Capay Valley Almond Festival
Capay Valley, covering Esparto, Capay, Brooks, Guinda, and Rumsey, has hosted the Almond Festival since 1915. We began in Esparto then made our way northwest to finish in Rumsey, sampling anything and everything almond that we could find.
Driving in, we met blocks of cars parked along the way up to the Esparto Community Park, and that’s when we realized this wasn’t just an almond festival – it was also a car show! There were hundreds of cars on display, but somehow a parking spot opened up right before us, immediately next to the park. It didn’t take long to find our first almond-based item from Caffé Italia, pulled from their mobile brick pizza oven.
This sweet and savory delight was exactly that. Starting from the thin crispy crust, through the tangy and sweet satsuma mandarin marmalade and syrup sauce, a very light sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, and fresh sweet basil, the background for the day’s star was spectacular. Plenty of toasted almond slices made this a real treat.
Puros Churros came up with an outstanding sweet treat, as well. Shortcake was extruded in churro form and freshly deep fried, then dusted in cinnamon and sugar, topped with chocolate fudge sauce, almond slices, and whipped cream. This was not your ordinary churro as the base was shortcake, so the crunchiness remained on the outside for the frying while the inside stayed cake-like and rich like a pound cake. With the cinnamon, sugar, chocolate, and whipped cream, it was reminiscent of Mexican hot chocolate.
Soon after we found the first booth with nuts, and there were lots of them! There were over 20 specialty flavors and we got to sample many of them while talking with friendly and knowledgeable Mel, but even at an extremely reasonable price, we settled on getting only five.
Some are for ourselves (really just for August since Zach can’t eat unprocessed nuts in excess) and most are for family members. We can tell you about the mocha almonds; the smell is intoxicating, and the flavor is sweet from the cocoa powder yet has a hint of bitterness from the coffee undertone. Fresh nuts always makes a difference – we learned that nuts found in the typical grocery store are at least six months old before they even get put on the shelf!
To support a local cause we bought a bag of almond, er, “a-mend” roca. Too bad Zach can’t eat it, but August is loving it. The toffee is crunchy but smooth, so it doesn’t get so stuck to your teeth.
Ok, so we got one item that wasn’t almond-related. But it was good. When we first arrived we saw a guy walking with these mushrooms and we asked him about them, so with his recommendation we got some after finding all the almond goods in Esparto. With just a tiny bit of ranch dressing, these were mighty flavorful with fresh mushrooms and a light batter.
Along the way to Rumsey, Capay offered live music and barbecue food, Brooks did a wine tasting and olive oil tasting, and the Capay Fired Department barbecued oysters in Guinda. In Rumsey we found more almond products to be enjoyed there and brought home. Above you see an almond cake, a homemade bear claw, and blossom-shaped sugar cookies with an almond latte for sipping, all wonderful goodies from warm community members.
Fine, we’ll admit, this is another non-almond product. This is honey with walnuts, but who could pass it up? Especially when we learned that almond honey is disgusting and only good for bees because it is very bitter, we thought walnut honey could make a great topping for waffles or pancakes sometime soon.
More nuts for family members! Well, one bag might stay with August. These came without business cards or a website, but were for another community cause.
We are definitely going back next year. The people were friendly, the food was amazing, and there were lots of almond products. The police did a great job in conducting traffic in these tiny towns. It was a wonderful day!