Author Archive | Matt Labombard

THE HUB

Cheers to The Hub

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Comfort food served in a cozy setting surrounded by familiar faces of family and friends, what’s not to love?

That’s exactly what The Hub on Main Street in downtown North Adams offers patrons each time they step foot in the door. Owned and run by a family for all families by Kate and Matt Schilling, a duo with the help of Kate’s mom and aunt, the hub has become a staple of North Adams, and come to be known by many as the “Cheers” of the Berkshires.

Matt, originally from Florida, and Kate, from North Adams, met while living in Bar Harbor, Maine. As the couple began to get to know each other, Matt’s intentions of moving back to Florida were put on pause as they decided to make a life together. Luckily for lovers of The Hub, that decision would bring them from Bar Harbor to North Adams and a culinary gem would be born.

Bar Harbor is a seasonal getaway in the summer months, bringing lots of customers for lobster rolls and steamers. But for those living there year-round, the seasonality makes it hard to maintain business during the off months. So even though Kate and Matt’s intention was to open a restaurant together, they quickly realized that would be difficult to do in a summer tourist town.… Read the rest

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Hops and Vines

Two ways to enjoy great food

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With a limited number of restaurants in Northern Berkshire County, it could be hard to find one that strikes the perfect balance between casual and upscale dining, but that’s just what Hops and Vines in Williamstown is doing.

Hops and Vines opened in 2011 with an original idea: to offer two separate restaurants in the same location. On one side, the “hops” restaurant would offer a casual atmosphere and menu. A larger adjacent room, the “vines” restaurant, would offer a fancier dining experience with a focus on fine dining. Both restaurants would operate out of one kitchen. With the plan set, the restaurants launched, but it was quickly realized by the management team that something wasn’t working very well.

The dining concept was not allowing diners to experience the best of both menus, depending on where the diner chose to sit. Because they were operating from the same kitchen, they quickly combined the two-menu concept into one cohesive menu. Hops and Vines gave customers the chance to eat what they’d like, regardless of where they chose to dine.

On any day, you will find people of all backgrounds sitting down to a delicious meal or handcrafted cocktails.… Read the rest

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Public Eat & Drink

Shaking up the art of enjoyment

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North Adams, Massachusetts, is home to a renaissance of creativity with an amazing landscape of art and design.

A former industrial center and mill town tucked away in the northern Berkshires, North Adams is now home to painters, photographers and performance artists. It is considered one of the most affordable small cities to live for young artists.

Spearheading this creative growth is one of the largest contemporary art museums in America boasting 600,000 square feet of potential space. Mass MOCA has over 300,000 square feet, currently occupied by exhibition space, galleries, art fabrication facilities, performing arts theaters, a natural amphitheater, two performance courtyards, an outdoor concert space and production support space.

As artists descend on a community, eventually so does gentrification. One restaurant that’s carving its own niche in this blossoming cultural mecca is Public Eat + Drink in downtown North Adams.

Public, which opened in 2011, is the brainchild of owner Jared Decoteau, a native of North Adams, who saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between high-end tablecloth restaurants and casual pubs. His goal was to present creatively plated food at a reasonable price, while offering the casual atmosphere mirroring the culture of North Adams.… Read the rest

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Decadent Chocolate Beet Cake

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This cake will knock your socks off—it’s delicious, moist and sinfully good! The beets not only add moisture, but a bit of a healthy kick, so there’s no reason that you shouldn’t have a minimum of two pieces, or three, or four… Since the cake is so rich, I love to top it with a thin ganache, almost like a chocolate sauce.

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup canola oil
1 cup puréed beets*
1 (13½-ounce) can coconut milk
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

* To make puréed beets: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 3 cups of peeled beets that have been sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the beets are fork tender. Remove the beets to a food processor and purée on high until no lumps remain, about 5 minutes.

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Grease a 9- by 13-inch brownie pan or a 9-inch round cake pan, 3 inches deep. Set aside.
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Sautéed Beet Greens

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Whenever I cook vegetables, I try to use the entire plant. It’s become a habit of mine to use everything from the root to the greens. Even when I can’t cook with something like the peel of an onion or the vine of a tomato, I stick it in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer until I can make a big batch of homemade vegetable stock. After that, to the compost it goes for use in next year’s garden. Trim off the roots of your beets, thoroughly rinse off the dirt and add the roots to your freezer bag.

I don’t think that people realize how delicious beet greens are and tend to toss them out. Don’t do that! Sauté those down with this simple recipe that lets the greens’ flavor really shine.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
6 cups beet tender stems and greens, hard stems removed (reserved for stock), roughly
    chopped (about the amount of greens included in 2 bunches of beets)
¼ cup water or vegetable stock
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped

  1. In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic.
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Bright Pink Beet Pesto with Fettuccini

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Photo by Mathew LaBombard

This is one of those dishes that seems to be a constant confusion when people are eating it—but all in a good way, of course! Instead of the typical green pesto, this is bright pink. And although it looks like a heavy dish, the flavors are fresh and light. The basil and walnuts bring out the traditional pesto taste and the beets add richness to the dish—reminiscent of a decadent Alfredo sauce. Topped with fresh basil, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkling of kosher salt, this is healthy, luxurious eating at its best.

