Gravenstein—it’s not an apple that is often found in stores.
But most people who live (or have lived as is the case with me) in Sonoma County know all about them. These orchards once dominated the landscape more than wine grapes.
While the origins of how this orb first came to the North Bay are not 100 percent certain, it’s likely they arrived sometime in the 1800s, with Sebastopol’s cooler temps and sandy soil ideal for their proliferation.
Slices and whole pies available at the Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sonoma County in August. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
This fruit tends to ripen in July, unlike other apples that have a fall harvest. This is why the annual Gravenstein Apple Fair is in August. This last one was the 50th celebration of this iconic fruit.
“Eventually they were shipped nationwide by the trainload and played a major role in Sonoma County’s commerce. In more recent years, Gravenstein production declined significantly due to suburban development, orchard/vineyard conversion, a global over-abundance of apples, and other factors,” according to the county’s tourism agency. “Today, Gravensteins are rebounding in popularity among consumers who are looking for more-tasty, more-local varieties of produce. However, because of their soft skin Gravs are now considered difficult to ship far and wide as raw fruit. So the best place to get Sonoma County Gravensteins is in Sonoma County.”
Some of those Gravensteins end up in liquid form. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
According to North Coast Organic, “There are only six commercial growers remaining (in Sonoma County) and, together, their crop totals just 6,000 tons of Gravenstein apples a year.”
Gravenstein was declared Denmark’s national apple in 2005. Considering I’m Danish, maybe I’m genetically predisposed to liking Gravenstein.
I picked up a bag at the fair, with the intent of turning them into a pie later this month for my birthday. Homemade apple pie really is the best breakfast.
What an education in flavors of Champagne—OK, sparkling wine because this was California after all. Call it what you want, an afternoon of tasting at Domaine Carneros in Napa was sublime.
Sue and I ordered different tastings (there were four to choose from) so we could share, and thus broaden our palates even more. We had the Sparkling Wine Sampler and Sparkling Chateau Tasting, with the 2019 Brut Rosé being in both.
The first one also had the 2018 Estate Brut Cuvée, 2019 Blanc de Noir and 2018 Verméil Demi-Sec, while the other included 2018 Ultra Brut, 2017 Late Disgorged Brut and 2015 Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs.
Still and sparkling wines are the same in that their flavors change with food, which was why it was fun to have a cheese plate to pair the bubbly with.
Champagne flavors are as distinct and varied as any varietal. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
I’m not a big fan of rosé in any form, so I was not surprised this was not the first glass to be emptied. My favorite was the Verméil Demi-Sec, while Sue was partial to the Late Disgorged Brut. That one came in second for me.
What put one higher over another? For me it was flavor, which I realize isn’t saying much. Verméil Demi-Sec tends to lean toward being sweeter. The tasting notes say it has “aromas of lychee, cherry blossom, and honeysuckle ride on a delicate bead of bubbles that complement a long, creamy finish.”
The Late Disgorged Brut is aged six years, and could stay in the bottle longer. Tasting notes say, “This wine has profound richness expressed in aromatic notes of toasted almond and brioche with a plush palate of baked pear, honeysuckle, and tarte au citron.”
One thing that is so special about tasting at Domaine Carneros is that most of the bottles are only available there or they can be shipped to you from the winery.
I knew Domaine Carneros made some still wines and asked to try the Merlot. Oh my goodness, love, love, love it. If only it were on a store shelf near me.
This grand estate at the southern end of Napa County in the Carneros region looks like a chateau out of France, which just adds to the grandeur of the experience. This French influence clearly has a lot to do with the founders being the Taittinger family of Reims, France.
This French influence continues with how the sparkling wine is made, which is by using the méthode traditionnelle. Wine Spectator describes this as a “labor-intensive process whereby wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle, creating bubbles.”
The winery says, “Before a méthode traditionnelle sparkling wine earns the right to feature its vintage on the label, it must be aged in the bottle for a minimum of three years.”
From our outside table we looked upon acres of vineyards. Most of the grapes Domaine Carneros uses are estate grown. It’s not unusual to see CEO Remi Cohen walking among the vines.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are used for sparkling wine, with the former some of the first to be harvested each year. With a cooler summer than normal in Wine Country, it has meant the harvest started in late August, about three weeks later normal. It means soon there will be more sparkling wine to try.
Domaine Carneros is a distinctive building sitting on top of knoll in Napa. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Some Deschutes beers are only available at the two Bend and one Portland locations. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
“Good beer brings people together.”
