My tomato pal Richard Ha of Hawaii, owner of Hamakua Springs purveyor to the finest chefs in Hawaii writes:
Here it is, Tomato Fest time again in Carmel.
We stayed in Monterey. That’s where, as a second lieutenant stationed at Ft. Ord, I spent some time bottom-fishing with fellow rookie officers for ling cod and yellow tail from charters on the Fisherman’s Wharf.
This is our second time at the Tomato Fest, and we’re veterans now. Take Highway One south from Monterey. Turn into Carmel Valley Road and turn right past the Quail Lodge, down to the golf course to park. We catch the shuttle and we’re there in a few minutes.
We go to the special section where we get a head start on tasting more than 200 varieties of tomatoes. This time we recognize a lot of the varieties. And we do find some very special ones. One grape variety, in particular, we found because a little girl maybe eight years old kept coming back to eat more of them. I counted nine tomatoes that she ate. So we made sure to find out why. Sure enough, it was spectacularly good tasting. We’re going to grow that variety for sure.
We walk over to chat with Dagma and Gary Ibsen, founders of the Tomato Fest. I introduce myself and Dagma says, Of course I remember you, Richard and June. Thanks for coming all the way over from Hawai‘i. We tell them to please come to visit us when they are on the Big Island. Very nice folks.
We walk past a television crew filming and a lady comes over and says, You’re Richard and June, I recognize you from your blog. You must be Mary-Anne, I say. Back home Sonia Martinez had introduced us (online) to her friend Mary-Anne Durkee who was going to film the event for iFood TV online.
She says, Let me interview you. Tell me a bit of your history, what you do, what products you grow, the chefs you work with. O.K. ready? You’re on!
Mary-Anne Durkee, left, and June
One take and it’s over and then she has to rush over to interview a famous chef before the music started. Boy, she is efficient, I think to myself. Very impressive. Maybe we’ll be on TV. Sonia says she’ll let us know if and when it airs.
$12 for a huge basket for assorted tomatoes
We head for the chefs’ tent and try the different sample dishes. And again, we are amazed with the imagination the chefs exhibit. We try a micro-sample. Instead of a cracker, the chef cuts out tiny rounds from a flat sheet that looks like a crepe. On top of that he places goat cheese and places the tiniest tomato with a leaf of basil. Something about this tiny taste made it stand out. And there are various shooters, tomato soups, won ton for crackers and all kinds of tomato with cheese and basil or other herbs. All very beautiful to look at, and very tasty.
Toward the end of the event, June finds herself holding a Bloody Mary and sampling a tomato sorbet while the band plays the song Johnny B. Goode.
Lots of fun and very contagious. Last year we decided this is an annual trek for us. It was a good decision.