Archive for the ‘New England’Category

Find homey holiday tastes in these New England stores

Sid Wainer kitchen at holidays
As the Eating Season approaches, we start craving certain flavors that we associate with the winter holidays spent with family. We want the taste of home—whether that’s a cuisine from the country where our ancestors originated or something forged by Norman Rockwell and Betty Crocker. Truth is, we love to forage for festive foodstuffs. As a service to our New England readers, here are five essential shops around the region where we find special holiday foods. This post is adapted from a piece we wrote last year in the Boston Globe travel section.

BRITISH AISLES


Tea at British Aisles at the holidays Denise and Gerry Pressinger founded British Aisles more than two decades ago so that ex-pats like themselves could get everyday British foods such as HP Sauce and the pickled onions found in every London fish-and-chips shop. Primarily selling wholesale and online, British Aisles has a retail operation in a small room on the side of a big warehouse a few minutes from downtown Portsmouth. They are ready for the holidays with tins of “biscuits” (cookies), tubs of chocolates, tinned plum pudding, jars of mincemeat, Christmas fruitcakes, and crocks of rum butter, and brandy butter.

Brits come by for pouches of mushy peas and Bisto gravy powder to dress up the Christmas roast. Of course, if all you need is a humble pork pie, a package of Smoky Bacon Crisps, and some Walker’s Shortbread, British Aisles carries those as well. “These things have been around so long that they are nostalgia,” says daughter Stephanie Malone. “I grew up with these foods. This is what my grandmother ate.” 1634 Greenland Rd., Greenland, N.H. 603-431-5075; www.jollygrub.com.

SID WAINER & SON


cheese at SId Wainer at the holidaysIt’s gift basket season at Sid Wainer & Son Gourmet Outlet in New Bedford, where the retail shop carries many of the luxury and ethnic items that the specialty foods importer provides to restaurants and gourmet stores. Shoppers can customize baskets with such treats as truffled artichoke pesto, Italian baby fig compote, chestnut honey, and—for big spenders—colorful tins holding an entire ounce of saffron.

Sid Wainer is also the spot to score the goodies for an impressive but easy cocktail party. That might include serrano ham from Spain, prosciutto di Parma from Italy, and such cheeses as English cheddar and Wensleydale, ripe Camembert, and little ash-rolled pyramids of goat cheese. That’s not to mention ready-to-serve-and-take-credit-for deli items such as vegetable spring rolls, artichoke and herb fritters, wild mushrooms in filo, and even New England crab cakes. Should you need inspiration, the sampling table always has a few items—such as roasted fingerling potatoes with duck confit—designed to showcase Sid Wainer products. 2301 Purchase St., New Bedford, Mass. 508-999-3665; sidwainer.com.

POLMART DELIKATESY


Polmart shoppers at the holidays Billing itself as “your doorway to Europe,” Polmart Delikatesy has become one of the largest sellers of Polish foods on the East Coast since immigrants Andrew and Margaret Mazur opened just over a decade ago. Polmart always sells a lot of imported hams, complexly spiced kielbasas, and freshly made pierogis and golobkis (stuffed cabbage rolls), but at the holidays eastern Europeans flock in to pick up smoked mackerel and cold-smoked salmon and Wawel cocoa and chocolate products. Throughout the year, Polmart also sells a lot of organic herbal teas that have become all the rage in contemporary Poland.

“Polish food is getting much more healthy with less fat,” Andrew Mazur observes. But there are always exceptions at the holidays. “We sell a lot of candies. People give candies all the time as gifts.” Polmart has multiple bins of wrapped Polish chocolates sold by weight. Among the most popular are the cream-filled chocolates called adwocat, which are lightly alcoholic, and the luscious chocolate-covered prunes known as sliwka naleczowska. 123 Broad St., New Britain, Conn. 860-223-7055; www.polmartusa.com.

