By Mina Yamashita
Hand To Mouth Foods
It’s Los Ranchos Growers’ Market opening day, and when I arrive at 7 a.m., a lively crowd is already jockeying for position around the stalls. I find Hand To Mouth Foods, LLC where Jeffrey Lee and wife Elaine DiFederico offer tables full of starter plants, assorted greens and carefully packed early harvests. I’m looking for breakfast, and in the midst of the greens is a tempting array of baked goods. I walk away munching a piñon-spangled custard tart, saving an onion galette and a fruit tart for later.
The next week, I speak with the couple at their home in Corrales. DiFederico invites me around back of the adobe house where my jaw drops at the sight of a 60-foot-long greenhouse with rows of raised beds full of greenery and flowers. Beneath the beds grow more tiny crops. The afternoon sun lights up the glass structure like a cathedral.
“We never thought we’d fill the greenhouse,” Lee says.
“We built the raised beds because we thought it would be easier for us. Then we ran out of room,” DiFederico adds.
Add the acreage beyond the greenhouse, and their efforts appear daunting. The gardens are pesticide-free, but they need to be in operation for three years before they can be certified as organic.
Just west of the greenhouse is a new building we enter to escape the heat. This is a licensed commercial bakery where Lee creates his delicacies. The room is spotless and fully equipped.
They talk about meeting in Washington, D.C., when both were international economists. They relocated to San Francisco in search of new careers. DiFederico is now a doctor specializing in perinatology and teaches at UNMH. Lee graduated from the California Culinary Academy and worked several positions until he could focus on pastries at Ken's Artisan Bakery in Portland, where the two raised their family. With three children grown, the couple was ready to launch their next enterprise. A taste of Gruet’s Champagne put New Mexico on their radar.
“That’s pretty good stuff,” Lee says. “I was surprised that there was so much winemaking going on here.”
Now in New Mexico for three years and in Corrales for a year and a half, Hand To Mouth offers goods baked to order. I’ve waxed poetic about one of Lee’s galettes—a pleated, hand-formed pie with a strawberry filling enhanced with just enough ground lavender to burst on the tongue but not overwhelm. His inventive combinations include kefir cheese custard tarts with dates and piñons, caramelized onion tarts, pecan biscotti, sweet and savory turnovers, lemon tarts with a violet garnish, and melt-in-your-mouth cream scones. Many of the baked goods use produce from DiFederico’s garden or other local vendors and emphasize seasonal ingredients for best flavor.
Hand To Mouth Foods welcomes special orders. Its pastries can be made in various sizes with a variety of sweet and savory fillings.
To request a brochure or place an order, call 265-5991 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you can’t wait, get to the Los Ranchos market (Saturdays 7 to 11 a.m.) or the Corrales market (Sundays 9 a.m. to noon) and munch to your heart’s content. Lee and DiFederico will add the Uptown market to their venues on Saturday, June 26 (7 a.m. to noon).
Complete growers’ market information: farmersmarketsnm.org.
Shout Out to The Cube!
1520 Central SE • thecuberestaurant.com
For the first time, Cube lovers can enjoy home-cooked collards with their smokin’ ribs and finger-lickin’ barbecue. Seems folks can’t get enough (they’ve been running out), so get there early for the greens.
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