Tag Archives: american provisions

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.

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.

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.

Butternut Squash & Poblano Pepper Chili

butternutblog7The recent cold snap has put us here at AP in the mood for some delicious comfort food. I decided to take some of the latest local offerings from Enterprise Farm out of western Massachusetts to put together a hearty chili to warm up from the inside out. Beautiful poblano peppers and seasonal butternut squash are the stars of this cozy dish.

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For the chili:

2 tbsp olive or coconut oil
1 whole red onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic
3 large poblano peppers
1 large butternut squash
5 stalks celery
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 lb ground beef *
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cinnamon

 

on top:

sour cream or crème fraiche
sliced avocado
l’amuse signature gouda
salt, to taste
lime juice, to taste

 

1. Roast the poblano peppers in the oven at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes until the skin is just starting to look blistered. Peel and cube the butternut squash into ½ inch pieces while they’re cooking.

2. De-seed the poblano peppers and chop roughly into ½ inch pieces. Chop stalks of celery.

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3. Chop the onion and garlic. Throw onion into a large pot with your oil on medium heat. Stir every couple of minutes, waiting until fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Add in the butternut squash and poblano peppers. Stir. Add in the celery.

4. Let everything cook on medium high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ground beef and brown in the pot for a couple of minutes.

5. Add the can of tomatoes, black beans, and tomato paste. Season with chili powder and cinnamon. Stir, cover and cook on medium low heat for 15-20 minutes.

6. After the chili cools, top with lime juice, sour cream, sliced avocado, salt, and for extra brownie points shred a little (or a lot) of l’amuse gouda on top!

* if you are a vegetarian or don’t want beef, another can of black beans works just as well in its place.

Enjoy!

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Rosé All Day, Erryday

“Rosé all day” has not only become a popular new expression, a trending hashtag, & a recurring t-shirt logo, but it is also a forceful motto of the warm weather seasons. As soon as April rolled around, the shelves and fridges at American Provisions grew immensely brighter in color — that color is pink. Pink wine has carried a negative connotation for many years, but is now becoming one of the most sought after styles for wine drinkers. This major shift in rosé popularity can be attributed to a rise in rosé quality, a consistent level of affordability for such quality, and the all around versatility and general awesome-ness that is rosé wine.

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Ain’t no party like a rosé all day party…

At American Provisions we are currently carrying 15 different rosés, with an expected half dozen more in the very near future. We are loving the fact that the store is covered in pink wine, so much so that we are becoming pink wine pushers. Haunting memories of cloyingly sweet bottles of white Zinfandel still linger in the minds of customers as they gaze at the rows of pink wines on our shelves. We are determined to wipe away those memories and replace them with a shared love and acceptance of the misunderstood rosé wine. We are here to suggest – nay – INSIST, that you not be blinded by the bright colors, but instead embrace them and join us while we revel in their glory.

Despite all the praise and insistence I have just placed on rosés, I do believe that not all rosés are created equal and therefore not all worthy of our love. We understand the wary approach when it comes to choosing a bottle from the rows of pink wines, which is why we have taken upon ourselves to taste all the rosés in order to safely guide you through your choices. It was a lot of hard work, but here they are, and You’re Welcome.

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“Ooh la la”

We will start with France, as it is arguably the most well known and abundant producer of rosé wines:

Domaine le Clos des Lumières 2014: A classic example of a Southern Rhône blend, the Lumières  rosé contains Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, & Mourvèdre grapes. This pretty pale salmon rosé is light weight and full of bright strawberry and tangerine flavors. The sunny climate of Southern Rhone shines through this wine with its rich characteristics, as well as subtle notes of wet stone. Pair this bottle with a salad of crunchy greens and ripe tomatoes to get a completely fresh experience.

Couly Dutheil Rene Couly Chinon 2014: The Chinon region of Loire Valley is known for producing mostly red wines made from Cabernet Franc grapes. This rosé is no exception, made of 100% Cab Franc, it boasts a medium body full of red berries, rose petals, & strawberries. This Chinon rosé has a strong personality, but is very approachable with its soft palate and light acidity.

