Part I: Grove
A 7:30 a.m. call time is exactly my idea of greeting Saturday, but so it began this morning in my driveway as I pulled out to follow Roland Samimy down the Florida Turnpike to his family’s Homestead lychee grove.
No more than 30 minutes later, passing through wet air thick with haze from wildfires to the west, we had reached our destination. Branches heavy with fruit tickled my car’s roof and doors like the flaps in a carwash as we wove in and out of rows of red-speckled trees. Mauritius then Brewster. Mauritius then Brewster.
The chorus of the harvest could be heard in the distance. A tractor’s hum, the rustle of branches, men’s voices. There was hard work to be done this morning, while the sun was still low. I took in the scene as Roland’s wife Ellen and son Perry meticulously surveyed the trees, finding the right places from which to clip panicles with the appropriate proportion of ripe lychees– a necessary pruning that helps the trees produce more fruit the following season.
Soon, little piles formed down our row, from which only the best lychees were delicately trimmed from their stems and placed in two newspaper-lined boxes, one of each variety for our restaurant. Bright red Brewsters were today’s prize, the first bunch of the season since they ripen a few week after the Mauritius. Of course, grazing the trees for snacks is part of the drill. Does it get much better? I think not. For more photos from my lychee grove field trip, view this Flickr set.
Part II: Gewürztraminer
So now you ask… What to eat and drink? We are getting 10 to 20 pounds of fruit a week in house now, so Michael and Bradley are literally having a field day (especially at the sight of Brewsters, whose depth of sweet and sour flavor are a chef’s delight.) And so is sommelier Eric Larkee.
Take yesterday for example. Lychee surfaced in Local Wreckfish Ceviche and Crispy Soft Shell Crab atop a salad of avocado, shaved red onion, and parsley. Eric presented Gewürztraminer to staff at dinner pre-shift. The varietal is more than a great pairing with these dishes. Here’s why, in his own words:
One of the most distinct, dead-ringer tasting notes in the world of wine is lychee in Gewürztraminer. in celebration of lychee season I’ve been popping open our three wines we have in house; the Alsatian Zind-Humbrecht 2007 $56 (rich and moving into the sweet category), Brandborg from the Umpqua Valley of Oregon – $36 (dryish and vibrant, the residual sugar is balanced by the crisp acid, perfect for Miami summer) and the 2008 Austrian offering from Knoll $62 (rich but dry and mineral – only 4 more 500mls btls left of this super special wine). drink the lychee!