Farm To Table Dining at California’s Dude Ranch: Baby Broccoli, lettuce, kale, cilantro, red and yellow beets, strawberries, free range eggs, snow peas, and smoked salmon with meyer lemon infused olive oil and raspberry balsamic vinegar. From garden to table without the middle man.

Heidi and I often laugh quietly to ourselves when well-intended friends and family suggest that we promote a “Farm to Table” dining experience at Marble Mountain Guest Ranch. Usually this conversation is happening ironically as they unknowingly dine on our own ranch produce or locally harvested fish.

In their eyes we could garner so much more chic culinary “cool” and draw in the growing culinary travel market by serving locally grown and harvested ranch and farm products. They continue to opine that our beef should be local grass fed beef that is free ranged on anti-oxidant rich grasses and is somehow free of any hormones – unless they are organic natural hormones of course. Heaven forbid that they should be “chemical” hormones. Wait, is there such a thing as a non-chemical hormone?  I digress.

The conversation continues, arguing that our fish should all be fresh caught wild varieties that have never been within a hemisphere of a fish pen. Frankly, I cannot keep up with the ever-changing buzz about the latest dietary trends that we are supposed to embrace and successfully market to the cutting edge of trendy dining. Hey, what happens to all those endangered salmon if the world quits eating farmed fish and turns en-masse to the threatened wild strain? I don’t get it…

The food police have a presence here both in government intervention (Prop 65 labeling of many common foods and herbs as carcinogenic) and in heavily applied peer pressure (Can I order the turkey bacon and do you have any lactose free milk for my heirloom grain cereal?). Is lactose free milk like dehydrated water?

autumn pear tart

locally grown pears, original recipes, and real butter! Welcome to our guest ranch butter fest!

Have you tried asking for butter at a California restaurant? The waiter will happily return with a ramekin cradling a dollop of whipped margarine. If you press them for REAL butter, you likely will discover that there is none to be had at the restaurant.   The few eateries that still hold back a supply of real butter will ask you to sign the liability waiver with your acknowledgment that you might develop clogged arteries by voluntarily choosing to consume the evil butter pat. Thank you California ….oh, by the way, can I still have a 32 ounce soda in California? Yes, Welcome to California, where marijuana is legal and butter is a misdemeanor offense. I just want food that tastes good and stimulates my appetite without the nanny-state micro managing my personal eating habits. I think our guests expect the same as well .

Unfortunately though, so many of the current culinary buzz words get hijacked by the fast food industry and other mass marketers. It almost seems trite now to make a claim of “local grown”, “farm to table”, or artisan product since the concepts and vernacular are stolen and abused by the corporate food service industry. Can you think of any major restaurant that is not promoting their own version of locally produced organic GMO free sustainably grown hormone free and ethically raised product?  (Say that 50 times – quickly!) And yes, the breads and baked goods must all be “artisanal” – what ever that means. I have dined on my wife’s home baked breads and authentic Danish deserts for 4 decades, yet I think I consumed my first “artisan” label bread at Quiznos some time back. Thank you Quizno’s for expanding my pallet and educating me on finer dining. I confess that I had to ask my wife what they meant when they said my sandwich was constructed on artisan bread. I would still rather have a sandwich built on a foundation of her authentic home-made bread.

culinary skills developed at the dude ranch

gardening, canning, homecrafting, it’s all part of a complete ranch experience and not found at the chain restaurants.

We cook with real butter at Marble Mountain Ranch. We cook with real – everything at the ranch.   It’s so “real” in our kitchen, that perhaps our signature ought to be “really real authentic” cuisine. I like this! Welcome to Marble Mountain Ranch, where the cuisine is REAL and AUTHENTIC, and each week is a butter fest at California’s dude ranch.

I of course do not want to disparage the health conscious dieters in our guest population.   The culinary staff is willing to go to great lengths to accommodate any and all pre-disclosed dietary needs (excepting vegan diets).   We are happy to cook for that vegetarian in your family, for the gluten free crowd, the lactose intolerant, the nut allergic guest, etc.

The interesting thing in our observation though, is that a large portion of our special needs dieters walk down the buffet line as we serve our authentic and original (real) cuisine, and pass-up the tofu to indulge in the abstained food type. “It looks too good, I think It will be ok if I just try this.”   “Oooh! That crème brulee looks divine, and my lactose intolerance is really just a personal choice….” It’s all good, and we are happy to do our part in bringing a little of the dining public back to center. We just waste too much tofu when it is served alongside well prepared traditional proteins.

BBQ ribs at California's dude ranch vacation

Select meat cuts, and original recipes are the foundation in our BBQ tradition at California’s Dude Ranch – Oh! did you order tofu?

You will of course also find a variety of more trendy and cosmopolitan foods here along with the produce that was picked from our gardens just hours before the meal is served. We present meals founded in Western tradition, but we are not opposed to bringing in influences from around the globe.   The unexpected can make dining exciting, and the foundation of fresh and wholesome food sources catalyzes the flavor pairings. Somehow I fell better about my meal knowing that the chilled asparagus was hand picked by my wife just minutes prior to it’s consumption.

So, in reply to our dearest friends and concerned observers that feel we might be missing out on the latest in trending culinary fashion, thank you. But we already produce and harvest locally in the gardens just yards from the kitchen. We grow organically, and we harvest sustainably.   However, we do like to grow those modern varieties of tomatoes that approach the size of cantaloupes. The whole controversy over genetically modified foods is also a bit confusing to me. I wonder what Mendel would have thought about future humanity turning their forks away from a two pound tomato because it had it’s seed genome manipulated by a guy named Monsanto instead of Mendel. As I understand it, the early Egyptians ate corn that was on a cob that was about 2.5 inches long. Perhaps they would still be building pyramids if they could bury their chompers into our modern 16” corn cobs.   Who knows.

Pumpkin Pie

It’s all home-made and tastes really, really good!

Our ranch food, the Marble Mountain Guest Ranch cuisine, is rather well touted on the review sites. It just simply tastes very, very good. We still use real butter, we use real cane sugar, real flour, real (locally grown next to the kitchen!) herbs and spices and it’s prepared with love and originality. It is authentic and it tastes really, really, good.

We hope you can join us at California’s dude ranch for some really real authentic cuisine.   Doug