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Bees at their hiveSome weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an introductory beekeeping class led by local beekeeper, Jean-Claude Bourrut. After a quick hop, skip and a jump (i.e. a T journey, a bus ride and a short walk), I found my way to his hives which are nestled between the Boston Nature Center and the Clark Cooper Community Gardens in Mattapan. (more…)

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Local Radishes

Local Radishes

Traditionally, the beginning of spring is marked on a calendar date, but many believe in other signs of a new season. Some watch for the first crocuses and tulips. Others await opening day at Fenway Park. Still others believe spring arrives only after Formaggio Kitchen fires up the grill and begins the sidewalk barbecue season.

But for me, spring officially arrives with locally grown vegetables, farm fresh eggs and wildly foraged edibles from hearty New England soil. (Though I certainly won’t turn down BBQ for lunch on Saturdays.)

At Formaggio Kitchen, we work with as many local farms as possible to bring in a wide variety of produce. Although spring is arriving decidedly late this year, we’ve already received a bounty of fresh vegetables from some of our favorite farmers. (more…)

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Peak Organic, based on Portland, ME is a relatively young brewery, having started operations in the ’90s. Jon Cadoux, the brewer behind the company, began with the goal of developing something tasty while striving at the same time for sustainability. Even in the early days, he tried to source as many of his ingredients from local, organic farmers as possible. Today, the company’s commitment to producing organic beers remains the same. In 2009, they helped Maine farmers grow the first harvest of commercial hops in that state since the 1860s. This harvest was organic.

Peak Organic Simcoe Spring AlePeak Organic focuses on doing “contemporary takes on traditional styles of beer.” Right now, I can’t get enough of their Simcoe Spring Ale. The Simcoe hop is a particular strain grown by the Maine farmers mentioned above. Simcoe hops are amazingly piney and have a dark sweetness like sap honey. Peak Organic has captured the essence of this hop perfectly. Their Simcoe Spring Ale is deep enough and dark enough to be a belly warmer for the first chilly days of early Spring but it really shines on those optimistic 50 degree days when you might think about sitting out on the back porch in the afternoon with a beer and a book.

Among the many hats he wears, Eric Meyer is the Beer Buyer, Grill Master and a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

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Eric's St. Paddy's Day Beer Recommendations
These days, St. Patrick’s Day is mostly a secular celebration of Irish culture and a day of mindless consumption of way too much Guinness or green beer. As a Boston native, and history buff, March 17 is as much about Evacuation Day as it is about the shamrock-toting saint (read more about Evacuation Day). As the beer buyer at our fancy little food store, I prefer to celebrate both events with a couple of bottles of exemplary craft brew.

Although the craft brewing revolution in Ireland is alive and well, there’s none to be had on this side of the pond and until I find a source, I’m recommending a few domestic ales for your celebrations. (more…)

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Landaff CreameryFellow monger, Erin, and I drove up to the Cellars at Jasper Hill before the holidays. The object of our journey: to pick up 40 wheels of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, 20 wheels of Landaff cheese and a number of other Jasper Hill cheeses: Constant Bliss, Weybridge, Hartwell, Oma, Winnimere and Caspian. En route, we stopped to visit with the makers of Landaff cheese, Doug and Deb Erb in Landaff, New Hampshire. (more…)

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Uplands' Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Edelweiss' Gouda & EmmentalerIn the first week of November, I traveled to Madison, Wisconsin for the Second Annual Wisconsin Cheese Festival. Retailers and cheesemakers from across the state massed at Monona Terrace, a convention center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, perched on the edge of Lake Monona.

There were all sorts of tours, tastings and seminars on offer and it was hard to choose between them all but, in the end, I chose three. The first was a panel discussion entitled “The Art of Grass-based Cheeses.” Panelists included: Mike Gingrich from Uplands Cheese, Bert Paris of Edelweiss Graziers Co-Op and Bruce Workman of Edelweiss Creamery. We tasted through several cheese flights, including, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Edelweiss Gouda and Emmentaler. We also tried two wonderful buttercream frostings (made with butter from grass-fed cows) and learned about rotational grazing methods. (more…)

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The call time was 6 a.m., but our first guests — just as excited as we were — were standing outside our door at 5:40.

Gradually, the rest of our sleepy customers arrived, picked up their coffee and croissants, and by 6:30, all 32 of us were on the road, headed for high adventure in the Green Mountain State. Our destination was the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, a gathering of about 50 local cheesemakers, 30 breweries and wineries, and a host of other food artisans making everything from mustard to nougat. The event, in its second year, was held last Sunday at the breathtakingly lovely Shelburne Farms estate outside of Burlington, and this year we organized a bus to bring our customers to the festival — a first-of-its-kind trip for Formaggio Kitchen.

The Shelburne Farms estate sits on Lake Champlain.

The Shelburne Farms estate sits on Lake Champlain.

We personally knew many of the cheesemakers at the festival and were excited not only to see them, but also to introduce them to our customers. (more…)

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Pigs drinking whey at Jasper Hill FarmOn a recent trip to Jasper Hill Farm, I had the distinct pleasure not only of tasting many delicious cheeses made and aged here in New England, but also of getting acquainted with some inhabitants of the farm who happen to be just as fond of dairy products — or by-products as the case may be — as I am.

The farm has acquired its group of piglets for the season, and man, do they love whey!

Farms producing milk and making cheese from it inherently find themselves with loads of whey, the liquid that separates out from the milk when cheese curds are formed. There are some great uses for this tangy liquid — in some cases, you can use it to make traditional ricotta and other cheeses. Or you can use it in the kitchen in place of water in breads, sauces and stews. Or you can just drink it straight, as it’s filled with protein, vitamins and minerals. You can really only consume so much whey though, and inevitably you can’t keep up with production. So the question becomes: what to do with the rest? (more…)

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Although there are an abundance of things to snack on here at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge, Effie’s Oatcakes have become a fast favorite of mine. These delicate oatcakes are part cookie and part savory cracker. They are made using a carefully guarded family recipe with origins in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

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Mast Brothers chocolate barsThough we may think of Europe as the epicenter of fine chocolate, America is arguably home to the world’s most exciting community of up-and-coming chocolate makers.

What you see in America that you don’t necessarily see elsewhere is a growing crop of “bean-to-bar” chocolate producers – artisans who are working directly with raw cocoa beans, often sourced directly from farmers. In their small labs in places as unlikely as Utah and Missouri, these producers are seeing the cocoa through from its raw form to its natural end — beautiful bars of chocolate that showcase as much of the flavor and character of the original bean as possible.

It sounds like a relatively straightforward process, but it’s actually unusual. A lot of chocolatiers buy pre-made chocolate from larger companies, melt it down and make their own bars or confections. This is not to say their products are necessarily bad or inferior, but just as we support small-craft cheese and wine at Formaggio Kitchen, we also like to support small-craft chocolate as much as possible. (more…)

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