February Is Chocolate Month in the Berkshires
Joshua Needleman of Chocolate Springs in Lenox pulls out a tray of sweets.
February is "Chocolate Month" in the Berkshires. This is the second year for the countywide effort to sweeten the winter doldrums.
The event kicked off with a low-key party at Chocolate Springs in Lenox on Saturday. Citing the success of last year's event, well-known chocolatier Joshua Needleman hopes people will join in as the month progresses.
So far, Essencials Salon and Medi-spa will be participating with a special "sweet and salty chocolate facial scrub" available for the month of February.
More special offers and events will be posted on the website as they are announced.
If Chocolate Springs offers a special on its fabulous hot chocolate, you'd be smart to get in on it. Joshua's hot chocolate is the best you've ever had, pure bliss in a cup.
We may have another month or two to get through before the Spring arrives but Chocolate Berkshires is doing its best to be sure this month is a sweet one. For more information, chocolateberkshires.com.
Fiori Makes Bloody Good-Looking Marys
We ran across a YouTube channel created by Fiori Restaurant in Great Barrington that made us thirsty. These short videos are a great way to engage customers — it certainly got our attention.
Now maybe someone can tell us if that Bloody Mary tastes as good as it looks?
Pie Really Does Take the Cake in South County
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Some people bond over martinis, others find their connection through grueling bike rides up mountains. Common denominators are rare, unless, of course, we are talking about pie. Say what you will, good tasty pie is what makes the world go 'round. Political differences are forgotten, screaming children are placated and "piece" is enjoyed by all.
At least, this is what happened at the first-ever "Anything Goes Pie Contest," held on Sunday at the Route 7 Grill.
More than 40 entrants, including crust novices and meringue extraordinaires, tried their hand at sweet and savory to the delight of tasters and judges. The delicious desserts made their home under a tent, where folks of all ages and walks of life – writers, grandmothers, sunburnt toddlers – lingered over strawberry chiffon, vegan sweet potato and triple ginger like kids in a candy store. The contest coordinator, Gina Hyams, author of the recently released "Pie Contest in a Box" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2011), stood amidst a flurry of pies and sharpies, signing books and handing out judging cards for all who wanted a little taste of Berkshire heaven.
While the stakes were not high for the entrants, the contest itself supported more than just local taste buds. Proceeds from the contest (each person who would judge the pies was asked to make a donation of $5 or $10) went toWBCR-97.7, Great Barrington's local and very diverse radio station. More than $700 was raised for the station and according to station manager Paul Rapp, "a new Berkshire tradition was in the making." Good news for everyone as they waited with bated breath to dig into the pies and begin the judging.
Once Hyams gave the go-ahead, the hovering, chattering crowd became a silent, well-oiled machine, each taster intent on the task of finding the pies they had chosen to judge and letting the flavors of chocolate, ricotta, cherry and even beets, roll around on their tongues before making that final decision.
What a tough decision it was, too. I elected to try five very different pies. Amidst the swirl of sweet and savory and tart and syrupy it was difficult to pinpoint my "favorite." The judging categories ranged from 1-Inedible to 10-Sublime, and I can assure you my clean plate was a testament to the "feasibility" of eating every pie without prejudice. Having myself made a pie for the contest, I could taste the hard work, nostalgia and generosity that went into creating each delectable disk.
But, all good things must come to an end and all contests must eventually have a winner. This pie-for-all was no exception. Third place went to Kilian and Tiernan Ramer (a very young brother and sister team) for their no-bake Butter Hazelnut Chocolate Pie. Second was swept up by Amy Rudnick for her Sour Cherry Almond Streussel Pie. The grand pie queen of the day was another young contestant, Liv Korth, for her Chocolate Raspberry Pie. Each winner received a custom-made apron from MoHo Designs.
Of course, the best part, aside from watching a bunch of kids "take the cake" in the winner's circle, was watching everyone go back for more once the judging ended. By the end of the afternoon, most of the entries were reduced to crumbs and memories. A community radio station walked away with the reassurance that the show would go on and all of us walked away with a smile, most to steal a quick cat nap and dream of pie.
Farmers' Market Opens in North Adams
Mayor Richard Alcombright was picking up apple brownies from Rona Brandt at the farmers' market. Below, the market offers fresh produce, flowers and jewelry and other handmade items.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Looking for local fruits and vegetables? Don't want to drive all over the area to get them? Well, there's a solution for that.
The first of many weekly farmers' markets took place in North Adams on Saturday morning in the St. Anthony Municipal Parking Lot near the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Farmers from around the region gathered for the city's first market of the season to sell the fruits of their labors. They'll be there from 8 to noon on Saturdays until the end of October. Several other local markets, including Williamstown's on Spring Street on Saturdays, have already opened.
Market manager Diana Cirillo said she hopes to expand the market over the course of the summer. Her mission is to make healthy, locally grown food accessible to all residents of North Adams. "People can use their SNAP benefits in the market to give them more choices for healthier eating."
The market is able to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program digital cards as well as coupons for the Women, Infants and Children food prograM.
Cirillo is also hoping to grow the market as the season progresses. "I'm hoping to bring more locally grown food to the attention of the community," she said. "We have room for more farmers. We're always looking for farmers who want to come and sell their fruits, vegetables, honey, maple syrup, eggs, meat — whatever they produce. It would be awesome if we could fill the whole lot.
"Eventually what we'd like to do is bring a learning experience into it, have local recipes, give information on growing food, what it takes to produce it, where things come from, things like that," she continued.
Local farmers on hand were selling garlic, raspberries, beets, radishes, carrots and salad greens as well as beans and peas and all manner of early summer vegetables. There were also cut flowers, home-baked goods and even some jewelry available — all of it produced right here in the Berkshires or close by.
Emma Morin has been a vendor at the market for 12 years. She doesn't have a farm but her home garden is large enough to produce an abundance of vegetables and she makes jams, jellies and knitted goods to sell as well.
As early as 9 a.m., some stands were beginning to run low. Rona Brandt brings baked goods and said she runs out of stock every week, so you might want to arrive early if you have a particular favorite – like her whoopie pies or her apple brownies (before Mayor Richard Alcombright scoops them up).
The farmers' market has room for more booths; $10 will get you a spot on the lot for the day.
If you missed the market or you just want to sleep late on Saturdays, some of the farmers will be at next week's Northern Berkshire Food Festival, which takes place on Main Street from noon until 4 on Sunday, July 17.
You can find the market and the Food Festival on Facebook.
Stephanie Farrington is a Canadian journalist taking a break in the Berkshires but who can't seem to stop writing.
|Tags: farmers market|
College Offers Online Masters in Sustainable Food
We've found a college course for locavores and local farmers that can be done right from home.
Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vt., has added a distance-learning master's degree in sustainable food systems to its offerings. Environmental studies dominate at this tiny liberal arts college in this very rural state so farming and sustainability seem a no-brainer.
According to a press release from the college, "over 30 undergraduate students already focus their academic work on food systems at the college. Four grants over the past three years totaling over $250,000 have enhanced facilities and supported faculty research capacity at the college's Cerridwen Farm and the adjoining Solar Harvest Center."
This will be the third online master's programs at the college, which added environmental studies and an MBA in sustainable business in 2006. The goal of the program is to investigate agriculture, environmental studies, businesses models and social forces and how they work together.
For more information, go to http://msfs.greenmtn.edu/.