PORTUGALIA MARKETPLACE


olive oil in Portugalia at the holidaysNow entering its fourth holiday season, this market celebrates the bounty of southeastern Massachusetts by selling great local products next to imports from Portugal. That means that delicate Hannahbell cheese thimbles from Shy Brothers farm in Westport are displayed next to wheels of buttery Casteloes cheese from Portugal, or that the fish section has both New Bedford scallops and big bags of frozen octopus. The huge selection of wines focuses principally on Portugal, and includes many table wines from regions that are hard to find in the U.S. Portugalia also carries a wide array of Madeiras and ports from both famous (Sandeman) and boutique (Quinta de la Rosa) producers.

It is said that Portuguese cuisine has 365 bacalhau dishes, one for each day of the year, so it’s no surprise that one end of the store is glassed off to display the pungent salt cod. As in Portugal, most of it comes from Canada or Norway, and it is available in a size to fit every recipe from small chips to 3-foot-long spread-eagled codfish. 489 Bedford St., Fall River, Mass. 508-617-9820; portugaliamarketplace.com.

THE BAKER’S STORE


King Arthur Bakers Store at the holidaysThis gleaming emporium at the corporate headquarters of King Arthur Flour is a perfect stop at the holiday season. Just as all the toys come alive in “The Nutcracker,” the flat pages of the King Arthur catalog spring to life on the shelves of this vast space. Whether it’s fruit stollen, gingerbread men, Swedish crumb cake, rugelach, or Christmas cookies, every family bakes some favorite treats at the holidays.

The Baker’s Store has the ingredients, tools, and hardware to fill the house with the baking aromas of the season. It carries all the pans from Madeleine molds to quarter sheet pans that fit the ovens in small apartment stoves, as well as parchment paper and silicone pan liners to keep the cookies from sticking. For fancy holiday treats, you’ll find all kinds of decorations from every color in the rainbow of crystal sugar to special non-melting topping sugar to dust your warm doughnuts. FYI, the gorgeous photo of the store in the snow is courtesy of King Arthur Flour. 135 Route 5 South, Norwich, Vt. 802-649-3361; kingarthurflour.com.

17

11 2016

The Palm serves a mean shepherd’s pie

The Palm Boston exterior
The Palm Boston (www.thepalm.com/Boston) got a new lease on life when the iconic steakhouse moved from Copley Place in Back Bay to the swank One International Place Tower at the edge of the Financial District. Now that the weather has warmed, the restaurant can show off one of its greatest assets: the outdoor seating looking out on the new Seaport District just across Fort Point Channel.

Over the winter, regulars gathered in the glittering interior for wine dinners. We enjoyed the Lafite Wine Dinner that paired a number of wines from the legendary Bordeaux house’s farflung empire with some classic Palm cookery, including seared sea scallops with a pea and truffle purée, ancho- and espresso-rubbed lamb chops, and braised short ribs with a wild cherry drizzle. But The Palm isn’t all expense-account cuisine. Just as the restaurant happily served some of the bargain Lafite wines (like Los Vascos from Chile), chef Karen Mitchell hides a comfort-food heart behind her fine-dining credentials. One of the dishes for which she’s locally famed is the humble North American casserole of meat and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes known as shepherd’s pie.

And like many fine-dining chefs, she’s found a few ways to make the home-cooking classic her own—notably through the superb beef, the splash of hot sriracha sauce, and the cheese that’s melted into the potatoes. And if you didn’t think shepherd’s pie was fit for fancy company, you’ve never seen The Palm serve it in finger-food-size pastry shells as a hot passed appetizer. Here’s Chef Mitchell’s recipe:

KAREN MITCHELL’S SHEPHERD’S PIE FOR THE PALM


Palm shepherd's pie Serves 6-8

4 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup diced onion (1/2″)
1/2 cup diced celery (1/2″)
1/2 cup diced carrot (1/2″)
1/2 cup fresh yellow corn kernels
4 smashed garlic cloves
1 1/2 lb. good quality ground beef (The Palm uses ground prime beef)
1 cup white wine
2 cups beef or veal stock
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons A-1 sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon paprika

For mashed potatoes
3 large Idaho potatoes
3/4 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup shredded cheddar
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
salt (about 1/2 tsp)

Directions
1. Sweat onion, carrots, celery, garlic cloves, and corn in canola oil on medium-low heat until tender. Add ground beef and sauté until all pink is gone. Add wine and reduce by three-quarters. Add stock, bay leaves, and sriracha, A-1, and Worcestershire sauces.

