Diary of a Locally Sourced Dinner, or The Pleasure of Your Company
by Deborah Taylor
March 2009, Littleton, MA
As my 60th birthday approached, I had a vague concept to treat my friends and family with a celebration. Circling in the idea-mist was a dinner I had never tried—a locally sourced meal. As the idea began to take shape, I wanted to work with chefs at the Nuestra Culinary Ventures kitchen, where I first started my own food business. To make it
simple, we would cook and serve our meal at the Kitchen. In the end, the celebration became a true way to honor the abundance of friends and family as well as the food and community that I love so much. To execute my idea, it also became a fantastic treasure hunt adventure for me in my local backyard.
With my guest list complete, I contacted Executive Chef Darnell Adams of Eat in Style. Two days later, Chef Darnell presented to me her exciting menu including my only request: lamb. She recommended Pastry Chef Carlene O’Garo of Delectable Desires for an ultra-fabulous dessert.
We agreed that I would source the ingredients. As I mapped a route close to home, the treasure hunt for local ingredients began. I planned to visit local farms and stores to fulfill the menu and get backup ingredients only if needed. Blood Farm inWest Groton was my first stop and Mathew Blood was my thoughtful guide. I told him the number
of guests expected and he wrote the order that delivered the most tender, succulent lamb, ever! The next stop was Debra’s Natural Gourmet in West Concord, where I had a tour with storeowner Debra Stark. She pointed out all the local artisan vendors and I was happy to learn many of my colleagues were award winners.
The real March madness challenge was in the vegetable realm. Root vegetables reign with a long seasonal monopoly finishing in winter and our party was in the first minutes of spring. With dilemma in hand, Stark, Barbara Hoefer at Verrill Farm, and Jamey Lionette of Lionette’s Market in Boston were all very helpful and resourceful.
Stark introduced me to Ray Mong of Applefield Farm in Stow, who found the wonderful deep-root carrots needed for the soup. Lionette was so right in recommending the beets and onions from Pete’s Greens. But there was true pride in the “just picked” sweet parsnips—not originally on our menu—from Verrill Farm. I could not pass them up so
Chef Darnell made a smooth adjustment and added them to her carrot soup recipe.
The quest continued with beverages. I contactedWestport RiverWinery’s Craig Caesar and emailed him our menu. He responded quickly with an amazing pairing to match the dinner and dessert menu. All his recommendations got rave reviews from the guests. Sparking cider came from Carlson Orchards in Harvard. With Frank Carlson’s advice,
we matched the correct apple and grade for Chef Carlene’s wonderful apple pie dessert
“Leave the money in the coffee can,” I was told at many farms. Luckily, I got to meet Bonnie Pelenur, owner of Spencer Brook Farm in Carlisle, when I picked up the ordered salad greens. The salad mixture had a delightful, tasty balance.
Later that morning, I picked up freshly baked bread at the crowded Clear Flour Bread in Brookline. My last stop was the new City Feed and Supply on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, where I picked up local honey, dairy and fair-trade coffee. I was most impressed with City Feed’s posting of their carbon footprint savings to date for all to see.
When all the guests were gathered, we opened the first wine and cider as we toured the shared-use NCV kitchen. After the tour, Chef Darnell presented two skillful cooking demonstrations while we sampled the tasty puff pastry hors d’oeuvres topped with fresh mozzarella from Fiore de Nonno (made in Sommerville).We then entered a large storage
room where the formal table setting was balanced by our casual attire and easy family-style serving. Chef Darnell and Chef Carlene’s menu was fabulous in every detail of cooking and presentation. Most of all, I enjoyed treating my food-loving guests to the whole experience from local harvest to table.
My hope in sharing this adventure is that you will host your own locally sourced meals from the seasonal wealth and variety of foods we share. The knowledgeable storeowners, the informative farmers and food producers are honored to be your dedicated guides. Your reward will be to create your own tasting treasure that delights and honors your full circle of family and friends, food and community too.
Deborah Taylor is the owner of Deborah's Kitchen, Inc., makers of Deborah's Spreadable Fruit and Relish. You may find her low sugar products at fine specialty food and grocery stores, as well as many area
farmers markets. You may reach her at email@example.com.