Saturday, Jun 08 2013 12:00 PM

In a nutshell: Your guide to festival food

By The Bakersfield Californian

There will be so many things to do at the Kern County Nut Festival (games! shopping! family fun!) that it might be easy to forget the main theme of the day: food.

And that's where The Californian's handy-dandy guide to the edible -- and drinkable -- nutty delights being offered by dozens of local restaurants and nonprofits comes in handy. So sit back, plan your culinary quest and remember: Don't you dare ask them to hold the nuts.

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Covenant Coffee: Hot and iced coffee beverages, including a chocolate covered almond latte, $2-$4

Champs BBQ & Catering: Deep- pit beef or pulled pork sandwiches, comes with either a side of barbecue coleslaw or orzo pasta salad with pine nuts and beverage, $10.75

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream: Serving chunky monkey (banana ice cream with fudge chunks and walnuts), butter pecan, coconut seven layer bar (coconut with coconut and fudge flakes, walnuts and graham cracker and butterscotch swirls), banana peanut butter Greek frozen yogurt and New York super fudge crunch (chocolate with fudge chunks, pecans, walnuts and fudge-covered almonds); in a cup or a cone, one or two scoops, $3-$6

Chef's Choice Noodle Bar: Poke lettuce wraps with duck or chicken, Thai coconut ice cream with toasted pistachios and Hawaiian bread

Goose Loonies: Santorini salad (spinach, red onion, lamb, feta cheese, dried figs nuts and creamy balsamic dressing), lamb gyros, baklava

Mimi's Cafe: Carrot and raisin nut cupcakes and loaf bread

Red Pepper: Relleno poblano with pistachios

Hodel's: Cinnamon rolls with nuts

Rosedale Lions: Nut rolls

Sources: Kern County Nut Festival, Bakersfield Life magazine, Californian staff

Tastries Bakery

Festival menu: Oatmeal almond cookies (with cranberry, raisins or chocolate chips), two for $3; cherry almond and banana almond cupcakes, six for $12; banana nut and oatmeal banana nut muffins, six for $12; decorated cutout sugar cookies, $3 each; and almond brownies, $3 each.

At Tastries Bakery, quality starts at the most basic level. The Rosedale shop prides itself on good core products.

"We specialize in the creativity of the cake, but it's a cake that tastes really good too," said owner Cathy Miller.

Miller and her team didn't have to challenge themselves too much when it came to the menu -- a mix of cookies, cupcakes, muffins and brownies highlighting almonds and walnuts.

"When we knew (we were participating), we played around with the nuts. We added almonds to oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and we liked that.

"We were using a brownie recipe that we liked (at the bakery). It encouraged us to use the almonds a bit more."

And good news for attendees who like what they try: The treats will continue to be offered at the shop, which opened in January.

"We sell these on a regular basis. All of our oatmeal cookies are popular, probably because they're a little healthier."

For those looking to indulge a bit more, the frosted sugar cookies -- decorated like walnut trees, nut-topped ice creams cones and more -- also display Tastries' attention to detail.

On the short list, Miller said everyone should try the cherry almond cupcakes and any of the trio of oatmeal almond cookies, which sell well at the shop.

"Those I can't keep long enough on the trays in here."

-- Stefani Dias, assistant lifestyles editor

Delano Elks Lodge

Festival menu: teriyaki sticks (pork or chicken), $3 each; Oriental rice pilaf, $5 for bowl; cran-walnut raisin salad with blue cheese, $5 for bowl; plate dinner, $12; toasted almond and pistachio martinis, $6 each.

When it came to getting the Delano Elks Lodge on board, the nut festival committee had an in with a key member.

Said Elks member Sixto Magno: "We joined through Andrew Pandol. He's married to (festival co-chairwoman) Beth.

"He's back there now, making octopus," Magno said recently as the lodge prepared for its second annual Hawaiian feast with a hog on a spit and hand-rolled cigars.

