I went to northern California for July 4th, but before making the drive up the coast I stopped at my favorite station of the cross for lunch, Chez Panisse in Berkeley. My friend Amanda came up from Los Angeles for this because she loves food and Chez as much as I do. I’ve almost always had an ingredient or dish there that blows my mind and this meal was no exception. Between the delicious lunch and dessert they brought us a bowl of Middleton Farm raspberries. Amanda put a raspberry in her mouth and I saw a blissful look appear on her face. She could not believe how delicious it was. Our server came over to take our dessert orders, but Amanda was literally speechless. I told the server we needed a little more time at which point I popped a raspberry in my mouth and was also enraptured. This is what a raspberry should taste like. We were still talking about those raspberries days later.
Eventually, Amanda decided we had to locate Middleton Farm and pay them a visit. I put my friend Fletcher in charge of that project and he found them in Healdsburg. Perfect…we were going up there on Sunday to visit friends anyway. Nancy from Middleton Farms returned our phone call and said she’d be at the Sebastopol farmers market that day and to meet her there.
Well, we got a late start and never made it to Sebastopol so we decided to go to the farm itself, thinking maybe Nancy would be back from the market. As we approached the farm Amanda spied a hedge of blackberries and made me stop the car. Just as she had started picking a few a large white truck pulled up and I told Amanda, “you are so busted.” Of course it was Nancy behind the wheel looking very unhappy. Before she could say anything, I introduced myself and asked if we could see her raspberry bushes. She obliged but was naturally somewhat suspicious.
Middleton farm is charming and old fashioned, the way I imagine all of Healdsburg was long ago. Nancy took us around and I asked her what varietals her raspberries were. She endeared herself to me by saying that she wouldn’t tell me. I loved that. As we approached the hedges she warned us not to pick any, and I realized I’d met someone who might be even bossier than I am.
We came back to her little farm store which was filled with garlic varietals, onions, peaches and plums. We talked for a bit and I could see that Nancy was as passionate about her farm as she was feisty. Her husband passed away a few months back and except for one or two helpers, she does this farm on her own.
I saw a sign for the eggs that read, “eggs from our gorgeous Hollywood quality stars.” They were the best eggs in Healdsburg Nancy told me, explaining that her chickens ate bread and cheese and not just any cheese, really fancy cheese.
We bought some of everything including black raspberries. The prices are not cheap, and friends later said that she is the most expensive vendor in the farmers’ market. But everyone agrees that her produce is the best even if she can be difficult. I think she is fantastic.
As we were leaving Amanda and I admitted that we had picked two raspberries from the hedges. Nancy said she knew we would but warned Amanda not to pick any more blackberries on our way out because she was harvesting them the next day. We left with big smiles and ate raspberries one by one all the way back.Middleton Farm
2651 Westside Road
Healdsburg, California 95448