West is the Best
Local Carlsbad Farm Serves the Farm-to-Table Trend
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One indicator of soil health, oddly enough, are the different weeds that grow near the crops. While it may be the instinct of some farmers and growers to toss away weeds without a second glance, weeds are actually a great indicator for the viability of crops. Explains Castillo, “We keep our weeds down, but weeds are an indication of what the soil needs and what can grow. [Weeds show] whether the soil is high on phosphorus, calcium, etc. For example, we want to grow blueberries out here, so I have to create an environment where there is acidity in the soil, and the weeds will tell us if that acidity is missing. Soil always needs a balance.” It’s through examining the soil and surrounding weeds that quality farmers can determine how to best adjust and perfect their crops into the mouthwatering meals we love and enjoy.
Though West Farm does its best to provide high-quality fruits, vegetables and herbs in bulk, Castillo admits that there’s only so much you can grow on three acres. “We try to incorporate our produce into the menu, but with 300 prepped items every day, [Bistro West] can’t get all of our produce from West Farm. Other produce is supplemented by local purveyors,” Castillo acknowledges. However, West Farm still works closely with the restaurant to create their seasonal menu. “This is a quaint three acres, so we can focus on our artistry. It’s more about focus and incorporating [West Farm crops] into the meals. For example, we have a fresh catch of the day on the menu. The chefs will get a fresh fish and decide how to prepare it, incorporating West Farm herbs and vegetables into the dish.”
Currently, Bistro West features freshly grown herbs and crops from West Farm, including mint, cilantro, thyme, micro greens, kale, beets, parsnips, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, leeks, passion fruit and more. Though their menu features some year-round favorites (such as beef stroganoff and chicken pot pie), Bistro West’s menu is flexible and ever-changing with the seasons due to the strong relationship between Executive Chef John Miller and farmer Raul Castillo. Says Castillo, “John [Miller] has been out here, which is exciting. John wants to have his hands in absolutely everything.” Miller has made numerous requests of West Farm, including ensuring the existence of some perennial favorites. “Brussels sprouts are high in cost [to buy], and we need them because they’re on the menu,” Castillo explains. “Chef John Miller has also asked for kale and chard. We use edible flowers in a lot of our food as a garnish. We grow lettuce and root crops, like turnips, carrots and beets. Those are always on the menu, so we want to keep that going.”
The menu at Bistro West and the farm itself work in tandem to develop delicious dishes from fresh fruits and vegetables, with neither lording supreme over the other. The growing process is a delicate dance between Castillo and Miller—the farmer and the chef—because one cannot successfully exist without the other. Agrees Castillo, “Farmer-chef communication is clutch. We’re lucky to work so well together.” And by working well together, West Farm and Bistro West help to make sustainable, nutritious, high-quality eating a reality in their Carlsbad locale.
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