Author Archives: Linni Kral

March Beer & Wine of the Month Club

Believe it or not, we did not search far and wide for Irish-made beers & wines this month (do Irish wines exist, even?) We can’t all be Irish, but we think that, in this otherwise bleak time, everyone deserves to get caught up in celebrating heritage. So rather than focus our attention on strictly Irish-style edibles this March, we sought out beers that speak to taste of place everywhere. What we found were brewers appropriating other country’s styles to make a beer all their own, and others sticking purely to a style that’s been enjoyed seasonally for centuries. We found a Haitian women deeply influenced by Irish culture, and a mad scientist using Scotch whiskey to lend meaning to a sweet tooth.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetThe palate of a wine-drinker is even harder to please in March—we’re still layering up and cuddling under blankets, but the days are getting noticeably longer and we’re starting to see tiny batches of asparagus instilling hope into the supermarket produce section . We wanted these wines to represent the bipolarity of this time—we crave fresh earth & floral bounty, yet we aren’t kicking a velvety Spanish red out of bed. We’ve assembled a a selection of wines made by real back-to-the-landers, hippie vintners whose passion for the earth is right in line with our yearning for the year’s first tulip bud. These guys live and die by the soil—at Illahe they use horse-drawn carts to transport grapes, while Case Corini is run by a former soil scientist.

There is still plenty of the dark, brooding richness we reach for in colder months here, but we’re starting to see the lighter styles making a comeback, too. Much like the slow-but-steady thaw occurring outside, these drinks leave behind the faintest glimmer of hope—hope that these sunny days might stay, hope that daffodils might be just around the corner, and hope for the crisp pale ales, zippy whites, & refreshing golden suds of summer.

The Libations

Birra del Borgo ReAle Extra: An American Pale Ale from an Italian brewery? We research beer a lot here, but we honestly couldn’t predict how this one was going to taste. A hoppier variation on this brewer’s traditional pale ale, it is made in the commune of Borgorose in the Lazio region of central Italy. It explodes with aromas of pine & citrus, and surprises you with simultaneous malty tropical sweetness and a bone dry, clean mouthfeel. Crisp with a rich foamy head, this light brown ale pours lively and robust and will offer refreshing comfort to the heat of your Craic Pikliz. ABV {6.2%}

IMG_2955Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier: Fastenbier literally means “lent beer,” and it is brewed for enjoyment during the 40 days between Ash Wednesday & Easter. This traditional German Rauchbier (a smoked style) is only available for that select period each year, and is brewed at Brauerei Heller-Trum in Bamberg according to Bavarian Purity Law enacted in 1516. Made with spelt and plenty of malts to give it a hefty body, this unfiltered beer has the “Brotzeit included,” which is a German word for afternoon snack. It has only faint smokiness, redolent of pork rinds and beechwood, and kept in check by dried fruit flavors & mild hop bitterness. This one is complex enough to serve as a substitute for whatever you gave up for lent! ABV {5.5%}

Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask Stout: This English Stout from the U.K. (Scotland, to be exact) is, like most other things in this box, not specifically Irish. But then neither are most of the drunkards stumbling around this time of year, right? Deep brown and velvety smooth, it hits you right away with a nose full of whiskey, before revealing a medley of sticky toffee, espresso, dates, vanilla, and charred wood on the palate. The sturdy Scottish stout is special to begin with, even before it matures on American Heartwood that’s been infused with Irish Whiskey. This award-winning beer has extremely limited availability, so we’re happy to present you with it at such an appropriate time! Plus, we hear if you drink it while wearing green, you won’t get a hangover…but don’t quote me on that.  ABV {7.4%}

Case Corini Monferrato Rosso Bricco 2009: Crafted on the vine by soil scientist and vintner Lorenzo Corini in Piedmont’s Monferrato region, this field blend of Barbera & Nebbiolo was grown on hillsides at the highest peak of the Case Corini vineyards. Lorenzo’s background in the sciences translates to wines that represent the entire ecosystem they hail from, and this 100% organic vineyard’s terroir is at the forefront of Corini’s wines. This wine is dense with dark, complex fruit. Its production is so natural, you might find a bit of a prickle to it upon opening—nothing a little decanting or vigorous swirling won’t fix! Pair this earthy beast with your Hubaner cheese for a good time.

Domaine Ventura Vina do Burato 2012: The 100% Mencía grapes for this wine are grown in damp, slate-rich soil, in one of Spain’s most stunning landscapes, the Ribeira Sacra. Families have grown grapes there since the Romans, despite the difficulty in utilizing the steep terraces lining the gorgeous canyons. All farming at Domaine Ventura is done by hand by Ramón Losada and his family using natural, organic methods. The grapes are monitored closely for maturity, only indigenous yeast is used to start fermentation, and none of the wines are filtered. Medium-bodied with notes of rose petal and red fruits, this wine is framed by fresh, assertive tannins. Pair with your Pikliz and a fresh cheese.

