A Chef’s Assistant Debrief on the Boston Local Food Festival

October 8, 2012 at 5:45 pm (food, volunteer) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I volunteered to be a “Chef’s Assistant” for the 3rd Annual Boston Local Food Festival, which was on the Rose Kennedy Greenway’s Wharf District Parks (between Atlantic Avenue and High Street) in downtown Boston.

The day-long event featured local farmers, restaurants, specialty foods, chef’s demonstrations, music and more.  As a “Chef’s Assistant,” I was on hand to assist the demo Chefs with anything they may need; I tracked down rubber gloves, helped read the directions to light the propane stove, composted and/or recycled demo supplies, and packed-up and broke down the booth at the end.  But, while “working,” I also had some very tasty bites and gleaned a bit of knowledge from these fine chefs.

During my shift, I had the pleasure of assisting:

  • Patrick Soucy from Ceia Kitchen & Bar (Newburyport, MA): Patrick focused on sharing the value of under-ripe or over-ripe produce.  Ceia features a European culinary repertoire and seasonal menus, and Chef wanted to challenge our American, often wasteful attitude toward food.  For example, many of us will throw out our bruised or slightly over-ripe tomatoes.   Soucy embraces the snout-to-tail cooking mentality, and joked that if he could find a way to cook the squeal, he would.   Soucy made a “Farm Cheese, [under-ripe, green] Tomato Tartar and Concord Grape Reduction” on a Crostini.  I’ll not forget how he tested the temperature of the smoking, cast-iron pan by pressing his fingertips down in it.  I heard a sizzle and he didn’t bat and eyelash.  Soucy has a great personality for demonstrations.  He was comfortable in front of the crowd, knowledgeable and passionate about food and sourcing.  He has inspired me, and many demo observers to attempt home-made farmer’s cheese.  Follow Chef Soucy on Twitter at @FarmReserve.  And check out this interesting read: ‘Freeganism’ challenges wasteful attitudes towards perishable foods.
  • Chef Nadine of Global Local Gourmet (Dorchester, MA): Nadine focused on making local veggies the star.  Her dish was “Hale to the Kale” and Nadine chiffonaded and massaged her kale into an Asian inspired salad.  Demo observers were taking cellphone pictures of the dressing ingredients and asked what else they could do with their kale.  One observer had “questionable kale” at home, which was described as “slightly wilted.”  Nadine simply recommended cooking over-ripe greens rather than making a salad.   Here’s a beautiful recipe I found for White Bean and Kale Soup with Roasted Sausages and Tomatoes.    Nadine was also sharing details of her Public Kitchen initiative, a lab for social and food justice.  Learn more at www.facebook.com/PublicKitchen
  • Amy Traverso, senior lifestyle editor at Yankee magazine and author of The Apple Lover’s Cookbook: Amy was signing her cookbook and also featuring an apple pickle (apple, cucumber, shallot, honey, cinnamon and herbs), and an Apple Grilled Cheese with mustard.     Now this lady knows a lot about apples (and Apple Cider); she has appeared on the Martha Stewart show, Throw down with Bobby Flay, and Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  Maybe you’ll spot her at the Franklin County Ciderdays (Nov 3&4), which she enthused about to demo observers.  You can follow Amy on twitter at @amytraverso

The festival was packed at 1:30 when I arrived, thanks in part to the Greenway location (connecting Faneuil Hall, the Aquarium, the Financial District and South Station), which brought in tourists from all over, as well as locavores who had planned to attend.  The rain dampened festival goer’s enthusiasm at 4-ish, but many of the restaurant vendors had sold out of their dishes, so the early birds certainly got the worm this year.

I’ve lived in Boston for 12 years now, and I remember the days when the “Big Dig” was in process and 93 was still an eyesore, elevated highway through high-rises.  If you haven’t visited the Greenway, you should make a trip on a nice day.  This urban park features native horticulture, public art installations, fountains and grassy lawns.  It’s a great spot for events and I look forward to volunteering again next year at the 4th Annual Food Boston Local Food Festival.

Please let me know if you’d be interested in volunteering and I’ll put you in contact with a representative for next year.  Also, please comment if you were there, or if you have thoughts or feedback.

All this foody typing makes me want to go cook up something warm, fresh and LOCAL!


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I ate Local at the SBN 13th Annual ALLocal Dinner at Local 149

March 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm (food, Sustainability) (, , , )

The SBN’s Boston Local Food Program hosted its 13th ALLocal Dinner at Local 149 in “Southie” on March 26th.   The ALLocal Dinners feature locally sourced food—from the protein to the salt—served by locally owned restaurants.

