When the Flavorful Gather

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Food expos seem to be popping up like spring daffodils in the Upper Valley.  OTK went outtathekitchen last weekend to one food fair where  local culinary and pure food artisans introduced the public to their wares.  Locavores and the food curious swarmed the hall and sampled their way through the 40 or so booths. The event, sponsored by Vital Communities, a nonprofit serving the Upper Connecticut River Valley of NH and VT,  champions the Valley Food and Farm effort of the region. From the valley’s fancy inns to the small home kitchen canners, food lovers gathered for the meet, greet, and eat.

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Whole grain boules made just hours ago from Bee and The Baker

Near the long ticket line at the entrance, visitors enjoyed the attractive mobile museum of the National  Fish and Wildlife Refuge, an educational exhibit on wheels all about the Connecticut River Valley watershed. Its interior, part museum and part fun-mobile for kids, contained educational displays about the natural habitat which thrives in the waters and on the shores of the river.

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And this gathering of hungry humans at the expo depends on the watershed, too, as this year’s Flavors of the Valley event proved.

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Navigating the crowded gymnasium was tough, but given the amount of  free food being served up, visitors managed just fine.  Many brought their own utensils for the samples and bellied-up to crowded tables where they were served tidbits of sausages, fresh whole grain breads, jams, jellies, and salsas; goat cheeses galore, unpasteurized milk and yogurts, and hot dishes from caterers; caramels and chocolates, too.  Dairy and meat products seemed to dominate– all-natural, organic purity was the theme. Squeezed between the food booths were local associations fighting pollution and land abuse, and plentiful information was available at booths promoting the expo’s business sponsors, such as the Hanover Coop.  Flower and vegetable farmers reminded the public that planting was only a few weeks away, their mini-nurseries featuring seedlings along with purple and yellow happy-faced pansies. An earthy odor of their fresh loam mingled with the perfume of grilled spicy chorizo sausage.

I had the pleasure of talking with one very creative home canner.  John Snell, a Moretown,VT chef and owner of  Marsh Hollow artisan jams, jellies, and condiments, simply blew the competition out of the water. He describes his products as “non-traditional,” and the flavor combinations he designs are truly original in both concept and execution. Sweet and savory, his freshly crafted and seasonally preserved jams and jellies are uncommon and produced in small batches.

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I strongly suggest the Blueberry Almond, especially added to yogurt.  But then again, straight out of the jar rocks, too. Fig and Apple, devoid of that cloyingly sweet fig aftertaste common to many fig jams, brings together Italy and New England. There’s Irish Beer Jelly, Bruschetta, and my hands down favorite– Roasted Pepper Lime Jam. He plays around with rhubarb and carrots and pumpkins, too. Sampling these condiments sent my own creative recipe juices flowing, and I am looking forward to using them in fruited tangy sauces for venison, duck, and turkey this fall as well as filling my delicate cupcake confections with frostings and creams incorporating Marsh Hollow artisan jams, jellies, and condiments.

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You can also order up delivery of a Jam of the Month. If you join this condiment club, the shipping is free, and the featured flavors include his regular line along with whatever is seasonal– or  better yet, John’s latest inventive combination of seasonal produce– which is exactly what inspires a truly fine chef like John.

Perched at the end of Bee and The Baker’s table of organic breads (all baked in a hand built oven), was newcomer nurse-turned-home-canner, Barbara Badgley of Fairlee, VT, who offered a finely crafted line of hot pepper jelly called Radiant Heat.   This was her debut, and boy, what an entrance.

000_0146These hot pepper jellies are composed of serano and jalepeno peppers from her own garden. Unlike most pepper jellies that feature a sweet viscous base with pepper flakes, her jellies are packed with garden fresh miniature peppers in a tangy jelly and a generous level of heat. Sampling this product was like walking into a garden of flavor as the peppers were so very fresh and kept their integrity.  The product is somewhere between a salsa and a jam and a pickle.  I went home with the Sonoran Sunrise Jalapeño Pepper with Apricot and Ginger and Radiant Heat’s Irresistable  Hot Pepper Jam.  No joke!  Barbara is looking forward to planting some heirloom variety peppers this year.  I think it was a great day for Barbara, and I loved her aspirations for the upcoming season.

