Dish Tidbits: Two Restaurant Weeks, Three Halloween Parties, and a Slew of Tastings

Posted: October 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

There are so many food-related events going on in the next few weeks it’s enough to make our heads spin (sorry, couldn’t resist).

For starters, Sunday marks the start of Cape Ann Restaurant Week, and it only runs until Thursday, so start planning your night out now. Three-course dinners for $25.11 are available at numerous restaurants—the list is here.

There are several events of note next weekend, starting with Shubie’s Fall Food and Wine Festival on Saturday. This free event runs from 1:00 to 5:00 and includes tastings of more than 50 wines and 15 cheeses, plus discounts on featured products. Jasper Hill Farms will be on hand with their cheese, along with many other cheese makers and vintners. A list of the wines being offered is here.

Also on Saturday, this time from 12:00 to 5:00, is a tasting of American blended wines known as meritage. It’s at Wine ConneXtion in North Andover, and more information is available here.

There are too many Halloween events for us to list them all, but we’ll mention a few that crossed our desks this week. The Bridget Bishop Costume Ball is taking place at Salem’s new 43 Church from 8:00 to midnight. There will be music by DJ Emilita, tasty treats, ghoulish cocktails, and prizes for most creative and outrageous costumes ($75 per person). Hawthorne Hotel’s annual costume ball is also Saturday night. Tickets are $90 per person, and information is here. Up in Gloucester at Lat43, a $5 cover will get you into the second annual Nightmare Circus with music by DJ Vito and prizes for best, sexiest, and scariest costume.

If you’re sufficiently recovered from Saturday night to venture out on Sunday, the fourth annual North Shore Bazaar is being held from 1:00 to 4:00 at the Community Covenant Church in Peabody. More than 25 vendors will be offering organic, fair trade, or locally sourced gifts and services, including Touchstone Honey, Mercury Brewing, Galbraith Gourmet Catering, Fellows Farm, and Vegan Girl Next Door. More information is here.

The beginning of November is also shaping up nicely in terms of events. Mark your calendars for a tasting of the industry’s highest rated wines (90 points and above) at Wine ConneXtion on November 12 from 12:00 to 5:00 and for Salem Restaurant Week, which runs from November 6 to 10 and November 13 to 15. The list of restaurants with click-throughs to their menus is here.

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Wine and Chocolate Tasting Kicks Off Salem’s So Sweet Festival

Posted: February 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Coven, Drinks, Event, Milk & Honey, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

We threw all caution and calorie counting to the wind upon entering historic Hamilton Hall on Friday night. The reason? The 9th Annual Chocolate and Wine Tasting, the kick-off event for Salem’s yearly Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival, running through the 14th.

We had a terrific time at the tasting, getting to see old friends and make a few new ones while sipping and nibbling our way across the room. The participating restaurants went all out with beautiful displays and an insane amount of sweets.

We can’t even begin to mention everything we tasted. Coven had an impressive table stacked with huge, beautiful chocolate cupcakes. Coffee Time Bake Shop offered vast array of luscious baked goods, presided over by a fabulous Barbie cake that induced pangs of nostalgia. (My mother used to make them!) Those that stopped by Ye Olde Pepper Company‘s table were urged to choose chocolates from the largest heart-shaped box we’ve ever seen.

We got a kick out Chef John Andrews of Victoria Station playing with fire as he expertly flambeed cherries for a tasty dessert, and we chatted with Chef Steve from the Regatta Pub at Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites (one of the event sponsors) about his hand-made truffles. They were all rich and decadent, but our favorites were the ginger and cayenne,both set off nicely by the bubbly being poured at their table.

Speaking of cayenne, we really enjoyed the Caliente Cafe cocktail the ladies of Finz were serving. Made with pablano-infused espresso, vanilla vodka, and creme de cacao and then rimmed with white chocolate and cayenne, it had a spicy zing but wasn’t too sweet.

