Welcome to Massacheesetts: Cricket Creek Farm

Behind the charming wood doors at Cricket Creek farm is the home of a herd of around 30 grass-fed Brown Swiss and Jersey cows. Though it wasn’t always so – 60 years ago, the 500-acre farm was home to an industrious 300 milking cows and a large, grain based operation. Between 2001-2004 the Sabot family purchased the land and instituted a more animal friendly and environmentally friendly farm. With assistance from cheese consultant Peter Dixon of Parish Hill creamery, they developed their first cheese recipe for what would become Maggie’s Round.

On the most upper left corner of a map of Massachusetts you’ll find Williamstown – part of the Berkshires, and the home of Cricket Creek farm. Down a long dirt road, past fields of rolling pastures, and a view of the Berkshire mountains in the distance – you may see some cows grazing the fields, and watch out for chickens – there’s a farm open to exploration. Other than cows and chickens, Cricket Creek is also home to a few pigs, named Ophelia and Lady Macbeth.

The Cricket Creek farm store is open to the public from 7am-7pm, 7 days a week. It runs off the honors system, but staff are usually nearby to help, whether they’re working in the office, making cheese, or washing dishes. The store not only houses the artisan cheeses that we at AP know them for, but also: raw milk by the glass jug, Sidehill yogurt, and beef and pork products from the animals they raise.

Teri Rutherford is Operations Manager and comes to the farm by way of an Americorps position that helped her discover her passion for farm managing. She realized she loved the work and connecting to a specific farm would also use her experience with engaging communities, event planning, and outdoor recreation.

“Our mission is to produce nourishing food that honors the animals with respect to the community. We also want to be an example of sustainable small farm viability,” Rutherford said. “Bringing people here allows them to see what we’re doing, see how we’re treating our animals, and see how we’re making our quality food products.”

For fans of the farm that don’t have the resources to make it out to the Berkshires very often, they can track goings-on through Instagram and Facebook. “We have people making trips out to the farm because of seeing us on Instagram, it helps get the word out there and build a fan base and share what we’re doing,” Rutherford said.

However, realities of small farm life can be lost in translation through social media. “We romanticize the farm and therefore other people do that. I think that people understand that farming is hard work but I don’t think that people fully understand the financial struggle that small farmers go through. They see the beautiful pictures of where we are and the animals that are super happy and healthy and we care for them deeply. But we’re on razor thin margins here,” Rutherford adds. “The other aspect is that it’s not all happy animals all the time; there is a lot of death in farming and we don’t post pictures like that.”

For the conscious consumer, these facts are disheartening but it all the more makes us appreciate the sacrifice of the animals and the people who care for them, who milk them, and yes, send them to slaughter. It’s difficult, but it’s part of what makes a farm tick. At Cricket Creek, usually less than half of the herd is for milking, and a lot of their calves end up going for veal. Their cheeses use veal rennet – and have very few other ingredients. A by-product of the cheese-making is whey, which is fed to the pigs. The pigs also act as natural trash eaters, as they also get any cheese and other products that are not quite fit for human consumption. Like most farms, they also compost and spread manure to keep the grass growing so that the cows can keep eating.

To help keep those razor thin profit margins at bay, the cheese makers work year round. In the wintertime, they feed the cows baleage (pronounce bay-ledge), which comes with it’s own quirks in it’s effect on cheese development. Baleage is fermented hay. It makes winter milk higher fat, and lower yield.

Calista Tarnuskas is one of those cheese makers that stays hard at work. She says, “We do have issues with it sometimes in our raw milk cheeses. There’s a lot of variation in the bales, so if you get a bad one it can seriously affect the flavor, or even the smell.” There are ways it can be finessed. Tarnuskas said, “It’s definitely good to make a washed rind cheese or anything that does well with high fat in the winter.”

Tarnuskas has worked as a cheesemaker since 2009, and started her career at another local farm we know and love, Lazy Lady goat farm. “Recipes are like an ongoing endeavor for cheese making,” She said. “We write it all down and have make sheets so I know the lot number of the culture and how much I used – exactly.” She logs the temperature, time, and PH, so she can track the tweaks she makes with the resulting cheese.

Another big draw of the farm is the newly renovated barn that sits right between the beautiful overlook of the mountains and the farm store. Cricket Creek, with the help of a 2014 Kickstarter campaign, got the barn renovated for events and weddings. Though it’s another source of revenue for the farm and it doesn’t magically solve financial struggles, it is helping them to more securely break even.

Cricket Creek farm fills their corner of Massachusetts with community potlucks, letting the public see the daily ins and outs of their operations, and all the work that maintaining a farm requires. It’s hard to explain or pinpoint what makes them do what they do, but it is most soundly a labor of love for all that are involved. The rewards may not manifest themselves in actual riches, but the quality of their cheese is certainly indicative of how much care and heart they put into their operation.

All pictures and words by the author.

Spring Events Roundup: May We Have Your Attention Please

When spring hits in Boston, it hits hard and fast, like a home run hit in Fenway park. Hard as the sound of a million boat shoes hitting the patio pavement. Fast as a bunch of rosé bottles being emptied into a slushy machine. If you blink, you might miss it and you’ll already be headed into the dog days of summer, sitting in traffic on your way back from the Cape.

As unpredictable as the weather can be here in New England, there are a few things we can rely on. There will be at least a few nice days. And there will be lots of events with great opportunities to try new things, whether it’s food, alcohol, or meeting new people. We’ve spent a lot of time shoveling, de-icing, and sitting indoors – spring means we’ve earned a little rosé on the patio time.

Plus, we had to get in on the action ourselves. Below, learn more about a dinner party at Steel & Rye and two events we are hosting in the store this spring.

Thursday May 4th $95
Steel & Rye House Party #3
Six stunning courses paired with wine from one of our favorite local importers, Oz Wine Company. Chef Brendan Joy will be cooking up a spring menu, and AP will be contributing with a cheese course. Space is very limited! Call S&R to reserve your spot.

Saturday May 6th 6-9pm FREE
Hip Hop & Rosé
Join us in the store to taste fresh wines and hear fresh tunes. We will be pouring samples, and DJ Ryan Brown will be spinning in the store while you shop and drink.

Saturday May 20th 6:30pm TBA
Natural Wines 101
When you think of additives and chemicals, you probably think of twinkies or lunchables – but do you ever think about what goes in mass-produced wine? Mike from Mise Wines will be here talking about their specialty – natural wines. What they are, what they aren’t, and what that word actually means when it comes to wine. Stay woke. Subscribe to our email list to stay in the know about when tickets are released for this event.

Now, check out some of these local chosen events with people, things, and places that we love.

APRIL

Saturday April 22nd 11am-10pm FREE
Pennypacker’s Pig Roast
@Night Shift Brewing
New England natives and beer brewing heroes Night Shift combine with Pennypackers, a culinary delight, to bring you this event at Night Shift taproom.

Sunday April 23rd 3-5pm $5
GUAC OFF
@the Painted Burro
Attention, guac lovers! Entrants to this event will put their best avocado forward in hopes to bring home the prize: a $400 gift card and the chance to grace the Painted Burro’s menu. Ticket proceeds will benefit No Kid Hungry. As an attendee, you will get to try and vote on your favorite guac(s).

Tuesday April 25th 7-9pm $30
DIY Spent Grain Dog Treat Class
@Slumbrew
At this informational class, learn how to use a beer brewing by-product to make healthy treats for your dog.

Saturday April 29-30th 10am-4pm FREE
SoWa Open Market Kick-Off Weekend
@450 Harrison Ave
Boston’s biggest outdoor market needs no introduction. With a farmer’s market, vintage sellers, plenty of food trucks, and live music; it’s no wonder this is one of our favorite spring/summer rituals.

MAY

Monday May 1st 7:30-9:30pm $30
Beers & Bites: Wings!
@Harpoon Brewery
Wings from 10 different Boston restaurants and 20 beers on tap!

