I first noticed them on a salad at Urbano Café: smaller, bright crimson tomatoes that exploded with flavor in my mouth. These weren't the cottony, faded-red orbs I've been eating since last November. They tasted like the summer to come.
If you're a tomato freak you've likely noticed it too. Some of these smaller tomatoes are really starting to wake up. The full-size fruits we like to slice for sandwiches are still dormant. Even J.T. Lemeley's tomatoes at the farmers market (they're grown in a green house for the first part of the year) taste forgettable right now. But the little guys are really hitting their stride.
"Yeah, we just added them to our spring menu," said Jeff Harris, the chef at Bolsa. Harris is using the tomatoes in a small, one-bite appetizer. The small salad featuring feta, mint and sumac tastes like a celebration this time of year. Harris says the larger tomatoes shouldn't be too far behind.
Urbano Café uses miniature San Marzano tomatoes in their salad. Gourmet Magazine blogged about the little beauties late last year, noting the rock star status of the coveted fruits among Italian cooks.
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Bottom line if you see baby tomatoes on a menu while you're out dinning you should snap them up. They're absolutely delicious right now and far superior to their larger brothers who need more time to mature. Whether casually tossed into a salad as a support role, or heaped onto bread in bruschetta as the star, the smaller tomatoes are a window into the coming tomato future.