Gilroy’s downtown Eden serves food in the field

A young diner makes clucking friends at a real farm to table event in downtown Gilroy.

Gilroy’s downtown Eden serves food in the field Demonstration Garden hosted a gourmet dinner outdoors
Succulent fare, a beautiful garden ambiance, fine wine and clucking chickens, the hits at the first Farm to Table Dinner this year at the Gilroy Demonstration Garden. Volunteers from the garden hosted the evening as part of a fundraising drive to keep the Eden of downtown Gilroy on Eigleberry Street growing, but also to celebrate community and to show off seven years of progress of the community garden.
“It’s usually a once a year event, but this year we’re doing three dinners,” said Judy Hess, Director of the Gilroy Demonstration Garden. “People would always say ‘I wish I could come, but it was always on the wrong date.’ Now we’re doing three events for 50 people so more people can come.”
One night after the summer solstice, the guests savored a long summer evening, enjoyed a multi-course dinner prepared by Chef Dave Jamrock. As guests mingled, they enjoyed Goat Cheese and Basil Flatbread with Roasted Cremini Mushrooms, Herbs and Balsamic and Roasted Garlic Hummus with toasted pita chips.
As the sun set and the diners settled along the 50 person table, their entree started with Chilled Garden Cucumber and Borage Soup with Leeks Poached Halibut with Sorrel and Nasturtium Beurre Blanc and organic rice with baby heirloom squash and fresh salad greens with an Elderflower Champagne Vinaigrette. The main course featured Roast Lamb from Devil’s Gulch Ranch with a wild mushroom medley and a potato puree. Berries from Yerena Farms in Santa Cruz County closed the night. Even the water, flavored with Lemon Verbena, Mint, Rosemary and Lavender, was meticulously prepared by the volunteers.
The whole idea is to encourage everybody to interact with the garden,” Hess said.
To beat the heat, guests chatted under the shade of tents or the natural cover of the various trees and bushes adorning the garden. The ambiance was enhanced by the soulful acoustic guitar of Jeff Smith who covered tunes ranging from classics including the Grateful Dead’s “St. Stephen” to a more contemporary rendition of Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive.” Even the garden’s chickens were at ease, mingling with the visitors, receiving them as welcome guests.
The Demonstration Garden is a non-profit, community effort that’s been operating for the past seven years. For Peter Ruddock, a volunteer at the garden and one of the hosts of the dinner, the garden is a place for the community to meet and learn about organic gardening. Volunteers maintain the garden and grow fruits and vegetables which are sold at the Farmers Market hosted at the garden on Fridays on Fifth Street. The Farmers Market is an important part of the fundraising, necessary to pay for the garden’s operating expenses.
“The dinner is a way to do just about all of that,” Peter Ruddock said. “All of the food will be local and organic. We like to bring in the community, have a nice dinner from the garden and local farmers markets. Everything is local and organic. We’ll celebrate, build community and raise a bit of money for the garden.”
Chef Dave, using an outdoor pizza oven, filled the garden with the inviting smells of wood smoke while he busily worked preparing the dinner.
Wine for the Farm to Table Dinner was donated by Satori Cellars of Morgan Hill and the beer was donated by Hermitage Brewery Company of San Jose.
While the Demonstration Garden relies on volunteers to maintain grounds, fundraising events are crucial to pay operating expenses.
“We need to pay for gardening tools and the water we use and whatever we have left we like to donate it to local food pantries,” said Peter Ruddock. “It was a bit weedy after all that rain we had this winter, so it got a bit out of control, but thankfully the fruit trees are full of fruit.”
Gilroyans may try their hand at cooking their feasts by buying local fruits and vegetables by attending the Farmers Market hosted every Friday at the Community Garden from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. There, you’ll also find their herb infused water which quenches summertime thirst unlike little else.
“We serve the water at the Farmers Market and we always say, ‘you must try our water.’ Hess said.
Wednesday August 9 is the next dinner. Tickets are $50 at the Gilroy Demonstration Garden booth at the Farmers Market or at [email protected]