Some of the wines that stood out were a vegan Malbec being poured by the Gulu-Gulu Cafe and the fun Apothic Red on sample from both Victoria Station and Busa Wines. It was lush and spicy yet smooth, a perfect companion to the chocolate we were consuming. Ian from Isaak’s of Salem was on hand pouring his Popp Road Raspberry, which paired nicely with the chocolate cake being served by Green Land Cafe.

We also caught up with Sharon Driscoll, owner of Milk and Honey, who was scooping ice cream. She reminded us that as part of the festival, the green grocer is running a great special—20% off all products with chocolate listed in the ingredients.

In fact, that’s just one example of the tasty specials available throughout the festival. For a full listing of events and savings, pick up a brochure or check out the Salem Chamber of Commerce website. Even if you missed Friday night’s event, there are still plenty of opportunities to savor Salem. With fabulous ice sculptures and sweet deals, it’s the perfect date destination for Valentine’s Day.

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A Week to Find Wines for the Holidays

Posted: November 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Drinks, Event, Gloucester, Salem | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

There are so many things to worry about when you’re planning your holiday dinners, including what wines to serve. Luckily, there are several wine tastings this week to help you with that task.

Tomorrow evening, Eric Olson and Salem Wine Imports once again host their fabulous Grand Tasting from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the Old Town Hall in Salem. There will be approximately 80 wines to sample with light appetizers and live music. This is a terrific event. We attended last year and not only discovered some new favorites but learned a thing or two as well.

The best part is that tickets are $30, and all profits from event go to The Salem Athenaeum, Historic Salem, and Historic New England, so you can support local causes while picking out your holiday wines. Call Salem Wine Imports for ticket information at (978) 741-9463.

If you’re farther north, Duckworth Beach Gourmet will be holding a more intimate tasting tomorrow evening in Gloucester. Hosted by Red White Boston, they will be pouring sparklers including Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, and Crémant de Bourgogne. The shop carries some excellent cheeses and will choose some to pair with the wine. The event is free and runs from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

If you can’t make either of these, Henry’s Wine Cellar in Beverly will be holding their Grand Holiday Tasting on November 13 from 2:00 to 5:00. They’ll have both premium and value wines on hand to fit any budget, and the folks from Henry’s Market Catering will be there passing appetizers. They do a great job with prepared foods for the holidays, so you may find inspiration for both wine and food.

Also on Saturday from 4:00 to 7:00, Leary’s Fine Wine and Spirits in Newburyport is hosting their Grand Autumn Tasting, and they’ve got the entertainment angle covered. The folks from The River WXRV 92.5, will be there to host the shindig with giveaways and raffles. Leary’s will offer dozens of bottles to try and feature hors d’oeuvres by Seaglass Ocean Front Restaurant and a turkey carving table from Tendercrop Farms. They’ll also be giving away two $25 gift certificates, one to Capri Seaside Dining and one to Seaglass Restaurant.

Heck, even if you’re not entertaining this holiday season, these events are all worth checking out.

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Gloucester Goes Gourmet at Duckworth’s Market

Posted: August 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Deli, Duckworth's Beach Gourmet, Gloucester, Marketplace | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Need a night off from cooking? A gourmet picnic to impress a date? How about a great sandwich to take to the beach? Duckworth’s Beach Gourmet could be the answer to all these desires if you’re in the Gloucester area.

There’s a lot packed into this store’s fairly small space, owned by the folks at Duckworth’s Bistro, including wine, prepared foods, gourmet cheese and charcuterie, and gift items. Indeed, we were impressed with the store’s selection of red wines, supplemented by a cold case with white wine, champagne, Ipswich Ale, several other high-end beers, Reed’s ginger ale, and Harney & Sons bottled juices and teas.

Put a bottle of wine with a loaf of Iggy’s bread, a jar of jam, a gourmet mustard (black current dijon sounds good), some wine vinegar, or a bottle of hazelnut or truffle oil, and you’re all set for a hostess gift. If your friend has a sweet tooth, try gourmet tea accompanied by lavender or provence-flower honey, a pretty canister of flavored sugar from local purveyor Didi Davis, a bag of Lark cookies, or a box of Marich candy.

