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Capay Valley Almond Festival

just as the almond trees are starting to bloom

just as the almond trees are starting to bloom

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.

mobile brick oven

mobile brick oven

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.

sweetza pizza

sweetza pizza

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.

almond churro shortcake

almond churro shortcake

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.

what we saw

what we saw

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.

what we bought

what we bought

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!

a-mend roca

a-mend roca

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.

fried mushrooms

fried mushrooms

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.

bake sale goodies

bake sale goodies

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.

nuts n' honey

nuts n’ honey

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.

coconut crunch, onion garlic, and butter toffee almonds

coconut crunch, onion garlic, and butter toffee almonds

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!

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Fuddruckers, Concord CA

We had such amazing food at the Cloverdale Citrus Festival today, we needed a simple and cost-effective dinner.  But, we still wanted to find something to share with you.  Fuddruckers is known for amazing hamburgers and sandwiches, for which you can choose one of several meats: buffalo burger, ostrich burger, veggie burger (ok, not a meat), salmon filet, turkey burger, California turkey burger, elk burger, kobe beef burger, grilled or crispy chicken, ribeye, and crispy fish.  We’ve tried many of these before, but we’ve never considered the other options.  Tonight we challenged ourselves not to get our favorites, but something totally opposite from what’s expected from this restaurant.

jumbo hot dog

jumbo hot dog

As we did not get any corn dogs or hot dogs at the Citrus Fair, Zach tried Fuddruckers’ tonight, adding chili and cheese.  He also poured over it their famous cheese sauce with jalapeños.  The bread is made fresh daily and barely fits the 1/4 lb. hot dog with liberal amounts of chili and cheese.  The condiment bar has regular cheese sauce along with the jalapeño cheese sauce and a number of other items, so you could dress this up Chicago-style if you wanted.

napa valley salad

napa valley salad

August was bummed that she couldn’t finish her meal, it was that big and good.  The Napa Valley salad comes with romaine lettuce, blue cheese crumbles, apples, dried cranberries, almonds, and an Italian vinaigrette (unless you request a different dressing).  You also get your choice of grilled or crispy chicken; she went for grilled.  The apples were crispy, the blue cheese crumbles huge and plentiful, the chicken moist, and the piece of bread fresh and flat-top grilled for a crispier crust.  This was definitely a refreshing dinner to be had at a burger place.

frings

frings

We didn’t eat many of these at all since Zach’s dog and August’s salad were so big, but we wanted to give you an idea of the sides.  Frings, aka a basket of french fries and onion rings, could easily feed three to four people to go with their entrees.

over 100 different beverages

over 100 different beverages

For the soda junkies, check out the Coca Cola Freestyle!  If you haven’t seen one of these before, you’ll be impressed with how many different ways you can mix up your soda.

With locations in all but 16 states, and even a few in Canada, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, Fuddruckers is a growing corporate chain, popular for its variety of meat for burgers and sandwiches.  The location in Concord is franchise, not corporate, so they have a few differences from the standard menu.  The owner of the Concord Fuddruckers also runs four other locations in the Bay Area – Emeryville, Dublin, Union City, and Walnut Creek – so you can expect to find the same quality there that we found in Concord.  Terence, the manager here, was attentive, knowledgeable, and amiable in answering our questions.  Great job, Concord team!

Antipasto Español

antipasto espanol 001

Our first finger food items for Superbowl were assorted Spanish and Spanish-inspired products.  As today’s theme in our house was truffles, the highlight of this selection was the truffle honey (center, next to what’s left of the giant truffle flown in from Italy).  The Blarney Castle cheese, while not Spanish, went well with all the elements.  Cantaloup with jamón and chorizo was new for Zach, and he liked it.  He especially liked the sweet olive oil tortas (left) with sugar and anise.  Olives are a must when it comes to building a Spanish platter, and the lightly salted almonds go great with any beer.  The mini olive oil bread sticks (right) were light, simple, and a delight when dipped in the honey.  We can’t quite call this a recipe since we didn’t make anything, and this isn’t entirely a product review; either way, hopefully it will inspire you to try something similar.