Summer on a Plate: Cooking Classes and More at Appleton Farms

Posted: June 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Appleton Farms, Event, Farm, Ipswich | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen—and it was perfect. We recently attended a terrific class given by Carolyn Grieco of Farm Cooking With Carolyn at the new Appleton Farms demonstration kitchen.

Before we describe the class, we want to let you know about the exciting food-related activities going at the farm. First, there’s a dairy & farm store selling milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, beef, eggs from the farm and an assortment of other locally sourced products. (The store is open Mon-Fri from 11:00 to 6:00 and Sat/Sun from 10:00 to 4:00.)

Second, there’s a new café offering salads, sandwiches, desserts, and beverages from 11:00 to 2:00 Wednesdays through Saturday. Third, on select Friday nights in July and August, there will be family farm dinners with pizza from the group’s just-built earth oven.

Finally, the Appleton Cooks series of classes and workshops has 30 events scheduled in June, July, and August with classes on cheesemaking, pasta making, gluten-free living, seasonal tapas, and much more. Prices range from $25 to $85 for non-Trustee members.

We thoroughly enjoyed the class we attended, coming away with food profile insights, great recipes, and new friends. We gathered in the kitchen, which was set up with workstations and ingredients, most from the farm. Carolyn went over the menu and then we split into groups of three or four to prepare the dishes.

The meal consisted of grilled zucchini hummus with homemade pita chips, spicy peanut noodles with snap peas, green goddess chicken salad with cucumber and avocado, a veggie-stuffed picnic loaf, and skillet strawberry shortcake. As we collaborated to prepare the meal, Carolyn demonstrated everything from knife skills to “temping” the poached chicken, arranging the composed salad, and tray rotation to get the pita chips properly crisped. She was full of energy and great tips for both seasoned cooks and new ones. She was happy to accommodate dietary concerns (a non-spice lover got her own chips without cayenne, and we prepared a salad without chicken for the vegetarian in the group).

While meal components were cooking/cooling, we took a short walk to the kitchen garden to pick herbs that we combined with farm butter. We spread it on baguette slices and ate it with freshly-picked radishes while Carolyn showed us the picnic loaf technique. These have to sit overnight, so she brought some already prepared for our meal.

And what a meal. Everything was incredibly fresh and flavorful. The green goddess dressing was amazing with the chicken, the blanched snap peas were the perfect contrast to the spicy noodles, the picnic loaf was full of balsamic-marinated vegetables and goat cheese, and the dessert was warm and luscious.

We are thrilled to see this 375-year old farm embracing the North Shore’s thirst for local food, farm-to-table, and new food experiences. See you on the farm!

Appleton Farms
Rt 1A, Ispwich
www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/northeast-ma/appleton-farms.html

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From Luaus to Beerfests, September Is Rockin’

Posted: September 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Event, Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

There are some fantastic food events coming up in September and October, but we’re thinking drink, especially beer, takes center stage! We’ll stick to September for the moment and fill you in on October as it gets closer. In the meantime, check our calendar to see what’s coming up.

First up is a Tiki Festival on Saturday (9/8) from 1:00 to 5:00 at the China Blossom in North Andover. It’s a free event with music from 92.5 The River and complimentary samples of Big Wave Golden Ale from Kona Brewing Company. Luau-style food will be served, including a whole pig roast, beef teriyaki skewers, shrimp skewers, corn on the cob, and pork fried rice ($1 per serving). Tropical slush and exotic sorbet will also be available for purchase along with assorted juices, non-alcoholic pina coladas, and beer and wine served from an outdoor cash bar. Click the link above to RSVP and for more information.

Also on Saturday is the Clown Shoes Olympics and Brewfest from 4:00 to 8:00 at the Backstage Bistro in Beverly. Tickets are $35 online and $40 at the door, with proceeds to benefits Pints for Prostate. There will be beer sampling, jugglers, human statues, live music, and beer poetry readings, plus gifts for guests wearing togas.

Next weekend kicks off with a History & Hops Craft Beer Tasting at the Lynn Museum from 7:00 to 10:00 on Friday (9/14) featuring live music, craft beers, and food.

Farther north, the Wenham Tea House is hosting their first Mayflower Brewery Beer Dinner at 7:00. Chef Peter Capalbo will be creatively pairing dishes with five different offerings from Mayflower. this five-course dinner is $75 per person and reservations can be made by calling 978-468-1398.

On Saturday (9/15) from 12:00 to 6:00, you can attend the Ipswich Ale Harvest Fest at the Spencer Pierce-Little Farm in Newbury for beer, BBQ, and vintage baseball. The Orville Giddings band will play, and admission is free.