Wednesday May 3rd 8-10pm FREE
Opinionation
@Sixth Gear Cask & Kitchen
This isn’t your typical trivia – teams guess the most popular answer to questions. The more popular the answer, the more points you get. And of course, there are prizes. If you’re a fan of Family Feud you have to check this out. This event happens every Wednesday.

Thursday May 4th 6:30-7:30pm $15
Tea Basics 101
@MEM TEA
This workshop will take you through the different types of teas, where they come from, the processing of the plants, and their health benefits.

Saturday May 13th 10am-5pm FREE
Bubble Party!
@Evy Tea
All patios aren’t just for alcohol – some have bubble tea and cold brew too!

Saturday May 13th 12pm-11pm FREE
Springtime Spectacular at the Lawn on D
If you’ve never been to or heard of the Lawn on D, it’s the place where everyone takes pictures on those luminous swings. This event will have all the bells and whistles an opening day should: food, music, drinks, and activities.

Saturday May 13th 12:30-4pm or 5:30-9pm $59.50
Beer Summit
@The Castle
This event is a must for beer lovers. Join local and international brewers at the Castle in Boston for their 9th year running.

Saturday May 13th 12-1:30pm & Sunday May 14th 2-3:30 $24-60
Mother’s Day Truffle Making Workshop with Taza Chocolate
@Boston Public Market
Learn how to roll truffles for mom at this hands on class. Taza Chocolate and The KITCHEN will provide the ganache, chocolate, and toppings. You’ll leave with a dozen truffles and a one of a kind gift for mom.

Sunday May 14th 10am-3pm FREE
Lilac Sunday
@the Arboretum
Lilacs only bloom once a year, and the Arboretum makes a day of it. Tours, family activities, food trucks, and dog watching are key parts of this festival.

Monday May 15th 9am-4pm members/non-members $100/$150
Sensory Evaluation of Cheese Workshop
@Boston Public Market
MA Cheese Guild collaborates with The KITCHEN on this intensive one-day workshop. This course, offered by cheese educator Dr. Montserrat Almena, is an opportunity for anyone serious about cheese to improve sensory skills and understanding of cheese quality.

Saturday May 20th 11am-4pm FREE
Kite & Bike Festival
@Franklin Park
Come ride bikes and fly kites at this historic annual event. Franklin Park’s opening day will have food trucks, music, and Boston Bikes will be supplying bikes to ride.

Friday May 26th 6:30-10:30pm FREE
Friday Brass with Boycott and the Hartford Hot Several
@Aeronaut Brewery
This monthly brass band show series caught our eye because the hosts are our friends at Aeronaut Brewery. Definitely one of our favorite taprooms in the Boston area, Aeronaut has options on tap for every beer lover, from IPAs to sours. Have a beer and put some brass in your step.

Hopefully this list gets you started with some spring fun, but when in doubt: spend a day hanging out on the Charles, walking through the North End, people watching in Boston Common, or enjoying an American Provisions Italian while watching the waves at the M street beach. Have a specific event or must-do thing in spring? Leave a comment below.

Bantam Cider: An Apple a Day…

Tucked on a tiny side street about a five-minute walk from the heart of Somerville’s Union Square is Bantam Cider. Thankfully, signs mark the way in, as it is an industrial-style space that might otherwise shy away the less adventurous. It is here that Bantam conducts their production facility Monday through Friday, churning out unique and delicious ciders that they distribute throughout Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York City, Chicago, and Massachusetts. Lining the outer wall, big steel drums hold huge batches of their flagship ciders, awaiting canning. Oak barrels are pushed against the back wall, aging experimental batches within. A worker precisely handles an interesting filtering device that looks like a bunch of folders in need of filing. But this space isn’t purely production – Bantam is an urban facility, but they also function as a taproom on weekends. Which is why much of that equipment sprawled out in the space by day is on wheels — it gets rolled away to make room for an urban cider oasis.

Manager Christina Bencivenni is my guide, and serves me up a cider in a tulip shaped glass. I choose “Hopped Scrumpy,” due to the description that includes Mosaic, Amarillo, and Centennial hops. Coming from someone who has been more on the cider & sour train as opposed to the hop hype, I find it delicate, refreshing, and palate pleasing. For the last three years, Bencivenni’s been Bantam’s sales manager and has been in the interesting position of seeing not only Bantam grow, but also witnessing the shift in the increasing involvement of women in the micro-brewing workplace. Dana Masterpolo and Michelle da Silva are the founders of Bantam, and according to Bencivenni, “to say they are involved is the biggest understatement of the century.” She goes on to say, “They’re the hardest working women I’ve ever met and they’re pretty inspiring with how dedicated they are to the quality of our product.”

After five days of full-time production and getting product out to distributors who will then get them to the consumers, you’d think they’d want to take a break, right? Nope; at 5 p.m. on Friday when most Bostonites are heading home for some R&R, Bantam is setting up their taproom. They move out the equipment and move in the tables, complete with jars of complimentary pretzels. Guests can grab a draught for $6 or a flight of 5 for $10, and enjoy a free tour while there. I assumed Bencivenni was exaggerating when she said Masterpolo and da Silva “literally live here” but maybe she isn’t so far off.

If you live in Boston and are interested in cider, or know someone who is, you may be able to recognize Bantam’s cans on sight. The sharp design and bright, primary colors draw your eye. It’s simple, but chic. The transition to cans, like many other local producers, was a no-brainer. They’re easily transportable, suffer from less light pollution, and are better for the environment. If you can’t get to the taproom, these are a great option for you to enjoy the cider. But if you can – go growler! Or should I say, growlette -not only are the glass 32 oz bottles adorable, they also have several other uses – water bottles, flower vase, spice storage – the list goes on. Not to mention, these mini growlers open the possibilities to sampling every kind of cider that Bantam offers without fear of waste.Perhaps the best thing about the wide variety of Bantam’s ciders is that you can find a unique cider to pair with almost any of your favorite cheeses. Check out some of our favorites below.

Pairing Possibilities

Wunderkind
Crisp, clean, & bubbly due to sparkling wine yeast and a touch of flower blossom honey.
Pair with: local VT brie Jasper Hill’s Moses Sleeper or french triple cream Delice de Bourgogne

Rojo
Tart and semi-dry fermented with an ale yeast, sour cherries, and black peppercorns.
Pair with: ash ripened goat cheese Ruggles Hill Brother’s Walk

The Americain
Liquid apple pie. Still dry but slightly sweeter than the rest with rose petals, green cardamom, coriander, clove, and cinnamon.
Pair with: Parish Hill’s cider washed Hermit or Daphne’s Snowy Cheddar

Find the three aforementioned ciders on our shelves at AP, or head to the taproom at 55 Merriam St in Somerville for Hopped Scrumpy and more.

All pictures and words by the author.

February Beer Club Boxes

As one of the “romantic languages,” Italian professions of amore, elegant cheeses, hand made pasta, and dark, luscious bottles of wine would be apropos for the month of February. What doesn’t usually come to mind when thinking of Italy is beer. But with all of the skill and artisan attention the Italians give to the production of all their products, it is a shame to not equally consider their craft beer creations!

