Nothing stirs the soul of a foodie more than the discussion of province and origin – the terroir of a grape, the cove an oyster was cultivated in, the region bees frequented before making honey – and, when it comes to sourcing ingredients, nothing is more romantic-feeling than using a local forager.
Chef Ray Garcia of the cozy FIG restaurant at the Fairmont in Santa Monica regularly checks-in with his culinary pal and secret weapon Kerry Clasby. Kerry travels up and down the California coast sourcing some of the freshest, most interesting produce that can be found, providing rare treats and treasures to chefs at some of the best kitchens in the state. With a shared enthusiasm for great local produce Chef Ray and Kerry have worked together for years. We asked the chef to tell us a little about the relationship and how it informs his delectable, seasonal menu.
The Chalkboard Magazine: How would you describe the food philosophy at FIG?
Chef Ray: Our philosophy is built around what is in peak season and we are always looking to sources the freshest and best growers and producers. We serve simple, bistro-inspired dishes that bring out the best of what nature has already put in – nothing experimental or overworked, just pure and flavorful ingredients.
TCM: Like most Santa Monica chefs, you have the luxury of pulling produce fresh from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Do you rely on the market often?
CR: Yes, we visit the Santa Monica Farmers Market two times per week.
TCM: Talk to us about seasonality. In winter, some assume eating seasonally becomes more difficult.
CR: Winter brings an opportunity for us to highlight the season’s produce and expose guests to unique winter offerings.
TCM: How did you and forager Kerry Clasby meet?
CR: I met Kerry 10 years ago. While I was the chef de cuisine at The Belvedere, she showed up in the kitchen with a cooler full of mushrooms.
TCM: Would you tell us a little about how Kerry operates? Where and what does she forage?
CR: Kerry drives up and down the state of California (starting in Southern San Diego and making it as far north as The Ferry Building in San Francisco) and visits farms and markets to source many items we use in our dishes at FIG.
TCM: What’s one of the best things Kerry has ever brought you?
CR: Fresh organic goat butter from Soledad Farms in the Mojave Desert.
TCM: Would you share a recipe you’ve made utilizing a haul from Kerry?
Chile de Arbol and Orange Glazed Nantes Carrots
1 lb baby Nantes carrots
1/2 gallon fresh orange juice
2 chile de arbol
4 oz toasted white sesame seeds
2 oz butter
Peel skin off baby carrots. Be cautious not to remove too much carrot. Boil carrots in large pot of salted water for 45 seconds. Remove carrots from boiling water. Plunge carrots into ice-water bath. Remove from water and allow to dry.
Pour orange juice into large pot, add 2 chile de arbol, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow contents to come to a syrup consistency. Strain out the chilies. Incorporate butter in large pot. Add carrots to pot and glaze.
Season with salt and pepper as desired. Once carrots are coated and seasoned, add to serving dish or plate and sprinkle with toasted white sesame seeds.