Saturday, August 7, 2010

Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?

So after a 7 month hiatus, I have decided to resume my blog again. At this point I don't think anyone's reading anymore so I'm pretty much writing for my own benefit. So long Spain, back in SF, working at Waterbar, and living with Julia. That about catches things up.

My alarm clock went off at 4:00 this morning, and as the coffee maker turned itself on, I hopped in the shower, already feeling the excited energy anticipating the day ahead. An hour or so later I was 2 cups of joe and one bowl of mj deep. Eric, Waterbar's purchasing manager, pulled up in front of my Castro apartment in a Zipcar station wagon, and we were on our way. By 7 am we were heading south in the East Bay, sun beginning to pierce the fog and break into brilliant blue.

Our destination was Masumoto Family Farm outside of Fresno. Waterbar had adopted an Elberta peach tree there, one of many that "Mas" adopts out to restaurants, companies, and families nearby. Elberta peaches are the second most prized peaches around, I learn as the day goes on. The most highly regarded, the most "stunning" (as Mas passionately characterizes them) are the Sun Crest. Sadly, we will not munch Sun Crest today.

Upon our arrival at the farm, we get cleaned up and grab brunch: perfectly battered french toast with homemade peach marmalade (guess where they got the peaches). To stay cool there was fresh cut watermelon and a homemade lime granita that was hella addictive.

We had arrived a bit late and missed the group introduction and background from Mas, but Eric had covered the majority of it at various points in the nearly four hour drive. Nevertheless, Mas greeted Eric with a warm embrace and said he'd meet us at our tree momentarily. We approached said tree, 2nd from the end in the first row, taking it all in. The peaches exploded off its branches, pulling them down as those of a weeping willow. Shiny green glinted in the blazing Fresno sun with artistic splashes of yellow, crimson, gold, pink, rose running together. It looked as if the tree itself was ready for us to plunge our teeth into its juicy orange flesh, the squish and explosion of peachy yumminess bursting with flavor, intensity, earth, sugar, sunshine!

Mas talked to us for about fifteen minutes, filling us in on this year's nuances: a cooler spring and summer had resulted in smaller fruit, which was bad for business; for some reason, this year the riper fruit was on the outside of the tree, as opposed to the inside; et al. He departed as warmly as he had arrived and we gots to pickin'. We picked high, with ladders, and low, often finding the very best peaches on the ground in need of nothing more than a gentle rinse.

No doubt, half of the fruit was almost begging to get picked. The method for choosing which fruit is ripe & ready is to first feel it gently for softness. If it gives just a little at the surface, give it a little tug. If the peach comes right off the branch, you've found yourself a keeper. If it resists, it's not ready to leave the party. We collected roughly 20 dozen in less than 2 hours, moving at a leisurely pace and taking frequent breaks for conversation, irresistibly fresh peaches, and visits from different members of the Masumoto family. One such visit included nectarines that screamed flavor like a scarlet and honey siren, dripping with sweet juice so good that your eyes closed involuntarily as you ravenously slurped it from your fingers...

We did one last lap around the tree checking for ripe and ready and decided to pack it up and get a move on. When the car was packed, we joined the Masumoto family in the shade. They busted out more granita, and after 2 hours in the blazing sun, nothing could have been better. It reminded me of the limeade at Sol Food in Marin, super tart but super sweet at the same time, and just about as refreshing as it gets. And as if that weren't enough, ten minutes later we were in the Masumotos' pool. Perfect.

After a glorious swim, we grabbed some In & Out Burger (double double animal style and a chocolate shake, please) and then hit the road north. I passed out in the back seat with my iPod blaring and woke up about 30 minutes outside of Oakland. Eric was kind enough to stop at Bi-Rite Market in The Mission before he dropped me off so I could buy some key accoutrement for the meal I had been dreaming about the whole ride home. I grabbed a couple of pork chops, an aromatic German Riesling, and a few shallots.

I cooked dinner nice and slowly, taking the time to make my knife cuts clean and my sauces chronic. I used all fresh herbs from the garden, the good olive oil Julia's mom had given us, Meyer lemons from the tree in our backyard, peaches picked that morning at Masumoto's, and the beautiful, stunningly marbled, bone-in pork chops.

Dinner was:
Grilled, Herb Crusted, Bone-In Pork Chop
Green Beans & Shallots w Bacon & Roasted Garlic
Sweet Chipotle Roasted Potatoes
Grilled Elberta Peach w Lavender Salt

There was savory, sweet, salty, smokey, crispy, chewy, tender, juicy, aromatic, spicy, creamy, tart, bacony gooooooodness. The Riesling, Hattenheimer 2008, was light, aromatic and on the fruity side, so it both cut the heavier flavors and stood up to the sweetness of the grilled peach. Bonus.

So that's my first shot after the hiatus; hopefully I stick with this...

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