Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fig Bars, Jelly Bellys and Samuel Beckett

Whole-wheat fig bars, anyone?

We’ve got plain fig, blueberry, raspberry and a combination of peach and apricot. I have a modest three packages; Judy bought out the farm stand. She had to – Judy only has access to these amazing fig bars once a year, when she visits San Francisco.

In addition to copious amounts of fig bars, we bought just-picked strawberries, three of the first juicy white peaches of the season, ruby-like cherries, a jar of strawberry-rhubarb  jam (that was for me) and a stash of hearty, homemade oatmeal-raisin cookies. The stand – called Ceceila’s -- is in the North Bay, where Highway 1 meets the road that leads to the Tennessee Valley Trailhead.

When she left for St. Louis this morning after an action-packed four-day visit, Judy also was toting numerous bags of Jelly Bellys, purchased under the influence of bright primary colors and sugary treats at the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, about an hour north of my place. We drove there Thursday to take the tour and find out why it takes one week to make a single jellybean. (I’m not telling.)

I will tell that even though I am no longer a food writer, our tour guide said so many amazing things that I had to whip out my tiny always-with-me notebook and write some of it down. Did you know the world has Jelly Bellys because of the Goelitz family, which opened their first candy factory in 1869 in Belleville, Ill.?

Here’s more: The factory, which makes 150 different kinds of candy, goes through 10,000 pounds of cornstarch and 60,000 pounds of sugar every single day. There are 50 flavors of Jelly Bellys, including chili mango, baby wipes (ugh) and chocolate-covered cherry. Judy and I were certain we would not like that flavor, but after a taste, we each bought a big bag of Belly Flops, irregularly shaped beans that didn’t make the cut for the retail market.     

We also bought small bags of several other flavors, and I felt compelled to buy infant-size Jelly Belly socks for that baby I keep talking about. And why not?

Still, candy was not the main theme of Judy’s visit. We indulged in truffle fries, shrimp beignets and a cheeseburger at Cliff House, samosas and Chennai chicken at Dosa, the amazing Il Sol pizza and chopped Italian salad at Bambino’s, sangria at Colibri and shrimp salad and Dungeness crab quesadillas at Scoma’s in Sausalito. Oh, and kosher hot dogs at AT&T Park, where we sat in red (Judy) and orange and black (me) at Wednesday night’s game between the Cardinals and the Giants.

On Wednesday, a cold and windy day, we went to see "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," a delightful movie full of the sights and sounds of India  -- plus Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy. Great fun! On Thursday night, we saw two Beckett plays at the American Conservatory Theatre: the riveting “Play” and the remarkable “Endgame,” with the supremely gifted Bill Irwin. Both were provocative and intense – and that makes for an excellent night of theater.

We shopped a bit, meandering in and out of stores in Sausalito one sunny afternoon. We also drove to Novato to buy the soundtrack for “Smash” at Target. Because there are no Target stores in San Francisco and I can never think of any good reason to drive to the suburbs (shopping is not a good reason), I have not been in Target for more than two years. Still, it was fun to be in the store, and I bought a $10 lime green trashcan for the bathroom.

During Judy’s visit, we also accidentally took a trivia quiz at the Disney Store. The night we were going to the theater, we got to Union Square early, so we popped into the store, where we meandered around calling out the names of the plush versions of characters we have loved in the Disney movies for our entire lives. A young woman with a clipboard approached us and invited us to take a quiz about Disney characters. We sat right down and got to it – and we did well, too.

No prizes were offered for our efforts. No tiny plush Pooh or Thumper or Sorcerer’s Apprentice, no tiara or magic wand or other princess attire, no miniature Buzz Lightyear or Kermie or Simba. Worse, the store no longer carries any “Pirates of the Caribbean” merchandise. Good thing I got my Captain Jack Sparrow tote bag when I did.

That said, waiting at home we had a terrific treat – whole-wheat fig bars in many flavors.

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