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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Battery of Barrels used to age balsamicThere are many forms of balsamic vinegar on supermarket shelves these days. The most industrial forms can be made anywhere with a variety of ingredients that may or may not contain concentrated grape must, wine vinegar, sugar and caramel coloring. For this reason, it is often difficult to grasp the differences between a $10 bottle of balsamic vinegar and a $40 bottle of balsamic or even a $150 bottle. (more…)

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This week we’re highlighting one of our favorite French liqueurs, the inky black currant flavored Crème de Cassis de Dijon. These sweet little bottles of crème de cassis are made in Burgundy by Briottet, a company run by the Briottet family in the town of Dijon since 1836.

Briottet Crème de CassisBriottet makes their crème de cassis with only “Noir de Bourgogne” black currants. The word “crème” signifies that the liqueur is made from macerated, real fruit rather than flavorings and, the addition of the name Dijon means that the currants (“cassis”) used were grown only in the commune of Dijon. These currants are picked quickly at their peak ripeness and are immediately immersed in alcohol where they macerate for 3 months. Sugar is then added to balance out the tart flavor of the currants – it also makes the liqueur syrupy. Upon completion, crème de cassis has about the same alcohol content as port. (more…)

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I recently visited Barrington Coffee at their roastery in Lee, MA, in the heart of the Berkshires. Roastmaster Brian Heck, along with fellow coffee alchemist Paul, guided me through Barrington’s process of coaxing the delicate aromas and fine flavors out of their unroasted, green coffee beans. It takes an artisan’s practiced touch, a connoisseur’s critical taste, and a farmer’s dedication to his crop to create the consistently outstanding coffees Barrington is known for.

Green coffee beans starting to roast

Brian began by guiding me through the roasting process, from bag to finished bean. Barrington Coffee has three roasters, the largest handling up to 60 lbs. and the smallest able to roast as little as 1/4 lb. at a time. When I visited, Brian and Paul were manning all three roasters, producing select origin as well as blended coffees. (more…)

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Slices of Mangalitsa and Red Wattle HamsWe keep an impressive pile of cured pork legs in the shop. The Italian prosciutto and Spanish jamón are justifiably well-known. Also nestled in there, however, are two domestic treats that I advise you not to miss: Mangalitsa and Red Wattle hams. The latter is particularly American, hailing from a centuries-old tradition of pork curing in Surry County, Virginia.

We source our Mangalitsa and Red Wattle ham from Edwards of Virginia who, in turn, sources pastured, humanely-raised Mangalitsa and Red Wattle pigs from small farms in North Carolina and Iowa, respectively. These heritage breeds are prized for their well-marbled, toothsome, flavorful meat, not to mention a wickedly decadent abundance of fat. Mangalitsas resemble a cross between a sheep and a pig – they’re sometimes called “wooly pigs,” for good reason – and they’re related to the wild boar. Like their boar brethren, Mangalitsa meat is lightly gamey, with a sweet, nutty, intense flavor. (more…)

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Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

For a lover of words, leafing through an heirloom seed catalog is almost as delicious as eating the fruits and vegetables pictured on each page. The poetry of heirloom seeds is unabashed, starting with names such as Amish Deer Tongue lettuce, Moon and Stars watermelon, Rouge Vif d’Etamps squash, Yellow Dent corn and a personal favorite, Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter tomatoes. Nomenclature aside, heirloom crops possess a long, distinguished past. (more…)

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Hulled Barley - Four Star Farms

Hulled Barley – Four Star Farms

From the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates, to the coast of the Mediterranean and down into Egypt stretches the Fertile Crescent. Aptly known as the “cradle of civilization,” this land bore witness to many of the earliest human settlements. Historians have documented the development of basic architecture, tools, weapons, agriculture and a reliance upon the foods grown in cultivated fields to as far back as 9,000 B.C.E. Cereals, grasses and grains were among the first crops to be harvested and prepared, usually by grinding them into meal and cooking them over a fire. Grains were also ground into flour for bread, or fermented and brewed into beer. (more…)

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Siberian Caviar

American-Raised Siberian Caviar

Champagne. Cheese. Cake. Caviar. So many goodies start with the letter “C” – and many of them are quite luxurious foodstuffs. Caviar is one of the most luxurious of all. At the extreme, caviar has been packaged in solid gold tins and sold at secret auction to the highest bidder. (more…)

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