Archive | Summer 2013

THE LAST BITE: Mr. A. Beet

A Love Story

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MAY

I persuade my husband to buy a tiller and a pallet of topsoil, and put them to use on a 12-foot square of our rather ropey and neglected lawn. (He has bigger muscles than me, and a natural aptitude for outdoor machinery.) But once the tilling is complete, as agreed, he “hands me the keys of the project,” as he put it. It is me who really wants a garden; this is going to be mine to grow.

My first lesson: There are a LOT of rocks out there—big and small. It doesn’t matter how many I pull out of the garden: the next day, more have inched their way out of the soil. This is backbreaking work. I am beginning to wonder if I am being a bit ambitious. When we moved up here, there was no vegetable garden. We inherited a blueberry bush that with careful pruning now yields good fruit; and two years ago I uncovered a couple of heads of rhubarb in the weeds that I have transplanted and split, getting enough fruit to produce one or two pies a year.

And this year … well, this year I finally have the time to do “a garden.” How hard can it be?… Read the rest

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Love at First Bite

Led to the Altar Like a Lamb to the … Curry?

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On our first date Chris Blair offered to cook dinner for me at my place. As an architectural designer he felt the need to redo his kitchen, but during the construction phase he was suffering withdrawal from his addiction to cooking. To ease his pain, he searched for places to cook.

I happily obliged, since the way to my heart, mind, soul and anything else was and is through my stomach.

I beamed when he arrived prepared with all the fixings: beautiful lamb and spices for a lamb curry and even a pan. I blanched, however, when he pulled out The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Fannie was great for simple, American fare, but Indian food?

The joy of being wrong. He emerged from a clean kitchen—which I loved—and served one of the best curries I ever eaten.

Bok choi was another early date food where mercifully I kept silent when I watched him burn butter and then braise the quartered bok choi in the pan with a little chicken stock. At the meal, I grabbed a glass of water prepared to drown the burnt flavor, but instead closed my eyes and savored the caramelized vegetable, which resulted from his browning the butter, not burning it.… Read the rest

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BERKSHIRE REGIONAL FARMERS MARKETS SUMMER 2013

GREAT BARRINGTON

Farmers Market at CHP
Community Health Program
442 Stockbridge Rd.
Th 3–6pm, June 6–Sep. 26
wic@chpberkshires.org

Great Barrington Farmers Market
At historic train station behind Town Hall
Sa 9am–1pm, May 11–Oct. 26
farmersmarketgbsatam@gmail.com

LANESBOROUGH

Berkshire Area Farmers Market
Berkshire Mall parking lot
W & Sa 8am–2 pm, May 9–Thanksgiving
enitamarie@comcast.net

LENOX

Lenox Farmers Market
At Shakespeare and Company
70 Kemble St.
F 1–5pm, May 24–Oct. 11
rosemarylevine@yahoo.com

NORTH ADAMS

North Adams Farmers Market
Municipal parking lot on St. Anthony Dr.
between Marshall and Holden sts.
Sa 9am–1pm, June 29–Oct. 26
vbosley@northadams-ma.gov

OTIS

Otis Farmers Market
Parking lot of Papa’s Healthy Food and
Fuel, 2000 East Otis Rd., East Otis
Sa 9am–1pm, May 11–Oct. 12
OtisFarmersMarket.Blogspot.com

PITTSFIELD

Downtown Pittsfield Farmers’ Market
First St. between Fenn St. and Eagle St.
Sa 9am–1pm, May 11–Oct. 26
FarmersMarketPittsfield.org

SHEFFIELD

Sheffield Farmers’ Market
Old Parish Church parking lot, Rte. 7
F 2:30–6:30pm, May 10–Oct. 11
TheSheffieldFarmersMarket.com

WEST STOCKBRIDGE

West Stockbridge Farmers’ Market
Harris St./Merritt Way in the village center
Th 3–7pm, May 23–Oct. 10
WestStockbridgeFarmersMarket.org

WILLIAMSTOWN

Williamstown Farmers Market
South end of Spring St.
Sa 9am–1pm, May 26–Oct. 6
appletreehill@mindspring.com

NORFOLK, CT

Norfolk Farmers Market
Town Hall, 19 Maple Ave.
Sa 10am–1pm, May 18–Oct.… Read the rest

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A Rare and Simple Gift

Connections at the Shaker Farm

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If you ever give small children a chance to name an animal, you will discover that they have an utter disregard for gender-appropriate names.

