The Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts (SBN) is dedicated to “building economies that are green, local, and fair.” The organization hosts farm to table dinners and other great events (like the Boston Local Food Festival) to bring the Boston-area community together, and last month they held an all-local dinner at Granary Tavern in downtown Boston. What a treat! Granary Tavern strives to use as many local ingredients as possible, but this challenged them to take the extra step and do every dish locavore style. As I arrived and mingled with other celebrants of the agricultural bounty of New England, the chef set out a plate beautifully laden with delectable cheeses from the Berkshires and Vermont: Berkshire Blue cheese, made completely by hand of whole unpasteurized jersey cows milk; Champlain Valley Creamery triple cream, a soft ripened triple creme cheese with a bloomy white rind; and Vermont Creamery double cream Cremont cheese, made with a blend of cows milk and cream as well as goats milk with a distinctive wrinkled rind. The cheeses were accompanied by Massachusetts dried cranberries and house-made crackers (made with King Arthur flour, Norwich , VT) and speckled with Cape Cod Salt Works sea salt (Orleans, MA).
Pleasurably nibbling New England cheeses and sipping on an Angry Orchard Cider (a hard-cider product of Samuel Adams brewer Boston Beer Company made according to Drink Nation from culinary apples sourced from the foothills of the Alps and from France’s Normandy region), I chatted with a colleague of Robert Terry, a local photographer whose photographs grace this review, about the enticing locavore menu. Although the nationally marketed cider was tasty, wouldn’t it have been nifty, if we were toasting the dinner to come with a glass of New England hard cider from Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon (N.H.) or perhaps a glass of New England artisanal mead, a beverage to lift the spirits made from local honey! Moonlight Meadery of Londonderry, New Hampshires offers an amazing 58 different meads.
A farm to table dinner consisting of three courses of local goodies awaited us, and by the time the waitresses came around to take our choices it wasn’t a hard decision. I went with the hanger steak as my main course rather than the grilled oyster mushrooms, and the Baked Alaska instead of apple cider sorbet for dessert. But I’m getting ahead of myself!
Our first course arrived, a delicate apple and parsnip salad with Westfield Farms’ Capri, a handcrafted farmstead goat cheese produced on this Hubbardston (Worcester County), Massachusetts farm, lightly dressed with a cider vinaigrette. Worcester County’s Carlson Orchards cider (Harvard, MA), featured in every course, played a key flavoring role in the entire menu. In the vinaigrette, it added a refreshing acidic tang that balanced the sweet apples and fried parsnips (Manheim Farm, South Deerfield, MA) with the bitter lettuces (Sky Vegetables, Amherst, MA).
The light salad eased us into our second course, a grilled Archer Angus (Chesterville, ME) hanger steak with root vegetable frites over a creamy, yellow butter sauce. Perfectly medium-rare, the steak was almost as buttery as the sauce. The crispy parsnip chips and turnip french fries lent a mellow sweetness to the savory meat. Hanger steak is sometimes known as “butcher’s steak” because butchers would often keep it for themselves rather than offer it for sale.
With just enough room left over, the Baked Alaska (according to Wikipedia coined at Delmonico’s Restaurant by then chef-de-cuisine Charles Ranhofer in 1876 to honor the recently acquired American territory) was set before us. Never having experienced this dessert before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A fluffy, charred meringue whipped up with eggs from Country Hen (Hubbardston, MA) and High Lawn Farm (Lee, MA) heavy cream enveloped a scoop of Ben’s Sugar Shack (Temple, NH) maple syrup ice cream. With a perfectly balanced sweetness and delectable creamy mouth feel, I learned just how tasty Alaska is! Very happy with my decision and full of luscious local treats, SBN thanked us for joining together in celebrating local foods, and we toasted with glasses of Nantucket Island’s Cisco Brewer’s various spirits like Triple 8 Vodka or Whale’s Tale Ale.
The SBN will be putting on the Boston Local Food Festival in the fall on October 6th, and they hope to see you there. [Granary Tavern, 170 Milk Street (near Faneuil Hall), 617.449.7110, Lunch & Dinner: Mon-Fri 11:00AM-2:00AM, Brunch & Dinner: Sat-Sun 9:00AM-2:00AM www.granarytavern.com]
(Lucas Knapp, GoodEatsGuru)