I know, I know, by now you're sick of hearing me yammer on about the world's most amazing jam. But maybe you'd like to learn a little something about the men who made it? Read about the trip to Europe and the mind-blowing dessert that started the whole thing over at KQED's Bay Area Bites.
“One potato, two potato, three potato, four, five potato, six potato, seven potato, more.” That old-fashioned rhyme doesn’t even begin to account for the 20+ varieties of tubers David Little grows each season. The Tomales area organic farmer specializes in dry-farming, a practice that minimizes or eliminates irrigation in favor coaxing water out of the earth and into the topsoil. The result is some of the best potatoes you’ll ever butter and salt.
Though dry-farming produces a low yield, it has an important advantage over traditional methods: it concentrates the sugars, leading to unbeatable flavor. Just ask Northside restaurants like Greens, Quince, and Michael Mina, all of whom are customers.
A lot of people grow tomatoes this way (notably late summer’s sweet Early Girls), as well as winter squash, cucumbers, and potatoes. The ground is first disked, then plowed and compressed, a process David likens to composting. “It cooks the ground and cleans it,” he says, noting all the rich organic matter that is turned up in the ground.
Some of the heirloom potatoes David grows are the Ozette, a fingerling from Peru, or the Sieglinde, a German variety with thin skin and sweet flesh. One of his most popular is the Red Gold, a yellow-fleshed red potato made for mashing that tastes best once it’s sprouted. David ages them in his barn and, when they’re “wrinkled like prunes,” brings them to market – where they sell out.
The Goods – Organic potatoes
The Markets – Ferry Plaza (Saturdays) and Marin (Sundays). Year-round with a short break in late spring/early summer
Fun Fact – David is raising two goats on the farm. He bottle fed them as babies, thinking he’d start a goat dairy, but now he just tries to keep them from munching the roses.
Originally published in "Fresh from the Farm,"Northside San Francisco August 2007. "Fresh from the Farm" is a monthly column on sustainable agriculture, humane husbandry & artisanal food production. Reprinted with permission.
For those of you in San Francisco, look for the August issue of Northside, now out, to read an article I wrote on eating locally. It includes interviews with Jennifer Maiser and chef Sam Josi of Mamacita, among others.
Also, those crazy We Love Jam-mers have dropped off another free jar of apricot jam at the SF library. The next hint: Art in America 2001. (psst...the jars can be found by pulling out the bound issues and looking at the back of the shelf.) If you don't nab either of these jars, they think they'll have more jam to sell once they fulfill all their current orders, so keep an eye out for update on their website!
Remember this Blenheim apricot jam lovingly made by two guys from their backyard tree? Are you sad you missed out on ordering some? Well, Eric, one of the jam-makers, is a fun-loving guy, so he hid a jar today in the San Francisco main library. The idea is that one of you jam-hungry Bay Area residents might want to go nose around and find yourself a free jar of jam.
Here's the hint: Food and Wine 1995.
Hide, go, seek!
(another clue is coming later on this week for a second bottle hidden elsewhere...)
On Saturday morning, I picked up a friend and met a few more over in Oakland for breakfast. Our destination? Pizzaiolo.
But...but...they're not open for breakfast!
Yes they are! Since March, Rachel Saunders, the force behind Blue Chair Fruit jams, has been serving simple jam-and-toast breakfasts 6 mornings a week. Each day, Rachel offers a different selection of fresh-made jams. All are made in teeny-tiny batches from sustainably raised -- and often unusual -- local fruits. The captivating flavors are incredibly bright and well-balanced.
This Saturday we chose from Santa Rosa plum, strawberry, and rosemary jam; apricot-rose jam; Flavorella plumcot jam with plumcot noyaux; dark plum jam with bay laurel; quince marmalade; Seville orange marmalade; and tayberry jam (a cross between a raspberry and a loganberry). The bread was sweet Italian or levain from Acme, the coffee Blue Bottle, the grapefruit juice tart and freshly squeezed.
The sun streamed in as we enjoyed a leisurely brekky at the bar -- along with the Bay Area's very best mocha, swimming with bittersweet chocolate carved from big bricks of the stuff. Lip-licking good.
(pssst...thanks to Shuna for turning me on to Rachel's jams!)
Pizzaiolo 5008 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland. Jam-and-toast breakfast, M-Sat 8a - 12p, $4 for breakfast, $8.50 per jar retail.
I first heard about We Love Jam from David Lebovitz. Basically, these two guys with an old Blenheim apricot tree in their backyard jar up the fruitfall every summer. Since it's made in such tiny quantities, if you want some, you have to get on their waiting list. I immediately signed up, and when the notice came in a few months back that they were ready to accept orders, I promptly bought the maximum 4 jars.
They arrived today. I have yet to taste them but the ingredient list is awfully enticing: apricots, sugar, spices. I have a feeling whatever piece of toast this gets slathered on will thank its lucky stars it went out on such a high note.
If you're out for a walk this weekend, grab the latest issue of The Onion and take a look at my picks for Bay Area cooking classes. It features our very own Eggbeater and everybody's favorite jam-maker (though there's a newcomer I'm sorta crazy for that I'll tell you about soon). Happy cooking!
Stone fruit arrived early this year. I couldn’t get used to the idea of eating fuzzy peaches and smooth nectarines in May, so I stuffed myself instead with cherries and plums until I could face the flagrant summertime fruits.
Then I found myself enjoying apriums, but I didn’t know what they were. So I called Bryce Loewen, whose family runs Blossom Bluff Orchards. They grow certified organic peaches and nectarines as well as plumcots, pluots, and apriums. The latter are all variations of plum-apricot hybrids. Plumcots are 50/50 hybrids, pluots are the offspring of a plumcot and a plum, and apriums come from a plumcot and an apricot. Confused yet? All you really need to know is how they taste – sweet and juicy, with sour plummy undertones. Utterly delicious.
Bryce’s family has been tending fruit trees for four generations. The orchards occupy 60 acres in the small town of Parlier, near Fresno. Stone fruit thrives in the Central Valley’s cold winters, dry springs, and hot summers. Come fall, there are pomegranates and persimmons, some of which grow on 60-year-old trees, then citrus takes over for the winter. They’ve recently planted figs, but it’ll be a few years before they’re ready. All together, Blossom Bluff produces some 170 varieties of fruit. You’ll find some of them on the menus of Northside restaurants like Greens and Bix, as well as in my own fruit bowl.
The Goods – Organic cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, plumcots, pluots, apricots, apriums, persimmons, pomegranates, and citrus.
The Markets – Nine Bay Area markets including Ferry Plaza (both days), San Rafael, Berkeley (Tuesday & Saturday), and Oakland (Grand Lake & Temescal).
Fun Fact – The orchards originally belonged to Bryce’s maternal great-grandparents, Daniel and Babette Lichti, German immigrants who also raised almonds, pecans, and raisin grapes. Originally published in "Fresh from the Farm,"Northside San Francisco July 2007. "Fresh from the Farm" is a monthly column on sustainable agriculture, humane husbandry & artisanal food production. Reprinted with permission.