That was the sentiment of Gary Fish when he founded Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Ore., 35 years ago. And it remains the foundation of the family- and employee-owned beer manufacturer.
The odd thing is that I would have sworn Deschutes existed the summer I lived in Bend—1987. Wrong. It took going on the tour in July to correct my memory.
When Deschutes started, the thinking was to have a light (Cascade Golden Ale), medium (Bachelor Bitter), and dark (Black Butte Porter) beer.
The dark beer market was not what it is today. Fish was told it might be the route to distinguish his brewery from others. It worked.
Multiple scientists, who use this lab, are part of the beer-making team. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
“Black Butte continues to be our flagship. Even though beers like Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Fresh Squeezed outsell it. Black Butte is the best-selling porter in America and a significant point of pride for our team. It has successfully dispelled the misconceptions of dark beer. It is particularly successful at that task with novice craft drinkers,” Fish says on the brewery’s website.
Apparently, I’m a slow learner because it took me yeeeaaarrrsss to figure out I like dark beer.
One of the great things about this tour is that I learned Deschutes has more options than Black Butte Porter.
The tour finishes in a bar of sorts where beers not found in stores are on tap and sold in four and six packs. There I enjoyed a glass of Black Butte XXXV.
“To celebrate our 35th anniversary, we sought inspiration from a rich and bold German confection—the Black Forest cake. Black Butte Porter lays the framework for a perfect fusion of flavors with cocoa, tart cherries, vanilla, and a hint of warm bourbon. Savor a special occasion with layered decadence,” is how the website describes it.
While my palate is not sophisticated enough to describe it this way, I will simply say it was yummy. It was also a good thing at 11 percent alcohol that I was not driving.
While this is a bottling operation, more Deschutes beer ends up in cans. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Plus, this was my second beer of the day because at the get-go everyone on the tour is given a choice to have one of four beers. It’s a wonderful way to start things off.
While I had the choice of a “regular” Black Butter Porter, I opted not to because I knew I could get it in most stores. So I went with the King Crispy pilsner. I had never heard of it, which intrigued me. Good, but not great.
While the components of most beer are the same—water, hops, some type of grain, and yeast—it is still a bit of a science project from start to finish. The Deschutes watershed, where the water comes from, brings a volcanic aspect to the beer. When zinc is added; this affects the texture, the mouth feel, according to Cody, our tour guide.
With there being hundreds of kinds of malts, well, that adds options for the brewmaster. Most are sourced in the U.S., with some coming from Germany. Most of the hops Deschutes uses come from within driving distance. One to 3,000 pounds of hops are used every day.
At the end of the day the left over grain becomes cattle fed.
All of this was part of the tour—and then some. It really was a great tour that I recommend to anyone—even non-beer drinkers. This is because there is so much to learn about the beer-making process. It’s part science, part innovation, a bit about entrepreneurship, it touches on climate change, economics and changing taste buds.
Stainless steel of various shapes and sizes are part of Deschutes’ facilities. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Today, Deschutes is the 11th largest independent brewery in the United States. (Sierra Nevada in Chico is No. 3.) What I learned is that an upside down bottle on the label indicates this is an independent brewery.
While Deschutes built a new bottling line in 2015, today 60 percent of its product is canned.
The brewery is constantly coming up with new “flavors” through its pilot program. Sometimes those are on tap at the brewery.
What I’m left with, though, is reflecting back on the founder’s original belief that good beer brings people together. My friend who took me on the tour, well, she and I have different tastes in beer—but had no problem finding a Deschutes (or two) to toast with. On this same trip to Bend I shared a meal with other friends at the original downtown facility and toasted with different brews. Then later I shared some of my purchases with another friend at her home in Sonoma County.
“Rebel” makes multiple Irish coffees at once at The Buena Vista in San Francisco. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Sit at the bar. It’s the only way to fully appreciate the mass production of Irish coffees at The Buena Vista.
This classic hot alcoholic drink has been served at this San Francisco institution since 1952.
The café boasts of making the first Irish coffee in the United States.
While there is a full bar at Buena Vista, on a recent Sunday afternoon it didn’t appear anything but Irish coffees were being service. After all, about 2,000 Irish coffees are made there every day. Food is also served, though I don’t remember ever eating there.
Glasses are lined up and then filled with hot water so the final concoction is hot. Out goes the water and in goes two sugar cubes. This is followed by the coffee with little regard to spilling. Next up is Tullamore Dew—an Irish whiskey that is blended from column stilled and pot stilled whiskeys. The liquids are topped off with whipped cream—and not the stuff that is sprayed out of a can.
It’s a simple drink, but one that took a bit to refine.
