Local Traditions are Made in the Kitchen: Hadley’s Asparagus Supper

Story by Mary Reilly, Photography by Elaine Papa

Hadley grass is responsible for one of my springtime traditions: nearly getting rear-ended as I see a farm stand and brake for the first bunch of the season. A more longstanding local asparagus-based tradition is the First Congregational Church of Hadley’s annual Asparagus Supper. Since 1931, the volunteers from the congregation have been dishing up an all-you-can-eat asparagus feast one Saturday a year in May.

The meal’s choreography and menu remain the same from year to year: Hungry diners line up for a family-style dinner (the church offers two seatings), are escorted to their reserved seats, and dig into an endless procession of platters. The menu is simple and satisfying: rolls and butter, baked ham, potato salad, and thick spears of asparagus. Counter to our modern passion for al dente spears, the asparagus at this supper is steamed to tenderness. The mossy-green spears are juicy and addictive and disappear in a flash. Servers buzz through the room, trays heaped with seconds and thirds, so when a platter is scraped clean another materializes to take its place.

The menu highlights local food, from across Hadley and beyond, which streams into the kitchen all day long leading up to service: produce from Szawlowski Potato Farms, biscuits from Barstow’s Longview Farm Bakery, milk from Mapleline Farm, butter from Maple Valley Creamery, ice cream from Flayvors of Cook, and coffee from Esselon.  

Last May, I spent the day watching the event come together. One of the first chores the crew tackles is preparing the strawberries for dessert. A group of men, ranging in ages and experiences, mans the sinks. They wash, hull, and cut flat after flat of berries. The room rings with conversation––folks use the time to catch up, tell jokes, and share stories. They are neighbors and church fellows and family, and some have been slicing berries in this kitchen together for generations.

Before long, I’m recruited onto the asparagus-collection crew. We drive a few miles away to Joe Czajkowski’s farm, one of two providing asparagus for the supper (Boisvert Sugar Shack supplies the rest of the asparagus quota). When we arrive, the farm is in full harvest and pack mode. The process goes swiftly: Large totes of asparagus get sorted by size and placed onto a conveyor that leads to a scary-looking device that lops off the bottom-ends of each spear. They’re then banded into bunches and packed gently into wooden crates. Finally, they’re  loaded into the van and we head back to the church.  

By the time we return, the dinner tables have been set with china, coffee cups, and fresh flowers. I pop into the office and say hello to the team of ladies who manage the reservations. Yes, this is a casual family-style event, but reservations are essential. The table layout is a collection of names and seating assignments. Regular attendees know where they will be sitting, near friends and family, and the thoughtfully engineered floor plan ensures that will happen.

As the clocks ticks closer to the 5:00 seating, the energy in the kitchen starts to rev up. There is ham to slice, potato salad to platter, rolls to warm. The asparagus is loaded into a steamer to begin its transformation into tender morsels.

Diners start to line up by 4:30, waiting eagerly for the doors to open. Each guest is led to their table and the feast begins. People have been coming to this event for decades. I met Betty Pout: She and her family haven’t missed a supper in over 60 years. Melanie and Richard Sitnik, attendees for nearly 50 years, met for the first time over a platter of the church’s asparagus. Today they were dining as three generations, though their grandson Tyler hedged his bets and brought a bag of Cheerios “just in case.”

By 6:00, the first seating is over, and as satisfied diners file out of the church the volunteer crew starts to reset the tables for the 6:30 seating. The pattern repeats: Food comes flying out of the kitchen, diners reminisce and share stories, and the room fills with chatter and laughter.  

At the end of the night, I peek into the kitchen and see that group of men, neighbors and church fellows and family, clustered around the sinks again. This time, the basins are filled with dishes instead of strawberries. But stories are still being shared and jokes are still getting told as they wash and put away the platters, until next year.

Elegant Affairs Catering | A Recipe to End Hunger

Join us on April 29 at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts' A Recipe to End Hunger Gala! Edible Pioneer Valley is a media sponsor for this fantastic night.

Come out to this exciting event to help raise money for a good cause, enjoy delicious food from across the Valley, and dance the night away!

We're profiling all the chefs and restaurants who'll be giving generously of their time and talent.

Elegant Affairs Catering

Why is it important to support the work of the Food Bank?

Awareness to the community & helping to support those in need

What dish will you be serving? How does this dish represent you?

Bread pudding with whiskey sauce.  It's our Chef's personal recipe and a local favorite

What is the one reason people should come to the Gala?

To support the Food Bank and network with other vendors that support the Food Bank.  So it's a win win.

About Elegant Affairs

As Elegant Affairs, the premiere caterer in Western Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut, we know how to create distinctive and memorable events. Whether it is memories enhanced by the design, the brilliancy, or the flavor of the event, we are skilled in our craft.

Utilizing our experience in accomplishing the occasion that you are searching for, our staff will work with on each and every step. Why? Because that is what we do. We use our abilities together with your desires to bring to you that day or evening that you are envisioning. Whether it is your very special wedding day, an exclusive social event, picnic, shower or corporate event, we design your affair the way you want it.

Read about the other restaurants participating in the Gala and buy your tickets now!

Pengyew Catering | A Recipe to End Hunger

Join us on April 29 at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts' A Recipe to End Hunger GalaEdible Pioneer Valley is a media sponsor for this fantastic night.

Come out to this exciting event to help raise money for a good cause, enjoy delicious food from across the Valley, and dance the night away!

We're profiling all the chefs and restaurants who'll be giving generously of their time and talent.

Pengyew Chin, Manager, Pengyew Catering

Why is it important to support the work of the Food Bank?

To make ourselves feel good. There really shouldn't be hunger in this country.

What is the one reason people should come to the Gala?

Gluttony for a good cause! To help usher in Spring.

What’s on the menu?

Cantonese Roast Pork Belly, Vegan Chop Suey. I'm of Chinese descent and I've no idea what Chop Suey is but I'll make it healthful, to balance out the other fat-saturated dish.