Magno said the 260-member lodge commits to at least 12 community events a year, from parking-lot barbecues to a steak fundraising dinner for Babe Ruth baseball uniforms.

"Rib eye and scampi for baseball. You don't get that very often at fraternal organizations," said the member of 39 years.

Magno, who takes pride in the lodge's culinary prowess, developed the festival menu with member Scott Mejia with an eye on flavor and frugality.

"We're a nonprofit organization, so you hate to waste food. We figured the teriyaki sticks I can marinate and refrigerate those. I can cook to order."

Those teriyaki sticks, offered in pork or chicken, will be rolled in nuts and sauce. Accompanying them are Oriental rice pilaf and cran-walnut raisin salad with blue cheese.

"That is a killer salad. And the Oriental rice pilaf. I've been doing that for years. Thought we'd put almonds in it."

The rice is first cooked in bacon grease (instead of butter), along with celery, green onion and red bell pepper. After it fluffs up with the addition of chicken broth, more of the vegetables are added at the end for crispness and flavor.

Also on the menu are two martinis -- pistachio and toasted almond -- which Magno came up with after learning the Kern County Historical Society was handling all the soda and water concessions.

"I asked them can we serve a liquor drink and they said it was no problem. Toasted almond martinis, I've been drinking those for years. They make a pistachio liqueur and said let's go for that (for another martini)."

With a location near some music and a pair of libations, Magno invites everyone to stop in.

"Since we'll have some drinks available, I hope everyone will come by. I thought about getting a bullhorn. I may still do that."

-- SD

Baby Cake Donuts

Festival menu: Fresh mini-doughnuts with a variety of glazes and chopped walnut, almond and pistachio toppings ($2 for six, $4 for a dozen; or $10 for the Love Bucket, with 30-plus mini-doughnuts). Also serving low-calorie fruit sorbets, lemonade and iced tea.

A sweet smell will fill the air at Baby Cake Donuts' booth as its magical doughnut machine whips out thousands of tasty treats each hour.

Owned by Monica and Tim Martin, Baby Cake Donuts traditionally offers fresh doughnuts coated in cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar or an array of sauces like lemon, strawberry, caramel and chocolate.

For the nut festival, Baby Cake will offer three additional items: chopped walnuts, pistachios and almonds.

Monica Martin has high hopes for the caramel and almond combination.

"We have been talking about adding stuff to the menu, different things for people to try on their doughnuts. If this works out, we could definitely start adding nuts all the time. Why not?"

In addition to the doughnuts, Baby Cake will be offering low-calorie fruit sorbets, iced tea and lemonade. But Martin said the real draw is the sight and smells of their work in action.

"We pull people in with the smell. Then everyone from kids to adults will watch the machine. It drops the dough, cooks the doughnuts 20 seconds on each side, flips them and kicks them out. ... We give samples, if you have never had one before. And then I think we have them hooked from there."

-- Miranda Whitworth, lifestyles contributor

Lengthwise

Festival menu: Totally Nuts almond ale; will also serve Centennial Ale, Harvest Moon Wheat, Double Cent Double IPA and Kern County Crude Porter. All $5 each.

Although some vendors will be offering adult beverages, the only one specializing in them will be Lengthwise. And they will be special. Along with a selection of local favorites, the brewery will unveil its Totally Nuts almond ale, made specifically for the event.

"The Totally Nuts almond ale came about when the Kern County Nut Festival was in the planning stages," wrote Lengthwise co-owner Jeff Williams in an email. "We prepared over a dozen different test batches of the almond beer before we submitted a sample to the nut fest committee. Some of the early batches had vanilla extract added at different concentrations along with higher and lower concentrations of almond extract."

The first taste excited the committee, which green-lit the brew, Williams said.

And there will be no mistaking that this is a nutty beer.

"Totally Nuts Almond ale is a lightly hopped blonde ale with a bold almond aroma and taste."

