattered throughout Japan, has branched out to international locations in Hawaii and, more recently, California. In 1999, retired farmers Tadashi and Yoko Mori donated five acres in Fresno to MOA. The farm promotes Okada's philosophy to respect the soil and not resort to artificial chemicals such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, in order to produce natural, chemical-free foods rich in vital energy and flavor for the community. The now 10-acre farm and orchard, called the Oasis Garden, offers certification programs, seasonal classes and CSA produce boxes, also available at the center in West L.A.

The MOA Wellness Center in Mar Vista opened in March 2010. Walk in and you've entered a quiet haven, a definite gem in the midst of the bustling city. In addition to offering Angelenos produce from the farm in Fresno, the center holds workshops on home gardening and raw food. On any visit, the tea ceremony is a must.

4533 S. Centinela Ave., L.A., (310) 574-9900, moawellness.org.

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Photos: The Oasis Farm in Fresno. Credit: Moa-fresno.org

Joe Miller of Joe's teaches fifth-graders how to cook

The We Garden project is expanding with a cooking class
While finishing her master gardener course, Venice resident Nora Dvosin spotted a 60-by-40-foot prospect plot for planting at a local elementary school and immediately started planning a co-gardening project. In partnership with landscape artist and master gardener Nancy Griffin, principal Betty Coleman and Westminster Avenue Elementary School students, Dvosin's project, called We Garden, has since expanded to more than a quarter-acre.

Students plant, tend to and harvest through the garden project and now, with the help of Joe Miller of Joe's Restaurant (which last month celebrated its 20th anniversary), students engage in a once-a-month cooking class in which they're introduced to ingredients and cooking techniques.

The next class is Friday at 11 a.m. In addition to Westminster Avenue Elementary's fifth-graders, Dvosin says the public is welcome too.

1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 392-3041.

Joe Miller of Joe's Restaurant coducts the We Garden cooking class

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Urban picnic box

-- Caitlin Keller

Upper photo: The We Garden plot. Credit: Andrea Torng

Lower photo: Joe Miller of Joe's Restaurant. Credit: Andrea Torng

Seeds of greatness? We'll see


For fans of losing sports teams, the chant is "Wait until next year." We Southern California gardeners don’t have to have any such delay. A couple of weekends ago, I pulled the last remnants of my sorry, bedraggled summer vegetable garden to prepare the beds for the next season. This weekend, I planted them. Hope springs eternal.

In addition to the usual suspects  -- French breakfast and Easter egg radishes and a lettuce mix --  I planted three new vegetables that I bought from the Seeds From Italy website. You might have seen the big, colorful packets of Franchi Sementi seeds at high-end stores such as the Gardener in Berkeley. A friend who is a passionate gardener routinely brings them back every year from her favorite store in Rome. Now these same seeds are available online, at what seem like extremely reasonable prices.

What did I get? I planted one raised bed full of Cascine fava beans ($4.45 for 100 grams of seed), and another split between cavalo nero ($2.95) and scorzonera ($2.95). Cavalo nero is now familiar as black kale, the extremely dark, thin, leaves textured like dinosaur skin. Amazing when cooked low and slow. Scorzonera is not yet so familiar. It's related to salsify, and it's a delicious root vegetable that I almost never see even at a farmers market.

Of course, there's an irony there, and I'm the first to recognize it. Why is a guy trying scorzonera, a guy who can't grow zucchini without mildew, whose only successful tomato was the so-called Early Girl (which only started to ripen in August)?

Maybe this season will be different.


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-- Russ Parsons

Photo: Russ Parsons / Los Angeles Times

Quinces: A tribute to the ancient fruit at the Los Angeles Public Library

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On Oct. 8, the Culinary Historians of Southern California will present "Simply Quince: From Breakfast to Dinner for 3,000 Years" at the Central Library. Barbara Ghazarian will address the long history of the lumpy, golden fruit known as the quince. The lecture will trace the fruit's migration from its origins in the Caucasus and discuss dishes related to ancient recipes, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.

Central Library, 630 W. 5th Street, L.A., (213) 228-7000, lapl.org.


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Photo credit: David Karp / Los Angeles Times

Outstanding in the Field comes to town in November

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Outstanding in the Field -- a mobile supper club, if you will -- is finishing up its 2011 farm-to-table tour with a two-day stop in Hollywood. The big red-and-white bus tours the nation from coast to coast once a year, setting up table at diverse locations like ranches, sea caves, mountaintops and even urban landscapes; in this case, community garden Wattles Farm (just a couple blocks off Hollywood Boulevard).

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Wattles Farm master gardeners Toby Leaman, who is also president of the Wattles Farm board of directors, and Reed Poverny will host the events Nov. 2 and 3.

The event on Nov. 3, featuring chef Jamie Lauren of Vodvil LA, is sold out, but there's still availability for the dinner on Nov. 2; Outstanding will be announcing the guest chef for Wednesday's event shortly.

Tickets are $220 per person and include a reception with wine and passed appetizers, a tour of the farm and a dinner using local ingredients. Outstandinginthefield.com.

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--Caitlin Keller

Photo credit: Jeremy Fenske

Family supper benefit at Good Girl Dinette

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On Oct. 3, Good Girl Dinette will host a family supper benefiting the Young Folks Urban Farmers' project at the Los Angeles Leadership Academy's urban farm.

The Young Folks Urban Farmers is a collective of young people looking to change the way urban L.A. eats. The group has partnered with the academy in Lincoln Heights to bring the community a 4-acre farm (currently growing tomatoes, beans, squash, cucumbers, strawberries, melons and peppers) where the collaborative effort of backyard farmers, students, staff, faculty and parents approach sustainability through urban food production.