Then you can head over to Oktoberfest to Benefit the Salem Y from 5:00 to 9:00. Join Pamplemousse, Cafe Polonia, the YMCA, and Ilsa the Angry German Beer Wench for laughter, beer, traditional German and Polish food, beer, live music, beer, wenches, contests and more. Tickets are $20 and include kazoo, mug, German Alpine hat, and an imaginary passport to Munich (first 300 guests). Beer sampling is included; full pours are $2 to $3. Affordable menu prices from Cafe Polonia, Polonus Deli, and The Lobster Shanty.

Or head north to the Gloucester Block Party from 6:00 to 11:00 in downtown Gloucester, a free event. Main Street will be a promenade of entertainment, al fresco dining, dancing and children’s games.

On Sunday (9/16), switch over to cocktails and head to Newburyport for the Annual Newburyport Cocktail Competition from 4:00 to 8:00. For $20 ($30 at the door), you can participate in this upscale cocktail crawl with samples of signature cocktails and food pairings at multiple downtown restaurants. Participants include Ten Center, The Rockfish, Michael’s Harborside, Ceia, and more. Check at the deck at Michael’s Harborside at 4:00. At 7:00, the wrap-up party at Michael’s will feature live music and the last signature cocktail for your tasting.

Next up is Cider Hill Farm’s End of Summer Farm-to-Table Dinner on Tuesday (9/18) from 6:00 to 9:00. Sample spirits from Cody Brewing and Jewell Towne Vineyard along with appetizers, then enjoy a three-course meal from Amesbury’s Phat Cat’s Bistro. Tickets are $50 and must be purchased in advance.

On Saturday the 22nd from 12:00 to 8:00, it’s the 6th Annual Brewfest at Amesbury Sports Park. Entrance is $12, with more than 100 beers, OGO ball, summer tubing, and BBQ on offer.

The 22nd is also the start of the 3rd Annual North Shore Beer Week. While Sean and Ian (The infamous 2 Beer Guys) haven’t posted the full schedule yet, keep an eye out. They’ve done a terrific job the past two years scheduling tastings and events, and we’re sure this will be no exception.

Happy September!

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Farm to Table, Vermont Style

Posted: August 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Farm, Smolak Farms | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

The setting at Wednesday’s  Whim dinner could not have been more perfect for a visit from some of Vermont’s finest culinarians. Chef Tom Bivins of The New England Culinary Institute brought teachers, students, and expert gatherers with him to help put together a terrific meal at Smolak Farms. The apple trees were heavy with fruit, the pond was calm, the music was carefully chosen, and the food showcased the best Vermont has to offer.

We sipped a Rosenblum Cuvee zinfandel supplied by North Andover’s Wine ConneXtion while enjoying incredibly fresh butter from Vermont Butter & Cheese on slices of freshly baked baguette. We were then served hot corn consommé with mushroom glace, pan-fried daylily corms, and toasted wild onions. The sweet broth contrasted wonderfully with the earthy glace and the pungent onions, a great start to the meal. It was followed by a savory and comforting entree of grilled grass-fed beef strip steak, lobster mushrooms, madeira demi sauce, mashed potatoes, and sauteed summer squashes.

The daylily corms, wild onions, and lobster mushrooms were gathered by Nova Kim and Leslie Hook of Wild Gourmet Food. Kim said she and others in the Wild Food Gatherers Guild are pleased with the recent movement toward local food and eager to pass their years of knowledge onto the next generation.

The guild helps members market their wares and promote sustainable gathering (they prefer this term to foraging, which had a negative connotation in past times). “We don’t take everything in a given spot; we harvest it so it comes back again,” said Kim. Bivins said his interest began in grade school when his class read Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus. “At first when Nova and Kim brought me some of their finds, I thought ‘What am I going to do with this?’ but then I just went with it,” Bivins said.

A generous cheese plate featuring three award-winning Vermont cheeses was up next. We greatly enjoyed the Cabot clothbound cheddar, Bayley Hazen blue cheese, and Vermont Butter & Cheese Bonne Bouche (Bivins favorite).

The cheese plate included plums from Smolak, and the dessert included the farm’s plump blueberries. The berries were paired with tiny sweet Vermont blackberries and an outstanding shortcake moistened with milkweed blossom syrup and topped with elderberry flower cream.

The Whim series continues for the next couple of weeks. Chef Evan Mallett of Black Trumpet Bistro will prepare the meal on Wednesday the 17th, followed by Chef Paul Turano of Tryst Restaurant on the 24th. Dinners are $60 plus beverages and gratuity; tickets can be purchased through the Smolak website.

Smolak Farms
315 South Bradford Street, North Andover
(978) 682-6332
www.smolakfarms.com

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Peach Perfection at Cider Hill

Posted: August 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Amesbury, Cider Hill Farm, Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

It’s hard not to have a good time on a farm on a sunny August day, but even so, we’ve got to give credit to Cider Hill Farm owners Glenn and Karen Cook—they do it right. From the counterstaff who cheerfully directed us to the pick-your-own peaches to the signs that politely asked us to respect the orchards (rather than scolding us for even thinking of sampling the fruit) to the large, sunny store containing tons of locally-sourced products, Cider Hill is a delight for food lovers.

