Over the weekend up in Winters, California, while everyone else was watching baseball, Chipotle Culinary Manager Nate Appleman, treated guests to a multi-course farm dinner rooted in locally sourced ingredients. This was all part of a benefit for the Center for Land-Based Learning, sponsored by Chipotle. Clear skies, warm weather, and a bluegrass band lent an easy-going vibe as the crowd tossed back a few Micheladas, Ruhstaller beers, and California wines.
The event was held on The Farm on Putah Creek in Winters, California. Servers (students in a culinary class at the local high school) passed appetizers that included a guacamole-smothered Laughing Bird Caribbean white shrimp and smoky tomato sauce on a tortilla chip with a spoon of tamal (corn masa), topped with uni and jalapeno. Other notable standout dishes included a sweet, tangy, cotija-topped dish of juicy heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro, lime, and sesame mole; a pile of sweet roasted carrots on top of shaved cabbage with tomatillo salsa, pepitas, and a smoky bacon vinaigrette; and for dessert, walnut polverones with creamy chocolate budino, sweet potato, and cinnamon crema.
As the sun started to set over the fields and guests sat down at the cluster of round tables underneath string lights, Appleman declared “California is my favorite place on Earth” to much applause. The former excutive chef (and James Beard Award winner) at San Francisco’s A16 and SPQR, who has since moved to New York City, joked that he had never in his life cooked Mexican food before the Chipotle job, and this was his valiant attempt.
Don’t expect to see any of these dishes on Chipotle’s menu anytime soon, which Appleman joked "never changes." But the event, like that much blogged-about animated TV commercial with Willie Nelson singing Coldplay song, was an effort to foster some good will for the chain and connect it again publicly with its ethos of sustainability and local sourcing when possible — they actually source about ten million pounds of their produce from local farms annually. The beneficiary of the event, the Center for Land-Based Learning, provides hands-on educational programs about sustainable agricultural production and practices.
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