2. Cook on medium low heat for about 12 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped parsley, salt, and pepper at the very end.

3. Strain the mixture and reserve the juices.

4. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or hotel pan, evenly spread the ground beef mix and put aside.

5. Make whipped potatoes. Boil or steam peeled Idaho potatoes until tender. Heat milk and butter together in a saucepan until combined. (There’s no need to boil the milk mixture.) Add cooked potatoes and, using a stand or hand power mixer, whip the mixture. Add the cheddar, rosemary, and salt to taste.

6. When smooth, spread the potatoes evenly over the ground beef.

7. Sprinkle the paprika over the mashed potatoes. Place pan under broiler for a couple of minutes until the mashed potatoes brown slightly.

If you want to make gravy, use the reserved juice from the ground beef mix, a little more stock, and enough flour to thicken. Ladle over each serving.

24

04 2015

Six things to bring home from Vermont

It’s official. The Food Lovers’ Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire has shipped to stores and is available online from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Thanks to our efficient editors, we beat the technical publication date of July 3.

In addition to restaurants, the book highlights great shops and local food producers. Vermont may be best known for maple syrup and cheddar cheese, but there’s a whole lot more. Here are some of our favorite things to bring home from the Green Mountain State.

The Red Bar from Middlebury Chocolates (2377 Route 7 South, Middlebury, VT; 802-989-1610; www.middleburychocolates.com) is the hardcore chocolate lovers’ chocolate. Stephanie and Andy Jackson make all their chocolates straight from the bean. The Red Bar, says Andy, is “a throwback to the earliest known recipes.” It has a wild mix of sour, mellow, toasted, and sweet notes. While the book was at press, the couple moved into spacious new quarters south of town. They re-open for business on Friday (June 15).

Who would expect wine—let alone good wine—in Vermont? But Snow Farm Vineyard (190 West Shore Rd., South Hero, VT; (802) 372-9463; www.snowfarm.com) produces some outstanding estate-grown varietal wines. Many are available all over Vermont, but you have to go to the winery to buy the limited-edition Pinot Noir, American Riesling, and (our favorite), the Late Harvest Vignobles, a lush dessert wine with pronounced apricot notes.

We love the controlled smoke flavor imparted at Green Mountain Smokehouse (341 Route 5 South, Windsor, VT; (802) 674-6653; www.greenmountainsmokehouse.com). Koreen and Jake Henne smoke all their meats on the premises and sell to individuals only at their factory. We like to stop for the bargain-priced bacon ends, which we dice up to use in chowders, stews, and in place of guanciale in amatriciana. (See here for our recipe.)

When we go to the farm or catch them at a farmers’ market, we’ll often buy a young, soft-rind cheese made by Consider Bardwell Farm (1333 Route 153, West Pawlet, VT; (802) 645-9928; www.considerbardwellfarm.com) to eat right away. To take home, we’re partial to the creamy Pawlet aged raw milk cheese from Jersey cows. It’s an Italian-style Toma and multiple award winner from the American Cheese Society and World Cheese championships.

Mark Simakaski and Nichole Wolfgang taught beekeeping when they were in the Peace Corps; now they make mead (honey wine) that ranks among some of the world’s best. Artesano Meadery (1334 Scott Highway (Route 302), Groton, VT; (802) 584-9000; www.artesanomead.com) produces about 1,000 cases a year. We prefer the dry traditional mead without fruit infusions.

Sheep are always grazing on the hillside when you approach Vermont Shepherd Cheese (281 Patch Farm Road, Putney, VT; (802) 387-4473; www.vermontshepherd.com), and the little sales building looks like something out of a fairy tale. You can buy yarn spun from the herd’s wool as well as local honey. But we make a beeline for the refrigerator and pre-cut wedges of the best aged ewe’s milk cheese in North America.