About Pengyew Catering

Pengyew Catering offers unique Regional Asian cuisines, exciting contemporary Asian Fusion as well as a selection of Western Classics.

Whether you're hosting an intimate reception for ten guests or a grand gala for a few hundred, Pengyew Chin will be delighted to work with you to custom design a truly memorable culinary experience.

Read about the other restaurants participating in the Gala and buy your tickets now!

The Log Cabin and Delaney House | A Recipe to End Hunger

Join us on April 29 at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts' A Recipe to End Hunger GalaEdible Pioneer Valley is a media sponsor for this fantastic night.

Come out to this exciting event to help raise money for a good cause, enjoy delicious food from across the Valley, and dance the night away!

We're profiling all the chefs and restaurants who'll be giving generously of their time and talent.

Executive Chef Mick Corduff at The Log Cabin and Delaney House 

Why is it important to support the work of the Food Bank?

It is so important for us to support the Food Bank because of the people whom the Food Bank is supporting through their efforts. We are so happy to be able to help support those who benefit from the work that the Food Bank does.

What is the one reason people should come to the Gala?

People should come to the Gala to support the Food Bank and all of the time and effort they put into this great event. It’s important for people to support the food bank and the restaurants who will be in attendance that evening. 

What will you be serving that night?

We will be serving a Turkey Meatloaf Cupcake with Mamas Gravy and Sweet Potato. This dish goes perfectly with the 1950’s theme of the evening!



Read about the other restaurants participating in the Gala and buy your tickets now!

A field trip: The Berkshire Pilgrimage at The Beard House

It’s nice to have friends who do fun things.

And when one of those friends shoots you a text that says, “Hey wanna come hang out and help me sling hors d’oeuvres?” and that friend is Brian Alberg (Executive Chef at the Red Lion Inn and Eat on North in the Berkshires), and the event is at the Beard House, you don’t just say “yes.” You say “You bet! How soon should I be there?”

In the kitchen

On November 4th, I met Brian (don’t call him “chef”) and the rest of the crew in the Beard House kitchen. Known as The Berkshire Pilgrimage––the meal highlights produce and meat from western Massachusetts. It’s a collaborative effort managed by Berkshire Farm and Table and the Main Street Hospitality Group (The Red Lion Inn’s parent company).

Brian assembled a great group of Berkshires chefs: Adam Brassard, chef de cuisine at The Red Lion Inn (Stockbridge); Sean Corcoran, chef de cuisine at Eat on North (Pittsfield); Daire Rooney, chef of Mezze Catering + Events in the Berkshires; Dan Smith, chef-owner of John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant (South Egremont); and Adam Zieminski, chef-owner of Café Adam.

By the time I got there at noon, I felt like I was already behind schedule. The kitchen was buzzing with energy and good spirits. This a group that’s cooked together many times, and in a small space like the Beard House kitchen good interpersonal vibes are an essential ingredient. Brian threw me on fryer duty and I spent the rest of the afternoon channeling my deep-fryer mojo, labeling mise en place, and cutting up vegetables for family meal.

It’s a real pleasure to cook with a group like this. This dinner was the sixth Berkshires-focused Beard dinner that Brian has spearheaded, and his 12th visit to the House. As a result, everyone knew the idiosyncrasies of the space: where to find equipment, which burners run hot, where the paper towels are, etc. so we were all pretty relaxed and ready by 5:45, when we took a brief break to enjoy family meal with Beard House staff.

With the family fed and the first plates set to go out at 7:00, the kitchen started humming again immediately. Thanks to Clay Williams, we have plenty of pictures of the action, but here are some Instagram highlights of the multi-course experience:

Hors d’oeuvres (Brian Alberg, The Red Lion Inn and Eat on North)

  Sweet corn soup with mignonette peppers


Paddlefish caviar with apple butter and creme fraiche on a potato chip

Rabbit bratwurst with mustard

 Roasted vegetables and onion dip.

First course (Daire Rooney, Mezze Catering + Events)

Scallop crudo with Sweet Lightning squash, grapes, and a grape-habanero purée

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 12.12.57 PM


Second course (Adam Brassard, The Red Lion Inn)

“Pork and beans” Kielbasa, baked beans, smoked horseradish mustard, crispy onions


Third course (Sean Corcoran, Eat on North)

Duck confit, heirloom squash, maple gastrique, Farm Girl Farm greens

Fourth course (Adam Zieminski, Café Adam)

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 12.30.48 PM

Braised Lila’s Lamb stuffed cabbage with honeynut squash, crisped steel cut oats, pickled peppers

Dessert (Patrick Lacey, sous chef John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant who ably stood in for Chef Dan Smith, who was ill)

Kabocha squash cake, praline, ginger ice cream 

Ingredients for the dinner came from a multitude of producers across Western Massachusetts and just over the New York border. 

 Barrington Coffee Roasting Company

Berkshire Mountain Bakery

Berkshire Mountain Distillers

The Berry Patch

Big Elm Brewing

Farm Girl Farm

High Lawn Farm

 Hosta Hill

Ioka Valley Farm

Joshua’s Farm

Kitchen Garden Farm

La Belle Farm

Lakeview Orchard

Lila’s Farm 


Massachusetts 4-H

MX Morningstar Farm

Raven & Boar

Ronnybrook Farm

Taft Farms

Turner Farms

Windy Hill Farm

For more information about The Berkshire Pilgrimage and the Beard House visit:  http://www.jamesbeard.org/events/berkshire-pilgrimage

Berkshire Farm & Table promotes food culture in the Berkshires. The organization collaborates to cultivate tastemakers, produce events and foster dialogue in the media. By sharing the unique stories and expertise of culinary artisans, farmers and agritourism experiences, their work advances food as another reason to explore and savor the Berkshires. For more information, visit www.berkshirefarmandtable.org.


Celebrating the Sweet Feast with Herrell's

herrellsteaAt sunset tonight, July 17, the month-long observance of Ramadan comes to a close in the celebration of Eid al-Fitr. Literally translated as “the Sweet Feast,” this culinarily-focused observance features sweet, rich dishes.