Every year during the Baby Animals Event at the Hancock Shaker Village Farm, we give children the opportunity to name a lamb, calf or chick. The result is delightfully unorthodox. Newborn animals have become “Batman,” “Cinderella” or, my personal favorite, “Mr. Superfluffy.”

It matters not to the little boy with the freckles that the baby chick he named Pecker should never be spoken of again. Nor does it matter to the blonde little girl that the bull-calf she named Princess Catherine will grow into 2,000 pounds of testosterone.

In their minds, both children have made the animals their own, and thereby have established a connection between their world and the world that provides wool, milk, eggs and meat—a world that all too many children this day in age have no familiarity with. This is where I come in.

Having lived at Shaker Village for several years now—I say “lived” because this is not work to me—I have witnessed moments that are “special connections.” Numerous families stroll through the barn and, though they do not live on farms, many older folks approach me with a flash of nostalgia in their eyes and tell me how the smell of hay and manure brings them back to their childhood on a dairy farm.… Read the rest

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Working in the Land for Plenty

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“I love the sound blackberries make against the bottom of the bucket when I first start dropping them in. As the berries start to pile up they make a muffled sound, which becomes harder and harder to hear as the bucket gets heavier and full. It’s a hot summer day and the silence is now complete, except for the buzzing of bees and the rustling of berry branches. I’ll freeze those berries and, come January, I’ll make a cobbler or a pie with them, and when I eat a piece of it I’ll remember the morning I picked them. I’ll remember the sounds and the silence, the smell of the fields and the earth, the slant of the sunlight through the trees.”

Sandra Snyder of When Pigs Fly Farm has just described one of the hidden perks of growing and harvesting your own food. It’s not just the nutritional benefits of eating fresh food grown without pesticides. It’s the connection to the food itself, and all that comes with it. When you plant a head of lettuce from seed, tend it, watch it grow and harvest it, you become part of a cycle we’ve been cut off from for more than a century.… Read the rest

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Rethinking the Potting Shed

Photos by Brian Cruey of Berkshire Botanical Garden

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Working shed at the Botanical Gardens.

When we asked six architects to reimagine the traditional potting shed for our exhibit “Down to Earth,” we had no idea what we were going to get. Potting sheds are often flimsy, unsightly structures that a lot of people view as eyesores. But why does it have to be that way?

It doesn’t. A walk around the Berkshire Botanical Garden this summer proves that you can think outside the box, with sheds that are inspired by everything from the Asian gardeners at the Berkeley Street Community Garden in Boston’s South End, all the way to the surf shacks of Hawaii. In truth, a potting shed is a great opportunity to add something special to a garden that is both functional and a point of interest.

Here are a few things to think about when planning your potting shed:

DESIGN FOR FUNCTION

What will you be using the shed for primarily? If it’s propagating plants you’ll want to have plenty of south-facing light. If you’re using it to store tools, what kind and how big do you need the space to be? Will you require electricity? Water? Whenever you are building anything it’s always best to think through what you need before you start building.… Read the rest

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The Alta Boy s on Church Street

A French love affair with the Berkshires

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Imagine the synchronicity of two young men, both French, both trained in the hospitality industry, coming to the Berkshires and falling in love. In love with the zeitgeist, the landscape, the people and their future wives. Meet Aurelien Telle and Stephane Ferioli—owners of Alta, a restaurant and wine bar in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Aurelien grew up in Thonon-les-Bains in the Rhône-Alps region of France, where the scenic beauty, wines and local food are unparalleled. Except, according to Aurelien, in the Berkshires. The activities he enjoyed in the French countryside, he says, “swimming, hiking, skiing—are all available here in the Berkshires. I am a country boy at heart.”

