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Tomatoes Exalted in Woodland

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By Dan Clarke

On Saturday, Woodland celebrated its 11th annual Tomato Festival.

The city is just 20 miles northwest of Sacramento and its population has swelled as many new residents have chosen to settle here and commute to the Capital for work. But Woodland retains its rural roots. It’s surrounded by some of the richest farmland in the world and the community is darned proud of its tomatoes.

Visitors and locals strolled several downtown blocks that were closed to vehicular traffic, while they browsed the offerings of Farmers Market vendors, visited with representatives of civic groups and listened to live music. Festival-goers could visit with representatives of the Master Gardeners who were offering samples of a dozen different kinds of tomatoes and, if asked, would offer advice on how to get the best out a backyard garden. Families were much in evidence and kids enjoyed the presence of a large red globe with legs—Tommy Tomato.

Fr Paddys tomato crew PicmonkeyThe crew from Father Paddy's Irish Pub

Tomatoes might have been the star of the show, but there were other foods from the area. Yolo County bakeries, olive oil and honey producers were among the businesses offering their wares on Main Street. Visitors could sample salsas from several local restaurants and vote for their favorite. Of the 10 salsas entered, four were honored by a vote of the people. First place was produced by the Savory Cafe, second place was submitted by Father Paddy’s Irish Pub and in a third place tie were salsas from Las Brasas Tacos and Salsas and Taqueria Davis.

Another competition judged by a panel of local officials pitted chefs from five of the best restaurants in the area. These competitors included Jennifer Fuoco of Guinevere’s Café and Bistro, Toby Barajas from Savory Café, Andrew Linden of Uvaggio Wine and Beer, James Ward representing Father Paddy’s Irish Pub and Rudy Peniche of Las Brasas Tacos and Salsa. The chefs were charged with producing a three-course menu, which would be judged on presentation, taste and creativity in showcasing the tomato. Most of the prep work and actual cooking was done by the chefs in their own kitchens, but the public could watch their last-minute adjustments and presentations for the judges under the tent at First and Main Streets.

Deemed First Place winner was Toby Barajas of Savory Café. According to the Woodland Daily Democrat, Barajas began his meal with a caprese salad, followed by a risotto and beef shank employing a tomato-based sauce. His winning entry was completed with a tomato-based, frozen souffle.

Second Place was taken by James Ward of Father Paddy’s, whose offerings included a tomato-cured salmon ceviche starter, served with a michelada drink, followed by a pan-seared duck breast, accompanied by a Golden Jubilee tomato-mashed potato dish. Ward’s finale was a dried tomato sponge cake.

Rudy Peniche of Las Brasas garnered Third Place with a lineup that included a first course of a bacon-wrapped tomato filled with cream cheese and carnitas and topped with a barbecue sauce. His main course was tinga entomatadas (chicken with onions in a tortilla, topped with a tomato chipotle sauce). His selections concluded with a tomato cake.

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