Ode to Nuts: California’s Crunchiest Festival

Do you have almond amour? Wild for walnuts? Go Chico this spring.

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ON NUTELLA DAY... which happens to be Feb. 5, which we're quite sure everyone has marked on their calendars and circled on various documents, because Nutella is practically everyone's favorite eat-from-the-jar food, it does us good to pause and remember the place from which the spread sprung: the hazelnut. In fact, so many of our dips and spreads and butters and desserts and savory entrees have their foundation in nutdom that it can be difficult to completely catalog all the crunchy branches on this tasty tree. Perhaps it is because the nut, having great variety and handy smallness, can really cameo in just about any dish, be it sweet or not. (For the nut's impressive breadth look to "Best in Show" and Christopher Guest's famous nut speech.) So of course it deserves its own party, and of course it should be in California, which is often called "crunchy," a label we embrace in all the ways. And we also embrace that many, many good things grow here, including a cavalcade of nuts, from almonds to walnuts to pecans. Want to know more about this in-shell segment of the Golden State's bounty? Then be in Chico on Saturday, April 18 for...

THE CALIFORNIA NUT FESTIVAL: The place is the Patrick Ranch Museum, a ticket is $30 at the event, and the nut-a-tude? It is plentiful, like a barrel full of pistachios (another star nut of the day, in addition to the almond-walnut-pecan triad). Local wine will also be a star, because any enjoyer of vino knows that a glass of chardonnay and a bowl of salted almonds, when placed before a person, will both disappear at about the same speed. Several local food-growers and food-makers and confectioners will be selling their edible wares, too. So, what's the most royal of nuts? That's hard one, as hard as a walnut just off a tree, but one thing is certain: In a time when so many bites derive from nuts, dessert spreads and beyond, it is good to go back to the source, for a day, and spotlight the wee wonders that arrive inside their own shells.

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