The Scent of a Clove

As I was peeling three cloves of fresh garlic harvested from our garden to make a batch of hummus, it occurred to me that it must soon by time for the Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California.

I remember the first time we drove in to the town of Gilroy. Even before we saw the signs for the highway exit, we smelled the sweet scent of fresh garlic in the air. It was really rather pleasant. Pleasant enough that we followed our noses to find out where it was coming from and came upon a food processing operation called Gilroy Foods.

Gilroy is known as the “Garlic Capital of the World” because that company processes more garlic at that location than any other place in the world. Much of that garlic is grown in the fields in and surrounding Gilroy. Between the factory and the fields, there is plenty garlic aroma to go around at harvest time which is right about now – late July. And when there is a garlic harvest going on, it is also time for the garlic festival. A quick check on-line revealed that this year’s fest is next weekend – July 28, 29 and 30, 2017.

Previous years, I have had the pleasure of trying garlic ice cream, garlic chocolate, shrimp scampi, garlic fries, and a host of other garlic-infused edibles. And the fun doesn’t stop with just food and drink. They also have the selection of Miss Gilroy Garlic, cooking contests, music, games and arts and crafts. I remember being enamored one year with a tie-dye t-shirt that had little garlic cloves creatively dyed into the pattern. Not sure how they tied that one to achieve it but it sure was well done!

All this talk of garlic and garlic festivals is calling me. If it is calling you too, get your tickets. Maybe I’ll see you next weekend at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. All proceeds go to charity so it’s a great way to eat, drink and be merry all in support of a good cause.

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America’s Second Most Popular Hot Dog Topping

I read a factoid in a magazine that American’s consume 1.5 pounds of sauerkraut  per person per year. I found this a little hard to believe until I read that it is the second most popular hot dog topping behind mustard. The popularity of this cruciferous vegetable isn’t because it is a fat-free food that is low in calories and packed with nutrients and fiber, but rather because it adds a bit of zing to a wurst, a Reuben or some other specialty from the deli.

I admit I am a fan of kraut on my dog but I also like it cooked into a variety of dishes.  One of our favorites is a Bavarian Sausage and Kraut Supper that I have adjusted to our tastes based on a recipe originally published in Cooking Light magazine. If you are interested, my take on the recipe is below.


Bavarian Sausage and Kraut Dinner

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 4       cups uncooked egg noodles
  • 1       tablespoon olive oil
  • 1       cup onion — sliced
  • 1       teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2       cups tart apples — peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups sauerkraut
  • 12      ounces chicken-and-apple sausage
  • 1/2    cup chicken broth
  • 1/4    cup sherry


  1. Cook egg noodles to package directions, omitting the salt and fat; drain and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion and caraway seeds; cook until lightly browned.
  3. Add tart apples, sauerkraut and chicken-and-apple sausage. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in chicken broth and sherry. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to simmer until apples have softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Serve over noodles.

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An Oasis for Folks and Fowl

Think of the word ‘oasis’ and it likely congers up images of small lakes amid vast hot and dry deserts – places where man and beast congregate around a source of fresh water in order to survive. There are many such places in the world  – the Nile River Delta in the Sahara, Al Hasa in Saudi Arabia, Lake Manyara in Tanzania, just to name a few. There are even some natural oases remaining in the US in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts in the southwestern States, but most natural American oases have long since been commercialized – picture Las Vegas, Nevada or Palm Springs, California. In these towns, they have long since crossed the point at which they went from water supplier to water guzzler.

Recently, though, while driving south towards San Francisco and Sacramento on interstate 5, it occurred to me that much of California’s central valley was once and still is a bit of an oasis. Prior to the Gold Rush of 1849, this area was comprised of over 4 million acres of wetlands that supported over 20 million water fowl. Today less than 5% of those natural wetlands remain but, rather than being pillaged for strip malls, casinos and golf courses, a lot of that land is now rice-farmed.

A Growing Rice 'Wetland' in the Sacramento Valley

A Growing Rice ‘Wetland’ in the Sacramento Valley

The annual process for a rice farm is to create fields enclosed by small mounds of dirt, flood the fields to a depth of five inches, plant the seed, grow the rice, drain the field, harvest the grain, mill the rice and repeat. In essence, it creates and harvests a managed wetland. The whole process makes highly efficient use of the available water supply to feed mankind and, in the process, creates habitat and a food supply for all those water birds that use the Pacific flyway year after year.

Two quick statistics speak volumes about just how much of an oasis these rice-planted wetlands create in the area of the central valley about 60 miles north of San Francisco and Sacramento:

  • For the benefit of North Americans, this area supplies virtually every grain of sushi rice consumed in the United States each year and is second only to Arkansas in overall US rice production.
  • For the benefit of North America’s waterfowl, this area supports the highest concentration of water birds on earth with up to 10 million birds using the region each year.

It seems a win-win for everyone.

As a passer through the valley on the interstate, all that rice and all those birds do not a meal make so we found ourselves in need of an oasis of a different sort – one that served lunch and a cold beverage! To be honest, unless you want franchised fast food, there isn’t much…until you come to the exit for Williams, California. Now, I’m not saying Williams itself is any great oasis. It’s not! It is an agricultural community of roughly 5000 people who describes itself on its own website as a gateway to other places. But, in downtown Williams, if you go to the 400 block of 6th Street, there are a collection of structures on two sides of the street that are well worth the stop.

Granzella’s has been a Williams establishment since 1976 and is an amazing oasis of all things Italian and more. They have a shop, a restaurant, a delicatessen, a sports bar, a pizza parlor, an ice cream parlor, a bakery, a banquet hall, a catering service and even a 42-room motel! You can taste samples of the many varieties of jams, olives, marinated garlic and other specialties they make or pack locally.

We picked up a muffuletta sandwich made before our eyes with imported Italian meats and cheeses and homemade muffuletta topping. After heading down the highway to a community park for an impromptu picnic of sorts, we bit into that sandwich. I wish I had taken a photo but, believe me, it was gone before  you could say muffuletta. It was fantastic!

And the muffuletta topping….well, suffice it to say, we are now looking for an excuse to head north to the rice-farmed oasis they call the Sacramento valley so we can stop in the local oasis they call Granzella’s where we can get our own one-gallon jar (or two)!

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