Interested beer connoisseurs should taste it while they can, as the brewery, which has a standard lineup of eight house and eight seasonal brews, may not make more.

"We are not sure if we will serve the Totally Nuts almond ale at our locations after the nut festival. We will wait to see if the demand is there.

Given the space and time it takes the brewery to produce its concoctions, Lengthwise can only ferment seven beers at a time.

The brewery likes to keep things interesting with collaborations like Kernwise with Kern River Brewing and signature sips for the recent Craft Beer Festival, Village Fest and its 15th anniversary in July, which will introduce a double IPA.

"Lengthwise is working on several new beers. We currently have four new test brews on draft at the brewery. We have a lot of fun experimenting with new hop varieties on single keg dry hop batches.

-- SD

Kern County Scottish Society

Festival menu: Haggis with pistachios, $2 for 1 oz., $5 for 3 oz. or $5 for a slider

You might need a brave heart to try the fare at the Kern County Scottish Society's booth. What's on the menu? Pistachios ... with haggis. As expected, this is far from a traditional pairing, according to the society's chieftain, David Stroud.

Haggis is "normally served with neaps and tattys (turnips and potatoes) ... accompanied with near starvation."

The recipe for this twist on the Scottish classic was created specially for the festival through a "spectacularly successful" brainstorming session tapping into the "collective culinary envisionings of the KCSS board."

Stroud's description of the concoction is not terribly reassuring to those who have never tasted the dish of sheep's heart, intestines, liver, oatmeal and other ingredients, which is boiled inside the sheep's stomach.

"It tastes otherworldly. Imagine Klingon gagh (made of serpent worms) served like finely ground hash. A little lambish with the accompaniment of delicious local pistachios. Incredible!"

Stroud suggests you might stop by the booth after you've tried a few things: "If you have haggis, all else is table scraps."

-- Patricia Rocha, lifestyles staff

J&M's Bar and Grill/Village Grill

Festival menu: cheese ravioli with pistachio pesto, vegetarian or with shrimp, $5-$10; amaretto sour, pistachio martini and margarita, $5 to $8 each.

Longtime local businesses J&M's Bar and Grill and Village Grill, both owned by Colins Rimer, are a natural addition to the inaugural festival.

"I think the festival will bring good attention to Kern County. It's their first time doing it, our first time participating. This is a work in progress, but we hope this will be a lasting thing," said J&M's manager Andrew Wilkins, who developed the menu for the booth.

Wilkins will be serving cheese ravioli with a pistachio pesto cream sauce, with or without shrimp. Although not currently on either restaurant's menu, the dish could be added if response is good.

"We might hit a home run. This might be something we go forward with on a full-time basis."

Wilkins said the entree was easier to devise than the cocktails, which he was still tinkering with as of last week.

"Our biggest thing is, with it being a nut festival, with them wanting to feature products from Kern County. With the alcohol, it's been a bit difficult. There aren't a whole lot of alcohols that are nut-infused. The pistachio is a very odd, distinctive flavor.

Representing the almonds will be an amaretto sour, while pistachios will punch up a margarita and martini with a nut-crusted rim.

Wilkins is sure that once the flavors are perfected, they'll be worth a taste.

"We're one of the few vendors that will be making cocktails. That it will be 100-and-something degrees (that day), it would be nice to have a margarita."

-- SD

BARC

Festival menu: Cinnamon-glazed cashews, almonds, pecans and peanuts ($4 per bag), popcorn ($2) and lemonade ($1)

BARC is feeling the holiday spirit and it's ready to celebrate a little Christmas in June. The organization will offer cinnamon-glazed cashews, almonds, pecans and peanuts, which project manager Michelle Garland said she knew would be a popular choice.

"We just thought, 'Wow, this is something that we already do.' We use a lot of nuts that are local to Bakersfield, so what a great reason to bring them out, especially for this new event."