Domaine du Petit Clocher Rosé d’ Anjou 2014: A new bottle to join our shelves is this Loire rosé from the family run vineyards of Petit Clocher. This wine is made from an indigenous grape variety called Grolleau; a variety that is primarily grown in the Loire Valley of France and is almost strictly used for making rosé wines. These deep black berries produce light, elegant bodies with noticeably high acidity, which is why this rosé carries some residual sugar for balance. Now I know what you’re thinking, but this is NOT a sweet wine! It may not be bone dry like some of the other options we carry, but the slight sweetness from the berry fruits only helps to offset the acidity — steering this wine towards the middle of the road as a very balanced option of our rosés.

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And representing the US of A…

To transition to domestic wines, we will start with a Provençal style that is made in California:

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare Rosé 2014: This wine’s light coloring is owed to a very light pressing of the grapes, which were harvested at the specific maturity for this style — less ripe than necessary for red wines. Elegant and crisp, Bonny Doon’s rosé has a savory acidity with notes of strawberry, mint, and subtle bergamot characteristics. Made with a typical base of red Rhône varieties such as Grenache and Mourvèdre, this rosé is also composed of some traditional white Rhône varieties like Grenache Blanc and Marsanne, which give the wine an unexpected richness. The flying UFO over the vineyards on the label and alien eyes on the screw cap are also unexpected, if you are not familiar with the quirky style of vintner Randall Grahm.

Matthiasson Rose 2014: From a family run vineyard that likes to explore classical styles of wine, we have a unique expression of the California landscape that can easily match its foreign competitors. This creatively labeled bottle holds a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Counoise. A truly elegant wine, this rosé is light bodied with delicate acidity that will perfectly compliment springtime fare. Bright flavors of white peach and grapefruit will quickly seduce you, if the packaging hasn’t already.

Tuck Beckstoffer Hogwash 2013 (soon 2014): Made as a byproduct from a vineyard that mostly produces serious reds, Hogwash is a lighthearted offering for the summer months (specifically those times when it is too hot out to drink heavy reds during a pig roast). From 100% Grenache grapes, this rosé is vibrant and bone dry, with flavors of ripe melon, grapefruit, and wet granite. It is reminiscent of a a light red but seriously refreshing and beautifully concentrated.

Illahe Estate Rose 2014: From a slightly warmer site than most vineyards of the Willamette Valley, the Illahe rosé is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes. At the Illahe estate they whole-cluster press the Tempranillo grapes; a process that is more time consuming, yet produces wines with greater clarity. In this case it has produced a delicate wine with a crisp strawberry palate and a fleshy body that is begging to be paired with tangy goat cheese, like any of the offerings from Twig Farm in Vermont!

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“Bastante en rosa”

Martinez Lacuesta Rioja Rosé 2014: From a bodega more than 100 years old in Rioja, Spain, the Martinez Lacuesta rosé is made of 100% Garnacha. Know also as Grenache from France, this variety of grape originated in Spain and produces fresh, fruity wines. This rosé is lively with a supple medium body. Bright notes of mandarin citrus, strawberries, and roses will happily meet you mouth and liven your taste buds!

Ostatu Rosado 2014: Another offering from Rioja, the Ostatu rosé is a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha. This is a very modern variation of a classic Rioja style, made from some of the oldest vines in Ostatu and fermented in stainless steel. A store favorite, the Ostatu rosé is medium bodied, tart, and lively. It runs the gamut for fruit, with notes of red berries, watermelon, cherries, and light citrus. This is one of three offerings we carry from the Ostatu vineyards, and believe us, they are all on point!

