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Archive for the ‘Food History’ Category

A Reuben Ready for the GrillMany folks are familiar with the Saturday BBQ that happens out front of our Cambridge shop from early spring through mid-fall. When BBQ season ends, it is a sad day in the shop. We are somewhat mollified, however, by the onset of Reuben season. Instead of BBQ, each Saturday, trays of Reubens are prepared for toasting on the panini grill.

One recent Saturday, staffers were swapping bits of Reuben lore gleaned via word of mouth. Because our collective knowledge consisted primarily of hearsay, we decided to take things a step further, do a little research and get the definitive story behind this iconic sandwich.

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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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Heirloom Apples from Scott Farm (Dummerston, VT)

Top to bottom: Franc Rambour, Duchess of Oldenburg, Lamb Abbey Pearmain and Gravenstein.

Crisp autumnal air. The sweet smell of leaves. Dashes of yellows and oranges and reds and browns. A quintessential New England fall. And nothing says fall to me like apples and apple picking.

As a child, roaming the orchards, climbing up the ladder to pick the fruit, and biting into a juicy red McIntosh was what thrilled me. Now that I’m a bit older, I still love to pick apples but, as a produce buyer here at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge, what really gets my motor going is the sheer variety of apples available today.

There are, of course, the old standbys like Granny Smith and Galas. The New England staples like Cortlands and Macouns. And, with the help of seed savers and the grace of a handful of dedicated growers, like Zeke Goodband of Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont, there are heirloom apples. The names themselves are reason to cheer: Ananas Reinette, Hudson’s Golden Gem, Duchess of Oldenburg. (more…)

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Gorgonzola Dolce (front) and Gorgonzola Piccante (rear)

Gorgonzola Dolce (front) and Gorgonzola Piccante (rear)

Lombardy is a region in the northernmost part of Italy, sitting on the country’s Alpine border with Switzerland. The terrain is varied, ranging from plains in the southern part, to the Alpine heights of the Valtellina in the north. Lakes stretch out along the countryside and rivers criss-cross the verdant landscape. Lombardy is a part of Italy that is home to many well-known cheeses: Taleggio, Mascarpone, Provolone, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola. If you were to follow the Po River, heading west out of Lombardy, you would arrive in the Piedmont, another rich cheese-making region. The town of Bra, home to possibly the most widely respected cheese festival in the world, is situated in this part of Italy. Like their neighbors in Lombardy, cheesemakers of the Piedmont make Taleggio and Gorgonzola. Among the many cheeses in their canon, are other familiar names like Raschera, Robiola di Roccaverano and Castelmagno. (more…)

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Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen Box

Paulaner Brauerei  (Brewery) first opened its doors in 1634, the same year that the citizens of Boston purchased (for 30 pounds!) the land that became Boston Common, the country’s first public park. Like many breweries in Europe, this one was founded by monks – in this case, the Minim friars of the Cloister Neudeck ob der Au. The brewery was named after St. Francis of Paola, the founder of the Minim Order. (more…)

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Sainte-Maure Belgique

Sainte-Maure Belgique

There are a few things one learns pretty quickly as a cheesemonger. Among them are that brebis generally come from the Pyrenées and small-format goat cheeses are closely associated with the Loire Valley. Of course, there are exceptions but, as general rules, these guidelines have served me pretty well. (more…)

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Brie with Walnuts and Raisins on the VineThe terms “double-crème” and “triple-crème” are bandied about a lot in cheese shops. While most folks have a general idea of what they mean in terms of texture (creamy, spreadable!) and flavor (buttery, lactic!) for a cheese, these terms actually have very specific meanings. (more…)

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Ameixas d'Elvas plumsWhen is a plum not a plum? When it is a sugarplum or a plum pudding! Judging by the names of these traditional British Christmas treats, one would think that both include some quantity of plum. Not true! For centuries, the term ‘sugarplum’ has referred to any type of dried fruit, made into a small, vaguely plum-shaped sweet. During Victorian times, these sugary candies sometimes contained raisins or currants which were called plums.

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Sweet Basil

A couple of years ago, on one of my many visits home, I bought a cheapie pot of basil at the supermarket. That pot of basil still sits on the window sill in the kitchen at my parents’ house and my mother plucks leaves from it when she makes a Caprese salad or needs some fresh seasoning. It doesn’t look too pretty now – it’s rather tall and skinny with a stick that helps to keep it upright – but it continues to be a fragrant and delicious addition to family meals. (more…)

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