Herrell’s Ice Cream in downtown Northampton is offering two special ice cream flavors in observance of this celebration. Judy Herrell, president and owner of Herrell’s Ice Cream, told me about the inspiration behind their special Moroccan Mint Tea and Baklava flavors.

It all began with a mysterious phone message from someone (she never found out who) at the Springfield Islamic Center asking if she could offer an ice cream in honor of Eid al-Fitr. Judy is no stranger to developing new ice creams based on traditional flavors, earlier this year Herrell’s offered Haroset ice cream for Passover, and in past years they’ve developed date-nut-halva and tamarind-coconut ice creams at customers’ requests.

Judy had already been thinking about Baklava ice cream––her family has both Ashkenazi and Sephardic roots, and both sides of her family made a version of the nutty, honeyed pastry. She designed a formulation that contains local honey, walnuts, almonds and pistachios.

Moroccan Mint Tea took a little longer to develop. The traditional cup of tea, enjoyed by people across the Middle East and beyond, uses an equal volume of green gunmetal tea and mint leaves and a substantial amount of sugar. Many, many test batches later, a final recipe was developed. A frequent Muslim visitor to Herrell’s ended up serving as an official taste tester during the months-long development process. Judy said “When she tasted our last batch and asked to take a few pints home for her father, I knew we’d gotten it right!”

Both gluten-free flavors will be available at the Northampton store through this Sunday, July 19. After that, they’ll be put into the ever-changing ice cream flavor rotation.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 7.34.46 AM“Everyone is welcome at Herrell’s.” says Judy. “We want people to to be able to taste another culture, new flavors. It’s one way to taste the world.” As a traveler and explorer, Judy loves the way she can share news traditions and flavors with her customers. In addition to her desire in offering flavors for everyone to enjoy, she is also proud to say “Herrell’s has been buying and supporting local, with a focus on sustainability, for its 35 years in business.”

I got wastED and the hangover is delicious

Editor's note: Our publisher and editor, Mary, attended a special dining event at Blue Hill Restaurant in New York City recently. We don't usually publish restaurant reviews here at Edible Pioneer Valley, but thought our readers would be interested in this topic. (In case there is any doubt: We paid full price for our dinner and did not get any special "media" consideration in exchange for this post.)

Awareness of "food waste" has become the topic of the day in my world. I know that I live inside a small bubble of food-loving and -obsessed people. Concerns about the volume of food that ends up in landfills as opposed to on our plates have become a major topic for discussion. I have a lot of imperfectly-formed thoughts on this subject and am reserving those until I feel I have developed a more articulate thesis. 

That said, when I heard that Dan Barber, the chef of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, was going to host a "popup " series focused on this issue I was really intrigued. Then, when I realized that an already scheduled trip to NYC would coincide with the series, I was in. 

The conceit of wastED is to challenge chefs and purveyors to find uses for food that is normally diverted from the "food stream." (My words, not his.) The extensive a la carte menu offered 21 dishes, all comprised of ingredients that would have either ended in landfill/compost, dog and cat food, or run down the drain. All dishes were priced at $15, which removed one decision-making variable.


I was dining solo, so I made an effort to try a variety of dishes while ordering too much. The irony of wasting food at a food waste-awareness dinner as a result over-ordering was not lost on me. So, here follows a summary of my experience. I took photos for my own reference, but they are really not suitable for sharing (so dark in there!). 

I'd never dined at Blue Hill, but just walking in the door, I could tell that the restaurant had been transformed visually from its usual fine-dining look. My experience as a gardener told me that the walls and banquettes had been draped with Reemay, a row cover that I float over my garden to protect it from frost. It created an ethereal, cocoon-like effect. Knowing the intention of the event, I have no doubt that it will be reused back on a farmer's field later this spring.

The tables were set with resprouted vegetables--celery and bok choy plants had been regrown from their root ends (Cut a head of celery or choy about 3/4" from the bottom. Rest that root nub in water and a new plant will regrow. Pretty neat, yes? And very pretty.). Tables were laid with brown paper and set with a candle. The tabletops were made of mushroom growth medium (mycelium, think mushroomy styrofoam) and a fiberboard top made of some post-consumer product (I didn't get the actual product name, but will). 

Onto the food and drink. I'm providing the menu descriptions as written by wastED.

I started with "The Boiler Maker: MacKenzie bourbon infused with walnut press cake (byproduct of nut oil production) infused bourbon, flat beer syrup, spent coffee grounds bitters." It was a nice take on a Manhattan, served up in a rocks glass so the aromas really concentrated. After my cocktail was gone, I moved to rosé (Matthiasson, Napa, 2014) for the rest of the meal.

Bread was presented at table: two hearty slices of spent grains bread (made from the grain left after beer brewing). The bread was served with two small dishes: one containing whipped lardo and cracklings, the other held salt, pepper and rosemary. The server picked up my candle and poured the melted wax over the salt and pepper. He turned the candle and I could see it was labeled "beef." It was tallow, and it my candle had become part of the bread course. This was probably the most "tricksy" thing I saw all night, and it delighted both me and the server, who told me he just loved that reveal moment. And it was delicious. The tallow got a little toasty from the candle flame. I'm a huge lardo partisan, but that beef fat won (and stopped) my heart.

"Stew of kale ribs: pockmarked potatoes and parsnips, shaved immature egg yolk." This was a creamy stew (it reminded me a lot of a soubise, the classic French onion-rice sauce). Beautifully cut batonets of potato and parsnip and thin kale stems. I'll confess that I wanted more kale, but it was nice to see something that I think of as a very fibrous ingredient become so tender. The immature egg yolk was a fun touch. When a laying hen is slaughtered, she will frequently have eggs "in process" internally. These yolks look just as you'd expect. They were cooked (I'm guessing cured, actually, though I forgot to ask.) and then the servers microplaned a small shower of the yolk over the stew.