For beachgoers, Duckworth’s has hot and cold sandwiches, containers of potato salad (no mayo) and cole slaw, Deep River Snacks chips, individual desserts, and hand-made sandwich cookies with Captain Dusty’s ice cream (also available by the half-gallon).

Those looking for help with dinner will find containers of roasted tomato soup and marinara and alfredo pasta sauce, fresh uncooked pasta, house-cured salmon, and prepared foods such as flank steak, haricots vert, chickpea burgers, roasted fingerlings, and pasta salad. Hand-made pies are available most days; go early for the best selection.

The deli case is filled with a charcuterie-lover’s dream: serrano ham, prosciutto, and speck from La Quercia alongside pancetta, sopressata, and salameto from Fra’Mani. The cheese selection is extensive, ranging from chevre from Topsfield’s Valley View Farm to New England-sourced Cabot clothbound cheddar, Champlain Valley Creamery triple creme and Seal Cove chevre. Imported selections include raclette, morbier, robiola, and Delice de Borgone.

We stopped in last weekend after brunch at Sugar Mags just to see what was on offer, but we plan to return for sandwiches and treats the next time we head for Good Harbor Beach—seagulls, stay away, please.

Duckwoth’s Beach Gourmet
24 Washington Street, Gloucester
(978) 282-1414
www.duckworthbeachgourmet.com

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Turbine’s Bar Food is Beyond the Ordinary

Posted: June 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Drinks, Lynn, Turbine Wine Bar | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Blue Ox, which opened just over a year ago and has met with great success, injected a new vibrancy into the Lynn dining scene. Young, enthusiastic Lynners like Corey Jackson and Seth Albaum who are working to rejuvenate the downtown hope that Turbine Wine Bar, which opened in March at 56 Central Square, will follow in its footsteps.

Last Saturday, we hit Turbine for dinner to see what all the buzz was about. Situated in a renovated historic building, the feel is relaxed city chic with high ceilings, exposed brick walls, a generous bar, and optic metallic tabletops.

True to the name, Turbine offers more than 30 different wines from $6 a glass and up, including some interesting varietals, a few sparklers, port, and sake. The beer list provides quite a range as well, including Bard’s Tale, a gluten-free option for the celiacs in the crowd.

We ordered a glass each and checked out the menu, which consists of all small plates, many of them quite reasonable. We started with the cheese plate and the hummus. We chose four cheeses from eight varieties, and the plate included fruit, candied pecans, some fig jam, and a baguette toasts ($12). The cheeses weren’t terribly exotic, but they were good quality and served at room temperature, which is always appreciated. The hummus is house-made, fresh and lemony, served with olives and warm pita ($7.50).

Tapas-sized portions are fun because they allow you to taste a variety of dishes without overindulging. We went on to try three more: mushroom ravioli, a chicken tostada, and the black and blue filet. The house-made pasta filled with criminis and ricotta in a white wine cream sauce was delicious, tender and tasty and not overwhelmed by the sauce ($11). The chicken tostada featured slow-cooked chicken with fresh salsa, jack cheese, and avocado slices ($9). It was well made and tasted good but we felt it was overpriced and had the least wow factor of everything we tried.

And speaking of wow factor, the black and blue filet was incredible ($12). Tender slices of seared filet mignon drizzled with an herb oil salsa and served over warm radicchio was the definite favorite of the night. The portion is six smallish slices, which our party of four made quick work of.

We couldn’t leave without sampling a couple of desserts. The rich dark flourless chocolate cake was lovely, and the combination of flavors in the grilled banana bread with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce was a real treat. ($6 each.)

One thing to keep in mind is that while individual items are relatively inexpensive, if you are a big eater, these small plates can add up. They are ideal for a light dinner or a snacks with your drink.

Thus far, Turbine remains a hidden gem. With excellent food and enthusiastic service, we’re surprised that they’re not packed every night. Maybe they cater to a later crowd, but at 8:30, the dining room was only half filled. Of course, that could be a good thing for those looking to try something new—this is a place definitely worth discovering.

