Who: VN Editorial Assistant Brooke Still
What: Fairfield Tomato Festival
Where: Fairfield, Calif.
When: August 14-15, 2010
Why: You say tomato, I say tomato, let's drive an hour for a fair.
The Scoop: My family lives in Traverse City, Mich., otherwise known as the (self-proclaimed) cherry capital of the world. And for the past 84 years, the cherry on top of each summer has been the town's National Cherry Festival—a week-long celebration of all things cherry: cherry pie, cherry candy, cherry ice cream, cherry queens, you name it. What I'm trying to say is that I know how to enjoy a good produce festival. So when my roommate asked me last week if I'd be interested in driving an hour inland to the Fairfield Tomato Festival, my immediate answer was, "yes."
Due to prior obligations of going to the oh-so-awesome Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Veronika (roommate) and I couldn't head out to Fairfield until Sunday, though the 19th Annual Fairfield Tomato Festival had been kicking the whole weekend. As we drove through the golden hills of California, I finally began to feel that West Coast sunshine I'd been hearing so much about, and also I felt a little closer to Northern Michigan summers. When we arrived, we were greeted by a blocked-from-traffic Tomato Alley, making way for rows and rows of arts and crafts. This would be perfect for someone in search of an artisan touch for their home, but Veronika and I were on a mission: We needed to find those tomatoes.
Sunny Tomato Alley, Fairfield, Calif.
Since we arrived later in the day on Sunday, we had already missed the tomato-eating festival. But that didn't mean there weren't still plenty of tomatoes for us to taste test. More than 40 varieties of heirlooms in fact, which was actually a smaller showing than last year, when because of warmer weather, there were more than 150 varieties. We were still satisfied with the offerings, and maybe because it was the last day or maybe because we the volunteers were feeling especially generous, we were offered a number of free tomatoes. Cucumber, tomato, and black bean sandwiches, watch out.
Beautiful, ripe tomatoes at the Farmer's Market.
We also got a chance to meet Arthur Allen, author of Ripe: The Search for the Perfect Tomato, a book that took him years of research and travel to learn all about the little red fruit. And Veronika and I were enjoying the farmers' market feel so much, we signed up to take the market home with us. Capay Organics Farm offered us a trial of their at-home farm fresh delivery service. So in a few weeks, Veronika and I can look forward to receiving a box full of in-season, organic, freshly picked fruits and vegetables. My answer is, again, yes.
While the Fairfield Tomato Festival was no National Cherry Festival (There was, in fact, no tomato queen), we still had a wonderful, warm Sunday afternoon enjoying fresh produce. I think it's safe to say we'll be back next year.
Me, holding our loot from the tomato tasting.