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The Dish: Malibu Farm boosts supply for growing demand

Pictured is the vegan coconut dish with vegetables and tofu at Malibu Farm. Photos by Chris Bashaw/22nd Century Media
Pictured is the skirt steak entree at Malibu Farm.
Pictured is the portobello mushroom burger at Malibu Farm.
Ashleigh Fryer, Senior Editor
2:46 pm PDT August 4, 2014

Malibu residents know all too well the experience of searching for a parking spot on Pacific Coast Highway in dead summer — surfers spill from double-parked cars, beach towels and boards in hand, while tourists and locals swell around the entrance of the Malibu Pier. Take a glance toward the end of the pier and you’ll see exactly where they’re going: Malibu Farm.

Having almost completed her first year in business, Malibu Farm owner and creator Helene Henderson still hasn’t adjusted to the daily line of customers that snake around the front of what was originally supposed to be a temporary, pop-up restaurant.

“Inside, I’m still the girl that cooks from home,” Henderson said, laughing. “I never thought big because I never knew it would get this big. It’s a real business now and part of me still doesn’t realize that.” 

Henderson recently renewed her lease at the pier, so patrons can look forward to sampling her famous Swedish pancakes for many months to come. In addition to her small but diverse lunch menu, which includes a hearty salmon sandwich, vibrant chopped salad and chicken ricotta bacon burger, among other options, Henderson has recently phased in a dinner menu five nights a week as well — even more concise, but equally as bold. Dinner features four menus that rotate nightly.  

But despite the growth of her menu and her popularity among visitors and residents alike, Henderson has continued to stick to her roots in many ways. Originally a personal chef, who hosted cooking classes for Malibu families from her very own kitchen before she established Malibu Farm, Henderson often relates back to those earlier experiences to inspire her dishes for the restaurant. Enter the vegan coconut dish, which features fresh, locally sourced vegetables and tofu which can be substituted for the customer’s choice of protein.

The vaguely sweet, lightly creamy coconut sauce adds a buttery smoothness to the crisp bite of the fresh vegetables, leaving patrons feeling sated without feeling bogged down in heavy sauces. 

“Our cooking classes used to be themed around an ingredient and one night that ingredient was coconut,” Henderson said. “Our philosophy, in general, has always been to have everyone be able to eat at the same table — to have an option for everyone. Whether you’re vegan or a meat-eater, there are choices. We don’t have to be 100 percent of one thing.”

That diversity has boded well for Henderson, who says that the restaurant still experiences “growing pains” from trying to accommodate the influx of guests. Since Malibu Farm’s inception, utilizing local produce from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and growers like Thorne Family Farm has been an important tenet for Henderson. 

While the products she uses haven’t changed, though, Henderson’s methods have had to adapt to the growing demand. 

“You’ll still see me at the farmer’s market every Wednesday, but I’ll be leaving empty handed because we have reps there now,” Henderson said, laughing. “Instead of the produce coming in the back of my Prius, it comes here in the back of a big truck.”

Other dishes not to miss:

• Skirt steak entree — This dish features a grilled skirt steak served with black and white rice and a grilled vegetable medley including brussel sprouts, asparagus and green beans and an arugula salad.

• Portobello mushroom burger — This dish features a grilled portobello mushroom topped with a pepperoncini aioli, heirloom tomato and arugula and served with potato and broccoli mash.