So this month we are showing a little amore to the underappreciated Italian craft beer scene, as well as to you with this Italian themed box! The items in this box are all imported from Italy, which seems to contradict our “eat local” motto, but sometimes you have to recognize the best of the best when it comes to things like porcini risotto or salted capers! And we know you’ll be feeling the love when you cut into this decadent hunk of truffle cheese…


Birrificio le Baladin IsaacThe first bottle you’ll find in this box hails from the small village of Piozzo in the Piedmont region of Italy. Birrificio le Baladin was started in1996 as a brewpub by the quirky  mastermind Teo Musso. Teo’s mission was to bring the artisanal elegance and craft of the Italian culture to the creation of craft beers that would accompany his other favorite activity of eating food. Isaac is a Belgian inspired witbier that Teo first made in 1997, named after his first son. Like most Italian craft beers, Isaac is bottle conditioned which gives a wonderful complexity to the beer. The scent of fruity citrus and yeast jump off Isaac’s fizzy head. This beer is super refreshing with spicy, herbal dryness, as well as a delicate wheaty malt base. {ABV: 5%}

Almond 22 Brewery Pink Italian Pale Ale: Curiously labeled Pink I.P.A., this pretty in pink bottle is an Italian Pale Ale, not to mistaken for the hop bombs we as Americans have a cult fetish for. Not that hops don’t play a part in this curious Italian creation! Tropical fruit hops show themselves in the form of grapefruit, pineapple, and a slight herbal bitterness. From the micro brewery Almond 22 in Abruzzo (no actual almonds here, the brewery was once the site of the production of ‘confetti di Sulmona’, Italy’s famous sugared almonds), this brew is unfiltered and unpasteurized which gives a long life for the beer to develop more complex flavors in the bottle. The pink peppercorn will certainly pop up as a light spice that balances some sweet malt flavors. {ABV: 6%}

Birrificio Retorto Morning Glory: The last two piccolo (small) beers in this Italian box are from a brewer whose dedication to his craft runs deep from the land in which his ingredients are grown, through brewing, fermentation, and finally to the bottle. Birrificio Retorto comes from the Latin term “wring”, which brewmaster Marcello Ceresa believe evokes the slope of the valleys and rivers that define the province of Piacenza. These two bottles are dubbed Morning Glory, which shines through the fizz with fresh fruity notes of mango and sweet citrus. Classified as an American style Pale Ale, Morning Glory has a decent amount of hoppy grassy bitterness, but the funky earthy palate seems distinctive of its Italian roots. {ABV: 5.6%}


Riseria Campanini Risotto al Funghi PorciniThe intrepid cooks who have prepared risotto know it is, above all, a labor of love—requiring constant attention, nurturing, and, like any real love, no small amount of wine. Though it can seem a daunting task, we promise this, Riseria Campanini’s risotto, is as easy as it gets. Riseria Campanini is a third-generation rice mill where each step of production is personally supervised by an owning family member. Made in the north of Italy just outside Mantua, this risotto ai funghi porcini is comprised of vialone nano rice, a variety greatly prized by chefs for its flavor and consistency. Though traditionally a primo dish (an Italian first course), we think this risotto would be perfection with steak au poivre and a nice bottle of red—perhaps a belated Valentine’s feast is in order?

Azienda Agricola Caravaglio CapersCapers may not be the sexiest ingredient we will ever give you, but they are undoubtedly one of the most versatile. These capperi come from, appropriately enough, Salina Island, specifically the vineyard Azienda Agricola, where they undergo a rigorous process before shipping stateside. Not unlike grape picking, the harvesting schedule for capers necessitates a strict schedule; capers being the buds of a flower, they are harvested precisely eight days after formation, for on the tenth day, they bloom and the berry is lost. Picked in the coolest hours of the day, the capers are then allowed to “rest” for half a day before il matrimonio salino—their marriage to salt. Strangely enough, capers are extremely bitter when eaten fresh; the preserving process brings out the best in them, and they only improve with age. Whether it’s Puttanesca, salsa verde, or Chicken Piccata, we find these little buds improve any dish they meet.

Sottocenere al TartufoPerhaps our most requested cheese, Sottocenere al Tartufo was the only choice for our February box. It has certainly captured the hearts and minds of many of our customers, who come in every week with a certain love-struck look asking simply for “the truffle cheese.” Coated in spices, beech ash, and of course, truffle dust, Sottocenere (meaning literally “under ash”) cuts a striking figure on a cheese plate—one of many reasons we love it so. The cheese itself (cow’s milk) is pleasantly mild, creamy, and slightly sweet, the perfect canvas for the real star here: the black truffle. And just to gild the lily, the cheesemakers saw fit to add truffle slivers to the soft paste for extra decadence. Like a true Italian diva, Sottocenere boldly dominates most pairings so we typically enjoy it all by its lonesome, though we wouldn’t say no to a spoonful of raw honey alongside either.

All descriptions and photos taken by Caley Mahoney.

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! 

Jam Out: A Conversation with Bonnie Shershow

Fruit preserves – the key is in the second word. For us New Englanders – slaves to the seasons – it’s an irresistible treat to get a taste of summer-ripened fruit on your plate in the middle of March. Even as the latest Nor’easter bears down upon us, let each bite remind you that though winter is here (and still coming, apparently) there is a drop of sunshine on the east coast that we can still enjoy – and it comes in different flavors.

Bonnie Shershow, the founder and owner of Bonnie’s Jams, was kind enough to speak to me about her product and how she got her start in the jam business. First of all, it was kind of an accident. How she tells it, Shershow got her start in jam making as her mothers helper, in their California home surrounded by berry bushes and fruit trees. Later in life, Shershow achieved a graduate degree from the Kennedy School at Harvard. She worked managing non-profits, political campaigns, and did marketing. Through it all, she made jam as a hobby, but she never thought it would become a career. Things clicked when Formaggio kitchen started carrying her jams 17 years ago – Shershow says, “At one point, I thought I should be paying them, it was such a thrill to see it on the shelf.”

A Question of pectin…

Many of Bonnie’s Jams have the telltale description “no pectin” on the label. I had no idea what pectin was, but I presumed it was some sort of negative additive. I referred myself to Google, and learned that it was a plant-derived substance with a variety of applications, both in food and medicine. Shershow informs me, “Pectin’s not bad for you – in fact, pectin can be good for you.”

So what’s all the fuss about pectin in jam? It boils down to this (pun intended) – sugar and water.

Let’s say you’re making jam in a pot with a bunch of fruit and sugar, and you add pectin. It is a thickening component – so the jam is ready in maybe a half hour. When Shershow makes her pots of jams, she cooks the fruit down for several hours, adds only a touch of sugar, and no pectin. This does a couple of things. In the first scenario, with the pectin, we had to add a lot of sugar (according to Shershow, some recipes call for a 1:1 ratio of sugar to fruit). The sugar is compensating for the water that is still in the jam – it’s helping it taste yummy. But if you let the jam thicken by cooking it down more, you’re removing the need for both a thickener and extra sugar to compensate for loss of flavor. You’re also subtracting the possibility that the pectin will change the actual flavor of the fruit preserve.

How can pectin change the flavor? Well, because pectin itself is made from fruit. It is found crabapples, citrus peels, and many other fruits. Hence why Shershow avoids using the derivative in most of her products – “I don’t like using it in berries or stone fruit jams. I want the flavor of that particular fruit to be pure; I don’t want it to have a citrus taste.”

On the flip side, Shershow tells me she uses pectin in her Red Pepper Jelly, a delightful product that we can barely keep in stock at AP. Pectin has a place in the Red Pepper Jelly – it’s a more liquid base, and it has vinegar as an ingredient. So, Shershow uses an orange peel based pectin that gels with the red pepper flavor. (Last pun, I promise.)

Finally, we get to the fun part. Shershow and I got to talk pairings, and she gave me some of her favorites. Cheese and meat may be the star of the show for snacking spreads – but accoutrements are the sidekicks that all superheroes need to shine. Jams have a way of elevating a cheese board – they bring taste, differentiating texture, and color to your appetizers. Keep scrolling for some visual inspiration for your next cheese board.

Nuts and honey & Chiriboga blue
The sweet, salty crunch of nuts & honey marries perfectly with a creamy blue. We love the rindless Chiriboga, a Bavarian blue so decadent it’s been made into ice cream. Fair warning – it’s addictive; this pairing should come with a waiver.

Strawberry Rhubarb & Lake’s Edge
If you’re after less of a punch and more of a delicate handshake, try this pairing on for size. Somewhere between creamy and fudgy, Lake’s Edge is an ash ripened goat cheese. Paired with Strawberry Rhubarb jam, it’s spring in a bite.

Peach Ginger & Twig Farm Goat Tomme
This pairing is a double whammy of tang, and I’m not talking chimpanzees. A snap of ginger and stone fruit with a crack of goat will have your palette on its toes.

Black and Blue & Marcel Petit Comte
Juicy berries with one of our favorite French alpine cheeses? Yes please! Kick up this pairing and make a warm tart with the black and blue and shave some Comte on top. Melty.