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“Il dolce far niente”

Cantine Mucci Valentino Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 2014: From Italy’s eastern coast, Cantine Mucci is a vineyard that is run and loved by three generations of the Mucci family in the unique landscape of Abruzzo. This rosé is made from 100% Montepulciano, a dark, luscious grape. The particular method of reducing contact time between the skins and the juice of the Montepulciano grapes, is what gives this wine its lovely cherry-like color, hence the name Cerasuolo, which means cherry in Italian. This method also gives this rosé its bright and fruity (cherry & blackberry) characteristics, which stand out within its soft, full texture.

Colli di Salerno Reale Getis Rosé 2014: The deceivingly dark bottle of the Getis Reale rosé may have some thinking it is a red wine, but it believe us it’s not! This wine pours a beautifully rich orange-y crimson color, releasing a prominent scent of fruit and flowers. The incredibly pillow like texture of this rosé slowly rolls over your tongue, accented by very soft bubbles of carbonation. Made from two indigenous grapes, Piedirosso and Tintore, this wine shows off dark Mediterranean fruit like raspberries and strawberries. If you let it, this wine will hug you warmly like an sweet Italian grandmother.

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Fuschia and coral and crimson, oh my!

Next up: Austria!

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Schloss Gobelsburg Cistercien Rosé 2014: This authentically classy looking bottle comes to us from the vineyards around castle Gobelsburg in Kamptal, Austria. Pouring out a glowing hue of pale coral, this wine has quite a commanding presence for such a light body. The blend of Zweigelt and St. Laurent grapes are softly pressed and fermented in a manner that nudges this rosé closer to a white wine style. The fruit presence is minimal, yet there are whiffs of fresh berries and wild cherries beneath loads of bright acidity. This rosé will awaken your senses with its slight tingle of carbonation, as well as thoroughly impress you with its unwavering elegance.

Sattler Zweigelt Rosé 2014: Last but certainly not least,we have a Terry Theise selection from the Burgenland region of Austria. Erich Sattler’s rosé is produced in the traditional saignée method, where after a short period of maceration, the juice is separated from the must and then vinified similar to a white wine. This method produces the vibrant fuchsia color of Sattler’s rosé, as well as giving the wine a fuller body. The Zweigelt grape gives this wine zippy notes of raspberries and wild cherries, as well as herbal flavors like mint. The color of this rosé is so pink it is almost ridiculous, but believe us, the taste will make this a pink drink no one will be embarrassed to sip!

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Armed with this new knowledge, we expect you to embrace these colors and make bottles of rosé your summer long companions. Come pick a lucky bottle from our selection or maybe grab a bunch and do what I did on this beautiful Wednesday — rosé all day!

Drink Craft Beer & Cheese Fest 2015

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Random people who wanted their picture taken.

Say “Cheese!”

…was the completely appropriate, albeit admittedly corny phrase I shouted to the attendees of Drink Craft Beer & Cheese Fest, on Saturday, February 28th. Although I was not press coverage for the event, the large camera and flash I was toting around were enough to prompt fellow fest-goers to request pictures of themselves (which I happily obliged).

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Clockwise from top left: Toby from Peak Organic, the booth at Pretty Things Brewery, & Cricket Creek Creamery.

I have a love/hate relationship with beer festivals. On the one hand, they’re wonderful because you get to try so many beers from talented brewers all in one setting, while mingling with fellow beer lovers. Yet the same applies to why they’re loathsome: you try so many beers in a short period of time that it becomes difficult to remember said beers, therefore diminishing their uniqueness (not to mention the inevitability of a giant hangover the next day). Drink Craft Beer & Cheese Fest, however, was a different story. As the beer buyer at American Provisions, I got to attend this event as a representative of my store, an individual with a purpose (other than getting smashed at a beer fest). I was there to try new beers from several of the breweries we support, connect on a personal level with these companies, and witness any interesting pairings happening between the beers and cheeses that we love.

And despite what my boss may believe, I did not show up at work with a hangover the next day!

