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Macoun apples at Berkeley Bowl

When I walked into Berkeley Bowl this afternoon and saw the Macoun apples I squealed (no doubt embarrassing grayelf, whom I was showing around Berkeley).

The Bowl had many, many varieties of apples, including some (Macoun, Spitzenberg) rarely seen in the area. I also bought some red corn (not red like Indian corn, but white kernals that look like they were sponged with red -- very pretty and delicious!).

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Berkeley Bowl
2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

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  1. I was shopping for apples last week at the Bowl and was surprised to see the Macoun and also Empires and several others that are more readily available back East. the Macoun were highly waxed ( shiny ) but also showed several mini bruises. Not sure they travel well. Lot of apples from Washington State - more commercial looking than local versions of the same apple. Many choices - just look /smell carefully.

    3 Replies
    1. re: gordon wing

      The Macouns they had today were gorgeous -- I didn't see any bruises.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Wow, that might be worth the ride to Berkeley. I haven't had Macouns since moving here from Boston and I sure do miss them.

        Do you remember if the Watsonville orchard might have been Billy Bob? They have some of the best local apples around, including Empires. I'll have to ask if they have Macouns the next time I see them at the Mountain View market. Even if they're not as good as eastern versions, it would be great to support local growers trying different things.

        Michael

        1. re: mdg

          The farm in Watsonville is Hillview - they're at the Jack London Square, San Jose and Danville markets (IIRC).

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          Jack London Square
          70 Washington St # 207, Oakland, CA

    2. Yes, agreed on the squeal. The macouns are shipped from New York (I've never seen them locally grown; I think it just doesn't get cold enough in California), the ones at Berkeley Bowl West are quite large, flavor is good but they aren't as crisp as the ones I had at the Union Square greenmarket in NYC a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, a good reason to veer from strict locavorianism and to feel continually blessed living within a short ride to both Berkeley Bowls.

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      Berkeley Bowl
      2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

      Berkeley Bowl West
      920 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA

      2 Replies
      1. re: dordogne

        There's one grower in Watsonville who is at the Jack London Square farmers market that has them for a couple of weeks during the season, but I missed them this year and I don't think they're as good as the ones from the east. BTW, grayelf was doing her best not to die from envy at the Berkeley Bowl.

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        Berkeley Bowl
        2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Saw this variety at Mollie Stones in Palo Alto today - i think they were $2.69 a pound...very shiny and medium in size....they weren't labeled organic.

      2. I was at Monterey Mkt this afternoon and they, too, had many varieties of apples. I'd been reading a thread on home cooking re apple pies and most were saying they preferred Cortlands (Macouns were mentioned but all the talk made me think "Cortlands" would be better.

        So, I bought some will try to tackle an apple pie -- I'm very out of practice.

        (They also had about 20 kinds of mushrooms -- one I'd never seen before, called Honey Mushroom with a stem about 4-5 inches long -- produce man said he'd heard you're to eat the stems -- he has not tried them yet. I bought a small amount to try.)

        1. FWIW Macouns will grow in California just fine -- I have a tree here in the Santa Cruz mountains. But Macouns are very sensitive to terroir and they prefer east coast soils to really get the bite and crispness that makes them so good in New England and New York. They're just not the same grown here.

          Honeycrisp apples are a cross of Macouns and a golden delicious variant, wildly popular, and less terroir sensitive. They're a little too sweet for me but still pretty tasty. The season is over for them here but you can still find them imported from Washington.

          FWIW I make pies with a combination of local newtown pippin, granny smith, and winesap apples, and I get raves for my pies. I grew up in Boston but I strongly disagree with the idea that you need east coast apples to make a great pie.

          11 Replies
          1. re: petrelline

            Thanks for the information about locally grown Macouns - it's the "bite(acid) and crispness" that makes them so good. If they don't have that I'd rather wait and have them back East where they are like I remember them. I have a Gravenstein apple tree in my yard - these are great apples but they don't travel well at all. A matter of days off of the tree result in a mushier apple - right off the tree they are crisp and tart. Freshness matters - although I would imagine that some apples hold up better than others.

            1. re: gordon wing

              Yes, freshness matters, moreso in some apple varieties than others. One exception is Arkansas Blacks -- straight off the tree they are dry and woody, but if you let them mellow a little they get soft enough to release the juices.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                love Arkansas Blacks - good to know about them if I ever come across a tree.

                1. re: gordon wing

                  The Bowl (original) had Arkansas Blacks yesterday (sort of hidden around the corner from the others, facing the wall with the veggies), and at least one local grower has them, too. That's how I learned this: I had friends who raves about Arkansas Blacks, so I bought some at the farmers market and they were terrible. So they sat in the bowl for a week or so and I tried them again and they were great. So now I let my Arakansas Black "age" a little.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    That's good to know, Ruth, because I had the same experience (hearing raves, buying Arkansas Blacks at the market and finding them terrible).

                    A grower who comes to the Tuesday FP market sells them, on the left center side if you're facing the building; at least he had them last week.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      WHAT!!!??? WHAT??? Arkansas Blacks at BB? I was there Thursday and thought I'd looked everywhere. Monterey Mkt. said they didn't have them a couple of days ago when I called.