Fig preserves & literally any cheese
The best part about pairings is that it’s all up to you and your taste. We love Fig preserve with everything from our best selling Cabot Clothbound cheddar to taleggio. You can mix it in with some yogurt, or have it on a slice of toast with Ploughgate butter. Experiment. Find what you love. That’s what it’s all about.

All pictures and words by the author.

Claire Cheney’s Cabinet of Curiosities

Note by the author:
This interview with Claire Cheney from Curio Spice Co. will be the first
in a series of a spotlight on woman owned & operated businesses.

Curio Spice Co. is a tiny spice shop owned by Claire Cheney on Mass Ave in Cambridge. Just down the road from Davis & Porter Squares, it has a sanctuary-esque feeling. An avid traveler and collector of curiosities, Cheney has a way of blending both spices and ambiance. Old fashioned looking instruments, animal skulls, and a copy of the Drunken Botanist frame her spice blend and salt offerings. Curated to be an aromatic experience, each shelf has a row of clear jars so you can see and smell the spices. It’s one thing to talk the talk of being a small sustainable business but she really does walk the walk – 99% of the spices on her shelves are fair trade, organic, and/or from small sustainable farms.

Cheney grew up in Massachusetts and spent an impressionable part of her childhood in a shipbuilding town on the coast of Maine. She credits her first solo-abroad trip to Ghana as one event that spurred her interest in botany. She says, “People don’t have access to western style doctors, so there’s a lot of tribal medicine and using the plants in their environment, and I was curious about that.”

Curiouser and curiouser….

She went on to study at Oberlin, a small liberal arts college in Ohio, where she majored in creative writing and environmental studies. As far as her studies contribution to her business acumen, Cheney attributes more the critical thinking and creative skills she acquired at school with bringing her success than her actual degree. She jokes, “I sometimes will mix it up and say I was a creative studies major, cause it sometimes felt like that. Very, very interdisciplinary.”

At Oberlin, she worked as the Local Foods Coordinator at an 800-person food and living co-op. That meant she traveled to Amish farms in Ohio to source vegetables and eggs direct from the farms. Being a woman, the farmers would not make eye contact when she spoke to them, and would only speak to the male she was working with. Also impactful was her senior thesis on wild foods, which started as a project on the wild blueberry industry in Maine, but expanded wildly. She talks about interviewing Alice Waters as part of her project, who is a proponent of the slow food movement, food activist, and all around badass; as I would talk about meeting Beyonce (but with less hyperventilating). She credits her project as being very beneficial to defining her passion for local, organic, and sustainable food practices. You can tell she’s brought her interests full circle: she informs me of her newest spice blend offering named Herbes de Romance contains wild oregano from her folk’s farm up in Maine.

Cheney’s current business model is fashioned around becoming a certified B Corp, short for benefit corporation. A benefit corporation has a mission statement that goes beyond just profit. Other businesses that have achieved B Corp status include Kickstarter, and Cheney’s friends at the company Susty Party, who sell compostable party supplies. To be certified, you need to create a set of achievable goals to fulfill your mission, which vary depending on the business. Curio Spice Co.’s mission is rooted in environmental responsibility and gender equality.

Cheney points out, “it’s a little bit tricky for consumers, because there’s so much language on packaging. Whether it’s organic, now it’s non-GMO, there’s fair trade, then there’s words like sustainable and natural.” As more and more people are becoming aware, “natural” is often used to make a packaged food seem less processed – that doesn’t mean it’s true. While for-profit corporations only have a responsibility to how they can achieve financial success, B Corps also consider environmental and social factors.

If you look closely at the label, you can see the silhouette of a bear. That, according to Cheney, is because bears are super sniffers. After a little bit of my own research, I discovered bears have a sense of smell seven times greater than that of a bloodhound. That, together with Cheney’s affinity for perfumes gives an inkling as to how much sourcing spices direct has to with picking up scents. “It’s a similar process to spice blending, using your nose and finding cool combinations. I’ve studied some natural perfume and it’s helped develop my sensory abilities.”

Cheney has put those sensory abilities she’s gained to work; she seems to always be going on spice hunting trips, her latest of which being a vanilla quest in Madagascar which you can read about in her new blog post. Her social media accounts certainly capture her passion for spices and are a wonderful way to feel like you’re on an adventure right alongside her. As she says, “I think it makes people enjoy the food more when you have the story behind it.”

As for her spice blends, they are very exact, “down to the gram,” Cheney assures me. Her scales also have to be certified by the city because of weights and measures regulations. When I was considering Curio, and wondering about, of all the things I could ask Cheney, about her cool products and amazing travels, the phrase “The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts” by Aristotle came briefly to mind. When I asked Cheney if she agreed with that assessment, she said, “That’s what’s cool about blending – and you could say the same about cooking. When you combine certain things and it creates a balance, it transcends all the individual ingredients.”

Some of Claire Cheney’s favorite flavor combinations:
Southeast Asian: lemongrass, makrut lime, and long pepper
Greek & Mediterranean: Oregano, saffron, lemon, and thyme

Find Curio Spices at American Provisions in the spice section.

All photos and article by Hillary Anderson.

Shop Talk: Umami, chianti, and Matt, oh my!

When it comes to the products we sell at American Provisions, a lot of the things we love the most aren’t in the “basic needs” category. They’re the video vixens of the food world. Captivating and addicting. Equal parts wonderful and seductive, flavor rich, and unique. To us, there are certain picks that are so essential that we panic when they’re out of stock. They become the ones we call our ride-or-die products.

I posed the question to Matt Thayer, owner of American Provisions, a couple weeks ago. I asked him to give me his ten favorites, his ride-or-dies. Whittling down the many choices was both challenging and tendentious. Some, like Mazi Piri Piri sauce, were obvious. Others, like selecting one favorite wine out of our entire wall, were borderline formidable. This is the list Matt came up with, and his remarks. We also spoke about why he loves working in food, Southie, and the challenges of the food business.

Ploughgate butter

…is delicious. It’s not cheap, it’s 10 bucks for 8 oz of butter – but I think of it as like buying a hunk of cheese – I don’t cook eggs with that butter. I smear it all over bread or we melt it and dip artichokes in it. Just using it as like anything that is a perfect vehicle to just pour the butter into my mouth – as opposed to using it to cook.

Chianti Classico 2012 Castell’in Villa

That was one of the wineries I visited last spring, so I think that theres a personal connection to the wine which resonates with me. I had lunch with the winemaker. I think the first time I tasted it it was sort of an “aha” moment for Sangiovese grape. It made me think of chianti in a different way. It’s real kinda big and dank and earthy for a chianti. They can be a little bit lighter with high acidity and this is one that really made me see the aging potential of Sangiovese grape.

Mazi Piri Piri Sauce

Oh my gosh, this is like ketchup in my house. It goes on everything, from what you would think, like a taco or something like that – to eggs, meat, and more. Last year for the super bowl I did Mazi Piri Piri deep fried wings. That can never leave my fridge, that is very essential. I’ve turned a bunch of my people onto it too. In my neighborhood I have people over for dinner a lot and now they’re all hooked and make me bring them Piri Piri.

Would you say American Provisions today is accurate to your vision when you started the business? In what ways is it different or the same?

I think it’s something that we try really hard to be mindful of. So when we first opened we didn’t sell beer and wine although that was always part of the business plan. And we didn’t sell sandwiches. I had no interest in being a sandwich shop – we were a market, a neighborhood market, a cheese and meat shop.

We quickly transitioned into making sandwiches and that’s become a big revenue source for us, and also a place where we can put our labor. But it’s something that I try very hard not to have our identity become – being a sandwich shop.

As we open up a second location, it’s something again, were trying to be mindful of even though we’ll have a full kitchen and we’ll do sandwiches there, were trying to be a market, and have food as a place in the community. So it’s definitely something that we try and take a step back at times and see if we’re still following this mission and vision for American Provisions. So I do think that it is. And obviously we’ve evolved and our products have evolved which I think is a great thing, that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all. But I do think we’re sticking to our mission and vision.

