Letters from Lodi
An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.
What’s new at Lodi Farmers Market
A census taker once tried to test me…
I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti…
For food and wine lovers, is there anything more chilling, yet strangely stimulating, than that explication enunciated by Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Hannibal Lecter, in conversation with Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling, in The Silence of the Lambs?
While these days fava beans are associated with very gourmet, very chichi, Italian cuisine, it’s actually a pretty basic, ancient staple — the fruit of a vetch resembling a monstrously sized pea, consumed for thousands of years by Europeans and Asians before more varieties of legumes were “discovered” in America — and the Lodi Farmers Market, which started its weekly run this past Thursday in Downtown Lodi’s elegantly cobbled School Street, is offering Delta grown favas for as little as $1/lb.!
For a quick reference on fava bean history and recipes (including a delectable fava bean and Pecorino salad), re this post on NPR’s Web site, A Little Spring on Your Plate.
But of course, there’s more, lots more, that is currently being offered, and will undoubtedly unfold, as the Lodi Farmers Market progresses into summer, every Thursday from 5 to 9 PM. Lodi is located, after all, smack dab in the middle of a verdant, veritable Mesopotamia of foodstuffs. The climate is warm but not icy or desert hot; the soils, variations of deep, silty loams: perfect for grapes, cherries and strawberries, happy cows, and any number of seasonal delicacies. A paradise of epicurean proportions.
For longtime patrons of Lodi’s yearly street scene, what’s new on the gastronomic agenda? For the first time ever, Lodi Farmers Market is now featuring 100% natural, USDA certified beef from Case Hoogland’s C&C Ranch, located a few miles up the road in Elk Grove. Talk about happy cows: Case’s Angus steers are raised 100% anitbiotic/growth hormone free on a Delta diet of rye and orchard grass (as opposed to conventionally raised grain fed beef), giving you leaner, healthier cuts, containing higher portions of the omega-3 fatty acids that are good for the heart and brain. Put that together with glasses of Lodi grown red zin, and you might live forever (in spirit, at least)! In any case, come by and say hello to Case and his little daughter next time you’re on School Street during the golden hours just before the moon takes over every Thursday.
You should also save your appetite for Addy’s Paella, personally cooked up on authentic Valencian portable burners and manhole sized pans by Señora Addy herself — a Delta woman who just happens to have a penchant for this tradicional Spanish delicacy. Besides the tools, both the rice and all the seasonings Addy uses — including that wonderfully earthy, and incredibly wine worthy, spice of royalty: saffron — come from Spain; only the shrimp, chicken and sausages she incorporates into her golden colored dishes, topped with a garlic and smoked paprika flecked aioli to die for, are American. Re the thumbs up given by Markus and Liz Bokisch (Bokisch Vineyards), Lodi’s own Spanish grape specialists…
Also new and significant: Incognito Pasta, personally cut and offered by Modesto’s Laura (a.k.a. Mia) Wright; including an outrageous pepperdelle (red pepper pimenton papardelle), ciocotelle (chocolate tagliatelle), vaniccini (vanilla fettucine), and cinnatelle (cinnamon tagliatelle). These vividly flavorful, sophisticated pastas are also served at the extremely fine restaurant in Wine & Roses Hotel. Stroll by and say hello to Mia, and she might even rattle off a simple yet delicious recipe or two, thereby saving you from having to drop a bundle at Lodi’s premier dining destination.
Speaking of which, Wine & Roses’ Executive Chef, Didier Gerbi, is also up to his old tricks: he leads a tour of the Lodi Farmers Market each week, sharing his shrewd eye for buying fresh foodstuffs, honed from years of trolling the markets in his native France. To reserve a spot on this fascinating tour ($25/person), contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (209) 371-6117.
What’s different this year is that Chef Didier will start his walks at 4:30 PM each week in Jeremy Wine Company on Pine St. (right off School, between Lodi’s famed welcoming arch and the kids’ pony rides) with a tasting with winemaker/owners Jeremy and Choral Trettevik; and after a walk through the stalls, poking and proddiing the produce along the way, Chef will usher you into Dancing Fox Bakery & Winery, where co-proprieter/boulanger Colleen Lewis will talk to you about her artisanal wood oven bread baking (Colleen is so exacting, she even mills her own flour and utilizes yeast cultivated from natural grape flora, culled from her husband/winemaker/co-proprietor Gregg Lewis’ vineyard in Clements).
Lots and lots to do, to smell, taste and experience, but plenty of opportunities between now and August 25 when this grand wine country tradition wraps for the year. Do you really wanna miss a minute of it? Just getting out to walk and enjoy the sights of Lodi Farmers Market is certainly better, as Dr. Lecter once said, than staying at home and “having an old friend for dinner.” Here’s a photographic report on the first Lodi Farmers Market of 2011, taking place last week…