Bob Klein has had his share of food passions. The owner of Oakland’s Oliveto restaurant has been consumed by finding the best meat, fish, wine, and, of course, salumi (for years Fra’ Mani’s Paul Bertolli was his chef). And he was into the whole nose-to-tail thing way early.
But now he’s found a new love – wheat. And his Community Grains whole-grain pasta is popping up on menus and in stores around Southern California, including Mozza and Whole Foods, as well as online.
Of course you’ve had whole-grain pasta before, but this is different. In the usual milling of wheat, Klein explains, the germ and bran are separated off, which removes the fatty acids that prevent rancidity. You can taste the difference -- Community Grains dried pastas have that familiar whole-grain nuttiness, but they lack the bitterness that usually goes with it. It’s not an all-purpose pasta -- the wheat flavor is too assertive for that -- but with the right sauce, or even just butter and Parmigiano, it’s delicious.
The milling is just part of the story, though. Klein is also passionate about reviving local farm economies. And to that measure, all of the wheat used in Community Grains pasta is sourced from within California (the durum wheat for the pappardelle is from Southern California’s Imperial Valley). The milling is done on a granite wheel in Woodland. And the pasta is made with old-fashioned brass dies at Pasta Sonoma.
Community Grains even has a special run of “Identity-Preserved” pastas -- noodles made from single wheat varieties, grown on individual farms. They’re like the estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon of grains. For example, the fusilli lunghi is made from Desert King variety hard amber durum wheat that was planted in a 2-acre block in November 2011 on the organically certified Front Porch Farm in Healdsburg.
That enough detail?
Community Grains also has a line of whole-grain flours from hard red, hard white and soft white winter wheats and from durum. It also produces Red Flint corn polenta. These are available at Surfas and FarmShop.