It was 2009 when a Parisian friend of mine took me to see his family on their farm in Burgundy one weekend. No sooner did I step one dainty ballet flat out of the car that I was met with a few chuckles from the family’s 20-year-old son.
“Are those your city clothes?” he laughed.
I looked up and down my outfit – a pair of skinny jeans, a white blouse, and a red trench. I stood out like a sore thumb.
“These are my only clothes?” I muttered back. Even the cows seemed to laugh at that one.
He threw me a pair of muddy boots and said, “vas-y!” (“come on!”) while jumping on his 4-wheeler.
Well after 3 days and a few borrowed tshirts, I watched a baby cow being born, tasted fresh milk cheese, and you bet I learned to kick up some dirt on that four wheeler.
It’s been 4 years since my weekend in Burgundy, but I just can’t forget how amazing it a weekend it was. So when The Truffle cheese shop invited a group to come along for a day trip to Fruition Farms this weekend, I jumped at the chance… and I dragged my mom with me!
At 9am, we hopped in a bus with other excited travelers and headed out to Fruition Farms in Larkspur (South East Colorado).
We were greeted by Alex Seidel, head chef and owner of Fruition Restaurant – and mastermind behind the farm as well. You see, as Alex explained to us, after you’ve been cooking for more than 20 years, there are still only so many ways to cook a certain cut of meat.
So what’s next?
Alex decided to play with the part of food most chefs never see: the pre-production, the growing. And today, all of Fruition’s chefs spend at least one day of their work week tending to the farm.
We broke out into groups and I put my new Madewell sandals to the farm test. Alex took our group around back to Fruition Farms’ Dairy, where all their delicious sheep’s milk cheeses are made.
Fruition Farms uses Sheep’s milk cheese for a couple reasons:
1. Keeping it Local: We have great lamb in Colorado, but we pair it with… goat cheese?
2. Taste: Sheep’s milk cheeses are fatteningly nutty, rich, and creamy. They’re a higher quality cheese that’s also higher in fat content.
Do you know how cheese is made? I’ll go more in-depth on this process in my upcoming Ultimate Guide to Cheese and Wine Pairing, but here’s how they do it at Fruition Farms:
1. Sheep’s milk is collected in long plastic tubes and funneled into a vat for pasteurizing (if necessary).
2. The milk is mixed with a starter bacteria culture.
3. Rennet (they use veal rennet at Fruition Farms) is used to help turn the milk into curd (the solid part) and whey (the liquid part).
4. The curds and whey are heated and/ or stirred.
5. Whey is drained off.
6. The curds are salted and pressed into molds to make a wheel.
7. The wheels age in a cheese cave until they develop the correct flavor (some Fruition Farms cheeses age for ~1 year).
After checking out the Dairy, we moved on to the greenhouse where a few chickens were waddling around. They were so fearless, they’d literally walk right up to your feet.
Alex then took us to see “the ladies” – the sheep behind the cheese, if you will. These lovely girls are a friendly and talkative bunch, who recently went through a lambing season.
You know what that means: baby sheep! Little lambs! Let the goo-ing and gaa-ing begin.
Perhaps my favorite part of the day was getting to play with the super new lambs – still on the bottle, these guys were looking for milk wherever they thought they could get it – fingers were very popular.
Alex let us feed them after an adorable demonstration. They really are just like little pups!
It’s hard to imagine that these cute little guys will one day become delicious food on my plate, but Alex reinforced how important it was for his team to learn the significance of sacrificing an animal’s life to make food.
Even just the way Alex said it, you could tell this was a tough spot for him. On the one hand, you love the food you make. On the other hand, you’ve bonded with these animals.
It seems that the big takeaway for all the chefs at Fruition Farms has been to really appreciate all that the animal gives with its life. The chefs really emphasized using the whole animal, proper butchering, and respect for that animal throughout the whole process.
After playtime came mealtime and Alex’s crew at Fruition was prepping quite the feast with Fresh Farm ingredients. The Spring salad was full of flavor, since peas, asparagus, and beats are in season. I also loved the duck confit rillette which had some of the Fruition Farms Cacio Pecora cheese shaved on top.
The porchetta sandwiches were so tasty, we even had an extra feline guest at lunch who couldn’t wait to get her paws on some of that delicious meat.
The sheep’s milk ricotta cream cheese frosting on the cupcakes was to die for and left us all in a state of perpetual food-coma.
What do you think about the farm’s role in cuisine? Do you think farming makes for better chefs? Better eaters? Let me know in the comments!