"Monkfish wings: brine from the olive bin, trial fish pepper hot sauce." According to the extensive glossary provided on the menu, monkfish wings are the bones attached to monkfish fins (I had originally thought that what I was served was actually collar, but the menu tells me otherwise). Monkfish is a species that even a nose-to-tail chef like me almost never sees head-on. There is little market value in the head, so most fisherman toss the head and fins overboard to save space in the hold. The wings were deep fried and served with a little squeeze bottle of hot sauce. I worked with fish peppers a few years ago for a special event, and my fingers tingled with phantom pain (way back when, I didn't wear gloves and the capsaicin kept my fingertips humming for days after the event). There was a surprising amount of meat on the wings, and like the tail meat we are more familiar with, it was succulent, almost a bit springy. 

"WastED special: April Bloomfield remains of fins and field: local mackerel and fluke trim, red wattle trotter and head, lacto-fermented pulp, pickled vegetable scraps." This dish was served in a shallow bowl, and a fish broth was poured around the contents at table. Elements included a pair of fish balls (no, not that kind of fish balls!) made from fluke and mackerel. They were a little bouncy, not in an unpleasant way, and they were a nice contrast to the crunchy fried mackerel tail that garnished the plate, the broth was very delicate and let the flavor of the garnishes, the fermented pulp and shreds of pork, show through.  

"Rotation risotto: second-class grains and seeds, squash seed pulp, pickled peanuts, spent cheese rinds." I was so excited to see this dish on the menu. Chef Barber spoke at Edible Institute last year, and he described this dish as the starting point for his musings on "use it all." The "second-class" grains and seeds referred to are the grains that his farmers grow on their field as part of crop rotations. In order to build up soil fertility and variety of grains and legumes are grown and then tilled in. His farmers are now harvesting some of that food before he plants are returned to the soil, and these grains make up the base of the dish. To me, this is one of the most exciting dishes on this menu. It represents a way in which farmland can be used to produce food year-round, and provide positive inputs to the soil without the addition of supplemental fertilizers. 

"Dog food: unfit potatoes and gravy." As the menu tells us, this dish was inspired by the dog food produced by Dickson's Farmstead Meats. They use their unsellable offal cuts to produce a sellable product, dog food. Barber fleshed out (pun unintended) this rich meatloaf-like dish with the meat from a seven year-old dairy cow (when dairy cows are "retired" from service, they frequently are sold for dog food, as they are not seen as fit for human consumption). The dish was garnished with a little snowdrift of potato rissole (appropriate because it was snowing all through dinner). This plate was delicious, but very very rich.

To cap off my meal, I concluded with "Double whey bread pudding: whey caramel, roasted reject apples, cacao pod husk whey sorbet." I opted for a option in which pork blood was substituted for the cream in the pudding custard. That option gave me a reverse supplement: I got 95 cents off for going "bloody." I really enjoyed this dessert. The sorbet had a very robust chocolate note from the husks (which gardeners would also recognize as the cocoa hull mulch you can by buy at garden centers). The pig blood gave dessert a rich, very savory note. I could imagine it being off-putting to some, but the apples brought enough acidity to counteract the "porkiness."

If you live locally, I strongly urge you to make the time to visit this event before it ends in a week. Some of the dishes do seem overly designed so as to use as much "waste" as possible, but the results were consistently excellent. The dinner series is reservation only before 9, with walk in tables available later in the evening. 

This conversation should and will continue. I am very excited to see how we can bridge the gulf that lies between educating those of us who can afford a dinner like this one, and those who are actually going hungry. If wastED keeps us talking, and keeps us thinking creatively about diverting food from the waste stream, all the better.

Peak Experiences in the Hilltowns

By Sienna Wildfield as told to Jenny Miller Sechler | Illustrations by Alli Howe



When western Massachusetts residents refer to “the Hilltowns,” they don’t always agree on the details. The term commonly refers to a cluster of rural communities bridging the Connecticut River Valley with the Berkshire Mountains, but the towns deserving the official “Hilltown” stamp differ depending on the source.

Towns that usually make the list include the communities of Ashfield, Chester, Chesterfield, Conway, Cummington, Goshen, Huntington, Middlefield, Williamsburg, Windsor, and Worthington, but there at least another dozen that could be included in the roster.

While the Hilltowns boundaries can be argued, everyone can agree that the Hilltowns are a wonderful place to visit. Opportunities for outdoor activities are abundant. The Hilltowns host many beloved family events, such as the Cummington Fair and the Maple Fest in Chester. And the Hilltowns are also home to a variety of family-friendly destinations, with menus to tempt the palates of children and adults alike.



As the founder and director of Hilltown Families and a former chef and baker, West Chesterfield resident Sienna Wildfield is the ideal person to turn to for Hilltown recommendations. When it comes to food, Sienna prefers organic, locally grown produce and maintains a gluten-free diet.

Sugar Season 

The Hilltowns are a great place to be during sugaring season. The sight of the area’s numerous sugar shacks issuing clouds of steam into the cold sky is a sure sign of the coming spring thaw, as well as a way to identify delicious breakfast options.

Red Bucket Sugar Shack

584 Kinnebrook Rd., Worthington ◆ 413-238-7710 ◆ Find them on Facebook here

The Red Bucket serves a variety of both traditional and creative versions of pancakes and French toast. Last season’s pancake flavors included cranberry orange and pumpkin, and the restaurant’s almond French toast is a signature dish. If the kids haven’t had enough sugar with their breakfast, they can take home a bag of maple sugar cotton candy. And customers shouldn’t be deterred by the wait for a table, as it gives everyone a chance to observe the sap boiling down.



 South Face Farm

755 Watson Spruce Corner Rd., Ashfield ◆ 413-628-3268southfacefarm.com

South Face is another Hilltown institution, serving waffles, pancakes, and French toast made with homemade bread topped with maple syrup boiled down that very morning, alongside other breakfast fare and the restaurant’s signature corn fritters. South Face prides itself on supporting other local farms by using local eggs, milk, and blueberries. The restaurant also features maple milk shakes made with Bart’s ice cream. In addition to the restaurant, the sugar house is always open for visitors during the sugaring season.

Annual Maple Fest More

Chester◆ More information here.

