Strawberry Balsamic Goat Cheese Bars and a day with The California Strawberry Commission
I was recently asked by the California Strawberry Commission if I’d like to spend the day at one of their local farms…with my two kids, ages 7 and 3. I really only had to think about it for a minute. Both of my children love berries and strawberries are high up their list as a favorite, so for them to be able to visit an actual hands-on farm as guests was fantastic. Wait, did I mention their age? Did I mention how happy they were to be on a strawberry farm? Did I mention how hyper and excited they were all.day.long!
From the moment they hit the field, red faces were in abundance, and I don’t mean from embarrassment. Red from the juicy berries that they had free reign over and by the end of the day I think my little guy ate his own weight in strawberries – seriously…I must emphasize I’ve never seen anyone eat so many strawberries ever!
The California Strawberry Commission is responsible for overseeing all relations and activities relating to over 400 Californian growers. From the food safety and production side of the business to public and trade relations, the commission covers the whole spectrum. California harvested almost 2 billion pounds of strawberries last year, accounting for 88% of the U.S. strawberry business.
Quinn was waist high in a sea of leafy green strawberry plants. He had so much fun picking the strawberries straight from the plant and popping them in his mouth. They were so juicy and ripe, it was hard to tell him to slow down.
Miranda was a little more of a lady picking her strawberries, including this one which she examined thoroughly! There was even a face painter on hand… I loved how kid friendly the California Strawberry Commission made this event!
This is Farmer Bill Reiman. A fifth generation, locally born farmer who really knows his strawberries. He explained in detail about how the farm works and how it not only produces strawberries, but raspberries too. We paid a visit to their packing and cooling facility nearby where technology here has saved many hours. Pallets of berries are stacked and packed in a matter of minutes. I wish I could have listened to more of his stories, but remember that little guy who kept eating strawberries? Yeah, he kept me busy.
A big juicy Californian strawberry…which escaped Quinn. It was a hot day and the fruit was a perfect temperature for eating. Once the strawberries are picked, they’re rushed to the cooler and huge fans suck out all of the hot air from them, bringing them down to a temperature of around 32 degrees which is ideal for shipping.
Dinner was, of course, strawberry-inspired and prepared on site by Chef Tim Kilycoyne, executive chef and owner of the farm-to-table SideCar restaurant in Ventura. We dined on braised chicken enchiladas with a roasted strawberry mole and black bean quinoa salad, which was fantastic. The enchiladas and mole worked so well together. We also had chocolate-strawberry genoise cake and chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert, and not to forget the best strawberry basil lemonade!!
I decided to make some strawberry goat cheese bars with my California strawberries. This basic recipe has served me well and is really adaptable to any fruit. I sauteed the strawberries with some balsamic glaze until they became soft and thick like a jelly. I kept on thinking about that strawberry basil lemonade and how well the flavors went together, so I added some chopped basil to the shortbread base of the bar.
After being on this tour, it made me realize that strawberries aren’t just for eating straight out of the pack, there’s so much more they can be used for. I read in one of the cookbooks from the California Strawberry Commission that you can treat a strawberry like a tomato. So for every tomato dish (almost) try swapping it out for some strawberries. I already tried this with a bowl of guacamole and loved it!
Thanks California Strawberry Commission and Farmer Bill for a fun, educational and stomach-filling day!
Disclaimer- Although I was compensated by The California Strawberry Commission, all thoughts, ideas and opinions are completely my own.