Weekend Picks, June 10-12

Posted: June 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Cider Hill Farm, Event, Lobster Shanty, Marblehead Farmer's Market, Wine Connextion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

If you’ve been running around crazy busy for the past few weeks, you’re not alone. We feel your pain and think you might enjoy kicking back and relaxing at some of the great tastings and fun events going on this weekend.

Start things off right by stopping into Cup ‘n Board in Swampcott from 5:00 to 7:00pm for a beer tasting from Blue Hills Brewery. They’ll have tasty treats on hand as well, and an awesome selection of both beer and wine to take home for the weekend.

This weekend marks the beginning of strawberry season and Smolak Farms in North Andover is throwing a kickoff celebration from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm with strawberry picking, free activities for the kids and complimentary wine and prosecco tastings provided by Wine ConneXtion from 1:00 to 2:00pm.

They’ll also be starting pick-your-own season at one of our favorite farms, Cider Hill in Amesbury. And speaking of Cider Hill, they’ll be participating in the Marblehead Farmer’s Market, which opens on Saturday for the season. In a recent newsletter Glenn Cook, owner of Cider Hill said ” This is one of the best markets in the state!” Check it out from 9:00am to noon.

On Saturday afternoon there are several opportunities to try new tastes you may want to add to your summer drink list. At 2:00pm Busa Wine and Spirits in Salem is hosting an Iberian Wine Fiesta with summer reds from Bodegas San Valero in Carinena, Spain on offer as well as a handcrafted sangria. They will also be raffling off two $50 in -store gift certificates. The raffle tickets are $5 each and proceeds to go to Northeast Animal Shelter.

At 4:00pm Kappy’s Liquors in Danvers hosts a Grand Beer Tasting, which looks to be a terrific way to sample north shore brews with selections from Cody and Cape Ann Brewing, as well as more esoteric quaffs like Stone Brewery’s Arrogant Bastard Ale and Les Brasseurs’ Amadeus Biere Blanche Witbier.

There are also a couple of fundraisers worth attending on our radar. Salem’s Lobster Shanty hosts the 6th BaldBil YMCA Day. The Shanty will donate 5% of the entire day’s house proceeds to the Y’s financial assistance program in support of kids and families. All bartender tips will go to the Y, as well as what the waitstaff give to the bartender at night’s end. There will also be live music and some very cool items raffled off.

On Monday the 13th, head on over to Victoria Station in Salem. At 7:00pm they are hosting a Fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. When executive chef John Andrews discovered that one of his staff had been diagnosed with MS he stepped up to rally support for her and the Society. There will be food tables by Victoria Station, Finz and The Lobster Shanty, Seaport Cafe and more, as well as raffles, auctions, celebrity bartenders and live music. Tickets are $10 at the door and all proceeds go toward the cause.

And as usual, we’ve got the weekend picks from our pals in the North Shore Blogger’s Consortium:

Seth keeps you up on everything going on in Lynn at Lynn Happens, including the debut of the new Arts After Hours production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, directed by our awesome pal Corey Jackson.

Kim Bingham talks about meeting the Boston Brunchers along with her weekend picks on Lighter and Local.

Author Jane Ward lists her weekend ideas, but we’re even more entranced by her luscious looking curried chicken salad recipe.

Rob and Laura head all over New England for some great ideas at The Two Palaverers.

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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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The Unsung Tastes of Summer

Posted: August 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bakery, Boston Hot Dog Co., Cafe, Cider Hill Farm, Coven, Green Land Cafe, Jack Tar, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

While it may seem we write about every single thing we eat, that’s obviously not the case. And trust us, you really don’t want to know about all the cold leftovers or bowls of cereal in our lives. However, there have been some unsung tid-bits we’ve enjoyed this summer that deserve mention.

Jack Tar is an unassuming restaurant and pub tucked in behind the storefronts on Washington Street in Marblehead, and on a couple of occasions this summer we have found ourselves enjoying their little patio in the early evening. Our drink of choice? The refreshing Lemon Jack, which is similar to a lemon drop, made with citrus vodka and limoncello. Icy and tart, it’s just the thing to cool you off after a sultry day. Their house-made warm potato chips with bleu cheese, smoked bacon, and scallions are extremely tasty and just the right accompaniment to cocktails.