In addition to the glazed treats, BARC will be offering another nut-themed item.

"We will have nutcrackers out there for sale that you can paint and we will also have ones that are already decorated that you can take with you. We will also have Art for Purpose pieces that are pottery items that have been created by our clients. We are kind of showing up with food and our gift shop."

Garland said BARC is happy to participate and being able to offer her organization's holiday favorite in the summer is a bonus.

"The nuts are just so fantastic. Every single one of them is so delicious, especially when they are hot. You can't make them at home. It's such a special treat.

-- MW

California Pizza Kitchen

Festival menu: barbecue chicken, pepperoni, traditional cheese and pear and Gorgonzola pizzas ($8 to $10 each); field greens and Moroccan-spiced chicken salads ($6 each); will also serve flavored lemonades.

Although part of a chain, California Pizza Kitchen has one up on the local restaurants participating in the festival: being No. 1.

"We were the first restaurant to agree to join. ... It's a great way for us to put our name out there," said manager Esteban Morales.

There will be plenty to tempt fans of the restaurant, which is offering four pizzas: original barbecue chicken with smoked Gouda, red onions and cilantro; Bosc pear and Gorgonzola with sweet caramelized onions and hazelnuts, topped with field greens and Gorgonzola ranch; and the classics -- cheese and pepperoni.

On the lighter side, CPK will offer a field greens salad with Bosc pears, candied walnuts and Dijon balsamic vinaigrette; and a Moroccan-spiced chicken salad with roasted butternut squash, dates, avocado, toasted almonds, beets, chopped egg, cranberries and Champagne vinaigrette.

The menu will include three flavors of lemonade -- mango, peach and raspberry.

And when it comes to why people should stop by, Morales kept his answer simple: "Because it's epic."

-- Ashley Zaragoza, lifestyles staff

Always Almonds

Festival menu: nine flavors of almonds and pistachios, sold in small and large cones ($2.50 for 2.5 oz., $7 for 8 oz. or three 2.5 oz. cones), and small, medium and large trays ($8 for 9 oz., $12.99 for one pound, $24 for two pounds; three large trays for $60).

When it comes to nuts, Always Almonds owner Ralph Prieto doesn't mind bragging.

"Our product is the reason for the event, to promote Kern County as the almond and pistachio capital of the world, and we can definitely showcase that," he wrote in an email.

As most vendors will highlight the nuts that make the region famous, Prieto said his booth will stand out with its selection.

"We are the only company that truly has a variety of flavors when it comes to almonds and pistachios, nine flavors of each."

The vast selection includes standard roasted and salted to more exotic tastes like tequila, chile-lemon, roasted garlic and chamoy (tamarind) flavors. The company also turns up the heat with habanero, jalapeno, hot wing and wasabi offerings.

Along with online sales at alwaysalmondsandnuts.net, the business has a stand at East Hills Mall, open six days a week.

-- Estella Aguilar, lifestyles staff

Dewar's

Festival menu: almond and pistachio chews

Dewar's is bringing tiny bits of history with their classic taffy chews. Though their peanut butter chew is the most popular, co-owner Mike Dewar said the almond and pistachio chews will take center stage to represent the nut community's history with the town and Dewar's.

The almond chews, for instance, were created when local farmers asked for Christmas gifts for their employees and clients. Though the chews were being made only for the holiday season then, they are now sold year-round.

"We've had this almond recipe for 15 years, and the pistachio we just started making in 2009 for our 100th anniversary," Dewar said. "We've had some of the same suppliers for over 60 years, so the recipes haven't changed."

This commitment to consistency and community will be highlighted in the free samples available at the festival.

"We wouldn't be here without this community and we give back as much as we can," he said. "We just love this little town."

-- PR

La Rosa Fruit Bars & Ice Cream

Festival menu: pistachio, vanilla chocolate almond, creamy walnut (and possibly chocolate cherry almond) ice cream bars; $1.50 each, or a $16 for a dozen, $24 for two dozen.

