First, Isabel Cruz brought Latin and Asian cuisines together on a single plate. Now the owner of Ashland's Dragonfly Cafe and Gardens is bridging the divide between farm and kitchen.
Cruz purchased Stargazer Farm last year to grow fresher ingredients for Dragonfly and its sister eatery, Isabel Pearl, in Portland. After supplying salad fixings for a special New Year's Eve dinner at Dragonfly, the 60-acre property in Sandy will fill more and more of the restaurants' produce needs this year and host farm dinners prepared by Cruz and guest chefs.
"My husband always wanted to do dinners on the farm," says Cruz of 47-year-old Billy Tosheff, co-owner in her restaurant endeavors that span the West Coast from San Diego to Portland.
The couple's four San Diego-area restaurants won't benefit from their farming efforts as much as the duo in Oregon. But Cruz notes that "natural" and "organic" foods tend to define Oregonians' standards of healthful eating, whereas Californians are all about "low-fat." Her signature cuisine — a fusion of Latin and Asian flavors, considered forward-thinking 20 years ago — is "lifestyle eating," says the 50-year-old Portland resident.
"I hate diets," says Cruz. "I think it's more about balance on your plate."