Friday September 17, 2010
So long sweet summer... i gratefully basked in your rays
I’ve always best enjoyed desserts with little to no nutritional value and made from ingredients which knew no season: chocolate, caramel, almond, vanilla and spice. Fruit had its place at my breakfast table, blueberry pancakes, cranberry sweet rolls, cherry muffins, apricot danish and the like. But I once preferred fruit to stay the heck away from my dessert plate.
Really, the problem had more to do with bad grocery store fruit. No offense bananas, you know I love you. I’d rather have nothing at all than flavorless jumbo strawberries all white around the caps and hollow inside, raspberries tart enough to go toe-to-toe with lemons, red delicious apples which only live up to half their name, and grapes with no discernible flavor profile, trucked in from half a world away. No wonder kids these days would rather have a candy bar. I would.
Perusing the Lexington Farmers' Market over the last few years, however, has totally turned me into a fruitaholic. If you live in Kentucky and under the false impression that a bounty of fruit only graces a California farmers’ market, allow me to present the following:
Blackberries, white nectarines, and peaches. Thanks, awesome Kentucky farmers. Milk and cream from the phenomenal folks at JD Country Milk.
I wish we could have pulled this blog together early enough to showcase more fruit. I’m looking forward to Rosco photo-documenting our fruit season in its entirety next year, but for now, I’ll just give you the run down for how things play out here in Lexington.
Every spring, Elmwood Stock Farm brings us strawberries, crimson from tip to cap, with a flavor so complex I can’t bring myself to do anything other than eat them by the handful. Their season lasts maybe a week. But I would take that one week of utter perfection over a year of depressing grocery store shamberries.
Next, Elmwood’s raspberries come on and last almost through the fall. Their raspberries have a life changing flavor, a mellow wine like quality with enough tart to hold your interest, but never enough to pucker. Reed Valley Orchard then shows up with blackberries so fat you can nibble off the individual drupelets.
The Lexington farmers’ market brings us locally grown melons, white grapes blushed over with pink, concord grapes, peaches in every color, and varieties of apples you’ll never see in a grocery.
I’m not saying everything we eat should come from around the corner— where would I be without chocolate and vanilla? Yay for the global marketplace! Three cheers for almonds in the dead of winter. But when it comes to fruit, I’d rather have it from my zip code than stamped with a bar code. I will gladly sacrifice year round availability for the astonishing flavors I get those few weeks a year.
Interestingly, my new found love for fruit lead me away from my old love, coffee.
When I’m sitting down to something nutty or chocolatey, I need coffee. If there be doughnuts? I yearn for coffee. But when confronted with the lively, complex flavors amazing fruit lends to desserts, I find myself sipping from my husband’s teacup while my coffee grows cold. I wouldn’t say it’s over between me and coffee, just that I’m seeing someone else.
See, I’m totally all about buying things from far flung places.
To me, the boldness of coffee overwhelms the lightness of fruit. The acidity that makes coffee perfect at cutting through rich custards, chocolates, or caramels, ends up clashing with the bright and sometimes nuanced flavors of a perfectly ripe peach or a mellow summer berry.
Not all will agree. My best friend (and fellow CIA pastry graduate) thinks I’m completely nuts and enjoys orange segments with her morning coffee. While I would sooner Microplane my tongue than attempt that combo, to each her own.
I appreciate what a properly brewed cup of good tea can do for a dessert. (I boldly deny bagged tea any praise. If you have never enjoyed a cup of tea brewed from loose leaves, you’ve never had a cup of tea… ) A good cuppa cleanses the palette between bites, never overpowers, sets off the flavors, and has a more manageable caffeine dosage in the PM.
Regardless of your preexisting feelings about tea, I suggest anyone living within a 25 mile radius of Lexington, Kentucky should schedule a visit to Cuppa. Owner and total peach Lisa Samson can throw you a life line as you will undoubtedly begin to flounder, lost in the expanse of the tea menu.