3 cups beets, peeled and sliced into
¼-inch-thick rounds
1 cup toasted walnuts*
1½ tablespoons lemon zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup fresh basil leaves, plus more leaves for garnish
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon plus 3 tablespoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound dried fettuccini

* Toasted walnuts elevate the nuttiness and add decadence to this sauce. To toast walnuts, place whole walnuts into a dry sauté pan and turn heat to medium. Stir the walnuts frequently to avoid any burning, toast for about 5 minutes, until you can smell a strong nutty aroma in the air.… Read the rest

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Quick Pickled Beets and Onions

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Photo by Mathew LaBombard

This is such an easy and delicious way to enjoy beets. Of course, you can buy pickled beets at the store, but they’re so easy to make with ingredients that you probably already have on hand that there’s no sense in spending money for the jarred version. I love to serve these with toasted bread, grainy mustard, garden carrots and cured olives. On a cool, crisp day, there’s nothing better than enjoying these by a fire with a nice glass of wine (and maybe do it while wearing sweatpants!).

2 cups beets, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
1 onion, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped, plus more leaves for garnish
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups water
½ cup distilled white vinegar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons agave nectar (if you can’t find agave you can use sugar or honey)

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the beet rounds. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the beets are just barely fork tender.
  2. Remove the beets from the water and allow to cool.
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Out Beating the Beet

When the Beets Go On
(and On and On), Get Creative

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Autumn boasts a bounty of fresh and delicious vegetables and when farmers’ markets are overflowing with produce, I can’t stop myself from purchasing in bulk. I’m like a kid in a candy store, and nothing gets me quite as excited as the humble beet.

I love finding it sitting quietly in the corner of the market, removed from the popular picks of corn, apples, squash and kale. I love its humility, with dirt and roots still intact, as if it has nothing to prove, although when cooked correctly, there’s barely anything that this little veggie can’t do.

While you won’t find a bigger enthusiast for this diverse food, after a week or so of beet binging I find myself ready to move on to the next vegetable. So this year I decided to shake up my cooking repertoire and instead of eating beets every day for a week or two, I dished up one delicious meal, chock full of beet goodness, that would satisfy my beet craving and leave me happily content with my beet intake (that is, until my next trip to the market).

From appetizer to dessert, I pickled, boiled, puréed, sautéed and baked beets into one delicious and healthy meal.… Read the rest

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Hive Talkin’

Help honeybees, help us

hiveTalkin
Photo courtesy of Mars Vilaubi, photo editor, Story Publishing

Ask anyone who visits—Berkshire County is one of the most gorgeous places on the planet. With rolling hills, unmatchable foliage, flowers of all shapes and sizes and deliciously homegrown and raised foods, we can surely appreciate all that this area has to offer.

But many of us are unaware of a critical element that produces much of the beauty of this land. That small, yet incredibly important, ingredient is honeybees.

Bees are an essential part of our ecosystems. They play a vital role in pollinating plants that bear many of the fruits and vegetables that we consume on a daily basis, such as apples, cucumbers, onions and pumpkins, to name just a few. And as insect foragers, they not only help keep our ecosystem running properly, but also produce delectable honey and beeswax that offer many benefits from health to beauty.

Without bees pollinating plants, farm stands would become sparse and the landscapes around us bare. And as the demand for locally grown produce increases, the smaller amount available would be much more expensive. Even more alarming is that if we continue to treat the plants and ecosystem around us with disrespect, we may see this future sooner than many anticipate.… Read the rest

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Mobile Meat Processing

Not A Drive Through at Mickey D’s!

mobileMeat
Photo by Elizabeth Cecil, elizabethcecil.com

The American food system is something of a mystery to those living in the United States and, for many, purchasing food at the grocery store is an act of habit rather than inquiry.

Many shoppers simply place items in their cart and move on without questioning the route that the food took to get there. I’m guilty of this as well. We’re so busy with our dayto- day routines that asking questions about our food system can seem time-consuming and obnoxious.

But as we’ve also seen, there continue to be warnings about food-borne illnesses and contaminations resulting from current mass production, which prove that we must strive to better reconnect with our food system.

Throughout the past few years, large strides have been made in educating consumers about the failures of our food system. With the increased popularity of food-related TV shows, websites and publications such as the now-almost-90 Edible magazines across the U.S. and Canada, individuals have started to reconnect with their food sources.

This has created a large demand for locally raised, organic or relatively chemical-free food in cities and towns nationwide, making the role of small farmers and community-supported agriculture (CSA) harvest subscription programs more important than ever.… Read the rest

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