PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Thursday night it started to rain. Driving home from Lee to North Adams, stopping somewhere for a quick, inexpensive dinner seemed like a pretty good idea. On the advice of a friend in Lenox, we decided to try Lucia's Latin Kitchen.
Convention has it, you should not make up your mind about a restaurant until you've eaten there at least twice. However, as it turns out, my partner-in-life and I had already tried Lucia's delicious "home-cooking" at last year's Northern Berkshire Food Festival. Thursday night was actually our second time trying Lucia's cuisine.
Open for just 18 months, Lucia's Latin Kitchen specializes in Ecuadorian food but Lucia also makes plain "Latin home cooking." If you're in the mood for handmade tortillas, this would be a great place to go.
It was very hard to decide what to order on Lucia's menu. There's a lot offered, from paella-like rice dishes to roasted pork or lamb, to breaded shrimp, but we both chose beef dishes and were not disappointed.
Lucia's cooking is homey in the best way. Perfectly cooked rice accompanied my wonderfully seasoned, grilled sirloin. The rice was topped with four pieces of fried plantain, a staple in the countries where it grows. Plantain tastes pleasantly like a mild, less-sweet banana but holds its shape well when cooked and is generally considered a starch. The beans beside the rice were delicious as well, tiny pieces of roast pork floated in the savory sauce surrounding perfectly cooked navy beans — all of it obviously cooked from scratch. The beans and rice alone would have made a great weekday meal, especially accompanied by Lucia's citrus, greens and onions salad, a piece of bread and some plantains.
My partner's dish included french fries and rice, and also came with two fried eggs on the side. His steak was also cut thin, seasoned and grilled but unlike mine, it was topped with stewed onions and tomatoes. I'm not sure he would have ordered it under any other circumstances but as we came into the tiny room, a table full of joggers were tucking into this dinner and it looked too good to miss.
As we began our meal, our server brought a little dish of hot sauce to the table. It looked innocent enough, a little watery with visible herbs and onions floating in the dish, but if you go, (and you should) a little of this sauce goes a very long way. I had a little dab of it on my rice, it was tasty but a bit over my hot tolerance. I was glad I hadn't slavered my steak in the stuff.
Top, a belly-filling steak and eggs for supper. Left, enjoying a meal.
Prices were extremely reasonable. Our meal for two came in at just under $30. You'd be very hard pressed to spend more than $50.
We accompanied our meal with Mexican soda, his in tamerind flavor and mine in apple. Happily full, we set off on our way north without dessert but I am saving up my appetite for next time, which will be sooner than later given the quality of the food.
Lucia's is tiny, the kitchen is wide open to the rest of the room and the whole place seats maybe 15 on a very busy night. As people discover this place (where you can get a whole roasted chicken with all the trimmings for under $20.) it is guaranteed to become more and more crowded. So get there before the summer people arrive and don't blab it all over the place, OK? I'm kind of attached to the corner table by the window.
Lucia's Latin Kitchen is located at 239 Onota St., Pittsfield; 413-442-4440
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Adam Zieminski of CafeAdam served up a spring recipe on NBC's "Today Show" on Tuesday morning.
The Berkshire native and graduate of Johnson & Wales University was tapped to appear on the program's "What's on the Menu?" segment thanks to one of his favorite customers, "Today's" weatherman Al Roker.
In the video, Zieminski shows how to prepare seared scallops with parsnip puree and wilted vegetables and talks about how he uses fresh Berkshires produce whenever possible.
Find the recipe here; the clip runs after a commercial.
EGREMONT, Mass. — The Outstanding in the Field bus is making its way to Indian Line Farm in South Egremont on Sept. 15 in its first trip to the Berkshires since 2004.
Executive Chef Brian Alberg and his crew from The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge will be manning the field kitchen and presenting a five-course meal to 130 to 150 guests at the nation's first community-supported agriculture farm.
The dining experience on wheels has traveled around the nation for more than a decade promoting local food and agriculture, reconnecting diners to the land and the origins of their food and honoring local farmers and food artisans. The organization donates to a number of farm- and food-related groups whose missions align with those of OITF.
"We are so fortunate to live in an area where our community is connected to the land, and our chefs are interested in supporting local farmers and food producers," said Alberg, who is well known for his efforts in promoting and showcasing locally grown produce and is president of Berkshire Grown. "This dinner is a perfect forum to showcase our efforts and we are psyched to see the bus stop here on Sept. 15."
Farmers Elizabeth Keen and Al Thorp have been growing Certified Naturally Grown produce on the 17-acre Indian Line Farm since 1997 primarily for the CSA but they also sell to the Great Barrington Farmers Market, restaurants and some local stores.
OITF organizes as many as 90 events a year and traveled to Europe last year. Ingredients for each OITF meal are almost all local and generally prepared by a celebrated chef of the region.
Tickets to the four-course, family style dinner on Saturday, Sept. 15, are $220 per person and includes hors d'oeuvres, farm tour and dessert. They go on sale on March 20; more information can be found here.
Beginning at noon Sept. 15, a team from The Red Lion Inn and Berkshire Farm & Table will be streaming live behind-the-scenes coverage, offering a backstage pass to this celebrated event. Media coverage will include blog posts, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter updates.
