Celebrated Aussie cartoonist and poet Michael Leunig was spot on when he declared, “We salute the tomato: cheery, fragrant morsel, beloved provider, survivor and thriver and giver of life.” Tomatoes reach their peak in late summer in Southern California so it’s only natural that we ‘saluted’ these sweet, tart fruits in September at Maude.
These days, tomatoes are available for purchase year-round on the store shelves, even when they’re not in season. This is a shame because in place of gorgeous, flavoursome summer tomatoes, we’re offered a watered down, chemically enhanced version that’s likely to have come from thousands of miles away. At Maude, we set out to remind our guests of just how truly tasty tomatoes can be when grown with love, sustainability and flavour at the front of mind.
We personally tested and were delighted by the red, yellow, green and plum coloured tomatoes from a handful of farms in Southern California including Coastal Organic Farms, Harry’s Berries (because tomatoes are technically berries), Jaime Farms, Tutti Fruitti Farms, Tamai Family Farms and even the tomatoes picked from Curtis’ own veggie garden – his little Sun Gold Tomatoes full of fruity, almost tropical flavour are a true joy of summer. Guests enjoyed a whole bunch of interesting varieties on our menu sourced from these farms and where possible, Curtis’ garden - Early Girl, San Marzano, Juliette Grape, Yellow Cherry, Sweetheart Grape, Marmande, heirloom tomatoes and more – which were presented in unique and rustic styles from juiced, peeled, seeded, fresh from the vine, dehydrated into a powder right through to aerated into a foam.
Of course, tomatoes are synonymous with traditional Italian cooking and we paid homage to this much loved cuisine by serving them with hand rolled tortellini, scallops, sweetbreads, buffalo mozzarella, basil. Guests were also delighted with our take on tomato soup with grilled cheese bread.
From heirloom to San Marzano, these pommes d’amour, “apples of love,” as coined by the French (bien sûr), shined in our little dining room.