An annual event held in March, featuring local artisans and a pancake breakfast. This year’s event takes place on March 21. The festivities start at 9am and the fun continues until 3pm.



Year-Round Destinations

Elmer’s Store

396 Main St., Ashfield◆ 413-628-4003elmersstore.com

Described on their website as a “big time breakfast and Friday night dinner joint, Old Timey Natural Foods Grocery, and Art Gallery,” Elmer’s boasts delicious pancakes (including gluten-free), hot drinks (notably chai) and kid-approved ice cream sodas. Elmer’s popular breakfast menu is consistent, while their equally popular dinner menu offers new items every week.

Country Pie

343 Main St., Ashfield413-628-4488Find them on Facebook here

According to Sienna, her family will face a blizzard to pick up a pizza from this Ashfield establishment. Customers can choose from a wide array of fresh toppings or try one of the restaurant’s famous specialty pizzas, as well as widely praised sandwiches and wraps. The only catch for Sienna? The Country Pie currently doesn’t offer gluten-free products.



Bread Euphoria

206 Main St., Haydenville413-268-7757 breadeuphoria.org

Known for their amazing pizza (including “the best gluten-free pizza,” according to Sienna), pastries, and artisan breads, Bread Euphoria is a family friendly place to have a great dinner, sometimes accompanied by live music, or al fresco when the weather cooperates. Bread Euphoria uses organic and locally grown ingredients whenever possible, and describes itself as “proud to belong to a community of small farms and locally grown food producers.”

Old Creamery Co-op

445 Berkshire Trail, Cummington413-634-5560◆ oldcreamery.coop

The Old Creamery is a community hub for the Hilltowns, and with its expansive deli selection and yummy soups, it offers something for everyone, even the pickiest among us. The Old Creamery prides itself on using locally grown ingredients, as well as supporting local artists—the store’s inventory includes ceramics and paintings by Hilltown artists. Sienna’s family loves their hot chocolate, making it a popular place to stop after outdoor winter activities.



Additional spots to visit

The DAR State Forest

78 Cape St., Route 112, Goshen ◆ More information here

The DAR State Forest, initially donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution, features 15 miles of hiking trails, a lake for swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter, and a fire tower with views of the area. The DAR campground is also a popular camping destination for family weekends. For a perfect winter family activity, Sienna recommends a hearty breakfast at one of the sugar shacks, an ice skating trip at the DAR with a stop at the warming hut, finished by a trip to the Old Creamery for hot chocolate.

Chapel Brook

Williamsburg Road, Ashfield ◆ More information here

Chapel Brook is a popular place to cool off in the summer months. This little patch of woods run by the Trustees of the Reservations is particularly known for a series of waterfalls, cascades and pools that provide a natural water slide. For a longer day, you can hike or snowshoe from Chapel to the DAR along a series of trails created by the Ashfield Trail Committee and then head to the Country Pie or Bread Euphoria for a pizza!



Chesterfield Gorge

River Road, Chesterfield ◆ More information here

The Chesterfield Gorge is a dramatic 70-foot-high canyon carved over centuries by the Westfield River. After making its way through the Gorge, the river opens up into a beautiful spot for bathing and fly fishing. The Gorge is a popular place for (un-groomed) cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.




Route 9, Windsor ◆ More information here

Notchview provides more than 17 kilometers of groomed trails for cross-country skiing, as well as back-country trails for more intrepid skiers and snowshoeing. Skis can be rented on site. Sienna also recommends Notchview as a great place for stargazing.

Sienna Wildfield is the founder and executive director of Hilltown Families, an award-winning online grassroots communication network serving thousands of families living throughout western Massachusetts. Sienna is a board member of the Hilltown Community Development Corporation, executive producer of the Hilltown Family Variety Show (103.3 FM Northampton, MA), a life-long activist, a mother, and an active community member living in West Chesterfield. See Sienna’s TEDx Talk, “Supporting Education Through Community Engagement” here.

Jenny Miller Sechler is a writer focusing on local, sustainable agriculture and the arts. She lives in western Massachusetts. Find her at Jenny-MillerSechler.squarespace.com.

Alli Howe is a flower farmer from New Hampshire. She studied art at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. Find her at allihowe0889@gmail.com or see more work @aehowe08 on Instagram.

The Making of Upinnzellar Cheese

By Nikki Gardner


Last December, I called the good folks at Upinngil Farm to ask if I could sit in on one of their artisan cheesemaking workshops. Cliff Hatch, who runs the 100-acre farm alongside his small crew, said “yes.”

On a sundrenched Saturday morning, I walk into the white-walled dairy room dressed in a chef’s jacket and hairnet, ready to learn the secret behind their notable Upinnzellar (Swiss-style) cheese. Within minutes I discover that cheesemaking is both an act of passion and gentle technique. As it goes in most kitchens and science labs, temperature and method matter.

Cliff pours raw milk into the 60-gallon cheese kettle to warm before adding the culture. The Farm’s Ayrshire cattle produce high-protein medium-fat raw milk fit for cheese production. Two hours later, the rennet is stirred in. Once the curd sets, it is cut into uniform cubes then stirred and cooked for another hour and a half. The curd is done when it can be formed into a ball. Curds and whey are separated with cheesecloth. Drained curds go into a cheese mold before they are covered and pressed overnight.

The next morning, the cheese is removed from the mold. Cliff coats the cheese with dry salt and lets it sit before the cheese is wrapped and placed in a two-door “cheese cave” to age for three to six months. After a day spent at Upinngil, I understand the craft behind their cheeses, and feel lucky for both the knowledge and company.

Upinngil Farm, 411 Main Rd., Gill
Farm Store, open daily, 8am to 7pm


Clifford Hatch can be reached at 413-863-2297
Check Upinngil.com for detailed information about upcoming cheesemaking workshops. Currently scheduled:
Soft and fresh cheeses for beginners on April 11
Hard, pressed and aged cheeses on April 25


Nikki Gardner is a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Artful Blogging, The Huffington Post, Smithsonian’s Food & Think, and The Daily Meal. She shares seasonal vegan and vegetarian recipes on WWLP’s Mass Appeal and in her cooking classes at Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Northampton. Find her online at Art & Lemons, where she chronicles everyday life in food, photos, and stories.


