Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sunset Celebration Weekend: Fabulous Frickle, My Favorite Candy, and the Incredible Potato Tower

Ever since I was a kid, I've been reading Sunset magazine.  My mom always subscribed to it, and once I graduated from college I subscribed too. Over the years I've enjoyed the creative, upbeat tone of Sunset and its array of ideas for the Western home, garden, travel, and food. Now that I think about it, it's probably the magazine I've read the longest, for about forty years (egads!).

Sunset's headquarters office is just a few miles away in our town of Menlo Park. Every summer Sunset hosts a Celebration Weekend with a variety of demonstrations, hands-on activities, foods, beer & wine, and exhibits. This year my husband Brad and I took our 10-year-old daughter Amanda to check it out. Among the highlights:

- Numerous food stands where we tried not only the usual lemonade and kettle corn but also Fabulous Frickle fried pickles, Acme bread, Recchiuti Fleur de Sel Caramels and Spring Jasmine Tea chocolates, Straus yogurt, and my favorite candy in the whole wide world, R & J Toffees premium almond toffee. Needless to say, I bought a bag of the toffee! We also bought an Acme walnut loaf, some of the best bread around.

- Gourmet food trucks including Seoul on Wheels Korean BBQ and Sam's Chowdermobile.

- A variety of wines and beers. Brad's favorite beers were the Lagunitas India Pale Ale and the Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra India Pale Ale.

- A tour of the Sunset test kitchens where all their recipes are created and perfected. Surprisingly, the food staff is not made up of professional chefs, just really good cooks. They publish about 35 recipes in each monthly issue, and each is tested about five times before it's printed. Since they have 3-12 month leadtimes, sometimes they have to go to great lengths to create their recipes out of season. Our guide told us one time they spent $80 making a strawberry pie!

- Making an original munch mix with Amanda using Post cereals, popcorn, and pretzels. This mixture can then be customized by combining with various seasonings and baked. They have many fun recipes on their website for all kinds of cereal snack mixes.

- Exploring the Sunset gardens and chicken coop, with an emphasis on fruit and vegetable gardening. One of the most clever ideas I saw was the Potato Tower, an ingenious way of growing potatoes that saves space, creates 2-3X the usual yield, and requires no digging! You can just reach in and get your potatoes when they're grown or undo the tower and watch all the grown potatoes tumble out.

We enjoyed wandering around, listening to the live music, seeing the exhibits, and smelling the wonderful foods. Celebrity chefs demonstrated their cooking prowess all weekend, featuring recipes to try for yourself.

What a treasure to have Sunset in our home town. I'm already looking forward to next year's celebration.

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