Last weekend my brother, Ric, and I set out for a long overdue trip up north to visit friends and family- and hopefully a winery or two while we were at it.
I'd intended to catch up with my friend Betty, who along with a partner, bought a farm in Suisun Vally in Solano County (just east of Napa) this past spring. I had a romantic notion of tagging along side her and documenting her progress from attorney to successful farmer. Check back with me in the summer, she told me in the spring. In the summer she said, there's not much here yet- just empty fields and a big hole in the ground where we're digging an irrigation ditch. Okay, I told her-maybe by the fall... In September she called to say, they had a new rescue dog who wasn't very friendly to visitors, and besides, there were problems with their septic system. Okay... Ric and I decided to visit anyway, but checked into the local (dog friendly, since my pooch, Rapunzel, was along for the ride) Motel 6-Fairfield/Napa- which btw, was the nicest Motel 6 I've ever stayed in.
Betty and her husband, Donny, are among the busiest people I know, so Betty sent a copy of their weekend schedule ahead of time. "We can see you Saturday for lunch", she said, and spend the afternoon until about 4:30 or so. She suggested a few wonderful places she would take us after lunch, and also a place we might check out-Erickson Ranch- Saturday morning until they could meet us at the motel. Ric and I called my cousin, Mel, who lives nearby (she had no idea it was there), and planned to meet her there.
"It's just a couple of miles away," Betty told us- a couple of miles and light years.
The motel is located right off Highway 80 in a kind of travel park, but just a short distance inland, we turned onto a shaded, curvy road leading to a ranch that transported us back in time.
This little cut out woody greeted us at the road leading into the ranch. Keep driving- you're at the right place!
A little further down the road, a fragrant patch of lavender greeted us, just before we hit a little field of dahlias, and the cottage home. And then it was a couple of wandering chickens pecking around the bales of hay before we reached the farm stand on the property.
The farm stand was filled with cute touches, like a cotton boll wreath and the collection of metal pitchers, pots and pans and work hats lining the wall. And, of course, there was a great selection of farm fresh produce, including chiles which you could roast right there.
Walking a bit further along we discovered their Adopt a Pumpkin patch, persimmon and pomegranate trees, and the requisite farm pooches-I counted 3.
I picked up some delicious Honey Crisp apples (one of several varieites grown there) and heirlooms tomatoes (I cut the tomatoes into wedges and ate them with my best Blue Cheese Dressing when I got back home) to take with me. Betty told me later Erickson's was really most well known for their peaches, but, alas, I was still finishing up the peach dishes from my Masumoto Farm trip stash a month earlier. Enjoy the pics, and be sure to scroll to the next page for my very best Blue Cheese Dressing recipe.
The Best Blue Cheese Dressing
This recipe was copied from the pages of Gourmet magazine many years ago and has become a definite favorite in my circles.
Great story about blue cheese dressing- I have a client who grew up in Riverside County. Her family, from Mississippi, has humble origins. She told me that when she was about 10 or 11 years old, she decided to learn to like blue cheese dressing rather than the French and Russian everyone around her was eating, as she perceived that the circles she aspired to was a blue cheese dressing eating circle. Today she lives on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, travels the world and hires me to cater a couple of fabulous parties every year.
- 3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/3 teaspoon onion salt
- 1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- A few drops of Tabasco
- 1/2 sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups mayonnise
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 pound blue cheese *
- Whisk together in a large bowl the garlic, mustard, peppers and onion salt.
- Whisk in the vinegar, Worcestershire and tabasco.
- Whisk in th sour cream, mayonnaise and buttermilk.
- Fold in the blue cheese.
It's best chilled overnight, but I have eaten it immediately, and it's still good. It keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Yield: @ 3cups
*You want to use a blue cheese that will melt into the rich creaminess of the mayonnaise, sour cream and buttermilk as it hits your mouth, but also with enough slightly pungent, mildly moldy character to stand up to all those rich ingredients and contrast with the sweet tomatoes. I like the artisanal Point Reyes Blue or Maytag Blue cheeses.