Archive | Food Adventures

Birthday Party for a Peach

Sometimes when you’re think you’re just looking for a beautiful, ripe peach that gushes sweet juice with every bite, you get more than you bargained for. In my case, I got an entire, amazing family of peach farmers/writers/performance artists. I’m talking about the Masumotos, who live and farm near Fresno, in California’s Central Valley. Every since Mas Masumoto stubbornly refused to rip out an orchard of commercially cursed Sun Crest peach trees, then wrote about it in Epitaph for a Peach, the Masumotos have been doing peaches different. This past weekend was no exception. They held a birthday party for their Sun Crest peach trees, which turned 40 this year. But believe me, these trees aren’t having a mid-life crisis. Their fruit is as luscious and succulent as ever – despite the fact that they are well past the age when a farmer would normally rip out a peach tree (they usually get the heave-ho in their teens). Back when Mas was desperately trying to find a buyer for his Sun Crest peaches, he gained a fan in Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse restaurant. Then more and more chefs signed on to take the Sun Crests, which commercial brokers rejected because they didn’t survive cold storage very well. Fast-forward to 2008, and these peaches have a serious fan club. At their birthday celebration, chefs from Chez Panisse (past and present), Rubicon, Picante, Ici, Montclair Baking and Flea Street Café gathered to fete the Sun Crests – by cooking them. Grilled pancetta and basil wrapped peaches; pickled peaches with salumi; Beaume-de-Venise wine jelly with peaches and amaretto cream; peach tartlets; peach melba…Peach heaven. Mas and daughter Nikiko did readings (Nikiko even accompanied Mas with a dramatic taiko drum performance as he described a devastating hail storm in the orchard). Marcy described the honoree peach trees at various stages during their lives (she has decided they are perpetually 39, like women of a certain age). And their son Korio showed the assembled crowd photos of the Sun Crest trees throughout the seasons. Can learning a peach tree’s life story make the fruit more juicy? Can knowing the family who nurtured, pruned and plucked your peach from the tree render it sweeter? Yes. (Slurp!) Oh, yes.

Do These Dishes Bug You?

In Washington, D.C. – a city better known for its love of “pork” – a Mexican restaurant is dishing up grasshoppers. Grasshopper tacos, to be exact. The farm-raised insects, known as chapulines, are imported from Oaxaca, where they’re a popular market staple, thanks to their low cost and high protein content (as much as 77%). At Oyamel, the trendy venue headed by Jose Andres, the 1½-inch critters are tossed in a dusky sauce of shallots, tequila, garlic and chipotle in adobo. Wrapped in a soft tortilla, they make for a crunchy filling reminiscent of soft-shell crab. Although Oyamel’s chef, Joe Raffa, just intended the unusual tacos as an opening special, their status as the capital’s latest “I dare you” dish has given them…legs. Not daring enough? Pay a visit to Edible, where you can find an assortment of delectable creepy-crawlies, including Detoxified Scorpions, “a canapé never forgotten,” the purveyors claim. But beware if you order the Chocolate-Covered Scorpion (“similar to Kit Kat in texture!”). The website warns: WE CANNOT OFFER REFUNDS OR REPLACEMENTS FOR BROKEN SCORPIONS AS THIS IS NORMAL IT WILL NOT AFFECT THE DELIGHT OF EATING THEM. You might wash the scorps down with a swig of Lizard Wine, “produced by steeping Rice Wine in a clay vat full of Tokay Gecko Lizards.” And in case you hadn’t assumed it already, the site notes: LIZARD IMPARTS A UNIQUE FLAVOUR. But what about dessert? Some Giant Hornet Honey, perhaps? The hornet’s right there in the bottle, imparting “energy-giving enzymes.” And why not end your repast with some Weasel Coffee, made from beans “eaten & regurgitated by a weasel?” This Vietnamese delicacy supposedly has a “unique rich chocolaty flavour.” As for me, if I want to buy coffee from weasels, I’ll just go to Starbucks.

“Honey, I Ate the Kids!”

After two weekends of harvest, our “adopted” Elberta peach tree at Masumoto Family Farm yielded a bounty of more than 1,000 peaches (51 cases, at about 10 pounds each). These were shared among 13 “adoptive parents” who braved temperatures of 100+ to pick our “babies.” My husband and I ended up with 263 peaches. What do you do with 263 peaches? I kept track, on a list I titled, “Honey, Where Are the Kids?” • 2 for dessert at Quady Winery – halved and added to a plate of Babcocks and Fay Elbertas from the Quady’s trees • 2 sliced over vanilla ice cream • 2 to make a Puffed Peach Pancake for breakfast • 2 grilled with olive oil, salt, pepper and Peccorino • 120 leaves used to make Vin de Peche (recipe from Chez Panisse Fruit) • 1 eaten by hand (part already nibbled by a bird?) • 2 for breakfast, sliced • 3 for dessert with vanilla ice cream • 2 for breakfast, sliced • 10 for Cobbler with Butter Cookie Dough Topping (the appropriately named Best Recipe cookbook) • 2 for breakfast, sliced • 3 for peach smoothie with yogurt, vanilla ice cream and ginger • 5 to make Peach Liqueur, with brandy, vodka, sugar syrup, lemon zest, orange zest • 2 for breakfast, sliced • 20 for peach jam • 5 for breakfast, sliced • 2 sliced and smuggled into restaurant to put on top of pancakes at breakfast • 4 Peach Galette (using this delish Plum Galette recipe) • 3 sliced for breakfast • 4 grilled (this might be our favorite way to eat them!) • 1 gobbled while the others were grilling • 3 sliced for breakfast • 2 sliced for breakfast • 3 Peach smoothie • 3 Peach Salsa (peaches, onions, cilantro, jalapenos) with pork chops • 1 tossed due to mold – ohh, no! • 1 sliced in sparkling wine • 2 sliced for breakfast • 120 leaves used to make more Vin de Peche • 4.5 to make more Peach Liqueur! • 3.5 French Peach Cake from the Joy of Cooking (An odd recipe; wouldn’t make it again) • 3 Peach smoothie with yogurt, vanilla ice cream and ginger • 2 sliced for breakfast • 14 for Peach-Basil Preserves • 16 for filling for two pies (frozen to use later) • 2 grilled, with goat cheese and smoked duck breast (inspired by the special Masumoto peach dinner at Rubicon restaurant in San Francisco) • 3 sliced for breakfast • 11 went into Peach Gelato, made and shared with our friend Sean, the gelato entrepreneur • 2 sliced for breakfast • 4 grilled for Peach Panzanella, aka bread salad, shared with the Warm Fuzzies picking team at our Post-Pick Potluck • 2 (ALAS, THE LAST 2!) sliced for breakfast. Do they make Peach Methadone?? • 135 given away to more than 50 friends, family and co-workers – we were the pied pipers of peaches!