I was sitting on the couch taking a break from studying French AOC regulations, and taking in a bit babbling television. With racing thoughts and an increasing headache, I couldn't seem to relax. I closed my eyes and tilted my head back and caught the heady scent of roses on the night air, the still air that is just beginning to release the aching heat of the day. The sweetness invaded my mind and spun around me, tantalizing in its delicate faintness.
I clicked off the distractions and wandered outside. The crickets were beginning to sing and I wondered where they've been all summer. This season has been unseasonably cool for us in Northern California, and it seems as if everything has been on hold. In the wine world, grape harvesting is almost two weeks behind across the board, and summer stone fruits haven't had the juicy sweetness that comes with their usual ripening.
The saddest part of it all has been the utter lack of ripe tomatoes from the garden. Our tomatoes are either hard and greenish or brown and withered--- the few days of searing heat destroyed some and did nothing for the others. Summer should mean salads composed of fragrant basil, sweet tomatoes, and utterly fresh goat cheese. It should mean cool silky tomato soups, or light pastas dressed with pungent olive oil and chopped tomatoes. We should have more tomatoes than we know what to do with!
Alas, the closest I came to summer this year was a few heirlooms and a basket of cherry tomatoes from the Central Valley, where they had less difficulty ripening than our more coastal regions. I had picked them up that morning at the farmer's market in San Rafael and used them for a Southern France-inspired dinner of green bean salad with tarragon vinaigrette, rustic tomato tart, and thick tuna steaks seared on the grill. It was the perfect rendition of summer, but little was I to know it would be very nearly the only al fresco dining experience I was to enjoy this year.
I thought it was a good idea to study inside after dinner -- how glad I am now that I gave it up to take in the night fragrance of those roses. Autumn is most decidedly upon us, and I am afraid to say I haven't smelled that fragrance again since. And perhaps we'll get a few straggler tomatoes before the chill takes over fully-- but otherwise we will have to wait for next season.
I'm finding it very hard to get excited about stews and brussels sprouts.