IMG_2961Illahe Viognier 2014: From Willamette Valley vintners Illahe, who focus on making wines that capture the variety of soils on their stunning 80 acre estate, comes an effusive bottle full of apricot, honeycomb, and peach flavors. The 100% Viognier grapes are sourced from Goschie Farms in Silverton, Oregon, and Plagmann Vineyards near Albany. The wine is 100% sustainably farmed, from the hand-harvesting and de-stemming to the use of solar panels and two horses, Doc & Bea, who mow and bring grapes to the winery at harvest. Subtle acidity and floral notes remind us of lime and gardenia, instilling in us a hope for brightness soon to come! Pair with your Hubaner cheese or caramels.

The Snacks

Sennerei Huban HubanerMade from the raw milk of 34 small dairy farms (average herd size is 15 cows), this silky mountain cheese is aged eight months. Bearing a strong resemblance to Appenzeller & Raclette, the Hubaner packs a less pungent punch than its Alpine brethren. Its paste is unbelievably smooth & clean, speckled throughout with pea-sized holes. Redolent of cooked butter, toasted hazelnuts, and fresh-mowed grass, this cheese balances sweetness and meltability with a slightly spicy sharp finish. Rich and creamy, it is excellent washed down with anything chilled, but we think it shines particularly well beside the Illahe Viognier or nutty brown ales like the Innis & Gunn.

IMG_2957The Craic & Blonde Haitian Pikliz“The Craic” is the Irish spice of life, their word for excitement, entertainment, joie de vivre. And for Blonde Beauchamp, who is Haitian, studied in Ireland, and now cooks in a JP kitchen, that sentiment seemed like the perfect way to capture her outlook on life. Blonde first brought her effervescent personality and ebullient spirit into our shop last December, overflowing with excitement over her new product, Haitian pikliz (pron. pick-lese). She makes this fiery slaw at the Crop Circle Kitchen in JP using cabbage, habaneros, carrots & onions, and recommends using it on everything from eggs to bloody marys to guacamole. It was cultural fusion that brought Blonde her dream company, and she encourages everyone to use her pikliz to do some fusing of their own!

McCrea’s Highland Single Malt Scotch Caramels: Ok, we know Scotch is not technically Irish/March-appropriate, but I doubt you’ll be splitting hairs when you bite into one of these soft, boozy chews. They are crafted by chemist Jason McCrea, who brings a scientific determination and specificity to his goal of creating the most perfect caramel possible. Dedicated to honesty and integrity in our food systems, too, Jason and his team make their caramels out of Hyde Park, MA and deliver them to us fresh. For this flavor, they slow-cook sugar to a precise temperature to ensure smooth, creamy texture, then add a Single Malt Scotch with a hint of peat, to play against the sweetness and produce a lingering, smoky finish.

Call the store at (617) 269-6100, email us at info@americanprovisions.com, or ask a staffer for more information on signing yourself or someone you love up for the Beer or Wine of the Month Club! 

Climb Every Mountain: An Ode to Alpine Cheese

I really like Alpine cheeses. A lot. So much so that I’m having a hard time refraining from the use of expletives to describe how much, suffice it to say that this declaration is missing modifiers.

I’ll even bet that you love them, too. Behind the cheese counter, we have certain wheels we refer to as “crowd-pleasers.” Sounds like code for “boring,” but it is anything but when we use it to describe the family of cheeses made in the mountains. Gruyère, Raclette, Comté, Emmentaler, the classic holey Swiss your Grandma put on sandwiches—chances are, you’ve tasted and most likely loved an Alpine cheese.

“Alpine” doesn’t always mean a cheese is made in the Alps, though. The styles have been replicated in mountain regions the world over, most notably in the American Northeast (big ups, New England!), so we’ll refer to them as Alpine & mountain cheeses interchangeably.

You know what we love most about these cheeses? They’re made with the milk of cows who graze decadent mountain pasture all summer, then are received back in their valley hometowns with a huge party. The cows are adorned with flower crowns and gold bells before being paraded down the mountain and fawned over by the village people, who rely on these cows for their livelihood, not to mention the food that sustains them through frigid winters.

Literally, they throw their well-fed cows a big parade. We have so much to learn from these people.

Cow-In-The-Alps-Computer-BackgroundThe practice is called transhumance—moving cows up the mountain steadily as the snow melts in spring, to guarantee they’re grazing the lushest, most verdant pastures (throwing a party for your cows is just called being a badass). Transhumance has been practiced since at least the twelfth century, when a ton of the name-controlled cheeses we eat today got their starts. Comté, #1 cheese crush of the shop, dates back to 1115! And the earliest records of Raclette go as far back as 1291. With this kind of history, it’s no wonder the government gets involved in regulating what makes a Comté a Comté. They keep a close eye on process, to ensure the cheeses are being made the same way today that conditions necessitated back in the day—and to distinguish those doing it old-school from larger, industrial cheese makers.

Cows need to be milked every day, so to avoid costly shleps down the mountain, chalets were built at different elevations to make cheese with the fresh milk. To get proper name recognition nowadays, milk must be immediately cooked the day it was milked, usually in copper pots over open wood fires. Both milk and curds are cooked this way, which creates the notes of caramel, brown butter and brown sugar present in mountain cheeses. It was also a major pain to lug bags of salt up the mountain back then, so these cheeses boast a pliable meltability and sweetness due to lack of sodium.

Without salt, the cheeses need to be made in enormous wheels of up to 20lbs. to provide stability—the higher surface-area-to-volume ratio causes greater moisture evaporation, and the resulting drier cheeses are hardier, easier to preserve, age, and carry with on the journey.

