After you've had a milkshake at Robert Is Here, a switch flips in your craving core. Soon you just don't want to live anymore if living means you can never again suck down a few straws full of that fruity, cold, creamy deliciousness. So when that familiar feeling hit this past Saturday, we loaded up the car and headed out, recalling that it had been nearly a year since our last partaking -- much, much too long.
Our initial visit down there was pretty darn enlightening. Dewey LoSasso, executive chef at the Forge, invited us to go along on a road trip with his family and a few co-workers last July to check out the organic produce and dairy farms he sourced from and to get familiar with two other staples for which this region is known: Robert Is Here and Mexican food. Here's how his emailed invitation read:
Field Trip To The Redlands... We will visit with: Redland Mediterranean Organics - Hani Khouri is a cheese maker out there ... Paradise Farms - Gabriele grows lettuce, vegetables, etc., oyster mushrooms .... We are gonna hang and touch cheese and veggies-maybe swim-maybe at the end of the day we can all go over to a Mexican Restaurant and all eat together on Krome Avenue. Every one will pay their own way... of course you are than welcome to pay for Dewey... YOU CANNOT RIDE WITH THE DEWEY-IT IS NOT SAFE.
Check out that watermelon-pistachio-feta salad. Yum! (We passed on the Milk Bones.)
Photo by Riki Altman
Now who can resist an invitation like that?
Access to two farms typically not open to the public and a wealth of good eats -- sounds like the perfect day, right? Well, it was.
However, just as we loaded into LoSasso's family van (turns out he's actually a decent driver), it began to rain. By the time we arrived at our first stop, the farm where Hani Khouri raises his lovely goats, it was downright pouring. The crew quickly shuttled inside Khouri's house, where he and his wife Mary Lee had prepared a goat-milk spread like nothing anyone has ever seen. Bowls of shankleash, labneh, fromage blanc, chevre, ricotta, fontina, and fried halloumi sat before us, eagerly awaiting our greedy fingers.
Then, in an unexpected twist, we were treated to spoonfuls of goat-milk ice cream in funky flavors, and the crowd determined each one a winner.
"I make goat-milk ice cream in many seasonal flavors using local organic fruit," Khouri explained. "I've made lychee, papaya, avocado, mango, araza, cas guava, passionfruit, mamey, [and] black sapote, as well as wild red raspberry, mulberry, cacao, vanilla, green tea, and even black garlic. The ice creams are composed of milk, the fruit, and evaporated cane sugar. That is all."
Good news, especially because we didn't recognize a few of those fruits he mentioned.
A few flavors of Khouri's popular ice cream
Photo by Riki Altman
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With our bellies full of goaty goodness, we thanked the Khouris and headed to Paradise Farms, the five-acre field that supplies many local restaurants with everything from pea shoots to edible flowers.
Check back Wednesday to discover what Paradise looks like. Hint: It resembles an organic farm.