Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Friend in Cheese Is a Friend Indeed

This is my husband's rockin' childhood friend, Tabitha.

She is a master chef. Chef friends are the best 'cause they have impeccable taste in food and they know how to cook it. I get all my best kitchen tips from them.

Tabitha runs a jam company, Friend in Cheeses. She also makes cheese. Her business tag line reads "Dare to pair 'cause it pays to play." Hell yeah, it does, baby! With ambrosial flavors like Forbidden Fruit Marmalade, Lavender Plum Jelly, and Patzo (a strawberry, balsamic, and black pepper preserve given the Italian name (pazzo) for "insane"), a heaping spoonful of any of her creations on top of a chevre smothered cracker is divine, indeed.

Deep in the heart of the Santa Cruz mountains, Tabitha lives on a small vineyard

where she raises veggies and a flock of hens with names like Aunt Sponge, Aunt Spiker, and Oprah.

The chickens live in a converted plastic playhouse.

Tabitha has loads of cool stuff laying around. I'm super jealous of this collection of pots for the succulents.

Gotta love the juxtaposition of these objets d'art.

Tabitha even has a dinner bell.

I want a dinner bell!

Last week, Tabitha invited me to go gleaning with her. That's how she gets most of the fruit for her jams. I love how her product is made from stuff that would otherwise be wasted and left to rot. What a great business plan: get free goods that no one wants and make something delish out of it. 

Well last week we hit the mother load. A friend of a friend connected Tabitha to a woman whose golden plum tree had a major freak out this season. Honestly, I don't believe I've ever seen anything like it.

The limbs of the poor plumb were cracking under the immense weight. The fruit was gorgeous,

 dripping like grapes.

Photo courtesy of Tabitha
 Pure plum porn.

Photo courtesy of Tabitha
Between the two of us, we probably harvested around 100 pounds of fruit. And that was gathering only about a quarter to a third of the pickings.

This tree was so enorm that it had 9 foot suckers growing off of a tap root. I snagged one.

Photo courtesy of Tabitha
Then there was that figuring out how to get it home thing... in a convertible. This is when I found out Tabitha is as much of a MacGyver as I am. How could she not be? She scores free fruit! Tabitha suggested wrapping my baby in saran wrap. Voila!

We were ready to roll.

Then it was off to lunch at Tabitha's friends restaurant, Smoqe BBQ. If you find yourself in the area, you gotta go, if only for the beef brisket fries: sweet potato or regular fries coated in mac and cheese sauce and topped with barbecued beef brisket. Holy crap, that shit is good. We also had oysters.

And a bubbling tray of farm cheese. So good.

Told you. Chefs know where to find the best eats.

As a side note, I'm not sure if that sucker will survive. I don't think it is a grafted tree, which means the sucker will produce like the mother (on grafted trees, suckers don't taste like the host). In fact it was already bearing fruit when I ripped it from the ground. Right now it is marinating in a bucket of water seasoned with chicken crap and rooting hormone. Keeping my fingers crossed on this one 'cause them was some tasty plums.


  1. Awesome! And I'm glad you got to try Smoqe...it's one of my favorite places!

  2. Love this post! I am a sucker for golden plums, pluots, apricots, and goat cheese!

  3. Okay, I don't live too far away so where can I get some awesome jam?? Also, does your friend offer tours? This would be worth a day trip because you just made my stomach growl!

  4. Damn you! Everything I want to eat right now you just had to post a photo of or describe! Fruit! Beef! Oysters! Cheeeeeeese!

    I have a feeling I'm going to end up in a beef coma when our three months are up.

  5. So that is where you scored your plums...looking forward to making a pig of myself on next visit.

  6. I found several golden plum trees around the corner from me yesterday and gleaned a ginormous bagful off the ground. The tree was dropping the fruit on my head as I picked them up from the ground. Now I just need recipes! Easy ones cause I don't have very much in the way of kitchen essentials and I have an untried convection oven. Though...at the rate I am eating the plums, recipes may be a moot point....

  7. I miss the days of living in the country and scouring the hillsides for wild plums and huckleberries. Thanks for bringing back those wonderful memories.

  8. Yum yum yum. Good luck on the plum; you never know - I had a friend grab a sucker off a fig. I thought for sure it was a goner. The thing was brown and dried out. But this spring: little baby fig leaves. Life wants to live, ya know?