Kerry: January 2008 Archives

Stinky Hooligan

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If you haven't sussed it out already, I'm a bit of a cheese hound. And Hooligan has been hands down my favorite cheese since I found it at South End Formaggio right after we moved to Boston several years ago.  It's stinky stinky stinky in that wonderful way only cheese can get away with. And though I won't complain (any Hooligan is a good Hooligan), it's usually a bit riper and creamier than the tidbit I sampled recently.

hooligan.jpgHooligan comes from Cato Corner Farm in Colchester, CT, where "the mother-son team of Elizabeth and Mark raises 40 free-range Jersey cows without the use of hormones or subtherapeutic antibiotics."

Next year I hope to get my hands on some Drunken Hooligan, which is washed with red wine and only available from November through January.

Blue Moon sorbet

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I think that any sorbet crafter should be judged on their ability to harness the lemon -- and Blue Moon's Lemon Zest sorbet is one of the best I've had.  As its name suggests, there's actual lemon zest throughout and it's fabulously tart.  Other flavors like Blackberry Lime, Pear Ginger, and Grapefruit Campari were so tempting, but we in addition to the LZ we picked up some Peach Melba. 

blue moon sorbet.jpgHailing from Quechee, Vermont, Blue Moon sorbets have "no added flavoring or coloring -- the intense flavor and vivid color comes from the fruit itself."

We found ours at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, but the Blue Moon website lists lots of places were you can get it throughout New England.


I made bread!

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I decided that it'd be a good idea to learn how to make some of the food items that we typically rely on the grocery store for.  After all, nothing's more local than our own kitchen.

i made bread.jpgBaking bread was an incredibly rewarding experience.  I was so sure I was screwing it up the entire time, but after all of the mixing, kneading, and rising I put it in the oven and it magically started to look like a loaf of bread.  And even though it was just plain white bread, the flavor and texture were amazing.

Eternal thanks to Alton Brown for his very basic bread recipe.  I highly recommend you try it.


Haven and I were at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge today and saw some eggs from Wicken Fen farm in Topsham, Vermont.  They had packages of tiny quail eggs (which I'd only seen on TV and in restaurants), huge goose eggs (which I don't think I'd ever seen before anywhere), and beautifully colored chicken eggs (which I couldn't resist).

colored eggs.jpgIt was only when the woman rung them up at the register that I realized they were $8.95 for a half dozen!  Holy chicken shit!!  Are you kidding me?!  I justified the purchase as "blog research" and tried to remind myself that the price of conventional eggs doesn't factor in the true costs to our health or the environment, but my mind immediately started reeling with questions: What percentage of my $8.95 was going to get back to Fran Hurlburt at Wicken Fen and how much would be pocketed by Formaggio?  How much of the markup -- insane or not -- was justified by the fact that I wouldn't even know about Wicken Fen if it weren't for the Formaggio's foraging efforts?  And what the heck IS the true cost of a half dozen clean eggs anyway?

Ok, on to the eggs themselves.  Hooray!  I fried them sunny side up with just a dash of salt and pepper. I also cooked some Niman Ranch applewood-smoked bacon (not necessarily local -- Niman partners with 600 family farms across the US -- but at least raised naturally) and toasted some organic 7 grain bread from Nashoba Brook Bakery in West Concord, MA  (delivered by Boston Organics).

bacon and eggs.jpgWere they worth the cost?  It could have been all in my head, but I have to say they were pretty good.  Haven and I both detected something subtly "healthy" about them.  To me, the yolks almost tasted like the hay the eggs were delivered in.  But for $8.95 I was expecting these eggs to absolutely knock my socks off.  I guess I'm still getting used to the economies of eating clean and local, but for now I'm going to have to limit my Wicked Fen purchases to very special occasions.

Apparently the Formaggio folks found Wicken Fen at some (unnamed) Vermont farmer's market.  You lucky Vermonters, you.

On our recent trip to Whole Foods on River Road in Cambridge, we stopped by the cheese counter and asked, "What's local?"

We bought two cheeses from Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vermont. The first was a Bayley Hazen Blue raw milk cheese, which was mild, earthy, and on the dry side (it broke into several pieces when I laid on the cutting board) but still soft and creamy. Jasper Hill's Web site describes the texture as "dense chocolaty paste that melts on the tongue." The second was Constant Bliss, a soft cow cheese that the cheese monger suggested after I confessed my love for ripe, creamy goat cheese. I think she actually thought it was a goat cheese, and I have to say the tangy flavor could have fooled me too.

We also got some Ascutney Mountain cheese from Cobb Hill Cheese in Hartland, Vermont. This cheese was similar in flavor to gruyere, but with an airier texture.  Yum!

All three were wonderful and as a trio they complemented each other nicely.  But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the Bayley Hazen Blue.  It was just so different from the blues I typically see at the market.

vermont cheese.jpgMateo, Andy, Victoria, and Angela Kehler (two brothers and their wives) are Jasper Hill's owners. They say that their cows are "quite spoiled." "Our cows go out on a fresh piece of pasture after every milking during the spring summer and fall and are fed a ration of dry hay through the winter, when they stay in avoiding harsh winter wind and snow and listen to a great selection of jazz and classical music." I love it!

