Let’s go nuts

Introducing Homegrown, plus a stroll through the California Nut Festival

Welcome to Homegrown, a new column in a new section (The Goods) of this paper. I’ll be writing biweekly, sharing this space with another local writer, who happens to be a former CN&R intern. (You’ll have to tune in next week to learn more.) I’m honored to have the opportunity.

As many readers may (or may not) know, I recently returned to the News & Review after a year and a half split between France and Colorado. Those were both wonderful experiences, but something (Chico Chai? Bidwell Park? An invisible magnet?) drew me back to Chico, a place I’d called home since 2006.

Strolling the streets in our small French town (a village, really), I was regularly reminded that consumerism is very much an American concept. The people there just don’t buy all the crap we do, and it’s evident on store shelves and inside homes. It reminded me of what I loved about Chico—the appreciation of hand-made goods, of local foods, of quality over quantity.

So I’d like to dedicate this column to all things local, to crafts and foods and drinks and anything else the fine people in our community are making with their own hands. I’m confident I will never run out of things to write about, either.

To get into that homegrown spirit, I spent this past Saturday afternoon at the California Nut Festival at the Patrick Ranch in Durham. The weather was perfect, the music was lovely and as I meandered from booth to booth, I wondered just why I’d never been before.

There were plenty of tasty beverages to be sampled, but I was especially excited to try the local foods. I have to admit, I’m not much for nuts. I know, I know … sacrilege! But I was pleasantly surprised by some of my findings. (And, no, not everything at the festival was actually nut-related.) I even walked out with a few purchases.

There were two food booths that really stood out to me. The first, Chico Pops Gourmet Popcorn and Nuts, offered samples of the most delicious caramel corn I may have ever tasted. Created by Chico sisters Elisabeth Sterzer and Anna Ashley, using a family recipe, this company is primed to go viral. As Ashley explained at the festival, www.chicopops.com will go live with online ordering this week! Look out!

The second booth to catch my eye was that of NutriNut. I said before I’m not much of a nut nut. In fact, prior to Saturday, I couldn’t have told you the last time I actually ate a walnut. But I had to give these guys a chance—after all, their line of walnuts included flavors ranging from sweet to spicy. I took home a bag of sweet and smoky barbecue-flavored walnuts, and I probably should have bought two because I’m not sure they’ll last the week. And in talking with Travis Koehn, part of the family-run business out of Glenn, the flavors are so brand-spankin’ new they don’t even have the finished labels for them yet. So, keep an eye out online (www.nutrinut.us) and locally at S&S Produce and Country Morning Bakery and Café. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.