This garden is a new project for the Gott's team, having only been planted earlier this year, but it's already generating a lot of excitement as the first summer harvest rolls into the restaurants. Every week, Landy the baby-faced garden meister sends out pounds and pounds of whatever is falling off the vine into the capable hands of Rick the Executive Chef, who transforms them into "tray gourmet" specials for the three Gott's locations. So far this summer, we've seen zucchini fries, Szechuan green beans, fried green tomatoes, home fries with basil pesto, and homemade pickles from the garden cucumbers, all plucked from the organically farmed garden behind the St. Helena Gott's location.
|Landy harvesting snacks for us.|
Back at the picnic area, Chef Rick had devised a parade of dishes celebrating the timeless, universal romance of tomatoes and bread. Here's the lineup: Pa Amb Tomaquet, the primally delicious tomato-rubbed toast from the Catalan region of Spain; Tomato "Gottzpacho" inspired by the Andalusian classic; Tomato Cucumber Panzanella Salad from Italy; a Tomato, Zucchini and Chèvre Tart riffing on the savory staples of Provence; Scalloped Tomatoes, an updated version of the classic Southern Sunday dinner gratin; and the Kitchen Sink Tomato Sandwich, so named for its ideal eating location.
Every dish was a delight to eat. Choosing a favorite among these was no easy feat, but I have to say my heart belongs to the Pa Amb Tomaquet. Second only to the sliced tomato-Duke's mayonnaise-Wonder Bread Tomato Sandwich in simplicity, this soggy toast gets my vote for best taste of summer.
For his version, Chef Rick gilled sliced levain bread from Model Bakery on his barbecue til it was toasty and slightly charred, then ran a cut garlic clove across one side of each slice.
|Chef Rick grilling levain.|
Next, you "grate" each cut tomato half (Rick used beefsteak, but any ripe juicy variety would work) against the garlicked side of the bread to shred and juice the flesh.
Once the tomatoes are worn down to their skins and the erstwhile toast is soaked with juice, you season the sodden mass with sea salt flakes, fresh ground pepper, and a drizzle of excellent olive oil. Messy, juicy, and totally awesome.
This dish is only as good as the quality of its ingredients, though. Toothsome, tangy, charred artisanal bread... the warm allium bite of garlic...the seasoning and crunch of high quality salt and pepper... the round buttery mmmm of good olive oil... the sweet, sun-warmed juice from the tomatoes... and the fresh aromatics of any torn herbs you may feel inspired to toss on there, combining seamlessly into one of summer's finest snacks. Napkins optional.
It's a major craving-inducer when done well... so damn you, Rick! And thanks.
Thanks also to Ashley Teplin for the great photos!
My fellow tomatavore attendees also posted on the glories of last night's feast. Check 'em all out, because these chicks rock:
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