                      So where are they? Around the corner from the others facing the veggies? In the aisle where the heirloom tomatoes are? At the end of the aisle? Huh? Huh? Huh? I'm having to take deep breaths in order to calm down and not jump into my car, drive there and wait til they open tomorrow!

                      I've been buying small organic Cameo apples. They are juicy and verrrrry crisp. They aren't AB's though.

                      1. re: oakjoan

                        At Berkeley Bowl (original) they were in the first bin (closest to the other apples) in the row facing the veggie wall. At least, that's where they were on Monday.

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                        Berkeley Bowl
                        2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Both Macouns and Arkansas Blacks yesterday at BBWest.

                          Also:
                          Winesap
                          Empire
                          Courtland

                        2. re: oakjoan

                          Monterey Market had Arkansas Blacks yesterday in the outside bins.

                  2. re: gordon wing

                    Yes, texture of Macouns and early McIntoshes is wonderful--not just crisp but crunchy. The first bite is like the first crack of bat on ball at spring training.

                    1. re: dordogne

                      Have you tried the Winesaps? Crisp, Crunchy, Deep red outside, red striations near the core with a sweet- tart cidery flavor. My personal favorite, and available at BB as well.

                2. My wife got some Macouns at Berkeley Bowl last week. She was thrilled to find them there, being from MA. However they were mushy. We used to get a yearly shipment from her family of a box of these and the flavor/texture is not like any other apple. Sort of like the flavor of a McIntosh but much crunchier. Maybe we just got them at the wrong time, we'll try again.

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                  Berkeley Bowl
                  2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LAMark

                    Maybe the first batch they got in was sub-standard, but the ones they had yesterday were firm and glossy. At anyrate, I'm just glad that someone is distributing them to the West Coast -- if we buy them, then they'll send us more!

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                    West Coast Cafe
                    466 San Mateo Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066

                  2. Funny! I went to Berkeley Bowl for the first time the week before last. The produce blew me away in general, but it was the apple selection that imipressed me most. They must have had 12 kinds of apples I don't usually see. I bought a little selection and we had an apple tasting that night.
                    :-)

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                    Berkeley Bowl
                    2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                    1. Too funny, Ruth. Mr. brought home a bag of the Macouons from the Bowl last week and asked me to make a pie. "Make a pie?" I says indignantly. "I think not!! These are extra special apples, suitable only for a delicious eating apple or a wonderful cheese plate!"
                      He looked so dejected and sad that I went and bought a bag of Pippins and made the dang pie.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: mamachef

                        I made a crisp a couple of weeks ago and used a combination of apples (including Pippins) recommended by the apple grower; the combination was the best apple filling I've ever had, with a mixture of sweetness and tartness and textures.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Ruth, if you feel like sharing, I'd love to know what blend you used. I'm always on the hunt for that perfect mixture, and would appreciate it. I know you know what you're doing in the old kitchen, so thanks for the help.
                          Marci

                          1. re: mamachef

                            I don't remember exactly. The grower said "two of those, two of those, two of those and two of those." I remember there were Pippins and Pink Ladies -- I think the other two maybe have been Golden Russets, and either Braeburn or Mutsu.

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                            Mutsu Restaurant
                            279 Baldwin Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Thank you Ruth. I'll give it a shot with the Braeburns and let you know how it goes.

                      2. Got a bag of the macoun at the Bowl the other day and they got devoured in a minute.
                        They're fantastic. Thanks for posting!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: escargot3

                          I'll note, however, that the ones I got at BB West were as Gordon described: lots of micro bruises and were pretty mealy. A real difference from the ones I got at BB Original just a few days earlier.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            i'm a BB original shopper. The macoun were amazingly flavorful and crisp, and beautiful as well. I never had 'em before.

                            1. re: escargot3

                              I feel the produce at the original store is much better; I wonder why.

                              The new store is clean and beautiful but, because of quality of produce, I prefer the old store.

                              1. re: walker

                                I prefer the old BB, too. Well, first of all it's closer to me, but I've gotten used to those crowded aisles and somewhat narrow aisles. Besides, I know where everything is and I can't reach the milk at BBWest. I have to ask a tall person to get it down for me. and I'm not that short. I've complained but nobody does anything about it. Sigh.

                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Ruth,Escargot&Walker thanks for mentioning the difference between the two Berkeley Bowls.
                              I'm closer to the new one but I may start looking around at the old Bowl again.

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                              Berkeley Bowl
                              2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                              1. re: gordon wing

                                I suspect the same buyer is purchasing produce for both stores.

                                I shop at the one because I live nearby.

                          2. If the Macouns you see in CA were grown in the Northeast, they are a month past their prime. I live near Boston and watch for them every year, starting in late September. They appear between then and mid-October, and are only at their best for a couple of weeks. At their best, they are very juicy and sweet-tart, and exceptionally crisp. There is no finer eating apple. For pies, they need to be mixed with an apple that will stay firm, since Macouns collapse. Macoun applesauce is disappointingly watery.

                            Honeycrisps, I was told by a grower, must sit for some time after picking so their flavor develops. They hold their shape exceptionally well in a pie, and keep in the refrigerator for many weeks without loss of flavor or crispness.