Summer may have come late this year, but there’s proof positive that it’s finally here.
The Bay area is awash in tomato festivals, with numerous heirloom harvest celebrations taking place across the North Bay in September.
Crazy weather, yes? It’s been the coldest summer on record since 1975, and tomatoes simply didn’t get the heat they needed to ripen.
But better late than never. Here’s the delicious line-up to feed your fruit fantasies. Note: tickets are pre-sale and by reservation only, so plan and purchase ahead.
2nd Annual Tomatoville Celebration, Sept. 10 through 12 at Bardessono in Yountville. The weekend, co-hosted by Napa’s Hill Family Estate, includes a five-course winemaker dinner on Friday, a Build Your Own BLT & Tomato Tasting on Saturday, and a Bloody Mary Brunch on Sunday.
Front-and-center will be 30 varieties of heirloom tomatoes for the BLT stations stocked with artisan bacon, burrata, fresh-baked breads, garden basil and boutique sea salts. Last year, “builders” blew out the stops, fashioning creations ranging from elegant nibbles to Dagwood-style monsters.
For the brunch, Bardessono chef Sean O'Toole will serve a seasonally inspired farmers' market menu highlighted by a trio of spicy Bloody Mary recipes made with Bardessono garden-grown tomatoes.
Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival, Sept. 11 at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center in Santa Rosa. This is the granddaddy of North Bay festivals, showcasing more than 175 varieties from KJ’s own gardens, in a rainbow of colors and exotic names like Blue Fruit, Peace Vine, Ding Wall Scotty and Pink Ping Pong.
Guests can spend the entire day eating lavish tomato-centric tastes from 50 top chefs, such as last year’s offerings of almond-tomato macaroons; tomato cupcakes topped with miniature whole gold tomatoes; roast Thai tomato soup with Dungeness crab jus and spicy tomato salsa; and John Ash & Co.’s showstopper of cherry tomato and basil upside down cake slathered with Kendall Farms crème fraiche infused with preserved lemon and sprinkled in vanilla salt.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Sept. 14-20 at Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar in Sonoma. Dinner and a movie, and how. The weeklong series of dinners puts chef Janine Falvo to the test as she crafts dishes featuring the 25 tomato varieties grown in the organic garden next to the dining room. That means dishes like a PBLT sandwich of pork belly, lettuce and tomato on a brioche bun; pineapple-tomato poached halibut with grits, Yellow Taxi tomato hollandaise and lobster mushrooms; and sweet tomatoes with lemon basil ice cream.
Sommelier Christopher Sawyer will offer a tomato themed wine list (no, not wine made from tomatoes, but wines that complement tomatoes), while the bar will be pouring tomato-basil martinis and the “Best Bloody Mary Ever” based on homemade celery bitters and offered with you-mix-ins of curry spices, celery salt and paprika.
As fitting, the cult-classic “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” film will be projected continuously throughout the week in the dining room and in the bar.
Tomato Dinners, Sept. 15-18 at Oliveto, Oakland. For the past 25 years, these dinners have been held at the end of August, but after a drawn-out cold, wet spring, the meals were moved back a month.
Chef Paul Canales will highlight tomatoes from Riverdog, Dirty Girl, Catalan, Terra Firma, Full Belly, Lucero, Animalitos, Brookside, Kendall Jackson, Comanche Creek, and Hungry Hollow farms. The wide ranging menu will offer dishes like Watson Farm lamb loin salad with green tomatoes and grappa; crudo of salted Atlantic cod and local albacore with Black Cherry tomatoes, Lipstick pimentos, and almonds; veal tripe braised in tomatoes with Italian butter beans; and green tomato and Gravenstein apple pie with honeyed Crescenza cheese ice cream.
Bardessono, 6526 Yount Street, Yountville. 707-204-6030. bardessono.com.
Carneros Bistro and Wine Bar, 1325 Broadway (in the Lodge at Sonoma), Sonoma. 707-931-2042. thelodgeatsonoma.com.
Kendall-Jackson Wine Center, 5007 Fulton Road, Santa Rosa. 800-769-3649. kj.com.
Oliveto, 5655 College Avenue, Oakland. 510-547-5356. oliveto.com.
Tip: Tooling around to all the tomato events can get tiring (and there’s all that delicious wine to drink, too). Leave the driving to Pure Luxury, and make it a true harvest celebration!