Tulips to Treasure

I’m sending my mom tulips for Mother’s Day. She is at home in Baltimore and I live on the west coast in a small town that has a delightfully mild climate. Arcata, California is known for its giant coastal redwoods, the cool sea, lush grasses that feed our livestock most of the year and, surprisingly, flowers.

The Sun Valley Floral Farm out in the Arcata Bottoms is one of the largest growers of tulips in the country. That seems pretty impressive until you consider the fact that only 20% of cut flowers purchased in the U.S. are actually grown here. I am excited to be able to send home not only a local product, but a uniquely domestic one too. Feeling patriotic? Oh, wait – it’s not July yet. Send your mom an American Grown bouquet this year!

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In my family, tulips have a special memory attached to them. When mom sees the big red tulip blossoms, I know they will remind her of my grandfather- her dad. Pop-pop served our country during WWII. After raising four kids and retiring, he and nan-nan started Rothwell Nursery- not for the profit in it, but for joy. Sharing the beauty of flowers was my grandfather’s passion.

Pop-pop planted so many places in Aberdeen, Maryland: funeral homes, on and off ramps, the Decoy Museum and the Ripken Museum too. I remember when I had just gotten my learners’ permit pop-pop let me drive him around town. We drove by median strips he had filled with dandelions and stopped at all of his plantings. I brought my film camera and took pictures of his work.  It was a special time where we shared our passions together. I made a book of the pictures and gave it to him. I will always remember that day; as he flipped through the pages of my creation and cried with joy.

His favorite flower was always tulips. When we visited the Ripken Museum he showed me two huge rectangular beds full of red tulips blooming. They were tightly planted and all the same height making a spectacular splash of color! I remember those plantings in particular filled him with great joy.

Upon visiting Sun Valley Farm, I found endless greenhouses full of the same. They so reminded me of pop-pop’s work that I just knew he was there smiling with me. Sun Valley grows their flowers not only on American soil, but in it as well (unlike the hydroponic tulips you get from Holland). It makes for a better quality cut flower. This way, mom has a few extra days to enjoy her bouquet.

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My pop-pop had the most generous heart and that is the legacy he left us in each bulb that blooms year after year. My mother shares his open, giving approach to life. When she receives those tulips from me, I know she will remember.

Flowers have this inexplicable way of expressing the sweetness that we feel about someone. When we give a bunch, they carry a certain ‘I don’t know what’ quality that reflects the emotion we want to share. Chances are that your mom will be deeply moved by the gesture. Send her a token of your love & appreciation on Sunday and make sure they are American Grown.

Stand Out in the crowd

 

A Slug hits the Spot

Dear Nan nan,

How have you been? I know it has been forever since I last wrote, and a girl should not go on too long in life without writing to her grandmother – especially when they live on different coasts! I miss you so much. It is hard to believe how much time has passed. Remember when I first got to town and was working for the bagel shop? I ate there two meals a day, that is dos Los Bagels! For a long time after, I thought I would never enjoy a bagel again.

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Well, it has been about three years since making the dough for Bagels, I am, once again, enjoying Bagels on an almost weekly basis! Feels good to finally come full circle (or bagel.) Jalapeño is still my favorite variety, but sometimes a slug hits the spot, too. My friends from Colorado reported that they had a rosemary Parmesan bagel– a noteworthy type dough!

I am also carrying Los Bagels cream cheese spreads at the grocery store where I work. Every flavor is whipped to perfection and offered in an eight ounce tub: plain, pesto, sunny tomato, wild herb and salmon. I can’t say I have a favorite; they are all good. The sun-dried tomato spread is set off nicely with garlic and the wild herb has a hit of horseradish for excitement. The joy is spreading!

Now I usually take a quick trip to the salad bar to round out my breakfast with a topping of spinach, sprouts and sometimes a cucumber or onion. And if I have my way, slug slime and LARRUPIN finish it off.

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Fuel gets me thinking. I’ve been working on an old legend from around here and thought I would share it with you. So, without further adieu, I present to you:

The Myth of the Jalapeno Slug
(WARNING: bagel and bread puns ahead!)

The Jalapeno Slug is a mythical creature residing in the Bagel Factory. Bageleros are always chattering about how delicious it would be… If such a creation existed. Yesterday, to my surprise, someone told me that they ATE one! Imagine that: EATING a Jalapeno Slug!?! Seems like an awful close encounter with something that is only said to be real. (How do you know when a pepper is mad at you? He gets jalapeno business!) I just can’t believe it. Jalapeno Slugs don’t exist.

