comments

Specialty foods shop savors 10-year anniversary

Newcastle Produce is known for locally grown favorites
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
A local shop that has become a favorite for chefs, cooks and foodies is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month. Newcastle Produce is known for its locally grown fruits and vegetables, array of gourmet foods and deli specialties. Jan Thompson, who owns the store with her husband, Francis, grew up around farming. The Thompsons also own Twin Brooks Farm in Loomis and have sold produce at the Foothill Farmers Market for 20 years. “I just wanted to have something to do besides being a farm laborer for my husband,” she said about opening the business. The former English teacher at Placer High School did the homework first. “I started out with the whole idea,” she said. “I had traveled around and visited a lot of specialty stores and fruit stands.” Her focus from the beginning was to fill the store with locally produced foods. Initially, many of Thompson’s customers came from contacts through the farmers’ markets in Auburn, Granite Bay and Tahoe City. She gathered the inventory through local growers and checking out products personally. These days, producers come to her. The store has grown in scale as it has established a regional presence. Initially, the food preparation service consisted of a small deli case offering mainly soups, a few salads and sandwiches. That gradually expanded. Then, in 2007, Thompson hired Chelsea Federwitz, a chef recently graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. Federwitz immediately began introducing new items to the menu. Her scones have become a particular favorite. “Chelsea has made more than 70 different kinds and they’re all wonderful,” Thompson said. At about the same time, the store added wines from foothill vineyards. This summer, Thompson began offering jams prepared on site. Created from store produce, the jams are available in an evolving array of flavors — among them, Elverta peach, pluot and strawberry-rhubarb. In her never-ending search for new products, Thompson has discovered some mother lode finds. One of her favorites is from the Loomis-based Earth & Vine Provisions company. The red bell pepper and ancho chili jam took a first-place award at the annual Fancy Food show in San Francisco. “You can put it on cream cheese with crackers or use it as a condiment with meats,” she said. A recent addition to the store is a selection of greeting cards by local artist Janet Joslin. Some of the views on the cards were inspired by Newcastle Produce displays, Thompson said. Besides the retail side, there are cooking classes and a monthly newsletter. The front of the store has a section of tables and chairs where customers can have lunch or a snack. The number of tables has grown along with the deli, she said. On Monday, Auburn resident Mary Rigby and Katherine Streeter of Rocklin stopped by for some vegetable lasagna. The two make the trip for lunch about once a month. “They always have nice, fresh salads,” Streeter said. Their visits usually include some browsing time, too. “They definitely have things you can’t get in other places,” Rigby said. Thompson is celebrating the store’s 10-year anniversary on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Federwitz is preparing a large cake and will give a free cooking demonstration — tortellini — from noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 31. Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Newcastle Produce Where: 9230 Cypress St., Newcastle Phone: Phone: (916) 663-2016 Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday Web site: www.newcastleproduce.net 10-year anniversary celebration: Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1