I have made nearly weekly visits to Cuppa since I stumbled upon them during their soft open. Mr. Bravetart and I love what Cuppa brings to Jefferson street: a place to snuggle up in a comfy chair with a beverage (iced tea lattes make summer more bearable), a book, and free wi fi. After much chatting with Lisa over the months, I finally brought up BraveTart and asked if we could come by to take some photos. She graciously agreed to let Rosco and I invade her space, and so we did,
The amazing natural light and groovy robin’s egg blue walls made a perfect backdrop for my last hurrah to summer, these little fruit tarts (edit: 9/20/10— I gave the wrong link before, but it is fixed now! Entire recipe for fruit tarts is up now. -S). I mean, this is BraveTart, after all. All tarts, all the time. Or something like that. Click away if you’d like to read my tart making game plan.
Lisa lent us some table space and we availed ourselves to the funky assortment of old timey china that fills two separate cabinets in Cuppa’s seating area. I ordered a pot of Starry Night, a unique black tea blend with dried vanilla bean bits and a scattering of white tea (the stars against the darkness of the black tea). We managed to snap a few shots before caving and eating up the fruit tarts before the tea could even think about cooling. (Side note: starry night makes an absolutely killer iced tea!)
So now, with summer fading fast and autumn approaching, I implore you to head to the farmers’ market, grab up all the fruit you can, and bid a proper farewell to summer.
What will you miss most over the fall and winter? What fruits are you willing to buy at the grocery because, well, we all have our addictions?
9 comments and counting
Sep 19, 2010 · 3:20 PM
Beautiful – photos and words. I’m so glad to find your blog!
· Rona Roberts · www.savoringkentucky.com
Sep 19, 2010 · 6:24 PM
Stella, I must agree whole heartedly with your love of fruit in season, the supermarket fruit may as well just be colored styrofoam.
Also thank you for discussing the drink pairings, so often people just destroy good food with over powering wines or coffee. Coffee while good with some things is certainly not the answer for a delicate dessert. How was the Wine?
Sep 20, 2010 · 1:15 AM
Stella, I love it! What fun to read your delightful comments AND “drool” over the amazing pictures. You are so right about local fruits far surpassing those tasteless wannabees from the year-round grocery bins. Just picked fresh apples from one of our local North Carolina orchards this weekend. Hoping I’ll find some tasty apple tart recipes from my favorite CIA trained pastry chef! Not sure about that tea over coffee thing, though…..we’ll see
Sep 20, 2010 · 1:04 PM
Rona, thank you so much for the kind words! I’ve long enjoyed your blog— I feel guilty now for being just a lurker and not a commenter. I will amend that soon!
Kelly, I ended up not opening the Txakolina after all. I had made pesto which I thought might qualify as “overboard” on basil so I’m still waiting for a more tapas-y evening to break it out.
Brenda, BraveTart is about to be all over some apples, I just have to figure out what I want to make first!
Sep 22, 2010 · 10:17 AM
Maureen, please keep an eye out! I have a major love for mutated French cuisine, a la Vietnamese or the way the Japanese have co-opted all the French technique to crank out dainty red bean croissants as flaky and delicious as I’ve ever had, or green tea Bavarian mousse, or soy flour macarons. I want to see what Niger brings to the table! Travel safely!
Sep 22, 2010 · 3:33 PM
Very cool blog here!
· oneshotbeyond · oneshotbeyond.wordpress.com/
May 16, 2011 · 10:18 PM
Living in Chicago, I go years without eating a decent peach. It isn’t right. A trip a bit south of here is in order.
· emily · ohia.wordpress.com
May 17, 2011 · 10:39 AM
I went to Chicago last weekend! Emily, if you ever pass through the Bluegrass state, shoot me an email! We actually have pretty spectacular peaches in Kentucky, which is so much closer to you than Georgia, ha ha.