Your Go To Guide for all things local!

Author: Marlissa Briggett

The Magic Number is 5 — 5 Ways to Celebrate the South Coast this January

Hey! The calendar will soon turn to 2016. That means just 5 more months until our magazine launches and you can hold our lovely print (or digital) edition in your hands as you sit on the porch, or at the beach, or on your boat, engrossing yourself in all that makes the South Coast special.
 
In the meantime, how to fill your time to help May come quicker? Here are 5 things to enjoy on the South Coast in January:
 
Polar Plunges
On January 1, more than a few brave souls will be plunging into winter waters (water temperatures hover around 40 degrees this time of year).  Maybe it’s time you tried it.
 
In Fairhaven at 10 am, the annual Polar Plunge will surprise you with its crowd. Last year, they came from all over the state and some from well outside the state, representing over 40 towns. (See Fairhaven Polar Plunge.)

 

Don’t worry if you decide to sleep in and you miss the Fairhaven festivities. At noon, Mattapoisett’s Freezin’ for A Reason Polar Plunge takes place at the Town Beach. (See Mattapoisett Polar Plunge.) 

And between 11 and 2, you can jump from The Back Eddy’s dock as part of its Polar Plunge Brunch (though you can simply just choose the brunch option). Reservations are strongly recommended because this is pretty popular. The Back Eddy, 1 Bridge Road, Westport. 508-636-6500.
 
Onset is taking this year off for its Polar Plunge but will return again in 2017.  
 
The Moby Dick Marathon 20th Anniversary
Stop by for five minutes or for an hour or two. I had to read Moby Dick twice in college and hated it each time. I went to the Marathon last year at 5:00 in the morning just to see what it was all about (and whether there was anyone there at 5 a.m. – there are!). Here’s my quick report: Moby Dick is far better enjoyed when you’re sitting under the skeleton of whales, surrounded by quirky and interesting people who have braved the cold to do something as whimsical as participate (whether as a reader or simply as a listener) in this annual literary marathon.  
The reading takes place from Saturday, January 9 at 10 a.m. through Sunday January 10 at 1 p.m. New Bedford Whaling Museum, 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, MA.
 
Embrace Winter
Rent some snowshoes (see Ski House in Somerset) and find a favorite summer trail and snowshoe through it. Or find a new place. The Trustees of Reservations website allows you to search for local places for good snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. For example, Allen Haskell Public Gardens in New Bedford is a great place to cross-country ski, snowshoe, or pull a child on a sled. Cornell Farm in Dartmouth also offers space for skiing, showshoeing and winter hiking.  See Trustees’ Search by Activity.
 
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Have you heard of hygge? It’s a Danish word (pronounced kind of like HYU-gah). While it can’t be translated easily into English, I gather it generally means a sense of coziness and well-being. Good company, food and drink are required elements. Those Danes are onto something. Even though they have 17 hours of darkness in deep winter with temperatures hovering at freezing, they are among the happiest in the world (The World Happiness Report — it really exists). So, don’t stop with the holiday merriment. Keep meeting up with friends and family for good meals and company. If you don’t want to entertain at home, check out your favorite local spots. You might even find some crazy specials out there. Combine lunch and dinner (lunner?) at Ella’s in Wareham on Saturday afternoons between 3 and 4 and you’ll get 25% off your meal.  New Bedford’s Cork has a “5 at 5” menu. You get $5 glasses of wine and $5 appetizers between 5 and 6 pm on weekdays (this really plays nicely into our theme of 5).  Ella’s Wood Burning Oven Restaurant, 3136 Cranberry Highway, Wareham, www.ellaswoodoven.com; Cork Wine and Tapas, 90 Front Street, New Bedford, www.corkwineandtapas.com.
 