Lesbos Feta from Essex St. Cheese co.

This feta is an addiction of mine. Most feta is commodity cheese – you can buy it already crumbled or it’s just a factory cheese that comes from cows milk that isn’t made by a cheesemaker and you can’t taste that it comes from an animal. Ours is 100% sheep and it’s an artisan cheese which most feta isn’t and you can really taste the difference. It’s grassy, it’s salty. I’m a salt freak, and it’s just the right amount of salt I think.

Early bird Crack of Dawn Breakfast Bar

These are a staple for me. It’s my breakfast every morning. It’s my coffee snack at 2 o’ clock every afternoon. I probably have – no hyperbole at all – 15 a week. When they briefly stopped making them, that was a crushing moment for us all.

Curio Supeq Spice – Spicy & Umami Salt

This is a more recent discovery. Curio spice are the type of products that we really like to sell here. She’s a local that who was in the restaurant industry and has bounced around various kitchens – she worked at Flatback coffee and Oleana and was really inspired to follow her passion. She travels and her instagram account is really cool to follow cause she’ll post from, like, Madagascar or somewhere. It’s a unique product, the umami salt. It’s not really overpowering. I use it as a finishing spice. It’s really good on eggs, chicken thighs, and rice. Pretty much everything.

How did you land on Southie as a place to start the business?

Andy and I met bartending in South Boston. We both worked here for a long time. My wife and I lived here for awhile. We had a connection to it. And from a pure business standpoint it felt like there was a need and it fit with what we were trying to do.

How do the challenges of six years ago when you were first starting compare to now?

It was a lot of work to open. At the time it didn’t feel hard. It was different challenges. When we first opened, we honestly talked about, “do you think we’ll need to hire anybody else or can we just do this ourselves?” And then we were busy the first week we opened –not busy like what we know today but we were lucky enough to have people walk through the door. It was just a lot of work, definitely, being a young father at the time and my kid was really young and my wife worked full time. It was hard from a time perspective. It was just different work. We’ve been lucky enough to have some success and we’ve been lucky enough to hire some great people. Now, it’s managing people as opposed to managing ourselves for 15 hours a day.

Crunch Dynasty – Exotic Hot Topping

So this is something I use when I have a meal that is super lame and I don’t have the energy to do anything for it, I throw that on top and that excites the meal – whether it’s just noodles or salad. Just like lettuce with lots of oil and that. It’s really salty; it’s spicy but it’s not overly, ruin your day spicy. At first you don’t even notice the heat then it kind of grows on you. Texturally it’s good too, a key ingredient in there is fried shallots, which to me is like- gimme fried shallots with anything. It really jazzes food up.

Les Moulins Mahjoub M’hamsa Couscous

We’ve sold this product for a long time – I also really like the Les Moulins Mahjoub harissa and the combo of the two of them are really good. I was shocked – often couscous doesn’t have shit for flavoring and so, just cooking that no broth not even salting the water, nothing – just cook it like pasta – and it’s super flavorful and it’s salty and kinda olive oil-y. Textural-ly, it doesn’t get mushy, It holds it’s form, I think because it’s sun dried.

Ortiz Anchovies in Olive Oil

That is an incredibly important staple ingredient in my cupboard. In fact it doesn’t even make it to my cupboard now – it sits on my counter. I have a bowl of kosher salt for cooking, pepper grinder, a couple different olive oils and often the anchovies sit right there. It’s more of an ingredient – it can be eaten by itself or just chopped up and thrown in a salad. But it goes when I’m rendering things. Or just sautéing onions and garlic. Or marinating meat – it goes REALLY really great with lamb or beef. It gives it an earthy richness and when you’re cooking it with other ingredients it doesn’t taste real fishy or anything, it’s just giving you that real umami-ness. It’s sort of like when you cook with fish sauce, and you’re like, “what is that flavor that I’m tasting?” It doesn’t necessarily taste fishy but it gives a depth of flavor.

Nella’s brussel sprout ravioli

I don’t eat it as much now that I don’t close, but when I used to close here – so for the first three years we were open – that was a product I would bring home and eat. It was my lazy dinner meal. It would just be that and good olive oil, salt and pepper, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. It was the type of thing where I would love it when my wife would say “we don’t have anything, bring something to eat home,” and I would know that was a Nella’s night.

What’s your favorite part of owning the shop?

I really love food. That’s something that’s super important to me and thats part of why I opened this store. I think it’s also the store’s place in the community. We intentionally opened in this community. We’re opening a second location, we intentionally are opening in Dorchester and were looking for a long time, years, before settling on that space. We looked at a lot of different places. One thing that we knew was we wanted it to be a place that people could feel a sense of community. I think food is really neat that it does that, whether it’s coming into a neighborhood market or a coffee shop you love or sitting around your dining room table and sharing a potluck. I think food is beautiful in that sense and that is what I love about our place in this community and how we’re approaching the intentionality of opening our second location.

All photos taken by Hillary Anderson.

Cheesemongers: a Day in the Ripe

Maura: Grocery

Expertise: resident sweet tooth, all things preserves, heart of soft cheese

You’ve been here longer than the rest of us – why do you continue to love working at AP?
When I first started here, I knew nothing about cheese, wine, or anything. I’ve learned so much and I keep working here because of the people. Matt and Andy, who are the owners of course- working for decent people makes the difference.
We may just be just a grocery store selling expensive foods, but when you’re able to meet the person milking the cows, or harvesting the vegetables, or spending hours hand-packaging preserves or chocolates, you feel good about the things you’re selling. At the end of the day, we’re a community shop; we know our customers and we know the people who craft our products.

What cheese doesn’t get enough love and you think is people should try?
I love all the mystic cheeses, I’m obsessed with them and their story. Also Humble Pie from Woodcock farm – it’s a great cheese and not one people necessarily go straight for.

Jen: Stock & Monger

Expertise: stocking, stocking, stocking; once cleaned the compost bin when no one else wanted to and for that we owe her everything

Can you tell me a bit on what you know about vegetarian cheeses at the shop?
A lot of the soft cheese in the fridge is vegetarian – the Vermont Creamery cheeses, as well as Champlain Valley’s triple cream, and the Vermont Farmstead Lille Bebe. Rennet is the ingredient that puts many cheeses off the menu for vegetarians as it is an animal by-product. The main purpose of the rennet is to stabilize the texture, so you definitely find it in nearly all harder cheeses, but not necessarily all softer cheeses. A lot of vegetarians love cheese, but don’t always eat it because of the rennet, which means they miss out on some great stuff! However, it’s not just vegetarians, some rennet is also derived from pork, making it not kosher. So, I find it very heartening to see that a lot of cheesemakers are looking to other enzymes to stabilize their cheeses, making them more accessible to people with differing dietary preferences/needs.

Do you think shopping at small businesses is a form of activism?
It’s form of community building, which is essential. I love the fact that this small, local business movement has started mainly with food but I’m hoping it will expand to include other goods and services that will provide necessary things to the communities being served. People who want to open their own businesses should definitely do it, but I’d like to see them look to the community’s needs first.

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Caley: Beer & Wine

Expertise: all the hops, all the beers, all the wines, all the grapes

What’s the cheese question you get asked most?
People always ask for sharp cheese but I don’t think they necessarily know what they’re asking for.

Can you speak on how seasonality plays into what we do at AP?
Historically, seasonality used to be more important, because people were cooking and eating the foods that were available at certain times of the year. Nowadays this doesn’t have to be the case, but at AP we think that eating seasonally brings us all closer to nature and to knowing where your food is coming from.

What’s your favorite season and food pairing?
Honestly, I am not great at following seasonal rules. I will drink tart goses and sours in the winter and Belgian strong ales in the summer, which isn’t something I’d necessarily recommend! That being said, drinking dark ales by a fire while it snows outside is pretty awesome. And despite it being somewhat overwhelming, the arrival of rose season in the spring is always exciting.

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Ali: Meat & Coffee

Expertise: charcuterie, inventor of “the Ali” which is just four shots of espresso in a cup and you chug it

How did you get into drinking coffee?
I never used to drink coffee- then I started telemarketing and they told me I had to do something to get my energy up.

