74 F
Laguna Hills
Saturday, Jul 13, 2024

The Ecology Center Unveils New Café

People have heard of farm-to-table cuisine, and farm-to-fork.

What about table-to-farm?

That’s the concept behind San Juan Capistrano’s Campesino Café, the zero-waste restaurant that The Ecology Center opened last year as part of its 15th anniversary.

The menu features organic ingredients grown on the Ecology Center’s 28-acre regenerative farm and education center. It’s a succinct menu, and can include soup, salads, a breakfast sandwich and a Farmer’s Feast for two people. Beverages range from coffee drinks to teas, kombucha and agua fresca.

“Since our founding in 2008, we’ve made it our mission to nourish and inspire the community with the vision of an ecological food future. Our new restaurant is an expression of this vision,” said Evan Marks, founder and executive director of the Ecology Center.

“A lot of restaurants say that they are farm-to-table, but our regenerative, organic farm takes things one step further and brings the table to the farm. It’s a completely unique experience to offer our guests the opportunity to consume ingredients sourced within walking distance of where they’re sitting. This is another way we’re connecting our community back to the land.”

“From a food quality standpoint, if you get the best quality ingredients as fresh as you can from someone you know, your food is going to be great,” he said.

James Beard Winner

The restaurant’s menu was created by Chef Tim Byres, a James Beard cookbook award winner who spent six months on the Ecology Center’s farm as the resident chef leading the Hearth dinner series in 2021.

Campesino Café’s vegetarian menu changes frequently to take advantage of the seasonal crops harvested at any given time. Ingredients used throughout the menu are also regenerative, utilizing the Ecology Center’s guiding concept of agroecology—farming practices that give more than they take by focusing on soil health, animal welfare and social fairness.

According to the Ecology Center, the name of the restaurant was derived from the word “campesino,” a Latin American term meaning “of the land,” and translates to “farmer,” a description that perfectly fits the restaurant’s culture.

“We are here to model, mentor and nourish,” Marks said. “This is a demonstration of humans thriving together. It’s a buzz of new culture, new lifestyle, mentoring young farmers and chefs, changing the food system of Southern California and growing meaningful ingredients.”

Farm Stands, Pop-Ups

The Ecology Center also offers a popular Farm Stand featuring produce from the farm for guests to purchase along with goods from dozens of small artisan makers and farmers throughout the region.

It also hosts regular Community Table dinners, each featuring a different renowned guest chef who designs and cooks a farm-to-table meal utilizing ingredients from the farm.

The Ecology Center is introducing a series of pop-up dining events called Peace Pizza and Tie-Dye Taqueria starting in April and going to the end of May.

Launching every other Tuesday starting April 30, Tie-Dye Taqueria reinvents Taco Tuesdays with a menu of fish and vegetable tacos, quesadillas and bean salads. Taco options include Cauliflower en Mole, with charred cauliflower, roasted onions and mole, or a fish taco with rockfish, cabbage slaw, chili crema, salsa macha and pickled onions.

The Peace Pizza events started April 25 and takes place every other Thursday. They feature fresh produce pizzas, with ingredients such as buttermilk pesto and wood-fired peas and carrots.

At the pop-ups, guests can engage with farmers, chefs and regenerative agriculture experts through interactive cooking demonstrations and educational workshops.

And for strawberry lovers, the Ecology Center’s Strawberry U-Pick event is back.

The farm welcomes visitors every Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through June 3, or while strawberries last. Visitors can handpick strawberries, which are sold by weight, and are free from chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The Ecology Center: 32701 Alipaz St.,
San Juan Capistrano, (949) 443-4223, theecologycenter.org.

Want more from the best local business newspaper in the country?

Sign-up for our FREE Daily eNews update to get the latest Orange County news delivered right to your inbox!


Featured Articles


Related Articles