Get Out and Listen to Music
Another way to find some hygge is at the Narrows Center for the Arts, a world class performance space overlooking Mount Hope Bay and Battleship Cove. It has some great shows lined up for January. Ten years ago, I listened to Anna Nalick’s Breathe (2 a.m.) on my ipod every single time I ran (back when there were ipods and when I ran). She’s coming to the Fall River venue. So is Marshall Crenshaw, Entrain, Cheryl Wheeler, The Winter Blues Festival, and many other great acts. See Narrows Center for a complete list of the upcoming shows.  Narrows Center, 16 Anawan Street, Fall River. 
 
Go out and enjoy January. And remember, five more months until South Coast Almanac launches!
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In Search of Nature and the Perfect Yankee Swap Gift…

I’m attracted to trends that can be reduced to hashtags. So when REI announced they were staying closed Friday and were encouraging folks to #OptOutside, I thought it was a great idea.

We took the lists compiled by the Buzzards Bay Coalition suggesting good walks for the day after Thanksgiving (2014 List and 2015 List). We picked West Island which led us to a quiet beach and clambering over rocks.

I liked the idea of eschewing Black Friday in exchange for some nature. But, well, I kinda wanted to go shopping too. So we made our way to the Town Wharf General Store with a specific assignment: get yankee swap presents for our extended clan Christmas party next weekend. It’s not an easy task – we’ve got a wide variety of people in this group: young, old, male, female, candle-lovers, candle-haters.

Yankee swaps are pretty common so I assume everyone knows about them. But if not, here are the rules in a nutshell: everyone brings a gift, gets a number and picks another gift in numbered order which they can either unwrap or trade for a previously opened gift.

Basically, the goal as the gift recipient is to end up with something you like but that is not so fabulous that you know someone with a better number will steal it away from you. The goal as the gift giver is to give something that will not lead to disappointment. People don’t groan audibly when they open the gift but you can sometimes see a groan on their faces. By all means, you want to avoid the silent groan.

So we went to the Town Wharf General Store in Mattapoisett and owner Chris Demakis was there. He asked if he could help us and we gave him the assignment: something in the $15 range that would not be a disaster whether it ended up with my uncle Tommy or my cousin’s teenaged daughter.

An almost impossible assignment, right? Not for Chris and the TWGS. Here’s what he came up with.

SPOILER ALERT: Anyone heading to the Briggette’s family Christmas party next weekend should stop reading. Or maybe not. You can start strategizing on which package you want. Or don’t want.

Here are the things we brought home:

20151129_094103_resized_1Chuckwagon Dinner Bell. I’m not sure how many people would want this but I know we wanted it. And that was enough to decide to buy it. Yankee swap pluses: it’s unisex, no one already has one and everyone needs one. (Well, maybe not the last.) ($20)

 

 

 

 

 

20151129_093745_resized_1Coop’s Hot Fudge. Handmade in Massachusetts, Chris says this hot fudge is unbelievable. I’m going to pair it with a gift certificate for some ice cream and make someone very happy. ($10.95)

 

 

 

 

 

 

20151129_093849_resizedMcClure’s Bloody Mary Mixer. Made in Brooklyn by McClure’s Pickles, it’s apparently spicy and delicious. And easy — you just shake and pour. I’ll add some garnishes to the package to round it out. Alcohol not included. ($9.99)

Even though McClure’s can be enjoyed without alcohol, some of the younger ones may not like its spiciness so I’ve got something they can swap this out for…

 

 

 

20151129_105540_resized An assortment of old-fashioned fun. A bag filled with a whoopee cushion ($4.99), a Hairy Scary “Jumping” Spider ($5.99), an invisible ink pen with ultraviolet light ($5.99) and some candy buttons ($1.00).

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know I shouldn’t have opened the box, but I wanted to demonstrate the jumping spider in action:

The Jumping Spider

We actually only need to bring three gifts to the party. One of these will stay home with us. If you have any strong opinions on which should stay home, leave me a comment. (M.B.)

 

 

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Doves & Figs Jam: The Best Way to Dress Toast

screenshotMy toast looked bereft this morning.

Some would say naked.