Aside from the basics, the government regulations vary from cheese to cheese. Most of them require that cows eat only dried meadow hay during winter months in the valley. Raclette can only be made with the milk of grass-fed cows who never ate from silos. Vacherin Mont d’Or has to be made with the milk of Montbéliard cows that has been thermised, a temp below pasteurization that allows more flavors to come through. To be called Abondance, a cheese must be set in a concave mold and aged on spruce planks, and to be called Comté, each cow is required to have at least one hectare of grazing land to itself (approximately two football fields)!

And within each of those styles, there is tons more variation among the mountain communities—which country they are in (the Alps include France, Switzerland, Italy, & Austria, among others), what plants are native to the region, whether the cows grazed north or south-facing slopes, and the soil conditions. This one class of cheese allows as much room for complexity as wine, and they boast a range of possible flavor profiles to match. From toasted nuts, burnt butter and a garden of floral notes, to savory wild herbs and even a pronounced meatiness, these cheeses contain just about every word I think of when imagining a perfect food. And luckily for you guys, we have a few pointers on how to draw out all this nuance.

Cheeses like this L'Etivaz, Gruyere, or Comte have a rich creaminess and a melt-in-your-mouth buttery quality that needs a little zest in a pairing. Mostarda, an Italian condiment of preserved fruits & mustard powder, keeps these cheeses balanced.

Food—We eat these cheeses in winter because of when and how they’re made, but also because they are damn good melters. Stateside standards like mac ‘n’ cheese, grilled cheese, & fondue perform beautifully with Alpines, but they also shine in their hometown classics like an oozy Raclette wheel melted by an open fire, or the creamy, funky potato bacon gratin they call Tartiflette.

Potatoes show up all over Alpine preparations, so we don’t think you’d be crazy to nosh on some Gruyère with a French fry, or even to melt some on top of potato chips. For pairings, you can play off the flavors present in a mountain cheese—toasted nuts, salty caramels, browned butter and fresh wild herbs are all great matches. And on the flip side, you can choose foods that present opposite qualities, for balance—tangy mostarda or chutney, zesty marmalades & relishes, pickles, or anything else acidic is going to lighten up a rich, sweet-cream piece of mountain cheese. And perhaps one of the easiest and simplest pairings is Comté and apple slices—a duo often requested by our shop owner’s daughter in her school lunches. Try brown-bagging some for yourself tomorrow! You’ll be thanking us later.photo (54)

Drink—As it goes with food, these mountain cheeses pair best with warming winter libations. Oaky chardonnays match the rich, woodsy tones in Alpines, while Reisling brightens the sweet notes of cooked sugar. Doppelbocks and porters employ hops & roasty malts to wake up notes of grass and toasted hazelnuts. It’s customary to do shots of a fruity schnapps with your mountain cheese courses in Switzerland, and given how well apples go with Comté, we think the Pommeau aperitif from Carr’s Cider House would make a great substitute (ya know, if you don’t keep schnapps lying around). For bold cheeses like Winnimere (a Vermont-made riff on Vacherin Mont d’Or), we think the distinctive tannins from its belt of local bark go great with a peaty Scotch or rye whiskey.

photo 1 (6)

We carry an array of mountain cheeses on our shelves at any given time, so be sure to ask your monger for their current recommendations. Here’s a brief list of some of our favorites, grouped by their maker or importer:

Heublemen, Nufenen, Maxx Extra, Challerhocker: These heavy-weights come to us from Columbia Cheese and the man, the legend Adam Moskowitz. Adam travels to the Alps constantly to taste wheels in the Jura mountains. The wheels we get from him are always bursting with flavor and dense, creamy interiors. They are rich and fudgey, yet often peppered with crunchy crystals of tyrosine, the amino acid protein left behind when milk proteins break down with age (in case you ever wondered why older cheeses have a crunch to them). Name-controlled and traditional, these are some of our oldest and most by-the-book Alpine cheeses.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve: One of the winningest cheeses in the history of the American Cheese Society, this take on Beaufort/Gruyère comes from Wisconsin’s Upland’s Cheese Company. It’s a little ironic for one of the best mountain cheeses made in the States to come from our country’s large swath of flatlands, but the two families who work the land at Upland’s have spent years molding their farm to meet the needs required by these Alpine styles. Aged up to two years, the Pleasant Ridge Reserve is only made with the summer milk of cows who are rotated daily to graze leafy, abundant fields along the hilly crest of Pleasant Ridge. They’ve also spent decades on selective crossbreeding of their closed herd, tweaking to suit the needs of the cheeses they make. The cream for Pleasant Ridge provides a perfect ratio of fat to protein before it even hits the cooking vat, so it’s no wonder the finished product is so rich & luxurious. Crunchy yet smooth, sweet-tart and just a touch savory, this cheese tastes downright professional.

