Sac water-buffalo dairy farm fuels Silicon Valley restaurant
Los Altos, CA 94022
Morsey’s Farmhouse is all about the buffalo. And lest you think we’re talking American bison here, no. The unique new eatery in the posh Silicon Valley community of Los Altos is a result of one family’s obsession with the water buffalo, a huge and hugely important livestock animal in many parts of the world, especially Africa and Southeast Asia.
Water buffalo can produce milk for upwards of 22 years, while dairy cows are pretty much finished producing after 5. They can also thrive where other cattle would starve, making them prized possessions in India, Vietnam and parts of Africa.
Yulia Morsey and her husband, Kal hail from Egypt, where water buffalo are very common. Some years back, the couple had become so enamored with both the flavor and health benefits of water buffalo-based dairy products that they created the first large-scale water buffalo dairy herd in the United States. Beginning with seven pregnant cows in 2013, there are now 400 of these animals at their farm in Wilton, just outside Sacramento). Logically enough, this eventually led to them opening Morsey’s Farmhouse Restaurant in Los Altos, where the couple, along with Executive Chef Tim Uttaro, essentially built their entire menu around the milk from these docile beasts.
Their animals (which can live for 30 years or more) produce an abundance of milk conducive to the variety of delicious foodstuffs—including cream, butter, ricotta, burrata and ghee—featured at their Peninsula restaurant, which is likely the only eatery in America anchored largely off of water buffalo-based products.
It’s been an especially fun challenge for Uttaro, who had to quickly learn how to cook with a whole new set of proteins. “Instead of using canola oil, we strictly use ghee from the farm to cook all our fish, eggs and meats. It has a much higher flashpoint and gets salmon skin really crisp, adding a slight hint of sweetness,” he says.
Uttaro is no stranger to kitchens on the Peninsula, having previously worked at the likes of the British Banker’s Club and Stanford Park Hotel, both in Menlo Park. Over the past six months, he has taken on the challenge of creating five different menus for Morsey’s, all built around the rich, silky water buffalo milk.
Specialties at Morsey’s include the Bolognese di Bufalo (which pairs cavatelli with buffalo ricotta and basil) and their beautifully executed pan-roasted salmon. Of course, the must-have all-star of the menu is a wonderful, creamy rich burrata cheese, served with tomato jam, balsamic, Maldon salt and olive oil.
As Uttaro inevitably learned of his key ingredient, buffalo milk has some properties very different from cow’s milk, such as a higher fat content despite containing 42 percent less cholesterol. Unlike cow’s milk, water buffalo milk contains the A2 protein that makes it digestible to many who are lactose intolerant.