Wednesday, July 1, 2015

BIKE PRESSING IN THE VALLEY

Read this summer's EDIBLE PIONEER VALLEY.


Learn about wild food and the pervasive power of the Pedal. The circle of life is complete from seed to compost. Click here and go to page 24.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Why Russia?

Wild Food Week One: SPRING ZING

Joined a wild food CSA. First shipment from Acorn Kitchen includes this: Spring Zing which clearly is a kimchi item.

We were at her stand at Thornes Market last Tuesday.  Carly gives me an armful of stinging nettles, a Black Locust Flower Cordial and a jar of Grape leaves. Among other things.

The Black Locust Flower Cordial "must be consumed this week as its fermenting" she urged and the grape leaves will be ready to eat in September according the yellow label.

The nettles stung and when Carly offered me more, I blanched. But once upon a time Carly fed me the most delicious bear neck I have ever eaten so I take what she gives me.

I get home. I tear open the Spring Zing not because I'm such a huge Kimchi fan, I can take or leave random fermented bits of veg, but because I had no other food at the time. I'm house sitting and plant watering for a buddhist. An ascetic diet of hemp hearts and tea prevails. So I hold the jar of wild food, this Spring Zing in my hand, and contemplate its contents:

LOCAL Cabbage, Carrots, Daikon, Tumeric, Ginger, Horseradish, Hot Peppers, WILD Leeks, Dandelion roots, Burdock Roots. Please Keep Refrigerated. 

Upon opening the jar, my mouth waters. Spring Zing somehow smells like the inside of an Italian sub shop. Upon tasting said Zing, my mouth smiles at the memory of my first "Italian." It was summer in Maine. Biddeford in a working class town near the water where lobster rolls and Italian subs full of thinly sliced peppers, onions and pepperoni, one or two pickles and olive oil and some red wine vinegar were on heavy rotation.

This plant based version of an Italian sub or "Italian" is the epitome of that food. Not sure if the WILD Leeks are the culprit or the Burdock Root or the preponderance of Hot Peppers and tumeric but Spring Zing satisfies like those subs used to.

Friday, June 5, 2015

If you're in Spokane, get the Crab Louis

Davenport Hotel Lobby, Spokane WA, Mary A. Nelen

The Davenport Hotel is known for: Crab Louis Salad named for founder Louis Davenport; first hotel in the country to have air conditioning; hotel staff was at one time required to wash, dry and press dollar bills before handing change to customers.


Today a lobby bathed in light from a glass atrium includes original statuary. Furniture is arranged in conversation under a Mission and Spanish style coffered ceiling. The Starbucks coffee station maintains a respectful distance.

At 10:08 a.m., there are twelve copies of USA Today in a neat pile on a marble counter in the lobby. A woman at the Business Center ducks into a small alcove to wash her hands three times when asked to mail some postcards for a guest.

Crab Louis Salad is still on the menu

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Wait for the White


Dear LocavoreLady,

Is white asparagus a better choice than green? I'm having an all white party and am thinking of including white asparagus.  

Signed, White in Worthington  

Dear White in Worthington,


Plan far ahead for that party. White asparagus is a result of growing the plant under cover. It's a thing in Europe and The Netherlands and some consider white asparagus less bitter than green. Looking for white? You won't find it here. Grow your own. Asparagus plants take several years to come up. Put your plants in this year and expect to harvest in 2019. When that spring of 2019 rolls around, (if the weather behaves), keep an eye out for shoots. When they appear, cover with straw or dirt. By June, if you don't experience blight or some other plant related disaster, you may be the proud parent of white asparagus. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Dear LocavoreLady,

How do you get asparagus stiff and bright green for eating? Ice or what?? I'd like to serve asparagus to my guests as "finger food" but when I cook asparagus and then put it on ice, it doesn't seem to shock them. What should I do? 

