A few weeks ago in a news article, Pizza! Pizza! A comfort food has risen to become a big pandemic winner for families and restaurants (2/12/21) by Julie Creswell in the NY Times, this pizza lover was reminded of the start of the 2020-2021 pandemic year when I took an hour’s drive from home in Albany, NY across the state border to western Massachusetts. My destination was a special stopping place for pizza lovers in Pittsfield (Berkshire County): Berkshire Mountain Bakery’s Pizza Cafe.
In her news story, reporter Creswell noted that pizza’s ease and affordability made it a pandemic staple for many families and a rare bright spot in an industry that has been decimated. In addition, pizza is a comfort food for many including me, and the pizza craving at the start of the pandemic year was satisfied by the hour’s drive over to the Berkshires.
On that day in Pittsfield in early March 2020, the Berkshire cafe’s pizza of the day was a special bianca pie (white, no tomato sauce) with farm to table ingredients of mozzarella, butternut squash, caramelized onions, spinach and shaved parmesan. Delicious comfort food thoroughly enjoyed as we entered a year of challenges to the health, safety and economic livelihoods of us all.
And who knew or even suspected a year ago that even crossing a state border, to go from Albany, NY to western Massachusetts, would become a challenge and in fact, verboten? It wasn’t until last week, that the border between New York State and Massachusetts would reopen to visitors, with the qualification that visits were for less than 24 hours. (Otherwise, a visitor is still required by Massachusetts to quarantine for two weeks.) But this change in policy did not happen before a strong craving for take-out pizza had me thinking where to go for a take-out pie to celebrate the light shining at the end of the pandemic year’s long, dark tunnel, so no return trip to the Berkshires.
I admit that this pizza lover is a very picky pizza consumer, who sticks to farm to table pizza offerings and has taken some pride in developing a farm-to-table pizza directory for this website. Scanning the list for possibilities in New York State, I decided to head north and take the easy hour drive up to Saratoga Springs to the new location of 9 Miles East.
I also recalled a visit four years ago to 9 Miles East at its farm, nine miles east of Saratoga Springs in historic Schuylerville (Saratoga County). Back then, it was offering 20 pizzas each night to be picked up at the farm or delivered locally, and I took the drive north to the farm and enjoyed a Farmhouse pizza. [https://knowwhereyourfoodcomesfrom.com/2017/06/15/from-12-pizzas-each-night-now-20-pies-available-for-lucky-saratogians/].
In the past year, 9 Miles East made the decision to invest in establishing a business location in the small, vibrant city of Saratoga Springs. Besides enjoying another pizza, I was also curious to see how the business was continuing its praiseworthy operation in its new location.
Mary and Gordon Sacks started 9 Miles East Farm in 2006 “to make it easy for busy people to enjoy healthy local food.” They started with 11 acres (now 29), and on their website note their continuing commitment “to present healthy food in fun and convenient new ways.”
Although 9 Miles East continues to offer delicious pizzas with an appealing pizza menu, it also has developed other ways to provide healthy local food to its customers, not the least it is now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week at its Saratoga Springs location. Its menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner are impressive and creative. How about a Pagnotelle Egg Sandwich for breakfast, described as a pesto poached egg, nitrate-free ham, fontina cheese, roasted veg on a sourdough roll? Wow. A morning breakfast of Grains & Greens described as a veg bowl plus organic whole grain and organic spinach would be a great way to start the day too. The lunch and dinner menus are also creative and the restaurant notes that its menu “changes daily,” strong evidence that the menus are complementary to the changing seasons and what’s grown locally.
9 Miles East also offers a Meal Delivery Subscription program that is rooted in its philosophy “tailored for the season.” On its website, the business notes its goal to deliver healthy, delicious, local food to customers’ homes in the Capital Region of NY and Boston, MA for people who want to eat healthy but don’t have the time or energy to cook. Its whole-foods philosophy is based on eating whole grains, veggies, legumes, fruits, lean proteins and healthy eats.
On the day of my visit for a pizza, I chose the option of the Seasons pizza: Grilled Vegetables, described as grilled onion, broccoli, summer squash, local mozzarella, farm-made tomato sauce, with a three-day naturally leavened sourdough crust made with organic Farmer Ground Flour. The eight big slices of sourdough crust pizza was comfort food extraordinaire. If 9 Miles East was closer to home, my plan to try my hand on making home-made pizza, with a home-made naturally leavened sourdough crust, would likely be delayed even longer.
(Frank W. Barrie, 4/2/21)