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Making hay into ice cream?

Churning up a swirl of clover and alfalfa confetti behind his midnight blue Volkswagen convertible, chef John Lyle is on a mission to make hay into ice cream. The Rumplestiltskin-like concept came to him while walking through a barn and eating a nectarine.

"I thought 'Oh my god, these flavors of hay and stone fruit would go together perfectly. I want to share this,' " he says, pulling his car into the parking lot of a Roseland ice creamery that specializes in unconventional flavors like corn, rose petal and cheese.

Equal parts chef, social advocate, artisan food prophet and produce cheerleader, Lyle is the red-headed whirling dervish behind Hardcore Farm to Face.

The company, born from the success of a series of dinners honoring Luther Burbank, seeks to support local farms and non-profit organizations by inviting the public to elaborate farm-to-table pop-up dinners.

The star of the show, of course, is the freshly picked, plucked and artisan-crafted foods from Sonoma County. From the farm to your face, so to speak.

This fall, his company will put on several more dinners, including a Harvest Moon dinner on Sept. 30, benefiting the AIDS Nutrient Bank at Food for Thought, and tonight's Welcome Table, a dinner and farm tour benefiting the Jewish Community Center's teen program.

Unloading the wind-beaten bale from the back of his car (much of which is seen to have adhered to the interior), he begins explaining his hay ice cream idea to ice cream maker Jorge Alcazar of Frozen Art.

"First you steep the hay in warm milk, right?" he says. The two huddle for the next five minutes, confabbing about the finer points of ice cream making and getting the essence of hay into the final product, which will be served with a fresh nectarine galette at his Chosen Spot pop-up dinner.

Ripe finds

But that's just one of seven courses Lyle has planned. And with only three days before the event, he's got half a dozen ranchers to visit, servers to coordinate, nearly 2,000 Facebook fans to update on his latest ripe find and rows of crops to nibble before he sleeps.


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