Actually, Robin Cohen would say that. She’s the jam lady. Every week, the owner of Doves & Figs arrives at the Dartmouth Grange with her minivan packed to the gills with boxes of fruit and equipment. “Like a gypsy caravan,” she says. She unloads the fruits she’s purchased from local farmers and gets to work in the Grange’s commercial kitchen turning it into jam.

Last July, I spend a lovely morning with Robin and her assistant (and family friend) Michelle Hurwitz, a student from UMass Dartmouth with perhaps the sweetest job among her friends. The day I visited, a huge 40-gallon steam kettle with figs, apples and dried cranberries was bubbling away. Michelle patiently stirred smaller pots filled with simmering strawberries. Boxes of fruit were strewn about on the stainless steel tables.

Doves & Figs business model is based on seasonality because seasonal cooking is what led to jams in the first place, Robin says. She lets the just picked fruit shine in her jam. No pectin, no preservatives. These cool weather days are devoted to apples, pears and cranberries.

All of the jams’ names are delightful – Falling Leaves, Bramble Tea, Merry Berry, Winter Carnival, Chocolate Fig Sunshine. And their contents can be a bit quirky — Peachy Mean features “sweet summer peaches with a kick of black pepper and hot red pepper flakes” while Peachy Keen features “caramelized peaches with pecans and a bit of Southern Comfort.”

Robin’s thing for sauces, jams and compotes hearkens back to happy childhood memories in her grandmother’s kitchen, surrounded by a family who loved to cook. At the end of each summer, her dad took Robin and her brothers foraging for grapes and made gallons of grape jam. When her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he and Robin battled the sadness of his decline by discussing recipes and taking on the challenge of recreating the recipe of her Aunt Jenny’s apricot and pineapple jam. In 2011, Robin left her corporate job and followed her passion for jam.

Standing at my counter this morning, in front of the barren toast, I was remembering the 500 jars that Robin and Michelle prepared that July day and the many cauldrons of their bubbling jam. It was lovely to revisit the nice memory. But the jarring reality is that I still have naked toast.

My advice: pick up some Doves & Fig jam at Alderbrook Farm in Dartmouth. Or online. Or at the dozens of shops and farmers’ markets around Massachusetts which are listed on the Doves & Figs website (dovesandfigs.com). (MB)

 

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Saturday Night at The Back Eddy with Macomber Turnips

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My attempt at the turnip hash

Who knew I’d develop a crush on turnips this weekend?

We went to The Back Eddy in Westport last night where I ordered giant bacon-wrapped scallops. I have a thing for bacon and scallops so the ordering was an easy call. My entrée arrived atop a bed of turnip and carrot hash. The bright orange and white cubes looked so cheerfully enticing that I tried them first. And I kept eating them.

Turnip hash? I couldn’t think of anything less likely to tear me away from bacon and scallops.

I had always thought of turnips as a humble, maybe even a pathetic, vegetable. In fact, as I ate my Back Eddy turnip hash, I got to thinking about the large turnip sitting in my refrigerator that very moment. I’d received the turnip as part of my farm share several weeks ago and it hadn’t moved since. It was well on its way to being found next spring in the back of the refrigerator, shriveled and soft.

When the hostess Michelle came over to see how our meal was, I asked her if she knew how the hash was prepared. “When you’re finished, I’ll take you over to Soda, our sauté chef,” she said. “He’ll be happy to tell you.”

After dessert, our server Danielle led me to Michelle who was standing by the kitchen. She told the chefs how much I enjoyed the hash. I told the story of my turnip sitting in my refrigerator at home and how I hoped they could tell me how to make it into delicious hash.

Soda was lovely and friendly but, in the way of most chefs who instinctively know how to make things taste delicious, he gave me some pretty vague instructions. Basically, he told me he used some butter and savory herbs. I tried to ask some illuminating questions: how long to cook it for? How to get the browning? I learned that he likes to use oregano, a nonstick pan and it takes about 5 minutes.

