raclette

Boston Public Market

by Anne Maxfield on February 22, 2016

Accidental Locavore Boston Public MarketDespite the plethora of food courts dotted all over Manhattan, the Accidental Locavore has yet to find the perfect one. As my readers know, I’ve yet to find any one I’d like to return to, except in case of emergency (like needing a sandwich for the train). Even an attempt at the newest space – the Pennsy by Penn Station (always a decent food desert) – was a bust! They don’t even open until 11! So much for lunch to go.

Accidental Locavore Chestnut FarmsWhen I heard about Boston’s new Public Market, I was intrigued enough to go check it out, but quite honestly, wasn’t setting my expectations too high. It’s down near the North End, a spot that has always had lively markets (although you always had to keep an eye out for less-than-perfect produce ending up in your bag). Nineteen years in the making, it opened last July with almost exclusively Massachusetts vendors.

Accidental Locavore Raclette to goThe emphasis is on fresh food, meat, cheese, fish and produce. This is a good and a bad thing. Unless you’re a huge butternut squash or potato fan, you quickly realize that there are not a ton of fresh veggies in February. But that’s easily overlooked by some terrific-looking meats and a great selection of cheeses. I took the opportunity to introduce my friend Betty to raclette made with Jasper Hill Farm’s Alpha Tolman cheese, and we shared a tub of perfectly cooked potatoes covered in gooey, local raclette. She’s hooked.

There’s a local pastrami stand, dishing out some very nice pastrami. It’s a little more smoked than you’d find at a NY deli, but the prices will remind you of Katz’s. You’ll find teas, spices and flowers, maple syrup and a surprising amount of regional sodas, ciders and beers.

Accidental Locavore American StonecraftTwo of the non-food purveyors are perhaps the most interesting stops in the market. American Stonecraft has a collection of beautiful stone slabs and bowls. What makes them particularly interesting is that Gerald Croteau, the owner, gathers the stones from farms in the area (it’s New England, so not exactly lacking in rocks), cuts them into slabs and polishes them. Each piece has its origin stamped on the back, so along with helping farmers clear their fields, you can have a stone slab for cheese that will put those Brooklyn slates to shame.

Accidental Locavore Peterman BowlThe other one is Peterman’s Boards and Bowls. This time, Spencer Peterman looks for rotting and fallen trees in the forests. He then turns them into incredible bowls, as well as cutting boards, utensils etc. I fell totally in love with an ebonized oak bowl—well actually I fell in love with a lot of the bowls, especially the ones made from burl, but there’s a limit to how much one wants to schlepp home on the train (which kept the American Stonecraft pieces from being too tempting).

Accidental Locavore My BowlBesides the availability of non-food items, the biggest difference between Boston Public Market and the Manhattan food halls is that in Boston, it’s primarily a food market with some prepared food to take home or find a spot to enjoy it in. The layout is better too, it’s open and airy (even on a cold, grey day) and while the seating is few and far between, it’s not just plopped in the middle of the space. If you happen to be in the Boston area, it’s definitely worth a trip!

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The Stinky Cheese Saga

by Anne Maxfield on September 21, 2015

Accidental Locavore PicoThe Accidental Locavore was lucky enough to get a couple of French chèvres to play with and write about for culture: the word on cheese. It seemed like a pretty reasonable deal: they send cheese, I eat it, create a recipe or two and then get more to give away – no big deal. But for some reason (oh, temperatures in the 90’s?) getting a couple of goat cheeses to Pleasant Valley ended up getting way more complicated than anyone could have anticipated.

The first shipment of crottins showed up on my doorstep a day after they were supposed to be delivered. What appeared to have been a lone ice pack was totally melted and not at all cold. Ditto the cheeses in an uninsulated box. While cheese at room temperature is always ideal, these seemed to have been roasted in their unprotected box.

The second box, also past due, had to be resent as the original supplier ran out. While I was out on the deck having lunch, the UPS guy stopped with what he thought was my delivery. He was banging around the back of the truck for a long time and finally emerged empty-handed. His best bet was that they’d tossed the box in another truck and he’d be back shortly. Not to be.

Accidental Locavore UPSI found a message on my phone from a Lisa at UPS. When I called her back, she told me that they’d kicked my box off the truck because it smelled terrible! However, Lisa being a fellow cheese lover (and really good customer service person – UPS take note!), rescued the box, opened it and realized that it was just some perfectly ripe Picos in a well-cooled box. I got the directions and headed over to the UPS office. There, next to the air conditioner (keeping it cool) was my box. And yes, it did have a wonderful cheesy odor to it.

We opened it and checked the cheeses, four little Pico’s and two still-cool ice packs. “They were going to damage it, which means they would have thrown it away,” Lisa told me, “but I kept telling everyone it just smelled like raclette.” “Did they know what raclette is?” “No!”

So, not only have I found a great customer service person at UPS, but another raclette fiend, actually a whole family of raclette lovers! Turns out they get a bunch of people together and hit Adam’s (the local specialty food store) up for a deal on a wheel of raclette. Something to look forward to this winter! Along with my card (for this future wheel of cheese), I gave Lisa one of the Picos, since it’s not very often you find someone passionate enough about cheese to give it a good home under the air conditioner!

Update: Leave a comment or share the post on Facebook and win a box of 5 French goat cheeses (exact cheeses to come) “so they can test, taste and create their own recipes. They will also receive a package with our tried and true recipes for inspiration, trivia cards on the cheeses so they can learn a little bit of history on French goat cheeses and temporary tattoos to show their Original Chèvre love. ” The winner will be picked on September 30th.