12

06 2012

Recapturing a great flavor of New Hampshire


Our latest book, Food Lovers’ Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire (Globe Pequot Press), just arrived two days ago and it brought back fond memories of the research. One of our favorite meals was at the Bedford Village Inn, when Benjamin Knack, fresh from a season on Hell’s Kitchen, had just take over the dining program for this romantic destination property.

It so happens that Ben makes a killer gnocchi, which he claimed was so simple that even his then 4-year-old daughter could do it. There are a couple of secrets to getting just the right texture. The potatoes should be cooked so they “squeak like Styrofoam when you squeeze them,” he says. And they should be pushed quickly through the sieve so the potato remains warm while you’re making the gnocchi.

That particular night we ate the gnocchi tossed with duck confit, but they’re equally good dressed in a light sauce made of roasted tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, and nothing more. We managed to get the Bedford Village Inn into Food Lovers’ Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire, but the gnocchi recipe arrived too late to make the first edition. Next time, maybe. In the meantime, here it is in all its glory (and simplicity).

GNOCCHI WITH ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients

3 russet potatoes
1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch pepper
1 egg
1 cup flour

Directions

1. Bake the potatoes until they are soft (about 45 min) in a 350-degree oven. While still warm, cut in half and, using the skin, push through a sieve or tamis onto a table top.

2. Sprinkle cheese, salt, and pepper over potatoes and cut in with bench scraper. Break egg on top and cut into potato mix until well incorporated.

3. Add flour and cut in until it is fully incorporated. Knead gently until a ball is formed. Flatten dough to about 3/4 inch.

4. Cut dough into 3/4 inch dowels and cut dowels into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss uncooked gnocchi in flour and allow to dry for 15 minutes.

5. Set 6 quarts water, well salted, to boil in large pot.

7. Drop gnocchi into boiling water and cook until they float. Then allow to cook for 2-3 more minutes.

8. Toss with 1/4 cup canola oil and store covered in refrigerator up to 48 hours until ready to serve.

ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients

5 vine-ripened tomatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Set oven to 350F.

2. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Toss with 1/4 cup olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in roasting pan and cook 25-30 minutes.

3. Remove tomatoes from oven. Separate skins and discard. Purée tomatoes until smooth. Add 1/4 cup olive oil while blending and add salt and pepper to taste.

from Benjamin Knack, executive chef at the Bedford Village Inn

Mountain View Grand’s tomato-cilantro cooler

Every cook has a different way to cope with the end of tomato season. In June, Brian Aspell was lured away from the Equinox in Vermont to bring his brand of culinary passion to the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield, N.H. He was still getting his feet under him when we visited in August, but on very short notice he managed to whip together a chef’s tasting menu that swept us away. It was a harbinger of great things to come at this grande dame of the White Mountains. (The fall menus will be pure Aspell.) The opening salvo of the dinner was an amuse-bouche of a New England gazpacho. Aspell served our portions in tall shot glasses, but on a warm day we could eat a whole bowl for lunch. He was kind enough to give us the recipe, and while we haven’t had a chance yet to make it with our Costoluto Genovese tomatoes, we thought we should pass along the recipe for all those gardeners with a great harvest.

CHILLED BRANDYWINE HEIRLOOM TOMATO AND CILANTRO COOLER

Ingredients

4 cups, seeded, diced, overripe Brandywine tomatoes
2 cups, seeded, peeled, diced cucumber
6 large shallots, minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced scallions
3 cups V-8 juice
1/8 cup aged sherry wine vinegar (if necessary to adjust seasoning)
10 drops of Tabasco sauce
Juice of 2 limes
2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cups uniformly diced yellow bell peppers
kosher salt and white pepper to taste

Directions

In a blender combine the tomato, cucumber, shallots, garlic, serrano peppers, olive oil, scallions, V-8 juice, sherry vinegar, Tabasco, and lime juice. Puree for 30 seconds or long enough to achieve a slightly thickened juice.