At Uplands Cheese Company, wheels of Pleasant Ridge get washed in a brine solution several times a week to encourage the growth of certain bacteria & draw out the flavors of local microflora in the milk. Photo c/o uplandscheese.com

At Uplands Cheese Company, wheels of Pleasant Ridge get washed in a brine solution several times a week to encourage the growth of certain bacteria & draw out the flavors of local microflora in the milk. Photo c/o uplandscheese.com

Springbrook Tarentaise, Tarentaise Reserve, & Raclette: Springbrook Farm’s cheese program is headed by Jeremy Stephenson, who lived in Europe and trained with French cheesemakers for several years before attempting his Vermont-made take on the classic Tarentaise & Raclette styles. It’s fair to say he’s been successful, with the cheeses garnering several awards from the ACS (including Best in Show) over the years. His Tarentaise Reserve, an extra-aged version of the younger Tarentaise, has become such a commodity in the American cheese world that we often sit on waiting lists for it for months. Crunchy, creamy, salty and sweet, with a beautiful concave rind to mimic its French parentage, this is easily one of the best cheeses made in America today.

Consider Bardwell Rupert: Another ACS winner, slightly different than the other cheeses listed here, Rupert has a deep, warm goldenrod paste, with a drier and cleaner texture that boasts savory, umami flavors–on his last visit to the shop, Consider Bardwell’s cheesemaker Chris Gray told us that lately, it’s been reminding him of red miso. A great pick Alpine lovers looking to mix it up.

photo 2 (6)Jasper Hill’s Alpha Tolman & Winnimere: Also a Best in Show winner and also a step apart from the nutty, fudgy wheels on this list, Winnimere is Jasper Hill’s take on Jura mountain classics like Försterkäse or Vacherin Mont d’Or (cheeses that date back to Louis XV’s time). This coral-rinded wheel is girdled by spruce bark harvested in Vermont’s forests, and washed with VT’s coveted Hill Farmstead Beer. Already such decadence in its pedigree, and we haven’t even gotten to the cheese pudding that lies within! Winnimere is best eaten with the top cut off and a small spoon sticking out—we encourage folks to scoop this milky velvet substance right out of the bark. Full of meaty earth & dank savory tones, we love this cheese beside beef jerky or candied bacon, or with a nice glass of Scotch.

And the Alpha Tolman aint too shabby, either—a riff on Appenzeller, boasting notes of caramelized onion and dried fruit, this cheese shines next to cornichons, whole grain mustard, and påté.

Robinson Farm’s A Barndance, Prescott, & Robinson Swiss: The hills of central Massachusetts may not be as steep as those in the Alps, but that doesn’t stop the Robinson Family from trying their hand at French classics like Comté and Abondance. The farm in Hardwick, MA has been in the family for four generations, but it wasn’t until Pam & Ray took over that they decided to start crafting unique cheeses for retail consumption. What started as a project to add value to their raw milk has since morphed into a family love affair with mountain cheeses. And while their wheels don’t taste the same as those from the Alps, they follow the most important principles of grassfed, raw and organic fresh milk. Their cheeses have a cleaner, smoother, and more firm paste, full of tiny holes and grassy, sweet flavors that come right out of the bucolic Massachusetts countryside.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetL’Etivaz Gruyere: A new addition to our wall, this cheese is named for a village in Switzerland where 76 revolutionary families reside. These are the folks who, in 1930, rebelled against the government’s cheese regulations and started their village’s own designation of origin. L’Etivaz is essentially 19th-century Gruyère—the creators felt that cheesemakers were getting too lax in their production of the stuff, and needed to follow the stricter guidelines required 100 years ago. A little creamier, less sharp, and far nuttier than a standard Gruyère, this huge wheel offers a special taste of history.

Marcel Petit Forte St. Antoine Comté: Last, but furthest from least, the Marcel Petit Comté is easily one of our most consistent, complex, and elegant cheeses. After being made in the mountains, wheels of Comté are selected by affineurs who then monitor their aging process. Marcel Petit has revolutionized affinage, by using a WWII military bunker in the French countryside, and by having tasters monitor the wheels’ flavor profiles daily and only pulling them when their flavor is at its peak. They spend at least a year in the cool, damp fort, fortified by concrete walls and nestled into a grassy hillside. Tasters turn the wheels and care for them, tracking their progress in search of the perfect marriage of fruity and nutty, creamy and sharp, herbal and floral.

The wheels Marcel Petit deems worthy of export go through one more test of perfection by our importer, Essex St. Cheese, who started their whole business around importing only the best wheels of this specific Comté. By the time it gets to our counter, we are undoubtedly giving you a damn-near-perfect piece of cheese.

An affineur at Fort St. Antoine monitors wheels of Comté. Photo c/o comte-petit.com

An affineur at Fort St. Antoine monitors wheels of Comté. Photo c/o comte-petit.com

And these are just our most commonly stocked mountain cheeses—we get a smattering of exciting Alpines throughout the winter so be sure to always ask what’s in stock if you’re a fan of the nutty-fudgey-creamy-fruity. Willow Hill Farm’s Butternut makes rare but delightful appearances, and we try to keep Cobb Hill’s Ascutney Mountain around as much as we can. Right now is the best time to get our largest selection of Alpines—challenge yourself to try them all!

February Beer & Wine of the Month Club

Whether you’re celebrating Cupid or damning his name this month, it’s never a bad thing when society gives you an excuse to indulge. The February classics—oysters, chocolate, bubbles, lush cheeses and rich steaks—are just as enjoyable eaten on the floor during a Netflix binge as they are when shared with the one you love. We’ve put together a box of goodies that will make you feel pampered, and we don’t care if you enjoy the contents with your best friends, with your lover, or with no one at all (who says you have to share?)

