Tag Archives: eat local

Welcome to Massacheesetts: Ruggles Hill Creamery

There are a number of reasons we love Ruggles Hill Creamery. If you’ve ever come in right after Michael Holland has dropped off one of their beautifully wrapped cake boxes filled with individually handmade and wrapped goat cheeses, we’ve probably told you, “you need to try this cheese.” I was very familiar with their cheeses, which ones were creamy, which ones were fudgy; the delicate Brother’s Walk, or the cider washed Hanna’s Awashed. But until I drove the hour and a half to the farm at the end of June, I was not yet aware of just how much heart and soul went into making these little lumps of deliciousness.

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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.

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.

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.

staff4

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.

staff3

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.

staff6

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.

Drink Craft Beer & Cheese Fest 2015

9thDiptychRandos

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).

1stSquare

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.

3rdSquare

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!

4thTriptych

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.

2CheeseSquare

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.

6thBrewerySwuare

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.

October Beer & Wine of the Month Club

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

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

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

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

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