Fresh, local feasts

Historians aren’t sure what topped the table for the Pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving. But they suspect lobster, venison and partridge were on the menu — and not ham, pumpkin pie or mashed potatoes.

The Pilgrims were the original “locavores” and now, after decades of factory farming and processed foods, many people have come full circle. They desire a “local” meal for celebrating, with food sourced from local farms.

In the foothills, the possibilities abound for preparing a fresh, local feast — for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year’s. Here are some suggestions for finding the ingredients and preparing it:

Farmers Markets: “They’re only for summer,” you might think. Not so. The Foothill Farmers Market in Auburn is open year-round. It is on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at the Old Town Courthouse parking lot, on Auburn-Folsom Rd. at Lincoln Way.

In the fall and winter, stalls at the market fill up with Mandarins, kiwi, salad greens, winter squash, root vegetables, pumpkins, persimmons, even fresh horseradish to dollop on your prime rib.

Placer County Real Food cookbook: This new cookbook has recipes and menus for every week of the year, prepared with local ingredients. “Fresh mandarins are a staple on holiday tables and are used in recipes from salads to desserts, sauces and syrups,” says co-author Joanne Neft.

Neft’s Thanksgiving “bird” comes from Natural Trading Co. in Newcastle. The well-illustrated cookbook makes a thoughtful gift. Go to for more information.

BriarPatch Co-op Natural Foods Community Market: “The Patch,” the biggest organic market in the foothills, is a one-stop shop for local, organic produce as well as beef, venison, poultry and seafood for the holidays. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free items also are widely available.

The market carries many brands of local and regional free-range meats and poultry, including Diestel Turkey (Sonora), Betz Ranch venison (Grass Valley), Fowler Family Farms poultry (Penn Valley), Nevada County Free Range Beef and Liano Seco pork (Chico) as well as “sustainable” seafood.

Organic produce is available seasonally from 20 farms in the area — Red Hill Mandarins in Brown’s Valley, for example — and local free-range eggs are available when the hens are laying.

Bulk grains come from Grass Valley Grains and rice come from Lundberg Family Farms in the Central Valley. Olive oil comes from Apollo Olive Oil (Oregon House) and honey from McClaughry Farms (Grass Valley), among others.

The store carries many local wines, including Avanguardia, Montoliva, Naggiar, Nevada City Winery, Smith Vineyards and Solune.

BriarPatch also has teamed up with Wendy Van Wagner of In the Kitchen in Nevada City to offer hands-on cooking classes. A class on holiday salads and sides is offered in November, for example.

BriarPatch is at 290 Sierra College Dr. in Grass Valley. The phone is 272-5333, and the website is

Nevada County Free Range Beef: “There’s no gentle way of saying this: artificial junk has no place in our cows, on our land, or on your table,” modern-day cowboy Jim Gates says about his grass fed beef. “Our cows eat and live the way nature intended. No hormones, no antibiotics, no grain, no corn. And no confinement.”

Gates’ filet mignons are a favorite for holiday dining. This time of year, the stew meat, short ribs and soup bones make for a gourmet comfort food meal.

Gates’ beef is available at at BriarPatch. Packaged ground beef is available at SPD Markets in Nevada City and Grass Valley, Natural Selection in Grass Valley and Mother Truckers in Nevada City.

Gates’ beef is sold direct from the ranch from April to November, though you can order any time of the year. It is sold by the eighth, quarter half or whole animal. Cost per pound is $6 for quarter, half or whole, and a family pack (eighth order) costs $6.50 per pound and weighs about 45 pounds.

You can order anytime, online, by emailing or call 273-1025.

Sinclair Family Farm: This farm in Penryn raises grass fed lamb and beef, pastured poultry and cage-free pasture raised eggs.

“We have grown by leaps and bounds this last year,” says owner Karin Sinclair. “We have added chicken and beef to our product list. Our aim is to keep things as natural as possible.”

A dozen eggs costs from $3.50 to $5 depending on the size. A butterflied leg of lamb roast costs $8.99 a pound, and an eight-bone or four-bone rack of lamb is $15.99 per pound.

To order lamb, poultry or eggs, email or call 916-803-1777.

Newcastle Produce: This store and deli is a “one-stop” shop for all things “PlacerGrown.” The fresh produce aisle includes the best of what’s in season.

The store’s grocery aisle includes fresh-make breads and pasta, home-made jams, sauces, marinades, chocolates and wines.

For the holidays, Newcastle offers gourmet gift baskets that include its cookbook, fruits, Mandarins, nuts, olive oils and chutney.

Holiday cooking classes include baking Christmas cookies and making a gingerbread house. “Come decorate your own gingerbread house and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate,” says owner Jan Thompson.

Newcastle Produce is at 9230 Cypress St. in Newcastle, just minutes from I-80. The phone is 916-663-2016 and the website is

Grimaud Farms: This farm in the San Joaquin Valley specializes in fresh Muscovy duck, raised without the use of steroids, antibiotics or growth hormones.

Muscovy duck is lean, meaty, tender and flavorful. A Muscovy duck has less fat and calories per pound than turkey, according to Grimaud Farms. A Moscovy drake can be the centerpiece to a holiday celebration, serving six people. It costs $36.

The farm also raises fresh guinea hen, a bird long favored by European cooks.

Grimaud Farms poultry is sold at Nugget Market in Roseville, but it also has an online store. Go to for more information.

The first Thanksgiving feast
Foods that might have been on the menu:

Wild fowl: Turkey, goose, duck, crane, swan, partridge
Meat: Venison, seal
Seafood: Cod, clams, lobster
Grain: Wheat flour, Indian corn
Vegetables: Pumpkin, peas, beans, onions, carrots
Herbs and seasonings: Olive oil, leeks, dried currants, parsnips


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