“What kind of turnip do you have?” asked Nigel, another chef who was standing by Soda.

I didn’t know. “It’s purple,” I said, hoping that would help.

“It’s not going to work,” he said definitively. “You need a macomber turnip.”

“Macomber turnips have a sweetness to them,” said another man, standing nearby, who I later learned was one of the owners, Sal Liotta.

And they started raving about macomber turnips, indigenous to Westport, sweeter and better than any other turnips. Sal told me that the Back Eddy has hosted special dinners, showcasing macombers in all three courses. Nigel told me about the plaque honoring the macomber turnip on Westport’s Main Street. “It’s not even like other turnips,” said Nigel. “It’s totally its own thing.”

All of a sudden, turnips seemed pretty exciting. “I’m sure your turnip is a good one,” said Nigel who clearly didn’t want to offend me on behalf of my turnip. “But it’s going to be bitter. What makes the hash so good is the sweet macomber.”

“You want to take one home?” he offered. He told me he had plenty, having recently bought five cases of macomber turnips packed in old banana boxes from a local farmer at the Back Eddy’s door. “I’ve got 250 pounds of them out back.”

I hesitated for just a moment. It seemed a little odd to leave a restaurant with a whole turnip. Plus I already had that huge lonely purple turnip that was being ignored at home. Was it really fair to bring another turnip into that kind of a home? But I was overcome with giddiness that I was being asked if I wanted to take home a singular root vegetable.

“Yes!” I said.

Nigel came back with a turnip the size of a basketball. I must have looked scared. Or maybe I uttered an involuntary demurral. “No, this one isn’t for you,” he said, “I just brought it out to show you. I brought a more retail one for you.” He pulled out another the size of a softball.

So this morning I spent fifteen minutes chopping up the turnip and half a dozen carrots. I melted some butter and added the vegetables to the pan. We didn’t have any oregano, not even dried oregano, but I found some thyme in the refrigerator

I mostly ignored it as it cooked for five minutes as I worked on removing the thyme from the stalks. I added the thyme to the pan with some salt and pepper. I tasted it and decided it needed a little more time. I threw in more butter and gave it a few more minutes.

It was delicious. Turns out that Soda’s instructions were pretty spot on. You do just add some butter and herbs and cook for 5 minutes. There’s nothing to be afraid of with macomber turnips. I understand the reverence for this turnip. I understand the enthusiasm. I understand the need for a memorial plaque.

The only problem? I still need to know what to do with this….

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Ain’t No Blues at the Airport Grille

 

Long-Edge-300pixels-72dpiOn the first Monday of every month, the Airport Grille at New Bedford’s regional airport hosts the Southcoast Jazz Orchestra.

It’s been on our To Do list for a while and this seemed like the right week for it. These short days after daylight saving time are always sobering. And they are especially jarring this week with mild sunny days that abruptly end in the afternoon. The temperature outside just doesn’t seem to reflect the hunkering down aspect of the season.

The Airport Grille was the perfect place to spend last night to banish the darkness with style. Small groups, large groups, couples all added to a cheerful atmosphere. “Is it always this crowded?” I asked our waitress.

“Not usually on a Monday,” she said, “It’s the jazz.”

Ah, right. We had come for the food (because we’re working on the restaurant guide for the first issue…it’s heavy lifting but we’re serious workers) but also to see the monthly jazz sessions that we’d heard about.

7083We arrived before the band and ordered the seared scallops and lobster mac and cheese. The mac and cheese arrived in the most impressive display we’d ever seen.

Then the band began to assemble. It wasn’t simply a jazz trio or quartet. This was a 17-piece orchestra. Even writing “17” doesn’t seem to adequately reflect how big this band is. And when they began to play? Everything else that was important (the perfectly cooked scallops, the large chunks of lobster floating in the creamy mac and cheese) was a footnote. What a treat to listen to this band. Don’t go to this dinner with an old friend who you haven’t seen in years. Once the Southcoast Jazz Orchestra begins, you couldn’t care less what your old friend has been up to — you’ll just want to pay attention to the music.