The place to start your visit to Cider Hill is on the website, where you’ll find a detailed update on what produce is available in the store and to pick on your own. The day we were there, the peach orchards had just opened, and blueberry picking was in progress. Most of the peaches felt quite firm on the trees, but they softened to perfection almost immediately on our countertops. On the way to the orchard, we passed the Cook’s bee-keeping operation just off the main path as well as some of the farm’s gorgeous apple orchards.

After picking as much fruit as we could carry and admiring the view from the top of the hill (vegetable fields, orchards, and far-off wind turbines), we ogled the goodies in the store, including a huge selection of Stonewall Kitchen products, an entire wall of farm-made jams and fruit spreads, and a great selection of gourmet pasta and soup/dip mixes.

We noted many locally made food items such as mini-whoopies from Newburyport’s Chococoa, ice cream from Amesbury’s Hodgie’s, Gloucester’s Boston Chowda lobster bisque, Portsmouth’s Me & Ollie’s bread, granola from Marblehead (Chappaqua Crunch) and Boxford (Boxford Bakehouse), and soynut butter from Simple Food in Amesbury.

Fresh foods include produce from the farm (we bought delicious strawberries from their late-producing crop and incredible butter-and-sugar corn), meat from Butcher’s Gourmet, and a variety of pastries. Our favorite is cider donuts, which are made fresh daily (expect to wait in line during apple-picking season if you want hot ones—but they’re worth it).

Bags of donuts are available to bring home, as are frozen pies made on the farm and honey from the aforementioned bees. An enclosed hive gives a unique look at the daily lives of bees, delighting the less-squeamish among us. More kid-friendly are the outside pens with sheep, goats, and gorgeous red hens (you can buy their eggs in the store, of course). Many folks never think of visiting a farm until autumn, but Cider Hill is open May 5th through November 26th so there’s no need to wait for the fall enjoy the farm. And those delectable peaches are definitely worth the trip!

Cider Hill Farm
45 Fern Ave, Amesbury
(978) 388-5525
www.ciderhill.com

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Field Trip to First Light Farm

Posted: April 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Farm, First Light Farm, Hamilton, News | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Want to learn more about sustainable farming? We’ve got just the thing: a conversation with Mike Raymond, owner of First Light Farm. The Hamilton farm is in its third season of community supported agriculture, having provided shares to 120 members last year and planning on at least that many this year.

As in the past, First Light CSA members pay $600 for a 20-week share that begins mid-June. Members can pick up their boxed share in Beverly or Danvers on Tuesdays, Topsfield on Thursdays, Ipswich on Saturdays, or (new this year) at the Salem farmer’s market on Thursdays. First Light will also be selling produce at the Georgetown farmer markets on Saturdays this year.

First Light operates a bit differently from other CSAs in the area (Green Meadows and Appleton Farms come to mind) in that there are no pick-your-own opportunities. That’s because Raymond doesn’t own the six acres of land he farms. Rather, he barters with Brick End Farm, a large composting operation. But don’t assume that means Raymond isn’t invested in the business—just the opposite.

Raymond graduated from University of Vermont nearly 20 years ago with a degree in environmental and resource economics and has been farming ever since. His passion for growing vegetables organically in the most sustainable way possible is infectious. On a tour of the hilly field where fast-growing crops like lettuce and herbs are planted, we immediately saw why Raymond is so excited. The field is divided into many small beds with strips of clover growing in between, a technique called permanent bed strip tillage in which the clover and the crops form a symbiotic relationship.

“We feed the soil, not the crop,” explained Raymond, a Beverly native. “And we don’t do anything in a field that doesn’t make sense.” Unlike most farms, the field is not plowed under each year. Rather, the clover strips provide the soil with the necessary fungus and bacteria, and when mowed during the growing season, they provide additional organic matter for the growing crops. In keeping with Raymond’s desire to use resources at hand, irrigation water is pumped from a small pond at the bottom of the field.

For shareholders, this unusual technique (along with strategic use of the farm’s greenhouse) means more variety in their shares each week, since each bed in the field is like its own little garden. It also means maximum production with minimum damage to the land—Raymond and his crew have gone so far as to modify old equipment to facilitate this updated version of back-to-basics farming.

Tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and other slower growing crops are planted in the farm’s upper field, which Raymond described as bio-intensive, meaning it’s designed to produce as much as possible in the space. An unusual moveable greenhouse is used section by section to maximize growth, and after each part of the field is harvested, a cover crop is planted to fertilize the soil.

Those interested in the CSA will be happy to find a picture of each week’s share from last year on the First Light site, along with delicious-sounding recipes for 40 vegetables and quirky descriptions of First Light team members. You can also e-mail Raymond directly for more information on the farm, his philosophies, and the CSA program.

First Light Farm
www.firstlightfarmcsa.com
firstlightfarmcsa@gmail.com

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