Turbine Wine Bar
56 Central Square, Lynn
(781) 780-7301
www.turbinewinebar.com

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Adventures in Saké at the Wine ConneXtion

Posted: February 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Marketplace, North Andover, Wine Connextion | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

North Andover is slightly outside our usual territory, but we heard about a kikishu, or saké tasting, at the newly opened Wine ConneXtion and headed there on Saturday to see what it was about.

The tasting was hosted by local blogger Richard Auffrey of The Passionate Foodie, and it quickly became obvious that one of the things Rich is passionate about is saké. He had eight bottles available for tasting, and he expertly explained the ingredients and processes involved in making each.

We enjoyed exploring the surprising range of tastes provided and learning the differences between the Ginjo, Daiginjo and Honjozo. If your only experience with saké is sipping it warm at a Japanese restaurant, it’s time to take another taste.

The sakés we tried ranged from earthy to crisp and clean, some akin to a very dry white wine that would pair exceptionally well with any seafood. Most of them were subtler on the palate than the nose would lead you to believe. Favorites included the Kurosawa Jun-Mai Kimoto ($16), which was earthy and hinted at mushrooms, and the Ichishima Honjozo ($22) which was bright and crisp.

LaRosa’s in Andover provided quite a spread of finger foods, and the crowd favorite was definitely the wonderful arancini. You might not initially think to serve a Japanese wine with Italian food, but some of the offerings paired quite well.

2110Whether you’re a casual wine drinker or a serious enthusiast, the Wine ConneXtion is definitely worth investigating. Owners (and siblings) Sam and Tina Messina, who have been in the business for more than 20 years, really know their stuff, with Sam finding unbelievable deals and Tina streamlining the operation to make sure those deals get passed along to the customer.

It’s a large, clean, well-lit warehouse-style space with fantastic inventory and unbeatable prices. Unlike many wine stores, where the only information is a simple price tag or a glossy ad provided by the distributor, each and every wine here is informatively labeled. Uniform, well-designed signs listing price, origin, taste, and body of the wine take the mystery out of comparing vintages and make it easy to find new bottles to try.

Sam and Tina are working on getting their inventory online; in the meantime, they will happily take orders over the phone to ensure the bottles you want are waiting for you on arrival. And if the idea of saké has piqued your interest, Sam is carrying a range of bottles, several half-sized, for you to investigate. You can also find a wealth of saké information, and if you scroll down a list of  links, here on Rich’s site.

We’re glad we took the time to venture off the beaten path this weekend, since it led us to discover both the world of saké and a great new place to shop for wine.

Wine ConneXtion
117 Main Street North Andover
(978) 965-8000
www.wineconnextion.com

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Grand Wine Tasting Coming to Salem in November

Posted: October 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Salem | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Eric Olson of Salem Wine Imports has partnered with Historic Salem, Historic New England, and The Salem Athenaeum to orchestrate what looks to be the event of the season for North Shore wine lovers. He will be hosting a Grand Tasting November 12th from 6:30 to 9:00 pm at the Old Town Hall in Salem. We were amazed to hear that some 80 wines from around the world will be available for sampling! There will be appetizers to complement the wine and live music.

The event is limited to 200 people, so you may want to get your tickets early to secure admittance. Tickets are $35 per person and can only be purchased at Salem Wine Imports; we’re told they will take ticket orders over the phone. All profits after expenses will be donated to Historic Salem, Historic New England, and The Salem Athenaeum.

Not only is this a terrific bargain, but you get to sample some exceptional wines and support great local organizations at the same time!

Salem Wine Imports
32 Church Street, Salem
(978) 741-9463
salemwineimports.com

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A Slice of (Foodie) Heaven in Newburyport

Posted: September 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Deli, Grand Trunk Imports, Marketplace, Newburyport | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

On our recent trip to Newburyport, we were introduced to Grand Trunk Imports by Kim Gobbi of Newburyport Today. The store is not new, but somehow we had completely missed it on previous trips. Now that we know about it, we can’t wait to go back.

Husband and wife team Jeremy and Angela Kirkpatrick have stocked their small space with a treasure trove of gourmet food, microbeers and wine, and accouterments. One wall is filled with imports like chutney, pasta, and olive oil, plus unusual items like orange flower water and roasted chestnuts.

