by Betty Hallock – LA Times – Restaurant Journal July 2, 2008
IT’S A pastry chef’s version of a plan to outwit the biological — well, seasonal — ticking clock: peach babies that are yours when you adopt a tree.
And not just any peach babies, but Elberta peach babies from David Mas Masumoto’s farm southeast of Fresno. Masumoto’s Sun Crests are hailed the culinary world over, but the yellow-gold Elbertas are a pastry chef’s dream — they’re great for baking. “They retain their color and texture,” Masumoto says. “As one friend told me, the magic is to add heat.”
Elbertas are an old-fashioned variety (popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries), too delicate to travel to a regular marketplace, so Masumoto accepts applications from prospective “parents” to adopt about 50 trees. They’re invited to the farm to harvest the peaches over two weekends. (Each tree yields 400 to 500 pounds of peaches, or 600 to 1,000 pieces of fruit.)
Expectant mom (peach-wise) Catherine Schimenti, pastry chef at Craft in Century City, already is fantasizing about tarts, cakes, muffins. . . . “Basically, anything I make, I will make with peaches — gelato, sorbet, jams, macarons, pâte de fruit, chocolates.”
She and Craft chef de cuisine Matt Accarrino already have planned an Elberta peach tasting menu, including: foie gras with confit peach, wildflower honey and ginger; peach-glazed Heritage pork, roasted peach, Madeira and summer truffles; peach consommé with peach sorbet, strawberries and mint; and peach Tatin with basil sorbet.
Adoptive parents get “field notes” throughout the season. Early updates answered frequently asked questions, such as about birth size (“peaches can be from 2 inches diameter to huge ones about 4 inches or larger!”); “In April your Elberta babies burst into their environment as bright green fuzzy balls,” another update said.
“They’re all growing well and gaining in weight,” Masumoto writes in the latest field notes. “I’ve farmed long enough to know your babies are doing quite well for this time of the year. They like this 100-degree weather we’re having, coupled with very pleasant evenings in the 60s. Ideal weather for farmers and Elberta babies.”
Adoptive parents include chef-owner Annie Miller of Clementine in Century City and pastry chef Zoe Nathan of Rustic Canyon restaurant in Santa Monica.
“I’m really excited to go peach picking,” Craft’s Schimenti says. “I’m from the city [New York]; the only picking of peaches I did was at the green market in Union Square.”
The hard part is the waiting — weeks more of waiting.
“The Elbertas come at the end of our peach and nectarine season,” Masumoto says. “They usually ripen the last two weeks of July or first two weeks in August. This year it looks like August. Our other varieties start in late May (we’ve already finished two peach varieties this year) with five more before Elberta.”
Still, soon-to-be-peach-parents are anxious for the harvest “delivery.” “They get frustrated,” Masumoto says, “but we don’t do caesarean sections.”