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Attending this sort of expo is dangerous for I am once again seriously contemplating raising chickens in my backyard. Having gorged on beer cheese, home made pastas, artisan organic butters, honey and maple syrup-based candies, I left Flavors of the Upper Valley with quite a few dreams of my own– for my garden, for my cooking, and for the continued success of these local farmers and chefs.  And the parallel efforts of conservationists of the region make for a wonderful marriage with the creative culinary dreams of the people in this region.  The continued environmental health of the surrounding Connecticut River Valley must never be taken for granted as it remains the foundation of the bounty enjoyed by all in the region.  The alliance of  foodies, farmers, environmentalists, and local business will keep important issues and sustainable agriculture on the front burner.

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by MELorden

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OTK is Getting Outtathekitchen

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I’m heading off for a Food Safari to the Big Apple.  It’s time to rub elbows with some of the great food writers, bloggers, cookbook authors, and editors at the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference this week. Along with some business will be the pleasure of stopping by the exhibit at  the Museum of Natural HIstory Exhibit: Our Global Kitchen.  There will be plenty of photos and adventures in food history as well as a look at some contemporary global food issues.

Adventures in dining and marketing will definitely be on the front burner, too.  And I’ll be in the kitchen with some great culinary movers and shakers from the local NYC scene, so look for some recipes, too.

I’ll post intermittently, and I hope you will join me on this journey.  I am looking forward to sharing this adventure when OTK gets outtathekitchen and hits New York City.   –MELordenScreen Shot 2013-01-17 at 10.47.15 AM

Museums of Food History and Exhibits

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Located in New Orleans, LA on the Riverwalk.

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Take a journey around the world and through time. Stroll through an ancient market, cook a virtual meal, peek inside the dining rooms of illustrious individuals—and consider some of the most challenging issues of our time. 
Visit Their Working Kitchen:  Live programming in the exhibition kitchen—a first for the Museum!—will animate the experience of food and flavor for visitors.

http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/our-global-kitchen-food-nature-culture

outtathekitchen to King Arthur Flour

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OTK took a trip outtathekitchen and into Vermont to visit a famous flour company founded in 1790 in Boston.

In 1984 it moved to Norwich, Vermont where it now has its central headquarters. Come along and visit the home of  The Baker’s Catalogue.

    

On this pilgrimage to Camelot, the headquarters of  the King Arthur Flour company, I visited the Baking Education Center, Baker’s Store, café  and their kitchens.

This visit was particularly meaningful to me. In the early 1900′s, my grandfather Thomas Esersky used to take a train from Claremont, NH to Boston to buy King Arthur’s large bags and barrels of rye, whole wheat, and white flour for his Ward 7 Bakery.  My grandmother Edith made a Russian black bread greatly favored by  the local Polish and Russian immigrant populations.

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The spacious retail center has an eye-popping array of every flour type imaginable, including gluten-free variations, along with packaged products such as scones and muffins, bread batters, cookies and squares, toppings, flavorings– everything imaginable for preparing baked confections.  Plenty of upscale kitchen gadgetry and gifts galore at every turn, too.

 

There is also a new baking demo area where I  met Lee who had just finished off some basic bread recipes and two kinds of scones, white and wheat flour.   I enjoyed chatting with her (as well as “testing” the free samples. I could not believe how tender and rich the whole wheat scones were).

The highlight of the visit was the chance to go behind the scenes of the whole operation to see where skilled bakers make all the products for the KAF cafés and several nearby food stores.

These guys had been here since 4:00 AM and were still in a good mood. This kitchen looked like a very cool place to work. And it smelled heavenly.

KAF brags a 100% employee owned company.

Angela Fredericks, a 3rd generation baker from the midwest, works massive amounts of beautiful and elastic dough into exactly 3.5 lb loaves

Her grandparents and parents ran Frederick’s Bakery in Sheboygan.

Clouds of puffy and fragrant dough will see another rise before being baked.

These  dough-rising baskets, or brotformen,  are made of coiled willow and are sold for the home baker  in the retail area.

