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Pancakes & VT maple syrup

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One of the things I love about living in New England is getting local maple syrup.  Right now we've got a jug of Grade B (my personal fave) from Butternut Mountain Farm in Morristown, VT.  We picked it up at Whole Foods, but what I really love is heading up to VT and buying it directly from the farm.  (If you're keen, the VT Maple Festival is April 25 - 27.)

blueberry pancakes.JPGGreat maple syrup deserves great pancakes -- and I've found the best pancake recipe in (where else?) the Best Recipe cookbook.  It's so amazing, you'll never even consider making pancakes from a mix again.

2 cups buttermilk (seriously, this is worth a trip to the store)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (we use 1 cup all-purpose, 1 cup whole wheat)
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  1. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to combine.
  2. Whisk the egg and melted butter into the milk until combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the bowl; pour in the milk mixture and whisk very gently until just combined (a few lumps should remain). Do not overmix.
  3. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes; add 1 teaspoon oil and brush to coat the skillet bottom evenly. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto 3 spots on the skillet.  Cook the pancakes until large bubbles begin to appear, 1 1/2 - 2 minutes.  Using a thin, wide spatula, flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown on the second side, 1 1/2 - 2 minutes longer.  Serve immediately.  Repeat with the remaining batter, using the remaining vegetable oil only if necessary.

We've found that a combo of maple syrup + fruit is the ideal pancake topping.  Since fresh berries aren't in season yet, we pop a bag of frozen fruit (like cherries, raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries) out of the freezer when we start mixing and dip them in a bowl of warm water.  By the time the first pancakes are browning, the fruit has lost its frost.

Ok, the chocolate you're about to read about is admittedly sourced far, far away from New England.  But if you're going to eat chocolate (and you know you will), then you might as well get it from folks that source their beans directly from farmers and process them (the beans, not the farmers) locally.

And that's just what the proprietors of Taza Chocolate do:  "The Taza Chocolate mission is to bring chocolate eaters closer to the cocoa farmer by making minimally processed chocolate that passes directly from the farm, to us, to you. Since we source beans directly from farming communities and co-operatives, we can ensure that a fair price is paid for high quality cocoa beans. From there, we bring the beans to our chocolate studio in Somerville, Massachusetts and grind them into our delicious chocolate."

We found their Chocolate Mexicano at Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square (Somerville, MA).   (And, a noteworthy aside: after a lifetime of being a skim milk drinker, I finally caved to 1% so that we could buy from Crescent Ridge.)

taza - raw.jpgThis is no ordinary chocolate -- it comes in a disk that you have to break apart into pie-shaped pieces to make hot cocoa.  Action shot:

taza - action.jpgAnd, being no ordinary chocolate, it wasn't a huge surprise that it made no ordinary cup of cocoa.  It's much less lighter in color than the normal cocoa we normally get, the sweetness is more subtle, and it has a hint of cinnamon.  On sip one, we weren't really sold -- but by sip three, we could never go back to our old stuff.  It was incredible.

taza - cooked.jpgIf you're up for an outing this weekend, stop by the Paper & Chocolate event on Saturday, February 9, from 1 - 6 pm at 561 Windsor Street in Somerville.  Taza is pairing up with the very talented Shelley of Albertine Press who will be selling her beautiful handmade cards, coasters, and calendars.

If you can't make it to Paper & Chocolate, you can also find Taza in plenty of other (mostly New England) retailers and online

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.


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