Tips for Cooking with Summer Fruit from Jan Birnbaum of EPIC Roasthouse

Choose Ripe Fruit – The best tasting fruit is the ripest – this means not necessarily the most visually perfect.  Ripeness means fruit is high in sugar development, which makes for fruit that is easily bruised or misshapen.  This is the best fruit to eat out of hand.

Making Jams or Preserves – Overripe fruit is the way to go.  Ask your grocer or purveyor for the cases that are too ugly to sell.  They are eager to move them and you often get the best price for the best tasting fruit.

Fruit Is Not Just for Dessert – Stone fruit – especially peaches – are a natural for pork.  Blackberries and boysenberries are a match for richer meats like lamb, venison and duck.

Tomatoes – Buy some preserve jars mid-season and ask your fruit supplier to save the soft, broken, and nearly-gone tomatoes.  Tomatoes are in the biggest supply in California in late August and early September.

Figs – Figs have what is called a gapping season.  The trees bear fruit first in July; once the first harvest has been completed there is approximately a six week turnaround before the next fruit appears.  The later season fruit is plentiful and more developed in flavor.  The longer hang time produces vigorous fruit that ripens to its fullest.

What about Corn?  — While it’s often thought of as a vegetable, in strict botanical terms, corn is a fruit.  Corn at this time of the year is unquestionably one of the most addicting sweet flavors.  It’s great on the cob with salt, pepper and butter, or also can be used to make flan, soup or corn bread.  And don’t throw corn cobs away – use them to make a stock.


Choosing a melon – Observe the flower end of the melon (the end with a larger round impression where the blossom was).  Place your thumb gently on this belly button and give it a gentle but firm push.  The riper the fruit, the softer this touch is.  If the blossom end is soft and produces juice when pressure is applied, the fruit is ready.  If the blossom end doesn’t yet have any give, leave it outside of refrigeration for a day or two until it softens.  Aroma is also an indicator.  A perfumed sweet aroma fragrance lets you know it’s ready to eat.

About EPIC Roasthouse:

EPIC Roasthouse is acclaimed chef Jan Birnbaum’s contemporary waterfront roasthouse, featuring his interpretations of traditional steakhouse favorites and more.  The menu features an inventive combination of traditional and contemporary dishes, showcasing everything from fish to fowl, and specializing in a variety of meats and steaks.  Handmade cocktails, domestic and imported beers, and a well-selected wine list complement the menu.  The restaurant features an intimate upstairs bar and lounge with panoramic views of the city, ferry building and bay featuring the full restaurant menu as well as its own separate bar menu.  Please visit for more information.