Culinary Tools: A Photographic Series

Nikki Gardner, the eye behind our Behind The Kitchen Door features has an upcoming photography show, Culinary Tools, at Provisions in Northampton, MA. The series includes ten black and white archival prints of vintage kitchen objects. The show runs from March 8 through May 2. If you’re in the area, stop by on Friday, March 13 from 5 to 7 pm for the opening reception (wine + art + good fun). The prints are also for sale online in her Crated shop. Please check them out here if you are interested!


First Annual Ubeer Fest at Eastworks 

By Gwendolyn Connors

The first annual Ubeer Fest took place this past Saturday at Eastworks in Easthampton. A crowd of hundreds turned out to taste 45+ beers from 27 breweries. The theme of the event skewed local, but it also featured beers from France, Belgium, Germany, and New Zealand. 

Organizer Mark Lattanzi worked with local beer distributors Shelton Brothers and Commercial to devise a beer list that celebrates Western Mass's flourishing beer culture, noting the Valley's exciting convergence of great farms, breweries, and bars. True to trend, hoppy beers, super hoppy beers, and super triple hoppy beers were in full force at this event. Almost everyone was on the IPA train, and if intensity was what you were after, boy were you in luck. Thankfully, Mark was keen to include a truly diverse array of beers in other styles as well. 

With about seven Oktoberfest varieties available to taste it was tempting to try and compare them all. It is Oktober after all; the leaves are bright red, sweaters are on, you hear pumpkins carving in the distance. But Oktober fatigue soon got the better of my co-attendees and me. We tried the Spaten Oktoberfest (Germany), the Broad Brook Oktoberfest (Connecticut), the Warsteiner Oktoberfest (Germany). They were malty, golden, and flat. 

 “Tell me about your Oktoberfest,” I asked one brewer. 

 “All German ingredients. It's well balanced.” 

 “What makes your Oktoberfest the best Oktoberfest?”

 "We like it.” He said, shrugging. 

Fair enough. It was then that my crew and I realized the best way to elevate an Oktoberfest is to add sausage.


Although several food trucks were promised, only two vendors were in attendance. This easily could have spelled disaster, but Captain Jack's Roadside Shack was serving up an Ubeer menu of pierogies, sausages piled high with kraut, hotdogs and BBQ meatballs. We tried all but the meatballs, and everything complemented the day perfectly. 

It was my intent to try all of the beers, but this was over-ambitious, and after my Oktoberfest interest fizzled I knew I need to prioritize. Between myself and my two friends, we tried around 30, attempting to hit the breweries that were far afield (the Europeans), the new locals (sorry, High Horse), and the unique brews (Hello German sour!). Here are the highlights:

The standout in the India Pale Ale category for us was Brewmaster Jack's Galaxy IPA, brewed with Galaxy hops from Australia. This IPA, as with the other Brewmaster Jack Beers, had nice depth. What separates Brewmaster Jack is his treatment the hops- more like a winemaker, his Hop Essence Series is looking to teach you something about the hops, not just pile them on. It made a statement without overwhelming your palate.

Ciderie L'Hermitere brought two ciders, their Perry and Brut. L'Hermitere describes their Brut as “complex, with the delicate aroma of ripe apples, leather, and freshly mown hay.” I tasted basement, and a friend compared it to drinking cider and eating smoked cheddar at the same time. It was musty, funky, but didn't let you forget it was made of apples. They also offered up a super bubbly Perry, made with unpasteurized pear juice. It was fresh, dry, and fun to drink. 

Boulevard (Missouri) brought a nice citrus-y Saison that was a great respite. Yes, Saisons are typically a summer beer, but I'd wager Boulevard's Tank 7 paired with some good pizza can comfort in any season. Someone behind me asked, “Is it against the rules to get a full pour of this?” It was against the rules, so he just came back for seconds. 

The Ritterguts Gose (Germany) was one of two sour beers at the festival. Sours don't fit neatly into the taxonomy of beer. The Gose is low on hops, spiced with coriander, a little salty, and super tart. This is beer that expands what beers can be (it only flies as beer in Germany under the exception that it is a “regional specialty”), but it would be unfair to label it a novelty. Sours have been having a mini-revival, and if people get burnt out on hops (which organizer Mark says he is), Gose-style brews could bring the relief. 

Best New Up-And-Comer went to Stoneman Brewery, a family-owned brewery in Colrain, MA. Stoneman brought three beers, the Very Wizeman Ale, which read light and spicy, Monk, malty abbey style brew, and the King Korby Imperial Stout, which offered intense coffee without the bitterness. Stoneman brewery boasts single-barrel beers made with almost 100% local ingredients, including using only fresh mountain spring water. They offer the state's first Beer CSA, which makes more sense when you learn they actually grow the ingredients for their beers on their 74 acre farm. 

Ubeer Fest 2014 hit the ground running. The organizers curated a savvy mix of what's big right now while providing a glimpse of what might be next. It only begs the question: Is it 2015 yet?

Gwen Connors is a freelance writer and baker based in Northampton, MA.

Garlic and Arts Festival's Stinky 16th

By Marykate Smith Despres

Last weekend, as the sun shone unseasonably warm and the turning leaves gleamed red and yellow, my family and I headed down Route 2 to Orange for the 16th Annual North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival. We've been to several farm festivals already this year, but we were all in agreement that this one was our favorite.


Though over 100 farms, artisans, restaurants, and community organizations are represented, the festival maintains a cozy atmosphere. Browsing vendors' booths, we discovered fine art, wood and fiber crafts, and fresh produce. Music and dance performances took place on two different stages, ogres and trolls roamed the grounds, dozens of hula hoops were strewn welcomingly in the grass, and tucked between the Australian sheep dog herding demonstration and a young 4H-er's yoked pair of silvery cows, sat the spoken word stage.


