A Table Set for Magic
“Do you know where all that produce in your cupboard comes from? When people come to Arizona, they think of hot desert sandy ground and don’t realize that we supply about 93% of the winter vegetables that feed the U.S., Canada and Europe.” (Peggy Alameda, Sabor Farms)
We got the chance to see this beautiful farmland first hand. Teaming up with the Yuma Agricultural Center and local farms, Visit Yuma has struck gold with its newest event, Sunset on the Ranch Dinners. With only two dinners left this season before the sweltering Yuma summer heat sets in – February 13 and March 5 – be sure to get your tickets now before they sell out. (They sold out, but you can get your name on a waiting list, or make plans for next year!)
Why Visit Yuma?
Yuma is one of the sunniest and driest places on Earth. Combining that with its historic downtown, its wild west prison history, quaint shops, diverse restaurants, a craft beer bar and even a craft beer brewery, it’s easy to see why so many people, young and old, choose Yuma to get away from the cold.
We are no different. Although it was the brewery, Prison Hill Brewing Company, that first brought us to Yuma, it was the land and the people that kept us here for longer than a day. While a majority of travelers here make RV parks their home for a few months, our home was just outside of Yuma on BLM land at Fortuna Pond for a week. Rarely heading out on special date nights, we were excited to get a bit dressed up for this unique Yuma event.
Yuma Agricultural Center
Arriving at Yuma Agricultural Center’s Valley Farm, mere miles from downtown Yuma, joining the other guests on a tractor-pulled wagon, there was a sense of wonder as the tractor pulled us all towards the lush green fields so unexpected in the Arizona desert. While touring the farm, we learned that the Yuma Agricultural Center is an integral part of the University of Arizona and consists of research and educational departments dedicated to agriculture, farming, and environmental sciences that benefit the world.
The Center consists of two locations both including research and farming facilities with over 500 combined acres of land to grow a large variety of crops including cotton, cauliflower, many leafy greens, citrus fruits, and even hemp, one of their newest and more experimental crops.
Riding casually through the fields with the setting sun highlighting the silhouettes of the palm trees off in the distance, the wagon ride was the perfect white horse whisking us away to a uniquely Yuma, Arizona, farm dinner.
A Table Set for Magic
The evening sky was lit with the hint of the moonrise over the mountains in the distance. The only thing that took precedence over that stunning scene was the one before us. Tables were decked out in their evening best with crisp fresh linen cloths. Upon those linens, snow white plates next to sparkling silver flatware perfectly complemented the simple yet elegant wine and water glasses, patiently waiting to be filled.
It would have been too stark, almost antiseptic, but for the centerpieces of fresh-from-the-farm vegetables strategically placed amongst the two long family style tables, offering a natural pop of color as if it had just come straight from the pages of a magazine. And with just enough lights strung above to enhance the brilliance of those stars and the rising moon, the table was set for magic.
With a kitchen creatively carved out of a shipping container, the menu for the night was prepared fresh on site. While each Sunset on the Ranch Dinner is different, they are all farmer-inspired and chef created.
Each course is paired with a different beer or wine to bring out the flavors in both. We chose to have our courses paired with beer. Being the craft beer writers and lovers that we are, this was the only logical choice for us. Though we would have liked to have seen Arizona craft beers (and wines) featured, the selection chosen by Old Town Wine Cellar for both beer and wine was well thought out and paired brilliantly with the food.
Interested in pairing your own food and beer? Click here to learn more.
Chef and Farm Inspired Food
Starting with an appetizer of cheeses, fresh jams, crusty bread, and Samuel Smith’s Pure Brewed Lager, we made casual conversation with the other guests, quickly realizing the diversity of people at our table. With both travelers and locals conversing, we all came to the same conclusion: travel opens doors to worlds unknown even right in your own backyard, and this combined with local events create community across the world. Shared tables help, too.
Magically, as though in a Harry Potter movie, the appetizer plates were gone, replaced by a blue cheese salad wedge paired perfectly with Avinger’s Weizenbock. Normally, we are not iceberg lettuce kind of people, but since this was fresh from the farm and handcrafted on site, we dug in full-heartedly and finished every last bit of that iceberg wedge salad, down to the droplets of dressing on the plates.
Knowing that the main course was a ribeye steak, and this being my husband’s favorite meal, rarely getting it because of the high price point, he was, (forgive the overused saying, but just like the beer pairs well with the food, the saying pairs well with the husband) like a kid in a candy store. And as soon as that ribeye arrived, seared on the outside and pink in all its glory on the inside, nothing else in the world existed for him, except maybe the beer.
With sides of fresh vegetables including a baked squash, we savored every last bite and every last sip of The Lost Abbey’s Lost and Found Abbey Ale. Almost too stuffed to eat the s’mores inspired bread pudding, but not quite, this was a meal with which to compare all meals. I know I won’t be cooking like that anytime soon, meaning we may just have to come back for more.
A unique aspect of this dinner was the ability to chat with the farmers. Hosted in part by Sabor Farms and hearing directly from Steve and Peggy Alameda, farmers with over 40 years of experience, was an honor. The passion in their voices and the humor in their stories matched the evening’s ambiance as we learned more about their agricultural upbringing in the San Francisco Bay Area and their quick transition to Arizona.
“When we moved here, we thought we moved into an oven. However, this is one of the best places to come and raise our children,” said Peggy Alameda.
With Yuma’s lush agricultural valleys, scenic desert vistas, and their growing interest in education and pollination to further increase agricultural capabilities, Yuma became home.
After warming up by the fire, content with a full glass of beer in hand, the evening wound down. The moon, almost full, the stars beckoning us home.
We slowly made our way to the boxes upon boxes of fresh veggies Sabor Farms urged us all to take home. As we did so, I recalled a comment from Linda, our hostess from Visit Yuma, “We’re literally feeding the world right here from Yuma, Arizona.”
Now a couple of weeks after this evening, still enjoying the fresh veggies, I realize this is true. It’s a great reminder as to where our food comes from.
Yuma, Arizona – Sunset on the Ranch Dinner
To sum up the full experience of not only this evening, but also our time in Yuma, I will borrow from a fellow dinner guest, Lisa from New Hampshire. “You think of Arizona, you think of desert, you think of dead. You don’t think there’s this type of growth down here and it’s very eye opening for us to see the beautiful farms and the food that you are producing. And there’s so many people that do not realize where it’s really truly coming from and the hard work that goes into getting that from the soil to our tables. This has been an amazing opportunity for us.”
We hope now when you think of Yuma, Arizona, you think past the shopping and the warm weather. You think of lush green fields. You think of a Sunset on the Ranch Dinner.
The Sunset on The Ranch Dinner was hosted by Visit Yuma. While our dinner was covered, all opinions are our own, and we will never recommend something we don’t believe in.
April Pishna is the co-creator of Living a Stout Life. She is an author, world traveler, educator, and a craft beer geek. Together, with her husband, they tour the country in their 24 foot RV searching for craft beer adventures. When she is not creating content, she loves the thrill of the outdoors, the adventures of saying hi to a stranger, and the comforts of home.
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