At the back of the store, a large blackboard lists available wines by category, and the cheese case is full of interesting selections. A separate case holds bowls of olives and cured meats like sopressata and paleta iberico (dry cured Spanish ham).

Nearby is a selection of imported European beers and local microbeers, including Haverhill Brewery, as well as sandwiches like blue cheese with apricot and honey. The sandwiches are made fresh each day on artisan bread that’s also available by the loaf.

The front of the store features interesting non-food items, including gorgeous European cheese knives, sexy black slate cheese boards, and handcrafted cutting boards from New Hampshire Bowl and Board.

The next time you need picnic fixings or an interesting pre-dinner spread, we suggest giving Grand Trunk a try. Or you may want to time your visit to coincide with their wine tastings, held Fridays from 3:00 to 6:00 and Saturdays from 2:00 to 6:00.

Grand Trunk
53 Pleasant St, Newburyport
(978) 499-4441
www.grandtrunkimports.com

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Henry’s of Beverly: A Food Lovers’ Paradise, Now With Wine

Posted: July 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Henry's Fine Foods, Marketplace | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

henryfront1

A few months after Kristen moved back to our home town, she called me. Instead of “hello,” she demanded, “Why didn’t you tell me about Henry’s?” She was right—I had neglected to tell her about one of the richest food resources on the North Shore. My bad.

For those who’ve been, you know about this market’s amazing array of products and fantastic service (did you know you can phone in your order and have it delivered by a retired policeman?). Now there’s even more to enjoy because last month, Henry’s owner, John Keohane, took over the adjacent space previously occupied by a bank and turned it into a lovely wine store. And if you’ve never been to Henry’s, you’re in for a real treat.

With its combination of groceries, produce, butcher shop, prepared food, and top-notch bakery, Henry’s is unique to the North Shore, offering great ingredients for when you’re in the mood to cook and hand-made prepared foods for when you’re not. Add a little New England-style hospitality (and young men to help you to the car with your groceries), and you begin to get the idea.

Henry’s is our go-to resource for hard-to-find items like pink peppercorns from Morton and Bassett spices, oatcakes from Effie’s, sauces and jams from Stonewall Kitchen (a huge selection), and gluten-free items including mixes from The Really Great Food Company. They even have lingonberries for your Swedish-themed dinner and LU’s Petit Ecoliers in white chocolate.

Then there are the made-to-order sandwiches, soups, quiches, lasagna, pot pies, and chicken salad. Sure, there’s also ham salad, egg salad, and seafood salad, but it’s the paté-like chicken salad people crave for their summer picnics. (900 pounds of chicken are cooked every day at the market to be made into chicken salad and chicken pot pies.)

Other stand-outs include dairy products like Better Than Bakery infused butters, uncured applewood smoked bacon, and Boars Head diced pancetta; store-made bottled sauces including buffalo wing, citrus grilling, and merlot wine steak sauce; a fresh fruit bar; and cheese that runs the gamut from camembert to chevre, halloumi, and cotswold.

The produce section not only carries seven types of apples and three types of pears in summer (along with rainier cherries and lush apricots), it has dried fruits like goji berries and cherries, fresh Indian simmer sauces, tubs of Henry’s fresh salad dressings, and house-made salads alongside microwavable hot entrees and sides. Right around the corner is our favorite guilty pleasure: individual pies from The Pie Guy. Yes, there are whole pies, too.

Those pies are only the beginning of when it comes to sweets at Henry’s, where the bakers come in at 1:00 every morning to make bread, rolls (dinner, hot dog, and hamburger), cakes, tarts, pies, old fashioned pastries like crullers and fruit squares, cookies, and brownies. Our personal favorite is the pastry case, where you can get individual servings of plain or turtle cheesecake, carrot cake, key lime tart, fruit tarts, and molten lava cake.

In the meat department, you can choose from three types of beef: traditional, Meyer angus, and Brant (aged for flavor and tenderness). Or go with a gourmet burger or slider, fresh-made kabobs or sausages, or one of the small roasts perfect for a special occasion. In a nearby case are Bell & Evans chicken, beef, and pork carefully trimmed and marinated using best-quality ingredients.

