Recently in Massachusetts Category

Way back in March, we signed up for Outstanding in the Field's Boston dinner.  The purpose of this event?  To "celebrate food at the source." Last night, all the waiting was finally over!

The event was hosted by Allandale Farm, which is wedged between suburban Brookline homes, a golf course, a cemetery, and a school.  It's Boston's last working farm and has been family owned since the French and Indian wars.  (In addition to regular farming operations, Allandale farm has a seasonal retail store and a kid's summer program. Check 'em out.)

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Arriving at the farm was a strange experience. One minute we were stressed out by Boston rush hour traffic, and the next minute we were standing here:

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Immediately, we could see that the Outstanding in the Field (OITF) program is aptly named: All of the guests were out standing in one of Allandale's many fields.

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Fortunately, there was plenty of food and wine to keep us entertained as we stood in the field.  The folks from Island Creek Oysters shucked some freshly caught bivalves, while folks from Harvest restaurant in Harvard Square served goat cheese, herb, and tomato canapes... 

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and a bevy of pickled fruit and vegetables.  (The jalapenos were crazy hot and the peaches were savory -- not sweet!)

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After the appetizers, OITF's founder Jim Denevan (pictured) gave us a brief history of the program and then Jim and John, two of Allandale's farmers, gave us a tour of the farm.  (You'll notice a couple of people holding plates in the photo below -- apparently this called The Tradition of the Plates. From an OITF email: "We find that this is a wonderful way for each guest to contribute something of their own to the community meal and to create a unique setting for the dining experience.")

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After the tour, it was off to a long dining table, set of course in the middle of a field, where we discovered the evening's menu.

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The watercress, fig, goat cheese, and pine nut salad was fabulous!

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The blur below is Mary Dumont, chef at Harvest, working furiously to finish plating wild striped bass (the last of the season), grilled romaine, braised radish, zucchini, leeks, and orange saffron beurre blanc.

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Unfortunately, Haven was feeling a bit under the weather, so we had to leave before the dessert: twig farm tomme with marinated olives and membrillo (quince paste) plus sweet corn creme brulee with gingersnap cookies.

Today a friend from California tipped me off to an organization called Outstanding in the Field that puts on rather extravagant farm dinners.  "Outstanding in the Field events feature a leisurely tour of the hosting farm followed by a five course, farm-style dinner at our long table set in a scenic spot. Dinner is accompanied by a wine paired with each course. Diners are joined at the table by the farmer, food producers, a winemaker and other local artisans associated with the meal."

Many of the dinners are in California, but we New Englanders are fortunate to have one in Boston on September 5, exact farm location TBD. (I'm guessing that the pic below, which I poached from the OitF website, is of the 2007 Boston dinner.)

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The price is a whopping $200 per seat -- and while I don't think that it should cost an arm and a leg to "celebrate food at the source" (as the OitF folks put it), my foodie friend assures me that this is one experience worth paying a premium for.

If you want to join us (yes I ponied up the cash), act soon.  Eleven of the 27 2008 dinner dates are already sold out.

We first found quarts of Crescent Ridge chocolate milk at the Whole Foods on Prospect Street in Cambridge.  Then that store started carrying quarts of 1% (and probably 2% and whole, but we didn't really notice).  Now the Whole Foods on River Street in Cambridge is carrying 1/2 gallons of skim, 1%, 2%, and whole mile.  Crescent Ridge is taking over Boston!

crescent ridge.jpgPeople of Boston, unless you've got a couple of milking cows hanging out around the back of your brownstone, this is the closest you're going to get to local milk.

We were originally excited by the glass bottles, which are recyclable and/or returnable and/or reusable -- but come on, how many flower vases can one household really accommodate?

Good news: Whole Foods is charging $1.50 as a deposit on each bottle, which you get back in the form of a WF coupon when you return it to the store.  Now go get your local milk!

Chavez at Sunset salsa

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Having lived in San Francisco for about six years, one of the hardest adjustments of moving to New England has been the dearth of authentic Mexican food.  It's tough having to rely on jarred salsa from far away places -- and the fresh one's we seen in the supermarkets just haven't overly excited our taste buds.

But we no longer need to fret.  Culinary help is on the way!  Larry Hernendez, a Los Angeles native and current Dorchester resident, has started selling his homemade Chavez at Sunset salsa at the Whole Foods in Hingham and on River Road in Cambridge.  (Look for the retro black and white labels.)

Chock full of tomatoes, onions, and Larry's secret blend of chilies and spices, the Red Chile Salsa is one of the freshest, tastiest salsas you'll find east of the Mississippi.  We paired ours with some homemade guac and organic blue chips.

salsa.jpgWhen he's not making salsa, Larry works as a chef at Ashmont Grill and teaches cooking classes through the Boston Center For Adult Education and at Bullfinch's restaurant in Sudbury.

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.

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!


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