These days, it has been getting harder and harder to shop before I cook a meal. My options up to now have been to try and work my schedule around a weekly trip to the farmer's market for fresh produce and a stop on the way home other days for fresh meat, seafood and items which I may need for the individual meal. After rush hour traffic, that usually cuts into my cooking time so it is not always the most practical thing to do, especially with trying to serve a meal at a decent time. Recently, it was suggested that I try Winder Farms, a company that specializes in home delivery of farm-fresh produce, hand-made items, all-natural meats, dairy, fresh juices and other items. Begun in 1880 as Winder Dairy, they have been delivering food items in several states and have recently expanded to Orange County. All items are delivered in either insulated sealed bags or produce boxes. Winder's guarantee is that the items will be delivered before 8am, although typically they have deliveries done and at your door by 5am.
Part of the advantage of shopping this way is that it becomes easier to pre-plan meals, especially when you need an ingredient list for them. It is much simpler to try a new recipe when you are sure of exactly what you are getting beforehand. Winder Farms has two ways to shop, a regular, planned weekly delivery along with being able to place an order by 8pm the evening before for delivery the next morning. Winder Farms' website is easy to navigate, something that can't be said of a lot of supermarket aisles. It is hard to beat not having to run over to the opposite side of a store because they have either moved a product or because you missed it on your shopping list.
My order was at the front door when I came down Wednesday morning. These products were provided to me by Winder Farms, however all opinions are my own. As I unpacked the produce box I was impressed with the freshness of the items. The eggplant was beautiful, the fresh cilantro and lettuce seemed like they had been just picked and the yellow bell peppers and cucumbers had the look of produce I usually could only find at a farmer's market. The oranges and grapefruit looked like fruit that I used to buy from the growers in Ventura County, picked just that day and sold in a little open air stand on the side of the road. I sampled a green bean and it had the satisfying snap that told me it had not sat in a supermarket warehouse for several days before being shipped to the market, already past the prime even before the supermarket put them on display.
Winder believes in sourcing many of their items locally, so the chocolate chip cookies and fresh cheese ravioli were both made in Orange County. Items like milk and eggs came from local sources also. Their locavore attitude is definitely refreshing and fits in with my desire to not only eat foods prepared locally but to buy local items for my home made dishes. As I could see on other items such as the fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, the color is just not something you see when they are picked early, gassed and then shipped from other countries. Some items come from Tanaka Farms, the local Orange County farm that still grows some of the best produce you can get.
The proof, however, would be the taste of the items. The first evening, I used the fresh tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, onions, garlic and carrots along with some fresh-picked rosemary from the backyard to make a vegetarian pasta sauce. To complete the locally sourced meal, I sauteed the vegetables in olive oil from Temecula and mixed in balsamic vinegar from a tasting room in San Diego.
The sauce, with dried herbs, pepper and sea salt, was delicious on the cheese ravioli that Winder Farms had supplied from a pasta kitchen in Orange County. So far, I was impressed with what I had received.
The next night, simplicity was the key as I walked in and within 5 minutes was grilling jalapeno bratwursts for dinner. Winder Farms gets their sausage from Colosimo Sausages in Utah, a small producer still owned by the C olosimo family. The sausages grilled up nicely and went well with a salad made from the lettuce, carrot, tomato and fresh cucumber delivered by Winder. Since I had not needed to go to the store on my way home, this became literally a “10 minute meal”.
Part of the key to buying from Winder Farms is knowing that the produce is exceptionally fresh. On Friday, the produce still looked great, showing that it had not been picked a week before and shipped here. The oranges were still firm and the bell peppers had no soft spots. I had been snacking daily on oranges and organic carrots and really enjoying the sweetness of them. This was definitely looking like a good way to cut down on my visits to the supermarket.
Saturday is a day I definitely try to avoid making a trip to the supermarket. It is also a packed day at several of the local farmers markets. Of course, it also happens to be a good day for cooking and entertaining, so there is a trade-off in what to do. I had planned my Saturday dinner so I would not have to go out shopping that day and could instead use it for more important pursuits like walking the dog and swimming in the pool. I had told everyone that dinner would be served at 7pm, so I knew how much time I had before I started cooking.
I like to use Saturdays as a day to try new recipes for friends, so I had dome some research on some interesting dishes to try. The Swiss chard from Winder Farms, still fresh and crisp, was going to be featured in a Moroccan Swiss Chard Salad. The recipe that I had found looked interesting, somewhat of a cross between a salad and a side-dish. For my starch, I kept the North African theme, finding another recipe for Spicy Moroccan Rice with Tomatoes and Peppers. With the gorgeous yellow bell peppers I had and the ripe red tomatoes, the dish would be visually stunning. For the main dish, I had some nicely marbled New York steaks from Winder, grass-fed and perfect for going on the grill.
As the guests arrived, a local wine, a 2012 Viognier from Wien Family Cellars in Temecula was served. Comments were made how good things smelled in the house, with the spice and aromas of Morocco in the air. I had a jar of harissa, the hot condiment from Morocco, to add authentic flavor, so that went in the Moroccan Swiss Chard Salad as the final ingredient. Meanwhile, the steaks were grilling, adding their aroma to the evening breeze.
Dinner was a success and all the guests were full and happy. I was impressed that not only could I make a fresh dinner with ingredients that I had ordered online, but that the produce was so fresh that after 4 days it still was superior to anything that I could buy in the local supermarket. Of course, I could have also ordered the items Friday night for a delivery Saturday. I like having the options of delivery and, combined with the locavore products and extreme freshness, Winder Farms seems like it is an excellent way to cut down on time at the store while getting consistently fresh, locally sourced products in a convenient way.
Items delivered throughout Orange County