Fold in the cilantro, bell peppers and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate overnight and serve.

From Brian Aspell, executive chef of the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield, N.H.

06

09 2011

Summer’s bequest: blueberry bread pudding

Please forgive the shameless plug, but the second edition of our locavore book, Food Lovers’ Guide to Massachusetts, has just been published by Globe Pequot Press. We love researching the farmstands, restaurants, bakeries, fishmongers, chocolatiers, and cheesemakers that are featured in the book. Food people are some of the nicest and most generous folk in the world, and they remind us that we don’t have to go to exotic locales for wonderful tastes. We are already at work on the next edition.

Of all the great places in the book, Tower Hill Botanic Garden (11 French Drive, Boylston, MA 01505, 508-869-6111, www.towerhillbg.org), home base of the Worcester County Horticultural Society, is one of the best places to learn about New England heirloom apples. The society maintains one of the most comprehensive collections of New England heirloom apple trees in its orchard and even sells scions for grafting in the spring.

Ironically, the delicious recipe that Cecile Collier, chef at the botanic garden’s Twigs Cafe, shared with us for Food Lovers is for blueberry bread pudding. Craving a little taste of summer, we made one this week with our last cup of frozen berries.

With apologies to Massachusetts, we confess to being Maine wild blueberry chauvinists. David grew up in coastal Maine, and spent many backbreaking summer days raking wild blueberries for the local cannery. We’re both convinced that the flavor of one tiny wild blueberry is greater than the flavor of a half dozen larger cultivated berries. So during the brief season from late July into mid-August, we drive up to Maine and buy them from enterprising pickers who sell along the side of Route 1. What we can’t eat immediately, we save by spreading them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freezing. Within an hour they’re ready for heavy-duty freezer bags. When we pulled them out six months later for this recipe, they were as tasty as they were in August.

BLUEBERRY BREAD PUDDING


Ingredients

4 eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
7 to 8 slices of stale bread, crusts removed
1 cup blueberries
Nutmeg to taste

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine and blend eggs, half-and-half, milk, 3/4 cup sugar, and vanilla.

2. Tear up bread and mix with blueberries. Place in a 9-by-5-inch bread pan. Pour egg mixture over bread and berries in pan. Sprinkle with nutmeg and 2 tablespoons sugar.

3. Place loaf pan into a larger baking pan that has been filled halfway with hot water. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until pudding is set and top is browned.

4. Serve pudding warm, pairing each dish with a small sidecar of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4.

20

02 2010

Raclette made simple – in a grilled cheese sandwich

Raclette sandwich And speaking of cheesemongers…. We have fond memories of eating raclette–a big plateful of melted cheese with cornichons and boiled potatoes–after a tough day of winter snow hiking in Switzerland. It has always seemed too much trouble to make at home: Buy a big block of raclette cheese, find or build an open fire, etc., etc. But one day when we were in Rubiner’s Cheesemongers in Great Barrington, Mass., we wandered into the Rubi’s Cafe for lunch and found the perfect solution to our raclette craving. Rubi’s piled shredded raclette cheese and sliced cornichons onto sourdough bread slathered with Dijon mustard and stuck the sandwiches into a panini press. Voila! Instant raclette in your hand. (And easily duplicated at home.)

16

11 2009

Cheeses that stand alone

Formaggio Kitchen, Cambridge, Mass.

Formaggio Kitchen, Cambridge, Mass.

Few foods so directly conjure up their origins as artisanal cheeses. Walking into Formaggio Kitchen in our home town is like taking a trip around the world. This is where we went for the Cabrales to serve with apples, and FK is our go-to vendor whenever we need something really special. Ishan Gurdal first opened a cheese monger’s shop here more than 30 years ago and built his own ripening caves in 1996. His cheeses are so special and so perfectly cared for that even Thomas Keller of the French Laundry orders from Ishan. Formaggio Kitchen has a second location in Boston’s South End, and also sells through its web site: Formaggio Kitchen.

14

11 2009