As the weather starts to cool and you begin to visualize your upcoming holiday plans with friends and family, you may switch up your meals to those involving comforting fruits and vegetables, like butternut squash. Even in California, where temperatures are reluctant to let go of the summer warmth and the trees don’t change to quite as many colors as other parts of the country, we know what the first bowl of rich butternut squash soup or satisfying the craving for our seasonal butternut squash gnocchi (pictured above) can do for the soul.
From Our Farm to Your Fork
At the Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafė, we love incorporating butternut squash into our fall and winter recipes. It is such a comforting food with abundant versatility. You can find it throughout our menu, from pizzas to salads, and even a seasonal dessert!
We are big fans of butternut squash. In fact, our Cafė Farm grows around 4 tons every summer! If you didn’t already know, most of the Café’s produce is organically grown on our very own farm in Los Olivos, CA, just minutes from downtown.
The Sunny Side of Butternut Squash
The idea of roasted butternut squash, or our very own butternut squash gnocchi, brings to mind cozy feelings reminiscent of the autumn and winter months. This wouldn’t be the case without the warm summer months to thank, however. Despite being classified as a winter squash, butternut squash plants are annuals that are grown on a vine in the spring and summer. This is because the plant requires between 75 and 100 days to grow and should be harvested before any frosts arrive. Because of this harvesting period, it is considered a winter squash.
Our farmers plant butternut squash in May and harvest in October; so the squash our guests enjoy eating in the winter months has been growing all summer long.
Summer Squash vs. Winter Squash
There are a few distinctions that set summer squash and winter squash apart. Winter squash tends to have a thicker skin than summer squash, which makes them last longer. Butternut squash, when stored properly, can last for several months! Summer squash are more tender (think zucchini or yellow squash) and don’t last as long.
Other types of squash of the winter variety include acorn squash, kabocha, Hubbard, and spaghetti squash, with butternut as a popular favorite.
How to Pick the Perfect Butternut Squash
When picking your own butternut squash, select one that is moderately heavy for its size and still has its stem intact. The outer skin should be relatively free of soft spots or deep cracks. It is also generally best to choose one with a solid beige color and a matte (not shiny) exterior.
What’s Not to Love About this Fruit?
Although butternut squash is commonly considered a vegetable, the fact that it has seeds classifies it as a fruit. Definitions aside, butternut squash is a filling, delicious, and versatile squash, and we are having a hard time finding a reason not to love it!
Our menu is rotated based on the seasonal produce we grow on our cafė farm, which is why we are excited to bring you these new dishes that are best enjoyed in view of our cozy fireplace. If you’d prefer to take your food home, we highly encourage a pair of warm fuzzy socks to accompany the meal.
Whether dining in or ordering to-go, next time you come by the cafė, be sure to check out our updated menu with our delicious and creative seasonal selections that Chef Brooke and the kitchen staff have crafted.
After over a decade at the helm of our kitchen, Chef Chris Joslyn, has moved with his family to Nevada where he hopes to continue using his talents and expand on his passions. We are grateful for his dedication and the many dishes he created that nourished and delighted so many of us through the years. The timing couldn’t have been better for Chef Brooke Stockwell to move into this position.
We are excited to introduce you to Chef Brooke, our new Executive Chef at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café!
Brooke grew up on the California Central Coast in a family where food was part of the conversation; the love that was baked into it nourished her appreciation for how food connects and fulfills us in a special way. Her roots were at the essence of what drove her passion to not just be a really good at-home cook, but to pursue her love of cooking as a career.
Throughout the last 18 years as a professional chef, she has honed the style of her cuisine into what she describes as “simplistically elevating local ingredients.” Brooke shares, “the dishes I create highlight the bounties of the season and convey the labor of love generated from the farmers to the plate.” What better way could she elevate local ingredients than leading a kitchen at a restaurant with its own farm?
Chef Brooke grew up locally with a large garden in her yard, raised hogs in the FFA, and is no stranger to hunting or fishing. After graduating with honors from high school, she attended UCLA as a Communications Studies major intending to go into advertising or marketing. However, while she was at UCLA Brooke heard the calling of her upbringing and took a U-turn back to Santa Barbara and navigated her path into the restaurant business through the formal studying of culinary arts. While in culinary school, Chef Brooke worked as a private chef and was able to build confidence and establish a style of cooking that reflected her appreciation for the land and the flavors that seasonal freshness can express. This expression of the seasons is at the heart of what makes Chef Brooke’s cuisine an ideal fit for our establishment. (We hope you got to taste some of the lovely ways Chef Brooke made use of the abundance of organic Café Farm tomatoes recently! If not, no worries, she’s been busy canning them for marinara and more.)
After an intense and educational experience working for celebrity chef Rick Moonen in Las Vegas, Chef Brooke was elated to take what she learned and return to the Central Coast where she has gained more experience as Executive Chef at the Inn at Morro Bay, the 1880 Union Hotel & Saloon, K’Syrah Catering & Events, and Roblar Winery. Now, as a highly regarded seasoned chef, we proudly welcome Chef Brooke as Executive Chef at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café. Chef Brooke is the ideal person to continue our 26-year reputation for creating fresh, local, sustainable cuisine.
Chef Brooke shares her enthusiasm for this new position, “As the Executive Chef of Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café, I am excited to share my passion for cooking by celebrating the Central Coast and our Café Farm with the dishes I create.”
It is not only important for a chef to be able to create an impressive menu but it is quintessential they lead the kitchen staff with integrity, and a sense of humor is always helpful. Spend a few minutes with Chef Brooke, and you will notice the twinkle in her eyes and her contagious delightful demeanor that we are grateful to have leading our team in the kitchen.
Chef Brooke enjoys meeting guests and getting personal feedback, we invite you to give Brooke a warm welcome next time you dine with us.
In the heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country, we are the premier wine merchant for California Central Coast wines, from Santa Barbara County to Monterey County, with select vintages from other areas of California’s Wine Country and noteworthy wines from around the world.