Nearly 40 different varieties of bread are baked on the premises on specific days, (see listing at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/visit/bread.html ), but today featured deli rye and classic baguettes.

There is also an impressive cookbook selection focused exclusively on the art of baking.

For a listing of the King Arthur Flour series of cookbooks, see

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=king+arthur+flour+cookbooks

And don’t forget to check out the handsome Commemorative edition of the Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook celebrating 200 years of KAF.

Next, it was time for a peek at the spacious education center. Courses are generally booked solid.  I met guest teacher, consultant, and educator,  JamesMacGuire of Montreal.  He was preparing for the upcoming class on brioche and croissants– a challenging level of difficulty here. MacGuire emphasizes the importance of the artisan’s hand in making these French style breads.

When the new center was reconfigured and refurbished, the directors and staff decided to save the original bread oven.  It now sits on the entrance to the property, and there are plans to develop a community oven program.  It is a magnificent piece of masonry and seems to be weathering the Vermont winter well.

Before departing, I treated myself to a piece of  roasted tomato pizza– fresh and yeasty crust with intensely flavored grape tomatoes and basil.

Nor could I escape the allure of  the specialty raspberry and lemon curd filled cupcake.  It never made it back to the car.

I am sure to return to shop and get the salted caramel glazed cupcake next time.

And I picked up a few items from the retail store as well.

No one escapes King Arthur Flour’s digs without some fond food memories and a couple of  treasures from this castle of confection.

–MELorden   

http://www.kingarthurflour.com

Peruse The Baker’s Catalogue and be prepared to experience a baker’s dream.

For an excellent history of the company, see

http://youtube.googleapis.com/v/l3wq5zQtAm4

The website is terrific and there is plenty to explore.

Many thanks to my delightful tour guide, Terry Rosenstock, Public Relations Coordinator at KAF.

Eating in New Orleans

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November is an ideal time to visit New Orleans.  It’s quiet and has less of a Disneyland vibe, but New Orleans can’t hide its colorful street life and rhythms easily.  And one of the shining stars of this visit for me was the food of the city.

I had barely arrived at the home of Kit Wohl, cookbook writer, photographer, and  foodie (New Orleans Classic series.  See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kit_Wohl) when a steaming bowl of Crawfish Bisque was placed before me.  Diving face first into the velvety stew and marveling at the nuttiness of the rice on which it luxuriated, I knew then that with such an auspicious introduction, this visit would be like none other.

I was not disappointed.  With Kit as the spirit guide and my sister by my side, I ate my way through five days in a city where everything shimmered more brightly, sounded clearer, and tasted better.  The following is an attempt to capture in a few photos the sights, sounds, and tastes of that wonderful adventure .  There is no denying that spectacle is at the heart of New Orleans, and even in the quiet season, the city still rocks its mojo.

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First stop for an informal dinner was the landmark joint called Frankie and Johnny’swhere I shared a seafood boil with the Wohls.

Low on glamor and high on genuine and incredibly fresh NOLA fare.

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The next morning we hit Magazine Street and paid a visit to Vam Foss(http://nola.vomfassusa.com) where  oils, vinegars, and spirits live in beautiful casks. You can sample them all, and the sales folks will package and hand label them for you.   I left swooning. I think my eyes had permanently rolled back in my head. They mailed me my special selections (lemon balsamic, apple cider, and fig balsamic vinegar) in a stylish set of bottles nestled in special holder.

I passed on the absinthe, however.

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Talk about a specialty shop.

Next– no visit to New Orleans is complete without a stop at a local farmers market.  This was a small one, but it was big on choice, quality, and personality.

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Okra was everywhere.  Gotta get it for making your gumbo.

It was a privilege to dine at Dooky Chase’s iconic restaurant, birthplace of the civil rights movement in the Treme quarter of New Orleans. It’s not a tourist stop and pretty much remains a neighborhood restaurant. The historic dining room was full.  We opted for the luncheon buffet.  The collard greens were my favorites out of all those I sampled during my visit.  Fried chicken and peach cobbler were over the moon.

