Posts Tagged ‘food’

Dreaming of Summer and My CSA

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape

It’s that time of year when the warm, sunny days start to outnumber the grey, chilly ones … finally.

Spring and then, yes, even summer are coming, or so e-mail communications from my community-supported agriculture (CSA for short) farm assure me, promising my first pick-up in early June.

This is also the time of year when many people decide whether to re-up their CSA membership, look for another one that they think might better meet their needs, or decide that they prefer to get their locally grown produce and other foods through other channels.

We’ve belonged to the same CSA for more than a dozen years, heading down the Intervale in Burlington’s Old North End once a week from June through early October to pick up (and also sometimes, pick) our share of the weekly harvest. In the early years, our two sons came with me, reveling in the sandbox and later the old tire swing before “helping mommy” by grabbing fistfuls of sun-warm cherry tomatoes or hunting for raspberries and eating more than ended up in the basket. Now they’re busy teenagers and I can only occasionally convince them to tag along, but they do still appreciate those cherry tomatoes and raspberries— and even the Brussels sprouts.

The Intervale Community Farm was founded in 1990, making it one of the oldest CSAs in Vermont. It is different from many in that a co-op board governs the farm but it is run by hired farm managers; in other ways it’s pretty traditional. Generally, a CSA signs up paying members before each season to share the farm’s bounty, along with some of the upfront investment and risk. (It also saves the farmers having to market and sell their produce during the height of the busy growing season, although many still attend farmers’ markets and do some retail sales.) Members go to the farm for pick-up and, while there is some choice, generally they are allotted a specific quantity from among a number of options each week.

When everything goes well, members reap the rewards of a bountiful harvest, almost always paying less than they would at regular retail prices for equivalent products. Occasionally things don’t go so well, like in 2011 which, in the case of the Intervale, was waterlogged through late spring and came to a hard stop at the end of August with Tropical Storm Irene flooding. But that is part of the pact you make when you agree to support a particular farmer and it is a fairly rare occurrence.

Over the last 20 years, the number and variety of CSA’s have grown exponentially in Vermont and around the country. There are many who deliver their shares to local workplaces and other centralized locations. There are a number that also include products from different farms and regional food producers. Some provide free choice of produce and others offer discounts for paying ahead that can be applied to purchase whatever customers want in a given week. (Some of these are not technically CSA’s but they are all community-supported agriculture in some form or another.) Many, including ICF, now go almost year-round offering storage crops as well as hardy winter greens and even peak summer produce frozen, dried or canned.

While I’ve dabbled in other forms of CSA during the winter, my summers would just not be the same without my weekly pilgrimage down to the verdant Intervale to catch up with friends (including the farmers) around the piles of broccoli and sweet corn. Even when my desk is piled high with work, I have learned to welcome the forced break of leaving my computer to crouch among the green beans and listen to children giggling as they run through the raspberry patch. It’s a chance each week to connect directly with the source of my food and with a community that truly values local food and farmers.
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E-mail Vermont Life food editor Melissa Pasanen or tell us what you’re thinking via Twitter or on our Facebook page.

If you’re looking for a CSA in Vermont, you can start with the lists at here and here. There is also a new service in development, available for Chittenden County only at this point, that allows you to search based on certain criteria for a CSA.

[Some of] the Best Things I Ate Last Year

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape

Photos by Melissa Pasanen.

Yes, it is a tough job — and yes, someone’s got to do it.

Part of my work as food editor for Vermont Life and as a freelance food writer is to travel around the state and taste lots of things at high-end restaurants and at roadside truck stops. I also cook a lot, often with Vermont-grown or Vermont-made ingredients.

The good news is that I get to eat delicious food. The bad news is that the phone photo layout app I used to make this photo only fits nine images, so I couldn’t possibly include every memorable bite I ate last year. (Although, as my ever-patient but occasionally frustrated husband will tell you, they are all on my phone.)

So, starting from the top left and going clockwise, some of the most delicious things I ate in Vermont last year:

• The special chef’s choice sushi sampler at San Sai on Burlington’s lakefront boasts perfectly fresh fish each with a little extra twist: red snapper with an egg yolk sauce, salmon with carrot sauce and tobiko, marinated white tuna. There’s also sushi pizza; I know it doesn’t sound purist, but don’t knock it until you try it.

• Last summer’s peaches from Shelburne Orchards were exactly what my memory tells me fresh, ripe peaches should be — only to be so often disappointed by mealy or under-ripe fruit shipped from far away. We joined swarms of locals who descended like bees on honey during weekly picking sessions for the short peach season.

• Successfully leveraging the momentum behind their food truck, the trio behind Misery Loves Company launched a bricks and mortar location in Winooski around Thanksgiving. Their multi-layered and multi-textured sandwiches are addictive. I believe this was the Dunnsky piled with house-cured corned beef, vinegar slaw and Thousand Island, but I’ve eaten them all and they are all very, very good including the vegetarian Peaceful Resolution. They recently started dinner, too and their lemon curd doughnuts are to die for.

• I was torn between two slices of pie but one photo was better and this pie slightly more to my taste (which tends to the tart-sweet rather than the sweet-sweet.) The lemon meringue pie is a classic made at Hinesburg’s Good Times Café; their key lime is also stand-out. The very close runner-up was a slice of maple cream pie eaten at the congenial counter of P&H Truck Stop in Wells River off of 91: tooth-achingly sweet with a really good flaky crust and piled with freshly whipped cream.

• I trekked to the Common Man in Warren at the urging of food-savvy friends in the Mad River Valley and was not disappointed. This ethereal Jerusalem artichoke soup with dehydrated black olive oil and fluffy lemon marshmallow cubes might sound like a chef’s indulgence, but it worked beautifully. For the less adventurous, Chef Adam Longworth also roasts a textbook-perfect chicken. (For more details, see the winter issue’s Out to Eat column.)

• These crispy smoked chicken skins with sake-mirin glaze are not always on the menu at The Belted Cow in Essex Junction but when they are, you should indulge. Chef John Delpha, a national barbecue champ, also offers his fine brisket regularly.

• Hen of the Wood in Waterbury remains one of my top recommendations for dinner and I’m chomping at the bit for the Burlington location to open in the new Hotel Vermont later this spring. Their calamari with lemon, basil and smoked chilies is gorgeously memorable in all ways.

• A rich duck egg from Guy Choiniere’s farm in Highgate Center, perfectly poached (easier with these eggs than chicken eggs I found) on a toasted slice of farm bread from Bread & Butter Farm, which straddles both South Burlington and Shelburne. So simple, so good.

• Most fall, winter and spring Sunday mornings in Underhill, you can pull up to the home-based bakery of Poorhouse Pies and smell the fresh doughnuts ― from French crullers to maple-glazed ― coming out of the fryer. There is simply not much better than fresh, handmade doughnuts.

What was the best thing you ate in 2012? Let us know on Twitter @VermontLife.

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