Can you recommend an interesting bean?
The Barrington Italian roast – I don’t like dark roast but this one is so dark it’s worth drinking. It’s unique and very, very rich.

Favorite cheese/charcuturie pairing?
I like speck – a smoky, prosciutto style meat. You could try pairing it with Jasper Hill’s Oma, which is a stinky soft cheese. Or if you prefer salami, try it with Calabrese, it’s got a mild spice.

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Hillary: Cheese & Blog

Expertise: pickle taste tester, carb queen, cheese boards

What is the benefit of raw cheese vs not raw?
Raw cheese is made from unpasteurized milk. It doesn’t go through the heating process that may kill harmful bacteria which is the reason some people (like pregnant women) may go for only pasteurized cheeses. However, the bacteria present in raw milk is not all bad. Like eating cultured butter, yogurt, or even drinking kombucha – these cultures can actually bring the product to life. They give it a range and depth of flavor that is fairly unique to raw cheese. Basically, it tastes really good.

What would you say to someone who is intimidated by approaching a cheese counter?
Cheesemongers are always tasting, always learning. There’s very little you could ask that would seem stupid, because we’ve all asked the same questions before. The first step is to tell us anything about what you want in a cheese and we can help! If you don’t know what you want, ask us for a taste of what we like- and if you don’t like that tell us what you don’t like about it. Our goal is for you to be as excited about the cheese you are getting as we are about giving it to you.

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Nadia: Pasta & Frozen

Expertise: pickle b*tch, queen mother of snacks, prepared foods whiz

What’s your ride or die snack?
Grape leaves always – actually I almost upped the order this week just to compensate for the rate at which I eat them.

Same question but cheese.
Stilton aka Stilty – because it’s perfect in every way. I can also get down with some Willoughby. It changes – it’depends what’s in the case and what’s ripe – I wanna eat cheese when it’s best.

So after two years you’re leaving us – can you summarize what this job taught you?
This job has taught me a little bit of everything. I had to learn about beer, cheese, meat, coffee, olive oil, how things are made.
Getting to talk to people who grow things that we buy in the summer was a great experience- Blue Heron and the Urban Farming Institute. It’s amazing to talk to people who are passionate about food.

All photos taken by Hillary Anderson.

A Wrinkle in Cheese

Have you ever gone up to a cheese counter, picked up a hunk of cheese, and asked the cheesemonger there “What is this cheese like?” Their responses try to tell you something about the qualities of the cheese – the taste, texture, type of milk – there’s common words and truths about taste that we rely on to describe cheeses. Words that most people can identify in their mind as a particular taste, and they know whether or not they like that familiar descriptor. Of course, the type of milk – cow, goat, or sheep – is a constant. Words like nutty or sharp have a distinct taste – they seem to be divergent. However, a cheese can be both nutty and sharp at the same time. It’s a peculiar paradox.

In Madeleine L’engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, the characters end up on a planet of beasts with no eyes. They’re gray furry blobs that communicate by thoughts and feelings – they don’t have the sense of seeing. The main character Meg tries to explain things like light or sight to the creatures, and putting these concepts into words eludes her.

Essentially, all cheese has the same basic starting points. Milk. Starter cultures. This is how yogurt is made, and ricotta, and mozzarella and aged cheeses take their first steps with these ingredients. It is how they are aged, in what kind of molds, as well as the starting point of the milk, that begins to diversify the flavors and bring about aspects of different cheeses.

It really is remarkable how wide-reaching and completely different cheeses can be with the same basic starting ingredients. These variances are owed mainly to terroir – a term used to attribute a cheese’s unique flavor profile to the environment in which the animal producing the milk feeds. The environment and what they are eating translates to the milk, which translates to the cheese.

So herein lies the difficulty of describing taste. We use specific words to describe them, but there is no one common perfected language used to describe each and every cheese. This in part is due to the fact that when you eat cheese it’s not only what you’re tasting that matters – it’s the way the cheese feels in your mouth. It’s how it interacts with what you’re drinking. For example, a chalky aged goat cheese tastes even better when it’s paired with a lightly sparkling white wine or a dry chardonnay. The wine brings out the richness and fruitiness in the cheese, so that it becomes an even better experience than enjoying just the wine or cheese alone.

So acknowledging all of that, where does that leave us? Terroir of cheese can tell us a lot – if the cheese is earthy, buttery – we know that the animal must’ve been eating something that lent it those aspects. But, as an animal is a living creature, it grazes and it goes to the next pasture and finds its next meal. So day to day, their milk is changing and those multitudes are going into the artisan cheese that you pick up and ask “What is this cheese like?” We can tell you – but the best thing to do, in my opinion, is to taste.

All photos taken by Hillary Anderson.

November Wine of the Month Club

With the holiday season upon us, we are leaning heavily on tried and true traditions for this wine box. For the complex meal that is the American Thanksgiving, it is a difficult task to match wine to each flavor and component…but we’re up to the challenge.

Starting with white, we’ve picked a classic Burgundian bottle, one that constantly challenges the preconceptions about Chardonnay, and continues to win itself adamant devotees. On the red side of things, whether you drink them with turkey or not, the cooler days in this month require bottles with depth and substance. A red Beaujolais for example, has enough tangy fruit to match any gravy, and at the Cru level, it is serious enough for chilly November evenings. The last red you’ll find doesn’t follow any wine handbook for this time of year, but we think its unique flavors and sultry body will make it your new holiday favorite!

Domaine Arnaud Chopin Cotes de Nuits Villages Blanc Les Monts de Boncourt 2008With the esteemed name of Arnaud Chopin and the noted tradition of white Burgundy as a perfect choice for the Thanksgiving holiday, we think we’ve found you a pretty killer bottle of wine. Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, for whom the domaine is named, Arnaud Chopin has gained a respectable reputation for crafting classically elegant Burgundian wines on his family’s small estate. This 2008 Les Monts de Boncourt is entirely barrel-aged in new oak, but instead of dominating the wine like those California oak bombs most people think of when they hear Chardonnay, the oak aging here merely enhances the fruit concentration. Elegant and complex, this wine shows an impressive amount of freshness and acidity on the palate, which elevate the simple notes of toast and citrus.

Domaine de Colette Moulin-à-vent Vieilles Vignes 2012We thought it was appropriate for a traditional white Burgundy to be followed by a traditional red Burgundy. Instead of the famed Pinot Noir of this area, we choose a bottle from the region to the south of Burgundy: Beaujolais, in which the variety Gamay reigns supreme. This Cru bottle of Gamay comes from Moulin A Vent, one of the ten villages in which Cru Beaujolais can be made. Domaine de Colette is home to Jacky and Eveylne Gauthier who live in Lantignie, but own small vineyard plots in four of the ten villages. Jacky Gauthier is a 4th generation winemaker who started his career in viticulture at age 17. The Gauthier couple care greatly about the ecosystem in which they grow their wines, which is why they use only sustainable practices for their vinegrowing. Showing as a great example of its prestigious terrior this 2012 bottle is silky smooth, but well built with ripe fruit aromas of dark berries, dried roses, and musky forest floor.

Leonardo Bussoletti Brecciaro 2014The last bottle in this wine box strays from our traditional French path over to central Italy, where the mystery grape variety Ciliegolo is being revived. At the front of this revival is Leonardo Bussoletti, the ambitious winemaker who took control of his family’s small vineyard in 2009, of which he devoted 70% to growing Ciliegolo. Mostly known as a blending variety in Chianti, Ciliegolo’s roots date back to the 1200’s in Umbria, yet little of it is still seen in these parts due to the difficulty and care it requires to properly grow. Leonardo brings a certain elegance to his wines; one that could be compared to that of Burgundy – a region of which he is fond of. Brecciaro has the tart, cherry nuances akin to the other Chianti varieties, but its dark, silky body carries an air of sophistication that delights and lingers.

