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Monday, March 21, 2011

Digging the Dirt Dinner at eVe

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2011 at 5:16 PM

click to enlarge Bags of soil from Kenney Cottage Garden were passed among the diners. - JESSE HIRSCH
  • Jesse Hirsch
  • Bags of soil from Kenney Cottage Garden were passed among the diners.

Californians love their dirt. Like poets of yore writing ballads to the sea, near-mythological reverence is given to the earthy roots of our local produce. At last night's Dirt Dinner event, local gardeners gave an impassioned discussion of soil nutrients, baggies of dirt were passed from diner to diner, and Lisa Graciano sang an earnest ode to the "Seeds of Life." And following all this dirt worship came a five-course meal, using veggies sprouted from Kenney Cottage Garden's soil.

click to enlarge Kale soup with black eyed peas. - JESSE HIRSCH
  • Jesse Hirsch
  • Kale soup with black eyed peas.

It was an evening as refreshing as it was familiar, channeling the long-ago days of the nascent Berkeley food movement. Chris and Veronica Laramie, chef/co-owners at eVe restaurant, prepared a hearty feast using just-harvested Kenney Cottage produce. Though the Laramies' fare typically skews modernist (an immersion circulator and a cold smoker hold prime real estate in eVe's kitchen), last night's meal was simple and rustic. "Typically we're closed on Sundays," said Chris. "This is the type of food we'd be eating at home."

Menu highlights included perfectly cooked spelt casarecce with onions, leeks, and oyster mushrooms; tender rosemary and fennel seed-roasted pork shoulder; a hearty soup of kale, onions, celery, and black eyed peas; and a lightly dressed salad made only of greens ("Nothing to distract you from the taste of the earth," Chris said."). Some menu items were switched at the last minute due to recent Berkeley hail; greens and carrots stole the spotlight from their less hardy garden companions.

This was the second of six Dirt Dinners and the Laramies feel they are building momentum, not to mention new friends. For instance, they regularly buy produce these days from Berkeley Youth Alternatives, the young gardeners from their first Dirt Dinner. "We moved here from Denver not that long ago," Veronica said. "We love how these dinners are helping us get to know our neighbors. It's starting to feel like a real community."

For updates on future Dirt Dinners, follow eVe on


New York refugee Jesse Hirsch tweets at @Jesse_Hirsch. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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