Have you ever had the experience where you go out looking for one thing and magically find something else? And loved it?
This weekend, a journey up Walnut Avenue looking for nuts (go figure, with a street name like that!), lead to a discovery of a whole new world right in my back yard. There are one or two families with nut businesses in Brentwood, and to the best of my recollection they were off Walnut. Signs abound for this and that fruit and vegetable stands on this street, so there was no need to check the exact address. Sure, some of you would check the address which is easy to find from an ad in a local newspaper, but that’s just not how I fly.
Nuts I did not find, but the lure of a sign for Wolfe Mandarins intrigued me. Off the road I went. Signs lead me to the end of that road, and onto a dirt road. Past small homes and a larger historic estate. Round the bend. Across the sweetest little wood bridge. Right up onto the Wolfe property and to a small overhang with a table holding the most vibrant citrus ever. Wow! Mind you, all of this is just a stone’s throw from various strip malls with all of the usual corporate brands. Simply amazing.
The little sign said that they were out harvesting citrus, but to go
ahead and purchase mandarins if you so choose and leave the money in the till. Yeah, really.
Now I have a lovely bag of Mandarin Oranges to include in a salad for our small Monday Night Football social gathering this evening. Wolfe’s is now on my “best” list. With a short journey to a magical place and time right here in the neighborhood, who could resist?
Smith Family Farm, I love you! What a thrill it was to learn that my “go to” place is still open in November. Word had it that the end of October would be it for them, but they are still going strong in November (weekends only). And, they even gave me the inside scoop that whenever they do close up the larger farm stand, which will likely coincide with the opening of their Christmas Tree Farm, they will STILL be selling whatever their land keeps producing back by the trees. These folk are serious about keeping our community well fed with their local fare.
I picked up a few tomatoes for some tortilla soup, and while they don’t have that summer kissed sweetness, they still taste of tomato, unlike the grocery store variety.
Butternut squash is everywhere. I guess that either they over planted or everyone just got tired of it collectively. Hmmm..
Pomegranites are big around here now, but I’ve just never gotten into them. I see them as the sunflower seed of fruits … lots of work for little gain. Yet I know they have a devoted following.
Peppers? Oh yeah! They’ve got peppers galore! Now that is a beautiful sight. Grabbed some of those also for the tortilla soup. Can’t have enough of those. I hadn’t ever given the pimento peppers a second look, immediately linking the name to the green olive stuffing stuff. Oh my, do give these little beauties a try when you have the opportunity. They have the feel and sweetness like a bell pepper with just a little more kick. The possibilities are endless here!
Once again, I realize how spoiled I am to have such fresh, local foods available right in my (almost) back yard!
Can you believe this?! Our little strawberry stand is open! They did that thing where plastic coats the rows of dirt and strawberry plants are planted.
Of course I stopped by to pick up a few baskets of their sweet strawberries. How could I not? They are also growing what looks like a large backyard garden with some peppers, green onions, and some kind of leafy greens. The owner told me that they will be open Friday to Sundays for about one month here. The good news on their end is that these strawberry plants produce a bit of fruit now, then get the season started again for them in April. Double the pleasure, double the fun!
Now, what to do with strawberries in October? Any ideas?
Dear John Lon,
We both knew it would only be a summer romance, but did you have to end it in such an impersonal way? At first, you were only available a few hours each week. But I was obsessed, passing your farm stand every day, watching for those beautiful doors to open. At first, there were just a few select veggies to talk about, bring home, and cook for my family. But the veggies were grown without pesticides, and with great care. As the summer progressed, you were open longer hours and found a delightful local youth to join you in the work each day. You even brought others into our relationship, corn from Massoni and peaches from Frog Hollow Farm. I knew that you spoiled me, and I came to depend upon that …. even knowing in my heart that this was just a summer romance. Remember the days when you looked forward to the heirloom tomatoes? The days you proudly displayed squash, tomatoes, potatoes, honey, figs, melons, and all the riches of summer? Remember when your mom worked the farm stand and we chatted for awhile while enjoying the last three figs of the season? After all of that, to just put out a sign. Just a sign. Oh, Lon, you broke my heart.
Farm stands can be found seemingly everywhere in mid summer, but by now, most have either closed their doors for the season or have drastically scaled back offerings. All except Smith Family Farms. The bounty of the seasons continues to shine at this stylish, local favorite spot! I’ve done all of my produce shopping there the past few weeks and was impressed to find an amazing array of local foods as well as a full parking lot. It is wonderful when a local business can shine so brightly!
Upon entering the area, you’ll quickly notice a little sense of humor, in that the squash(es) with the funniest shapes are prominently displayed. Artful displays, such as these tomatoes on the back of an old truck abound. As I was born totally without the art gene, I sooooooooo appreciate those with such skills!
For most of us, the season for real tomatoes has passed us by and we’re left figuring out if we want to go for those red orbs in the grocery store that look like a tomato but taste like cardboard. At Smith Family Farms, they space out plantings for months, then just keep harvesting and selling the real deal tomatoes as long as they can. Yum!
