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Monday, December 31, 2012

Ring Out the Old

I've dubbed 2012 the Year of the Kitchen, because of the refinishing and remodeling I did, and because of all the new food experiments -- what will 2013 bring?

Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

What a Treat! -- Holiday Dining

I've had some bum experiences with holiday and special occasion dining, but this year for our pre-Christmas celebratory dinner, Mr. Madley and I made reservations at the Blue Heron Restaurant in Sunderland.  We had enjoyed a New Year's Eve dinner there before, and when deciding on the right holiday restaurant for this year, the Blue Heron came immediately to mind.

If you've never been to the Blue Heron, it's a wonder to see.  The restaurant is in the renovated old town hall; the building has housed town offices and a school, and has been the site for plays, meetings, and community groups.  Tin ceiling, tall windows, beautiful chandeliers, high ceilings, strong rich colors, and old wood create a comfortable atmosphere to sit and talk and sit and eat and talk and eat.
The wait-staff is well trained -- attentive without being overly familiar.
And then, of course, there's the food.  The Blue Heron supports local farms/farmers (a list can be found on their menu), buying local seasonal produce when available, and uses meat from pasture-raised, grass-fed, antibiotic-free animals.  (Read their philosophy here.)  Entree options, as well as appetizers and desserts, are eclectic but always well-thought-out and creative, with a variety of flavours to please the palate.

Dinner for us started with the Blue Heron Salad and continued with the Pan Roasted Breast of Pekin Duck, which was just about divine.  The duck was crispy and juicy and well-seasoned; the fennel and compote and potatoes complemented the duck; the green beans were as good as any I've ever eaten.  For dessert we enjoyed the Chocolate Truffle Torte, which was a rich confection accompanied by gelato, cream, and cherries.  A positively delicious dinner -- it left me completely satisfied and happily content.  I honestly can't say that I've had a better dining experience anywhere in the Valley.

I recommend a visit to the Blue Heron -- it's a class operation with delicious food.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Ride to Mineral Hills Winery

Mr. Madley here, faithful readers, with a cross-post from my bicycle-related blog, Velophoria. Emily asked me to share my report of a ride to a lovely winery, run by a lovely guy. Here's an excerpt, to whet your appetite (or sharpen your thirst, as the case may be):

...As I pulled up, I saw a big "Open" flag on the porch, so, out of neighborly curiosity, I lifted my bike against a post so that I might see what was what inside. A man came hustling out of the fields to the right of the building and introduced himself as Larry Godard, co-owner of the place. Did I want to be shown around? When a guy as transparently nice as Larry asks to show you around his winery, there's only one right answer...
For more fun and photos, shoot on over here. And a joyous season to all!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Valley Gives 12.12.12

12.12.12 -- That's a single day for one very special event to celebrate and support giving to local nonprofits through Valley Gives.  And it's tomorrow -- all 24 hours.

One of those deserving nonprofits is the Kestrel Land Trust.  The Kestrel Land Trust works to create conservation areas throughout the Valley, and if you donate tomorrow (Wed, Dec 12) through Valley Gives, you can help the Trust become eligible for grants of up to $15,000.
Two more favourite charities of mine on the list: The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and Pioneer Valley Red Cross.

Interested in other nonprofits that might benefit from Valley Gives giving?  A whole list of them can be found here.  This looks like a great way to donate to local nonprofit organizations -- you can bet I'll be visiting this site often.

Happy giving!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Local Grain CSAs

Yesterday was the pickup day for my local grain csa out of Wheatberry Bakery in Amherst -- and what delights there were!  Arapahoe red winter wheat, red llamas red winter wheat, emmer, spelt, barley, pinto beans, black turtle beans (I love their name), mandan bride corn, nothstine dent corn, plymouth flint corn, and popcorn (on the cob). 

The corn all needs to dry for another couple of months, so it is remaining in its paper bags until February (when I'll do another post to highlight those beauties), but I packed the grains and beans in mason jars for long-term storage.

After packing up my 1/2 share, I ground (with my hand-crank mill) 3 cups of arapahoe wheat for bread baking, and for the first time ever I made whole wheat bread that is strictly whole wheat -- no white flour at all.  Local wheat, local honey, local milk... all kneaded together to make some delicious bread -- soft, flavourful, with a good crumb and super nutrition.
I'm looking forward to much baking, yummy hot cereals, sprouting, and then more baking.

I've never done a grain share before, but I certainly hope to do one again.  Having only 1-2 pickup dates is extremely convenient, and supporting a different kind of local agriculture makes me feel like I'm helping Valley farming remain sustainable.  Plus, it's all so tasty!
The Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA is one of two local grain CSAs that I've discovered in the Valley; the other is the White Oak Farm CSA. (White Oak Farm CSA often sells at the Amherst Farmer's Market and, I've heard, sometimes shows up at the winter market, also.)

Know of another grain share or have opinions about one?  Please feel free to comment below!