Below is a transcript of a live online panel discussion on farm stands, farmers' markets, and farm-to-table restaurants in the Boston area and elsewhere in New England, which took place on Tuesday, September 6, 2011. The panel included several panel members, with food writers, media people, and folks in the food and dining industry participating. The hour-long chat included talks with the panel about a variety of farm stands, farmers' markets, and farm-to-table restaurants in the region, with the chat including a bit of viewer participation as well. [Note: The original discussion can be replayed at the following link: http://www.hiddenboston.com/online-discussion-0911.html and please go to the restaurant discussions link to check out our other chats.]
Marc H. (hiddenboston): Good afternoon, everyone! Welcome to yet another food discussion, this one focusing on farm stands, farmers' markets, and farm-to-table restaurants in the Boston area (and beyond).
Carol Yelverton (Vinetown): Hi there!
Marc H. (hiddenboston): Hi, Carol!
City Feed Produce : Hello, good to be here.
Marc H. (hiddenboston): Good afternoon, and welcome to the chat!
Jacqueline: Hello! Loving the bounty at the markets these days. Who else is trying to preserve the goodness?
Marc H. (hiddenboston): Hi, Jackie! Welcome back to another discussion!
Walter: Greetings everyone from Peabody
Marc H.: Hello, Walter! Welcome!
Marc H.: This is our 14th discussion, and as always, we have some panel members who you may know. Let's start with some introductions. I'll begin--I'm Marc, the founder and owner of Boston's Hidden Restaurants as well as the news-based blog Boston Restaurant Talk http://www.bostonrestaurants.blogspot.com).
Carol Yelverton (Vinetown): I am the editor of Vinetown a web publication now focused on seasonal, sustainable food. I'm looking forward to our conversation!
City Feed Produce : I am Rachel, the produce buyer for City Feed and Supply, which is a local marketplace in Jamaica Plain that focuses on local and organic offerings.
Walter: Walt Perkins, Sports Director for WBZ News Radio. Love food and cooking. This is my first LPD (Live Panel Discussion). Looking forward to the talk about today's topic.
Walter: Oh, and grapes in a bottle. My favorite!
Marc H.: Ha ha! Yes, I'm with you on that one, Walt. By the way, we're still waiting on a few more people; they might not be joining us for a bit.
Marc H.: As I mentioned earlier, today's discussion centers around topics related to farms--farm stands, farmers' markets, and farm-to-table restaurants. We'll spend some time on places in or near Boston, though because this relates to farms, we'll also look at other parts of New England, with an emphasis on the rest of Massachusetts and, to a lesser extent, other states in the region.
Marc H.: Also, a quick note to our viewers: For each part of the discussion, we will talk first with the panel, then we will open up the chat to all of you if you would like to ask or answer any questions.
Mary: Hi all, I'm Mary Reilly, Chef and Owner of Enzo Restaurant & Bar in Newburyport. We use lots of local produce and every Sunday we offer a market menu using produce and meat from our local market only.
Marc H.: Hi, Mary! Welcome to the chat!
Mary: Excited to participate today
Marc H.: So let's start with farm stands. There are a number of good ones inside Route 495 in the Boston area, including some that aren't well-known at all. Any favorites? A few that I like include Small Farm in Stow (great if you like to do your own picking), Wilson Farms in Lexington (which has a lot more than just produce), and Jane and Paul's Farm in Norfolk (nearly completely unknown, beautiful location, good plant selection).
Carol Yelverton (Vinetown): I'm very spoiled to live in Belmont and have Sergi Farm so close. I literally catch produce in the wheelbarrows before it hits the stands.
Carol Yelverton (Vinetown): It is fantastic.We also have a community garden and several neighbors do a farm share. We are very lucky!
City Feed Produce : The Belmont farmer's market is also amazing!
Marc H.: Hold that thought, Rachel. I haven't been to the Belmont farmers' market yet and am curious about it. We'll be talking about the markets in a little bit.
Walter: I am glad I am here. I'm not as familiar with the actual farms inside 495. There are a couple outside of 495 I came to love when I lived in Sterling. Goves and Rota Spring.
Marc H.: Sterling is prime farm stand and apple picking country, that's for sure.
