Oh, Santa Rosa!

Kage Baker was, as is well known (now) passionately fond of Santa Rosa plums. She liked stone fruit in general, but the Santa Rosa plum was like catnip and ambrosia to her. During their season, she would happily live on plums and bread – and I think the bread was just for ballast, lest a surfeit of divine plum-ness carry her off.

Although I am here in Santa Rosa – original home of the plum, and home of Luther Burbank who bred the thing in the first place – it’s not quite the season yet. I cannot find any plums yet in the local markets; nor even in the exquisite gardens of the original Burbank House here. I happen to be friends with two of the volunteers there – my hostess Carol is on the Board of Directors – but I think they would notice if I tried to raid the gardens; even if the plums were ripe yet, which they mostly are not …

But here in Northern California is one of the breeding grounds of hybrid stone fruit. Heritage varieties, too – the best cherries I ever had were growing semi-wild in someone’s back yard. They were a bi-colour yellow and red, so Kage always figured they were related to Queen Anne cherries – but they were bigger, and their sweetness had a strong overlay of honey. We never found out what they were, but Oh! They were good.

In the market yestreday I found Saturn peaches, those little flat round ones like pastel tires – Saturn nectarines, too. Red nectarines, yellow nectarines, white nectarines: and white nectarines are without doubt a faerie fruit, delicate and delicious beyond the ways of humankind. Local ripe cherries. Four kinds of apricots, including the red ones I had for breakfast. Those red ones are fantastic, by the way; as large as plums, deep red and velvety-furry on the outside and a deep glorious gold on the inside. The apricot flavour is strong and smooth; I had them with some perfectly ripe Camembert cheese, and fresh-ground  coffee …

Life is so gracious in the North.

There is also a lively cheese industry here in the North, relatively unknown except to the natives and a very few cheese fanatics. Point Reyes Bleu Cheese has recently been finding a broader market (and deserves it; it’s an exemplary bleu) but there are lots of other treasures of the dairy variety. My personal favourite is the Rouge et Noir Cheese Factory, just northwest of Novato on the edge of the wetlands … you can actually get their wonderful cheeses at most Safeways up here. In L.A., you only find them in snobby cheese shops. I shall be making a pilgrimage out there this week, too, so I can eat cheese through the Convention.

And cherries. And apricots. And hilariously flat peaches.

As soon as I get my bumper re-attached.