By Norman E. Hill and Maralyn D. Hill
Often, when a destination includes the word “mountain,” we think of a hideaway tucked far and up into the hills, with a steep ascending access road. This is not the case with The Farm at South Mountain, which hosted a lunch and tour we recently attended.
Located a little south of Southern Road and 32nd Street in Phoenix, the Farm packs fascinating variety into its ten acres. It includes three unique restaurants, botanical and succulent nursery markets, massage and yoga facilities, farmers market produce and photographer services.
Across time, there have been four owners: Dwight Heard (of the Heard Museum), Skeeter Coverdale, Wayne Smith and, most recently, Pat Christofolo. Whereas Wayne Smith started envisioning The Farm and opening a couple of the restaurants, Christofolo had the vision of its current status and reputation. As owner of Santa Barbara Catering, she could see the potential and keeps working at enhancing it in every experience. Its stated aim is a “farm to table experience.” This can come about in the simplest or most elegant form.
Three restaurants on The Farm premises are Morning Glory, The Farm Kitchen and Quiessence. Morning Glory provides a breakfast and brunch patio menu, including house baked muffins, locally made sausages and other dishes. The Farm Kitchen, oldest of the three restaurants, aims at picnic and patio lunches, with sandwiches, soups and baked goods served in picnic baskets. Dogs are welcome in this section.
Quiessence provides fine dining with a refined rustic menu. For both indoor and outdoor dining, locally produced meat and wine are available with uncomplicated American-style meals. Chef Dustin Christofolo heads up the Quiessence kitchen.
As stated, the Farm is much more than a series of restaurants. The Botanica market offers local products for gardens and kitchens. The Succulentia is a greenhouse and outdoor space that nurtures special rare, exotic cacti and succulents for sale. It also has a respectable collection of staged show specimens in containers, which have been made by noted ceramicists. Maya’s Garden offers a farmers market on Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., offering fresh produce and herbs.
Utopia is a massage and yoga studio that also bills itself as “energy clearing, healing movement, dancing…and other healing arts.” Lisa Carter, photographer, specializes in wedding and family portraits, usually done on The Farm premises.
Events that can be planned at The Farm at South Mountain (over 100 last year) include weddings, bridal and maternity showers, corporate parties, an annual wine festival and various casual events. With 100 pecan trees originally planted, fruits from these trees can be picked and enjoyed by visitors.
Attendees at our International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association outdoor luncheon included two board members from the organization, several members and representatives from the Phoenix and Mesa Convention Bureaus and some local potential members.
Chef Aaron Newell provided delicious fare. Our menu consisted of the following: local pulled pork sliders, petite chicken apple date sandwiches,
garden grilled asparagus,
wheat berry salad, house-made roasted garlic hummus, farm pecan squares and pecan shortbread cookies – made from scratch.
Favorites of Maralyn and Norm included local pulled pork sliders, pecan shortbread cookies made, as they say, “from scratch,” and farm pecan squares.The salads were outstanding and it would be next to impossible to pick a favorite, as they were all unique and distinctive in flavor. Everything was served family style, so you could indulge in whatever you liked best.
After lunch, we walked off some calories with a quick, but informative, tour of The Farm. As we walked by the large stone grove, we discovered that all the stones we laid by hand without any mortar or cement holding them together, including the stone oven where pizza is cooked. .
We asked if The Farm harvests its pecans. They don’t. Locals seem to know when they are ready and show up to pick and harvest. They flock in every year without fail and are welcomed. The Farm harvests what they plant and the rows of fresh vegetables are tended with loving care by The Farm’s gardener, Maya Dailey. They also have plenty of chickens, so the eggs are all fresh. In addition, we saw the greenhouse and the cacti and succulent garden called Succulentia.
All in all, it was a most delightful lunch. We had enjoyed a lunch there last summer and have dined at Quiessence once. Since this is only about a forty-minute drive for us, we intend to go back frequently to The Farm at South Mountain. We know Morning Glory Café is always filled with regulars.
We did manage to get the recipe for the shortbread cookies to share with you, as well as The Farm’s famous sweet potato salad. These are served regularly in The Farm Kitchen.
Sweet Potato Salad
Serves 6 to 8
1-pound sweet potatoes
¼-cup pecan pieces, toasted
¼-cup dried cranberries
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Chipotle Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
Dice potatoes ½-inch thick. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Bake in 325 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15-20 minutes. When potatoes are tender, let cool slightly and toss with remaining ingredients.
Coat with vinaigrette until desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or cold.
2 tablespoons (or to taste) canned chipotle chiles
1-cup canola oil
1 shallot juice of one lime
½ tablespoon honey
1-tablespoon sherry vinegar
½ -tablespoon molasses
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor.
Pecan Shortbread Cookies
1 pound butter (4 sticks)
2 cups sugar
4 cups flour
1½-cups chopped pecans
whole pecans (about 50)
powdered sugar (about 2 cups)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cream butter and sugar in mixer on low speed. Add eggs one at a time. Add flour and salt slowly. Add chopped pecans.
Scoop a generous tablespoon of dough onto cookie sheet and press a whole pecan into the center of each cookie.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for twenty minutes or until edges are golden brown.
Allow cookies to cool, then roll in powdered sugar.* Makes about 3½ dozen cookies.
*Authors Note: You can sprinkle powered sugar, if you do not want them coated quite so much.
We hope if you are in Phoenix, you will have the opportunity to visit The Farm at South Mountain. If not, the recipes can let you experience a little bit of it at home.
The Farm At South Mountain
6106 South 32nd Street
Phoenix, AZ 85042