We love that Henry’s carries an abundance of local products, including Maria’s Gourmet Pasta (Malden) Sauces ’N Love pasta sauces (Lynn), Harbor Sweets (Salem), Ye Olde Pepper Company candies (Salem) Giovanna gelato (Boston), Shains of Maine ice cream, and Good Wives hors d’oeuvres (Wilmington).

We also love that the new wine store offers selections from very-affordable to let’s-splurge; a range of specialty beers from Belgium; and carries cheeses, dips, and frozen take-and-bake appetizers. To top it off, the store holds wine tastings Thursdays from 4:00 to 7:00 and Saturdays from 2:00 to 5:00. Sign up for the e-mail newsletter to learn what wines are being featured (sign-up is in the store).

Keohane started as kitchen manager 25 years ago and bought the business from its founder, Henry Swanson, five years ago. Today, he’s in the store virtually every day making sure the quality and service Henry’s is famous for never wavers. Of course, many of Henry’s 190 employees have worked in the store their entire adult lives. So don’t hesitate to ask questions of employees you see in the aisles or behind the counter—you’re sure to get a warm reception and good food advice.

Henry’s
588 Cabot St, Beverly
(978) 922-3885
www.henrysofbeverly.com

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Corks and Forks and the Best Cheese Ever

Posted: May 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Marblehead, Marketplace | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

corks2Saturday we took some time to check out Shubie’s First Annual Corks and Forks event, which ran from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. We got there just before 2 p.m., and the place was packed. There were seven distributor tables in a relatively small space, with each pouring six to eight wines and so many people milling around it was almost sensory overload.

While we are far from being true oenophiles, we love wine and really enjoy learning about and tasting new vintages. Most of the wines were in the $11 to $25 range, and discounts were offered when purchasing six or more bottles. A few of the whites we liked were the Siblings Sauvignon Blanc, which was full of super sassy citrus; the Domain de Huards Cheverny, which was grassy and crisp; and the Zenato Pino Grigio, which was light and summery.

Reds we enjoyed included the Carpe Diem Pinot Noir, which was rich and fruity; the Casa Castillio Monastrell, which was savory and a bit peppery; and the Jiminez Landi Tinto, which was strong and direct but quite beguiling. Andrew Crookes, who poured the Jimenez and other Eric Solomon Selections, was by far the most engaging of the reps. Young, chatty, and enthusiastic, he knew his stuff and seemed to genuinely love his job.

cheeseThere were also several tables of cheese vendors set up, various chips and dips and sweets set out throughout the store, and servers circulating with appetizer sized tastes from Chef Lynn Aronson’s kitchen.

Our favorite cheeses were the Springbrook Farm Tarentaise, a Vermont Alpine cheese similar to a gruyere; the Vermont Butter and Cheese Coupole, another of their “age in your fridge” offerings; and several selections from Jasper Hill Farms.

While their Constant Bliss and Bayley Hazen Blue were both excellent, the knock-your-socks off star of the day was the Jasper Hill Farms Winnemere, which is only produced November to April. This was simply the most amazing cheese I have tasted. It is an aromatic raw milk cheese that has had its rind washed in lambic beer and wrapped in a strip of spruce. Everything from the cow’s milk to the wild yeast for the lambic and the spruce bark is harvested from Jasper Hill’s Vermont farmland. The result is complex: a smooth and creamy yet bright tangy flavor with an earthy, almost woody, note that is truly addictive. We brought some home, and it is only through sheer force of will we haven’t inhaled it all and licked the package clean. Yet.

Another discovery of note was the Fra’Mani handcrafted salumi which was tasty in the extreme. We tried the salametto, the soppressata, and a rosemary ham, all of which had us snitching extra samples.

While the event really only offered bargain prices if you were interested in buying larger quantities, Corks and Forks was  a terrific opportunity to widen our taste horizons and take home a few new favorites. Certainly worth checking out the next time Shubie’s hosts it.

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