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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scream's Macadamia Nut Sorbet Is Surprisingly Locavore

Posted By on Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 1:22 PM

Scream's macadamia vanilla sorbet contains nuts grown as locally as possible, i.e. northern San Diego County. - KTHREAD/FLICKR
  • kthread/Flickr
  • Scream's macadamia vanilla sorbet contains nuts grown as locally as possible, i.e. northern San Diego County.
For an ingredient as exotic as macadamia nuts, the word "local" may require a little loosening here in the Bay Area. But the fact that Emeryville-based Scream Sorbet found a California macadamia producer at all is surprising, especially considering their first experiments required sourcing organic nuts from Kenya.

For Scream's latest macadamia vanilla sorbet, owners Nathan Kurz, Noah Goldner, and Stephanie Lau turned to MnM's Nuthouse, a macadamia nut grower in Fallbrook, Calif., a quiet farming town in northern San Diego County.

Anyone who has tried them will tell you MnM's nuts are special. Farmer Mark Marchese attributes much of that exceptional flavor to the nuts' freshness. Delicate Omega-3 fatty acids quickly turn rancid during shipping at nonoptimal temperatures. With California-grown macadamias you can actually taste the freshness.

Macadamias in their green state at the MnM's farm. - MNM'S NUTHOUSE
  • MnM's Nuthouse
  • Macadamias in their green state at the MnM's farm.
But there are other factors, too. California macadamia varietals ― cultivars developed by farmers returning from Hawaii after World War II ― are themselves unique. The flavor and texture of California macadamias are slightly different from those sourced from Africa, Australia, and even Hawaii itself.

According to Marchese, the raw food movement may have also impacted the taste of MnM's macadamias. To meet the demands of raw foodies they've altered their roasting process, reducing the temperature from 104°-110° F to 90°-100°. This requires longer roasting, but preserves both the nutrients and flavor of the nut in its natural state.

MnM's Nuthouse is not certified organic, but this reflects the realities and costs of growing a specialty crop rather than growing practices at the farm. Marchese says they would easily qualify for certification, since growing such a small-yield crop means they couldn't afford to buy chemical fertilizers even if they wanted to. Mineral supplements are in the form of dust sourced at a local granite quarry. That goes into chicken feed, which MnM's ultimately uses as tree fertilizer. The cost of organic certification is also a barrier, says Marchese. Macadamias are already so expensive to produce that any added cost would make them pricey enough to shrink demand.

Fortunately, MnM's is now producing enough nuts to make Kurz, Goldner, and Lau hopeful that macadamia vanilla will become a mainstay. The nuts' naturally high level of saturated fat, combined with the smoothness Scream achieves via the Pacojet, makes the nut-based sorbet almost indistinguishable from ice cream. Add to that the buttery, nuanced flavor of macadamias and whole vanilla beans (infusions aren't necessary with the Pacojet) and Scream has created something that should make both vegans and omnivores rejoice.

Scream Sorbet appears at various Bay Area farmers' markets, including Thu. at Ferry Plaza, Sun. at Fort Mason Center (ends Oct. 31), and Wed. at Castro and Upper Haight (both end Oct. 27). The Scream shop in Oakland's Temescal neighborhood is expected to open in late October.

Read more from Darya Pino at Summer Tomato or on Twitter @summertomato. Follow SFoodie on Twitter: @sfoodie.
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Darya Pino

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