Clif Notes

Stories from Italy

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Thursday, April 16, 2015

April 13, 2015, Molvena, Veneto, Italia

Another day, another bike ride.

Today we decided to ride to Monte Corno and deliver a special package from Clif Family Winery and Clif Bar to Mirko at his Rifugio called La Baita. The first time we rode this “via” was last year in September, with our friends Gregg, Deven and John as day one of our 7 day bike trip through the Dolomiti. Monte Corno sits on the south edge of the Alto Piano di Asiago. Yes, Asiago, the cheese, where one rides by cheese factories on many of the amazing and beautiful roads in this area.

Since moving here last October for one year, we have ridden to Monte Corno numerous times. Most of our rides include lunch (pranzo) at Refugio La Baita Busa. The first lunch was in October on a ride with Paolo and Nene, the couple that I met 25 years ago at Samsara, their Bar and Bruschetteria. Kit met them a few years later in 1994 and we have been friends ever since. Paolo & Nene, if you don't know, inspired us to start our own Bruschetteria at Velo Vino in the form of a food truck. Which is one of the few things we miss being away for a year.

The food at Baita is so amazing, everything is hand made, "fatto a mano." Including the pasta and gnocchi. It cracks us up, here it is, nothing around, at the edge of this mountain plateau and you find this place to eat that is as good as any Italian trattoria in San Francisco, New York, or Italy. The first time we went there with Paolo and Nene we ordered both the gnocchi and the pasta Bigoli. Pasta Bigoli is unique to this part of the Veneto - think really thick spaghetti. The gnocchi was amazing. This also being the first time Paolo & Nene ate at the Baita, they were also pretty blown away. However Paolo did put the challenge on the table by saying he makes a better gnocchi. The following week he did, as well as taught us his method, actually was better, not by much but he won the challenge.

After about six lunches with Mirko, we started to get to know him, he knew we were from California but didn't know anything about us. Sometimes after lunch he would offer us a digestive, a wonderful, homemade liquore from local alpine herbs. "Not too much" we would say, we still have to ride down the hill back to our apartment, 5000 ft. below La Baita. Yes, the climb right from "nostra casa" is a 5000 ft. climb. And we love it. The roads are perfectly paved, the climb is not too steep, the scenery is magnificent, and usually no more then six cars pass us on our way up. Since we rode there mostly in the winter, we carried all of our warm clothing in our large seat bags, even ski mittens and down coats since the "gradi" or temperature was usually below freezing.

Today however is different, warm sunny, 60-70 degrees. Primavera has arrived. Yesterday I road in my first Italian Gran Fondo, and my last. It was one of the scariest things I’ve have ever done on a bike. That story for another time.

Last time we were at Baita, just a week ago, we told Mirko we wanted to bring him some wine from our Cantina (Italian for winery). That time we drove as I was resting for the Gran “Crazy” Fondo. After lunch he gave us a bottle of his home made Liquore "Amaro" made from "Infuso di Erbe Alpine"

Back to today, we decided to bring Mirko two bottles of wine on our bikes. Along with a can of Dark Chocolate Toffee Pistachios from our Kitchen line, and a variety of Clif products. Note: see where I carried the reserve Cab in foto.

After 2 hours of climbing we arrived, set up the bikes so Kit could show how we carried the goods, as I went in and told Mirko, "abbiamo consegna speciale," we have a special delivery. He said, "per me?!"

He was so grateful and thought it was especially cool that we climbed 1500 meters/5000 feet and carried everything up on our bikes.

Then we did it again, another totally amazing pranzo. Bigoli and a little white wine. Just a little, remember, we were soon to drop 5000 ft. back to our house. And we did, after “due café”, and landed safely.

Next time we ride to La Baita, we will let you know how he liked our wines!

Ciao a tutti,
Gary & Kit

Red Flint Corn

Originally Posted by Brian Hawkins on Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Spina Rossa Della Velsugana

By Drew Erickson, Assistant Farm Manager

Corn (zea mays) is one of the only cereal grains grown by gardeners according to Sunset’s Western Garden Book. And at Clif Family Farm, it is one of our best crops!

Corn has a long history. It was developed by Stone Age humans in Mesoamerica where it was hybridized and selected for thousands of years, although how remains a disputed mystery. Around 2500 BC it spread from the fields around Mexico and was soon grown as a staple grain by people across the Americas.

In the 15th and 16th centuries explorers brought the crop back to Europe where it thrived in a variety of climates. In the Italian Alps a handful of farmers in the Valsugana Valley selected their corn over generations to create a unique variety. They were selecting for a large red cob, early ripening, with distinct spines. In the process it developed a unique flavor. Known as Spina Rossa Della Valsugana, it became a staple crop for the region.

The seed was brought back to America and named Floriani Red Flint in honor of the Floriani family who donated the first few kilos of seed to get back to the US. There has since been a renaissance in growing this type of corn for polenta.

At Clif Family Farm we have had success with several varieties of sweet corn. Summer 2014 was our first attempt at growing this rare red flint corn. So far the project has worked. A test plot of a few hundred square feet yielded about two hundred ears of corn that are now dry and ready to shell.

