Taste Testing


Courtesy DaVero

I visited Ridgely Evers and Colleen McGlynn this week at their paradisal DaVero farm, where one year I helped (lamely, like all the guests) with the olive harvest at an annual picking/eating fest they have.

As usual, they were full of new projects. McGlynn, a trained chef with experience at Stars and other high-flying San Francisco restaurants, and she applies her energy and creativity (the couple is always in motion; Evers, a longtime software developer who still drives constantly between his Healdsburg paradise, San Francisco, and the Silicon Valley, wanted to show me the new plantings, fruit and olive trees and the vines; I just wanted to stop and smell the roses that were absolutely everywhere, as they are throughout the Napa and Sonoma valleys now--and, as you'd expect in paradise, all through the summer, a farmer casually told me when I asked how long they'd be in bloom.

McGlynn showed me one small fruit tree on a hill that, she said, provided cases of jars of the Indian Red peach preserves she makes and still has some of; those, along with the plums from a handful of other trees on the hill above their house, were the jams I had to order--and I did, on the spot. You can still find some here.

And you can find the thing she put into my mouth without waiting for an okay, because I had to try it, and boy was she right: caramel apple butter slathered on a fat fresh walnut. This was apple butter without the burnt-sugar, choking graininess much apple butter has. The consistency had a bit of fine grain and was otherwise silk, with the weight that always surprises me in simple cooked-down apples. There was a bit more zing from lemon juice than I might have chosen, and McGlynn mentioned that next year she'll put in a bit less, too; but it was absolutely not too sweet, and the caramel of the cooked-down sugar not too dark. And with the crunch and tannin of the walnut it was indeed an ideal combination.


Clinoclase1981/Flickr CC

California walnuts are an overlooked regional treasure, one I plan to devote more time to researching. For now, I asked around for a source, and a farmer at a conference I've been attending at the Monterey Aquarium--a national home of sustainability and also a rich repository of my beloved sardine culture, recommends walnuts from Haag Farm, and I even found an online ordering source, here. Get out the knives for slathering, and hope to get a look at all those roses too.