The Jala-Slug, drenched in mystery, remains supernatural. Like Bigfoot, believe at your own risk, when the only evidence is eyewitness. There’s just no PROOF that such a Jala-slug ever took SHAPE (This statement is humorous because of the double meaning. When a Shape Shifter or Bagelero working the Bagel Shaping Shift, said Shape Shifter loaves the dough into bagel form and places new born bagel babes on peels to PROOF. Proofing a bagel means that we encourage it to grow or rise through the action of the yeast. As long as the Jala-slug never PROOFS itself to shape shifters, it has no effective way of manifesting as a reality in the bagel factory. So, there’s just no PROOF of a Jala-slug taking SHAPE.)

Bakers cannot corroborate, leaving this story utterly incomplete. Not even the toaster is talking. If rumor has it, the Ja’la’la-slug may have truly slithered cross the oven threshold to achieve immortality in the world of man. But we can never really know, except in each man’s own heart (belly) and soul.

Just remember there is a boy- a boy who believes. He was raised atop a poppy seed muffin (one of our own at the bagel factory); you may say he was born and BREAD here. Anyway, the boy has been here for years and has dreamt of the Jalapeno Slug for as many years as he has been, here. “At last,” he now claims, “the dream is realized”. Is this boy just a muffin? Bageleros may never know. Whose to decide, if Ja’s tale should survive? Perhaps resurrection is not A’ PEELIN’ for today’s proof.

Of a Jala-slug rebirthing,
Our muffin son can only pray.
After that, time will say.

When someone calls out, “Challah!”
Always “Jala” back with lotsa ‘peno,
Cause every day is a Jala-day!

Hey, how do you know when a pepper is mad at you? He gets jalapeno business! Hope you enjoyed my little stories. I will write and catch up with you again soon!

Sincerely,
Casey

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Loleta Cheese

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This weekend I took a little trip to Loleta Cheese. I went in the morning so that I could enjoy my coffee in the garden sun. First order of the day was cheese sampling. The creamery provided a taste of every variety that they carry and I explored them while peering through the large windows into where the cheese is made in big, absolutely astounding vats!

As I meandered past gift boxes and specialty items, the clerk told everyone about the creamery and its operations. Loleta had a great selection of local jam, mustard and other spreads to accentuate their cheeses. There are activities for kids in the gift shop too, like a scavenger hunt for the garden and coloring books about where your milk comes from.

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Out back, the garden was a wondrous place to explore and enjoy. There were lots of little nooks throughout the space and it felt very peaceful to be there. After walking around and peeking into each corner, I sat in the sun awhile.

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On the way back out I did some shopping. Made out pretty well too with a cheese board that had built-in wire, a couple bottles of Sonoma County wine and a flyer of local activities happening in Humboldt for the next month. It made a great place for my day trip, since I was looking for something different to do in the area. The drive was a scenic treat all by itself and there is a Bakery right around the corner serving sandwiches! Loleta Creamery & Cheese Shop is sure to please the whole crowd. Stop on down!

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Fog Blog: Cross Country Cheese

You may have heard of Humboldt Fog–it’s a cheese, not the weather report. Every week I cut rounds of Cypress Grove’s flagship offering as I wheel & deal a world of cheese. There is a buzz spreading about Humboldt Fog. It is a cheese that lends itself to legend and this is the cheesy tale of how it brought me full chevre-wheel.

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My story starts on the sandy shores of the North Coast five years ago. I was on a week-long vacation from Baltimore, visiting friends and camping. In Arcata, we commenced with local fare: wine, baguette and a wedge of Humboldt Fog served over easy–at the beach, complete with setting sun. Really, that’s all it took.

The soft-ripened cheese made from goat’s milk shone like a lighthouse beacon, the cultural climate thriving on its bloomy gossamer face, with  dark mottling that foreshadowed deeper flavors. Tangy and bright, Fog’s beginnings express the temperate, fanciful coastal atmosphere where goats graze in the salty air. A paper thin line of ash encircles and bolts through the center of this cheese cake. Perhaps it is the glimmer of sapphire that appears where milk and ash meet, or maybe its the citrus-flavored chevre center that teases at a blue cheese. Either way, Humboldt Fog’s creaminess is cut by a quaking layer of ash as it deviates into murkier territories of ocean water-esque turbidity (if you get my drift). You are now engulfed in the blue velvet mystery.

Fog is a stand-alone, as rooted here as the redwoods and singing the praises of its native land with every bite. The magic of that first evening at the beach still stirs my soul. It will forever mark a cornerstone in my life as it embodies many of my core values: local traditional foods, the outdoors, good company and quiet meditation.

