Green tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, pink, scarlet, purple and even striped tomatoes. Tomato appetizers. Tomatoes in main courses. Tomatoes in desserts. Tomato ice cream. Really.
"It's amazing what you can do with a tomato," said Anna Krassovsky of Rohnert Park, who partook of the tomato bounty Saturday with friends at 17th Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival at Kendall-Jackson's Wine Estate and Gardens north of Santa Rosa.
"I never knew there were so many different tomatoes in one place," Krassovsky said.
She's not kidding. Under the Tasting Tent, there were 175 varietals of tomatoes, sliced for sampling. Familiar types like the hearty beefsteak and Brandywine gave way to more unusual green zebra, garden peach and Cherokee purples. Nearby, dozens of food booths celebrated the tasty member of the nightshade family in recipes of all manner.
Krassovsky's friends Irene Bogoslovsky and Helen Bogatsky of Forestville waited in a line to sample Fiorello's Artisan Gelato made with tomatoes and cucumber.
"It's very refreshing," Bogoslovsky said, contemplating the odd sample. "Different, but refreshing. What's that word — it's unctuous."
Proceeds from the $95 general admission and $150 VIP access tickets benefit Guy Fieri's Cooking with Kids Foundation, a nonprofit organization that encourages kids to develop healthy eating habits.
The sold-out event, which drew 2,500 people, highlights local chefs and food purveyors in their pursuit of innovative and delicious uses for the seasonal fruit — now at its height of ripeness.
At Smash Foods Company, crowds loved Jennifer Hedgpeth's Hottie Habanero and Aggie's Heirloom "tomato smash," paired with an herbed cheese mix atop a crostini.
"We started the company to showcase an 80-year-old family recipe for old-fashioned tomato relish," she said. "Everyone always said there wasn't anything like it."
Hedgpeth took off where her great-great-Aunt Aggie started and formed Smash Foods 20 months ago. She since has placed her organic relishes in several local grocery and winery tasting rooms. Saturday, her children, Caroline Hedgpeth Fuller and Matthew Hedgpeth, passed out samples of their "little jar of summer sun" to tomato lovers.
In addition to food and wine tasting, festivalgoers could tour the winery's culinary and sensory gardens, attend culinary seminars and watch star chefs compete for honors of top chef.
Penny Bolger and Chris Coughlin of Corte Madera, by way of a summer home in Guerneville, left with a case of wine, seeds for their favorite tomato plants, cookbooks and full stomachs.
"There was more than you could possibly eat and do," Bolger said. "And pretty much everything was wonderful."
You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or email@example.com.