Signed, 
"New to all this,"  New York 

Dear "New to all this" 

All you have to do to shock asparagus is to tell them you're pregnant. Kidding! Fresh asparagus needs very little cooking to produce bright green spears that will have a nice crunch. To shock asparagus, dip spears in a shallow pan of boiling water ever so briefly (one minute for thin spears, two for fat) and use slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl of ice.  Serve with aioli or olive oil, salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Desert Dining with Stevie & Chef Bruce

It was a sleepy afternoon in the desert when we arrived at the former girl's school known as Hacienda Del Sol in Tuscon AZ. There were fans over head, a vista of sandy cacti and the Catalina foothills through leaded windows and under foot, clay tile once trod upon by western debutants, dusty from an afternoon ride on the trail.

It was an easy 105 out on the asphalt but flashing smiles and water for our canteens provided relief. Further sustenance came in the form of spirits and a sublime squid salad. It was bright in the room and quiet except for the buzzing of something airborne, a winged reminder that nature is the boss of us. A brisket sandwich arrived on a steamed bun. If the phrase "steamed bun" makes your mouth water, then you can imagine our elation over this dish. It tasted of a southwestern sunset, sweet and slightly smokey, with overtones of the Pacific Rim.

Chef Bruce Lim strolled over and accepted our gratitude for his food. The business end of his heat probe was hidden in the pocket of his chef coat.

"What's in this brisket chef?" inquired Stevie. "A three-day marinade of red curry paste, sugar and then braising," he said with a shrug, as if to say, 'who doesn't prepare brisket sandwiches in that manner?'

Stevie Pierson & Chef Bruce Lim, Hacienda Del Sol Tuscon AZ


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Dear LocavoreLady



Dear LocavoreLady:

One of the mom’s in my neighborhood raises rabbits and feeds them to her kids. I know times are rough and that meat prices are high but rabbit? It seems to me like certain domestic pets should be exempt from mealtime and besides; we’re not zoned for that in Amherst. I just don’t want my kids to get freaked out. Local great but rabbit? Maybe this mom should stick to vegan of eating the Easter Bunny. Anyway she invited us over to dinner and we don’t want to be rude. Should we go?

Signed, “Just Sayin.”

Dear “Just Sayin,”

Maybe you should check your zoning restrictions to see if “NIMBE” are allowed in our neighborhood. Rabbit is a valid source of protein, just like beef, pork, deer, fish and goat. Just because a hard-working mom decides to economize with a little lapin to make ends meet and keep the kids healthy doesn’t make her suspect. Besides, who are you to judge? Last time I checked domestic pets in New England ranged for dog to cat with a bit of room for exotic rodents and fish. Go there and enjoy the rabbit. You’ll be eating crow by dessert.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH PEDAL PERSON WILL BERNEY


    Every day is Earth Day.....
for the erstwhile Pedal People who use human labor instead of fossil fuels to transport items from point A to point B. Weighing in at 180 pounds and 6’6", 31-year-old Will Berney hauls 350 lbs of trash through the streets of Northampton with his bike. He took a moment to speak with ValleyLocavore after his shift.




V. Do you own a car?
W. Yes, a ’96 Honda Accord. It’s the first car I ever owned. I bought it from a woman in Northampton.  

V. What is the strangest thing you have hauled?
W. I hauled a queen mattress and boxspring – the widest thing I’ve ever hauled although usually furniture is a lot lighter than garbage so that’s good although its more challenging to get it on to the trailer.

V. What does a job like that cost?  
W. From Leeds to the dump about $50.

V. Do you have to work out to stay in the shape for this job of hauling sometimes 100 lbs for hours at a time or does the work naturally keep you in shape?
W. Lots of time somebody starts the job it might take them a few months or weeks to get into better shape and be able to take on more work. I do some exercises, like core strengthening stuff or yoga people do, to maintain the body.  The work isn’t just the biking but its also lifting heavy things. Doing core strength work has helped. It makes my body work better. When I started, I didn’t do any of that. I was 22 then. I was pretty cavalier about lot so aspects. I didn’t have winter clothing or a good bike. After a while all those little things make a difference and make it more sustainable.
V. So sometimes I see a pedal person grinding up the rise on Route 9 just before Cooley Dickenson Hospital hardly moving at all. I am impressed and guilty that’s I’m watching that person from my car but then I wonder, ‘are they going to make it?’ 
W. Oh yeah, we always make it.

V. Services include?
W. Trash, recycling, compost pick up and delivery to dump plus other deliveries such as food for Valley Green Feast. Also we do yard work.