Cob Hill Cheese is part of Cobb Hill Cohousing, "an intentional community" on 270 acres dedicated to "socially and ecologically responsible" living and working.

In our first Boston Organics delivery a couple weeks back, we got a package of sprouts from Jonathan's Organics in Rochester, MA

jonathans sprouts.jpgSince the sell by date was January 16th, I figured I better get a move on and do something with them, so I hopped on Jonathan's site and found a recipe for bean sprout and spinach squares. I took a few liberties, substituting wheat flour for regular, dropping the amount of butter, and using raw spinach instead of cooked (hey, I was in a rush).  The results?  A flavory savory snack that is, as Jonathan's web site says, tasty both hot and cold.

I like it a bit more toasty than it is in this picture, but it's in the perfect state here for reheating in the toaster oven without getting dried out.  Next time, I'll take the time to precook the spinach.

Shy Brothers Farm Cheese

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bison and noodles.jpgI was excited to see that today's edition of Daily Candy ("the insider's guide to what's hot, new, and undiscovered -- from fashion and style to gadgets and travel") featured a family of farmers and cheese artisans from Westport Point, MA: Shy Brothers Farm.

The Shy Brothers' web site says that the "brothers are careful with their animals and of course don't use any antibiotics or hormones on their milkers."

Their bite-size, bell-shaped cheeses -- which come in shallot, rosemary, lavender, and chipotle flavors -- look so good!  I can't wait to get my hands on some.  You can find them in various locations around RI and MA or buy them online.
Today I pulled a buffalo chuck roast from Yankee Farmer's Market out of the freezer for dinner. 

bison chuck roast.jpgTo keep things simple, I threw it in the crock pot with some French onion soup mix, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and some beef broth. Voila:

bison and noodles.jpgIt was damn good.  The folks who raised our dinner are Brian and Keira Farmer (really), whose Web site explains that "all of our buffalo are naturally fed and raised free-range. Our wide variety of buffalo meat ... DO NOT contain growth hormones, stimulants, or antibiotics." They also tout the health benefits of buffalo, which include: 2.42 grams of fat per serving (less than chicken); 1 gram of saturated fat; low in calories, cholesterol, sodium, and protein; high in iron, protein, and Omega 3's and 6's.

The Farmers open their farm in Warner, NH to the public every weekend, and their farm store is also open during the week (closed Wednesdays). If you don't want to make the drive, you can order online with just one day transit time within New England.

They also sell elk, ostrich, venison, chicken, turkey, and pork -- but it seems that their true love is bison (the scientific name of the American Buffalo).

Crescent Ridge Dairy

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I'm not a huge chocolate milk fan, but Haven picked up some Crescent Ridge chocolate milk recently at the Whole Foods on Prospect in Cambridge -- and he loved it.

A blast from the past, Crescent Ridge does home delivery throughout the Boston metro area.  (When I was growing up in Des Moines in the 1970's, we used to get our milk delivered.  I didn't think any company still did this.)  They also bottle their milk in glass bottles, which are returnable, recyclable, or reusable. We're using ours as a vase.

crescent ridge milk bottle.jpgThe company's Web site says, "all Crescent Ridge milk is from cows not treated with the rBST growth hormone." Its homepage also has pictures of cows munching on grass out in a field -- but I wanted to make sure this wasn't just propaganda, so I emailed Crescent Ridge to ask about the cows' diet and access to pasture.

Marketing Manager Brad took the time to respond: "The cows are treated very well.  All of our whole milk comes from the Howrigan Farm up in Northern Vermont and is a very awarded farm.  The have 500 head of Holstein that are fed corn grown on their property.  The cows are also out in the Pasteur to feed on grass through the day.  None of the cows are treated with growth hormones to increase the milking.  Our Skim milk comes from various different farms in the Vermont area from a Coop called St. Albans.  Crescent Ridge Dairy pays a premium to receive milk that comes from cows that are not treated with growth hormones.  St Albans has many inspections to the farms that are part of the coop to make sure the quality is of the highest."  Thanks, Brad!


seafood watch 1.jpgThe Monterey Bay Aquarium has developed regional guides to help seafood lovers around the US support sustainable fishing.

For us New Englanders, the Northeast Seafood Watch page lists BEST choices ("abundant, well managed and fished or farmed in environmentally friendly ways"), GOOD alternatives, and things to AVOID ("overfished and/or fished or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment").

You can download a printable pocket guide (PDF). Better yet, save the paper and go to www.seafoodwatch.org on your mobile phone next time you're shopping or dining out. You'll be taken to a screen where you can immediately select the Northeast guide.

Thanks to Vidya for the mobile screen shot!  :)


We received our first order from Boston Organics this week.  In the box: grapefruit, oranges, apples, pears, bananas, broccoli, spinach, sprouts, a butternut squash, a bell pepper, a tomato, and an avocado. Right now we're getting their smallest box, half fruit and half veg, every other week -- though we may change this to every week if we live up to our plans to cook more in the new year.

