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A Very South Coast Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving turkeys

We  are so grateful to live in a place where we know where our food comes from, where we can put a face and name to our farmers (and vintners) and where we can actually visit the farms. Check out some of the places that can help make your Thanksgiving plate shine with South Coast goodness.

Copicut Farms, Dartmouth — In addition to their chicken, pork and eggs, Beth & Vince Frary raise turkeys for Thanksgiving. The turkeys are just a day old when they arrive at Copicut Farms and they become very attached to the Frarys. Check them out here having a conversation with Beth. It may be too late to order a turkey for this year, but you can always let them know if you want to order one for next Thanksgiving by emailing [email protected]

Lees Market, Westport  — We love an independent market that stresses local products. Lees is that place. When we have to find a macomber turnip for our turnip hash, we know they’ll have it. (Click here to read about our unexpected introduction to this special Westport turnip.)

Sid Wainer & Son, New Bedford — Everyone knows Sid Wainer & Son stands for great produce. Its New Bedford gourmet outlet store is a great place to pick up your vegetables. But it’s also a place for inspiration where home cooks can learn about new ingredients and enjoy cooking demonstrations. Pick up their special white truffle butter (as seen in “Stocked,” in the 2016 edition) and use it to glaze your turkey a la The Barefoot Contessa (recipe here).

img_0508-1Travessia Urban Winery, New Bedford — Marco Montez has created a wine which totally represents the celebration of a fresh harvest — perfect for Thanksgiving. His Fresh Vidal Blanc is made from grapes picked a few weeks ago in Dartmouth by Montez and his wine club members. It has been fermenting for a few weeks but it hasn’t yet been filtered and finished (so there’s no added sulfites). Available for only a few short weeks in November, Montez pours it straight from the tank right in front of you. Shortly after Thanksgiving, Montez will begin the next stage of the formal winemaking process for the vidal blanc so you’ll no longer be able to get it this way. He’ll be open the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to give folks a chance to get their holiday wines (see here for his usual hours).

 

Version 2Stone Bridge Farm, Acushnet — You can hardly go a mile on the South Coast without seeing a cranberry bog so finding local cranberries is a breeze. This year, we found ours at Stone Bridge Farm because we love their cute little farm stand. We’re looking forward to checking out their Saturday markets next summer which feature live music on that sweet porch.

To all of our South Coast farmers after a busy season, we hope someone else is cooking a tremendous and delicious feast for you on Thursday.

If you have a special local treat on your Thanksgiving table, let us know in the comment section!

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Oh my! Pie!

I remember going blueberry picking in Wareham and Carver with my grandmother and cousins when I was a kid. We’d come home with buckets filled with blueberries. My grandmother would wash and then freeze most of them. Then she’d make at least one pie for us to eat that night. I sat at the kitchen table and watched her. She mixed some butter, flour and water together and, without any fuss, the crust was made. It was magical.  Also magical was eating her blueberry pie all winter long, and remembering that we had picked the fruit on a sunny summer day.

After many years of practice, I can finally make a pie crust. It’s not simple and effortless like it was for my grandmother. It requires careful reading of a recipe, butter and lard, a food processor and vodka, time resting in the fridge and time wrestling with a rolling pin. (You can find the recipe I use here.)

Sometimes I simply decide to buy my Thanksgiving pies but I still expect it to taste like homemade. If you have similarly high standards for your pies, we’ve rounded up a few places to get your pie on the South Coast. Our selection criteria was pretty tough: we wanted homemade pies from scratch that’d make you think of your grandmother (assuming your grandmother is a talented baker!). Here’s the lineup:

Artisan Bake Shop, Rochester. Artisan Bake Shop has been baking Thanksgiving pies by scratch for eleven years. Just like my grandmother, Meredith Rousseau makes a simple crust (all butter and flour with a little salt, sugar and ice water), then she rolls out and flutes all the pies by hand. Her signature pie — which she makes only twice a year at Thanksgiving and Christmas — is a Cuban-inspired Cazuela Pie which features pumpkin, sweet potato and coconut milk. She also makes the traditional pies (apple, blueberry, apple-cranberry, custard, classic southern pecan, double chocolate pecan) and gluten free pies. After making thousands of Thanksgiving pies over the years, she still loves making them and treats herself to a breakfast of custard pie on Thanksgiving morning. 2017 Update: order by November 18 at 2 pm by calling 508-763-4905 or emailing [email protected]

