At a C&Z anniversary party three years ago I met David, a reader from L.A. who was spending a few months in France. We’ve been in touch on and off since then, and when David came back to Paris for a vacation in late spring, he very generously brought me a gift.
What he brought was a bag of honey dates grown in Indio, California by Dates by Davall, and a pound of dry roasted hazelnuts from the Freddy Guys orchard in the Willamette* valley in Oregon. He included a note to explain that he gets the former at his farmers market in Santa Monica, and discovered the latter while in Portland.
This struck me as a textbook example of the perfect gift.
I’ve been savoring those dates and hazelnuts sloooowly, trying to make the supply last as long as possible.
Not only are the dates and hazelnuts spectacularly good — the dates soft and caramelly as toffee, the hazelnuts crisp and light as popcorn, and vividly flavorful — but the combo of the two is the ultimate treat. Throw in a square or two of dark chocolate and angels come out from behind the clouds, playing their tiny trumpets.
Beyond the sheer good taste — literally and figuratively — of the present, I love the elegant simplicity of offering ingredients that reflect the work of fine growers I might never have come across otherwise. I love that they come with a personal story, too, and that I get to imagine David visiting those market stalls, sampling the fruits, going cuckoo for them, and buying extra to give out to friends so they could share in his enthusiasm.