The compost and recycling bins located throughout the event are impossible not to notice. That's because the Garlic and Arts Festival is practically trash free. The final numbers for this year aren't in yet, but past years' tallies counted only three bags of trash produced from over 10,000 visitors to the festival in one weekend. This commitment to conscious consumption is seen throughout the event in the solar powered stages built from locally harvested wood and the multiple workshops and tents devoted to environmental and renewable energy education. The entire weekend is designed around making it easy for folks to make green choices. Free shuttle service, preferred parking for carpoolers, free drinking water to reduce plastic bottle use, and local vendors representing local choices for food, arts, and services.

Among these local vendors, I met John Armstrong, manager of New Salem Preserves, who taught me about the qualities of crab apples (namely, high pectin) that make them perfect for jam. While John told me about the small farm's apple products and encouraged me to visit their farm stand, my family devoured New Salem Preserves' apple cider donuts - fresh, sweet, and still steaming.


As is my habit, I spent a little extra time in the fiber tents, and so met Hilary Woodcock of Woodcock Farm in Belchertown. As she sat spinning yarn at a large wheel in the sun, she walked me through the contents of her tent: everything is knit, spun, or simply gleaned from her fiber flock of sheep, llamas, and alpacas. Much of her yarn is hand painted (or, as she describes it, “squirted!”), often with dyes from natural sources like nettles and blackberries.


There was so much good food to choose from that we had to pass through the edibles tents a few times before finally deciding. My family has a firmly held belief that you can't go wrong with tacos, so we went with bean and pork tacos from Sunderland's Kitchen Garden farm with a side of grilled corn smothered in cheese and chili. I could eat that corn for days.


Although the pungent bulb packaged in its own humble paper is part of the festival's namesake and focus, garlic did not overpower the day's events. It made an appearance in many of the dishes, crafts, and games represented, but just as any good ingredient used well is complimented by the entire composition of a dish, it was balanced by the variety of other offerings. We left happy, full, and eager for year 17.


Stories from the Midwest: A Weekend at the LongHouse Food Revival

longhouse By Samantha Marsh

My favorite part about recipes is thinking about how a particular recipe came to be.  Was it passed down from a family member, created spur-of-the-moment, adapted from a beloved cookbook or chef, or was it a recipe that was simply engrained in one’s memory—no traceable origin to speak of.  Food tells many stories.  At the LongHouse Food Revival, a weekend-long event hosted by Molly O’Neill of CookNScribble, the stories were just as plentiful as the food. 

patioSet in a big old red barn in upstate New York, LongHouse was a retreat for food lovers. The entire weekend was devoted to celebrating the often-overlooked cuisine from the Midwestern part of the United States.  It turns out that the so-called “flyover states” have much more to offer in the culinary department than we realize.

On Saturday morning, hundreds of food writers, chefs, and food lovers of all kind gathered in the LongHouse barn to hear stories about the Midwest and the food that so many know and love. We heard an ode to Jell-O, the gelatinous treat that originated in Iowa and found its way into neon-green “salads” and different shaped molds across the country.  We learned about how farmers managed such a large amount of land, and we were challenged to rethink the word “local” and how it pertains to those living in states that are three, four, even ten times the size of Massachusetts. Culinary historian Michael Twitty talked about his migration from Alabama to Ohio, while author Bruce Kraig spoke of the melting pot, the “ethnic stew” that is the Midwest.

nef,carlos,alexChefs Carlos Gaytan, Ed Lee, Alex Young of Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Neftali Duran and Alicia Walter cooked up a feast of fire roasted vegetables, slow cooked beef, Midwest-inspired grits, coleslaw, and creamy mac and cheese. The star of the show was the 200 lb. pig roast, cooked for over 12 hours!


For dessert, we took turns spinning the big pie wheel that decided our fate of which type of pie we would try.  But by the end, we weren’t going to let luck get in the way of our favorite slice—so we chose whatever kind we wanted.  For me: one slice of blueberry, one slice of cherry, and a generous scoop of Jenni Britton Bauer’s lemon blueberry ice cream. 

Thank you LongHouse for such a delicious weekend. I’m a Massachusetts girl through and through, but for just a few days, the Midwest stole my heart.
centerpiece pigroasting


Behind the Scenes at Outstanding in the Field

It’s 5:30 on a Sunday morning. My alarm goes off and I jump out of bed and into the clothes I laid out the night before. I quickly self-administer two cups of coffee, brush my teeth and hit the road.

I’m heading out to Stockbridge, MA to be part of a team working under Brian Alberg, the Executive Chef of the Red Lion Inn at an Outstanding in the Field dinner. For those not familiar with Outstanding events, they are renowned for their food and drink, but also their setting. The venue for today’s event is Lila’s Farm in Great Barrington.

After a dark drive on the Pike, I find my way to Alberg’s kitchen by 7:45 (For those of you exploring a career in the culinary arts, there’s a saying in kitchens: “If you’re on time, you’re late.” Always show up 15 minutes before your start time.). Alberg fortifies me with more coffee and I'm ready for the day.

Breakfast service at the hotel is already in full swing, and as the rest of our team assembles, we need to stay out of the way of the cooks and porters who are already deep into their workday. Our able crew consists of several members of Alberg’s team as well as teams from The Williams Inn and Allium Restaurant.

By 9:00, the The Red Lion Inn van is loaded and ready to head to the site. Alberg’s team has been preparing for this dinner for weeks and our van is full of ingredients: raw, pickled, smoked, fermented, brewed, and distilled.  

The back of the van is stacked like a expert-level Jenga puzzle, so our drive from Stockbridge to Great Barrington is slow and steady. To our relief, our caravan arrives at Lila’s Farm with everything upright and intact.



So now, the fun begins: guests are expected to arrive by 3:00 and before that, tents need to go up, a kitchen needs to be constructed, final prep work has to be completed and a table for nearly 200 guests needs to get laid out. Fortunately, our group is only responsible for the food at this event and the Outstanding team takes care of the tents and table. (Since rain is in the forecast, the organizers have decided to take out the insurance policy of erecting a tent for 200. This turned out to be an excellent call as during dinner we get hit by several very heavy downpours.)