When wildfires cut our camping inland short, we evacuated back to Arcata. Enjoying fresh air and farmer’s markets, with the week coming to an end, I resigned from my job in Maryland to sign on for a farm internship in Orleans, California. Thus began a string of work-exchange experiences in the art of making food–weeding with a stirrup hoe, pruning, harvest schedules, watering schedules, preparing beds, earthen oven construction, meat cutting, cheese-making, egg collecting, bread baking, preparing a meal- you name it! I was back in Humboldt in under a year barking up that tall tree again.

Today my relationship to the North Coast and its homegrown offerings are as enriching as ever. Fog is perfectly and simply at home here. I am honored to bring others into the fold as a part of my daily service to the community by sharing my passion for well-crafted food. I appreciate that my enthusiasm resonates with people.

Last week I sent a New Jersey couple home with an entire five pound round of Humboldt Fog. I am always impressed when people make the extra effort of taking it back across the country. I think it is because this cheese somehow embodies the region’s character in a profound way. Abroad, Fog acts as a diplomat, known around the world. It’s an experience giving you many, many senses of this place, and many, many more questions to ponder as it melts in your mouth. Taste it- you’ll see our Humboldt Fog is in the air & under the rind.

Mayonnaise Du Jour

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This year, I learned to love mayonnaise. Since so many people avoid the white stuff, I thought that sharing my newfound obsession might spark a renaissance of coleslaw and potato salad! The catalyst was a homemade batch of mayo from my local egg lady. Sadly, store bought mayonnaise does not hold a candle to the forest-fire-like-situation of the real deal, so if you want to change your mind about mayo, its best to start at home with an egg & some oil.

Turns out, this creamy white condiment has been in production for over 300 years in France. Making mayonnaise is a household ritual there; recipes guarded as family secret. Emulsifying oil into an egg with the snap of one’s wrist is probably easy for the French– a part of their cultural heritage– but for the rest of the world, this whipping technique is a bit trickier.

I am going to teach you the goof-proof way (no finesse required) to make mayo. The method requires only three things: a mason jar, ingredients & an immersion blender.

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Start with a pint-sized mason jar (it’s a good size for blending/storing & has markings so you can measure the oil). Add your ingredients:

  • 1 Egg. Whole or just the yolk.
  • 3/4 Cup Oil. If you use olive oil, the Extra Virgin varieties present a very strong flavor. I stick with the lighter canola, vegetable or safflower oil. You can also do a combination of several. Find what suits your taste.
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice.
  • 1 tsp Vinegar. Apple cider, white wine & tarragon are all good options.
  • 1 tsp Salt.
  • 1 tsp Sugar.
  • Dash Mustard. Any kind, even dry.
  • You may opt for a dash Cayenne.

With all the ingredients in the mason jar, place the blender over the egg on the bottom of the jar. Blend. You will see the egg emulsify into a solid, creamy consistency. Slowly incorporate the rest of the oil by pulling upwards. You just made mayonnaise!

It’s best to have some piping hot potato fries on hand so you can adjust seasoning as necessary. Mayo will set in the fridge & last about two weeks, but better if you can finish it within the week. I like to make small batches (as above) for a specific use.

There are endless applications for mayonnaise. My mom makes a fried egg on toast with minced white onions & mayo. It is one of my favorites now, too.  Mayonnaise is especially good with baked chicken, fish, eggs, potatoes, as a vegetable glaze or just on a sandwich!

Mixing mayo with cooked foods & adding a pickle helps to preserve its freshness. Try this recipe on fresh locally made bread of any variety by tossing together.

Tuna Salad:

  • Local Albacore, canned
  • 1 Tbsp Bacon, bits
  • 1 Tbsp Pickled Jalapenos, chopped (or relish)
  • 1 Tbsp Celery, chopped
  • 1 Dollop Mayonnaise du jour
  • Fresh Ground Pepper

Another great use for mayo is incorporating it into a dressing for vegetables or a main course. You can just add a dollop to your chicken before baking or thin it to create a glaze with either hot water, lemon juice or milk. Finally, you can bet the whole farm & make some bleu cheese or

Ranch Dressing:

  • 1 cup Mayonnaise du jour (solid, creamy, tangy)
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream (gives body, but light & mild)
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Chives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped

Optional additions include 1 tsp Fresh Dill, Worchestershire Sauce, Paprika, Fresh Oregano, Tabasco & White Vinegar. Whip together & taste with a succulent vegetable spear (kholrabi is an exciting option, but a carrot works just as well). Adjust seasoning to suit you & thin as needed with:

  • Buttermilk/milk 

From my kitchen to yours, deliCasey

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