Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Stockton Asparagus Festival

I'm just going to apologize now... this is about to be a Very long post! But hey, after the most incredible day the boys and I have shared in a long time, I am still running on a high. Awesome weather, amazing food and two perfectly behaved boys, I could ask for nothing more (except that Daddy could have been able to join us!). I did weed out over half of the photos I took, but can't seem to pull any more, it was just too much fun! So... here goes!
Yesterday the boys and I loaded up and, after a quick visit at Mommy's old office to see some great friends, we finally arrived at the Stockton Asparagus Festival at 1 PM. I'll be honest, it seemed to take us a while to get going, and with Clayton's post-nasal-drip cough lasting throughout the night, I figured we were in for a quick trip. Our first stop was for the much desired Deep Fried Asparagus, topped with Parmesan cheese!
Oh, my - if for no other reason, This is why we came! They were not quite as crispy as I expected, but they were absolutely amazing in their own right. The spears were being hand breaded, fried, sprinkled and served just as fast as they were being ordered! Under a Huge tent, there were at least 18 assembly style tables set up for the bread-fry process and crates of asparagus stacked 6' high! Incredble....
The boys loved them, too! Clayton was calling them Asparagus French Fries, and it was while we were devouring this deep fried goodness that a photographer from the Stockton Record asked to take their photo! What a way to start our first Asparagus Festival experience! (I later learned that the photo he took was featured on the Front Page of the Record the next morning!)

Clayton wanted to be sure that we took a picture of the hermit crabs... though we passed at the opportunity to toss a ping pong ball into a bowl to win one, for a small fortune. I think the crabs would be cheaper at the pet store! :) 
Why would anyone go to a food festival, if not to eat?! The asparagus goodies were Everywhere, and we were there to try them all! The next stop was for Asparagus Ice Cream. 1 pound of crushed asparagus and 12 pounds of cream make this green dessert. The line to the right is for the ice cream, the shorter line to the left was for the pasta! I guess ice cream weather has arrived!

After waiting in line for 15 minutes, it was our turn to get scooped! The ice cream was much softer and creamier than I expected, but who am I to say... I've never had asparagus ice cream before, and there was No complaining from any of the three of us!

Clayton took this opportunity to do a little knee bounce dance, next to the trash can, to the live music across the way. So, we decided we'd go sit down and enjoy the rest of our ice cream.

The simple straw bale seating went right after this ag-girl's heart! And the open atmosphere it provided was great, people would sit and linger, relaxing in the much awaited 72* sunshine, enjoying the company of friends, family, good food and fun music! 

Oohhh... Do. Not. go to a food festival on a Friday during Lent! Or... you will have to pass up the Chicken Asparawrap, the Asparagus Steak Sandwich (Which looked incredible!) and the Asparaburrito! Next year, we will be back on Sunday, and Daddy will be with us! He can't miss out on this again! 
Thanks to mommy's friend Brent, we made sure to catch the Sea Lion Encounter. The boys enjoyed watching the 2 sea lions with their trainers, they both asked if they could get in the water! Clayton has specifically added "swim shorts" to our list for next year! :)
What a beautiful setting... the Stockton Port area has really changed over the past few years, and is the perfect backdrop for outdoor events.
*Muah!* This one is for you, Brent! Clayton didn't forget what you told him, and he made sure that I didn't either! Thank you!! :)
Haha!! Peek-A-Boo !
When we first walked in the gate and were buying our food and drink tickets, Clayton noticed that the ticket vendor was drinking a green, bubbling drink. He asked where he could get one and kept his eye out for it all afternoon! Finally... The Volcano! The best I can describe it is like a cherry shaved ice, without the shaved ice. Some sort of cherry drink, with a half dozen or so Dry Ice Cubes! This thing was about to boil right out of the straw, I had to keep a grip on it for the first few minutes or it would have hopped right down the street! And of course, "you know my favorite color is red!" Hhmmm... I'm seeing a great Halloween drink idea...