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 Ms. Leah and Mr. Chase were out and about

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A mighty beautiful lady, Ms. Chase was tending to an okra stew in her humble kitchen. We had a nice chat.

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At this point, I still had not ventured into trying a fried oyster.  I resisted until hanging out at the River Walk and ended up sharing a few with my sister.  Now I am craving them and can’t understand why I thought I would not like them.

It was hard to not to run into some local color on the streets of the city.  Best way to see it all is to walk, walk, and walk some more.

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This bistro featured jerk chicken, ribs, and sauces with plenty of mojo.

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Put on your dancing shoes.

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Steamship punk artisans in the French Quarter market can design goggles and leather strapping for your next dirigible flight.  These guys and gals were adorable, really friendly,  and original.  Can’t see the bloke’s vampire fangs in this shot.

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I made Kit drive around the block a few times to chase this gorgeous lady down.  She  had spent the night in the emergency room of the hospital where she said they never bother homeless folks like herself.  What a wonderful spirit she had.  She pedaled around town full of optimism, soul, and the grace of God which she enthusiastically shared with me for a mere five bucks. Gotta love her.

Then it was time to do some cooking at Kit’s.  She walked me through a recipe in her kitchen.  A version of southern pepper shrimp that she called BBQ Shrimp, except no BBQ sauces or grills were involved.

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Start with a pound of butter (4 sticks), lots of whole garlic cloves (was that an entire head we used?), and 4 large sprigs of rosemary…

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Take a long whiff.  Soon lemons and lemon balsamic will be added. And then at least a quarter cup of ground pepper.

Don’t forget a dash or two of green tabasco (or red if you prefer).

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2 pounds of shrimp with heads, a good toss, and then into a roasting pan to broil in the oven for 2- 5 minutes.  Pour a glass of beer, ladle the shrimp into a bowl, put on a plastic bib, say a voodoo prayer, and gobble.  Your lips will burn before the third bite.  Just the way they should.

More local fare near Tulane at Dat Dog.  Hands down the best weiner I ever ate– basic German hotdog ( it was roasted) with Creole mustard and Asian slaw. Snapped with each sweet and spicy and creamy bite.  Rolls were rich and held up.   Choose from many sausage and hot dog styles and build your own.

And yup– we had fries with that. They were superb in texture and seasoning.  Had a nice crunch, too.

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A visit to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in the River Walk mall building featured an homage to the famous Cake Lady, Frances Kuyper.  There were very funky exhibits about the history of southern cuisine with a Louisiana focus…

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…and the famous History of the Cocktail exhibit, which has a full room of its own.  Don’t miss this!

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You’ll be thirsty afterwards…

And then it was time for some serious haute cuisine at Chef  Donald Link’s

Herbsaint Restaurant on Saint Charles Ave.

It was just nice enough of an evening to eat dinner outdoors.

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Since I was in an altered state of culinary bliss, I ate most of my plates before I could take snapshots of each of them. Highlights follow below:

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I suppose you might call this a deconstructed Spaghetti Carbonara, but it was an ethereal version.  The pasta was housemade, guanciale replaced the usual pancetta, and the broken egg sauce was created by me when my fork broke through a perfectly poached and then breaded and deep fried egg!  How’d they do that? It’s a secret. I assure you that there were at least 4 forks navigating through each dish.  I think I licked the plate.

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Muscovy duck leg confit with dirty rice and citrus gastrique. The rice had so many special touches– bits of liver, maybe some dried fruit, something spicy, nutty… Hell, I can’t remember anything except that I couldn’t stop eating it.

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More pommes frittes.  Light and crispy with a great pimento aioli.

We re-ordered these.

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Braised short rib with potato rosti and salsa verde. Melt-in-your mouth and fall-off-the-bone delicious.

I didn’t even get pictures of our desserts. Some sort of buttery brulé in a luscious shortcake crust was one of them.  It vanished off the plate.

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And right on cue, this ethereal New Orleans buggy showed up.  The horse and driver were taking a breather and I popped up to get a few shots (Kit’s magic hand here.)  Sweet nag.  Looks like the whole horse and buggy are floating in air.

I know I was when we left the restaurant.

–Fin