Last week, I took a special road trip with a group of media members and bloggers to Orondo, WA – motherland of the Orondo Ruby cherry. I had not heard of Orondo before, but found out it was near Wenatchee, WA, and that I was also going to be able to experience the new Pybus Public Market. Pybus is the second largest public indoor market in the state, just behind Pike Place Market (and it gets bonus points for ample parking and overall cleanliness).
The Orondo Ruby cherry is new to the world as well, and was the prime purpose for this voyage. The variety was discovered in 2001, growing on a single tree in the middle of a Rainier cherry orchard in Orondo. It has since been patented by Marcus Griggs, who discovered the happy accident, and now his family and their company, G&C Farms, owns the exclusive rights to grow the variety. It’s only been distributed to the public since 2010 (they had to wait for the trees to grow – how cute is that?), but has doubled in crop size each year. As of this week, you can find the cherries in Metropolitan Market, QFC or Fred Meyers store across the country.
Our trip started out at Pybus Market, where we experienced a progressive dinner showcasing the Orondo Ruby in all its flavorful glory.
Image courtesy of Josh Tarr
Here’s the ghetto picture I took:
One thing I love about this place is that each shop has its own style of signage, theme and layout. Here’s a look inside (mind you, this is from the center looking at one half the total length):
Image courtesy of Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce
Fun hub-bub, no?!
Our meal started at South, one of Pybus’ restaurants, where the cherries were incorporated into a salsa, cocktail and taco:
I almost licked the plate – even the beans were exceptional. I would like to know how they made these beans so exciting!
It was soul-stirring, and I had to cut myself off. The restaurant is super cute, as well – it has those Restoration Hardware-type hanging light bulbs everywhere and a very neat indoor rooftop dining deck (don’t over-think it).
The next stop in our progressive dinner was at Pybus’ Fire for some wood fired pizza and cured meats (and more Rubies, of course).
Yes, yes and yes.
Fire has a mini fancy meat store within it called Cured. Fire’s owner, Dan Carr, who also owns an adjacent gelato/creperie called Ice and two locations of an Italian restaurant called Visconti’s, clearly needed more on his plate, so he decided to dabble in aging meats. The result was Cured. Gosh, some people’s hobbies are so much more interesting than blogging and pinning.
Dan was our server at Fire and he was so informative. The meat on the left is called Buckboard Bacon, and is cured in honey, brown sugar and molasses and aged over applewood. I immediately bought a pound “for Tristan.” On the other side of the Rubies and Marcona almonds is Mole, a recent Salumi innovation uniquely spiced with chocolate, cnnamon, ancho and chipotle peppers.
Our final stop was at Pybus Bistro, a Parisian-inspired restaurant where we dined out on the patio…so very Parisian of us.
Pybus Bistro is owned by the cutest couple who recently got engaged. They also make great food!
I believe these were both different preparations of pork. The bite on the left reminded me of a hot fresh donut. But savory.
And here is a sherried Orondo Ruby with house-made cheese:
And our final course for the evening – a lemon curd layered tart (?) with fresh cream and Orondo Rubies.
Some other fun findings throughout the market include this awesome sign at The Cheesemonger’s Shop and a meat and seafood market, just like in Pike Place!
Here’s a peek at my Pybus purchases – I loved D’Olivo, which had a bajillion flavors of vinegar and olive oils, plus yummy pastas. I purchased White Grapefruit Balsamic Vinegar, and two oils – Cara Cara Orange Vanilla and Persian Lime, plus Beet Fettuccini and Pappardelle pasta.
The next day, we journeyed to the breathtaking home of Bart Clennon, brother-in-law of Marcus Griggs. Bart and his daughter Cory help run G&C Farms (the C is for Clennon!), and served as our hosts and tour guides during the trip. Of course, my phone was acting up, but imagine a Tuscan-style estate with brunch on the patio overlooking orchards and the Wenatchee Valley. I SO wish I could’ve taken, like, four thousand pictures. Boo.
During brunch, we conducted a cherry taste test, comparing Orondo Rubies to Rainiers and Bings. Consecutive third party studies have shown the Ruby to contain 20% more sugar than Rainiers, yet more acid, resulting in bigger flavor. The Orondo Ruby also has a firmer skin than both Rainiers and Bings, giving it a crisp bite and longer shelf life. So, it was no surprise that we all pronounced the Orondo Ruby the taste test winner (and I was even looking to see if the Bings and Rainiers were smaller and/or bruised so as to “rig” the test – no, you guys, it was the real deal!).
After brunch, we headed out to the orchards and packing line in Orondo to see where the magic happens and visit the Mother Tree, where the magic began. My blogger friend Janelle of Talk of Tomatoes was kind enough to take this photo of me in front of the packing boxes.
We were able to pick our own Orondo Rubies in the orchard, and those of us that didn’t eat them all on the drive home will get to use them in our own culinary creations.
Tristan and I will be having a small gathering tomorrow evening and I will be creating an Orondo Ruby Sparkling Sangria. Stay tuned for the recap and recipe!