Walter: Wonderful places and a big corn field maze to get lost in. :o)
City Feed Produce : I used to work at Hutchins Farm in Concord, MA on Monument Street, and their farm stand is such an oasis to enjoy the fields from.
Marc H.: I think I know that spot, Rachel. That's near the Carlisle line, with great views of the valley below? Definitely a nice place.
City Feed Produce : Yes it is! And it has some farms with horses nearby. Just a lovely atmosphere overall.
City Feed Produce : Blue Heron Organic Farm also has a lovely little stand in Lincoln on your way to Drumlin Farm or Walden Pond
Marc H.: Yes. One of several along Route 117. Once you get out toward Stow on that road, there seem to be farm stands everywhere.
Marc H.: How about farm stands a bit further out from Route 495 in Massachusetts? Any good ones on the Cape, the South Coast, near Worcester, in the Pioneer Valley, or out in the Berkshires? One of my favorites on Cape Cod is Satucket Farm in Brewster, which doesn't have a huge selection, but is a really friendly place in a nice setting.
City Feed Produce : One before we move further out is Allandale Farm in Boston/Brookline.
Marc H.: Oh, yes. Allandale is a great little oasis. Love that place.
Mary: Up North, there is Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury and Marini Farm in Ipswich - great selections and beautiful stuff.
Marc H.: Mary, you just reminded me of Connors Farm, which is also up in that general area (in Danvers). Great place to pick blueberries and peaches in the summer.
Carol Yelverton (Vinetown): The eggplant has been really good this year. This was a tough season for lettuce at Sergi Farm, though...the rabbits kept eating everything....
Marc H.: I've seen rabbits everywhere this year. Oh, and turkeys, though I don't think they are as much of a problem at the farms.
City Feed Produce : Turkeys aren't too bad on the produce.
Walter: Thank goodness for cutting and pasting! My list of local farm grows!
Walter: Marc, have you or anyone been to Brooksby's Farm in Peabody? I have not had the chance to visit yet.
Marc H.: No, I haven't been yet. but I may be in Peabody this weekend, so I'll try to check it out. That's near Route 114?
Walter: Yes, or it can be accessed from Lowell St, the exit before 114 on Route 1
Marc H.: While we're on this topic, do any of you know if there are any good farm stands on Martha's Vineyard? I'm heading there soon, actually.
Marc H.: Oh, and also, if any of our viewers out there have any favorite farm stands in the Boston area or elsewhere in the state, let us know, thanks!
Marc H.: And before we move on to farmers' markets, to both our panel and viewers--any farm stands in other New England states that you like? I love going to Dutton Farm Stand in Newfane, VT, because it's such a classic Vermont experience, and I also go to Walker's in Little Compton, RI, quite often, as it isn't too far away from Boston and the people there are great.
Carol Yelverton (Vinetown): Now I have a treasure trove of places I want to visit all around New England.
Walter: I hear you. Suddenly my fall weekends are busy. :o)
Marc H.: If you've never been to Walker's, it is a really great experience. Only about an hour from the Boston area and that part of RI is beautiful.
Marc H.: Let's move on to farmers' markets. The Boston area seems to have them nearly everywhere, with so many cities and towns having them every week. What are some that you like to go to in or near Boston? I go to a lot of them myself, with favorites including Arlington, Acton-Boxborough, Harvard Square, SoWa, and Lawrence.
Jacqueline: We really try to support our Dewey Sq market.
Marc H.: What are their days and hours, Jackie? I actually haven't been to that one yet.
Jacqueline: Tuesdays and Thursdays. Between the Bank of Boston and South Station. There's a Clover food truck, and BBQ Smith nearby, too.
Jacqueline: Held on Dewey Square on Tuesdays & Thursdays in 2011 Late-May – November | 11:30 AM – 6:30 PM
Marc H.: Thanks!
Jacqueline: Two vendors I particularly like: Kimball Fruit Farm and Mentor Flats Farm.
Marc H.: Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell? I think I saw them at Arlington market a couple of weeks ago.
Jacqueline: We also have some great pastured meat there.
Jacqueline: The link has list of who's who/which days. Some are there just one daywl.
