A peach is not always a peach
With my first bite, I gasped. I sat still and lowered the nectarine so I could take a good, long look at it. I rolled it over, unhurriedly, wondering what was this stunning piece of fruit? It seemed a normal nectarine, maybe a wee bit smallish. The flesh was white and creamy and where my big bite had torn it, juices ran slow and shiny. The scent, oh the scent was sublime. I quietly finished chewing and realized my mouth had not been this pleasantly shocked in quite sometime. I smiled that big, happy smile that I smile when I taste something that reminds me of why I live for food, for this one moment when I take a bite of something that is so amazingly beautiful, so uncontrollably delicious, so much better than it even realistically should be…when I take a bite of something that is positively “happy dance inducing.” I took another bite of that white nectarine and tasted flowers and wildflower honey. This modest looking piece of fruit erupted with the most bewitching taste of honeysuckle and exotic lychee fruit, reminding me of the enthralling characteristics of Gewurztraminer and Riesling, and why I also love those wines so much. With every little chew, I tasted pure, natural, sweetness, with a mind-blowing complexity and a pleasant acidity that left my tongue yearning for more. Juice dripped down my chin and my fingers were sticky, but I didn’t care in the least.
I stumbled upon this magical fruit at Sonoma Market last week where it sat surreptitiously in the big, wooden produce bins right up front. The small California farm – Fitzgerald Kelly Farm – where they’d been lovingly tended to and grown to their obvious peak of perfection by a man named Fitzgerald Kelly, had been scribbled on a simple handwritten sign. I thought I’d eaten some pretty good stone fruit in my life, I am from the South you know and grew up eating sweet Georgia peaches. Although, never in my life, have I eaten a piece of fruit that left me wide eyed, my mouth hanging open, amazed, like that nectarine did.
I had luckily filled my bag that morning with a dozen or so peaches and nectarines from that bin, a mixture of golden, fuzzy peaches and smooth, pink skinned nectarines. I was convinced that first nectarine was a fluke, some sort of stroke of good fruit fortune. The peach, too, was smaller than those gargantuan grocery store peaches. My fingers easily pressed into the soft skin and flesh underneath, obviously perfectly ripe. I took a small bite. A quiet moan escaped from my lips. No way was this peach this good. Sigh. It was peach perfection. This peach ruined all other peaches for me. It left me sort of sad that I have lived on this planet for more than thirty-five years and just tasted for the first time in my life what a peach should taste like. The texture was silky, the flavor sublime. This peach was ridiculously juicy, the juice seeped slow and syrupy. I tasted a subtle hint of marzipan and maybe even a little vanilla, but mostly I tasted flowers, summer and sunshine. My head spun from the aroma alone, overwhelmed, drunk from the boozy sweetness.
My mind began racing. I immediately began to dream up the endless peach and nectarine filled meals I could dig into. Thinly sliced La Quercia prosciutto from Iowa and peaches, easily one of my favorite summertime dishes. Grilled fish with a spicy nectarine salsa, loaded with chiles and the juice from those little Mexican limes. Oh yummy! I could whip up a pitcher of white wine Sangria made with both fruits sliced and bobbing in the wine. I would puree a bit of each fruit, stir it slowly in and serve it in little French bistro glasses filled with ice and finish the presentation with bright green springs of fresh lemon verbena from the massive bush in our backyard. I would make, quite possibly, the most heavenly peach ice cream that has ever existed. Grandma would be really proud!
All of a sudden, as my excitement over these exquisite little fruits grew, I had a moment of complete and utter panic. I must eat more Fitzgerald Kelly Farm peaches and nectarines before they’re gone…stat! So, in the last two weeks, I have easily spent a hundred dollars on stone fruit. Sonoma Market hopes to keep them in stock for as long as they’re available, which sadly, will not be long. These peaches, these ridiculously good nectarines, have once again reminded me of how much better food grown with passion and care tastes. How, by possibly spending a few more dollars, you’re supporting the efforts of small farmers who are devoted to producing a fruit, a vegetable or a head of lettuce that is not only grown in a way that is good for the environment or good for you, but is simply just that much more delicious than the tasteless factory farmed variety. I hope that next time you’re selecting your groceries, you’ll choose the locally grown variety or consider frequenting our farmer’s market, where you’ll find flavorful goodies like the crazy-tender, little green zucchini from Paul’s Produce or Oak Hill Farm’s outrageously sweet, fluorescent orange carrots.
The “Second Annual Sonoma Valley Native Bee Count” is taking places at various locations throughout Sonoma Valley this Saturday, June 23, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Bee Count is one of the many projects of Cittaslow Pollinator Pals meant to bring attention to the importance of bees and other pollinators to our supply of fresh food in the Valley and to educate people about the rapid decline in the bee population. If you’re interested in participating in this special citizen science project, to RSVP or to obtain more information, contact Shelley Arrowsmith at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 935.3420.
On the Menu
• It is not too early to reserve your space at ESTATE’S “Fourth of July Party” which is always such a blast! Ticket prices include a bountiful Italian buffet, three bar tickets, live music by Sonoma’s Tudo Bem, Harvey’s Donuts, and one of the best views for watching the fireworks. Adults are $75 and children are $25. Call 933.3663 to reserve your space or for more information.
• Thursday, June 21, attend Ramekins’ class and dinner entitled, “Farewell to Foie Gras?” with Chef Doug MacFarland. Ramekins’ executive chef salutes this delicacy through recipes and techniques fit for a king. The delicious sounding menu includes a foie gras terrine with pickled strawberries, seared foie gras with rhubarb gastrique, and a roasted fig stuffed quail with foie gras sauce and a dessert of foie gras beignets with black currant syrup. Yum! For more information or to make your reservation, visit ramekins.com or call 933.0450.
Stone Fruit Sangria
For this super summer sipper, the type of fruit is not important, plums, strawberries and even tropical fruit work well here, but be sure to use the ripest fruit possible.
2 peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, and sliced into 1/2 inch wedges
1 peach, halved, pitted, and sliced into 1/2 inch wedges
1 nectarine, halved, pitted, and sliced into 1/2 inch wedges
3 T. peach liqueur
3 T. sugar
1 bottle of crisp, floral white wine such as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc or Dry Gewurztraminer
4 sprigs of fresh lemon verbena (optional)
In a blender, combine the peeled peaches with the sugar and the peach liqueur and puree until smooth. In a large pitcher combine the wine, peach puree and stir until combined. To serve, fill four glasses with ice and sliced fruit and fill with Sangria. Garnish with lemon verbena sprig and enjoy!
Kristin Jorgensen is one of Sonoma’s most passionate, food obsessed residents. In this weekly column, she covers all the delicious happenings, foodie events and restaurants in Sonoma, the rest of Wine Country and beyond. Find her blogging daily as the Cook at thecardiganandcook.com or via email at email@example.com.