They just put out a new type of cute little Genovese tomato that may just fulfill my desire to prepare some marinara sauce to freeze for the winter before. (OK, I have said this for the past 3 years, but maybe, just maybe, this will be the year for me!) When asking about them, I was told that a few local chefs are having a great time hollowing out these little cuties and filling them with crab salad in their restaurants. Ooo, that sounds fantastic!
And peppers. Wherever there are tomatoes, there must be peppers nearby. How tempting are these?
All in all, its a tough life for a foodie, I know. But, I’ll gladly take you along for the ride!
Once again, this recipe comes from a harmonic convergence of events. For one, Cooking Light featured a lovely Apple Pancake baked in a cast iron skillet on the cover of their magazine. Apple? Huh? Now? We’re still in full peach, pluot, and nectarine season ’round here. But the picture was soooooooo beautiful, and I’m a firm believer that anything cooked in a cast iron skillet is worthy of my time and attention.
Then, I was stopping by Lon’s Organic on my way home from work for my daily fix of whatever he was featuring this week, and there I saw them: 2 boxes of peaches from his neighbor Frog Hollow Farm. For those of you unfamiliar with this famous farm, just note that they have one of the most popular stands in the highly touted San Francisco Ferry Building market. But, they don’t sell them locally. Until Lon. Until now. Mind you, they are a bit pricey, but they are like slurping up a bit of heaven. Yes, these are the Eat Over the Sink or Eat Over the Lawn kinds of peaches that make you smile from ear to ear while sweet juices drip down your chin.
You see? It was clearly a harmonic convergence of the most lovely peaches you have ever tasted and a beautiful cover picture on Cooking Light.
Note: in the past I have attempted other fruit desserts that visually depended on the perfect spiral of fruit for full effect, and let’s just say that there are no pictures of those dishes. But this? Again I tell you, this was meant to be.
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
- 2 eggs
- 3 egg whites
- 1 cup fat-free milk
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Cooking spray
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
- 1 cup thinly sliced peach
1. To prepare batter, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, salt, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Lightly whisk eggs in a small bowl. Add milk, butter, and vanilla and whisk lightly again. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, gently combine with a whisk. Let stand 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 425°.
3. To prepare peach mixture, coat bottom and sides of a 10-inch ovenproof skillet with cooking spray. Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg; sprinkle evenly over bottom and sides of pan. Arrange peach in an even spokelike layer in pan. Sprinkle peach with remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Cook on the stove top over medium heat 8 minutes or until mixture bubbles. (It looks simply delectable at this point!) Slowly pour batter over apple mixture.
4. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375° (do not remove pancake from oven); bake an additional 13 minutes or until center is set. Carefully loosen pancake with a spatula. Gently slide pancake onto a serving platter. (We served it straight out of the pan for that rustic charm.) Cut into 6 wedges; serve immediately.
- This was truly as delicious as it looks!
- The original recipe called for egg substitute. I came up with the listed egg combination after a quick online search and was quite pleased with the result.
- The next time I make this with peaches or another sweet fruit, I will cut waaaaaaaaaaaaay back on the sugar. This bordered on being too sweet. Just bordered mind you, because nothing so delectable can be Too Sweet, eh?
- The recipe called for a 10 inch pan. I had a 9 inch pan and a 12 inch pan and went with the smaller one. Making everything else according to the recipe, I just held off on a bit of the sugar mixture and batter.
- This is a really simple little dessert to whip up, makes the home smell divine, and comes with a lovely rustic presentation from the pan.
Smith Family Farms is a little slice of old-fashioned heaven. This welcoming farm stand has a huge variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables, nicely presented, and easily affordable. Just today they had a great supply of heirloom tomatoes, potatoes, onions, corn, garlic, nectarines, peaches, pluots, bell peppers, chili peppers, summer squash and more. This is a virtual one stop shopping spot, and coupled with a well stocked pantry, food from Smith Family Farms can keep your family eating like a king for the whole summer and fall seasons. Yes, fall. While other places tend to close by the end of August, this place keeps going strong though October. They just keep planting, and as long as the produce is produced, they keep on selling. Beautiful.
Lon's roadside sign
Lon’s is a relative newcomer to our local market, but what a perfect fit he is! His fruit and vegetable stand has been a “side job” for him for the past 3 years, and is truly a labor of love. In his free time, he tends his land behind the stand where all of the delicious fruits and veggies are grown. Many of his foods are set out the very day they are picked so you can enjoy the honest flavor of honest foods.
I visited towards the end of the day, and many of the baskets were depleted. Personally, I see that as a positive as it is just wonderful when a stand I frequent does such great business.
Currently, Lon has a nice selection of squash, eggplant, peppers, watermelon, peaches, and tomatoes in several sizes. Lon informed me that the heirloom tomatoes will start to be ripe enough for harvest in the next week and he is obviously anxious to share those beauties.
Another nice aspect of his stand is that I see local teens working there, harvesting, moving product, and generally earning their keep.