When a friend requested a stop at Boston Hot Dog in Salem recently, we heartily agreed, fully expecting to order one of their stellar dogs. Upon entering, we noticed the hot pastrami special and decided it warranted further investigation. Man, was that one excellent sandwich. If tender, savory pastrami slow-cooked all day, loaded into a French bread bun with Dijon mustard and a bit of swiss cheese sounds like heaven to you, check this baby out.

Autumn may be when thoughts typically turn to cider doughnuts, but we’ve been obsessing about them this summer, and those from Cider Hill Farm are the objects of our affection. Fresh, light, and cake-y, these old-fashioned doughnuts are coated in cinnamon sugar and simply melt in your mouth. Cider Hill sells them at several farmers markets across the North Shore, but we love them still warm from the bakery at the farm itself.

Another dessert worth seeking out is the dark chocolate bread pudding from Coven. It is dense, not too sweet, and the deep chocolate reminiscent of my grandmother’s homemade hot fudge sauce. This insanely lush treat is so rich we couldn’t finish it all, but it’s the sort of left over that won’t languish long in the fridge.

We have yet to get to the newly opened Green Land Café in Salem for dinner, but we did stop in for lunch last week and were quite impressed by the grilled avocado and crab salad with ginger-lime gastrique. Both the avocado and the crab were super fresh tasting, and the dressing was bright and tangy. This lovely entrée was light yet filling, just right for a summer afternoon.

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A Night to Remember at Cider Hill Farm

Posted: September 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Amesbury, Cider Hill Farm, Event | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

The weather did not cooperate this past weekend for the last of this year’s farm-to-table dinners, put on by Sarah Pike of Good Tastes Kitchen. But no one in the large, happy crowd seemed to mind in the least—we were cozy under the well-lit tent and enjoying the freshest, most delicious food and beverages imaginable.

We began the evening with a tour conducted by the farm owners, Glenn and Karen Cook. The Cooks could not have been warmer or more forthcoming, and before the rain began, we learned some astounding facts about the 145-acre Amesbury farm, including that they grow 70 varieties of apples, 20 varieties of peaches, and often have strawberries well into September thanks to an everbearing variety grown in stacked baskets.

When we returned to the dinner tent, the party was in full swing thanks to local vintners Turtle Creek Winery (Lincoln) and Jewel Towne Vineyards (South Hampton, NH), along with Mercury Brewing Company. We sipped the citrusy Turtle Creek Aurora and the Jewel Towne cabernet franc while sampling cheese dip served in pumpkins and vegetable sliders.

After being officially welcomed by Sarah, the meal began with a harvest corn cake topped with lobster salad and accompanied by tomato chili jam. The corn cake was dense and moist, the salad was lightly dressed, and the jam was intensely delicious. Each element was good, but when eaten together, the flavor was incredible.

Next up was a salad with greens and grilled peaches from the farm, goat cheese from Valley View, and a balsamic reduction. It was a perfectly balanced combination of sweet fruit, tangy cheese, and tart vinegar.

The main course was pork shoulder from Kellie Brook Farm braised in local cider and Ipswich Ale served over polenta and topped with sautéed apples, leeks, and carrots. This dish was comfort food at its finest, with the sauce from the pork soaking into the polenta to create wonderful flavor.

Dessert also hit a high note: a rich cake topped with spicy/sweet plums. (Sarah—would you be willing to part with the recipe?)

Between courses, we heard from an American Farmland Trust representative, the beverage suppliers, and the farm owners, each giving insight into their business and expressing their pleasure at being able to participate in such a lovely event. All of the diners we talked to felt the same way, and it was a diverse crowd in terms of age and location. Many of the participants were from the Amesbury area, but we met folks from as far away as Somerville.

At $80 per person with unlimited wine and ale, this meal was well worth the cost. The chance to eat in this setting (a bluegrass band played in a nearby barn in front of Karen’s beloved red hens) and gain a culinary understanding of peak-season produce combined with other local ingredients was priceless.

Glenn and Karen deserve many thanks for sharing their passion and making the evening possible. We hope that Sarah brings this program back next year, and we strongly encourage you to sign up for a dinner (or two) if she does.

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

Good Tastes Kitchen
(978) 518-5300
www.good-tastes.com

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