On January 10, we hosted a wheat tasting at Oliveto Restaurant in Oakland, CA. Our plan was to begin establishing some basic vocabulary for how to talk about the flavor components of wheat and flour as well as discern how those components vary between different varieties.
In attendance were some of the most highly-tuned palates we know including: Randall Grahm (Bonny Doon Vineyard), Oliveto co-owner Maggie Klein, Manresa sous chef Jessica Largey, author Harold McGee (Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen), journalist Michael Pollan (The Botany of Desire), Master Baker Craig Ponsford, Oliveto Restaurant Executive Chef Rhodehamel, food historian and author William Rubel (Bread: A Global History), Manresa pastry chef Avery Ruzicka, and distiller Lance Winters (St. George Spirits/Hangar One).
Also in attendance was farmer Matt Taylor who grew the wheat we were tasting for Front Porch Farms, a small organic (soon to be biodynamic) farm, in Healdsburg, CA. As well as Community Grains founder, Bob Klein.
The group tasted three different varieties of wheat: Bolero, Christallo, and Desert King in five different applications: straight seeds, whole-milled flour, porridge, pasta, a some beautiful bread baked by Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.
Panel members were gracious enough to let us collect their notes at night’s end and we are now in the process of compiling a first draft of a wheat/flour directory of terms which we will continue to add to and expand on as we become more fluent. There was definitely the consensus that this was a great first step, but that more tastings with additional variables and applications should follow. Click here to see a list of the descriptors our tasters came up with.