The Literary Tomato

Tonight I was lucky enough to be invited to a special private garden dinner at Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena. The tomato-themed event was held for Napa food bloggers in honor of SUMMER FEST, a cross-blog food event celebrating peak harvest season. While I technically focus my writing on literary haunts, I gladly accepted the invitation knowing I’d easily find inspiration for a posting.

It was a gorgeous evening. After a seemingly endless bout of chilly summer days, summer has officially arrived – better late than never.

Pa amb tomaquet

With the warm night came a bounty of tomatoes straight from the amazing gardens at Gott’s. We toured the garden with Garden Manager Christopher Landercasper (“Lande”), who introduced us to his well-tended rows of peppers, corn, squash, melon and of course, tomatoes.

Gott’s Executive Chef Rick Robinson then proceeded to prepare a meal of what he called “multi-culturalism run amok.” Our feast included Catalan Pa amb tomaquet (grilled bread rubbed with garlic and tomato topped with olive oil and sea salt), Andalusian Gazpacho (a cold and very tasty tomato soup) and Southern Scalloped Tomatoes – what Rick called “a Southern Sunday dinner staple, slightly updated.”


We also had a delicious tomato, zucchini and chevre tart from Provence. And, I was thrilled that the chef made one of my very favorite meals – Italian Panzanella (a tomato and bread salad). I was obsessed with the Panzanella in Florence and chatted with Rick about why the Florentine style was so different from others I’ve had. He commented that there are many different versions and the one he made us tonight was his favorite… works for me!


If all this wasn’t enough, Rick and Lande prepared a round of the famous Gott’s burgers for us, garnished of course with tomatoes. It was a feast to remember. And while the food was inspiration enough, it was the company of great friends – old and new – that made the evening even more memorable. There’s really nothing that makes me happier than sitting around a table with friends, drinking great wine (tonight we went through a few bottles of a nice French rose), and eating amazing, fresh food. Add a warm, summer, moonlit evening and you’ve got perfection in my book.

I came home and found a literary passage that fits this experience perfectly. It’s included in a book titled Desiring Italy: Women Writers Celebrate the Passions of a Country and Culture, edited by Susan Cahill. I bought it years ago after visiting Italy. It’s always been a favorite on my bookshelf, especially because the end of each chapter includes a section “For the Literary Traveler,” offering tips on how to seek out the places written about. Here is a passage by chef and cookbook author Marcella Hazan (and my contribution to Summer Fest in lieu of a recipe):

Nothing significant exists under Italy’s sun that is not touched by art. Its food is twice blessed because it is the product of two arts, the art of cooking and the art of eating. While each nourishes the other, they are in no way identical accomplishments. The art of cooking produces the dishes, but it is the art of eating that transforms them into a meal.

Through the art of eating, an Italian meal becomes a precisely orchestrated event, where the products of the season, the traditions of place, the intuitions of the cook, and the knowledgeable joy of the participants are combined into one of the most satisfying experiences of which our senses are capable.

A few more tomato-based blogs:
Napafarmhouse 1885
Inspire Your Lifestyle
Healthy Napa (Yay to Laura on her first blog post!)
Hedonism Ink
Me with Indra (
Ashley, Ann and Laura

photos by me (with the help of the Hipstamatic… gotta love that thing)

5 thoughts on “The Literary Tomato

  1. beautiful post julie…and marcella hazan is one of my favorite cookbook authors. i think our book club meals perfectly illustrate the “one of the most satisfying experiences of which our senses are capable.” point she is making.

    i wrote about my love of tomatoes…and posted two recipes…my version of slow roasted tomato pasta sauce…and gott’s “secret” recipe for gazpacho

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