Grimmway Farms : Where Baby Carrots Come From

By Tsz on November 5, 2012

Gastrophoria is a fresh carrot pulled straight from the ground at Grimmway Farms.

Having lived in the city all my life, the closest I’ve been to fresh produce is through rare farmer market visits. Rather, my usual interactions involve the brightly lit space of supermarkets filled with manicured displays of produce, sprayed intermittently with water and protected in clear cellophane. Nowhere close to the real deal.

So, when an invitation arrived from Grimmway Farms for the opportunity to tour their farms, I packed my bag for an eye-opening (and tasty) weekend dedicated to carrots.

Located 2 hours outside of Los Angeles in Bakersfield, the family own and ran Grimmway Farms is currently the largest grower and packer of carrots. If you had ever eaten a carrot in your lifetime, chances are, it’s from Grimmway. To give a sense of how much carrots that translates into, around 1 million pounds of the beta-carotene rich vegetable is harvested and processed by the farm—each day.

To see their production in action, we arrived at the farm early in the morning to watch harvesting done at one of their baby carrot fields. While I was expecting miniature carrot plants, baby carrots are actually a breed of carrots that produces skinnier and sweeter carrots from the normal variety. The only other difference is that they are cut into their signature length when processed.

To harvest the carrots, you can go about it the ole’ fashion way with a shovel and sheer strength. It’s definitely satisfying to pull a handful out, dusting off the soil and crunching on a fresh one. It’s so sweet that it tastes like carrot candy!

However, for the sake of time, a more efficient way is by using the harvester, a 20 foot high carrot-uprooting machine. The rotating steel prongs lifts the carrots up into cutter which separates the tops from the bottoms. The carrots then makes its way into a neighboring truck while the greens are saved for dairy farms to be used as feed.

The loaded trucks then make their way to the processing facility, where each carrot gets a good wash, cut into appropriate size and polished before getting shipped to your closest grocery. Think of it as the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory, but much more healthier.

To taste some of the day’s bounty, we made our way over to the Grimmway Academy, the farm’s very own elementary school. Founded by Barbara Grimm-Marshall (and may I add, Jane Lynch doppleganger), the school is committed to bringing a solid education to rural communities of Kern County. With the school’s background in agriculture, it features an edible schoolyard and kitchen classroom.

The teachers of the kitchen classroom served us a grown-up version of the day’s school lunch, which included a herb roasted chicken and potatoes, cumin scented carrots, fennel and parmesan salad, grain and feta salad.

Imagine having this for lunch everyday at school—a far far cry from the limp boiled frozen veggies and microwaved pizza from my school experience. If I could do-over my childhood, I would have loved to attend school here just for the food!

Not only that, having the opportunity to learn how to make things grow and actively participate allows their students to gain appreciation on fresh foods as well as making healthier choices.

I wish the Grimm family continued success and gratitude for giving me a insider’s look into the world of carrots!

Grimmway Farms
P.O. Box 81498
Bakersfield, CA 93380
Phone: 1(800) 301–3101

Grimmway Academy
901 Nectarine Court  
Arvin, CA 93203
Phone: (661) 855-8200

[Carrot production facilities photos courtesy of Grimmway Farms]


Foodstory : Okonomiyaki 101

By Tsz on October 24, 2012

Gastrophoria is a scaldingly hot Okonomiyaki fresh from the stove at Foodstory.

I haven’t had many run-ins with this specialty pancake from Osaka due to geography and a lack of knowledge. The only Okonomiyaki I’ve had was a sad, frumpy, specimen bloated with too much flour from a stand in New York years back. Since then, I’ve steered clear of Okonomiyakis.

Fortunately, Yoko Isassi from Foodstory changed my perception. Housed in the historical Rowan building at the Financial District in downtown, Yoko teaches hands-on cooking classes on Japanese cuisine—from ramen making to sweets and everything in between.

The class I attended was on Okonomiyaki, an Osaka favorite that literally means “as you like.” Under Yoko’s tutelage, we got to transform the lowly cabbage into a decadent pancake, much like how the fairy godmother got Cinderella ball-ready.

Each attendee was equipped with cooking utensils and tasks so the class collaborates on creating the dish together. From chopping the cabbage, deveining the shrimp, mixing the batter to frying each cabbage cake, everyone got to create their portion the way they preferred—all under the calm guidance of Yoko. Being a fan of pork, I loaded mine up with pork belly… also shrimp, mochi and cheese—I couldn’t help myself!

