Farm-to-Family-Table Dining at Nopalito Farm

Owners of modern diner Royale host a backyard barbecue that's anything but basic at their Nopalito Farm
nopalito farm backyard bbq barbecue

Pomegranates from Nopalito Farm and Hopyard, part of the Royale! Cocktails & Hamburgers family, plus a mixed floral bouquet add beauty to the table setting at this farm-to-family-table style backyard barbecue.

Farm-to-Family-Table BBQ at Nopalito Farm

Lots of San Diegans cook outside year-round. It’s true. But as the weather warms and the days lengthen, even more of us share our meals outdoors.

Standard cookout fare typically includes hot dogs and hamburgers thrown on the grill, and honestly, that’s what I expected when I joined Jordan and Mariah Brownwood, who opened their family-owned-and-operated Royale! Cocktails & Hamburgers in Ocean Beach last year. Lauded for its gourmet hamburgers, grilled-cheese sandwiches and tater tots as well as its artisan cocktails, salads and weekend brunch, I figured the family-style fête they hosted at their organic Nopalito Farm & Hopyard in Valley Center would feature some of the same items I find on Royale’s menu.

Nopalito farm and hopyard royale san diego valley center backyard bbq barbecue

Mariah, Jordan and Jacob sip vinho verde, a Portuguese wine that Mariah says pairs perfectly with the fish.

My assumption, however, proved incorrect. Instead, there wasn’t a burger or bun in sight, where I met Jordan’s twin brother Jacob, who manages the hop, fruit and vegetable farm; Jordan and Jacob’s parents, Lyne and Randy, who live there; and Jordan and Mariah’s 21-month-old daughter, Winnie.

Confession: I was so relieved Winnie was there. This photo shoot was the one and only time I’ve had to bring my 2-year-old because of school closures and scheduling conflicts. But there honestly could not have been a better photo shoot for Graydon to attend. He played ball with Winnie, found a blue tractor on the grounds that he explored, and sampled everything—the non-alcoholic signature drink, fruit fresh from the orchard, his first taste of grilled fish, rice, salad and cookies.

The barbecue was anything but typical. It was the perfect kid-friendly, casually sophisticated family affair.

Nopalito farm and hopyard san diego valley center royale cocktails and hamburgers barbecue cookies

The lime ricotta cookies were a hit (recipe follows).

The Vibe

Mariah and Jordan admittedly host lots of dinner parties. Whether they’re eating with family or throwing a party for their employees, this couple loves to entertain.

For Mariah, however, it’s not about getting the Insta-perfect setting or spending lots of money. She appreciates minimal decor that celebrates the party’s surroundings. For this family gathering, Mariah recycled a mixed bouquet she received from a friend, deconstructing it and arranging it in a smaller vase to make the centerpiece and then filling pretty bowls with the farm’s harvest.

“I always pull from what I have,” she says. Maybe it’s a bowl of citrus fruits or a basket of carrots with the stems still attached. Perhaps it’s just a simple row of white candles down the center of the table or a single runner for a pop of color.

She keeps everything else authentic. Farm equipment—like Graydon’s favorite blue tractor—wasn’t moved but became another cool element in the setting. And the table and chairs are part of the outdoor collection the Brownwoods provide for the small events people can book at the farm.

nopalito farm san diego valley center backyard bbq royale

Jordan Brownwood plates the fish he’s just cooked.


“Jordan and I have been in the service industry a very long time,” Mariah says, “but we don’t like to serve burgers at home. Instead, we always make something slightly obscure that’s easy to do.”

For this shindig, Jordan wanted to create a very communal experience—a family-style dinner where they’d all serve themselves from a central dish—so he chose to grill a whole fish in a banana leaf.

Serving a whole fish means there’s no evenly sliced pieces for everyone to take. Rather, each diner, armed with a fork, flakes off their serving from the cooked fish.

Jordan cooked this grouper on a small Santa Maria grill (at left), which features a grate that can be raised or lowered using a hand crank over an uncovered platform-style bed of hot coals.

But a fish basket (minus the banana leaf) on an open flame works too. The couple paired the fish with mushroom wild rice, a salad they threw together with seasonal fruits from the farm and a signature drink that can be made with or without alcohol.

Lyne baked the cookies, a recipe she adapted slightly from the Food Network.

Find the recipes for this farm-to-family-table feast below.

Farm-to-Family-Table Recipes

Hit each tab to view each of the recipes from the barbecue.

Grilled Banana Leaf Fish

Serves 6

1 whole pink grouper fish
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Juice of one lemon, plus one more for slicing (divided use)
Salt and pepper to taste
6 sprigs of fresh tarragon
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (divided use)
Banana leaves
Kitchen twine

Rub the fish with the olive oil, pour the lemon juice on top and season with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Stuff the cavity of the fish with fresh tarragon, half the parsley and sliced lemon.

Place additional lemon slices on top, then wrap the fish in banana leaves. Tie with kitchen twine.

Cook on the grill for 20 minutes, flip and cook another 20 minutes.

Garnish with the remainder of the fresh parsley and serve.

Mushroom Wild Rice

Serves 8-10

12 oz. long-grain and wild rice mixes (2 x 6 oz. packages)
3 Tbsp. butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
12 oz. assorted fresh mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup Marsala
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts

Prepare the rice mix according to the package directions and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 7 minutes or until golden. Add the mushrooms and salt and sauté for 4-5 more minutes or until the mushrooms are tender. Pour in the Marsala, and sauté for 3 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the pine nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5-10 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes, until golden brown. Add to mushroom mixture.

Stir the mushroom mixture and parsley into the prepared rice.

Arugula Citrus Salad

Jordan picked handfuls of fresh arugula from the field, mandarin oranges from the trees and removed the pomegranate seeds from the fruit he harvested—all on the farm. But grapefruit, avocado and pumpkin seeds would be welcome additions to an arugula base if that’s what’s in season.

Salad Dressing

1 1/4 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
3 Tbsp. fresh chopped dill
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped tarragon and parsley
1 egg

Run all the ingredients except the egg through the food processor. Once blended, add the egg and whisk to incorporate.

Lime Ricotta Cookies

Makes 44 cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1 lime zested
Parchment paper


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1 lime, zested

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar and beat with an electric mixer until it’s light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Put in the ricotta cheese, lime juice and zest. Beat to combine.

Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 Tbsp. per cookie) onto the baking sheet, and place in the oven for 15 minutes, until slightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, lime juice and zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2 tsp. on each cookie and, using the back of the spoon, gently spread it around. Let the glaze harden, about two hours.

Guava-Lime Agua Fresca

Makes 1 pitcher

Agua fresca is a Mexican drink made with water and fruit—and sometimes a little extra sugar. While it may seem like nothing more than flavored water, when it’s made with a puree, like it is here, the resulting thirst quencher is so much more satisfying. The good news is that it can be made with virtually any fruit. Experiment with whatever is in season: apples (skin removed), melons, berries (strain to remove the seeds), pineapple (which also requires straining to get rid of the fibers) and any citrus.

1 cup guava puree (recipe below)
1/2 cup simple syrup
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 cups water

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher and stir.


Fill a blender with fresh, peeled guavas and water to cover guavas. Puree and strain to remove seeds. 

TIP: You can turn this into a cocktail for one like they do at Royale by combining 1 oz. guava puree, 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice, 3/4 oz. simple syrup and 1 1/2 oz blanco tequila.

Categories: Entertaining, Food & Drink, Recipe Top Story