I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet

An Almost Gluten-Free Northwest Food Crawl Part One

When I headed to Portland late last summer, I wasn’t thinking about eating my way through the city. I was on my way to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my college housemate, JulieAnn and her husband, Marlo. While I wasn’t envisioning dining out, I was thinking food. One of my assignments for the party was to bake cookies. Specifically, gluten-free cookies. I’ve been baking gluten-free for years as my daughter is celiac, my grandsons are gluten-sensitive, and I’m allergic to wheat. JulieAnn also has celiac. I arrived with a few tools of the trade and ready to make five different cookie recipes for the party.

Continue Reading No Comments

Andy’s Orchard in Morgan Hill

I had the good fortune to grow up next to the Valley of the Heart’s Delight. Although the region no longer hosts endless miles of orchards — it’s now Silicon Valley — between the beginning of the 20th century and the early 1970s, Santa Clara Valley was the most beautiful and productive place on earth for cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums. Summers were warm and dry but ocean breezes kept the evenings cool and fresh, and the winters had enough chill for the trees to produce abundant, flavorful fruit from May into mid-September. Every holiday season flat, round baskets laden with dried fruits and nuts, were shipped all over the United States, most especially to families living in the snowy Midwest and Eastern United States. Luscious, sweet, dried fruits to enjoy in the dead of winter.

Continue Reading No Comments

Back From Italy: Venice and Cinque Terra

(along with recipe for Walnut Sauce for Pansoti)

As I have now lost the 2-1/2 pounds I gained eating my way through Italian pastry shops, I will say that I am still happy but not quite as plump as I was when I arrived home. That said,
I just baked a fresh peach pie for my housemate’s birthday and I’m hoping he’ll give me a piece as I wouldn’t want to wither away, especially while writing about food.

We left Cortona for Venezia by train, arriving just before noon.

Continue Reading No Comments

Home From Italy Fat and Happy: Cortona

Let’s face it:  If you’re a foodie and you go to Italy and Greece  for three weeks, you’re going to gain weight.  It’s a given.  In fact, the only thing that saved me from returning as a full-on  roly-poly, was that we walked five to nine miles a day.  How do I know this?  I wear a pedometer.

My five friends and I met up at the Rome airport, caught the shuttle to the train station and headed for Cortona, 2-1/2 hours to the north.  Cortona is an Etruscan hill town, roughly 2500 years old.  The road from the train station in Tarantola meanders up the hillside to Garibaldi Square, near the center of Cortona.  From there, the town continues its upward spiral toward the sky.  A castle and centuries-old church look down on the town, which, in turn,  looks down on beautiful, verdant Tuscany.  It’s a breath-taking view.

Continue Reading No Comments

Pop-Up Cookie Bar in NY City

This morning I wanted to write about something fun for a change, but I wasn’t coming up with anything that spoke to me.   Then I opened today’s e-mail and stumbled upon something that has my head spinning.

Dorie Greenspan and her son Joshua are doing a five-day pop-up cookie bar in New York City, from February 7th through the 11th!  If you are fortunate enough to live  in (or are visiting) Manhattan, go to Mizu Salon at 505 5th Avenue between 58th and 59th from 10:00 a.m until only cookie crumbs remain.  The cookie choices sound spectacular!

Continue Reading No Comments

Tropical Fruits? You Betcha!

This visit on beautiful Hawaii, I’ve been treated to some fruits I’ve never tried as well as others I’ve enjoyed once again. I love fruit, not only because of the sweetness, but also the explosion of juice, the mouth-feel, the textures, the sheer lusciousness they offer.

Some of the fruits I’ve eaten this trip I first had in China, but didn’t have recognizable names for them. Fruits such as longdon, a small round fruit in an unassuming thin khaki shell. Similar to the lychee, it is a delicate, translucent fruit with a single brown seed in the center. Just a taste, but sweet and refreshing.

Dragon fruit with its exotic fuchsia skin with scales and beet-red flesh was served to me the first time in China. It is currently in season in Hawaii. I wasn’t really taken by it in China so I haven’t had it here, but I was curious about its origins. It’s from a cactus, which makes perfect sense as I realize now that it tastes similar to tunas, the little fruits that grow on the flat paddles of Mexican and Central American cactus. Now that I understand it, I like it better.