This is the story The Buena Vista tells, “Jack Koeppler, then-owner of the Buena Vista, challenged international travel writer Stanton Delaplane to help re-create a highly touted ‘Irish coffee’ served at Shannon Airport in Ireland. Throughout the night the two of them stirred and sipped judiciously and eventually acknowledged two recurring problems. The taste was ‘not quite right,’ and the cream would not float. The restaurateur pursued the elusive elixir with religious fervor, even making a pilgrimage overseas to Shannon Airport.
“Upon Jack’s return, the experimentation continued. Finally, the perfect-tasting Irish whiskey was selected. Then the problem of the bottom-bent cream was taken to San Francisco’s mayor, a prominent dairy owner. It was discovered that when the cream was aged for 48 hours and frothed to a precise consistency, it would float as delicately as a swan on the surface of Jack’s and Stan’s special nectar. With the recipe now mastered, a sparkling clear, 6-ounce, heat-treated goblet was chosen as a suitable chalice.”
Once perfected, the recipe has not changed.
Address: 2765 Hyde St. (at the corner of Beach) in San Francisco
Flames and food can be a savory combination. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
By now we all probably know carcinogens are not good for us.
But it’s grilling and s’mores seasons, so a little char on our food is going to be normal.
I like grill marks, which has more to do with aesthetics than taste. But I also love the taste of grilled veggies. It doesn’t matter if they are placed right on the grill, on skewers, or cut into bite size pieces, marinated and cooked in a grilling basket.
A little black is not a problem in my line of thinking.
I love burned marshmallows. Ohhhh, that gooey inside. Super yummy. I want to eat it right off whatever I’ve cooked it on. No need to get my hands dirty.
When I was a kid and eating meat I loved hot dogs to have a bit of a burn. That slightly black casing seemed to make the inside even juicer.
I draw the line at toast. Some people like burned toast. Not me. I would take a knife to it to remove as much black as possible.
Bon Appetite magazine recently had an article about the hazards of injesting burned food.
The magazine explained that “when starchy foods, such as bread and potatoes, are cooked at temperatures higher than 248 degrees, the amino acid asparagine reacts with reducing sugars like glucose or fructose to produce acrylamide.”
And that’s bad because “the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), run by the World Health Organization, considers acrylamide to be a probably human carcinogen.”
Carcinogens cause cancer. That’s why we don’t want to be consuming them on a regular basis.
Still, the magazine went on to say, “Because it’s tough to accurately measure acrylamide exposure and unethical to make participants eat a lot of burnt food, there’s no conclusive evidence on its cancer-causing potential in humans.”
So, with that said, I’m headed out to barbecue. After all, we all have to die from something.
San Francisco Giants fans have a slew of wine choices at Oracle Park. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Wine and baseball? Who knew it could be a winning combination.
Such was the outcome on Memorial Day when the Giants won 14-4 as I sipped a can of wine.
It had been way too long since I witnessed such an offensive onslaught in person. The weather was perfect, the entertainment outstanding, and the adult beverage refreshing.
I opted for wine instead of beer because I had read Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, is beefing up its wine game.
Last fall the Giants hired master sommelier Evan Goldstein. (There are only 269 master sommeliers in the world.) This was a first in Major League Baseball. The Giants reportedly were the first to even serve wine at a stadium when they introduced the fermented grape in 1977 at Candlestick Park.
Goldstein’s goal, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, is to increase wine sales from 80,000 glasses a year to 100,000 this season.
Learning that wine and baseball fit like a glove. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
While beer still seemed to be the adult beverage of choice based on the number of kiosks and cups in hands, Oracle Park has a wine bar on every level. I didn’t walk around enough on this particular day to see what, if any, differences might be between them.
What I found was wine was available at multiple locations. Or course the choices were not abundant at each kiosk.
I opted for a can of She Can. I liked the name. I had never had wine in a can before. Never had wine at a baseball game before.
The California white—that’s what it’s called—was refreshing on this warm day. And a can, well, that’s like two pours so that was a nice bonus. It made the $15.25 more palatable. Wine on tap was $14, but I don’t know what was on tap. A carafe would have set me back $57.
While the sommelier intends to do some pairings in the future—not sure that will be for the average fan or those who pay more for their tickets or for players. I had organic tater tots with my wine. (I used to be an ardent fan of garlic fries, but have finally said they aren’t good anymore and cost way too much money.)
Clearly, ballparks are not meant to be healthy experiences. OK, they can be, but I choose for them not to be.