Edible Gifts

The Gracious Gourmet Dried Fruit ChutneyBecause a November box just wouldn’t be complete without a turkey pairing–let us introduce you to the Gracious Gourmet’s Dried Fruit Chutney. These days Nancy Wekselbaum’s company makes a dozen or so beautiful jams and spreads, but the operation began in her kitchen as a vehicle for Nancy’s signature homemade chutney. Made with dried apricots, cherries, dates, and cranberries as well as a bevy of Indian spices, this classic has become a pantry staple for us. It’s a natural pairing with virtually any protein, but we’re partial to enjoying it with cheese as well (put a spoonful on a dollop of fresh goat cheese for a perfect appetizer). Whether you dish it up next to the bird or save it for dessert, we think your guests will thank you.

Cocoa Sante Mocha Hot CocoaFounded by two Massachusetts mothers, Cocoa Sante was born of the need for a wholesome sweet treat. Not wanting to fuel her kids with the processed ingredients in store-bought cocoas, owner Jen experimented until she struck gold with the Nor’Easter recipe–the classic cocoa we use here at AP. The beauty of all Cocoa Sante blends (in addition to their ethical sourcing and organic ingredients) is that they contain milk powder so you can simply use hot water and mix – no saucepan required. The Mocha blend we selected contains a blend of organic cocoa powder and 100% Arabica bean coffee for just enough giddy-up to get you up and out the door.

La Casera NerinaThis Thanksgiving (and everyday, really) we’re thankful for La Casera, the Italian cheese shop that’s responsible for the export of so many of our lovely Italian cheeses. Much like Boston’s own Formaggio Kitchen, truly the granddaddy of all American cheese shops, La Casera expanded the family business from merely a storefront, to a cheese aging and international shipping operation. Second generation owner Eros Buratti purchases cheeses directly from local Piedmontese farmers to age under close observation in their cellars until they reach optimum ripeness. These little guys may look a bit spooky, but we promise they’re anything but. Nerina (literally “little black one”) are dusted in edible vegetable ash before aging just two to three weeks, developing a distinctive geotrichum rind. Made from cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk, Nerina’s flavors are creamy and tangy, with a fudgy texture, gooier at the rind. Decadent perfection with a smear of honey.

All photos taken by Caley Mahoney.

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! 

July Beer of the Month Club

Summer lovin, we want things to be fresh, bright, crisp, refreshing… It is this major season in which we literally feel the heat; the heat that rejuvenates, invigorates, aaaand makes us sweat. We want to be outside catching the rays, which is why we need light, refreshing foods and drinks to balance the heat!


These beers are juicy, tart, full of zest and of joie de vivre! They are truly aestival, making use of summer ingredients and flavors. Ready to drink and enjoy now, these beers are choice refreshers for a hot day in the sun; ideal as cool accompaniments to crunchy summer cuisine. Speaking of cuisine, we’ve got you covered with these prime ingredients to create cool pasta salads and fresh fish dinners on the grill.

Beeahss

Almanac Brewery Hoppy Sour: MandarinaAlmanac Brewing has gained an impressive reputation as a producer of unique farm to barrel brews. Although Almanac brewers follow historically traditional brewing methods, they elevate their beers and truly represent Northern California with the addition of locally sourced fruit. Inspired by local cuisine and terroir, Almanac brewers create beers that support their environment by collaborating with farms in the area. This Hoppy Sour is a display of traditional methods, with the use of the Bavarian hop variety Mandarina; Germany’s answer to the bold varieties found in the West Coast. It combines the citrus aromas we expect from a California brew, but with the subtle spice of German varieties. Tart and funky, this barrel aged saison base shows notes of earth and oak, which are accented by the lime and tangerine-esque flavors from dry hopping! ABV {7%}

Kent Falls Brewing Alternate World GoseA personal favorite style for summer drinking is the historically traditional German created Gose. Though American breweries have had varying results with this style, Kent Falls can be labeled a success with their Alternate World Gose. Named after their home in Kent, CT, this brewery is yet another socially and sustainably conscious player in the beer world. Starting with the land they are on, (a former dairy farm that left them with super nutrient rich soil), Kent Falls is part of the Brewery Supported Agriculture association of the area. They make it their mission to support and collaborate with the farms in the area to conserve the land and eliminate fuel usage. So as you sip this uber refreshing, pucker inducing, lemon filled Gose with a wheaty finish, you can daydream about the bountiful, sunny world that Kent Falls is helping to preserve. ABV {4.6%}

SingleCut Beersmiths Mo Shuggie Soulbender IPAOur final spot for a sun filled sipper goes to Mo Shuggie, a super hazy IPA from New York brewery SingleCut Beersmiths. As a relatively new brewery to New England residents, the offerings we have received from SingleCut have all been consistently awesome and meticulously made. Started in 2012 by founder Rich Buceta, SingleCut is known for their IPAs, which are all high quality, but vary widely in taste due to the many different combinations of hops they use for each brew. The use of New York City tap water and their own secret strains of cultivated yeasts also adds to the quality and uniqueness of every SingleCut beer. Mo Shuggie Soulbender was amped up with New Zealand hops, which provide loads of tropical fruit notes – guava, tangerine, mango – all floating lazily in the hazy, soft textured body with a slight bite of bitterness. ABV {7.4%}

Backyard Bites

Consider Bardwell Farm SlyboroTo accompany the lively, tart beers you’ll find in this summer box, we wanted a soft cheese with a touch of sweetness. We think that Consider Bardwell’s washed rind goat’s milk cheese, Slyboro fits this bill quite nicely, with its paste-y texture and notes of bright grass and apple. Consider Bardwell Farm was founded in 1864 in Pawlet, Vermont as the first cheese-making co-op. A century later and you’ll find the same hand made small batch cheeses made from the milk of their Oberhaslis goat herd, as well as cow’s milk from neighboring farms. Not only are the cheeses at Consider Bardwell delicious and high quality, they are also made with milk that is completely hormone free and from non animal rennet!

The Chili Lab The Garden Blend Chili ButterThe fresh bounty of the summer season can be found in this Garden Blend Chili Butter from The Chili Lab. Based out of Long Island, NY, the Chili Lab uses spicy chili peppers to create products that help home cooks to easily explore their interesting flavor combinations and uses. By using diverse peppers from around the world, they discovered that aleppo peppers from Turkey are slightly fruity, round, and smell like sundried tomatoes, whereas dried guajillo chiles from Mexico are more sultry, deep, and earthy. It is the slightly sweet tomato flavors of the aleppo peppers that you will experience in this Garden Blend, along with soft roasted garlic and pepper spice. This addicting chili butter can be used to liven up a baked potato, as a sauce with grilled shrimp and polenta, or use it as a lightly spiced dressing on top of a cold pasta salad of basil reginetti from Sfoglini!

Sfoglini Pasta Shop Basil ReginettiSeasonal ingredients and practiced traditions both fuel the processes behind Brooklyn based pasta shop Sfoglini. Started in 2012 by Chef Steve Gonzalez and Scott Ketchum, Sfoglini Pasta Shop operates out of the country’s first Pfizer lab building, alongside many rockstar food artisans. The makers behind Sfoglini are determined to emulate the Italian traditions and spirit by using fresh, local ingredients from green markets and local farms in New York. The name Sfoglini, also pay tribute to the tradition of handmade pasta, as it is the word for generations of ladies in Bologna who make pasta by hand. Their pasta is extruded through a bronze die, a metal attachment not used in commercial pasta making, which gives it a distinct rough texture and porous surface that helps the pasta to cook more evenly, as well as allowing for the maximum amount of sauce to cling to each bite! This made in summer basil reginetti is begging to be served with juicy heirloom tomatoes and drizzled olive oil.

All photos taken by Caley Mahoney.

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! 

Oregon Themed Beer & Wine Boxes for May

OREGON BEERS

Portland’s reputation as a thriving mecca for everything hip, organic, and artisan is a well-known one, either through personal experience or because of today’s media. It wasn’t until I experienced the Portland beer scene however, that I really understood how significant craft products are in the lives of Portland residents. The sheer number of small craft breweries is overwhelming, let alone the ridiculously unique styles, methods, and products that they produce.