From luxurious sour cherry wild ales and chocolate oyster stouts to suggestively-titled red Burgundy, this box hits all the usual suspects and then some. We also have a spicy horchata milk stout that we trekked through blizzards to procure for you, a sparkling pinot noir, and gorgeous marshmallows for impromptu fondue. We hope these treats find their way to an intimate, personal table topped with candles, cartoon Valentines, or just dozens of bottles of nail polish. This February, raise your glass to the most deep, undying connection in all our lives—the love of good food. photo (28)

The Drinks

Foolproof Brewing Shuckolate: A limited edition Valentine’s Day brew from Pawtucket, Rhode Island’s Foolproof Brewing, the Shuckolate is a salty-sweet combo made for lovin’. A romantic collab between Walrus & Carpenter Oysters and Garrison Confections, this oyster stout is brewed with 300 oyster shells! This mineral brininess provides a perfect counterpoint to the sumptuous velvety chocolate, resulting in a beer that screams decadence. Put on some Barry White or Frank Ocean, let your cheese come to room temperature, and this seductive brew will wash away all your troubles. ABV {6%}

Night Shift Brewing Art #20: El Lechedor: Boy, let me tell you the lengths we went to get you this beer! From Night Shift’s limited Art series, the El Lechedor was released on January 28, two days after the first big blizzard. The boys at Night Shift told us there wouldn’t be enough to give us a case, but that we could come to the release party and try to snag a few bombers. Our beer buyer Caley braved the Orange Line and the snowdrifts along Route 16 in Everett (a treacherous walk any time of year) and returned to the shop victorious! We got just enough for you guys in the Beer Club, which is the kind of magic this club was made for. We are now proud to give you Art #20, a Mexican-style Horchata Milk Stout brewed with poblano peppers, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla beans, and fermented in oak barrels. Spicy, creamy, and sweet, this bottle smells like fresh green chilies and tastes like a sunset near the equator—drink it in. ABV {6.9%}

Allagash Brewing Midnight BrettTo round out our collection of sensual experiences, the Midnight Brett from Portland, ME’s Allagash Brewing is a master of seduction. We were stunned by its beauty when it first graced the Allagash Instagram a few weeks ago, cloaked in dark, sultry shadows. Blood-black in color but full of ripe, red fruit flavor, this beer is fermented in stainless steel tanks with the Allagash house strain of brettanomyces. It has a sour cherry character tempered by a tart dryness, and is slightly more light-bodied than your average Flemish red. Wilder than Monk’s Cafe or Duchesse de Bourgogne, yet rich enough to be on par with those titans, we think this beer is a dream date for the cheese and chocolate in your box. ABV {7.3%}    photo 1

Leitz Spätburgunder Weissherbst Sekt Brut 2013: From the Rheingau vineyards of Johannes Leitz, a winemaker growing in esteem every day, we get this stunning bottle of sparkling Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder in German). The de-stemmed grapes go directly to press where they macerate for 3 hours before being gently pressed. From then on out, they undergo a white wine process. Secondary fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks, leaving us with a light and sprightly bottle overflowing with ripe grapefruit and sharp acidity. Every bottle we’ve gotten from the Leitz estate has blown us away with its remarkable sense of the dry and lively German terroir, and this bubbly rosé is no exception. A surefire way to impress your Valentine, even if you’re your own Valentine.

 

Paul Janin-et-Fils Moulin-a-Vent Séduction 2007: All the bottles from Paul Janin et Fils are marked with a stoic windmill that has overlooked their vineyards since the 15th century. In the same silent, consistent way, this family of winemakers has tended their vines for generations. The Janins farm in flaky, pink granite soil that produces structured and powerful age-worthy wines. This 2007 bottle of single-estate Cru Beaujolais boasts a spicy nose with hints of mint. Romantic floral notes of jasmine and rose play on the palate with faint red fruits, before finishing dry on notes of wet leaf and rustic earth. This red burgundy provides an enticing partner to any of the amorous foods you enjoy this month.

 

Tenuta Ponte Grecco di Tufo 2009: A gorgeous winter white from central Irpinia, where the Greco & Coda di Volpe are grown on hillsides with good exposure and excellent soil. Delicate, full-bodied, and round with a pale golden hue and an intense, lingering finish, this food-friendly wine from the Campania region pairs excellently with the cheese in your box. With a hint of biscuit on the nose and bold flavors of peach and apple, it’s easy to see why the whites of Tenuta Ponte are regarded as some of the best in southern Italy. This wine has a refreshing minerality ready to wash down anything from oysters to indulgent steaks and rich, creamy sauces—in other words, the perfect Valentine’s Day white.

