Freddy Guys Organic Hazelnuts from Oregon

It’s been about two years now that we’ve been bringing these amazing nuts in from the West Coast. In that time they’ve given me a whole new take on hazelnuts. While I’d always liked them just fine, outside of what I’d had in northern Italy, I can’t say that I’d ever come across any that drew me in the way so many other foods have over the years. All that’s changed. Now that I’m hooked up with Freddy Guys, I almost never go without hazelnuts. I keep them in my house to toss on salads or to add to rice or pasta dishes. And I pretty frequently take them in my bag when I travel—they’re a great way to get protein and great flavor all in one, easily transportable form.

Freddy Guys is a family run farm. Fritz and Barb Foulke are growing an old variety called Barcelona that was brought first to New Jersey, where it didn’t do very well, before eventually being loaded on wagons and hauled out west. The climate in Oregon is, apparently, very similar to that of the Piedmont in northern Italy, which is pretty much the world headquarters for hazelnuts. All the Freddy Guys nuts are roasted to order; when we get them they’re literally only about a week or so out of the small Italian roasting machine that the Foulke’s have on the farm. They’re really as simple as can be, and all the better for it. No salt, no oil, no nothing; just great nuts shelled and given a light roast. They’re really good and they go with most anything—chop and put ‘em onto fresh cut fruit, gelato, cake or cookies. Accessorize salads and pastas; or if you’re getting into more complex cooking, they’d be great in a Catalan picada, ground up along with fresh garlic, and really good olive oil.

This post is part of a series of Ari’s Best Foods of 2011.