Cathie Anderson: Penryn grower puts olive oil to the test

Published: Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012 - 2:19 pm

Penryn's Rich and Nancy Colwell teamed with an olive grower in Corning back in 2006 to produce cooking oils flavored with the Satsuma mandarins and Meyer lemons from their Thundering Herd Ranch.

Every year, the Colwells would increase production by 25 or 30 percent to meet demand. Then along came The Bee's Sam Stanton in 2011, to write a story about how this tiny ranch was mining a niche market with fruit-flavored olive oils.

"Within about a month of the article, between November and Christmas, we went from a sales area of Northern California and a couple of other states to 44 states," Rich Colwell told me.

He expects this year's sales to more than double from 2011, and because he ran out of his olive oils at the Mandarin Festival last year, he's increased production to ensure it doesn't happen at this weekend's event at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn.

The sudden surge in business and compliments from customers emboldened Colwell to enter competitions this year to find out just how good his flavored olive oils were. In Napa, his mandarin olive oil won best in class; his Meyer lemon a silver. At an international competition in Los Angeles County, the mandarin oil received a bronze.

What's behind this success story? Colwell points to an organic mulch that makes his 200 trees so productive, his tree-whispering wife who keeps the orchard healthy and a thundering herd of five children who have helped to plant, harvest and tend every tree. Learn more about Thundering Herd Ranch at

A $20 treasure hunt

Terri McKay and her daughter Tiffany were glowing with triumph and ready to share what was in their basket as they left the region's newest Grocery Outlet in Rocklin's Blue Oaks Town Center.

"We were going to go to the dollar store right next door," McKay said, "but we don't need to go to the dollar store now. We found some chocolate-chip pancake mix, and it looks pretty good. ... We also got the good foil for the turkey, and that can be expensive. We got cereal, bread and other stuff - all for $20."

Grocery Outlet has been expanding across the region and the West, taking advantage of consumers' desire to find bargains in a tight economy. The Blue Oaks store is the discount grocer's 12th in the Sacramento area.

Owner-operators Ralph and Laura Roberts, who took me on a tour of the store Thursday, said they decided to get their feet wet with a soft opening. A grand opening is set for Dec. 1.

The couple, who moved here from Seattle, said Grocery Outlet appeals to consumers for several reasons.

"It's a treasure hunt because of the way the merchandise turns over," Ralph Roberts said. "Every time you come in here, you're going to find different things. … And, the store has a small footprint, so you're not walking a mile to find what you're looking for. If you want to be in and out quickly, you can be."

First NYC, now Vegas

Stand-up comedian Stephanie Garcia learned Friday that she didn't win the title of America's most hilarious housewife from ABC's "The View."

The title comes with a prize of a weeklong trip to Hawaii, and the winner will be announced Monday. Garcia sounded upbeat despite her loss: "I feel like I won because I got the whole experience."

Inspired by comedian Kyle Cease, the Roseville mother of two left her job at The Golden 1 Credit Union to pursue her dream of doing stand-up. She wrote Cease, who beat out big-name comedians in 2009 to win Comedy Central's Standup Showdown, to tell him of the opportunity on "The View."

To her astonishment, he wrote back and invited her to appear at a motivational seminar he's doing in Las Vegas later this month.

"Now I get to meet one of my idols, someone who's been a mentor to me even though he's never met me," said Garcia. She will perform next Friday at the Comedy Spot, 1050 20th St., in midtown Sacramento.

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