Thursday, December 13, 2007

They're Ba-ack

Because leaves here don't change color and the air doesn't become crisp, Miamians need other things to remind them that the seasons are changing. Sure the humidity drops down to manageable levels and you find yourself opening your sunroof without baking your poor scalp, but very few things herald the coming of fall and winter. One of the few events that does is the annual opening of Knaus Berry Farm in Redlands.

For those of you from West Coast, Knaus is not to be confused with the one-time farm/current second-class amusement park Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park. Knaus Berry Farm is, indeed, a farm which operates from mid-November to around April or May. The farm is run by the Knaus family, devout Dunkers (a type of German Baptist) who summer in Pennsylvania and winter in Florida.

When you arrive at the farm you'll be greeted by a packed parking lot. After finding a spot and making your way to the freshly painted main building you'll be greeted with a line. Actually, multiple lines. In ascending order of wait time the lines are (1) to buy fresh produce, including strawberries, tomatoes, beets, greens, etc. all grown on-site or nearby as well as any homemade jams and jellies, (2) to buy fresh fruit milkshakes from the trailer installed next to the main building and lastly (3) to buy baked goods. Now the baked goods range from pies to cakes (both upside down and rightside up) to breads and rolls. Most people ignore those. It's as if they don't exist. I ignore them for the most part, but always end up with a dozen herb rolls. What the crowd is there for, what that long line is for, what you drove out to the middle of nowhere for, are the cinnamon rolls.

And justifiably so. I'm not sure how many cinnamon rolls Knaus sells on a typical Saturday. It has to hover in the mid-thousands at least. Almost every customer in line orders at least a six pack. The reason they are so popular is because they are the most melt-in-your-mouth sticky cinnamon rolls in South Florida. When you order a fresh dozen rolls they come in a box used for packing tomatoes which has been lined with parchment paper. They're then covered with another layer of parchment. You're also given a plastic bag and twist tie in case you want to store them away for the ride home. Don't do it. It'll steam the buns and take away the small, crunchy bits that make these buns so good. First off, eat one as soon as possible. You have to eat them as soon as possible. When you grab one you may flinch because the cinnamon-sugar on the buns is like a type of napalm which sticks to your fingers and burns. But the pain is quick and soon you're raising that roll to your mouth. You get the same quick little burn on your tongue on the first bite but by the second, the mass of bun dough has started to melt in your mouth, the sugar and cinnamon begin to swirl and then everything comes together simply and beautifully. Be mindful of your groans and expressions, you're in a public place.

So while the our neighbors to the North get beautiful fall foliage and our friends to the West get Santa Ana winds, our reminder of the changing seasons are purely edible. And the fact that we're reminded while still wearing shorts and a t-shirt is an added bonus.

Knaus Berry Farm is part of the Redland Riot Tour.

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