Another is Lilikoi, a variety of passion fruit that is more citrusy than its sensual purple cousin. Lilikoi chiffon pie is an Island favorite, as well as lilikoi salad dressing, lilikoi curd to spread on toast or poundcake, or lilikoi cream pie. Too tart for my palate by itself, but delicious as an ingredient.

Cape Gooseberry is a little round fruit that looks almost like

Continue Reading No Comments

Better than a Lava Lamp: Kiluea Lava Flow

P1020574 Okay, I’m old enough to remember when lava lamps first came out. I never owned one but I definitely found them a source of great entertainment, especially after a drink or two.

Now I can tell you that as cool as they are, they don’t stand up to the real deal!

On the evening of October 24th I went to the village of Kalapana on the Big Island to the Kiluea lava flow. I wasn’t sure I could actually watch the pyrotechnics as I’m extremely sensitive to sulphur dioxide. Didn’t want an asthma attack to ruin an otherwise thrilling adventure.

“Not to worry,” I was told. “The steam, sulphur, ash and other gases drift north to the Kona Coast.” I certainly can attest to that as most of my stay in Kona was clouded by

Continue Reading No Comments

Afternoon Tea at Onamea Tea Plantation

Afternoon Tea on Onomea Bay

Courtesy of Sonia Martinez: www.soniatasteshawaii.com http://foodiesleuth.gather.com

On a beautiful Spring afternoon not long ago, I was invited to join friends for tea.  Now, I know that many people welcome friends to drink afternoon tea and share scrumptious food, but how many people have the pleasure of experiencing drinking tea at the source? 

My friends Rob Nunally and Mike Longo are the owners of Onomea Tea Company a boutique tea garden located on one of the most beautiful bluffs overlooking Onomea Bay near the Village of Papa’ikou on the East Coast of Hawai’i Island.

Continue Reading No Comments

Spice Farms in Kerala, India

Courtesy of Courtenay Dunk: www.spicelines.com 

For just a moment, for no reason I can decipher, I am in a place I know better than I should; I fall through the gratings of the conscious mind and into a place that observes a different kind of logic.

–Pico Iyer, Sun After Dark: Flights into the Foreign

Tall palms cloaked in heart-shaped leaves. Pepper vines dangling heavy clusters of green, unripe fruit.

Vaguely Indonesian houses, bright blue, burnt orange, pale pink stucco. Tip-tilted red tile roofs topped with bulbous finials pointing skyward.

A woman, head held high, striding along

Continue Reading No Comments

Intrepid Spice Hunter

Courtesy of Courtney Dunk: www.spicelines.com

(Courtney writes a great blog at the above address.  Check it out!)

Sometimes I tell myself if I had it to do all over again, I’d be a spice hunter. The romance, the intrigue, the snakes…

Gerard Vives wrote a long email the other day about his recent escapades in Madagascar. “My métier is sometimes dangerous,” he said. “I’ve had to face wild animals, unpleasant savages, serpents, spiders, big monkeys, etc. in the areas of production, but the one I fear the most is …man. “

Continue Reading No Comments

Female Coffee Growers in Peru

Female Coffee Growers Find New Freedoms in Peru

By Sadie Hoagland – WeNews correspondent

NUEVO YORK, Peru (WOMENSENEWS)–Her hands move methodically down the branch, raking the red coffee cherries into the basket around her neck. She moves to the next branch, demonstrating the work of harvesting coffee. Watching her dexterity and strength, one would never guess that Rosa Cantalina Sanchez is 66 years old.

Glades Valencia, 14, is doing the same thing, running her hands down the branches as if she were braiding hair.

Sanchez and Valencia represent a life’s work of coffee growing in northern Peru. Even though many of the region’s farmers have attained “Fair Trade and Organic” certification in order to grow higher premium beans, the most a coffee-farming family can hope to make is $1,200 a year, and only $400 in poorer areas.

Continue Reading No Comments

Don Fernando Patino

1908 — September 2001 — National Treasure of Mexico

When I first met Don Fernando in October of 1994, I was already in possession of a small crucifix made by his niece, Rocio, a gift from a visit to their home in 1992 while passing through Papantla. Don Fernando was away for the day so I was charmed by the family’s stories of their life in Papantla, of their cat that played the guitar, but mostly, about Don Fernando. His presence was everywhere — the tools of his trade, displays of his remarkable craft, photos and awards displayed on walls or placed in books and brought out for the American guest.

