Monday, July 23, 2007

Strawberry Ice Cream at Mountain View Farm

Yesterday, I went to a Strawberry Festival at the MountainView Farm , formally Ole' Turtle Farm. Mountain View Farm is a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm. People buy shares and are rewarded with a weekly plethora (cornucopia optional) of fresh, chemical-free veg - from swiss chard to tomatoes to fresh cut flowers (those you have to pick yourself) to all your favorite herbs. It's a pretty great deal all around, and you don't even have to weed. Unless of course, you want to.
I was approached a few months ago and asked if I would whip up a couple tubs of strawberry ice cream for them, they'd provide the fresh strawberries, for their first annual Strawberry Festival. I said sure and instructed them to slice them up, add some sugar (4+1 to be exact), and just freeze them up until a few days before the event. The event was this past weekend. I got a chance to bike down there to check out the festivities. It was the first time I'd been there. Really beautiful. Great view of Mt. Tom. My friend Kim gave me a tour of the fields. Here's a shot from the flower garden...

The strawberry ice cream seemed to be a hit. It was gone halfway thru the event. Kim dropped by the shop midafternoon to grab an extra tub of vanilla to keep the crowd happy. It was pretty cool. People lounging on the edge of the field, under the trees. Kids frolicking. Guy playing a guitar and singing. Glad I stopped by...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bats, Watermelon, and the always wicked good Winterpills

Caught a show last night at the West Whatley Chapel in Whatley, MA, located exactly in the middle of nowhere. The reward for successfully executing a challenging series of lefts and rights, a couple of which were identified by farm animals and mailbox styles, was one of the coolest shows I've seen in a long time. The venue was a hundred year old chapel fully outfitted with big potbelly woodburning stove, 95 wooden chairs, and a small alter/stage in the front. Close your eyes and picture the ultimate New Englandy scene... an old rustic white church, lush gardens of strawberries, tomatoes, and wildflowers all around, big old overweight black lab walking in front of your car as you tiptoe up to the grass parking lot. Guy with a beard, a pair of Wranglers, and a grin that only a stressless existence can provide, meets you at the front door to his little house of worship.

Upon paying the bargain price of twelve bucks to see what I consider the premier local band of an area rich in local indie music-makers, the hearty and somewhat hippie group is invited into the small chapel. Bre and I quickly find seats just a couple rows from the front. Within a few minutes, the place is full to its capacity of 95. The show was billed as 'acoustic' but the speakers and amps suggest there might be a few more decibels than that in store. It doesn't take long for the place to fill, and 7:30 on the button, the guy with the beard and the Wranglers makes his way to the stage to introduce the band. He explains that the first set will go until 8:20, so that we can all break for watermelon and the bats. The bats, hmmm. Free bat night at the Chapel? If I find a chilled glass of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA under my seat it will truly be the perfect night.

Needless to say, the Winterpills are amazing. They're so great to see live because not only is their music beautiful and melodic and heartfelt and honest, but they really seem to enjoy performing together and making people happy with their music. Phillip Price, the lead singer, injects just the right amount of funny or interesting banter between songs. Sure it was loud, but my ears weren't even close to ringing like a night at the Eleven's.

The band tries to break at 8:20 but are told 'the bats aren't ready yet'. So after one more song, the crowd grabs a slice of watermelon and wanders outside. As we mulled around the front of the church, sure enough, bats start flying out of the eaves of the chapel. I must admit it was probably the coolest intermission I've yet to experience.

After the bats had cleared the belfrey, we return to our seats for another hour plus of great Winterpills music. We are even treated to a taste of new songs from their upcoming EP coming out this Fall. It was one of those shows you just didn't want to end.

I couldn't locate a photograph on-line of the West Whatley Chapel so I just might have to go back and take one myself. When I do, I'll definitely post it up here. In the meantime, check out the watermelon wednesdays lineup, and if you've got a free Wednesday, check it out. Just leave extra time to find this little slice of paradise.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

I scream, You scream, we all scream for Gelato?

I've been thinking about it for a year, and I finally did it. I made a batch of gelato. It's pretty darn good. And I'm not just saying that because I made it, and that I want you to come try it. Ok, maybe a little. I did some research during the 'off-season' and learned how it differs from making a regular batch of ice cream. I also discovered some good gelato ingredient suppliers, learned how to display and serve it. Having done the due dilligence, it was just a matter of giving it a try. It was actually fairly easy. It's extremely dense, which means low overrun, which means it's in and out of the batch freezer in no time. And it only takes a short blast freeze, and it's ready to serve, same day. Nice. Since it's low overrun and it's known for being strong and bold in flavor, it's pretty expensive to make. This means a single serving is about the size of a kiddie cup. You really don't need any more than that, since it's so rich and filling.

The tricky part is education. Explaining to everyone that gelato is italian ice cream
and why it has to cost more can be a challenge. And how is it made. The cool part is gelato is made with milk (0, 1, 2, 0r 3% fat), so it's much lower fat than ice cream. That's a nice selling point.
I'm just doing a flavor or 2 at a time right now, testing the waters if you will. If it flies and people seem hungry for more, I may add a dipper and stock a bunch of flavors, really give it a go. I don't really know of any other places in the area that serve it, maybe one or 2 bakeries, so it could be a nice niche for me... Stay tuned. Or better yet, come on down for a sample...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Happy 231st USA

I hope everyone has a safe, fun, and relaxing holiday. Tough to have it fall on wednesday, but maybe you got lucky and scored a five day weekend. Good on you. In any event, enjoy the day, and take a minute to think about how lucky we are to live in such a cool country. Sure, there's turmoil and war and immigration issues, among others, to solve, but there's still no denying that we live in the land of opportunity. Put down the newspaper. Shut off the news. Just look around at all we have. Beauty surrounds us. Food to eat. Freedom to speak what we feel, read what we choose, paint what we want, earn a living doing what we're passionate about. Many have sacrificed much to allow us the lives we enjoy today. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. Happy 4th to you and yours. The red, white, and blue sprinkles are on me.