North County Times
December 15, 2004
By: BARBARA BRILL - For the North County Times
For as long as most residents can remember, strawberry fields have been part of the landscape in North County, especially in Carlsbad, where the warm, sunny days and the cool, foggy nights provide an environment for growing some of the juiciest and sweetest strawberries in the nation.
"Nothing says Carlsbad like a ripe, fresh strawberry," said Russ Bruhn, 41, who started this spring using Carlsbad's fresh hand-picked strawberries for what he calls "tasty souvenirs from Carlsbad."
"When a team from Hawaii came here to play against my son's baseball team, they brought gifts from their state ---- macadamia nuts and coffee. That's when I realized we didn't have anything that was pure Carlsbad," said Bruhn.
For the next several months, he did some research on strawberries and strawberry products.
"I learned that the strawberry is the fruit of kings and of love, and that 83 percent of our country's strawberries are grown in California," said Bruhn, an eight-year Carlsbad resident whose previous work experience includes being a buyer for Costco and a software programmer.
He also discovered that most preserves and spreads on the market were being made with frozen strawberries, so he decided to go to his kitchen and try to come up with high-quality products using fresh berries from the fields off Cannon Road and from the fields off El Camino Real near Tamarack Avenue.
Bruhn stirred the pots. His friends gathered in his kitchen to taste and comment, and he met with a food scientist to alter his one-pot recipe to an industrial-sized one. And when the ingredients, the taste and the color were just right, he began writing and designing labels for his new company ---- Carlsbad Gourmet, Strawberries-by-the-Sea.
At the present time, Bruhn's products include strawberry spreads, some of which are flavored with lavender, pecans and black walnuts. He's also got a strawberry hot sauce laced with fresh habanero chiles, a strawberry barbecue sauce made with beer microbrewed in Carlsbad, chocolate-covered dried strawberries, and strawberry soaps with berry seeds for exfoliating the skin.
During the next strawberry season in Carlsbad, which starts in January, Bruhn plans to add salad dressings and vinaigrettes to his offerings. And he will continue to create new recipes for his products, such as the ones he already has put together for pies, cakes, turkeys, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
Although Carlsbad Gourmet products have been available less than a year, they have received accolades from local chefs, including Paul Geasland, the executive chef at Legoland California.
"When I discovered Russ's strawberry spread, I knew I had to use it. It's outstanding," said Geasland, who put together a recipe for a strawberry, cream cheese and kiwi "Fruitizza" that is served at the theme park.
"We are lucky to have someone like Russ who takes such pride in his community to come up with these products," said Kurt Burkhart, executive director of the Carlsbad Convention & Visitors Bureau. " Now our visitors can continue to enjoy Carlsbad after they go back home."
Carlsbad Gourmet products (and samples) are available at the Carlsbad Farmers' Market each Wednesday from 2 to 5 p.m. in the village. For more information or for recipes, visit www.carlsbadgourmet.com.
This recipe is from Russ Bruhn. It uses the Strawberry Lavender Spread.