Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Many Worlds of Bravo Farms

Well, we’ve learned that the Bravo Farms complex includes a cheese factory, a Wild West town, a petting zoo, ice cream parlor, and a gift, wine, and cheese store. But Bravo Farms is also a restaurant – albeit a small one with a short menu. But after watching cheese being made for two hours, we were ready to eat.

The café has a number of dining areas. You can eat in the central courtyard with the chickens and goats.

You can eat in the main dining room where the large entry way is open to the outdoors and cooled only by ceiling fans and any breeze that manages to pass. Or you can eat in a small, nondescript dining room whose main advantage is air conditioning – beautiful air conditioning. Guess where we ate.

The menu is a combination of traditional American diner style sandwiches and the restaurant’s take on Mexican standards. If memory serves me, all of the day’s specials were Mexican style dishes. (Since I have lost my notes from that lunch, I am relying on memory and may have forgotten some items.) There was a quesadilla, a fish (I think salmon) cooked Veracruz style (tomato, onion, green bell peppers, garlic, white wine), and shrimp tacos.

After a taste of the v-e-r-y spicy salsa that arrived at our table with a basket of good tortilla chips, I knew that I wanted Mexican. I was tempted by the burrito—a large flour tortilla filled with black beans, corn, and peppers—that I saw a fellow diner eating, but this looked like more than I wanted to eat. (We still hadn’t sampled any cheese, and I needed to have some appetite left.) So I opted for the shrimp tacos.

These were a variation of California fish tacos – two six- to eight-inch flour tortillas, filled with shrimp and bacon and topped with lettuce and sour cream. Now a fish taco usually contains shredded cabbage and not lettuce and the sauce is known as crema and not sour cream, but this adaptation worked for me. The shrimp had been seasoned with a mild red chili based seasoning and grilled until just done. And the real surprise was how the smoky bacon complemented the grilled shrimp. A little spoonful of the spicy salsa was all the tacos needed.

Chuck’s lunch was three of the Traver’s Tacos – three small flour tortillas topped with seasoned beef mixed with onion, bell pepper, and bacon and topped with cheese. As with my shrimp tacos, the addition of bacon was an unexpected but delicious taste addition.

We contemplated ice cream but we had cheese to taste so back to the store we went.

But we took a shortcut--and found another land. This was a world of imagination--an imagination that finds a reason to hang on to any item and a reason to put items--no matter how diverse--together because they "look like they belong."

But, . . . the signs do add a bit of life to this old work table.

And the items on this porch would no doubt lead to some animated conversations.

And one can only imagine the kinds of questions that would be posed to the owner of the Bare Knuckle Garage.

There was even a copy of Dudley Doright's Code of Honor on the wall of one of the buildings. You can't go wrong here.

But it was the Budweiser airplane that combined "off-beat," "whimsy," and "really odd" as we exited the mini trip into another dimension.

As we found our way back to the world of cheese, we had the chance to sample the sage cheddar, the chipotle cheddar, the jalapeno cheddar, the hot pepper flake cheddar, the premium white cheddar, and the outrageously good and award winning Silver Mountain cheddar. And out we walked with the sage, chipotle, premium, and Silver Mountain cheddars and a stick of spicy Italian sopressata.

Those of you who know me well may be surprised that I didn’t buy any of the jalapeño or hot pepper cheeses. They were very good, but the peppers hid the almost buttery taste of this premium cheddar. And the cheese, when brought to room temperature, gains an almost soft consistency with a buttery sheen.

Perfect cheese. So perfect that supper almost every night since then has been cheese (top, clockwise: Original Chipolte Cheddar, Premium White Cheddar, and Western Sage Cheddar), sausage (including a very good hard Italian salami that I had in my refrigerator), and crackers accompanied by a hot honey mustard. So perfect that we had to return before we left the Visalia area to replenish our supply of cheese and sopressata.

Quite an adventure in Bravo Farms in Traver, CA, just north of Visalia.

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