“The Descendants” at the Napa Valley Film Festival

Opening night at the inaugural Napa Valley Film Festival began with a walk along a red carpet into the city’s refurbished  Napa Valley Opera House, a grand name for a frontier theater dating back to 1880. Screen actors, a few  industry executives, and a good sampling of Napa locals (some dressed glamorously in boas and satin evening gowns, others in work boots and down vests) sipped on wine and nibbled ice cream lollipops from Napa’s Eiko restaurant.

Catherine Thorpe, who helped research both The House of Mondavi and Lost Kingdom, joined me at the opening reception, where we quickly spotted a bespectacled man wearing a lei, or garland, of green leaves. Making our way through the crowd, we introduced ourselves.

My Conversion to Liking Breadfruit: “I’ve been ulu-cized!”

When I arrived at a garden near the town of Captain Cook, on the big island of Hawaii, to attend a Breadfruit Festival in late September, I was a skeptic.

Prize-winning breadfruit tart at the inaugural Breadfruit Festival: Photo by Julia Flynn Siler

Beforehand, I’d talked to one of the world’s leading experts, the Breadfruit Institute’s Director, Diane Ragone PhD., who had told me she hadn’t cared for it when she first tried it. I’d learned from the Breadfruit Institute’s own website about the difficulties faced by Captain Bligh in fulfilling his mission of introducing breadfruit plants to the Caribbean (during the infamous mutiny on the bounty, the mutineers tossed the trees overboard.) I’d even found a discussion on the gardening website GardenWeb under lists of the “five WORST tropical fruits,” with one writer pronouncing breadfruit “nauseous.”