Burbank inspires pop-up dinners

Chef Lyle organizes The Chosen Spot at historically significant spots around the county

Luther Burbank

Luther Burbank
Luther Burbank

When you eat your next bag of potato chips or fast food fries, you can thank Luther Burbank. Responsible for the ubiquitous Russet Burbank potato, as well as the lesser-known Freestone peach, plumcot, Santa Rosa plum and nearly 800 other different fruits, flowers, grains, grasses and vegetables, the 19th century horticulturist looms large on our collective plates. It’s not a stretch to say that Burbank, who made his home in Santa Rosa, helped to put Sonoma County on the food map.

Despite his tasty legacy, Burbank is too often a dusty history lesson foisted on schoolchildren and garden clubs.  Reintroducing the rogue botanist and his many achievements to our modern senses, a series of dinners called Chosen Spot celebrate Burbank through taste and place. Using fruits and vegetables developed by Burbank in historically significant spaces around the county, the dinners are six-course meals served up with a side of history.

The first dinner is slated for Sept. 24 at the Crane Melon Barn in Santa Rosa — where the luscious local melons are grown. The dinner will include watermelon and beet salads, a St. George’s cheese fonduta, Trout with bacon and zucchini succotash and basil chicken. Chefs include organizers John Lyle (Space XXV, Lisa Hemenway’s); Les Goodman (John Ash & Co, Dry Creek Kitchen), Aaron Short (Affronit) and Holly Messing (Jack and Tony’s), along with the help of volunteer SRJC Culinary Students. Farms participating in Chosen Spot will be The Victorian Farmstead, Bloomefield Farms and Beet Generation.  Most of the farmers will be in attendance.

“I realize Sonoma County is making a huge impact in the culinary world in America and if you really look at Luther Burbank’s contributions he’s made an impact on the world.  This [project] is to show people that what we do here on our farms and in our restaurants has an impact.  When you read his and the whole idea “the chosen spot” you realize that we are choosing this spot and it just makes sense,” said Lyle. The named “Chosen Spot” was in reference to an 1875 quote by Burbank about Sonoma County. “I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned,” he said.

Additional dinners will be held on October 15 (a surprise location to be announced) and Saturday, November 12 at The Victorian Farmstead.

Each of the dinners is $55 per person, with 100% of profits going to three local projects: The Tree Restoration Project, The School Education Program at Gold Ridge and The Luther Burbank School Orchard Project.

For more details and reservations check out Chosen Spot on Facebook or email chosenspotsonomacounty@gmail.com.