When I was doing background research for my latest Food Find, Amazon in all its wisdom suggested I might like The Model Bakery Cookbook, fresh out this month from Karen Mitchell, Napa Valley’s high priestess of baking and owner of  Napa Valley’s beloved sweets purveyor, The Model Bakery. Well, I said sure, I’ll bite…and went directly to the Table of Contents, searching madly for the recipe of her incredibly soft, crunchy, sweet fruit-of-the-week Bread Pudding, a weekly morning staple.

Suddenly, though, I got all misty-eyed as memories of my four-year hiatus in Napa Valley washed over me…uh, bear with me as I wipe the tear and share a sweet one with you. The Model Bakery exemplifies everything about local love and the value of being a “local” small business. Upon moving to Napa Valley in the late 90’s, I was a lucky duck to land a little cottage, bordering an expansive vineyard, and replete with an old-growth, never sprayed, apricot tree in the sunny backyard. To all you home orchardists out there, I know you can relate to how tough it can be to keep up during a “good” year.

Oh man, one summer they were falling right and left! Determined to see them put to a “higher” use, I lugged the season’s redolent oversupply down to the bakery’s back door and  handed them over to Karen, who lovingly turned them into all manner of treats the following week for the community of bakery fans and Valley visitors. No “regs” involved! The bakery, me and its customers were “one”! Now that’s living the local food life, as its been done for hundreds of years!

Trust me. If you love baking you can get past the absence of a bread pudding how-to, because snagging the recipe for her English Muffins is worth the investment 10 times over! You just might create a few misty memories of your own.