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April 4, 2009

Gilroy Garlic Festival

My friend Tom and I went to the Gilroy Garlic Festival together in 2006. We had a great weekend, starting off with a five or six hour drive up the coast to the festival. The farming town of Gilroy has an amazing feel. Growing up in the midwest I used to love this too--looking out the window on long car rides at just the right angle to see the farming rows click by one by one, as if part of a thumb-the-pages cartoon book. The festival is filled with food of all kinds (garlic ice cream! yum!) along with an arts and crafts zone, food demonstrations and competitions, live music, and great people watching. I bought garlic braids as gifts for everyone I knew. Mine decorated my kitchen pot rack. Occasionally I'd cut off an elephant clove for the grill, but I was still using the braid six months later. The festival's well worth the entrance fee and effort to get there. We stayed at a motel 6 then spent the next day at a huge flea market in the area, and even hit the town of Solvang on the drive home. Just after the trip, I caught an episode Huell Howser did on the garlic industry in Gilroy. Really an epicenter of an industry!

The Gilroy Garlic Festival is held the last full weekend in July. They're going on thirty some years of celebration. It's held at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy, CA, 30 miles south of San Jose off Highway 101. Cash only is accepted at the gate. Entrance fees and further details available here.

Do you have any food festivals that you anticipate each year? Tell me about it in a comment below, and I'll leave you with a treat from last year's garlic fest.

Last year's winning recipe selection:
Walnut-Garlic Tart with Garlic-Infused Cream and Chili Syrup

by Laurie Benda
Serves 8

12 cloves garlic
1 tsp. olive oil
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. plus 1/2 c. granulated sugar, divided use
2 tsp. plus 1/4 tsp. salt, divided use
2 sticks cold unsalted butter
2 c. walnut pieces
2 c. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. plus 1 c. lightly packed light brown sugar, divided use
1 small hot red chili (fresh, not dried)
1/2 c. golden syrup or light corn syrup
1/2 of a 14 0z. can sweetened condensed milk (about 1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp.)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 6 whole cloves of garlic (with peel on) in a small baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, cover, and bake until very soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, squeeze out the garlic from the peel and let cool.

Place flour, 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, and 2 tsp. salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice to combine. Add 1 stick of butter, cut into about 16 chunks, and 4 cloves of roasted garlic. Pulse until the dough begins to come together, drizzling in ice water as needed, about 3-4 Tbsp. Process until the dough begins to form a ball. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill in the refrigerator at least 30 min. (or freeze for about 10 min.).

Meanwhile, spread the walnuts on a baking sheet, and toast in oven until fragrant and very slightly browned, about 5-10 mins. Remove and set aside to cool.

Remove dough from refrigerator, roll out and fit into a 9-inch tart pan, patching and trimming as needed. Cover crust with aluminum foil, fill with pie weights and bake at 400 degrees until the edges begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the pie weights and bake a few more minutes until the whole crust is lightly browned. Set aside to cool at room temperature.

Pour the heavy cream into a saucepan, and gently stir in 2 Tbsp. of brown sugar to dissolve. Add the remaining 2 cloves of roasted garlic, slightly crushed, and heat very gently over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Do not boil or even simmer. When thoroughly warmed, remove from heat and place in refrigerator to chill.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a low simmer. Simmer briefly, until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is clear. Remove seeds from chili and finely chop. Remove the syrup from heat and add the chopped chili. Cool slightly, then pour into a serving pitcher to cool at room temperature.

To make the filling: Peel and thinly slice the remaining 6 cloves of garlic. Melt 1 stick of butter over medium-low heat, then stir in 1 cup brown sugar to dissolve. Stir in syrup and sweetened condensed milk. Heat slowly until the mixture reaches 245 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla and 1/4 tsp. salt. Stir in tasted walnut pieces and sliced garlic. Pour into baked crust. Refrigerate to cool.

To serve: Strain the chilled cream, and whip it to light, soft peaks. Serve slices of the tart with a dollop of cream and a drizzle of syrup, or decorate the whole tart with cream and syrup before slicing. Offer extra cream and syrup on the side.

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