We’re reposting this late summer classic from Pastry Chef Jenny Raven because it’s that time of the year again:
Only once or twice a year does a fruit come along that I feel is featured best by serving on its own, without setting it in a composed dessert context. That time has come with the wonderful Flavor King pluots from Brookside Farm in Brentwood, CA.
Upon their arrival, these pluots perfumed the kitchen, drawing Sous Chef Brian Murphy to the three cases I ordered from farmer Welling Tom. Burying his face in the box, Brian came up for air and said, “It’s like putting your face in a bag of mixed Jelly Beans!” He and I also agreed the pluots tasted like bubblegum, vanilla, and Hello Kitty erasers. If all of those things sound bad to you, consider Brian’s analogy: marvelous tropical flowers that seem to have been copied from overblown, tacky plastic flowers. “It’s like nature copying bad art — except when nature does it, it’s wonderful.”
Juicy, sweet, their golden flesh veined with fuchsia — these pluots are so delightful, I feel compelled only to peel off the tart skin and serve them sliced in a bowl to make for a sublime eating experience. Look for them on the menu this Thursday.
Jenny Raven Pastry Chef
Coming up next Saturday, August 28th, Lance Winters, distiller for St. George Spirits/Hangar One will be joining us for dinner to celebrate the (limited) release of their Agua Libre Rum.
Made from 100% California sugarcane, pressed fresh in their hangar on the island of Alameda, they have two editions available: the Fresh-Squeezed is a quintessential expression of newly cut cane. The Aged spent two and a half years in French oak.
We’ll be mixing up the rum classics, such as Daiquiris, Cuba Libres, and Mai Tais along with some special concoctions in honor of the occasion. Please join us.
We headed inside for this week’s report because it was just too darn rainy and cold. Bill showed us some of the best (i.e. crunchiest) cherry varieties currently available at farmers’ markets and local supermarkets. He also makes some predictions about what all this rain means for the upcoming summer crops (e.g. don’t count on serving corn for Father’s Day).
At the restaurant, we’ve been collecting information on how this year’s super-saturated spring has effected some of our farmers and we plan on posting their reports some time next week.
In the meantime, Happy Memorial Day!
Last Saturday we hit the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market with Bill Fujimoto. And no, we didn’t suffer a caterpillar attack. That fuzzy business in the upper right hand corner is due to some unfamiliar equipment. Apologies for the distraction. Moving onward…
As the spring rains have finally started to subside (at least for today), many crops are just now beginning to get their first exposure to serious heat, which in turn leads to superlative flavor. A great example of this are the Seascape strawberries from Lucero Farm. Another great example of this is Pastry Chef Jenny Raven‘s Seascape strawberry ice cream.
A remarkable Cherimoya –El Bumpo!
Anyone who ever rooted around in the back storage coolers of Monterey Market under the stewardship of Bill Fujimoto knows what a truly magical place it was. The relationships Bill fostered made going to Monterey Market quite like a treasure hunt, because he often only bought a small amount of cases of produce from some specialty farmers, and if you didn’t know they were there, you’d miss them. To catch Bill himself in the back room always led to a wonderful conversation, and invariably led to leaving with some amazing box of fruit or vegetables. So when he left Monterey Market, one of my first thoughts was (selfishly), now where am I going to get those awesome cherimoyas?
Like many of the cool fruits he bought for the market, the Toro Creek cherimoyas were there because of a personal relationship fostered by Bill. The weird tropical fruit so resembling a cross between an avocado and an artichoke, with its mild vanilla-melony flavor, came from a friend’s llama ranch, and were of such superior quality because Bill was in contact with his friends every year as cherimoya season approached, reminding them not to pick before the fruit ripened properly. I knew no one else could get ahold of these fancifully named “El Bumpo” cherimoyas.
So when we heard Bill was to work as a consultant to Cooks Produce Co, from whom we buy fruits and vegetables regularly, I was overjoyed… and when spring came, I made that phone call: “so Bill, about those El Bumpos…..”
Tonight we’ll be serving cherimoya sorbetto. Thanks, Bill!
Last June we were troubled, as many were, to learn the news that Bill Fujimoto would be leaving Berkeley’s Monterey Market. Bill has been a friend and supporter of Oliveto from day one, and to many restaurants. More importantly, Bill has been a virtual lifeline for many small farmers in northern California and beyond. We were anxious around the possibility of losing such an influential voice and presence in the East Bay food community and eager to keep in contact with both Bill and his wife Judy once it became apparent that a suitable arrangement with Monterey Market would not be forthcoming.
So we were pleased as punch to find our old friend last Thursday arranging pyramids of beautiful produce at Diablo Foods in Lafayette (925-283-0737). Bill has been working at Diablo for the past few months as a consultant. He looks great. He says he feel great. And he already seems to know 87% of his customers by name. In the short time we were there, we learned so much (there is an “official” navel orange for Chinese New Year!) and we were so inspired by that contagious-Fujimoto-enthusiasm, we decided we needed to create a mainline to the source. Who better to tell us what we should be shopping for than Bill himself? So, we’ll be posting Bill’s Farmers’ Market Reports — full of fun facts, shopping tips, and insightful observations throughout the spring and into the summer. We’ll go shopping with Bill at some of our favorite farmers’ markets in the East Bay and find out from the expert what to buy and how to buy it. Alongside that, we’ll get Chef Canales’ take on how to cook and eat it! Should be fun…
Our favorite roving produce expert, Bill Fujimoto, visited the Temescal Farmers’ Market last Sunday to check out what the height of summer has to offer. With all the peaches on display, it was a perfect opportunity to get the skinny on how to pick the perfect peach, which has everything to do with background color and branch marks.
He also talks sweet corn, pluots, tomatoes, fills us in on what he’s been doing since leaving Monterey Market, and meets Gabby.