V. Which dumps?
W. Valley Recycling on Rt. 10 and Northampton Transfer Center on Locust St.

V. How long have you been with the co-op known as Pedal People?
W. Since 2006 then hiatus then back so a total of between four and five years.  I did a year with Pedal People then went to college in Washington State.

V. Is this a fulltime job for you?
W. For me it is. Other people have other jobs but not me. I do about 20-25 hours a week. I’m on the high end of the spectrum here. 

V. And a typical workday for you?
W. I live in Northampton on Bates Street near the Coke factory. The bike and trailer are at my home. There is no central location at work. On the days when I am picking up, I have a list of customers. I pick up at each location, usually four and then continue on to the transfer station on Locust St and drop everything off. I usually pick up around 20 customers on a work day, which would be 2 or 3 trips to the transfer center.

V. Does traffic make way for you?
W. They totally make way and we get cheers for the most part. Hardly ever jeers.

V. Advice for regular people trying to ride a bike in traffic?
W. Take as much room as you need in the lane.

V. What is it like working for a co-op?
W. We share administrative duties as well as hauling. This interview for example is an administrative duty.

V. So you’re being paid for this?
W. Well, yes.

V.  How long does that take?
W. About four hours.

V. So if part of what the Pedal People do is yard work, then folks with gardens can hire you when they go on vacation?
W. Yeah. We could handle that no problem.

V. What kind of individual does it take to be a Pedal Person?
W. You have to be excited to do the physical work. As long as you’re able bodied and have the desire. It’s hard but not as insanely impossible seeming. It keeps you in shape.

For more information about Pedal People’s hauling services (which are approx. $34 per month for weekly pick-ups for Northampton residents) including yard work, check out the website at www.pedalpeople.coop.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?





Dear LocavoreLady

I’m neither locavore (gave up cooking for making restaurant reservations 18 years ago when I married Allan) nor a gourmet dedicated chef de cuisine. But I have a friend who is an “Uber” locavore and I would like to cook for her and her spouse. What do I prepare?

Penny, New Haven

Dear Pennies from Heaven:

So sorry you’re not cooking right now but I've got good news in the form of pennies from heaven. Fresh food requires very little preparation! 

New Haven is tricky for local food in winter but spring time should provide you with some goodies. Be on the lookout for at nearby farms, co-ops or specialty stores for breakfast radish, arugula and Bok Choy. All three items are cold weather plants and can be found early in the season. Other local foods such as cheese, mushrooms and meats can be found all year round. I did some research on your neighborhood and discovered the Farmers Market will be open at Wooster Square at the corner of DePalma Court and Chapel Street and across from Wooster Square Park opens on May 2. As for local chicken, you might try Firefly Farms of N. Stonington CT. They raise several types of free-range birds and sell them through a website called Connecticut Farm Fresh (http://www.ctfarmfreshstore.com/).

If you’re having your locavore friend over in May, one option could be sandwiches made with shaved radish, local butter and sea salt. Try that with a local sourdough bread sliced thin. This is a wonderful, time-honored combination. Another option is roast chicken. If you can locate a fresh chicken that is local, buy it, slather it with olive oil, pop it into the oven at 450 for half an hour to crisp the skin and reduce to 375 or cook for 20 to 30 minutes per lb. until you get an internal temperature reading (inside of thigh) of 165 F.  Serve with a rice dish that might contain some chopped arugula, butter and chopped nuts. Cook the rice first, according to directions, and add the arugula and nuts in the final few minutes before taking off the heat.

Hope this helps. Your "uber" locavore friend and her spouse will be most impressed with this presentation. Happy eating!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Not at all Clueless in Colrain

Dear LocavoreLady

Hello! There is nothing to eat this time of year! I’m 16 and I'm interested in eating local. My mom says there’s nothing at the store that’s local because its not summer. Right? Or?

Clueless in Colrain

Hello young Locavore! Your mom might have a point if she’s shopping at normal grocery stores like, hello the Big Y or Big E or Stop and Shop. Other stores will sell you the food that is local AND in season all year long such as chicken, hello, local, mushrooms, right? local, cheese, local, yogurt, local AND actual greens, even now in the April when the ground is, let’s face it, barren.

