Get into a delicious jam at LaLa’s
LaLa’s Jam Bar and Urban Farmstand is no longer a thing of rumors, its semi-secret location passed by whisper from friend to friend and neighbor to neighbor. After three years as one of Petaluma’s best-kept secrets, owner Leslie Goodrich as officially opened her jam bar and urban farmstand in the little yellow house at 720 E. Washington, next to Lumberjacks.
To really test the breadth of her jams, I recently called my food crew together to try the roughly fifty LaLa’s Jams we had collected over the past year, in anticipation of writing this article. So, although many of the flavors we tried are not currently available, the more popular ones will return once their fruit is in season.
If you are like I was prior to visiting LaLa’s, you may be thinking, “but it’s just jam. What’s the big deal?”
First, jam, when done well, is so much more than just the ingredient that makes it possible to swallow a PB&J sandwich without risking a choke hazard. Goodrich’s flavors span from horizon to horizon, literally covering just about every local fruit imaginable, even mixing in an herb or spice here and there.
Second, LaLa’s Urban Farmstand offers so much more than just jam. She offers any locally produced product that she can fit through the door, which currently includes Petaluma Toffee Co., Sonoma Spice Queen (Petaluma), Big Bottom Market’s Biscuit Mix (Guerneville), TWG BBQ sauces and rubs (Santa Rosa), Two Chicks Beef Jerky (San Rafael), Zoe’s salamis (Santa Rosa), and canvas Petaluma-centric pillows and bags from BeeTween Friends (Petaluma.)
LaLa’s also carries Tre Sorrelle (Rohnert Park) milk and dark chocolate covered Oreos and specialty nuts, including bourbon spiced pecans, butter caramel cashews, garlic almonds, and sweet onion pistachios and local honey infused with Habaneros, toasted almonds, cinnamon, or caramel.
Goodrich also makes olive oils, including one that is expertly infused with lemon flavor. Her Cherry Vinegar was an excellent addition to a recent pasta salad I made that needed a bit more kick and her Salted Lemons have a myriad of uses. They can be added to pasta water just before it boils, used in marinades, and the juices can be mixed into salad dressing in order to liven them up.
Although I have always loved jams, jellies, and marmalades, I never really gave them a second thought, other than that there are ones I like and ones I do not, so Goodrich helped educate me on their distinctions. Simply put, jam contains pieces of fruit. Jelly is basically strained jam, having had the fruity bits removed. Marmalade is jam infused with the peel of the fruit, such as lemon, orange, grapefruit, and LaLa’s deliciously tart cranberry. And finally, fruit “butter” is a thicker jam. Cooked for longer than jam, this spread is more dense as it contains less moisture.
Of course, we had conducted plenty of peanut butter and LaLa’s Jam sandwich tests prior, but for this tasting, we pulled out all the stops. Although I am not above eating jam straight from the jar with a spoon, we stopped in to Petaluma Market and the Petaluma Creamery in order to select the proper accoutrements for a proper jam test.
First and foremost, we needed crackers. From the simple to the complex, we purchased a wide selection of crackers, including Saltines, Wheat Thins, multi-grain, and fruit and nut mini crostini’s. However, no tasting is complete without a collection of tasty crackers from Petaluma’s award-winning Rustic Bakery, which this time included their Rosemary & Olive Oil, Sweet Onion & Crème Fraiche, and Olive Oil & Sel Gris flatbreads.
Second, came the cheeses, and as you know, Petaluma is known for some of the best. Thankfully, Petaluma Market’s excellent cheesemonger, Marie Schmittroth, guided us around the globe to select cheeses that would compliment the spread of sweet to savory jams. We ended up with many of our local favorites, like Point Reyes Homestead’s Bay Blue, Marin French’s Brie, Achadinha’s Capricious, and Che'vre from Laura Chenel’s, along with a couple of sharp Irish cheddars and a Taleggio, which is a slightly less runny - more sticky Italian version of brie. With a nice mix of both cow and non-cow cheeses, there was only one thing missing from our basket, and that was ice cream. Not wanting to distract from LaLa’s flavors, we chose vanillas from both the Petaluma Creamery and Straus Family Creamery to finish out our meal.
After a lot of cracker plating, cheese cutting, and jam jar lid removal, we sat back in wonderment at the cornucopia of sights and smells laid out in front of us for our tasting enjoyment. With so many jams, there was no way to reach them all from one seat, so we started with those in front of us and then moved on to the jams in front of others that were receiving the most “oohs” and “aahs.” As would be expected, the sharp and hard cheeses went great with the sweet jams, while the sweet soft cheeses paired perfectly with the savory jams and marmalades. Add in the half a dozen different cracker options and the flavor and texture combos became too much to comprehend.