This was the first beer AND cheese event for Drink Craft Beer, so it was very exciting to see so many of AP’s beloved breweries and creameries all under the same roof. Uncertain of where to begin the epic event, I hung back by Toby of Peak Organic, who graciously started me off with a soothing cup of their cask-conditioned Nut Brown Ale. Peak Organic is a killer brewery from Maine, focused on local ingredients and awesome brews. Their line up that night included Hop Noir (a black IPA), Espresso Amber Ale, which was continuously pronounced “X-presso” (much to Toby’s chagrin), and Citrus Saison, a Belgian style saison that invigorated me with the promise of warmer days to come.

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Clockwise from top left: Al Snape from Far From the Tree Cider, many happy festival-goers, Joe & Erin for Vermont Creamery, and Mayflower Brewing. 

Armed with Nut Brown Ale, I set off into the crowd, ready to taste. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wander far to find a familiar face: Al Snape from Far From The Tree Cider was at a nearby booth, sampling up four new cider concoctions that we have been eagerly waiting to try since our visit with them back in January (read about it here!) The new cider offerings were Lust, a cherry cranberry cider; Cord, an oaked maple cider; Juno, a maple ice cider; and Milanowski’s Nightmare, a sour dry-hopped cider. While they were all delicious & seriously unique, Juno stood out with its velvety consistency and intense depth of flavor (check back with us in a few months to see these new products on our shelves).

We were stoked to see more familiar faces in the form of former AP-staffers, Joe Quintero & Erin McIver, at the Vermont Creamery table. Joe left AP to become the New England sales rep for VC, while Erin now works as the marketing coordinator for hip food site BostonChefs.com. This dynamic duo was shelling out samples of Coupole, Cremont, & Bonne Bouche, three of our favorite goat and cow cheeses. According to Erin & Joe, the creameries attending the event each brought 100lbs of cheese for the three sessions of the Drink Craft event (a bit of an over-estimate, in Joe’s opinion). A few other creameries I spoke to had an excess cheese leftover at the end of the night—it seems that Drink Craft Beer was following the Boy Scout motto to always be prepared!

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The booths of Bantam Cider, Smuttynose Brewing, & Allagash Brewing.

The event was filled to the brim with a wide range of local cheeses. Narragansett Creamery, for example, challenged the norm by serving up a hot sample of their Mediterranean-style grilling cheese. Old classics held strong in the form of aged cheddars from the ladies at Cabot Creamery—they encouraged you to pair these sharp and sweet hunks of cheese with hoppy libations like Wormtown’s Be Hoppy & Notch’s Left of the Dial. The crew at Jasper Hill Cellars pulled out all the stops with an array of cheeses—Alpha Tolman, a nutty Alpine style; Bayley Hazen Blue, one of the best blue cheeses around; and Moses Sleeper, a Vermont take on the classic Brie style. Their table display also provided attendees with an anatomy lesson on the source of all things good: the cow.

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Clockwise from top left: Narragansett Creamery, Cabot Creamery, the anatomy poster from Cellars at Jasper Hill, and Robinson Farm. 

My next cheese stop was a very special creamery, Robinson Farm from Hardwick, MA. Raymond & Pamela Robinson were not at the event, but Pamela’s son Ben was there promoting the farm’s cheeses. It was because of Ben (who lives in Southie) that the Robinson’s cheese, Tekenink Tomme, became one of the first cheeses ever to be sold at American Provisions. I was able to chat with Ben and his crew while enjoying samples of Tekenink, Barndance, & Arpeggio—their strong bloomy rind cows milk cheese, which paired especially well with the always wonderful Wunderkind cider from Bantam.

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Clockwise from top left: Chris from Notch Brewing, Otter Creek Brewing Co., Idle Hands Craft Ales, & the folks at Rising Tide.