It’s great theater to watch a band this big: all of the different personalities melding together and sometimes splitting apart to create their music; the gleaming trumpets, trombones, and saxophones all lined up, the audience’s attention focused and rapt. It makes you want to learn how to play an instrument and join in. It makes you think about making a reservation for next month’s session. It makes you wonder about throwing a party for the Southcoast Jazz Orchestra to perform at.

Like, say, a magazine launch party? Like, say, in May?

Stay tuned….

 

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Destruction Brook Woods. Why does such a peaceful place have such a, well, destructive name?

Destruction Brook Woods Reserve

Just peace and quiet

One of the goals in making this magazine is to showcase the many magical places on the South Coast and to encourage us all to wander off our own beaten paths. You know, those favorite places where we always go. The idea is to shake things up. Go a couple of towns over from your own and find something new. Be a local tourist.

It’s been fun asking all sorts of people, what do you like to do? We’ve been gathering the answers and creating a list so that one of the Almanac’rs can explore the answers and report back if there’s something we should highlight.

Again and again, Destruction Brook Woods came up when we talked to people.

Something about the name kind of put me off, evoking unpleasant flashbacks to 1980s horror movies. I finally went — October seemed the proper time to go to a place with destruction and woods in its name. Of course, it’s not creepy at all. It’s tranquil and lovely.

With over 280 acres, there are plenty of paths to explore, both marked and unmarked (with a very helpful map provided by the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust). I got lost somewhere after Alice’s Spillway. It didn’t matter. It’s a pleasure to get a little lost among the glades, the ferns, the rocky outcroppings, and the wide bridle paths soft with fallen pine needles. And there’s so much more to see. I want to go back and find the abandoned farmstead and the old cemetery. I want to witness the abundance of pink lady’s slipper flowers in one of the glades in May.

I’m considering trying mountain biking after chatting with a couple of friendly bikers on the trail. According to the New England Mountain Bike Association website, “if you are looking for very technical and challenging trails, then this is not the place for you, but if you are looking for a fun, easy to moderate ride with nice scenery, then this is the place to come.”

Fun? Easy? Scenery? Yes. Look how fun it looks – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvuFX0casV0

Mountain biking in Destruction Brook Woods…that’s going on the Almanac’s To Do list.

The woods lived up to its reputation. I understand why so many love it. But it did not live up to its name. Because it turns out that Destructive Brook Woods is not scary at all.

 

For more information on Destruction Brook Woods, including location and parking, see http://dnrt.org/destruction-brook-woods/

 

 

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Best burgers in the region. Probably in the world.

We’re serious. At dNB Burgers, it’s all about the burger. Everything is made from scratch. They grind the meat in house, they cure their bacon on site and they make all their pickles and sauces from scratch, right down to the ketchup. If you go in right now, you’ll find house-made bacon pastrami and carrot sauerkraut garnishing some of the burgers.

Amelia and Josh launched dNB Burgers because Amelia wanted to be her own boss and Josh is a chef. They tried to figure out what New Bedford needed and decided the city needed a marriage between the slow food movement and hamburgers.

Devin, my server told me that the most popular burger is the Best Bacon. But she was hard-pressed to tell me what the best burger was. Because they’re all delicious.

We had a staff meeting at lunch yesterday and I brought dNB burgers, fully intending to get a great picture that could accompany this blog entry. The paper bag filled with burgers, hand cut fries and house made chips smelled so good and we were so hungry that we forgot to take a picture. And the empty paper bag didn’t photograph well. Hey, Amelia, do you have a good photo you can lend us?!

dNB’s one year anniversary is coming up on November 17th. Get in before then so that you can say you knew them when they were in their infancy. Because we think they’ll be around a long time.

dNB Burgers, 22 Elm Street, New Bedford

 

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