Team Found Fruit, based in Oakland, CA, are a group of intrepid foragers, gardeners, and Slow Food enthusiasts. The members live within a five-mile radius of one another, and are also creators and members of FoundFruit.com, a social networking website that helps connect community to local food and sustainable living practices. They entered the One-Block Party contest with all the skill and gusto of their fruit-foraging, crab-and-eel-fishing, livestock-raising East Bay collective. This is their final report, describing their feast in late August. The San Francisco Chronicle came to the party, and wrote a separate story about it. I was there too, and can tell you that the food was ambitious, adventurous, and very delicious, from the escargots in puff pastry to the spit-roasted rabbit and honey-glazed chicken to the berry galette and the homemade liqueurs.
Just a few of the dishes from the feast. Clockwise from left: stuffed charred peppers,roasted escargots, honey and prickly-pear–glazed grilled chicken, fried surf smelt,vegetable "pasta", stuffed zucchini blossoms. Photo: Rachel Weill for SunsetIt's been quite a summer! We've been going strong since April, when we were announced as finalists in the One-Block Party contest. We have since grown, foraged, raised, and produced a multitude of vegetables, fruits, and food projects.
By late August, all four of our gardens were bursting at the seams—we were growing the same ingredients in some of them, in case something went wrong. This was the right strategy. It ended up taking more than one garden’s harvest to make enough stuffed peppers, plus the beets in my and Jamie’s garden weren't quite ready—but Todd and Kate’s were.
Our gardens were full of everything we needed: greens, lettuce, arugula, peppers, corn, squash, cucumbers, beets, tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, chives, basil, mint, lemongrass, chamomile, nasturtiums, blueberries, raspberries, and more.
Photos, clockwise from top left: Kim Di Giacomo, Todd Voyageur (x2), Jamie Vasta (x2)
Kim, Jamie, and I foraged for blackberries in Sausal Creek and huckleberries in Joaquin Miller Park. We used the blackberries for the hard cider and the galette, and made a mixed berry compote with the blackberries and huckleberries, plus blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries from the garden.
Huckleberries in the park. Photo: Jamie VastaWe decided to meet the Friday night before our Sunday feast to swap the ingredients we'd need to prepare our dishes. It was amazing how much food we had produced! It was really fun to see it all laid out on the table. Nearly every dish we were making required ingredients from more than one household—it was a real team effort.
We sampled each others' pickled products. Collectively we had made zucchini pickles, pickled quail eggs, onions, beets, kimchee, nopales, kraut, and more. We ate deviled eggs from Kitty's ducks, and tasted Kitty's goat cheese. We swapped homemade sea salt, ginger wine and apple cider vinegar, sourdough starter, and honey, plus locally sourced whole-wheat flour.
The pre-party bounty (just a part of it). Photo: Todd VoyageurNext came the prepping. We cooked and assembled and baked and prepared so many dishes! We tried to do as much as possible in our own kitchens on Saturday and Sunday morning so as not to overwhelm Todd and Kate's house, where the feast would be held.
Photos: Todd Voyageur
Sunday was a whirlwind. Everybody's kitchens were exploding with food. We were all working hard and fast to get the dishes ready. Our plan was to meet at 1 pm with whatever we were able to cook and prepare ahead of time, and then we’d take care of the rest onsite. We'd have cocktail hour from 4 to 5 pm and dinner at 5 pm.
It was a bit hectic at the house, what with everyone trying to maneuver and put their dishes together. I was happy that my job was outside minding the grill. Then the monkey-faced eel came up in conversation—which Kim and I had caught on Friday for the feast—and to my horror I realized I had left it at home in the freezer! I had to run home quickly, bring it back, and thaw it in water. Phew! We used fig leaves from Todd and Kate's tree to wrap the eel and then steamed it with the ginger wine, some pink limes, and lemongrass. It was a sight to see and very delicious.
Photo: Rachel Weill, SunsetKitty had raised two chickens and four rabbits, which made our feast amazing. I bbqed the chicken with a honey and prickly pear glaze. It looked great but was really tough. It was brined overnight with sea salt but I was surprised at how different it was even from free-range chicken I buy at the store. [[Editor’s note: My guess is that it was chewy because the hen was a hard-working egg-layer, not a meat chicken. The flavor was great, though.]] The rabbits were the hit of the party. Two were stuffed with wild plums and squash and fire-roasted, and the other two were braised and served with a wild mushroom risotto (the rice was sourced from a farm near Chico).
Photos: Todd VoyageurIt truly was a feast, from the nasturtium pesto zucchini noodles to the corn-and-eggplant-stuffed peppers to the feta-stuffed squash blossoms. Even the escargots were delicious.
The pickle bar (including pickled quail eggs); the feast table. Photos: Rachel Weill for Sunset.There was no shortage of desserts, either. The blackberry nectarine galette was amazing, and I even loved the goat ice cream—served with rose-infused berry compote. We also had goat yogurt with honeycomb.
Photos: Rachel Weill for SunsetWe ate, drank, and were merry. Our bar was well-stocked, with Todd's IPA, Kim's blackberry hard cider and apricot wine, Kim and Michele's blackberry-elderberry wine, two different limoncellos (one by Kim and one by Kitty), arancello by Kim, and kahlua by Michele. Our non-alcoholic drink was an herbal tisane made from chamomile, mint, and lemongrass.
Photos: Rachel Weill for Sunset, Lori EanesWe were also lucky enough to receive some incredible beverage donations from friends in Alameda. John Theil contributed some of his locally produced wine, and St. George Spirits gave us some of their brand new Terroir gin for our sauerkraut martinis and grapefruit cocktails. They describe Terroir as a "liquid love song to Mt. Tam," infused with Douglas fir, coastal sage, and California bay laurel. It tasted like a walk in the woods and found a place in our forager hearts.
We even had some four-legged friends join in on the fun. Having kid goats (only a few weeks old) running around the yard was precious and we all got in some snuggle time.
Photo: Rachel Weill for SunsetWe partied until dark and felt truly satisfied with our accomplishments. I have a much deeper appreciation now for ingredients that are easy to take for granted. Taking part in this contest has given our summer an edge, and we have all learned a lot. I think we are looking forward to having our gardens back, although I intend to continue some making some of the recipes I have learned from the One Block Party.
We did it! Photo: Rachel Weill for Sunset
A Recipe From the Party
Photo: Rachel Weill for SunsetKate's All of the Beet Napoleons
6 large beets with green leafy tops8 oz. goat cheese log, chilled1 Tbsp. olive oilArugula flowersSea salt
Trim tops from beets and remove ribs from greens. Roughly chop greens and set aside. Wrap beets in aluminum foil and place on a medium-hot grill or in a preheated 400° oven. Roast for 30-50 minutes, depending on size of beets, until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Slide beets out of their skins and cut into 1⁄4-in. slices.
Heat olive oil in large pan over medium-high heat. Add beet greens and a pinch of sea salt and sauté until wilted, 3-5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. Cut goat cheese into 1⁄4-in.-thick slices.
Arrange beet slices on a platter and top each with a spoonful of sautéed greens and a slice of goat cheese. Garnish with an arugula flower and sprinkle with sea salt.
For more recipes from Team Found Fruit, see their blog's post about the party.