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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Because the best things in life are always bittersweet


A sweet childhood memory tinged with a pang of regret. A bygone love affair that still fills you with tiny butterflies. Even the happiest of times are haunted with a specter of melancholy, knowing that those too shall pass. The best things in life are always bittersweet.

Ifflogo300_2When Hillel of Tasting Menu asked me to be a juror for the first annual Independent Food Festival and Awards, the first thing that crossed my mind was how could I ever choose just one? The world has so many flavors, so much deliciousness to savor. I thought of many things: great dishes, amazing meals, fantastic wines, so many beautiful memories to visit. Each one was happiness, yet made bittersweet for it was now in the past.

So it is indeed fitting that my award, Best Bittersweet Bite for Your Bittersweet Life, goes to June Taylor’s fantastic Candied Seville Peel in Rose Geranium Syrup. Because the best things in life are always bittersweet, why shouldn’t the best thing you eat?

CandiedsevillecloseupThis little jar of deliciousness is filled to the brim with neat layers of hand-cut Seville orange peel, suspended in a fragrant syrup infused with Rose Geranium. Each piece of Seville peel is hand-cut into a near perfect triangle. The outer skin retains the gorgeously dark orange color and toothsome texture, while the white, bitter pith miraculously transforms into translucent, sweet softness, while reserving just enough bitterness to keep things interesting. The perfumed syrup has a slight tongue-tingly effect from Rose Geranium, adding yet more complexity to this glorious simplicity.

Pims_breakfast_1 A spoonful of this on top of yogurt is my favorite way to begin a day. But there are plenty other ways to use this wonderful product. For a classic pairing of chocolate and orange, I use this Candied Seville Peel on a fluffy chocolate soufflé, a dense chocolate cake, or a bitter tarte au chocolat. I also serve this atop a bowl of Fromage Blanc to make a simple and fast dessert. For a more unexpected taste, serve it as a condiment with duck foie gras.

June Taylor, our local Preserve Fairy, makes her famous preserves, marmalades, syrups and other fruit specialties all by hand. I always stop by her stall on the Saturday morning’s farmers market at the Ferry Building for a taste of something delicious, to re-supply my ever-dwindling stock of jams, or sometimes just for a pleasant chat.

CandiedpeelcloseupTo hear June talk about her preserves is to see passion at work. She talks of finding the best tasting fruits at the height of their season and preserving the simple flavor of each one in her conserves. She uses no additives or pectin, and very small amount of sugar, to allow the truest expression of each fruit to shine.

She makes everything in small batches to ensure the best taste and quality. Because she uses no pectin, it is necessary to cook the fruits way down to the right consistency, so all her preserves are extremely concentrated. She once told me that there was a whole pound of berries in each jar or her conserve.

Her products are not inexpensive, a 8 oz jar of fruit conserve is $10, and the jar of my favorite Candied Seville Peel is $25. But considering how much work and love goes into each one, it is downright cheap.

Give it a try, I promise it will be the most delicious bittersweet memory to add to your growing collection.


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