Wood-fired Margherita Pizza (Jackson's Bar and Oven)
Jackson's Bar and Oven had their wood-burning oven set up right on the patio, churning out saucy Margherita Pizzas as guests came filing in.
Gruyere & Bacon Tart with Early Girl Tomato Marmalade and Sundried Tomato (The Girl & The Fig)
I was excited to see The Girl & The Fig representing with a savory Gruyere & Bacon Tart, topped with Early Girl Tomato Marmalade and House-made Sundried Tomato.
Savory Tomato "S'Mores" (John Ash & Co. at Vintners Inn)
Veering towards the sweeter spectrum was an interesting creation by Executive Chef Thomas Schmidt of John Ash & Co. at Vintners Inn. Schmidt served up Tomato "S'Mores" made with House-made Herb Crackers, Burrata Cheese, Tomato Jam and Basil-infused Kendall Farms Crème Fraiche.
I loved the creativity here, and it was just the right warm-up as we headed next to the tomato-inspired desserts!
Sticky Fingers (Cutie Cakes Bakeshop)
There were Mini Heirloom Tomato Waffles with Whipped Tomato Butter & Heirloom Syrup from Nectar, Fiorello's Watermelon Tomato Mint Gelato from Gotta Havit Desserts, and my favorite, a buttery, burnt caramel confection from Cutie Cakes Bakeshop -- Sticky Fingers: Vanilla Butter Cake with Pineapple & Cardamom-scented Caramel and Brown Sugar Heirloom Tomatoes.
Tomato Tasting Tent
And if it was straight up, unadulterated tomatoes you were looking for, all you had to do was head to the Tomato Tasting Tent where there were a dizzying 192 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes to try. You've probably heard of red, green, and yellow tomatoes before, but did you know there are also varieties that are categorized as white, gold, orange, pink, purple, brown, and even black?
A young connoisseur
My top three picks from the tasting tent were:
1. Sungold Cherries – a burst of tomato sunshine
2. Green Gage – robust and intensely flavored yellow tomato
3. Paul Robeson – my first taste of a brown tomato
2 lbs 4.5 oz of Tomato Glory
The experts also weighed in on their favorite home-grown heirlooms. In the Largest/Heaviest category was a Pineapple Stripe, grown by Brad Agerter, weighing in at 2 lbs 4.5 oz.
Best of Show in the Festival Growers Competition went to Mia Brown's Green Doctor cherry tomatoes. What started as an innocent hobby with 15 or so plants, has expanded over the years to 171 plants and over 85 varieties. Mia lives and grows her tomatoes in Lodi. When she's not growing heirloom tomatoes, she's a practicing attorney with a focus in water rights, agriculture, and public agency law.
Kendall Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival
The event culminated in a head-to-head throwdown between Chef Challenge finalists, Justin Wangler (Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates) and Ryan Scott (Ryan Scott 2 Go).
Chef Justin Wangler vs. Chef Ryan Scott
In a short 30 minutes, the chefs prepared a four course meal using tomatoes and Kendall-Jackson wines as flavor inspirations. To make it interesting, judges selected three secret ingredients to incorporate as well: Kobe beef, diver scallops, and escargot. In the end, Chef Wangler reigned supreme, impressing everyone with:
• Seared scallops with bacon, corn, chanterelles, and a Chardonnay sauce with tarragon
• Escargot with Delice de la Vallee cheese, gnocchi with brown butter, roasted tomato, and puree of Cherokee purple tomatoes
• Roasted Kobe beef over mashed potato, topped with roasted tomatoes, beef jus, and huckleberry juice
• Delice de la Vallee with wine grapes frozen with liquid nitrogen, fresh red Roma tomatoes, figs, and aged balsamic vinegar
Wangler's winning Kobe
The Kendall Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival contributes all its net proceeds to the School Garden Network of Sonoma County, an organization that helps students develop dedication to the environment, academic achievement and their communities, with hands-on learning about food and nutrition.