This variety is open pollinated, so while we are excited to try the finished polenta, we will be sure to hold back the best cobs to save as seed for next year’s crop. In the years to come we hope to plant up to a quarter acre of our garden in corn for polenta or grits, with a potential yield of 500 lbs to 750lbs and enough seed to replant year after year.

We chose to grow Spina Rossa Della Velsugana for many reasons. This variety is reputed to have a richer flavor and is deep yellow, with flecks of pink. It an ideal homesteading corn for the ability to seed save and it’s abundant yields. Due to its scarcity it is more valuable than most commodity corn. It is much easier to harvest and process than wheat, which we have grown in the past. It also fits our mission to rediscover an old way of farming.

This summer, you may be able to try some of this delicious polenta from the Clif Family Bruschetteria Food Truck.

Fennel & Citrus Salad with Lemon Ginger Almonds

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Recipe by Chef John McConnell


2 medium fennel bulbs, thinly sliced lengthwise (preferably on a mandolin)
2 tbsp fennel fronds
2 tbsp Clif Family Kitchen Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp Clif Family Kitchen White Wine Vinegar
1 large grapefruit, segmented
3 mandarin oranges, segmented
½ cup Clif Family Kitchen Lemon Ginger Almonds, coarsely chopped
½ tsp kosher salt


Place sliced fennel in a bowl with Clif Family Kitchen Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Clif Family Kitchen White Wine Vinegar, segmented grapefruit, segmented oranges, half the Clif Family Kitchen Lemon Ginger Almonds and kosher salt. Mix well.

Serve on a platter and garnish with fennel fronds and remaining chopped almonds.

Makes four servings

Winter Squash with Swiss Chard & Smoked Paprika

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Recipe by Chef John McConnell


1 tbsp Clif Family Kitchen Napa Valley Olive Oil
4 ounces smoked, dried chorizo, cut into half inch dice
3 cups winter squash, cut into one-inch cubes (butternut, acorn or pumpkin)
1 small onion, medium dice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, cut into one inch pieces
1-cup chicken stock
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup Clif Family Kitchen Smoked Paprika Almonds, coarsely chopped


In a large, cold sauté pan add Clif Family Kitchen Napa Valley Olive Oil and diced chorizo and cook on low heat until chorizo has rendered its fat, about five minutes. Remove chorizo with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Turn the heat in the pan up to medium-high heat. Add the squash and onion to the pan in one even layer. Cook on medium-high heat until squash has caramelized on each side, about six to eight minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the chopped Swiss chard, chicken stock, smoked paprika and salt to the pan. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until all the liquid has evaporated and squash is fork tender. Serve on a platter garnished with chopped Clif Family Kitchen Smoked Paprika Almonds.

Serves four

Grilled summer corn with feta cheese & dukkah

Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Monday, June 30, 2014

Recipe by Chef John McConnell

The 4th of July holiday always feels like the true start to summer and with that, summer eating! Ripe juicy tomatoes, herb-packed potato salads and fresh, sweet corn always fill our 4th of July picnic table. Here is a delicious way to prepare summer corn from Chef John McConnell using our hand blended Classic Hazelnut Dukkah. Chef John’s secret tip – always pick corn that is as freshly harvested as possible. Corn starts to convert its sugar to starch the minute it is harvested – so the fresher the corn, the sweeter the corn!.

• 4 ears of fresh corn
• 4oz butter, unsalted (room temperature)
• 2 TBSP Gary & Kit's Napa Valley Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• 1 clove of garlic
• 1 lemon
• 4oz (or larger) package of feta cheese
• Fresh mint
• Gary & Kit’s Napa Valley - Classic Hazelnut Dukkah

Clean and shuck ears of corn and set aside. Preheat your grill or light your fire to begin your 4th of July grilling extraganza. For compound butter, take a stick of butter (4oz) and cut into smaller pieces. Clean one clove of garlic and set aside. Zest the skin of one lemon that you thoroughly washed and dried. Add zest of lemon, garlic clove and butter to a food processor and a pinch of salt. Process until mixture is smooth and garlic is chopped (you may have to scrape sides down with a spatula several times to get desired consistency). While motor is still running, emulsify olive oil into butter mixture until it is incorporated. Scoop butter mixture into a bowl using a spatula and set aside in fridge. Crumble cheese into smaller pieces and set aside.

Grill corn lightly. Brush liberally with compound butter. While holding husk end of corn, sprinkle feta cheese over corn while spinning. Season liberally with Dukkah and top corn with hand-torn mint leaves. Enjoy with friends and family and serve alongside your favorite 4th of July fare!


Originally Posted by Efrain Barragan on Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Recipe and Photo by Kay Wilson

4 Tablespoons Gary & Kits Napa Valley Dill Dijon Mustard
½ cup salted butter, softened
1 baguette, cut into ¼ inch slices
1 pound smoked salmon, thinly sliced
Fresh dill

In a bowl, blend softened butter with mustard. Lightly toast baguette slices and allow to cool. Spread the toasts with mustard butter, top with smoked salmon and arrange on platter. Sprinkle with fresh dill and serve.

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