Massachusetts and its bordering states have a vibrant and sustainable local food system, and one of the Program’s goals is to encourage diverse restaurants in metro Boston to include more local food on their menus.  Local 149’s regular menu features fresh ingredients from local purveyors and producers, and Chef Leah Dubois presented an authentically ALLocal, 3-course menu for the SBN guests:

FirstALLocal Local 149 Short Rib
Island Creek Oysters
apple cider and juniper berry-mignonette
greenhouse tomato cocktail fresco
micro wasabi sprouts

Bone-In Free Range Short Ribs
corn whiskey and Boston honey glaze
smash white potatoes and sunchokes
Vermont Butter and Creamery

sassafras gelato, smoky goat cheese
local accoutrements  (acoutrements=delicious chocolate bits, gingersnap thingy, and maybe a crunchy corn nut…)

Longfellow Creamery/Second Chance Farm – Avon, ME
Westfield Farm – MA
Eva’s Garden – South Dartmouth, MA
Thatcher Farm – Milton, MA
Vermont Butter and Creamery
Sunrise Orchards – VT
Boston Honey Company – Holliston, MA

ALLocal Local 149 Island Creek OystersI ate a boatload of Island Creek Oysters.  I enjoyed the micro wasabi sprouts.

Keeping in the spirit, guests enjoyed local spirits as well from Westport Rivers Vineyard and Winery, Still River Winery, and Berkshire Mountain Distillers, plus Local 149 has a stellar bar menu, offering a great selection of local microbrews.  I enjoyed the Pretty Things “American Stout” from Westport, MA. This beer has a 7% ABV, which wasn’t published on the menu, and I wouldn’t have picked if it was, but I’m glad it wasn’t!  Fruity and malty, and pretty, indeed!  (I met a great gal at the event who told me all about Pretty Things and if-you-like-this-you’ll-also-like-that…  Check out BOSBABES, a group for women interested in beer!)  I can also give a thumbs up to the Westport Rivers Chardonnay.

The ALLocal Dinners feature great food & drink with a great community, and proceeds help to support the Boston Local Food Program, which works to build economies that are local, green and fair.

When you think about it–the delicious and complex flavors are hard to obtain in March in New England!  Great challenge, and great job by the Chef.

I enjoy these events very much, but I’m conflicted because I’ll Mangerò anything from anywhere!  Have you made slight (or dramatic) changes to your consumer behavior in an effort to support local business, agriculture, sustainability?

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Facebook Fan Pages and Cheap Chicken Stock

May 24, 2010 at 2:15 pm (Facebook, food, marketing)

One of my clients,New Deal Fish Market, located in East Cambridge, MA, specializes in the highest quality imported and domestic seafood, and specialty products.  I help New Deal to manage its Facebook Fan Page by brainstorming with the owner about what to post. (We try to post about three times a week to keep a regular stream of “traffic.”)  With Fan Pages, the strategy is to get your Fans to “Like” what you post.  If they check the “Like” button, the post will appear in their friends’ News Feed.  This will in turn attract more Fans and more interactions on your Fan Page…and more customers.

While brainstorming, we talk about seasonal varieties (like the Soft Shell Crab…which is currently molting), tips on selection and storage, pairings, how-to’s, recipes, etc.  And, New Deal has more than just fresh seafood—there are some great products on the shelves as well, which gave us great inspiration this week.  Carl was leaning back looking at the shelves and saw a box of imported il riso Beretta carnaroli Rice, and suggested Risotto.  I try to make most of the recipes that Carl dictates, so the post for today (and consequently tonight’s meal at chez Starks) is:

Parmesan Risotto with ScallopsRisotto is a delicious and delicate alternative to pasta, and would warm the soul on this cool and rainy May day. We have a “superfino” Carnaroli rice here in the market, which has a higher starch content and firmer texture than Arborio and it holds up better to the slow cooking. It’s nice to make Risotto at home because it’s versatile–your ingredients are almost boundless. Check out this Real Simple recipe and top with seared Sea Scallops (substitute Carnaroli for the Arborio, and two shallots for the onion) http://bit.ly/c4zerC

The highlight of today’s research:  Risotto  IS versatile but you do need 5-6 cups of [chicken] broth–which I didn’t have.  Carl suggested that Mayflower (across the street) might sell bones for broth, and to my delight, they sure did.  I got over 3 lbs for $.93.  I was happier than Mike with a new playstation game.  I made three quarts of broth for $.93. LIKE!

In my post: Give Your Fans What They Want!, I talk more about Fan Pages: “…let your fans spread the word for you because they feel so enthusiastic about you, and…regularly remind your Fans of why they feel so enthusiastic.” 

So, I understand that my blog might have a little bit of A.D.D., but my friend Alli suggested that I just keep writing and its identity will be revealed.


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