Spark your palate this spring with Sonoma Farm

While you might be peeking your head out the door, you’re probably still cognizant of where you’re going out, when you’re going out and what for. Selection at grocery stores continues to be iffy, with some places limiting purchases. It’s hard to get excited about commodity groceries being delivered, either. I see the ennui bordering on apathy in cooking group posts online: people are tired of the same 5 recipes they know how to make, they have budget concerns, health worries, fitness anxieties.

Take comfort in knowing that all of us want to know if a certain product is “worth it”. For smart purchases, multi-tasking is the name of the game. You feel better about an investment, even a modest one, when you know you’ll be using it all the time.

That’s why I’ve always felt terrific about using and serving fine condiments from Sonoma Farm! I was happy to be hosted to experience it.

Sonoma Farm is a gourmet artisan food producer, utilizing locally farmed ingredients that are crafted into their offerings in the culinary Meccas of California and Italy. Perhaps you’ve read those news exposes about big industrial food corporations passing off other ingredients as olive oil, for example. That’s why the super cheapest is not a good buy.

Yet, Sonoma Farms is very reasonable in their pricing of high-quality condiments. When it comes to olive oil, “Extra Virgin” is but the starting point at what you should be looking for. “First Cold Press” is the indication of the freshest, fullest oil from the olive fruit that’s mechanically — not chemically — pressed. As any chef will tell, you should also be looking for harvest dates on your olive oil. Otherwise, how would you know how fresh it is? You don’t want oil that’s been sitting on some shelf for years and years.

Their 2020 Crop Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cold Press is this year’s Sonoma Farm bragging rights. They source it from a small family farm in California growing Arbequina and Arbosana olive varieties. These are olives with snap and true flavor. I experienced a deep fruit and nut nose, with a little tang. Flavor-wise, I tasted rich nuts with the snap of bitter aperitif notes. This is not some blah oil! They describe it as having a light, fruity flavor. This oil works with both savory and sweet finishing applications, such as dressings, garnishes, sauces. You’ll find that veggies, fish or chicken dishes that you may have grown weary of this year will have new, delicious life. It will even dress up canned or frozen foods in a special way.

Barrel-aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy is the gold standard. This is a crafted, rich product that bears no resemblance to sharp stuff that you use to clean your patio furniture. Sonoma Farm has a cornucopia of flavored balsamic vinegars that really make sense for your cupboard. It’s a fat-free, low carb flavor enhancer that will take your home cooking to the next level.

Coconut Balsamic Vinegar Traditional Barrel Aged uses real coconuts! I experienced a powerful buttery coconut nose. It has a sweet, tangy fruit flavor with a coconut finish. They suggest it with ceviche, Jamaican food, desserts. Here’s an affordable little dish I make when I don’t feel like doing anything, but I want something tasty: I make banana cream cheese omelettes! Saute’ your bananas in a little butter, soften your cream cheese. When you fill your omelette — and don’t overcook! — plate it, then drizzle with the coconut vinegar. That’s a luxury resort-style brunch or midnight snack for pocket change! Something nice to whip up when people are visiting you again.

Hickory Balsamic Vinegar Traditional Barrel Aged is made in Italy from the must of white Trebbiano grapes. It’s that little secret ingredient that will set your recipes apart and people just won’t be able to guess. It’s smoky like bacon, but not salty. I suggest it with braised greens, baked beans, meat glaze. Use it at as garnish with smoked cheeses: even if it’s smoked cheese from the deli counter, roll the slice up, put dabs of vinegar on the plate with a small spoon or pastry brush. That’ll make you feel pampered! They recommend it on red or white meat, game, salads, fish, ice cream, fruit salads, and fresh soft mild cheeses.

Fig Balsamic Vinegar Traditional Barrel Aged has a dark honey with baked fig skin nose. Flavor-wise, I experienced tangy, fresh fruit, rich sweetness and vanilla notes. It’s tasty with black walnuts, the ones sold in Appalachia with a meatier, more savory taste than their English counterparts. I also enjoyed using it in a salad with chamomile leaves, edible flowers and Parmesan cheese. They suggest adding depth to meat marinades, elevating elevates vanilla ice cream to gourmet status!

Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar Traditionally Barrel Aged is surprisingly versatile! It’s nose is the snappiest of dark chocolate. Flavor-wise, it’s balsamic with rich undertones, some sweetness, some snap. You don’t have to just go with dessert applications, either. I thought it was brilliant with a salad topped with a salty Alpine style cheese. You could add it to chili, mole, steak sauce, BBQ sauce, dark whiskey cocktails. As you can imagine, it’s perfect to garnish fruit salads or on rich ice cream.

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