And a little break to watch the Hole-in-One where you were invited to put across the water, onto the floating dock (on the left) . Though not visible in the photo, the water was Filled with floating golf balls!
On a Friday during Lent, you'll just have to settle for the Asparagus Pasta (Thank you, Andrea!!) - a pesto pasta with asparagus, olives, mushrooms and tomatoes, topped with Parmesan cheese... Yumm!! 

And when the boys asked for another ice cream... what the heck, we had exactly enough tickets left for 2 more cones. This got them both back into the stroller and we headed out of Asparagus Alley and down into the rest of the festival. 
Down the street, we found the California Asparagus Commission booth. While I did understand how asparagus grew, I had never actually seen them in the ground! Their complex root system (above), called the Crown, was pretty incredible. The Crown is planted at one year and not harvested until the second year, and still not fully productive until the fourth year. Ahh, the patience of production agriculture! 
We learned that when harvested, the spears are showing 9" of green color and are cut approx. 2" below the soil. Once cut, the spears are sent to a packing shed to be washed, cut and graded. The larger spears are found more frequently at the beginning of harvest when the crown has more energy and smaller, thinner spears are typically found on older plants. Farmers will plant 10,000-12,000 individual crowns per acre and each crown will stay in the field for 10-15 years!
This is an asparagus Fern. At the end of the 90 day harvest period, farmers allow the remaining spears to grow, which result in the fern. The growth of the fern sends the plant into dormancy. The fern absorbs sunlight, turns it into carbohydrates and stores those carbs in the crown to be used as energy during the next growing season. The fern is cut late in the calendar year and farmers begin prepping their fields for harvest in the early Spring.
Ahh... and now, for a Mommy Treat! Yes... it's an Aspara-Rita!! (Enter Singing Angels here!) I could not tell you how they're made, but the margarita machine seemed to do a fine job - I like my 'Ritas with salt, please! You can't see them here, but there were tiny bits of asparagus floating throughout this beautiful beverage! :)

Before we hit the road, we Had to buy some asparagus to take home. This lovely crate will find a permanent place somewhere, as this 7lb. cost a mere $22. Hey... it's all about the experience, right! To my amazement, it was after 5 PM when Clayton asked when we were going home. He said he was getting a little tired. Not a problem, let's head out...  I should note that I'm pretty sure we missed about 2/3 of the festival. There were entire Home & Garden and Arts & Wine sections that we did not even venture into. Maybe next year... 

This was the view by the time we pulled into our driveway. Oh... his poor little neck! While I wanted to let him sleep a little longer, I couldn't bear to leave him like this. Cole ate from the time we walked in the gate until the minute we walked out. So, he chose to pass on dinner, barely made it through a bath and was out before we could read a bedtime story! 
Clayton couldn't wait to tell Daddy all about our adventure!  
And we wasted no time cooking up some of our fresh asparagus! Daddy seasoned the flour with "some stuff from the cabinet" (and that's exactly the recipe he quoted!) and we fried them up on the stove. I think he was wishing he could have had some with us earlier in the day!

Fresh asparagus and salmon was on the menu for dinner... like we needed to eat Again! What an incredible Friday with my boys! So glad that we got our asparagus fix!


Dawson Cattle Company said...

that looked like sooo much fun! im sooo ready for summer and fun outdoor fun like festivels to do with our babes!

Jen and Tonick said...

What a fun day! Great post! Sad I missed out this year but after reading this, I definitely want to make sure to go next year.

Colleen Cecil said...

Thank goodness I'm not the only mom who is confident that stroller cup holders were designed for adult beverages like the aspararita! Looks like fun Ellen!

The Durrer Family said...

Dawson & Jen - So much fun, I already can't wait to do it again!!

Colleen - LOL I figured that the boys had their beverages in the cup holders at their seats, didn't want to leave my holder empty! :)