Take sprouts for example. Sprouts are live food, so alive they get delivered to the store five days after they are planted. Sprouts can be bought year round. Sprouts can go in salads. Sprouts will make your body smile. Not far your home town of Colrain is the town of Gill where Gill Greenery is sprouting seeds for us all year long. Just the other day I picked up a package of Gill Greenery Broccoli sprouts at, Altas Farm Store in S. Deerfield. You can also find these fab sprouts at Atkins and all the food co-ops. The sprouts are grown hydroponically in local, purified well water, available 365 days a year. What? You say sprouts aren't really greens? Don't these babies look green to you?




Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dear LocavoreLady


Dear LocavoreLady,

Why local? Why not food from afar? I feel like I am going to spend more time and gas driving all over the place picking up food from farms and farm stores to get the stuff. Most local food isn’t sold at normal stores.

Signed, Normal Guy.

Dear Normal Guy,

Reason #A, local food tastes better because it grows here where we have some of the best soil in the state due to the geological make up of this region. Say the word “loam” to yourself and keep saying it. “Loam” means perfect soil. Perfect soil is an ideal combination of clay, silt and sand. Drive along Route 47 if you ever want to see loam in action. That’s where the river takes a turn and the soil is very, very rich in nutrients and loam. That soil makes for the tastiest food. 

Reason #2, local business needs your support. Just the words ‘box stores’ say it all. Who wants to eat stuff in a box? You want to eat food that is planted, cared for and harvested by loving hands that produce food without chemicals that could endanger life. Not only should the people with those loving hands be supported, they should be thanked. There isn’t a lot of profit margin in the farming business.  

Reason #C, most food travels an average of 2500 miles to get from the source to your plate. Why go all that way when most of that food is growing right here? Save fossil fuels and buy locally. Even better, ride your bike if you're up for it. But maybe not on the day when you have to buy lots and lots.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tech to Table in the Berkshires

Tech to Table 
TAKE MAGAZINE EXCERPT
-
The scene inside Mezze Bistro + Bar in Williamstown, Massachusetts at 9:45 p.m. is a lively one. Inside the high-ceilinged room where everybody seems to know one another, a woman with an air of Kim Gordon cool offers wine to a couple camped out in a corner banquette......continue at Take Magazine.

Nancy Thomas and Bo Peabody, who pioneered farm-to-table dining in the Berkshires nearly 20 years ago, at a Mezze Restaurant Group dinner at the James Beard House March 9. Photo by Clay Williams.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The purpose of winter.....



Henry David 
Thoreau 
"The winter was not given to us for no purpose. We must thaw its cold with our genialness. We are asked to find out and appropriate all the nutrients it yields. If it is a cold and hard season, its fruit, no doubt, is the more concentrated and nutty."
Bashista Farm, Southampton MA

Monday, March 2, 2015

After the tasting.....

A snowy afternoon interview with sommelier Nancy Clarke of MKRT after tasting 15 or so great red and white Italian wines...


ValleyLocavore:  
Are you a wine snob or are you a sommelier?

Nancy:  
I'm a sommelier because I love exploring the different wines, foods and cultures of the world.

Nancy Clarke, Sommelier, MRKT Restaurant 

VL: Where did you learn to drink wine?
Nancy: My dad always grew up drinking Napa Valley Cabs and so he's definitely the first person to introduce me to high quality wine!

VL: Where did you get your training?
Nancy:  I trained under Master Sommelier Alpana Singh in Chicago, which was my first introduction to the world of wine. After that, I worked with sommelier Richard Reich at Brix Wine Bar in Sunset Beach. I also studied at Boston University's Elizabeth Bishop School of Wine under the tutelage of William Nesto and Sandy Block, who are both Masters of Wine through the Institute of Masters of Wine.

VL: Brix....as in Bricks and Morter?
Nancy: A measure, the sugar content of an aqueous solution.

 











VL: Of course....what’s new in South Deerfield home of MRKT?
Nancy: South Deerfield is in the heart of so many great farms and beautiful scenery. We are so lucky to be able to work with talented farmers and people who truly care about creating great food and preserving the natural world for generations to come.