I'm excited by the prospect of not knowing exactly what's going to show up at the door with each delivery. It's almost like a little Iron Chef show right in my own kitchen: "Secret ingredient is... butternut squash!"  To make things easier, Boston Organics includes several recipes for the items in the box. On this week's menu? Spiced squash stew with couscous, spiced sweet potato fries (people ordering larger boxes received yams), and tangy broccoli.  We decided to take the stew for a test drive.

The raw materials from Boston Organics:

squash stew raw materials.jpgAnd the final product:

squash stew.jpgThe recipe definitely lived up to our expectations, so we'll be game to try the others.

The low down on Boston Organic's goods: "We buy locally as much as possible. During the late spring, summer, and fall, alot of the produce comes from Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. However, because of a limited growing season, difficult growing conditions, scarce labor pool, and suburban development, the organic wholesale market in New England is limited. As a result, a large portion comes from California. Tropical fruit, such as bananas and mangoes, comes from organic farms in Central and South America."

ominvores dilemma S.jpgI recently read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  Wow.  If you haven't read this book, go buy it now.

Pollan traces a simple McDonald's lunch to the US's surplus of government-subsidized corn, its abundance of cheap high-fructrose corn syrup (the overconsumption of which contributes to high US obesity rates), the pesticide-induced dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, toxic and cruel factory farms, resistant strains of bacteria, and even the war in Iraq. He also sheds light on the darker side of the industrial organic food industry, digs into increasingly rare sustainable farming practices, and explores the subcultures of modern-day hunters and gatherers.

One of the most enlightening aspects of his book was his approach to calculating the true cost of food. Yes, local organic lettuce or a free-range chicken may seem more expensive than traditional alternatives, but they've also accounted for the cost to grow, harvest, and transport the food.  Traditional food items (including that McDonald's lunch) have enormous hidden costs to tax payers' wallets, the environment, own our personal health, and (some could argue) world peace.

However, Pollan leaves one big question unanswered, specifically the one with which he opens his book: What should we have for dinner?  

By the end, I had made some progress deciding what I wanted to have for dinner - to borrow words from Slow Food, a meal that was good, clean, and fair - but I wasn't really sure where to get it. I started checking the labels on my organic milk and eggs in the fridge, no longer sure if they fit the bill. My next trip to Whole Foods was distressing. I no longer trusted the USDA Organic seal. I couldn't tell where some of the vegetables I wanted to buy were grown. I tried to read between the lines of the ubiquitous "pastoral narratives" on product packaging. (How much was accurate and how much was marketing fluff?) Everything I thought I knew about eating (and shopping) well had been turned upside down.

Enter Wicked Flavory. I've decided to start this blog for others like me in the New England area who think about where their food comes from and want to feel good about what they eat.  

I won't get preachy and I won't be a pain in the ass to feed if you invite me over for dinner.  I'm not a perfect eater and I don't expect anyone else to be either.  But I'll do the best I can to eat deeply satisfying food and to share my finds with you.

Enjoy!

About Kerry

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Raised on canned, frozen, and fast food. Drawn to vegetarianism and veganism during college. Lured back to the world of meat several years later by cravings for (of all things) bacon and pepperoni.

Today I'm a happy and devoted omnivore. I love to eat just about everything, although my natural inclinations have generally steered me towards healthy options. (As a kid, if you gave me the choice between an apple and a chocolate bar, I'd take the apple 10 times out of 10. Today, the apple's odds have probably dropped to eight or nine in 10.)

Recently, I've been trying to live by the following food guidelines:
  • Buy from local farms and food crafters whenever possible
  • Buy organic whenever possible
  • Don't eat meat in restaurants, unless it is expressly free-range and/or organic

I'm sure these guidelines will change over time.  I'm also sure they're flawed, incomplete, or even contradictory with some of the actual food choices I make day in and day out.  So sue me.  I've listed them here so you can get a better idea about the person who's behind this site and the principles that will guide what I write about.  

I encourage you to make your own happy and flavory food choices.

Cheers!

About Wicked Flavory

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wick·ed [wik-id]
Slang. wonderful; great; masterful; deeply satisfying: He blows a wicked trumpet.
Slang. very; really; totally: That shirt is wicked cool.

fla·vor·y [fley-vuh-ree]
rich in flavor, as a tea.

Wicked Flavory is designed to help folks in New England find food that's:

  • Organic: because it's wicked good to limit the number of toxins we put into our land, our animals, and ourselves
  • Local: because it's wicked good to support our neighbors and limit the amount of petrochemicals used to transport our food from far away places
  • Fair: because it's wicked good to treat land, animals, and other people with care and respect
  • Flavory: because eating is one of life's true pleasures

Kerry Bodine created Wicked Flavory to help people feel good about exploring non-conventional New England food options on a regular (or even just an occasional) basis.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Kerry in January 2008.

Kerry: February 2008 is the next archive.

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