After a much-too-long wait pan frying the Okonomiyaki, we lacquered on our pancakes with a sweet and savory sauce, Kewpie mayo, seaweed and bonito flakes that seems to dance along with the steam.

The best part of the class was the eating portion. Paired with a simple but flavorful miso soup with garden vegetables and an homemade orange jello with castella cake, it was a satisfying meal. Thank you Yoko for showing me the light!

Food Story
460 S. Spring street, Suite 609
Los Angeles, CA 90013 


Fat Spoon : Tasty Campfire Memories

By Tsz on October 10, 2012

Gastrophoria is a baked sweet potato at Fat Spoon.

It may not be the most photogenic dessert with its misshapen and charred exterior, but one bite has the ability to transport you headfirst to your most beloved campfire memory. It’s a twice baked sweet potato, with its innards mixed with rich cream and butter and roasted till they’re all caramelized—much like a s’more. Except a simple s’more can never compare as this has a bonus addition of vanilla ice cream and bittersweet caramel (cue body-roll)! The hot-and-cold sensation of the baked potato with the ice cream is just divine.

Oh, if you’re hungry for more than just dessert, their creamy, molten crab croquettes are not to be missed. Especially when smother in house-made curry sauce. This is no diet food to be sure, but you can lessen the guilt with a side of nutty brown rice.

One dish that should come with a cautionary note is the black squid ink pasta with clams. Warning—your teeth and mouth will be dyed black. Make sure your dining companion has a sense of humor before ordering.

Fat Spoon
329 East First Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 621–7890


Iota : Coffee Tasting in Ktown

By Tsz on October 1, 2012

Gastrophoria is a faultless mug of latte from Iota. 

Normally, I would defer to the Italians or the French for my cup of joe, being as it’s ingrained in their culture. Case in point—they have roasts named after them! Korean coffee? No so much. However, I was pleasantly blown away by Iota during their recent coffee demonstration.

Seated in their back patio that featured a 90s styled manga mural, we learned about the care that goes into a cup of coffee. It starts out with the beans, which are sourced based on the desired flavor profile and roasted daily in small batches. 

Extraction is next. For those who like it unadorned—there’s the drip and Kyoto method. For gadget (or steampunk) lovers, lighted siphons are in abundance. It’s a treat for the eyes to see it in action and the resulting brew is surprisingly delicate—almost tea like.

However, my favorite is a good old fashion mug of latte. Creamy and smooth, it reminds me of hot chocolate but updated for adults. Even better when paired with a slice of their housemade crepe cake (16 layers—I counted) and Psy’s Gangnam Style playing in the background. Only in Ktown!

Maybe we’ll see a Korean Roast soon.

Iota Coffee & Bakery
528 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90020
Phone: (213) 568–3700


Sadie : Oasis in Hollywood

By Tsz on September 22, 2012

Gastrophoria are well-crafted cocktails paired with roasted pork belly at Sadie.

A stone’s throw from Hollywood Boulevard, Sadie is a little oasis in the midst of rowdy Hollywood clubs. The only way to visit is to go without perceived notions. When you’re there, you can choose to dine in a charming wood patio or on a cozy bar made of dark polished wood—I highly recommend the latter.

Should you find yourself in the hands of mixologist, Adam D’Zurilla, be sure to let him take the reins. All you’ll need to let him know is your poison of choice and taste preference and he’ll take care of the rest. My request for a girly and fruity drink was passed with flying colors. And how he was able to make that drink with no juice but with all alcohol still boggles my mind.

To pair with the well-craft cocktails, Chef Randy Montoya is your man. I was treated to a porky feast with a charcuterie plate of sweet chorizo, proscuitto and salumi. It also comes with artisan cheeses and accompaniments such as blood orange sauce and quince jam but being a lover of all things pork, I made a bee line for the cured meats.

Continuing the porcine odyssey, crispy slabs of pork belly are lacquered in beef demi glace and served with roasted tomatoes and fingerling potatoes. Meat sauces on meat makes for a happy diner.

The restaurant’s signature short ribs is served boneless and atop of one of the richest mashed potato I’ve ever tasted—definitely not a diet food!

After a meat centric meal, it’s important to facilitate digestion. Adam takes the classic digestive, Fernet-Branca and creates an off-menu dessert. One scoop vanilla ice cream, one shot Fernet-Branca and top with cola. It makes the medicine go down.

1638 North Las Palmas Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90028
Phone: (323) 467–0200