And we’re back! Again, I would like to thank the team at Best Food Facts for putting this all together and for inviting me to be a part of this incredible travel and learning experience. Full disclosure: This trip was sponsored by and paid for by Best Food Facts. Although the trip was provided to me, I was not compensated to attend the trip, or to write these recap posts. All opinions are my own, as always. Because this trip included so many incredible experiences, I have divided it up into two posts, to keep from writing a novel for one post… the first part of this recap can be found here.
So I left off at the farm, and we came back to Davis to have lunch and enjoy a quick little break before heading over to the Robert Mondavi Institute at UC Davis. I was very much looking forward to this, as we were going to be doing a honey tasting and an olive oil tasting. As we pulled up to the campus, I was immediately impressed. The gardens on the grounds are absolutely spectacular.
I was a bit nervous about the honey tasting. Not that I don’t like honey… I adore honey. But I just got this feeling that I wouldn’t be able to distinguish different types of honey, because I’m used to typical honey that you find at the grocery store, local or otherwise, and that honey is honey. I thought, “gosh I’m a food blogger, and I know almost nothing about honey, how embarrassing.” But as it turned out, I had nothing to be embarrassed about! This experience served it’s purpose, which was for us to learn about honey and the different types and the different notes and flavors within different types of honey. Is it citrusy or floral? Is is spicy or sugary? Different honeys actually DO taste different. And I could tell the difference! It makes me want to go out and get several different honeys and just throw a honey tasting party. Like this weekend.
We used this incredible invention of the school called the “honey wheel” to distinguish the flavors and find the underlying notes and hints. It was a completely unique and beautiful experience and I’m so grateful we got to do this. We then moved into learning about the olive oils. The virgins and the extra virgins and what makes them so, as well as how the tasters of the world evaluate olive oils. They taste them in blue or black glasses, so to avoid the temptation to use the color to determine the underlying flavors (e.g. it’s green so it must be herbaceous).
We tasted our olive oils in the same way. They were in little black containers with plastic lids, so we couldn’t see the color. We swirled each one, cracked open the top, sniffed it, then took a swig and spit it out, and then evaluated the taste still lingering on our tongues. It was such a fun experience, and I felt like a completely fancy Italian with a superb palette imagining that I was some professional taste tester. Of course, I’m far from the incredibly talented professionals, but it was still fun to play one!
We did all of this in the Sensory Building, which is particularly descriptive, as we were so honed in on our senses during these two exercises. We used an olive oil wheel, much like the honey wheel we used in the first exercise, and we used fancy words to describe the negatives and positives of each oil.
After the olive oil tasting, we headed over to the laboratory building to meet with one of the dairy scientists to talk about the incredible work they are doing with milk on campus. They are currently working on studying human breast milk and the healthy (aka good) bacteria found in that, in order to determine how humans can receive more nutrients. Or something to that effect. Truthfully, the whole spiel was slightly over my head. All I can say was that I was truly impressed by the quality of the lab and the intelligence of the people working there.
After these fantastic tours, we went back to the hotel to change for our fabulous dinner in downtown Sacramento. We went to Ella and had a phenomenal multi-course meal, each course being family style and having three to four things to choose from (except dessert, which was two choices and we got to each enjoy our very own). The wine ran aplenty (hello this is California) and I enjoyed both red and white as I tasted the fanciful deviled eggs, the delicious cedar plank grilled cheese with berry compote and crusty bread, the interesting and delightful artichoke dip with smoked salmon, the three perfectly made salads (one fruit, one caesar and one blue cheese and soft boiled egg with bacon), the perfectly pink pork with whole grain mustard sauce, the stunningly juicy chicken, the crispy potatoes, the tender green beans with crispy shallots, and the delightfully light lemon tart with meringue. I could write an entire post on that dinner but I won’t, in order to spare you the torture of reading about it without tasting it. Just be sure to go to Ella’s if you are ever in Sacramento. It’s a beautiful restaurant with divine wine and excellent service.
The dinner was complete with educational discussions with two key experts in the food science industry, Carl Winter and Mitch Harkenrider. Carl is an expert in toxicology and Mitch is an expert in biotechnology, which is code for they know way more shit about food than I do. Nevertheless, they were down to earth and easy to talk to, allowing for a city girl like me to have a basic understanding of their work and what they do. They were excellent sources of information, as well as fantastically pleasant dinner companions. We of course made a stop at CREAM upon returning home, because obviously.The next day was our last day, so after our final visit to CREAM, we went back upstairs to pack and reminisce about the day. The next morning, we met in the hotel lobby to meet with an expert in food science to talk about “scary” GMOs and what it really means when things are GM. It was an interesting discussion, and left me feeling like I definitely wanted to learn more about this topic, as I clearly didn’t know enough going into it. But that’s what this experience was all about: learning!
We packed up the bus and headed to our final destination along the trip: New Hope Dairy Farm. This farm was incredible. It was a family owned dairy farm and we were given a personalized tour by the farm owner while his dad (also an owner) and entire family joined in. The cow’s nutritionist (yes you read that right) and the vet also came along on the tour and gave us a wealth of information about how they feed the cows and care for the cows. Here’s the nutritionist:
There were over 1200 cows on this dairy farm! The family couldn’t have been more generous with their time to show us around, and they all had so much knowledge and clear respect for the animals, that it was just an all around incredible experience. The cows were actually surprisingly curious creatures! They kept following us around to different areas of their large pens to see what we were doing when we were listening to the farmers. Even one of the cows was in labor! We also saw the “maternity ward” where they housed the calves that had been born in the last 24 hours (which is where that first photo came from).
I learned so much on this trip and can’t wait to see what #TASTE15 has in store in July!