Monday, May 14, 2018

Springtime in the Berkshires

Ghent Alterpiece, Hubert and Jan van Eyck 1432

Springtime in the Berkshires

We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers,
There are trillions ahead and trillions ahead of them –

--Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

To taste the creamy center of Camembert in spring is to taste the essence of the season of rebirth. In young cheeses, the grassy meadow fed upon by grazing livestock can be tasted. And lamb in spring, spring lamb, to be specific, takes the journey.

In South Egremont at John Andrews Farmhouse this coming Tuesday on May 15, a six course wine dinner with ingredients inexhaustible pedigree will feature such a cheese. Local spring lamb, succulent and surrounded by accolades in the form of fish, fowl, greens and dairy will be at the center of the feast.

With the exception of diver scallops, trout, duck, California wines and a cheese that must travel south from Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, it can be said that this meal is as local as the weather can be glorious at this time of year.

Spring lamb is lamb of a diminutive stature, the lamb in question, about 30 pounds. This main course marks a fifteen-year relationship between livestock farmer Lila Wilde Berle, and chef Dan Smith. Lila grew up on the land where cows pasturing at Highland Farm in Lee Massachusetts will provide the milk for cream used a ragu served with the main course, grilled lamb and braised lamb belly with sun chokes from chef’s kitchen garden.

Other farms bringing food to the table are Rock City Farm, Ghent, NY, which is providing oyster mushrooms for the pasta course. Trout smoked on the premises will be served with fresh baby greens coaxed into this world by the indefatigable Ted Dobson of Equinox Farm.

The aforementioned Camembert, a goat’s milk Bloomy rind cheese from Miracle Spring Farm in Gallatin NY will make up the cheese course along with a raw cow's milk cheese with a washed rind called Berelberg of Berle Farm's in Hoosick, NY, and a Bayley Hazen Blue, gentle in its veiny sumptuousness and caved at Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. Finally, a jam made of caramelized black mission figs will sound a redolent yawp of sweetness to end the meal.

Somerston Wine Dinner
Tuesday, May 15th 2018

John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant
224 Hillsdale Road (Route 23)
South Egremont, MA 01258
(413) 528-3469

For more information and to make a reservation: 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

RECIPE: Feeding the Beast

Hat Trick from Hungry Ghost in Northampton MA

Hungry Ghost's Hatrick Bread of three ingredients, two that are local: Malted Barley, Bolted Wheat*, Oats....

Make it yourself with clear intent and a well-fed starter.

Day 1 Wake up, feed starter, wait a day..
Day 2 Wake up, feed starter, wait a day
Day 3 Wake up, feed starter, wait a day
Day 4 Wake up, stir up starter, begin ....

*Bolted Wheat means some of the bran is removed to give the gluten room to move. The germ and other nutrients remain.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How Local is Local at Nick's Nest?

Plain dog with mustard, local server.

Nick's Nest, Holyoke MA
May 1, 2018

"Nick, where do you get your dogs?"  I ask. 
A fair question, I think. He just gives me a look. I don't tell him one ccan get local dogs at a farm in Hardwick. But you have to be a member to buy them. 
"Nick, what about the buns, local?" 
He gives me the look. They could be make with local grain grown in Hadley or even Northfield, local wheat nothing to sneeze at, just mix it up with some white to, you know, make it more like the usual bun. 
Again, Nick gives me a look, the look that says, "You're not worth the $3.50 I could have made in the last sixty seconds. 
"Right, but Nick, can you where the onions are from?"
"You orderin?" he says, his patience, clearly tried at this point. 
 "Sure, I'll take a plain dog," I say.
"Chowder?" he inquires.
"No, just the dog," I say. How ridiculous, chowder, but I am silent on the point.
Nicks Nest has been a fixture on Route 5 since 1921. The dogs are famous and anyone can stop in and see them on display on rollers in oil. Delicious with a nice snap to the casing.
I share with Nick that I like my dog with raw onions and ask, because how hard it it to have local onions from Hatfield or Hadley, where you can purchase for cheap at the end of the season? 
But I curtail my comment to, 
"Nick, I mean the soil here in the Valley is the absolute best...can you tell me if the onions are local?"
"I'm not Nick," he says. 
And before i can say anything he goes, "Nick is dead." 
"Ah yes, of course, since 1921, but I wonder if you can tell me where the oil comes from?" I ask. 
"The distributor," he says.
"Right," of course it does, perhaps the same distributor from the 20's and no doubt not local oil but that would be...
Nick hands me the dog wrapped in a plain white napkin. I give him the money and then go to sit down. But before I do,  I turn to him, the guy who isn't Nick, and say, "hey, did you know the upstairs is haunted?"
"Yeah, we know," says the guy. 
 It must be mentioned that the ghosts upstairs are local, plus perhaps the servers. Which is a good start.