The Snacks

Ruggles Hill Creamery Ada’s Honor: Last month, we received our first cheeses from Tricia Smith & Michael Holland, goat farming wizards and national-award-winning cheesemakers. These guys raise their Oberhasli and Saanen goats in the beautiful historical relic that is Hardwick, MA. These idyllic surroundings are where the goats grow up, and where Tricia and Michael hand-craft all of their cheeses with a care and attention to detail that shines through in the finished product. Ada’s Honor, named for their first herd queen, is a bloomy rind goat cheese modeled after a French Chabichou. The earthy rind complements the compact citrusy body. The taste is mild yet complex, reflecting the exquisite milk produced by these happy, grass-fed goats.photo 3 (2)

Mast Brothers Chocolate Sheep Milk Bar: Bean-to-bar chocolate began as a move away from milky candy bars, over-sweetened stuff that bore no resemblance to cacao beans. Lately, though, the call for a craft milk chocolate has grown louder, and the makers are finally listening. But would you expect Brooklyn’s premier chocolatiers, Rick & Michael Mast, to do basic milk chocolate? Of course not. These Iowa brothers, known for sailing a ship across the ocean to personally source their beans, have released three milk bars this year that really flip the script. The line contains a sheep, cow, and goat milk bar, meant to highlight the milk itself as an ingredient worthy of spotlight. Each pairing of milk type and cacao origin is a deliberate match to coax out nuance. This bar pairs sheeps milk with the Peruvian cacao, releasing flavors of fig, mushroom, & walnut. A great match for Ada’s Honor.

Sweet Lydia’s Assorted Marshmallows: These adorable gourmet mallows are hand-made in Lowell, MA by Sweet Lydia herself, a woman who got started crafting sweet favors for friends and family. Lydia’s business took off when she made mallows for her own wedding, a lucrative business move that sweetened the deal with her husband and got her name out there in the confection world. In raspberry, mocha, vanilla, and toasted coconut, these mallows are incredibly versatile—they can be toasted, s’mored, plopped into a cup of hot cocoa, or dipped into some chocolate fondue (our personal Valentine’s Day favorite).

 

 

January Beer & Wine of the Month Club

Everyone’s resolving to be nicer, drink more water, read more books, call their mothers more. We can get behind these pledges, but we have trouble with the new food rules so often adopted in January. Yes, we’re all for healthy eating, but we are not in support of bland eating. And bland eating is what often happens now, when everyone is cleansing, or juicing, or dieting in some capacity.

We believe veggies can be badass if you do it right. We encourage the crafty use of spice, salt, and heat to make this period of austerity actually taste good. Here, we’ve assembled a box full of flavor—one Indian-themed beer features curry, cayenne, and kaffir lime leaf, while another combines lavender, lemon balm, juniper berries for a hefty dose of healthful herbs. It is a box full of lean yet flavor-rich wines, notably rooted in earthy, vegetal elements and ripe fruits. And for food pairings, we’ve included a refreshing goat wheel, a summery peach jam, and a versatile medium hot sauce, safe for wimps and ready to add oomph to anything you cook. We hope this will serve as an inspiration to you during these temperate times!vscocam1097

The Libations

Mystic Brewery Melissa: This botanic-infused beer satisfies so much of what we need in January—healing herbs, good-for-you plants, and big bold flavors. This bottle contains lemon balm, juniper berries, and lavender flowers to alleviate whatever physical or spiritual hangover you suffer post-holidays, and it tastes damn good on top of that. Just released last week by Chelsea, MA’s Mystic Brewery, this herbed beer is brewed in the traditional Gruit style. You see, we didn’t preserve beer with hops until about 600 years ago. Before that, herb blends were used to sustain the life of beer, and you had to procure your gruit from a Gruit House. Mystic makes gruits often to serve in their taproom, as the style allows for much experimentation and variation. This one must have struck a chord, since it’s the first they’ve ever bottled! Pair with your cheese and jam.  ABV {7%}

 AleSmith Brewing Company Decadence 2014 Anniversary Ale: This San Diego brewery started their tradition of brewing anniversary ales in 2005, their brewery’s 10th anniversary. They’ve been doing it ever since, and this one commemorates their 19th year. To celebrate, they created a wheat wine that smells like fresh baked bread and tastes like spicy honey. Medium-bodied with a palate full of ripe fruits, interesting grains, and malty sweetness, all balanced by a hop bitterness that is more pronounced than in your average wheat wine. Burnt orange with a thin head, this beer looks and tastes celebratory, and has the flavor to jazz up even the most dull weeknight meal. Can’t wait to see what these guys come up with for their big 2-0 next year!  ABV {10%}                       photo (27)

 Ballast Point Indra Kunindra: An aggressively spiced imperial stout from the evil masterminds at Ballast Point (also in San Diego, can we just go hang out with these guys and drink beer on the beach, please?), the Indra Kunindra was brewed in collaboration with award-winning homebrewer Alex Tweet. Released in very limited quantities, the “India-Style Export Stout” is flavored with Madras curry, cumin, cayenne, coconut, and kaffir lime leaf. This is the beer that inspired us to model your January box around big flavor and master use of spice. This is the beer that is going to get us through winter, and cleanses, and diets. We bow down to this bizarre octopus god. Invite this beer and your jalapeno tequila lime sauce to the same dinner, if you dare. ABV {7%}      Teutonic Wine Company Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut: We loved the Teutonic Wine Company’s hippie vintners Olga & Barnaby before we even knew their names—though those certainly helped. These two back-to-the-landers craft their Willamette Valley wines in the style of Germany & Alsace, where cold weather allows the grapes to ripen on the vine longer and pull up richer depth of flavor from the soil. 2011 was a great year for their sparkling wine crop—the fruit was leaner, perfect for a dry, mineral sparkler. Rock, chalk, & bubbles pop in your mouth with every swill of this Pinot Noir, grown at Laurel Vineyard. Olga & Barnaby only work with dry-farmed zero-irrigation farms, allowing for the roots to grow deep into the soil strata and soak up every element of terroir.