VL: Will all these bottles go to waste? 
Nancy: (no answer)

VL: How do you pair wine with local food?
Nancy: I like to think of pairing wine with food just like adding ingredients in cooking. If you have a salty, fatty dish what would you add to cut the fattiness? A squeeze of lemon juice? If you treat wine like just another ingredient, you can merge the wine seamlessly with the food. At MRKT, we use so many beautiful, delicate local ingredients that it's important to use the wine as a highlighter to really bring out the quality of the local produce.

VL: What is your favorite thing on the menu?
Nancy: Our menu changes seasonally but right now it's definitely the Crispy Pork Belly. It's like the best breakfast ever!

VL: What’s the most you ever paid for a bottle of wine?
Nancy: Hmm... Honestly? I really don't pay that much for wine. 

VL: Me neither.
Nancy: I'm much more focused on trying to find a high-quality bottle at an everyday price! Now, the most expensive bottle that I've ever tasted? Probably, the 1992 Screaming Eagle, Cabernet Sauvignon.

VL: What’s the best glass of wine you ever drunk? I mean drank?
Nancy: Ah, the best glass of wine I've ever drank was a glass of 2001 Fattoria de Terrazze "Visions of J" Rosso Conero. I had it with my dad when he came to visit me in Chicago when I first moved there.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sunday Tasting of Italian Wines in South Deerfield

Wine Tasting Sunday from 2pm to 4pm at MRKT in S. Deerfield. Spend the afternoon drinking bits of Italy with the restaurant's sommelier, 24-year-old Nancy Clarke. Reservations required for March 1 event. Call 413-397-2190.
413-397-2190
Sommelier Nancy Clarke, MRKT

On Wednesday, Nancy' last class before she had to go to work at 4:30 was in Quechua, an indigenous language spoken in Argentina and Ecuador. By the time she got to MRKT, a little restaurant in South Deerfield, she was fully focused on France. Just last week a bottle of Chateau Flotis 2011 and a bottle of Domaine Capmartin 2012 were moved from the "by-the-glass" list to the "by-the-bottle" list. It had to be done because the cases were running low. 

At MRKT, the "by-the-glass wine list” has no less than five red wines, six white wines, a rose, a house Cabernet Sauvignon and four desert wines.  The aforementioned Chateau Flotis and Domaine Capmartin will be replaced with wines from small distributors that meet Nancy’s standards for the little farm-to-table menu that is heavy on the local and the artisan.

There are two ways to pair wines, according to 24-year-old sommelier. The first is the lemon rule. If the food you are serving requires a bit of acid or lemon, a bit of brightness, then the wine should be bright. For example, a tuna tartare which is usually served with olive oil lemon and lemon would fare well with a Sauvignon Blanc.

The second rule is simple. If you love the wine, you'll like the food. 


Friday, February 27, 2015

Recipe of the Week: Party Wings by Tim Wilcox

RECIPE: Party Wings

Tim Wilcox of Kitchen Garden Farm 

This is my version of chicken wings, the ultimate party food. 

My recipe combines elements of Thai fried chicken, Pok Pok's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, and Buffalo wings. Plus, it features our Kitchen Garden brand sriracha, which is now widely available at stores throughout the Valley.

3 lbs party style chicken wings (cut into drumettes and flats)
1/2  cup sugar
1/2 cup fish sauce
8 large garlic cloves, 4 minced, 4 thinly sliced 
2 Tbsp minced cilantro roots (optional)
1 cup rice flour, corn starch or tapioca starch (not glutinous rice flour)
Canola or peanut oil for deep frying
1/4 cup Kitchen Garden Sriracha
1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce 
Homemade roasted chili powder, optional

1. In a large bowl, combine the wings, sugar, fish sauce and minced garlic and cilantro roots. Refrigerate overnight (or put in your entryway since there's not room in your fridge and it's the middle of winter anyway). 

2. 20 minutes before you plan to serve the wings, heat about a quart of oil in a deep cast iron skillet or dutch oven to 375 degrees. 

3. Drain the wings and discard liquid from marinade. 

4.Dump the rice flour or starch onto a large plate and coat the wings thoroughly, a few at a time, then set them on a dusted baking sheet. Use more rice flour if necessary to get a nice coating on the wings. 