 

 

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Raclette (Yes, Again. Can’t Get Enough)

by Anne Maxfield on January 5, 2015

Accidental Locavore French Cheese PlatterComing on the heels of a recent Wall Street Journal piece about the lack of RSVP’s, the Accidental Locavore was only a little surprised to see so few people at a recent gathering. It was a raclette dinner for journalists at the French Cheese Board. The minute I finished reading the invitation my RSVP was sent!

As it turned out, it was a fun, intimate dinner with a bunch of raclette-crazed people along with a couple of newbies (to raclette) who quickly got into the spirit.

Accidental Locavore AppetizersWe were greeted with glasses of Crémant d’Alsace Prestige Brut, a lovely sparkling wine, and Fromager d’Affinois, a soft, creamy cheese, similar to brie. When we sat down at the table, there was a trio of appetizers. The simplest was a skewer of orange and red grape tomatoes sandwiching a morsel of the garlic and herb Fromager d’Affinois. Next to that was a small serving of butternut squash soup with the truffled version melting into it. The third was a slice of baguette with le Fromage Fouetté, a mild whipped cheese, used as a base for a tuna mousse. All three were delicious and easily duplicated at home (which is what the French Cheese Board is hoping you will do).

Accidental Locavore Making RacletteRaclette is traditionally made by holding half a wheel of cheese over a fire and scraping the melted part onto a plate with potatoes, charcuterie and cornichons. Since that’s not always practical (or legal starting January 1st— no more log fires in a fireplace in Paris!), restaurants will have an electric melter, designed to hold a quarter or half-wheel of cheese. What you usually find here are small trays that fit over a few votive candles, but they lack the drama of the big apparatus. I was happy to see the long table set with raclette machines strategically placed along with the smaller trays.

Accidental Locavore Raclette and CharcuterieAs is traditional, bowls of steamed (Yukon Gold) potatoes and plates of charcuterie were passed around as we waited for the cheese to melt. We let the newbies have the first go and they were quickly hooked! The rest of us didn’t have long to wait as the cheese on the big holders not only melted faster, but was tastier, as it started to bubble and brown. The Riesling (a 2012 Réserve from Willm) we had to go along with it was a great pairing.

Accidental Locavore French CheesecakeDessert (yes, we made it to dessert), was the time for the whipped cheese to shine. It was used in a lovely cheesecake with a surprise layer of apple and “frosted” with yogurt. Delicious and surprisingly light – a nice finish.

To prove that all of the recipes were easily prepared (remember, they want Americans to start cooking with their cheeses), all the food was made in the FCB kitchen by the reps from Interval. Email me for copies of the recipes or you can pick them up at the French Cheese Board. The Fromager d’Affinois is pretty easy to find (Murray’s, Zabar’s, Amazon), the Fromage Fouetté is exclusive to Whole Foods and the Raclette in pre-cut slices is at Trader Joes. Don’t worry that you don’t have the big melter, I’ve done raclette successfully at home with ramekins under the broiler (and plan on doing just that with the slices they sent me home with).

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Discovering Cheese Heaven

by Anne Maxfield on October 27, 2014

Accidental Locavore MagnifiqueThere’s a place in Paris that the Accidental Locavore’s husband used to refer to as shoe heaven and I always said, “if it was really shoe heaven, all the shoes would be free.” Well, the other day, I may have stumbled into cheese heaven.

Accidental Locavore MimoletteThe French Dairy Organization has decided that Americans don’t eat enough French cheese, and to remedy that are backing a nine-year operation to get us into eating plus de fromage. It starts with a slick new store on 39th Street in Manhattan—the French Cheese Board.

Accidental Locavore Blue CheesePart store, part gallery (photos of good-looking French women eating cheese), part tasting area, along with a soon-to-be cooking school and other educational projects or, as they say, the “first international event space dedicated solely to the deliciousness of French cheese.” The website has beautiful photos of cheese, along with pronunciation guides, wine tips and some interesting-looking recipes–all to help you “make it magnifique”.

Accidental Locavore Cheese Tasting TableThis fall, in partnership with the Cheeses of Europe, they’re doing three Friday pop-up events. I went to the first one around lunch time. It sure didn’t look like New Yorkers needed their arms twisted into eating French cheese! The place was jammed and it was easy to see why. At tables lining both walls were the participating producers, each with big platters holding tasting samples of their products. There was even a wine bar, if you needed a little palate cleanser, or just wanted to feel more French. The fromage ran the gamut from butters to triple crèmes to blues, chèvres and everything in-between. I ate most of them. And I bought a lot of them!

Accidental Locavore Bag of FromageMy favorites were pretty typical for me–a terrific triple crème and a Saint Marcellin (also pretty creamy and a little bit stinky–in a good way). The French feta is lovely and makes a great addition to my lunch salads, and the Raclette made a fantastic “potato salad” with a recipe I got from the website. Since I also picked up a couple of butters, it may be time to do another butter tasting (so I can stock up in November).

There will be two more tastings before the end of the year, on November 21st and December 12th. They run from 11-7, but it seems to be a good idea to get there early–less crowded, shorter lines to check out, and more selection. And don’t forget, there’s a Maison Kayser just a block away (that’s where all the great bread they used came from). Look for me there!

 

 

 

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