Many more stellar pairings between cheese and beer were formed that night, several of which I don’t remember or was not witness to, but the spirit of the fest makes me believe they existed. Some of the pairings that I do remember were suggested in Drink Craft Beer’s fest guide, while others were born out of mere fate. Otter Creek’s Kind Rye IPA was quite the match against several cheddars in the house, specifically the suggested Grafton Village’s Extra Mature Cheddar. I discovered my own pairing between Notch Brewing’s luscious Černe Pivo (Notch’s founder Chris Lohrig explained to me the name is Czech for “black beer”) and a creamy piece of Berkshire Bloom from Cricket Creek Farm. Over at Idle Hands, I indulged with Triplication—their Abbey style tripel—which provided the perfect amount of spice and fruity flavor to complement the buttery, nutty notes of Jasper Hill’s Alpha Tolman (and the guys at Idle Hands were kind enough to inform me that a Wild Turkey barrel-aged version of Triplication will be out in a few weeks!)

Now, it was probably around this time in the night that my conversations were becoming less focused, my notes were barely legible, and my camera felt like it gained 20lbs. This is also when my distrust of beer festivals began to surface. Though abundant and delicious, cheese samples can only sustain a fest-goer for so long. Which is why I (and I bet many others at the fest) was psyched to remember that, strategically stationed in the corner of the event, were the stands of KO Pies & Roxy’s Grilled Cheese. The employees of these two companies didn’t need to try very hard to entice buzzed attendees, as each beer sample we consumed made the idea of a savory pie or grilled sandwich seem more and more desirable. The intoxicating smells wafting from Roxy’s grills and the mesmerizing glow from KO Pies’ cases didn’t hurt either.

KO Pies, Ben sampling Robinson Farm cheese, Roxy's Grilled Cheese, & cheese sample from Jasper Hill Cellars

Clockwise from top left: The always tempting KO Pies, Ben sampling Robinson Farm cheese, beautifully plated samples from Jasper Hill Cellars, and Roxy’s ladies slinging their grilled cheese.

As claimed before, I did not leave this event completely hammered, despite what usually happens at beer festivals. We can’t say the same for other attendees that night—the crowd increasingly became livelier as the night stretched on, and inhibitions were thrown to the wind with ease. I began to wonder how the inevitable intoxication of fest-goers was being perceived by the very people responsible, the brewers, so I decided to ask them.

The best response I received was from Billy Morrissey, the sales rep for Allagash Brewing. Now, I’d like to believe that Billy and I were equally excited to meet each other—I was extremely excited to learn that he was the reason AP receives specialty Allagash beers, while his excitement might have been directed at the awesomeness that is American Provisions generally, and reminiscing about visits there. I don’t mind taking the credit, though—but I digress.

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Clockwise from top left: Random fest-goers, volunteers, Drink Craft Beer tattoos, and Billy from Allagash Brewing.

As streams of drunken attendees pushed past us to sample more beers, Billy explained to me his feelings about their debauchery. He suggested that there was a difference between drunken fools at a festival and beer lovers who are enjoying themselves with their favorite brews. Honest interest and enjoyment of the beers is what was important to Billy. He reminded me that our shared love for craft beers (and artisan cheeses) was what brought us all together. And it is that experience that is so integral to the craft beer world. Cheers to that!

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Guy who needs a beer, and my best friend Lindsay (in the glasses) posing with Wormtown Brewery.

A Jack of All Trades, A Brewer of Beer

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Every Brewmaster Jack tap handle is branded by hand (Photo courtesy of Tyler Guilmette)

Remember visiting your grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ home? Exploring the dark, dank basement, the heater hissing like a demon? This is just how brewer Tyler Guilmette remembers visiting his great-grandfather’s house in Vermont. He later found himself home-brewing out of a similar environment, no longer feeling the dread of walking down the dark staircase but instead descending into a habitat perfect for brewing beer. It’s funny that 80 years apart, Tyler has found himself brewing in a similar basement as his great-grandfather Jack used to, unbeknownst to Tyler at the time.

As an homage to his family connection with brewing, Tyler, the true brewmaster of Brewmaster Jack, named the company for his great-grandfather. At 25 years young, Tyler is now brewing, marketing and distributing his beer around New England. Though he acknowledges that he has a lot to learn, Tyler uses the skill sets of his generation—single, no kids, no mortgage—to put his all into Brewmaster Jack. Continue reading