Marc H.: How about farmers' markets elsewhere in Massachusetts? Also, any Farmers' markets that you like elsewhere in New England? One that I can't recommend enough is the farmers' market in Belmont, VT (near Ludlow and Weston). The town can't have more than 100 people in it, but the market is pretty sizable, the setting is incredible (it's a real mountain town) and again, it's one of those experiences you can only get in Vermont.
Marc H.: And once again, if any of our viewers have any suggestions for farmers' markets, let us know!
City Feed Produce : Don't leave out the Copley market in Boston!
Marc H.: What are their days and hours, Rachel? I need to get to that one as well!
City Feed Produce : Tuesdays and Fridays 12-6 I think at the Copley market. I love to buy stuff there and go enjoy it in the public library's courtyard and listen to the fountain. And on Fridays around noon the library has jazz playing. Local food and a lovely setting!
Mary: I have to say that I'm very partial to Newburyport: lots of farms represented, three meat sellers, sometimes cheese and wine too. Newburyport is Sundays 9-1
Marc H.: Darn, we almost went to Newburyport on Sunday but ended up in Marblehead instead. Maybe next time...
Walter: Lots of places in Newburyport, Mary. I'm familiar with Tendercrop because my brother lived close by for a number of years.
Jacqueline: Stop at Enzo for a bite while you're there!
Marc H.: Any of you go to the SoWa market at all? I go every now and then, including this past Sunday (before Marblehead). Some great vendors there, including someone from Chatham who was selling smoked tuna belly that looked out of this world.
City Feed Produce : Oh yes, I do enjoy the SoWa market. I haven't been there in forever though.
Lauren: Love Sowa market. That's a great one
Mary: Let me know if you make it to Newburyport, would be happy to show you around.
Walter: I get there quite often. My brother still lives there, as does his son.
Carol Yelverton (Vinetown): Thanks for mentioning cheeses, Mary. I think it's really important to support this industry. Any favorites to recommend?
Marc H.: Not to get too far off topic, but on one of our chats, we had the owner of Grand Trunk Imports in Newburyport here--one of my favorite places for beer, wines, olive oil, etc.
Lauren: The Farmer's Market in Roslindale Village is a nice one
Marc H.: Yes, I hear a lot about the Roslindale farmers' market. Definitely another one I need to get to. Thanks for bringing it up!
City Feed Produce : The winter market in Somerville carried some small batch mozzarellas, but I can't remember the name of them
Marc H.: We're going to start looking at farm-to-table restaurants in a minute, but if any of you (panel members or viewers) have any more favorite farmers' markets or farm stands, now is the time to bring them up!
City Feed Produce : We carry some of Two Fields Farm's cherry tomatoes and they're absolutely delightful. She's out of Wayland and is at the Rozzie market on Saturday mornings!
Walter: I think a stop at Enzo's is in order on my next visit!
Marc H.: Yes, sounds good to me as well! Perhaps a stop at one of my favorite watering holes (The Grog) beforehand as well.
Mary: Would love to have you all - we open at 5 on Sundays.
Marc H.: Let's turn to farm-to-table restaurants. For those who don't know what this term means, it typically refers to restaurants that create dishes using ingredients from local farms, which means that these places usually have seasonal menus. A great example of such a place is The People's Pint in Greenfield, which goes so far as to have a list showing where each item (veggies, cheese, sausage, burgers, etc.) originate, with many if not most of their dishes using ingredients from farms and other businesses only a few miles away. And it does make a difference, I would say--The People's Pint, for instance, has some of the best food I've had anywhere in New England.
Walter: Marc, one more farm/farmstand to mention. Way up in Milton, NH. McKenzie's. Great stuff!
Marc H.: Where is Milton, NH? Oh wait, is that along Route 16 on the way up to the White Mountains?
Walter: Yes, on the way to Wakefield, East Wakefield
Walter: This time of year must be so exciting for chefs and chef/owners like Mary. So many wonderfully fresh ingredients!
Marc H.: So what are some good farm-to-table restaurants in the Boston area? Any particular dishes you like at these places?
Marc H.: I'll briefly mention a couple I like--Centre Street Cafe in JP and The Local in West Newton.
