A highly subjective “Best of the Bay Area” list
'Tis the season to make year-end lists. In honor of the last day of 2006, here are my ten favorite local delicacies. Amazingly, I had never tasted any of them before this year.
1. Marshall's Farm Marin wildflower honey: I used to think honey came in plastic bears and tasted sweet and nothing else. This amazingly complex elixir has notes of lavender, rose, blackberry, and even grass.
2. Fatted Calf duck liver mousse: I've raved about this previously. This is bending the local=within-100-miles rule slightly: although Fatted Calf is based in Berkeley and the livers it uses come from Sonoma County Poultry's Liberty Ducks, the mousse also includes pancetta, which Fatted Calf cures from further-afield Niman, Prather, or Heritage USA pork
3. Swanton Berry Farm organic strawberries: I like the sweet Chandlers, but the Seascapes are also better than anything you'll find at a supermarket. Feel-good bonus: Swanton workers are unionized and paid a living wage.
4. Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk: A triple-cream, washed-rind, slightly stinky, gluttony-inducing cheese made from Straus Family Creamery organic cow's milk.
5. Redwood Hill goatmilk yogurt: Happy goats make tasty milk. The yogurt goes really, really well with the above strawberries and honey.
6. Eatwell Farm heirloom tomatoes: Summer incarnate. The Brandywines, which nicely balance tart and sweet, are my favorites.
7. Fatted Calf beef jerky: Made from Marin Sun Farms beef, with an addictive teriyaki-like flavor.
8. Blossom Bluff Orchards' Flavor Grenade pluots: The name of these plum-and-apricot crosses is no exaggeration in the summer, and winter's dried version is so plump and juicy it's more like velvet than leather. Mmmm!!! (And yes, I'm cheating again here, as Blossom Bluff is actually located about 200 miles away.)
9. Smit Orchards apple-cherry juice: So tart, rich, and full-bodied, it makes all grocery-store juice taste like Kool-Ade.
10. Spring Hill butter: You have to get to the farmers market early to score this spreadable gold from (half-) pastured Sonoma County cows. When we can get it, we reserve it for toast.
I can't wait to taste what 2007 brings.
Feel free to share your own lists of outstanding local purveyors from your areas!
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