One of the coolest things about Boston is how easy it is to get out of. You can get on a boat, or you can get in the car. Either way, you can reach a fabulous someplace in just half an hour.
Verrill Farm is borderline fabulous place, and is located just about half an hour outside of the city. Verrill supplies a bunch of Boston area restaurants with fresh produce. They also hold events throughout the summer to highlight various fruits and vegetables coming off their farm. Since I am a dork and therefore, on the Verrill Farm mailing list, I found out about a blueberry pancake breakfast to be held on the farm on a Saturday morning.
And off I went, in my car (nope, AC just won’t work unless I am going 80 mph). It was me and the rest of the yuppies leaving the comfort of their Saturday beds for the pursuit of something local, something good, and something with bacon in it.
Oh yes. There was bacon.
I realize that the event wasn’t called a “bacon breakfast” (how good would that be though!), but that’s the part I would like to describe first. The bacon, if you haven’t guessed, was awesome. Really thick and slightly chewy, not too greasy. Being compulsive, I pulled off the big chunks of fat under the misapprehension that I can’t (shouldn’t?) put an piece of obvious fat in my mouth. Oh silly me. That fat was the best part. It was a weird combination of light and rich, crunchy and melty. Delicious. Pig fat tastes good.
Obviously, the yuppies and I were onto something. The pancakes were great. Freshly made, griddled in bulk out of a cartoon-sized batter dispenser, sprinkled with copious amounts of fresh blueberries. The pancakes were tender and not too sweet, the heated berries exploding when bitten.
Toward the end of the breakfast, the Verrill people brought out trays of blueberry pies (all baked on the premises) for a real live pie eating contest (the citified yuppie in me felt all sorts of country and small-town for a brief moment). People got good and dirty eating the pies without using their hands. Blueberry juice ear to ear. The winner licked the tin clean. It was amazing. I gagged.
A walk around the farm and farm shop revealed that the farm wasn’t yet producing very much. For Boston, July is still relatively early in the season. The corn was not quite ready to be picked, the tomatoes still a couple of weeks off. The little farm shop had the same stuff as Whole Foods, likely from the same suppliers. Weird. It was a big city version of a small town farm. The illusion held long enough for me to leave happy, relaxed, stuffed full of bacon, and hot as all sin from the blasting sun. I then sat on my couch in front of the AC and drank beer the rest of the day. Is that not a perfect Saturday for a yuppie such as myself?
Monday, July 28, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
Y’know how all the time you hear about grass-fed, free-range, organic, free-willed, cage-free, hormone-free, happy sunshine cows or chicken or people, for that matter. Every once in a while you stop and ask yourself, does it really make a difference? Does it seriously taste soooo much better than the regular stuff sold at the fluorescently-lit and warehouse-like grocery supermart of your choice? Y’know what? It does. It does taste better.
I had the luck to try out some burgers from Roseda Beef. First, Roseda farms offered to send me burgers to try out. Meat by mail? No thanks. I was ready to say no. Then I read further. They said they are a family-run business, they said they raise and breed their own Black Angus cows, they said the cows are grazed on grass and that the meat is dry-aged before it’s ground into burgers. Then they mentioned they are located in Maryland, close to where I grew up in Northern Virginia! Who says no to that, I ask you. Not I.
I said yes. I said yes, and I got eight ginormous burgers in the mail to try out and comment on here. So here’s my comment – Yum. These people don’t fool around. The burgers are shipped frozen (d’oh! Wish I could have been in MD to pick them up myself) along with a bunch of instructions and neat background on the company. The instructions said that you don’t have to thaw the burgers before cooking, just throw them onto a hot grill or pan. I was skeptical, I have to admit, but it worked.
The instructions suggested cooking the burgers for a total of 14 minutes, flipping them from side to side in a carefully-controlled choreographic manner. Fourteen minutes is enough time to take even a frozen burger far past well-done. That, combined with the fact that I was completely starving and not willing to wait and coordinate my choreography, led me to cook my burger for a total of about 8 minutes on the stovetop (three minutes on each side, followed by another minute or so on each side), in a well-heated and heavy pan. I got crusty, juicy, medium to medium well burger that hardly shrank in size with cooking. It remained as ginormous and pretty as it was before the cooking.
Not sure my pictures do it justice, but this is one good burger.
I ate the burger plain at first, just so I could taste the meat. It was so… beefy. There is no better way to describe it. It had more beef taste than a lot of burgers I have had. It wasn’t packed too tight, yet didn’t fall apart. You could tell that it was good stuff, not the run of the mill pre-packaged burger. In this case, as in many others, attention, care, and quality really made a difference in the product. I was happy that a family-run business is doing well, I was happy they are turning to bloggers to spread the word for them, and I am happy that my dinner took 8 minutes from start to finish.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
New Yorkers have to put up with a lot: a lot of people, a lot of funny smells, a lot of gum on the sidewalk, and not enough fresh air. New Yorkers are resilient people – they can take a lot on. That’s why when the Big Apple BBQ came to town in 95F weather, New Yorkers were not deterred. They came out in droves to stand in line for hours. No awnings, no shade, no pool to jump into… and at the end of the line? Hot meat, from the best BBQ joints from all over the country – brisket, ribs, short ribs, sausages, slaw, and all the rest.
Turns out that my composition is nowhere near as strong as a New Yorkers. I lasted through one line for just one vendor (and that with downing two bottles of cold water, constant fanning, and copious complaining). That vendor, Salt Lick from TX, must have been the best one of them all because everyone and their mother was standing there with us. My friend Neha assured me that they serve the best beef brisket she has ever had in her life. In fact, she eats beef just once a year – when the Big Apple BBQ comes around and the Salt Lick tent offers up with it’s Texas-style brisket. A forty minute wait was worth it after that intro.
Or so I thought. I blame it on the heat, on my inherent crankiness, or perhaps on my white T-shirt, which quickly became a see-through white T shirt from all the smokey sweat that it was absorbing (how’s that for appetizing?), but this brisket was just alright. Not mind-blowing, not life-changing, but good. You could see the pink smoke ring on the outside of the meat, indicating the amount of time it spent in the smoker.
You could see the crust of spice rub and char on the very outside. I could have used a bit more of both. The meat itself was flavorful and meaty, but a little on the tough side. While I myself and everything around me was melting, the meat did not. That was ok though. The cole slaw slayed me. It was dressed very simply, with vinegary dressing full of celery seeds. It was a light, crunchy, acidic counterpoint to the heavy and warm meat.
Next time I’m in NY for the BBQ fest (and I will be back, there is no doubt), I am going for the ribs. They looked amazing – blackened and charred and ginormous. I will also be wearing as little as possible, will have a beer in each hand, and someone to fan me while I wait for the food. A girl can dream, can’t she?
P.S. Crap. I can't believe it's been a month since I last posted. This new job of mine... turns out I have no more time now than I did when I was in grad school. What's up with that? You mean the real world isn't any easier than the academic one? Who would've thunk it. I promise to do better. From now on.