City Feed Produce : I've always loved Henrietta's Table in Harvard Square
Mary: I'll put in my two cents for Oleana - they don't bill themselves as farm-to-table, but they certainly are. The menu is always interesting (in a good way) and the food is deliciously transporting.
Marc H.: We almost went to Oleana last Wednesday. A lot of people consider it one of the best restaurants in the Boston area.
Carol Yelverton (Vinetown): I love Henrietta's Table too
Jacqueline: I think more and more restaurants are using as much local food as they can Rendezvous in Cambridge, 51 Lincoln in Newton Highlands...Enzo in Newburyport.
Jacqueline: Would be an awkward dinner at Ana's table if greens from SYSCO turned up on her table at Oleana! (given that Siena Farms is her husband's farm!)
Marc H.: One farm-to-table spot I took a peek at awhile ago that I'd like to try is Gibbet Hill Grill in Groton. Anyone been?
City Feed Produce : After I went paddleboarding on the Charles River the other weekend I stumbled upon EVOO in Kendall Square
Marc H.: Yup, EVOO and Za. I like Za--decent pizza there.
City Feed Produce : Their pizzas were featuring a lot of local produce, and it was delicious!
Walter: I have to get out more. I've heard of or read about so many of these places but have yet to visit.
Marc H.: Here's an interesting article on farm-to-table restaurants: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/Bostons-Farm-to-Table-Renaissance.html
Marc H.: They mention Henrietta's Table, of course, as well as Hungry Mother and Craigie on Main.
Mary: I don't get a chance to get out much, so it's nice that there are so many delicious options.
Mary: Right now, we have ingredients from about a dozen local sources on our menu. It's hard to do, but worth it b/c of the quality of the ingredients. Our customers really seem to appreciate the effort too.
Carol Yelverton (Vinetown): I'll bet it's a huge inspiration to you, as well, in the meals that you create.
Marc H.: Do you have some local microbrews there, Mary? Anything from the Haverhill brewery?
Mary: We don't have any microbrews right now - but all our beer is from New England. Our bar program features Ryan & Wood spirits.
Walter: I enjoy seeing fresh items on a seasonal menu. I still remember the first time I saw Fiddleheads listed as the daily appetizer special. I just had to try them.
Marc H.: You haven't lived until you've tried the pickled fiddleheads at Wilson Farm in Lexington.
Jacqueline: Thanks for that link, Marc! I didn't see that Smithsonian piece.
Marc H.: We only have a couple of minutes, so how about farm-to-table restaurants elsewhere in New England? Any faves? A couple that I really like are American Flatbread in Waitsfield, VT (the ingredients are so fresh there) and the Thompson House Eatery in Jackson, NH, which is in a gorgeous location and has been doing the farm-to-table thing for quite some time now.
Walter: writing it down.....pickled fiddleheads...Wilson farm...Lexington. Nice!
Marc H.: Ha ha. They don't always have them, Walt, so call ahead!
Walter: Will do
Marc H.: One farm-to-table outside of Boston that I am dying to get to is La Laiterie in Providence. We went to the "shop" part of the place (Farmstead) and were very impressed with the cheeses they had. Anyone been?
Walter: BTW...a vote for local farm fresh eggs. Huge difference from store bought.
Marc H.: Yes--definitely a huge difference. And not all that expensive, really.
Mary: Adore La Laiterie - also in Providence: Nick's on Broadwayl our beer is from New England. Our bar program features Ryan & Wood spirits.
Marc H.: Arrgh, I can't believe it's 4:00 already. That went quick! Do any of you have any final thoughts, favorite places, etc. that you'd like to mention before we sign off?
Jacqueline: La Laiterie is great! Providence also has great places like New Rivers which really support local growers.
Carol Yelverton (Vinetown): In all of this fresh food --- we're getting the tastiest, healthiest flavors to be found while supporting our local farmers and chefs. It's a win for all of us
Walter: Marc, thanks for the invite this afternoon.
Marc H.: Thank you, Walt. And thanks to all of you for participating today! It was a lot of fun.
City Feed Produce : Yes, I'd love to do this again! Thanks for putting this together.
Marc H.: Have a great day, all. There will probably be another food discussion coming up in October, so hope to see you then!