Tip One: Gifts from California
I was recently asked if I had any ideas for made-in-California gifts for food lovers. My response was easy: Meyer lemon olive oil from O Olive Oil. You can find it in some specialty grocery stores, but I usually order online and have the company ship it out. The Petaluma-based company makes other flavored oils (blood orange, Tahitian lime, ruby grapefruit, clementine and jalepeño-lime) and vinegars (citrus Champagne is delicious!) and they put together nice-looking gifts. When I send off a package, I feel like I’m sending a good dose of California sunshine.
Another great gift idea is a bottle (or a case!?) of wine from Moraga Vineyards, the only winery in Bel Air, California. It’s not just a novelty; the wine is fabulous. (It was–and may still be–on the list at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée in Paris.)
A friend recently invited me to the winery’s annual wine-tasting party and I was amazed not just by what I sampled but also by what I saw. I’d long been intrigued by the vineyards I’d spied on the hills across the 405 freeway while riding the Getty tram up to the museum but I was completely in awe when I stepped foot at the base of the property. The 16 acres seem to roll on forever.
We strolled around the grape vines, peered into the deluxe chicken coop and chatted with the other lucky people who were there. We tasted all the wines (the dessert wine was spectacular!) and nibbled on cheese and crackers. The owners, Tom and Ruth Jones, were there greeting guests and encouraged everyone to enjoy their personal garden, which encircles their home on the property and was designed by Nancy Goslee Power. It is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen–and reason enough to wrangle an invitation to the party. My pictures of the place (taken with my phone) are awful, but Nancy’s website has a couple of shots.
And this brings us to part two (a little bonus) of our first tip of the day:
If you want to join the party, taste the latest vintages and see that amazing garden, buy a case of Moraga wine (for yourself as well as for gifts for out-of-town friends) and you, too, will be invited to their annual party! It’s expensive, hard to find and sells out quickly, but it’s delicious and a walk through that garden is worth it. Wally’s carries it and you can also order some, or get on the wait list, from the Moraga website.
If you like foie gras and live in California, eat some now. Starting July 1st, it will be banned. It will be illegal to produce or sell it, but not to eat it, so you can stock up on a few tins.
I’m looking at this whole situation (which, believe me, it is) in a rosy light: It will make trips to France even more special!