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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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Behind the Scenes…

Welcome to our website! It’s hard to believe but for almost a year now, we’ve been hard at work, creating a publication from scratch – one to make the South Coast proud.

What are we envisioning?

We see pages and pages of beautiful photos and engaging stories and ideas about the South Coast. It’ll have many of the features you’d expect in a regional magazine, but more of them. That’s the beauty of an annual magazine; it’s bigger and (we think!) better.

If you live on the South Coast, you’ll be glad to see its best side shining through. If you visit the South Coast, you’ll be happy to find hidden spots and gems that you didn’t know existed before. And you’ll want to visit more often.

We’ve got about seven months to go until our launch party at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in May. In the meantime, feel free to let us know what you’re thinking by emailing the magazine at [email protected] or by contacting us on facebook and instagram.

All the best,
Marlissa (and the Almanac team)

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