In search of The Great Pumpkin

In case you missed it, here’s my review of Earthbound Farm’s Farm Stand that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.

I’ve been out of town for the last week, taking in the sights of the Windy City. Chicago’s suburbs were blanketed in beautiful fall landscapes with leaves turning golden and crimson signaling the changing season. Houses had set out jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and ghouls, getting ready for Halloween festivities now just days away.

When I got home, the change in scenery was abrupt — it was a little jarring to come from Chicago’s brisk weather to the Central Coast Indian summer.

I knew a jaunt down into Carmel Valley was in order — it’s the perfect way to experience the fall colors, taking the winding road away from the hustle and bustle of the Monterey Peninsula and into the serene autumnal forests.

The Earthbound Farm pumpkin patch is a must visit in October.

And, of course, a trip to the Valley isn’t complete without a stop at Earthbound Farm’s Farm Stand for sustenance after emerging from the Valley.

The Farm Stand isn’t just for produce — you can pick up a mighty tasty meal here, too.

The menu includes a daily pressed panino sandwich, a couple of “cold” sandwiches and a couple of soup selections. And of course there’s always the organic salad bar — build your own salad for $8.99 per pound.

Make your own salad at Earthbound's organic salad bar for $8.99 a pound.

The soups this past Sunday included turkey vegetable or fennel potato leek ($3.95 for a cup, $5.95 for a bowl); I opted for the fennel potato leek. It was a light soup, made with a vegetable stock instead of cream. It was flavorful, with a lot of fennel — a vegetable that’s so underrated.

Sunday’s pressed panino included sweet Italian sausage, salami, Jack cheese, spinach and jalapeño aioli on farmstand focaccia ($8.95).

A pressed panino and a bowl of soup were the perfect lunch on the patio.

The sandwiches are premade, but grilled to order on a panini press. The bread was crispy with a nice crunch on the first bite.

The sausages were a little bland, but thankfully the accompanying jalapeño aioli made up for the shortcomings of the fillings.

That aioli was so spicy, building in intensity bite after bite. I just wish there had been more cheese — there’s nothing like biting into a gooey, cheesy panino.

And, of course, after the savory soup and sandwich, what better than a sweet treat to cleanse the palate?

Earthbound Farm’s Farm Stand offers a selection of frozen yogurt and soft-serve ice cream. There are two fro-yo flavors to choose from — honey and raspberry — and two soft-serve ice cream flavors — vanilla or chocolate.

The sweet treats are available in a cup or cone in three sizes — small (4 oz) for $2.99, medium (6 oz) for $3.99 or large (8 oz) for $4.99 — and add a topping for 95 cents.

The honey froyo was tart with a touch of sweet honey, the perfect finish to a meal.

It’s tart fro-yo, not the overly sweet fro-yo you might find at some local shops. My favorite is the honey — it’s a plain tart fro-yo with just a touch of sweet honey.

After refueling, I mosied through Earthbound Farm’s pumpkin patch. On the weekend, it was a bit like wandering into a daycare with kids running around, but that comes with the turf on the weekend before Halloween.

The pumpkins were gorgeous, though a little pricey. But if you’re looking for some last-minute Halloween decorations, Earthbound Farm is the place to go, offering an eclectic assortment of unique pumpkin varieties, from classic jack-o-lantern and Cinderellas to more exotic fare with knobs and hues of pink and gray.

From farm-fresh veggies to tasty lunchtime fare to fuel your travels into Carmel Valley, Earthbound Farm is the place to stop.

Earthbound Farm’s Farm Stand is located at 7250 Carmel Valley Road in Carmel Valley. 625-6219 or www.ebfarm.com/ourfarmstand

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