Stephane grew up in nearby Ferney-Voltaire, a town known for its famous writer and philosopher Voltaire, as well as for its Saturday market. Stephane, however is not 100% French. His dad is an Italian from Bologna. Stephane exclaims in his delightful accent, “I live the American, French and Italian way. Eating is very important, in particular, our Sunday lunch—a family gathering where we sit and dine for three hours. This is a tradition I won’t give up!”

While not at the same time, both Aurelien and Stephane attended France’s oldest culinary and hospitality school, the Ecole Hoteliere Thonon-les-Bains.… Read the rest

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SUMMER HYDRATION: THE BAR SCENE

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Photos and details by Caroline Alexander

With summer upon us, restaurants and bars in the Berkshires are expanding hours and opening up lovely patios to al fresco dining.

Many chefs look forward to this season for its abundance of locally raised vegetables and meat, and they pride themselves on sourcing ingredients from farmers they know well. Farms are often listed on menus here, and you’ll see these farmers at the farmers markets.

As you tour the Berkshires, we hope you’ll stop in one or more places for a drink and have a taste of the local cuisine. Chances are the vegetables were just recently pulled from the ground right here.

Many bars listed are restaurant bars, and unless otherwise noted they serve meals or light fare at the bar. It’s a great way to taste our local cuisine and enjoy a beer from the region or a restaurant’s signature infusion cocktail. We hope you enjoy the offerings!

Here’s a brief overview of bars in the Berkshires, driving from southernmost Berkshire County, near the Connecticut border, to North County, near the Vermont border. All venues offer cocktails, wines by the glass or bottle and draft and bottled beer, unless otherwise noted. Most have websites, so check online for the latest updates.… Read the rest

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Hoppy Days Are Here Again

Glass Bottom Brewery: See the Farm in Every Bottle

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Left to right: Ezra Bloom and Evan Williams

You would not be the only one perplexed over the 25-foot-tall logs supported by cables sticking from the ground on Route 41 in between Great Barrington and Housatonic. When I first drove past, I thought it could be an art installation, a frame for a building or even a model of an ancient calendar.

The last thing I would have suspected was the growing of hops, an ingredient for beer. The hop yard is at an early stage for Evan Williams and Ezra Bloom, who started Glass Bottom Brewery with a mission to grow and work with local ingredients to inspire their traditional and creative beers.

Evan and Ezra started Glass Bottom Brewery around 2008, fueled by their mutual admiration for craft beer. In the early days, Ezra experimented with brewing his own beer using a meager aluminum pot and a few gadgets over his kitchen stove while Evan passionately pursued learning about sustainable agriculture. Starting their own business perfectly suited Evan’s desire to create a value-added product from an agricultural product and Ezra’s desire to craft a beer using locally grown ingredients. Humulus lupulus, better known as hops, is a plant in the cannabis family.… Read the rest

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Singin’ the Brews

Composing a Craft Beer

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The Big Elm Family: Bill, Tobi, Agnes and Christine

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The Wandering Stars: Andrew, Shannon, Alex and Chris

For Christine and Bill Heaton, their 413 Farmhouse Ale—its namesake a nod to Berkshire County’s area code—embodies the philosophy of their Sheffield brewery, Big Elm Brewing: carving a foothold as a small, local business. It’s flavored with honey from Bear Meadow Apiary in Ashfield; pink peppercorns, imported from Brazil and procured at HimalaSalt in Sheffield; chamomile from a neighbor in Sheffield; and lemon peel from Atlantic Spice on the Cape. In the fall, they will use locally grown hops, and they are working on procuring local malt from Valley Malt in Hadley.

Meanwhile, Big Elm beers’ main ingredient—water—is, of course, local and responsible for the dominant flavor profile; rich in minerals and slightly hard, Sheffield’s water accentuates the hops character of the beer.

Big Elm’s commitment to localism goes beyond its ingredients. The brewery’s byproducts go to local farms for compost or feed and its distribution is concentrated in package shops from Sheffield to Williamstown. “Beer should be consumed fresh,” says Bill Heaton. “It’s not meant to travel far.”

There are also the local partnerships. For example, Big Elm partnered with Route 7 Grill in Great Barrington to create Route 7 Rauchbier; Route 7 smoked Big Elm’s barley in its hickory smoker and then Big Elm added local maple syrup and hops.… Read the rest

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