Local favorite La Rosa Fruit Bars & Ice Cream is rolling out limited-edition flavors for the festival.

Along with their established pistachio bars, owner Norma Diaz said they also will serve vanilla chocolate almond, creamy walnut and maybe a chocolate cherry almond flavor.

The company, which was founded in 1980, often takes part in community events.

"Everyone loves our handmade fruit bars," Diaz said. "We've made them the same way now for 33 years. We are a family business and are grateful for all of the support we've received through those years."

-- PR

Bakersfield Homeless Center

Festival menu: Banana walnut, lemon coconut almond and white chocolate pistachio scones, $1.50 each. Also serving iced tea.

The Bakersfield Homeless Center is breaking out of its shell for this festival. The assorted scones being offered Saturday will mark the first time the center has sold products made in its busy kitchen.

Carolann Wooton, the center's external affairs manager, said it's a little bit outside of their comfort zone but a step they have been wanting to take for some time.

"We have a wonderful cook here that makes the most amazing scones. Typically she would make them out of whatever we had here, and the staff and our clients just loved them. So we decided we would showcase them by selling them at the nut festival."

Adding almonds, walnuts and pistachios to the scones is a change made specifically for the event, which is the only place you'll be able to get your hands on one.

Wooton was happy to participate in the inaugural festival, seeing the center's grand debut as a gateway to more opportunities.

"We are always looking for ways to be entrepreneurs and put the profits back into helping our clients."

-- MW

Johnny Rockets

Festival menu: Rocket single cheeseburger, bacon cheddar burger and the smokehouse burger, all served with fries, $10-$11; almond and pistachio shakes, $6.

When Johnny Rockets brings its traditional burgers and shakes to the festival, expect a bit of a twist: Burgers topped with cheddar, bacon or a smokehouse sauce of barbecue and ranch dressings will feed your carnivorous side, but the thick creamy shakes will be the standout desert, showcasing the nuts of Kern County.

General manager Lydia Oropeza said they'll offer two kinds of shakes: almond, which features almond butter mixed into vanilla ice cream; and pistachio, made with the nuts and pistachio cream. While the almond concoction is new to the 1950s-inspired restaurant, Johnny Rockets has served the pistachio shake since last fall, just under a different name.

"We named it after West High School because they were doing a fundraiser there and they asked for something special. So we made them a green shake."

The West High School fundraiser is just one of dozens of local fundraisers in which Johnny Rockets takes part. Its commitment to the community is a big part of what made the restaurant get involved in the nut festival.

"I'm personally a festival fan," Oropeza said. "When you go somewhere and there is a festival going on, there is so much life, crafts and things you don't see at the mall or other regular places. A festival is where people bring their specialty items. We want to be a part of it and, because it's the first one, we are going to be the pioneers."

Although the two shakes aren't permanent fixtures on the menu, Oropeza promises even after the festival is over that Johnny Rockets will serve the shakes for a limited time.

-- MW

Advanced Center for Eyecare/Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Festival menu: Chocolate cake from Jakes's Tex-Mex Cafe ($2 a slice)

When it came to getting the word out about the new location for the Advanced Center for Eyecare and Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Linda Sullenger knew just how to draw folks to her nut festival booth -- with chocolate cake from Jake's Tex-Mex Cafe.

"We think attendees will be flocking to our booth to buy a slice of Jake's cake because it's become a local favorite," said Linda Sullenger, resource development and special events officer for Advanced Center for Eyecare, as well as a festival committee member.

"By joining forces, we (the eye centers) are able to offer the community a complete state-of-the-art facility with a multitude of services. We offer annual eye exams, eye doctors who manage eye disease, eye surgeries, low vision exams and services, independent living skills, computer technology, Braille, and white cane lessons."