I don’t know if I will make my rounds through the wine choices at my next games. I might go back to beer just because that is my ritual. But a night game, well, a robust red might just be more appealing than a cold beer. Oh, the hard decisions in life.
Whatever I’m drinking, let’s just hope the Giants win.
Nuts came in all different forms including liquid at the May 13 festival. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Whole nuts, nut hummus, nuts in ice cream, flavored nuts, candied nuts, nuts turned into milk, nuts in salad, nuts in rice. After a day at the annual California Nut Festival I definitely felt nuttier.
I suppose what was missing was nut flavored wine and beer, but I’m pretty sure that was a good thing. The local non-nut infused adult beverages were wonderful to wash down all the nuttiness.
This festival started in Chico in 2006. After all, the city is known for its walnuts and almonds. (The l is silent if you are in the ag business, so that would be pronounced am-unds.)
This was my first time to try red walnuts.
“Red walnuts are not genetically modified. Instead, they were created using natural methods of grafting Persian red-skinned walnuts onto larger and creamier English walnuts. To retain their red color, they should be shelled by hand,” according to the Bertagna Nut Company website. This Chico company was at the festival sharing red walnuts with people. “Machine shelling causes the red layer to dull and chip. These nuts are larger in size and the shells are a little harder than other walnut varieties, while their trees grow slower. Since there are limited amounts of producing trees, these rare walnuts are currently only found in high-end stores, some farmer’s markets, and online.”
I didn’t realize how special they were until after the fact. I suppose if I were a nut connoisseur, I would have realized in the moment to have appreciated the rarity of the red nut.
Learning about the various types of walnuts. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Considering this particular Saturday was in the 90s, cold beer and ice cream were some of my favorites. Tiny glasses from Mulberry Station, Feather Falls Brewing and Farmers Brewing all quenched my thirst.
I preferred Shubert’s pistachio to their toasted almond ice cream.
Bacio’s Catering had a delightful wild rice concoction with a minimal amount of nuts.
The thing is I usually don’t like nuts in my food. After an afternoon of crunching my way through various samples, I might have to rethink that.
Lots of cheese was available, but that was not the best considering it’s hard to keep cheese appealing on a hot day.
A couple local olive oil purveyors shared their liquid gold.
Patrick Ranch was a great setting for the event. Two stages had music which complemented the laid back vibe. It wasn’t head banging. Just the right amount of amp and a good variety of musicians.
Partaking in the sampling of locally grown food was a fun way to spend a few hours.
Our carbon footprint has been talked about for years. The amount of water certain crops need is not news. But what is your water footprint?
The May issue of Bon Appetit magazine asked and helped answer that question.
Avocados are on the “thristier” scale, according to Bon Appetite magazine. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
It’s not something I give any thought to when I’m buying groceries. I pay attention to price, where it’s grown, and if it’s in season where I live.
Chico is known for almonds. It’s also one of the biggest water consuming crops. I already knew this. But what I learned from the magazine article is that California almonds on average use 700 gallons of water per pound of almonds, whereas the rest of the almond-growing world uses 1,900 gallons for a pound.
Either way, that’s a whole heck of a lot of water.
The article suggests substituting peanuts for almonds because at 200 gallons per pound that’s a lot less water being used. While that’s a true statement, nutrition-wise almonds, according to what I found online, have more health benefits.
For someone who became a vegetarian based on a water consuming crop, it’s rather surprising I’m not more cognizant of my buying/eating choices.
The short story on my conversion to being a vegetarian in my 20s is that I was living in the Central Valley (south of where I am now) where two of the top water-consuming crops–cotton and alfalfa–are grown. California was in a drought. Alfalfa is only grown to feed cows that are then slaughtered for human consumption. I thought then as I still do today that that was a waste of land, water and the effort to grow a crop solely to feed to an animal that I would later consume. Why not use that land for a product I could essentially eat right from the field? That was my bit of protest that has continued decades later.
I’m not saying people should be vegetarians. I’m merely suggesting we could all do a better job when it comes to knowing the resources it takes to grow our food—be it animal or vegetable or fruit or grain or other.
Bon Appetit listed how much water various proteins use:
I was disheartened to learn avocados like water: 141-224/gallons per pound.
While it can be difficult to pay attention to everything that goes into putting groceries on store shelves, or on farmers’ market tables, the magazine said the following, which I think we should all take to heart: “The quickest, easiest way to shrink your water footprint? Eat everything you buy. At least 30 percent of the food purchased in the U.S. ends up in the trash. The average person’s annual food waste each year is equivalent to taking a 10-minute shower every day for 400 days.”