Franco Pasetti Trebbiano D’Abruzzo Zarache 2008: The Zarache is a dry white wine made with Trebbiano D’Abruzzo and Cococciola grapes, grown in clay-rich pebbly soil and hand-harvested in the small Abruzzo town of Capestrano, at the feet of the Gran Sasso mountain.   Bright gold tones welcome you into this soft & tart bottle, full of ripe fruit aroma, mild sparkle, and a delicate almond aftertaste. Made with care under the watchful eye of Franco Pasetti, an oft-awarded vintner who has been crafting wines in the beautiful valleys and hills of the Adriatic coast for over 30 years.vscocam1101

Thunevin-Calvet Cuvée Constance 2009: This Grenache-Carignan blend hails from bad boy winemaker Jean-Luc Thunevin, who started the “garage wine” movement in 1989 when he bought a small parcel of land in St. Emilion and began crafting world-class wines essentially out of his garage. This wine comes from the Cotes du Roussilon Villages AOC, a sub-appellation in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The grapes are planted in schist soils and managed under biodynamic principles, with low yields. The resulting wine is full of vivid fruit—blueberries and raspberries at the forefront—and infused with cool, crushed stone flavor like a splash of water from a mountain spring. A refreshing partner to the austere, veggie-rich meals we all insist on eating post-holidays.

The Snacks

Russell Street Deli Red Haven Peach Jam: Summer feels like a very distant, nearly impossible memory right now, so we think it’s the perfect time to crack open a jar of this Midwest-made New Haven Peach jam from Detroit’s Russell Street Deli. These guys spend the summer scouring their local community for unique heirloom fruit varietals and interesting produce to preserve for the long, cold season–they’re a deli and these ingredients come in handy for sandwich specials in the deep winter. This jam is great with the cheese in your box, on a grilled cheese, or just on buttered toast.vscocam1099

Queen Majesty Jalapeno Tequila Lime Hot Sauce: This gorgeous chartreuse hot sauce is made by New York City chef & DJ Erica Diehl (stage name Queen Majesty), who crafts this Caribbean-inspired recipe in Red Hook, Brooklyn using fresh, organic jalapenos, limes, ginger, and green apple. With that medley of veggies, you could even pass it off as healthy! It won the silver medal at NYC’s Hot Sauce Expo in 2014, and it isn’t hard to taste why—even the biggest wimps on our staff love this stuff. Try it on the usual suspects like eggs, tacos, or mac ‘n’ cheese, but we also strongly encourage you to think outside the box with this sauce. We wouldn’t kick it off a cheese plate…

Lazy Lady Farm Marbarella: From our favorite off-the-grid die-hard Laini Fondilier, comes this beautifully named and beautifully shaped goat wheel. Striated throughout with layer upon layer of vegetable ash and fluffy curd, the Marbarella is light, lemony and fresh, yet has a lactic undertone of earth and salt that reminds us of the natural grasses Lani’s goats munch all year. Started in 1987, Lazy Lady Farm has been 100% solar and wind powered since their early days of candles, gas lamps, hand water pumps, and a small car battery for running a radio. They now have a herd of over 40 Alpine goats and several aging cellars on their land. Big fans of keeping things simple, their passion and dedication shows in this uncomplicated yet stunning disc of cheese.

December Wine of the Month Club

While everyone else pigs out this holiday season (and god bless them), we thought it might be nice to give you a box that offers respite from a world inundated with cloyingly sweet candy and rich, syrupy dessert wines. Yes, those celebratory edibles are certainly a treat we indulge in this time of year, but we also think it’s a great time to really splurge on items of such utter elegance and refinement, you wouldn’t think of treating yourself to them any other time of year. From earthy Malvasia Nera and steely Chablis to the refined bouquet of flowers in Big Picture Farm’s hard aged goat tomme, there’s plenty of thought-provoking stuff to be had here. But because we can’t completely ignore the season, we also included a bangin’ sparkler and a locally made apple butter that gets surprising help from black pepper, cardamom, and maple syrup. We hope this box gives you some balance in an otherwise whirlwind month. See you in 2015! Continue reading

The 2014 American Provisions Gift Guide

We can officially stop pretending we aren’t ready yet when Bing Crosby’s croon comes on the radio, because the month we wait for all year is finally here!

Hopefully you survived whatever giant sales you took part in this weekend—whether you prefer the FOMO stress of Cyber Monday, or the war games of Black Friday, you are on the other side of it now. All that’s left is filling in the holes between flat screens and Xboxes with thoughtful, unique choices your friends and family don’t know they need. That is where we come in.

