Sunday, July 26, 2009

Brunch at Sheldon Farms


Today’s weather forecast wasn’t very promising for an outdoor brunch – overcast and sticky-humid, maybe even a thunderstorm – but our weather worries dissipated as soon as we arrived at Sheldon Farm in Salem, NY. That relief was partly due to a refreshing cool breeze, but mostly it came from our delight at the fantastic spread of food, prepared by Chef Chris Tanner. We were at an annual Brunch on the Farm, hosted by Slow Food Saratoga, an organization of food lovers, farmers and chefs who are interested in promoting good, clean, fair food. In particular, their aim is to connect eaters with the people who produce and prepare their food.

Chef Tanner, a chef, educator, and charcuterie specialist, made several dishes featuring local pork that he aged and cured himself. In the photo above, you can see cantaloupe with lardo and honeydew with a prosciutto-type ham. We were also treated to his home-made pancetta in a dish of perfectly pillowy gnocchi in a creamy sauce with bits of fresh tomato. To celebrate the first weeks of Sheldon Farm’s sweet corn harvest, we had some delicious fresh corn fritters, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with maple syrup on the side. I couldn’t get enough of these little cuties, despite the fact that there were also croissants and bread from Mrs. London’s and a succulent duck-confit potato hash.


Notice that omelet? It had squash blossoms and sausage in it, and needless to say, it was also great! But, man oh man, those potatoes deserve a close up:


The great thing about being with people who love food is that no one has any qualms about eating and enjoying great food with gusto, leaving many of us wishing we had more room in our stomachs.


The president of the local Slow Food chapter, Rocco Verrigni, said some words of thanks to the farmers and chefs, and plugged upcoming events, including a dinner at New World Bistro in August and a Labor Day potluck in support of real food in our public schools : the ‘Time For Lunch’ campaign

If you’re interested in supporting Slow Food through membership or a contribution, registration is available online. In any case, the events are open to all, with only a slightly higher price for nonmembers. You can read more about their philosophy online or request the book ‘Slow Food Nation’ from your favorite library or bookstore.

If you just want to enjoy food by the awesome chef who masterminded this brunch, he’s cooking at the SPAC Patrons Club (not just for patrons any more), Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 5-22.

P7261487Sheldon Farms products, and many more extra-special local and imported foods, are available every day from 10-6 , all summer long at their cute little market, and Saturdays at the Saratoga Farmers Market.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Alice Medrich’s Chocolate-Pomegranate Torte

To save up some money for the holidays, we’d been staying in and cooking at home recently, so I don’t have big restaurant meals to review lately. A couple interesting things have appeared in our kitchen, though, so these next few blog posts will be of the ‘at home’ sort.

This week, I, like many people, stepped onto the bathroom scale and sighed deeply. Holiday weight gain is one of those things that, despite every good intention, always manages to put a damper on the spirit, even as I’m already struggling to get back to work after time off. Fortunately, I have lots of happy and delicious holiday memories to recall as I slog to work next week.


One of them is this Chocolate-Pomegranate Torte pictured above from the cover of December’s Fine Cooking magazine. It’s a recipe by Alice Medrich, the so-called ‘first lady of chocolate,’ and her article is called “The Dark Side of Chocolate.” The glossy cover photo of this cake is so beautiful and tempting, I almost went over to the dark side and paid the cover price to buy a copy of the magazine. In the hopes of saving a tree (and a few bucks) I found the recipe online (for free!), and gave it a try. I would say that this PB220283is not a totally easy recipe, since it involves whipping egg whites and folding them in as well as controlling melted chocolate, but I managed to do it without screwing up too badly, and it was really delicious. 

One strange thing is that the recipe calls for 12 cranberries, which I thought might have been a misprint (does she mean 12 oz.?), but indeed 12 cranberries was just the right amount. I absolutely loved the sweet gel of pomegranate juice, pomegranate, apple and cranberries, underneath a smooth chocolate glaze. Tastes divine, and definitely suitable for other dessert applications.

As for the chocolate cake itself, I thought maybe it was just a little bit dry, but I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate, which isn’t quite up to the 70% cocoa level that Alice recommends, and I didn’t have exactly the right pan size, so that could account for a variation in texture. And, of course, my technique with spreading chocolate is not tippy-top, so my cake was no cover model.  The sprinkling of ruby-like pomegranate seeds made up for the visual defects, but I didn’t really like their crunch alongside tender cake and gooey jam and glaze.

Now I ask myself, how many laps do I have to swim to burn off this indulgence? (and of course I didn’t eat just one piece!) And what about the Pom-tini’s we had with the leftover pomegranate juice? (Thanks, Martha!)