With this month’s box I wanted to bring back a small view of the beer being created in this great Western state. For Portland makers, craft beer isn’t about making the hoppy-est, most popular beer around; it is about the beer making, the enjoyment of that process, and the sharing of their products with the eager public. A few of these beers are from breweries you have probably never heard of and might never try again, so I can only hope that you will enjoy what you taste and feel a little of the Portland spirit while you do.

Ecliptic Brewery Zenith GoseEcliptic Brewing was one of the breweries that stood out to me on my first trip to Portland. The astronomical theme behind the brewery, not only gives the beers cool names and designs, it also drives the way in which they make the beers and the seriously tasty food they serve at the brewery. Named after the Earth’s yearly path around the sun and through the seasons, Ecliptic celebrates this journey by creating beer and food that reflect the time of the year and the seasonal resources that are available. Zenith Grapefruit Gose is a great example of this seasonality; as a beer meant to be crisp, tart, and refreshing for the warmer months. ABV {4.5%}

Ecliptic Brewery Orbiter IPAThe second brew from this sky high brewery is their classic Orbiter IPA: an incredibly balanced IPA that was dry hopped with a constellation of C’s – Cascade, Centennial, Chinook & Columbus. ABV {7.4%}

Stormbreaker Brewery Right As Rain Pale AleStormBreaker Brewery is another brewery the majority of people on the East Coast have probably never heard of, but for me is yet another quintessential Portland brewery. Located right across from a plot of food trucks, StormBreaker offers outdoor seating under terraced wooden overhangs, which of course are adorned with string lights and a firepit. The cozy interior also offers that Portland charm with more wooden furniture, a woodcut mountain wall scene, and the best part: beer and whiskey pairings! Since I couldn’t bring the brewery back with  me, I decided to bring a bottle that I thought would nicely represent the city: Right As Rain Pale. Adorned with an illustration of a determined Portlandite facing the rainfall on one of the many bridges in the center of the city, this pale ale is refreshing as the summer rains; earthy malts comingle nicely with notes of passionfruit, grass, and herbal hop bitterness. ABV {5.6%}

Rogue Brewery Cold Brew IPAThe Oregon brewery that needs no introduction, yet still made the list for this box: Rogue Brewery. A powerhouse of a brewery, Rogue started as a brew pub in 1987. Today Rogue Brewery is responsible for hundreds of unique beers, several spirit offerings, and a full farm where they grow ingredients and their own hop varieties for their beers. Despite the commercial success Rogue has rightfully earned, their spirit and methods are fiercely Oregon-esque and I respect that. I did have a hard time choosing one beer out of their many offerings, but I decided that this Cold Brew IPA was an excellent marriage of two of Oregon resident’s favorite things. Strong roasted and bitter notes from the cold brew coffee of Stumptown Coffee Roasters (another Portland co) is skillfully intertwined with the bold citrus, pine hops of this Rogue IPA.     ABV {7.5%}

OREGON WINES

A taste of place was the goal for this wine box this month. Good winemakers know that wine should express the terrior in which they are made. In a sip, the cool air off the Pacific ocean can be felt; a velvety texture in a glass can speak to how long the grapes were left to ripen. It is the gorgeous landscape and interesting climates of Oregon state that I wanted to portray in this month’s box. The unique and natural winemaking processes of these wineries will allow you to experience Oregon in a clear, unadulterated form.

Illahe Vineyards Pinot Gris 2015A taste of place is incredibly possible in the wines of Illahe Vineyards, due to their extreme dedication to a solely natural winemaking process. The vineyard gets its name from the Chinook language; this local Native American word means “earth” or “soil”. When Lowell Ford bought the 80-acre vineyard in 1999, he was determined to preserve and display the Illahe of the area by creating the most natural wine possible, from soil to bottle. Illahe makes this possible by using age old techniques and materials to make their wines. They are one of the very few horse-powered vineyards in Oregon that uses a team of Percheron horses to mow their fields and carry grapes to the winery. Their 2015 Pinot Gris is brimming with bright, naturality. Aromatic notes of peach, honeycomb and lime, are followed by a full palate of ripe pear and soft acidity.

Teutonic Wine Company Rosé 2015: The owners of Teutonic Wine Company, Barnaby and Olga, are probably one of the most interesting couples and wine producers I have ever met. Inspired by the classic German style wines of the Mosel Valley, Teutonic Wine Co began in the early 2000’s after Barnaby left his restaurant position as a wine buyer to pursue one of the most difficult careers: winemaker. In order to pay homage to the German wines he loves, Barnaby only grows and sources specific grape varieties from the coolest climates of the Oregon state. Pinot Noir is of course one of the quintessential grapes of the Pacific Northwest and under Teutonic’s influence, this 2015 Rosé is incredibly light and silky, with bold fruit notes of tart raspberry and smooth acidity.

Teutonic Wine Company Foiled Cucumber 2015On my latest visit to Portland, I was fortunate enough to meet Barnaby at the Teutonic Wine Co’s tasting room in the city. While we sampled flights of their wines, Barnaby carefully explained the different wines and vineyard sites, pausing only to put on a new record of what he described as “weird Jazz” for us to listen to. It was during this visit that I realized how quirky and humorous the masterminds behind Teutonic Wine really were. Despite the serious style and look of most of their other wines, it only made sense after meeting Barnaby, that they would release a wine series inspired by the classic movie Spinal Tap. Foiled Cucumber, a reference to Dereck Small’s embarrassing moment in airport security, is 100% Gewürztraminer; silky notes of stone fruit and honey fill this lightly acidic bottle of wine.

OREGON MUNCHIES

Just like wine, the food products in this box also express the land from which they came. Oregon products give us the unique opportunity to experience the West coast of the country. Whether it’s salt, honey, or cheese, these artisan products were created by passionate makers, who gratefully source their ingredients straight from nature.

Bee Local Lemon & Sour Cherry Honey SticksFor the snacks in this box, I wanted the passion of Portland to continuously drive my picks; that drive that this city has for respecting traditional gastronomical methods, as well as the natural world they source ingredients from. To me there is nothing more natural than bee produced honey. The flux of urban beekeeping has thankfully increased in recent years, as bee lovers fervently fight for the safety and lives of our bee population. Damian Magista is one of these bee lovers, who started Bee Local in 2011 after discovering the magical variety of honey sourced from various urban neighborhoods around Portland. These honey sticks are a small example of the natural, locally sourced honey that Bee Local collects. Take some fun flavored sticks with you as a tasty, energized snack, or squeeze some on top your morning yogurt, afternoon toast, or night time dessert!

Jacobsen Salt Co. Chili Lime SaltWhere Bee Local is, Jacobsen Salt Co, can’t be far behind. These two companies joined forces in 2014 to literally create a sweet and salty collaboration. Fueled by a similar mission as Magista from Bee Local, Ben Jacobsen started his salt company in 2011 in order to provide a superior crafted, natural product to to the public. The meticulous hand harvesting process that goes into creating Jacobsen Salt, is truly extensive, yet ultimately worth it when you consider the clarity and quality of their product. Jacobsen Salt is the closest you will come to tasting the waters in the Pacific Northwest. This jar of Chili Lime Jacobsen salt is a seriously fun and unique way to experience that taste – add it to your summer corn, atop a grilled pork chop, or even sprinkle it on a slice of watermelon!

Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue: Named after the Rogue River Valley of Central Point, Oregon, Rogue Creamery started in the midst of Depression in the 1930’s. Tom Vella wanted to grow a business that would employ many people in the area, as well as support the small farms in the valley during those dire times. Fast forward to present day where Rogue Creamery has been awarded numerous trophies and awards from their world famous blue cheeses. The milk used to make Oregon Blue is from certified sustainable, cow’s milk that is then aged for at least 90 days in Rogue’s blue cheese caves that are modeled after the infamous Roquefort caves of France. Oregon Blue is approachable and satisfying, with a buttery paste sporting notes of sweet cream, briny bite, and a mellow earthiness.

All photos taken by Caley Mahoney.

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!