-- EA

Bakersfield High School Choir

Festival menu: Brookies (brownie with a walnut chocolate chip cookie inside), $5 for half-dozen, $8 for dozen; lemonade, $1; pistachio liqueur, $5; pistachio cocktail, $10

The Bakersfield High School Choir Booster Club is so eager to raise enough funds to send its students to Carnegie Hall next spring that it's willing to play on your weakness for sweets.

Enter the "Brookie."

"Our Brookie is quite unique," said Loraine Vasquez, booster club vice president. "Combining the best of both worlds with a brownie and chocolate chip cookie. Add some walnuts and your chocolate cravings are satisfied. They are made in a mini- muffin tin, so you could easily eat several and not feel guilty.

"It's the special way we put them together that sets them apart from other desserts. It took several attempts to reach the perfect combination of batter, dough, cooking time and temperature. The festival attendees will be hooked from their first bite!"

You can wash the treat down with lemonade, pistachio liqueur or a pistachio cocktail, all to send the teens to perform in New York City next year.

"It will be a life-changing experience for around 100 choir students to sing at the prestigious Carnegie Hall."

-- EA

Wool Growers/Foundation ThinkAgain

Festival menu: green salad with almonds, cranberries and blue cheese crumbles, $7; fresh tomato salad with onion and bell pepper, $7; and pickled tongue, $15.

When you think about Kern County food, nuts and Basque cuisine surely make the list, although not necessarily together. Wool Growers, along with Foundation ThinkAgain, is ready to mix two great tastes for a good cause.

"Foundation ThinkAgain was a perfect fit for our support," said Christiane Camou, one of the owners of Wool Growers. "My uncle, Danny Maitia, died of brain cancer three years ago, and we wanted to support such a wonderful cause that helps children. He especially loved children, so we know he is smiling down on us knowing we are helping little ones with brain cancer."

On the menu is pickled tongue and fresh tomato salad popular at Basque meals. Cooks pay a nod to the nut with a green salad, which includes almonds along with cranberries and blue cheese crumbles.

"We normally do not have nuts on our salad, but developed this salad so we could be a part of the Nut Festival. We felt it was important to support agriculture in our community as they have supported us for 59 years. My grandmother, Mayie Maitia, was named agriculturist of the year by the Kern County Fair for her continued support of the industry."

-- EA

Cafe Med

Festival menu: Chicken spinach salad served in pita bread, $5.

Cafe Med knows not to mess with a classic -- at least not too much. For its booth, the restaurant is bringing one of its top menu items -- chicken spinach salad -- albeit a portable version.

"It makes it easier to eat that way," said spokeswoman Stacy Howard of serving the sweet and crisp menu favorite in pita bread.

The serving features baby spinach, grilled chicken breast, tomatoes, red onion, blue cheese, bacon and hard-boiled egg crumbles, warm balsamic vinaigrette dressing and candied pecans in a homemade pita.

The item was chosen from the menu for the festival because of its candied pecans, which are made fresh daily.

-- PR

Carnie Kettle Corn Inc.

Festival menu: Kettle corn with or without peantus, $3-$7; corn dogs, $3; funnel cakes, $5-$6; shaved ice, $4; and fresh-squeezed lemonade, $4-$5.

Kern County doesn't grow peanuts, but in a festival surrounded by almonds, walnuts and pistachios, who's going to begrudge some legumes? Carnie Kettle Corn owner Scott Hunsaker gave his signature treat a new spin with the addition of peanuts.

"Kettle corn at events is typically always the same, so this will be an opportunity to try it with a small twist."

Hunsaker said the classic kettle corn will be served along with hand-dipped corn dogs, funnel cakes, shaved ice and fresh-squeezed lemonade.

The life of a food vendor usually requires a fair amounft of travel, so Hunsaker is happy to support a Kern County event.

"We have been participating in dozens of festivals all across California for past decade and are excited to have a local one to attend now."

-- EA

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