POSTED Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On the Farm with Jose Garces

When an Iron Chef asks you to join him for lunch on his 40-acre plot of bucolic utopia, only a dolt would refuse.

Thus, on a ridiculously blue-sky-perfect early fall day, we drove out to chef Jose Garces' Luna Farm (named after his pooch) in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to get a taste of his good life.

In addition to growing hundreds of pounds of vegetables and herbs for his Philadelphia and Atlantic City restaurants, Garces invites Philadelphia schoolchildren to his farm to learn about farming, chicken-tending (he has a few dozen birds yielding about 300 eggs a week), and beekeeping. And neighbors aren't left out to dry either: Thirty of them get veggies via CSA-style shares.

Okay, this is all really impressive, but honestly, we were there to eat. The indoor kitchen (yep, there's an outdoor one, too, with a flattop the size of a flatbed and a wood-fired oven) is armed with chic, ivory-fronted BlueStar double-decker wall ovens and a massive pro-style range, allowing Garces to cook for scores of friends.

During our visit, he turned out a salad of sun gold tomatoes and arugula; lamb loin skewers wrapped in bacon; a bright and vinegary heirloom tomato and crab gazpacho; grilled Spanish Iberian pork secreto (it tasted and looked like pork hanger steak); Japanese eggplant with blistered shishito peppers; sensationally saucy head-on shrimp in enchilada sauce; creamed corn with smoked onions and bacon; and olive oil cake gently baked in Mason jars and topped with chopped plums and almonds. Yes, all produce was sourced from the farm.

In his spare time, Garces paddleboards and canoes. No wonder it's early to rise in the country.

Make Jose Garces' Cranberry Bean Soup