Alberg gives us all our stations and assignments for the rest of the day and I am excited and terrified to discover that he has appointed me as the lead on hors d’oeuvres for the cocktail reception. I gather my crew and our ingredients and head down the hill to the barn to build our makeshift kitchen and prepare for the reception. If this was a movie, at this point, the day’s activities would have entered the montage stage. Imagine flashing knives, platters flying, faces set in stony concentration, and the occasional playful obscene gesture , all set to a bouncy pop-music beat.

After the cocktail hour ends (and a hour has never gone by so fast), we run up the hill to help out with the rest of the meal.


As is customary at these events, each course is presented family style, which makes for slightly faster plating, but each plate has a lot of components. No matter how organized things feel when each course’s plating begins, we all end up in a table-top version of Twister: our arms intertwined as we try to get that garnish right, or wipe the spots off a plate. As each course is presented to the tables, we wipe down the plating station and get ready to do it again for the next course.

And so it goes until the meal concludes with the kitchen team walking around the table to resounding applause from the diners. During the day I had the chance to speak with a number of the dinner guests. Diners ranged from Outstanding devotees who follow the events around the country and try to attend as many as they can, to locals who are fans of Alberg and the farm, to folks celebrating a special occasion (One gentlemen proposed to his girlfriend at this dinner and yes, she said “yes”!).

We load the van back up and drive back to Stockbridge and the Red Lion. Since Alberg has a full crew and someone is always in the kitchen, I am incredibly grateful to hand off the unpacking of the van to the night crew. It’s been a long day, but a great experience.

A Glimpse of The Big E

by Marykate Smith Despres

The best way to go to The Big E is to go with a plan. If I leave the fair having seen at least two livestock shows and two statehouses, I feel successful. Anything more than four main attractions means you're spending the whole day, which, for me, is too overwhelming and inevitably too expensive. 

Since the Statehouses are on the far end of the fairgrounds, it's easy to start with agriculture. The first and most important stop for me is the Mallory Complex, home to sheep, cows, and a handful of goats. 

Having grown up in far from rural circumstances, I am always amazed when I see a twelve year old deftly primping a cow for competition or nonchalantly leading a ewe into the show ring. One adolescent I met walked me through the different breeds of sheep that she, her friends, and their families raised and then pointed out other breeds around the maze of makeshift indoor ovine pens while explaining which where best for meat, dairy, or fiber. 

Right beside the main sheep showing arena is the Fiber Nook, a wooly little tunnel of love for knitters, spinners, and all folks who love fiber and the animals that grow it. Along its walls are displays of ribbon-winning fleeces, yarns, and hand knit and crocheted creations. There are needle felting kits, sheepskin hats and slippers, spinning demonstrations, and a few things I can only guess were made with the actual farmer rather than the casual spectator in mind, like mock ear-tag earrings. I stuck to the yarn and after squishing, petting, and practically snuggling nearly every skein, I picked out a hank of an undyed, 50/50 alpaca and wool blend from Portland, Connecticut's Twist of Fate Spinnery. 

Though there is plenty to eat at the food trucks and stalls leading to and from the midway, my advice is to save yourself for the Statehouses where you'll find everything from artisanal ice cream to Maine smoked salmon, maple cream soda to fresh baked bread. The Statehouse vendors seem to know that it's not just their name on the line - the hometown reputation is at stake as well. 

There is so much more to The Big E than could possibly be covered in a blog post, so make sure to visit there website here for more information on the full range of events, entertainment, and other offerings. It all ends next Sunday, September 28.

Hot, Hot, Heat at Chilifest!

by Nikki GardnerChilifest 1

On Sunday, we pulled into the driveway at Mike’s Maze for the third annual Chilifest! The sun shone brilliantly against the backdrop of corn, tents, and bands. Hosted by Caroline Pam and Tim Wilcox of The Kitchen Garden, Chilifest! celebrates the noble chili in all varieties, including homegrown exotic peppers, sriracha, salsas, and bowls of spicy stew throughout the two-day festival.

Chilifest 4

Chilifest 5Lonesome Brothers, a jangly bluesy front porch kind of band, was on stage when we arrived. David and the boys signed up for a trek through the maze while I wandered over to the chili tent where I tasted fermented chili sauces (regular and habanero) and a trio of salsas (roasted chili salsa, tomatillo salsa, and peach-habanero salsa) all from The Kitchen Garden. Each one was bold, complex, and worthy of a spot in the kitchen pantry.

I stopped by the tasting table where voting had started for the hot sauce competition. Ranging in color from soft orange to bright red, I was told they were all hot in varying degrees. I tried the mildest varieties then went on to sample roasted chiles from Marc Greene of Montague Chile Roasters.

When the boys finished the maze, the Dire Honeys were playing. David and I split a dark Beastie Rye from The High Horse (Amherst) and jalapeño limeade (my new obsession!) plus a taco plate from The Kitchen Garden. Everything was spot on. We can’t wait for next year.Chilifest 6

If you happened to be at Chilifest! and missed out on the chili, hot sauce, or chiles in a jar competitions, here are the results:

Chilifest 2Chiles in a jar (Guess the number of chiles in the jar) Winner: Jack McDevitt guessed 108 (actual chiles 107)

Chili Cook-Off (11 entries)

People’s Choice - Best Chili: Jeremy Barker-Plotkin, Simple Gifts Farm

Judge’s Choice (Monte Belmonte, O’Brian Tomalin, Lou Ekus, T. Susan Chang)

Best Vegetarian Chili (3 entries)
First Place: Joyce Foster-Fortune, Easy Vegan Chili

Best Meat Chili (8 entries)
First Place: Simple Gifts
Second Place: The Alvah Stone

Chilifest 3Hot Sauce (12 entries)

People’s Choice First Place: Bub’s Wicked Hog Sauce

Judge’s Choice First Place: Eternal Flame 

Best Looking Hot Sauce (Label): Nancy’s Homemade Hot Sauce, Nancy Rapisarda