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.
Winterfest Chowder Cook Off Pictures
By Stephanie Farrington On: 11:09AM / Monday February 27, 2012
Pictures from the Chowder Cook off during Winterfest.
David Aldecora from Hops and Vines dishes up a sample of his winning chowder.
Left, chef Luigi Petraccione of North Adams Commons and his helpers offered two versions of chowder with seasoned baguette slices, traditional clam chowder and Luigi's own Alfredo version, that featured pasta instead of potatoes.
Above, Kate Schilling serves it up for the Hub. Below, Annie Rodgers, Sarah Russell and Joan Leary had tried every chowder on Main Street by this point. Their favorite was Boston Seafood or Bounti-Fare.
Valerie from the Berkshire Food Project serves a great bowl of chowder and if you're in the neighborhood on the right day, you can't beat the price. (free) Berkshire Food Project's big fund raiser will be held on April 20th. Watch iBerkshires for more information and save the date!
Getting started early. Little chowder tasters need a little help sometimes.
Greg and Erica tag teaming the only red chowder in the contest with a traditional England version both from Wild Oats Co-op.
Williams College keeps their students happy with a clam and a corn version.
Hops & Vines, Bounti Fare Win Chowder Cook-Off
By Tammy Daniels On: 11:04AM / Sunday February 26, 2012
Suzy Helme's bird sculpture in front of Shima won first place.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Newcomer Hops & Vines of Williamstown took the Judge's Choice for this year's Winterfest Chowder Cook-Off with longtime competitor Bounti Fare of Adams taking People's Choice.
Coming in second for Judge's Choice was a creamy traditional chowder from Williams College Dining Services and Main Street's The Hub (was it the kicky jalapeno version?).
Taking second place in People's Choice was perennial favorite Berkshire Food Project and third was Desperados, which ran out before I got there — a lot of people told me how great it was. Maybe next year.
Desperados wasn't the only one to run out of chowder. Hundreds came downtown on Saturday to try cups of chowder concoctions ranging from spicy to creamy with pasta, potatoes, fish, corn, lobster, shrimp, and even clams. They packed into the two locations on Main Street and Holden Street where the chowder was being served and reviewed the ice sculptures (this year's winner was Suzy Helme).
Most of the merchants offered discounts or freebies and Nicole Maloney gave a sneak peak of the soon to open Luma's Muffin & Mug in Berkshire Emporium.
Also happening were children's activities on Main Street and at the North Adams Public Library.
The winners of the Chowder Cook-off were announced at Saturday night's WinterFest Skate Party.
From Veronica Bosley, director of the Office of Tourism: "First of all – THANK YOU to all of you who spent time serving chowder and carving ice today. Your efforts are much appreciated and you made the 15th annual WinterFest a huge success. I heard nothing but good things about all of you!"
Calling "Top Chef" fans! The Boston Business Journal is reporting that the popular Bravo foodie show is eyeing Portland, Ore., or Boston for its next stop.
The show's season 9 Texas edition wraps up Wednesday night in Vancouver (the finalists always end up far from where they started). The only Northeast city it's been in is New York City during season 5 and season 8's All-Star edition.
It's about time the show made it Massachusetts. And don't forget the Berkshires has a very local connection with the show — Pittsfield's Hung Huynh won season 3.
Can you imagine a Boston season? Baked bean quickfires, fancy franks at Fenway, Sam Adams and Harpoon pairings, North End pasta, molecular gastronomy at MIT and lobstah, lobstah, lobstah!
The BBJ says a local ad company is putting its social media expertise to the task of getting "Top Chef" to the Hub. Start hashtagging #yougottatryboston and post your reasons the Magical Elves should pack their knives for Boston on the Facebook page.
New York Columnist Speaks on France & Food
Staff Reports On: 11:37AM / Thursday February 23, 2012
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Americans have been in love with French cooking long before Julia Child introduced it to the masses.
But why French cooking in the first place? That's the question New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik will address in "How Did Food Happen in France?" drawing on his musings in his latest book, "The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food."
Gopnik will be speaking in Griffin Hall, Room 3, on the Williams College campus on Monday, March 5, at 6:30 p.m. His talk is free and open to the public.
Tracy McNicoll of Newsweek describes Gopnik's treatise as "more ambitious than a history of restaurants — it's about how we taste, dream, and argue about food. He explores the extremes of strict localism… He gets into the heads of apparent adversaries — the meatless crowd and the whole-beast fiends, the Slow Food and molecular movements, the New and Old World wine advocates — and gives each its place in the grand foodie pantheon." "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi adds that it is "The perfect book for any intellectual foodie, a delicious book packed with so much to sink your teeth into."
The award-winning writer is known for his essay collection "Paris to the Moon," detailing his life with his family in the French capital, among other writings. His books "The Table Comes First," "Winter" and "Paris to the Moon" will be for sale before the talk.
The event is sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages and the Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, with support of the W. Ford Schumann '50 Program in Democratic Studies, the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Program, the Departments of English, German, and Russian.