Silicon Valley’s most interesting new restaurant has a staff of 400 water buffalo

Morsey’s Farmhouse in Los Altos is the first restaurant in America focused on cooking with water buffalo-based products

Morsey’s Farmhouse’s marquee menu item—Burrata di Buffalo, made from the milk of their water buffalo. (Photo by Natalia Nazarova)

Morsey’s Farmhouse is all about the buffalo. And lest you think we’re talking American bison here, let’s set the record straight up front. The unique new Los Altos eatery 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. A water buffalo cow can also produce 20 to 25 calves over her lifetime. (Photo courtesy of Morsey’s Farmhouse)

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 7 pregnant cows in 2013, there are now 400 of these animals at their farm in Wilton, California (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.

Chef Fernando Ochoa and the line cook Raul Salazar at Morsey’s Farmhouse in downtown Los Altos. (Photo by Natalia Nazarova)

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 (who is now shifting into more of a consulting role at Morsey’s) 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.

Clockwise from top: Bolognese di Buffalo; Guests dine at the Morsey’s Farmhouse; Bolognese di Buffalo; a freshly plated Buffalo Burger and New Zealand Salmon. (Photo by Natalia Nazarova)

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% less cholesterol. Unlike cow’s milk, water buffalo milk contains the A2 protein that makes it digestible to many who are lactose intolerant. Yulia swears that her daughter, who is extremely lactose intolerant, can eat everything dairy from a water buffalo, while cow’s milk makes her extremely ill.

Yulia Morsey sells Morsey’s Farmhouse dairy products at the Los Altos Farmers Market on May 3, 2018. (Photo by Natalia Nazarova)

There are other interesting characteristics to Morsey’s core product, as well. Compared to cow’s milk, water buffalo milk contains far more calcium, four times the amount of iron and three times the amount of magnesium. It’s also far richer in vitamins A and C.

Beyond the health appeal, the folks behind Morsey’s Farmhouse have compiled an eclectic menu from their abundant resource, spanning breakfast, lunch and dinner every day (except Sunday when they offer a special Champagne Brunch from 7am until 3pm).

Breakfast and brunch plates such as buffalo hash and eggs are accompanied by flavorful Brussels sprouts, while the brioche toast is airy and buttery-light with a crispy crust. The Croque Madame is serious food, wedging thick slices of ham and cheese between fresh-baked bread, topped with a soft-boiled egg. Breakfast items also feature French toast, ricotta pancakes and a variety of scrumptious omelets. The lunch menu includes fried chicken on ciabatta, as well as rock shrimp with blue crab on a brioche bun.

Clockwise from top: Hot tea, macaroons and chocolate candies for dessert at Morsey’s; Wild Mushroom Tart; a selection of Morsey’s gelato, yes—made with water buffalo milk. (Photos by Natalia Nazarova and Morsey’s Farmhouse)

A not-to-be-missed brunch treat is the Bloody Mary, a palate-bending blend of 14 fresh ingredients that resembles gazpacho with a healthy dose of Soju, a Korean liquor made with rice and barley.

Morsey’s Soju-based Bloody Mary cocktail. (Photo by Natalia Nazarova)

Morsey’s also features “grab ’n go” products like creamy gelato and an assortment of freshly baked pastries.(Give the buffalo cheesecake a whirl—you’ll be glad you did.) And as you may have guessed, buffalo milk makes for a fantastic latte, as well.

Morsey’s Farm House Restaurant // 8am—9pm, daily Except Sundays, 8am—3pm and 5pm—9pm

134 Main Street, Los Altos, 650.860.6060

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