You can view last year’s gift guide for additional ideas, but here we will focus mostly on new giftable products we’re excited about (with a few familiar favorites tossed in). Hopefully you can find something for everyone on your list—even if your family doesn’t know the difference between a chocolate truffle and a truffle mushroom, everybody loves to eat. Wake up their inner foodie with some of these treats! Continue reading

November Beer & Wine of the Month Club

We have family on our minds as we watch fall chill slowly into winter. Often the promise of an upcoming reunion or cozy gathering is what keeps us feeling the glow of sunlight long after the days get shorter. We feel prepared to tackle the upcoming blizzards because we spend this time strengthening our arsenal of good people, soothing drinks, and rich, celebratory foods.

vscocam844The beers in this month’s box feature high ABVs to heat your bones on a chilly night, dark malty bodies that make them feel decadent and lush–and the wines are equally full and robust. These bottles taste like ripe red fruits and vanilla, toasted nuts and spice—all flavors of the holidays. And the food pairings all come from American artisans who work closely with their families to make the products in your box. These are folks who understand the restorative power of family—be it your given family or your chosen family. It’s what gets us through, so we welcome you to batten down the hatches and enjoy these warming brews with those who mean the most to you this November. Continue reading

October Beer & Wine of the Month Club

The seasons of 2014 have brought with them plenty of false starts and overstayed welcomes. Winter hung around longer than anyone wanted, spring either didn’t exist or lasted til July depending on how you look at it. And now we can’t seem to let go of summer as mixed weather messages are thrown our way (even though the leaves are speaking in unequivocal colors, it’s hard to carve a pumpkin when its 80 degrees outside).

vscocam784We’ve assembled this month’s box with these contradictions in mind. Ordinarily we’d be resigned to several months of hefty reds, Belgian quads, stouts and porters by now, but it just didn’t seem right to lay the heavy stuff on you just yet. Here you have a DIPA and a barrel-aged Belgian Tripel to balance out the obligatory pumpkin beer (which we happen to think is one of the best out this year). You have a spicy Spanish red blend and two lively whites that are big and bold enough for any cuisine. And to stand up to these intense flavors, you have a scrappy little washed rind wheel, a cooked-down apple cider reduction, a tangy cinnamon apple mustard, and salty pumpkin caramel corn, all of which pair beautifully with your beer and wine. All told, we think this medley of fall flavors come together to tell the story of a very in-between, very colorful season. Continue reading

Boston’s Cider Bantamweights

photo 1-8When we first heard why Bantam Cider is called ‘bantam,’ we were a little jealous we hadn’t thought of it first. Originally the name of a seaport town in Indonesia, ‘bantam’ became the word to describe the small but durable chickens sold there for long stints at sea. These chickens were half the size of normal chickens, but exhibited all the characteristics of standard poultry. From there the word evolved to describe the bantamweight boxing class, a diminutive weight class that was nevertheless feisty.

“It means small and mighty, and that was the perfect metaphor for our hometown of Boston as well as us, two women jumping into this business,” said Bantam co-founder Dana Masterpolo. She started the company with Michelle DeSilva, and the two have taken on craft brewing fearlessly, in an industry often dominated by men. Given the history behind the word, it’s a wonder we don’t see it pop up more often in our industry of micro-batch, small-scale food producers who are nevertheless contenders in the growing scene of American edibles. Continue reading

September Beer & Wine of the Month Club

We always get a little emotional when we see the first “Back-to-School” displays in stores, or articles on the newsstands. It’s a strange nostalgic mix of remembering how different each fall felt as a kid, knowing that another summer has gone by too fast, and as a New Englander, anticipating the upcoming symphony of colors on the trees. It isn’t entirely a bad feeling—but it’s poignant, stirring, wistful. Maybe we’re just too sentimental, but it’s a watershed moment at which we love to pause and reflect on both past and future.

photo 2 (1)To celebrate this turning point, we’ve assembled a Back to School box for you, full of a few teaching moments, homages to simpler times, and some esoteric products that win you over in time (think of all those books you hated reading in high school and love now). Peanut butter & jelly take a gourmet turn, an uncommon cheese is made user-friendly, and some organic, biodynamic wines and one-off brews challenge our interpretation of classic styles. So dive in, note-taking is optional, and your only homework is to taste it all. And best of all—there will be no test! Continue reading

Hop Harvest 2014

photo-46What you have here, is essentially a love song to Peak Organic Brewing & Blue Heron Organic Farm. But it’s disguised as a recap of their annual Hop Harvest event, so just play along, ok?

Each year for the past 3-4 years (no one can seem to remember exactly, maybe due to the boozy nature of the event), Peak & Blue Heron have co-hosted a hoe-down that is pretty much the best. Their annual Hop Harvest began when Peak was looking for more local organic hop farmers to use for their 100% organic beers, and Ellery of Blue Heron had just started experimenting with growing hops for use in her own homebrews. Continue reading

Grillo’s Comes to AP / AP Goes to Grillo’s

photo-41A long time ago, before restaurant menus started boasting brine in every appetizer, before the food world fell mouth-over-heels for pickles (and before Portlandia made fun of us for it), Travis Grillo had a crazy idea.

In 2008, the founder of the now-ubiquitous Boston-based pickle company had just endured a rather involved interview process for a job at Nike when the pickle idea came to him. Nike narrowed it down to just two candidates, and when they chose an inside guy, Travis gave the corporate world the proverbial middle finger and decided to start selling pickles out of the back of a wooden cart built by his cousin Eric. Continue reading