Sonoma County Springtime Spiel

Waking up to the bounty of Sonoma County in springtime

The Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians:

…the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Now, before anybody loses their composure, this post will not be a religious rant; indeed, Biblically-ignorant, non-practicing Jew that I am, I actually had to look that line up. But this is Sonoma County in the springtime, and it’s hard not to catch at least a whiff of resurrection in the air: the gaudy eruption of roses and wanton exhibitionism of irises, enough to make Georgia O’Keefe blush; the verdant green of Japanese maples, sycamores, and figs, hastily unfurling their leaves like hungry children climbing out of bed on Saturday morning; and always and everywhere, the impatient ascent of the grape, as desperate for the sun as any Icarus before its flight.

In our house, springtime also remains inextricably linked to the resurrection of our favorite farm stands, because the farmer’s market here in Healdsburg welcomes back our farmer-friends from their wintry slumber each May, and our kitchen counters spend the proximal months covered in green garlic, purple onions, sugar snap peas, and baby lettuces. Young lamb, from ranchers like Gleason Farms and the Owen Family Farm, too, is arguably at its finest this time of year; and – a personal favorite and annual rite of culinary passage for my wife and kids – river salmon season is now officially open, from the Copper River up in Alaska, down to the Columbia in Oregon.

If I didn’t already spend so much time making fun of my glassy-eyed, new-age, over-Yoga’d friends and family, I’d have to wax all mystical about Mother Nature’s proclivity for producing seasonal foods in such a way as to most flatter those of us who love to eat: Why is it that green garlic pairs so nicely with snap peas and wild salmon? Why does young rosemary mate so effortlessly with new potatoes and spring lamb? Like the wine geeks are fond of saying, if it grows together, it goes together, right?

I’ve got all sorts of things I want to cook, from Daniel Patterson’s gorgeous green garlic vinaigrette, to wild river salmon poached in Dry Creek olive oil, to simple salads of baby greens with Point Reyes bleu cheese dressing, to the panna cotta of fresh goat’s milk from Wyeth Acres… so please, check back in over the next few weeks, and by all means, let me know what you’re doing with our early season bounty…