Almonds and Dates: An Exotic Relationship

They sit side by side at the Adams Ave. farmers market, occasionally sharing an intimate moment on a plate. In one stall is row upon row of fresh almonds sold by Hopkins Ag, a 100-year-old San Joaquin farming operation with over 2,000 acres of almond trees. They bring down everything from "in shell" raw (and nonpasteurized) almonds and dry roasted almonds to chipotle spicy roasted and honey cinnamon roasted almonds – along with raw and roasted almond butter. These almonds pop with flavor. But, what you have to do is pair those honey cinnamon almonds with the girl next door, Morocco Gold Dates’ medjool dates. Together they create a sexy blend of sweet and spice, chewiness and crunch. Both vendors sell at many of San Diego’s farmers markets.

Caxao Chocolates

Good-For-You Gourmet, Caxao Chocolates, Almonds and Dates

As we enter the holiday season, it’s worth scouting the farmers markets for gift possibilities. More on that in our December issue, but

Caxao

Chocolates is a discovery that makes every day a holiday. Beatriz Ledezma trained as a chocolatier first at Grossmont College and then in Paris. She’s spent time in other U.S. cities learning her craft but has returned home with artisanal skills that coax out flavors and textures from fresh ingredients to create stunning confections. One of her new truffles—chocolate with liquid caramel, cardamon, and vanilla bean—made me gasp with pleasure, as did her tangerine, anise, ginger, and caramelized sesame truffle.

You can find her truffles, bars, and caramels at the

Little Italy Mercato

, La Jolla Open Aire Market, and wine bars including Splash, Bacchus Wine Market, and Rose Wine Bar. And, if you’ve ever wondered how to pair chocolate with tea,

Halcyon Tea

is holding a pairing event with Caxao at the South Park tea shop on Oct. 23 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Ledezma is making six truffles to match six teas and there will be a discussion of the flavor profiles and why they work together. Cost is $25. RSVP at 619-450-4224.

Good for You Gourmet: Fiber with Flavor

Got a yearning for black beluga lentils, farro, Inca red quinoa, Anasazi beans, or bamboo rice? Valley Center’s Sandy Brown, the owner of Good For You Gourmet, has these and dozens of other hard-to-find legumes, rice, grains, pastas, spices, and other specialty foods. Pick up a pound package of delicious kamut, an Egyptian wheat grain similar to wheat berries for a hearty fall salad. Try the petite fregola sarda, a breadcrumb-like Sardinian toasted pasta that’s rich in fiber and flavor. And, if you’re too busy to gather together all the makings of a hearty soup, Brown has dry mixes already put together for Santa Fe Three Bean, Malabar Coast Curried Lentil, Red Beans and Rice, and more. You can find her stall at the Vista, Hillcrest, and Leucadia markets—the latter two every other week.

 

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