When I returned in 1994, I was greeted as a friend and immediately introduced to Don Fernando, the family patriarch. Fernando was a small, unassuming man with a passion for his work. In most respects quiet and retiring, he would come alive as a magnificent storyteller at his work-bench as his still nimble fingers twisted, bent, shaped, and tied supple vanilla beans into works of art.

Continue Reading No Comments

Enchanting Tahiti

As I stepped off the plane into Faaa airport on Tahiti, I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. No! I really am in Tahiti! I repeated this simple ritual at least once each day. Even after a particularly uncomfortable night in a pension in Bora Bora, I opened the plywood door to a turquoise bay and lush, tropical gardens, and the aches and pains of the terrible bed faded away. After dreaming of Tahiti ever since I saw “South Pacific” as a child, it was difficult to believe that it was truly a dream come true.

The water really is turquoise, and it’s the same temperature as the air. Filled with every imaginable tropical fish and coral, it’s like being part of an enormous aquarium — with the sharks outside the reefs! The beaches are clean and sandy. People paddle through lagoons and bays in kayaks. Trade winds rustle through palms. Everyone wears flowers in their hair. When you arrive, you will be given a flower to wear too.

The geography of the Society Islands is spectacular. Remnants of volcanoes covered with brilliant green foliage rise dramatically to jagged, angular peaks. Deep bays ringed with coral reefs provide anchorage for everything from enormous cruise ships, inter-island ferries and cargo steamers, to schooners, sail boats and tiny kayaks. Tiare, plumeria, hibiscus, and much more bloom year ‘round. Everyone is warm and friendly, and why not? They live in Paradise. For me, the bonus was the food. As Tahiti is French, there are freshly baked baguettes and croissants for breakfast, incredible French pates, cheeses and pastries, apples and other produce from New Zealand, fish fresh from the water, and lots of tropical fruits. Heaven!

I was in Tahiti for my ongoing research on vanilla’s journey around the world. I also collected stories, interviews, recipes and photos of vanilla in the islands to share with you. I hope my offering will pique your interest and perhaps you too will find your way to the South Pacific. It’s worth saving for as it’s an adventure you’ll never forget. While my focus is on the vanilla, I’ve given you a few tidbits about travel and activities in the Islands to get you in the mood for daydreaming.

Continue Reading No Comments

Vanilla in Tahiti

There are several styles of vanilla growing in Tahiti. There are traditional family plantations of several hectares or less, where the entire family cares for the vanilla, from planting vines, to pollinating orchids, harvesting and drying the beans, and boxing them for sale. Other traditional farmers simply grow the vanilla, then sell their harvested green beans to specialists who dry and sell beans. The newer shade-house plantations are compact, time-saving ventures where fewer workers are required to manage the entire production cycle. And finally, you’ll frequently see vanilla vines in family gardens where they’re planted as decoration and as a kitchen crop.

Vanilla growers include native Tahitian families, the Chinese who came to the Islands in the early 20th century, and the French who, because Tahiti is a French colony, have dual citizenship. The following three profiles offer a glimpse of the people who make up the industry in Tahiti. All three people are passionate about their work and are actively working to preserve the tradition of vanilla in their beloved islands.

Continue Reading 4 Comments

Why do our customers love Rain's Choice vanilla?

  • 99% of all vanilla products are imitation. Ours are 100% PURE!
  • We carefully choose all products to assure best QUALITY & FLAVOR!
  • Our farmers are paid a FAIR PRICE.
  • Our vanilla beans are SUSTAINABLY grown.
  • Everything we sell is grown WITHOUT CHEMICAL pesticides or fertilizers.
  • Your purchase here supports our HUMANITARIAN efforts.

Thank you for supporting The Vanilla Company and our farmers! BUY HERE now.

For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see "Why is Vanilla so Expensive?"

Newsletter Signup

Join our community, get news on issues of concern about our planet and its inhabitants, recipes and deals. Over 5,000 subscribers!

The Vanilla Company