5. Fry the sliced garlic until golden and just beginning to brown on the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.

6. When the oil is hot, fry the wings, in batches if necessary, until cooked through and golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. (The wings can be held for hours, uncovered, in a low oven before being tossed with the sauce and served.)

7. Mix the sriracha with the sweet chili sauce. In a mixing bowl, add the wings and fried garlic slices and drizzle on the sauce while tossing or stirring them to ensure even coating. More or less sauce can be added depending on the heat tolerance of your guests. An extra pinch of homemade roasted Thai chili powder adds an extra hot and smoky kick to the wings.

8. Serve with a garnish of raw and/or pickled seasonal vegetables. 

Note: to make roasted Thai chili powder heat a small skillet over medium low heat. Add whole dried Thai chilies and dry-roast until they change color from red to smoky brown, stirring often. Take care not to burn them. Allow to cool and them grind them to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle or specially designated coffee grinder.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Guest Column: Tastes Like Freedom

Daily Hampshire Gazette Guest Column: 

Tastes Like Freedom


By MARY A. NELEN

(Published in print: Monday, December 29, 2014)

EASTHAMPTON -- Summer people line up under a leaf canopy on the green.
An al fresco supper awaits them. Sunflowers hold down 40 fluttering
tablecloths and a hula-hoop woman cavorts with a red-headed boy in
face paint. Laughter is heard over an insatiable appetite for heirloom
tomatoes and pedigree peaches.


It's high summer, the kombucha is being poured and everyone is happy
in the city of Greenfield. Last year over 1,000 souls were served at
Free Harvest Supper, an annual event, where food left over from the
harvest is shared with one and all, rich and poor.

It all started years ago when someone whispered something to someone
else at a Saturday morning peace vigil. That somebody was Juanita
Nelson. She was spending Saturday as usual, marching around in front
of the green. Juanita and others carried hand-made signs that read
“End Violence Now!” and “Guns into Plowshares.” Cars and pickup trucks
drove by and honked, sometimes in agreement, sometimes not.

It was August and the Farmers Market was in progress. Farmers with
leftover produce were giving it away in the final half hour of the
market. During a lunch break and while eating a tomato, raw and warm
from the sun, Juanita got an idea. She looked at her friends and said
in a whispery drawl, “There are so many farms around here, why don’t
we just collect all extra harvest and feed everybody?” Juanita’s voice
on the radio is how I first got involved as a volunteer for Free
Harvest Supper. It was about seven years ago. A DJ from WMUA asked
about her politics.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “What does sharing food have to do with the
anti-war movement?”

Juanita replied, “If you know who grows your food, if you depend on
each other for food, you’re not going to fight with them, are you?”

Juanita Nelson knows something about violence. She met Wally Nelson
when he was in jail and on a hunger strike. Juanita was on assignment
for a local paper to interview the man who participated in the first
wave of Freedom Riders protesting segregated transportation in the
south. Juanita’s first act of civil disobedience was to eat lunch in
the whites’ only section of a Washington, D.C., restaurant which got
her arrested and kicked out of college.

She and Wally were perfect for one another. They moved to Woolman Hill
in Deerfield in the 1970s and lived simply growing all their own food.
With a community of like-minded souls, they put up what they grew for
winter consumption.

That community resulted in the formation of the Greenfield Farmers
Market, the Pioneer Valley War Tax Resisters and the Valley Community
Land Trust. Wally lived to be 93 and Juanita, now in her 80s, lives in
Greenfield, inspiring Winter Fare (the first winter market) and Free
Harvest Supper.

Juanita and Wally were onto something with their garden. The hegemony
of processed food with its addictive cycle of salt, sugar and fat has
put the nation into a diabetic coma. Eating is an act of intimacy
second only to sex. Surely you want to know where your partner has
been. Should food be any different?

We have the advantage in the Pioneer Valley of good soil and farmers
who give their lives to the work. Grow your own, buy local and learn
to cook. Not only is real food better for you, it tastes like freedom.

Mary A. Nelen is a writer and photographer who lives in Easthampton.