When Kathryn Agresto isn't digging in the dirt, she explores homegrown delights.
By digging her hands into the soil, by lovingly caring for her carrots, squash and herbs, Kathryn Agresto helped to grow not just a garden, but a movement. She is one of Orange County’s trailblazers in farm-to-table cuisine, a trend founded on the ideal of eating natural, homegrown produce.
Inspired by the gardens her parents once planted in La Verne – her father prized his tomatoes – Agresto extricated herself from a long career in business-management consulting to create a company, Native Soil Gardens, that helps fine restaurants raise their own food. Her first client, nine years ago, was chef David Slay’s Park Ave steakhouse in Stanton. Since then, Agresto, now 54, has expanded to serve such elite establishments as Bluewater Grill in Newport Beach and the Montage resort in Laguna Beach. ➻
My neighborhood: Seal Beach. I’ve been there about three years.
Why I live there: It’s got the sweetest little small-town vibe. Main Street is so quaint. During the summer there are concerts and movie nights at the pier. You bring a blanket and everybody watches the sunset and listens to music and sees a movie. It’s an awesome, wonderful neighborhood.
Only restaurant I can’t live without: Walt’s Wharf on Main Street. I love the artichokes, and the oysters are great. We’ve had a lot of wonderful dinners there. Good memories.
My perfect day: Since I work outside, for me a perfect day is a rainy day, which doesn’t happen very much. I get to sleep in, go to a yoga class, have a late lunch with friends and cozy up at home watching a movie, listening to the rain.
Favorite getaway destination: Santa Cruz, Capitola Beach – because my son Curtis lives there. There are great restaurants. We do a little wine-tasting. We really enjoy it.
My sanctuary: The beach, putting my feet in the sand and watching the sunset. I love that. It gives me a little time to breathe. It reminds me of being in the garden – it never looks the same twice. It’s always changing and beautiful.
Favorite late-night haunt: My home. Since I get up so early, I love being at home at night and cooking and having a bottle of wine. I do love Gulfstream in Newport Beach. I love to meet friends there. They have an outdoor fire pit. It’s really nice.
Favorite place to shop that isn’t a chain: Seed People’s Market at The CAMP in Costa Mesa. It has a little bit of everything – a lot of recycled goods, home goods. They have kitchenware, jewelry, clothing, travel gear, a lot of really great books. It’s a pretty fun, eclectic little store.
Angels or Dodgers? Angels.
Red or white? White in the summer, red in the winter. Mostly white, I would say.
Best celebrity encounter: Clint Eastwood. My son was working as a waiter at Mission Ranch in Carmel. My sister and I took my mom there, I believe for her 70th birthday. My son told Clint that his grandmother was coming over for her birthday, and he was nice enough to bring over a glass of wine. I thought my little mom was going to have a stroke, she was so excited. He’s a beautiful man. That was a fun encounter.
My pet peeve: Negativity. People who are always complaining. Negativity in any way, shape or form.
Favorite dish from the garden: The Ancient Grains Super Chop salad at Provenance in Newport Beach. It uses a couple of different types of grain, including farro and quinoa, herbs and 12 super veggies – Swiss chard, kale, cauliflower and other things in season. It’s just absolutely to die for.
Favorite food from the garden: Tomatoes. I won first place once at the Orange County fair for largest tomato. It was a pineapple heirloom. You would think that I’d won the Academy Award. Tomatoes are what my dad grew. Tomatoes are just fun.