The Oct. 3 dinner will help fund an Urban Farming elective course offered to high school students at  the academy this fall as well as an after-school program. The meal will be completely sourced from local farmers and prepared by Diep Tran, founder and chef of the American-Vietnamese diner, and team.

Tickets are $35 per person and may be purchased online through EventBrite or at Good Girl Dinette.

110 N. Ave. 56, L.A., (323) 257-8980, goodgirlfoods.com.

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-- Caitlin Keller

Photo: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Renee's Garden seeds on sale

Salepackets Though most of the country is coming to the end of this year's vegetable gardens, here in California, we're just turning the page to the next chapter. So now's the perfect time to cash in on the end-of-season sale by Renee’s Garden, reliable purveyor of extraordinary seeds for the kitchen garden. The list of seeds and sale ordering form is here. Stock up on breakfast radish “Petit Déjeuner," French “Rolande” beans, “Baby Bette” carrot and heirloom lemon cucumbers, even “Cinderella’s Carriage” pumpkins, plus handful of basils, smoky bronze fennel and lots of garden flowers, including a dozen or more sweet peas. All at 40% off. Most are $1.67 per packet; some are $1.79.

I don't know about you, but I can never have enough French breakfast radishes. I just keep planting, every week or two, all year long. Have them with sweet butter and fleur de sel as an apéritif or slice them vertically into a salad as a pretty accent.


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 —S. Irene Virbila

Photo: sale seed packets. Credit: Renée’s Garden


Gardener Alert: Two heirloom festivals in September


The first ever National Heirloom Exposition will be held Sept. 13-15 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. This “World’s Fair” of the heirloom industry, sponsored in part by Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., will also feature "dozens of seed companies, garden tool companies, and garden accessory craftsmen and their wares from throughout the U.S. as well as plants and plant starts, garden-inspired art and organic, natural and original food items.” 

There will be cooking demonstrations with chefs (including Jeremy Fox, formerly of Ubuntu in Napa), educational seminars, film screenings and 200 or more booths — plus tastings of heirloom vegetables from around the country. Speakers will include Alice Waters, founder of the Edible Schoolyard, and  Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya, a movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seeds.  

Hayground Organic Farm’s Jimmy Williams, a regular at the Santa Monica and Hollywood farmers markets, will be there along with co-author and garden writer Susan Heeger, giving a talk and signing “From Seed to Skillet: A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting, and Cooking Up Fresh, Healthy Food to Share with People You Love” (Chronicle Books, $30).

Continue reading »

Tamasin Day-Lewis on jewels and radishes

Hemmerle CORNHemmerle STEAK 

Tamasin Day-Lewis — English chef, food writer and sister of "There Will Be Blood" star Daniel Day-Lewis — and the design house of Hemmerle have collaborated to conceive "Delicious Jewels," a book that simultaneously explores the tastes, textures, shapes and bold colors of both jewelry making and cooking, two different but equally eminent art forms. [Updated 11 a.m. July 18: An earlier version of this post described Hemmerle as a publishing house.]

"Both rely on technique, long experience and tradition, purism and originality without pretentiousness," says Day-Lewis. She adds, "Elegant simplicity at best, both are beautiful to the eye and a joy to the senses."

In celebration of summer and its agricultural offerings, we've asked Day-Lewis to share her thoughts on the recently released book, her favorite California eats, and what she's cooking up this season:

Continue reading »

5 Food Events You Should Know About: Salute! beer festival; A.O.C wine tastings; Lambrusco Day at Cube; garden workshop; L.A. Street Food Fest

Salute! Salute! beer and food festival: Ojai Beverage Co. hosts the 2nd annual Salute! More than 100 beers from local and national craft breweries will be paired with food from regional restaurants, benefiting local community organizations including the American Cancer Society. Featured craft breweries include Lagunitas Brewing Co. from Petaluma and North Coast Brewing Co. from Fort Bragg. There's a VIP tasting on Friday  with a connoisseurs beer reception followed by a four-course dinner. An unlimited beer and food-tasting session takes place Saturday. Tickets start at $43.30 (including tax) and are available online at salutebeerfestival.com655 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, (805) 646-1700.

Destination wine: Every Monday night, A.O.C. hosts "Flights & Bites" offering wine tastings accompanied by small plates from different regions around the world. Two flights of wine are paired with cuisine from the region. Upcoming wine capital destinations include Santa Ynez's Dragonette Cellars on Monday and Languedoc-Roussillon on June 27. 8022 W. Third St., L.A., 323-653-6359, aocwinebar.com.

Perfect pair: Cube Café celebrates a wine favored among its staff and patrons by participating in International Lambrusco Day. On June 21, the restaurant will be offering special discounts on the Medici Ermete Lambrusco "Concerto" and the Rinaldini Lambrusco "Vecchio Moro" throughout the day, whether by the glass, half-bottle or bottle, along with recommended food pairings such as pizza Napoletana and spicy fried chicken. 615 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 939-1148 x1, eatatcube.com.  

Urban farmer: Located in Mar Vista, Ocean View Farms boasts more than 500 garden plots and flower gardens. On June 26 at 10 a.m. the six-acre West L.A. community garden is offering a free workshop, "From the Ground Up: Seed Starting and Garden Planning," courtesy of master gardener Christy Wilhelmi. 3300 S. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 915-1123, oceanviewfarms.net.

Street food at the Rose Bowl: On July 16, the Pasadena Rose Bowl will be taken over by the L.A. Street Food Fest to host the 2 nd annual Summer Tasting Event. More than 80 vendors, including  gourmet food trucks and celebrity chefs, will bring street food to the historic site. Tickets are $25 to $150. Brookside Park, 360 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena, lastreetfoodfest.com.


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--Caitlin Keller 

Photo: Salute! Credit: Salutebeerfestival.com


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.