It’s slowly starting to look like spring in the Roaring Fork Valley, which means fresh produce is on the horizon, and culinary creatives everywhere are busy gathering supplies and ideas to revamp their seasonal menus. .
Among those creatives is Josie Cruz, owner of L’Orto Farm to Table.
L’Orto, which is the Italian word for beloved vegetable garden, prepares and serves local produce and meat for meal kits and private events.
“I get food from farmers and store it. Then I make meals out of them for people who want convenient meals, and of course, they’re delicious,” Cruz laughed. “But the thing is, people can eat local food from a pantry-style menu all winter long.”
For years, cooking for others has been Cruz’s “love language.” As a teenager in the Valley, she dove straight into the food industry when she got a job in the kitchen at Gwyn’s High Alpine in Snowmass. However, the long hours and low pay frustrated her, and she asked to work at the “front of the house” instead.
“I was getting tossed around the kitchen world for peanuts,” Cruz said, and she began to wonder, “How can we make it so people in the food industry can afford a nice life? And how do we ensure that consumers can have good food? »
On a mission to create that change, Cruz has worked in all aspects of the restaurant world, gaining experience and an eclectic palette along the way.
Eventually she started working for Megan Rainnie of Gourmet Girl on the Go in Aspen, and with the “big ticket dining events”, Cruz said she was able to branch out simultaneously.
In the summer of 2021, L’Orto blossomed when Cruz began hosting farm-to-table events for friends and family. While the setting was private, the menus were down to earth and comforting.
“There’s nothing Michelin,” Cruz said. “I don’t do just one type of food. I make spaghetti and meatballs, spring rolls and fried rice style quinoa. The menus are based on the ingredients I can get and the food I like to eat.
A key aspect of L’Orto is that Cruz works closely with the farmers who supply him with his meals.
“I was getting everything I needed for the amount of food I was putting in from Erin and Jose [of Erin’s Acres Farm and Rocking TT Bar]”Cruz said. “It was an easy relationship. I’ve done a lot of work/trade for food, which I like to do with farmers if it’s useful to them.
Last fall, using produce from Nature First Farm and meat from Dooley Creek Farm, Cruz once again put his talents to work with weekly meal kits that featured nutritious dishes, such as cabbage quiche. rave and sausage, Dooley Creek Ground Beef Stews and Purple Potato Gnocchi with Creamy Pumpkin Sage Sauce.
While the meal kits and dinners have been a hit, Cruz said she’ll be taking a break to focus on L’Orto’s next phase: mobility.
Seeing the valley’s skyrocketing real estate market and how it’s excluding many capital-less entrepreneurs, Cruz decided to take matters into her own hands with the recent acquisition of a commercial food truck.
According to Cruz, making L’Orto mobile is a creative opportunity for her to have more flexibility and longevity in the culinary industry.
“I can be at farmers’ markets, I can be at fairs, I can be at people’s weddings,” Cruz said. “Having a restaurant is like the factory in Little House of Horrors, but it doesn’t have to be this constant, hungry monster,” she laughed.
L’Orto is preparing to organize the farmers’ evening
On May 13, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Craft Coffeehouse, Valley residents will have the opportunity to experience the culinary delights of L’Orto during Dandelion Day Farmers’ Night Out.
Natalie Fuller, queen bee and organizer of Dandelion Day, said this year’s event will move away from the panel format and instead focus on a “fun mix and mingle” experience.
“We just want to celebrate [the agricultural community] and give them a night where they are honored and recognized for the work they do,” Fuller said.
The evening will feature local dishes prepared by L’Orto, music by duo Bonfire and DJ Grim Nymph, drinks and the opportunity to meet local food producers.
Participating farms include Dooley Creek, Nature First, Colorado Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, Two Roots Farm, Basalt Mountain Gardens, Sustainable Settings, Colorado Edible Forest, Rivendell Distribution, Wild Mountain Seeds, Toadstool Traditions, Juniper Farm and Farm Collaborative.
“Our valley has a very strong and beautiful agricultural history, and it is crucial to preserve it. If we lose that, we’re going to lose our souls,” Fuller said. “The farming community takes care of us, and we need to take care of them. We have to look for them and bring their food to our tables.
To buy tickets for Farmers’ Night Out and to learn more about Dandelion Day, visit them on Facebook. To follow L’Orto Farm To Table, visit www.lortofarmtotable.com or check them out on Facebook.
Tickets for Farmers’ Night Out are at www.https://bit.ly/DandyDinner