Autumn begins this Saturday, September 22 and we are looking forward to the parade of new ingredients coming forth.
The Monterey Bay is one of the deepest canyons on the planet and the abundance and diversity of marine life here is a national treasure. Spot prawns or spot shrimp as they’re sometimes called, occur on the West Coast from Alaska to Santa Barbara. They were not thought to exist in the Monterey Bay until they were ‘discovered’ here in 1979. Spot prawns are pinkish-orange with white markings and they grow to quite a good size, sometimes numbering less than 10 per pound. They are caught in traps set against the canyon walls at depths ranging from 800 to 1,000 feet. The season runs from September to May when the water is coldest.
Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of Dungeness crab season in the Monterey Bay, and we always anticipate its arrival, just in time for the holidays. There are many varieties of crab in the United States, each fiercely defended as “the best” by its regional devotees. Cal is partial to Dungeness because it’s local, meaning that it comes to the kitchen door fresh from the sea. The cold water of the Monterey Bay makes for sweet, succulent crabmeat and the crabs are good size, ranging from 1 to 3 pounds.
California persimmons – pictured above – (Fuyu and Hachiya varieties) are an autumn fruit, available October through December. Not only practical in their abundant yield, they are beautiful ornamental trees that grace many homes and hillsides in Carmel Valley. When the leaves drop in October, the vivid orange fruit stands out against stark, bare limbs, striking a festive, seasonal note.
We are also fortunate to receive a variety of heirloom apples beginning in October. These are not the shiny, perfectly round apples you see in grocery store. From the brilliant red interior of the Christmas Red apples or the tart flavor of Crab Apples – these fruit are very unique. We will receive over 20 different varieties – each with their own complex flavor and texture.
The bright notes of citrus are perfect to compliment and showcase central ingredients. Cal likes them all; cara cara oranges, Satsuma mandarins, kumquats and his favorite – yuzu. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit valued for its juice and rind. Ranging in color from dark green to bright yellow, depending on its ripeness, the fruit is the size of a tangerine. The rind is rough and bumpy, but extremely fragrant. The flavor of the juice is tart – stronger than lemon – with undernotes of lime, tangerine and pine. Yuzus are in season November through May, mainly in Asian and specialty markets. Chef Cal is fortunate to have a yuzu tree in his backyard so he uses the fresh fruits as much as possible.