The sign at Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock. Below, mini corn muffins and maple butter, and the entrance to the Calf-A.
HANCOCK, Mass. — Have you been out the the sugar bush yet? That’s the Canadian term for a maple farm.
At the rate the weather’s been going you’ve got about a week left to get out and see one in full swing.
That’s because making syrup requires specific conditions that are closely tied to weather patterns in the Northeast.
In order for the sap to run, daytime temperatures need to be above 40 degrees and at night the mercury needs to dip to freezing or below. You may have noticed, in the last few days we’ve had no trouble hitting the 40-degree mark but that freezing level seems to be fading pretty fast.
Once the trees begin to bud, the sap may still run but it becomes bitter and unfit for syrup.
If you want to get out to the bush, have some pancakes and watch the syrup being made, you’d better move fast. Our region has a few choices of farms offering maple breakfasts (or “maple meals”) and of course, if you’re feeling flush, there’s the Berkshire Grown Maple Dinner coming up on March 26 at the Red Lion Inn. Tickets range from $65 to over $100 per person. Contact Berkshire Grown for details.
For the basic maple breakfast here are a few choices:
Mill Brook Sugarhouse is located in Lenox, call 413-298-3473, for information.
Ioka Valley Farm serves “maple meals” until 3:30 in the afternoon. Perfect if you like to sleep late and take your time on weekends. Their corn muffins and maple butter are super-yummy. They have a website, too: www.iokavalleyfarm.com..
South Face Farm is open until 3:00 until Easter Sunday. Their webpage is here. They serve whole wheat pancakes as well as the usual white flour, making South Face a good choice for the health conscious among us.
You can’t have breakfast at Blue Heron Farm but there’s probably somewhere near Charlemont that will serve you a pretty dandy breakfast and Blue Heron makes certified organic maple slurple, (syrup) that’s a steal at $52 a gallon (a gallon contains 11 pounds of syrup — check your local market and do the math, best I’ve seen is around $7 a pound.) Their website is here.
In Shelburne there’s Gould’s, open until 2 p.m. and right on the Mohawk Trail (they have a website but it’s not terribly helpful; you’re better off calling 413-625-6170). And also in Shelburne there’s Hager’s, also on the Mohawk Trail and while I’ve never been, their menu looks like a real bargain, you can see it here.
Hager’s thinks like real farmers, so if you want breakfast, you’ll have to get there before 11 a.m.
I can’t vouch for Davenport Farm but they’ve been tapping trees for 99 years so they must be doing something right. They serve breakfast but don’t have a website: call 413) 625-2866. They’re not on the Trail either, you’ll find them at 111 Tower Road, Shelburne.
So there’s a sample of what’s on offer. A trip to a maple farm is a great way to get up close and personal with springtime but it doesn’t last long. Get ‘em while they’re running.
Hoses full of sap run straight into the sugar shack at Ioka Farm. Right, enjoying a maple meal; the kettle inside the shack.
North Adams Farmers' Market members met Saturday at Mass MoCA to plan out this year's market.
The North Adams Farmers' Market is getting a head start this year.
On Saturday, March 3, organizers of the market met with potential vendors to discuss plans for this year's market.
The meeting was chaired by Market Manager Diana Cirillo and convened by North Adams Director of Tourism and Community Events Veronica Bosley.
A number of issues facing the market were discussed. This year, the market will carry only products that are grown and made by vendors. There will be a restriction on crafts in order to focus on farm produce and home-made goods from around the region.
Eleven potential vendors were in attendance, including Square Roots Farm, Jaeschke's Orchard, Country Dreams Farm and Cricket Creek Farm.
Debate on several issues was heated. In the end, the group settled on a $10 weekly fee and plans to expand the present available methods of payment to include credit and debit cards as well as cash and SNAP benefit cards.
The group decided to look at planning one or two special weeks during which a combination Farmers' Market and Flea Market may be held as well as making it clear that this year, there will be no canceled dates.
"I remember when we were canceled for Wilco," said one farmer, "You know, that doesn't work for me. I can't go out into the field and tell the corn to stop growing for a week cause the market's been canceled."
Maryanne Kufs, who runs the EBT machine, responsible for accepting electronic payments and managing coupons and SNAP benefits, said the grant from Wholesome Wave that made it possible to give double dollars to SNAP beneficiaries who use their cards at the market was coming to an end, but there is some money left in the account and other grants are presently being sought to continue the program.
Unlike last year, this year's market marks a return of sorts to its roots. The first North Adams Farmers' Market was held in 1976, initiated by the Chamber of Commerce as part of the Fall Festival of Foliage. This year, the market will be governed by the tourism director, who will seek advice from a volunteer-appointed board made up of individuals from the community, all of whom have an interest in supporting access to local food.
Those wishing to sell baked or canned goods at the market will need a permit from City Hall. And anyone who packages food on-site is required by Massachusetts law to be certified Serve Safe. Fortunately, Greg Roach of Wild Oats Co-Operative Market, a member of the Market Advisory Board, is qualified and will be available to administer the Serve Safe exam at a considerable savings. Greg may be contacted at Wild Oats.
For further questions about this year's market or to ask for a copy of the rules, email Veronica Bosley at firstname.lastname@example.org.