Yesterday, I drove up to Rominger Brothers Farm in Winters, CA to visit our Floriani Red Flint corn and to see how our first crop of Otto File (another revered Italian heritage variety of corn for polenta) was doing. It just feels good to be up there, and I always learn something–occasionally amazing:
We have 5 acres of Floriani Red Flint corn growing, and an acre of Otto File. That’s a lot, possibly 10,000 to 15,000 lbs. of grain. It will probably be ready for harvest in late September or October, and ready to eat by this winter. Most of it will be machine harvested, but we’re thinking of trying to harvest some by hand (sounds like a party). And hopefully, we’ll be selling some of the grain. More to come on that…
Last year’s crop of Floriani Red Flint polenta is served in the cafe every day and usually available on the dinner menu as well. The corn is milled fresh and whole grain (or integrale). So, not only do you get the nutty, distinct flavor of the red flint corn, you also get all of the flavor.
The Rominger Brothers also grew out some Italian wheat varieties for us, as we continue to work with them in our attempt to understand which wheat varieties grow best here in Northern California. This is a massive yet extraordinarily interesting project. Stay tuned…
This year, because the rainy season went so long, we’ve pushed the dates for the 2010 Tomato Dinners [reserve] back to September 15 – 19 and are watching and waiting. Recently, we’ve seen the first few cherry tomatoes and Sun Golds, and just this week some delicious “ugly” Early Girls.
In the meantime, we had fun revisiting Tomato Watch 2009 so we collected the posts here and thought we’d share:
This weekend we’re breaking into a beautifully aged hunk of Mac Magruder’s green-grass-fed beef. Chef Canales will braise this with Chianti, Vin Santo, and wild fennel pollen. It will be on the menu through Sunday.
Chianti is also the topic at the Oliveto Wine Journal, where Chris Ryerson discusses an Eric Asimov’s article about a rather depressing Chianti taste test. Chris has some recommendations of a few often over-looked, smaller-production Chiantis that you’ll want to make a point of tracking down.
Official confirmation from Trini at Riverdog Farm: tomato season has started! Also, some recommended older varieties of apricots & peaches from Didar, and Chef Canales tells us how he likes to prepare Jimmy Nardello’s peppers. Who’s Jimmy Nardello?!
The Oliveto Grain Project unofficially started in June 2007 when a group of local farmers, millers, bakers, and distributors got together for a series of meetings to discuss the possibility of a local grain (wheat and heritage corn) economy here, in Northern California. At that point, Oliveto was more of a facilitator than a participant in these meetings, providing an opportunity and a space for interested parties to connect. It became quickly apparent that there was indeed interest, and several valuable relationships and ideas arose from those initial conversations. And for Oliveto, it was the beginning of a deeper interest.
A key moment came during a discussion with Herb Vogt, a researcher with the UC Davis Department of Plant Science. I knew from travels throughout Italy that Italian wheat made very good pasta and I was telling Herb of my intention to bring back some prized Italian soft wheat varieties in hopes of growing them out here in California. Herb said, “Why do that? They won’t be the same when they grow here.”
While sourcing local grains we found Joe Vanderliet, a miller in Woodland, CA who is producing a very different whole-milled wheat; more like white flour in texture, but with maximum flavor & nutrients. We’ve been using it in some of our pastas & pastries with delicious results & now we’ve started pizza trials in the Oliveto Cafe.