dried fuji apples

Discovery Monday

11 March 2013

A few recent discoveries, as well as some mail-order food finds in case you’re in need of a pick-me-up in these last days of winter…

Parents of kids with severe allergies will want to read Sunday’s encouraging New York Times Magazine piece on Dr Kari Nadeau, a Stanford doctor on a mission to change the lives of children living on the thin edge of safety. The results of her trial – building tolerance to allergens with microdoses – are hopeful, and stories of the brave children and parents involved in the trial (including good friends of mine and their eldest child) are heartbreaking and inspiring.

Keep bread out of the refrigerator. Bread products freeze very well, but this 2007 Boston Globe article explains why bread goes stale much faster at cold temperatures above freezing. Staling is not the result of bread drying out, it’s caused by the crystallization of starch molecules, a process which is accelerated at cool temperatures. Room temperature is a better idea, or keep preservative-free bread in the freezer if you are concerned about mold.

My friend turned me on to this December New Yorker piece on Aplolonia Poilane, who as an 18 year old Harvard student took over as CEO of her family’s famed Parisian bakery after the 2002 death of her parents in a helicopter crash. Poilane’s fortitude and dedication to the family legacy is impressive, particularly at such a young age and in such tragic circumstances. Few family businesses make it to a third generation – her grandfather would be proud.

Fans of In-N-Out Burger will want to watch a similar story, in which Lynsi Torres, only grandchild of In-N-Out founders Harry and Esther Snyder, inherited the business after the deaths of her uncle, father and grandmother. When she turned 30 earlier this year, Torres was granted 50% control of the business and will gain control of the rest at age 35. Founded in 1948, the same year the McDonald brothers decided to focus on fast-food hamburgers, In-N-Out has favored slow growth with no franchises. I know my mother-in-law in Ohio would love for In-N-Out to pick up the pace of expansion, but I hope Torres sticks with the family commitment to controlled quality. Thrice-married, with twins, inheriting a billion-dollar business, she faces quite a challenge.

Libraries in digital times. I discovered recently that in addition to an excellent online periodical archive which I tapped into for the New Yorker article, my fantastic local library, the Santa Clara County library system, now offers free current magazines downloadable through Zinio as well as free song downloads through Freegal. Selections are limited, of course, but it’s hard to argue with free.

Hope for pancreatic cancer. A 15-year old boy from Maryland named Jack Andraka won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair last year with an accurate, inexpensive test for early detection of swift and deadly pancreatic cancer. There is huge resistance in the medical industry to new and cheap technologies that would displace expensive entrenched methods, but I’m encouraged that the publicity Andraka is getting – Andraka spoke at a TEDx San Jose event in December and again at the flagship TED conference in Long Beach in February – will help this idea make it to production.

Food finds

I love travel for the getting away as well as for the opportunity to discover new food. Even when I can’t physically get away, I can order in some treats from past trips and be transported to another place.

Dried fuji apples from Ha’s Apple Farm – The ultimate in dried apples, which I first encountered at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. Ha’s starts by growing extraordinary fuji apples and dries them naturally. Commercial dried apples, usually made from tart Granny Smiths, are either superdry apple chips or pale and spongy from the addition of sulfur dioxide. Ha’s dried apples are full-flavored, sweet and satisfyingly chewy, and the quality of Ha’s orchard is evident in the flavor of each slim round. I order several bags at a time to minimize my shipping cost per bag.

ha's apple farm dried fujis

My northern California farmer’s markets are fantastic for fresh produce, but they don’t offer the incredible selection of dried fruits and nuts that Santa Monica’s offers. My awesome sister-in-law from Ohio went a few years ago and brought back some of my favorite dried strawberries, along with an order form from the farm. Sadly I can’t remember the name of the farm, but next time I’ll have to see if they’ve started taking online orders.

santa monica farmers market

Frog Hollow Farm navel orange marmalade – I didn’t think anything could supplant my obsession with Frog Hollow’s apricot conserve, but lately I can’t get enough of this juicy-fresh marmalade. I think it’s the edge of bitterness from the delicately julienned bits of orange rind that makes the marmalade so addictive – a complex adult spread compared to the simple sweetness of other preserves. Frog Hollow’s preserves are made with less sugar than regular commercial preserves, which means more of Frog Hollow’s superb fruit.

frog hollow orange marmalade

Did I tell you I visited Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood at a fall apple-picking event for CSA members? We saw Farmer Al and had a chance to watch Chef Becky (Farmer Al’s wife and former pastry chef at Oakland’s renowned Oliveto restaurant) make an apple pie with the help of their pie-loving daughters. I’m hoping I caught some fairy dust from the farm kitchen where Frog Hollow’s magical edibles are created.

chef becky frog hollow farm

Candied coconut from Hawaiian Heritage Candies – A world away from squeaky shredded coconut, this toasted confection is simply pieces of fresh coconut sweetened with organic Hawaiian cane sugar and baked until crisp. The dedicated candymaker in Maui sells this enchantingly crunchy tropical treat at the Maui swap meet in Kahului. Thankfully she also sells it via mail order.

candied coconut

hawaiian heritage candies

Candied coconut is transporting enough on its own, but it’s even better when you picture this. The cute lady is my dear friend’s mom dressed in a traditional Korean hanbok, taking in the scene at her only daughter’s idyllic Maui wedding last spring.

maui wedding

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