Wilhelmena’s Catering, Little Compton. Wilma’s got a large pile of pumpkins staring her in the face this week because she uses fresh local pumpkins from South Coast farms in her Thanksgiving pies. She also uses local apples and whatever else she can source locally. Wilma makes the dough, peels the apple, bakes the pumpkins all by hand. She’s been brightening Thanksgiving for people with her from-scratch pies for eighteen years. Customers drive from as far away as Providence and Dartmouth to eat up them up. Her varieties: apple, pumpkin, blueberry, bourbon orange pecan and traditional mince pies. 2017 Update: Order by November 15 by calling 401-635-2003 or emailing [email protected]

Lees Market, Westport. One of our favorite local markets also makes pies in house with a crust made from scratch! They’ve got a whole lot of varieties (apple, peach, cherry, blueberry, pumpkin, maple pumpkin streusel, chocolate cream, banana cream and coconut cream). 2017 Update: Order by November November 17 by calling 508-636-3348 and asking for the Starfish Bakery.

Flour Girls Baking Company, Fairhaven. Owner Jill Houck says, “there really is nothing better than a scratch made pie. We are meticulous about our crust and make sure it’s perfectly flaky every time.” She makes an all-butter crust and uses local fruit whenever possible. You can choose from apple, apple cranberry, maple pumpkin, southern bourbon pecan and chocolate pecan pies. 2017 Update: Order by November 20 by calling 774-202-5884 or emailing  [email protected]

Black Goose Cafe, Tiverton. Diana Lambrenos has been making homemade Thanksgiving pies since her family opened the Black Goose Cafe ten years ago. Diana uses a frozen, unbaked crust for the bottom layer but makes a unique and homemade cookie-like crust for the top that her customers love. It’s a family recipe and, fittingly, her family helps out with the pie production — her father and nieces will be with her making around 100 pies. 2017 Update: Order by November 19 by calling the Black Goose at 401-816-0882.

Enjoy!

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A Bicentennial of Berries..It’s Cranberry Season Again

2016 represents the 200th anniversary of commercial cranberry production in Massachusetts which makes it the oldest cranberry growing region in the country. With approximately 13,500 acres of commercial cranberry bogs in the state, primarily in Southeastern Massachusetts (that’s us! and Cape Cod, too), our farmers produce 15 percent of the world’s cranberries.

Folks, we own cranberries.

So we should get out there during cranberry harvest and celebrate the little red berries. Here are five ways to get out there and soak in the cranberry season (sometimes quite literally).

1. Family Farm Tours

photo by Joanne Harding

Stone Bridge Farm visitors (photo by Joanne Harding)

Joanne and Scott Harding have been cranberry growers in Acushnet for thirty years. They know their stuff about cranberries and they’re happy to share it with others. A couple of years ago, they opened up the farm for public tours. Since then, people have come from near and far to witness a cranberry harvest up close and personal. The tour ends at the bog, where folks don boots and chest-high waders and get down into the bog surrounded by photogenic, ripe berries. Joanne commemorates the bog visit with a photograph. The Hardings have hosted people from Denmark, Germany, Hawaii, Texas, and the West Coast. Their Tripadvisor rankings are uniformly excellent. We live so close, maybe we should see what all the fuss is about!  Stone Bridge Farm, Leonard Street, Acushnet. Tours are only available during the harvest season through reservation. Email Joanne at [email protected]

2. Survey Your Own Cranberry Farm

Nestled in Myles Standish State Forest is a 7 acre commercial cranberry farm owned by…you!

Ripening cranberries at Rocky Pond Bog at Myles Standish State Park (photo by Marlissa Briggett)

Ripening cranberries at Rocky Pond Bog at Myles Standish State Park (photo by Marlissa Briggett)

It’s wholly owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which makes it yours and mine. Used as a living laboratory, classroom and demonstration area to promote sustainable agricultural practices, it’s also a for-profit farm managed by the UMass Cranberry Experiment Station and the Department. You’re welcome to wander around the Rocky Pond Cranberry Bog – it’s free and if you’re lucky, you may see the harvest which generally happens sometime between mid-September and mid-October on weekdays. Myles Standish State Forest, Cranberry Road, South Carver (508) 866-2526 (from the ranger station, head out on College Pond Road, take a left on Bare Hill Road and follow that until you reach parking lot 7 where a short walk brings you to the bog).

3. Cranberries and More

A.D. Makepeace bog

At the bog-to-table dinner, guests will be able to gather in the bog (but only if they wish!)

No list of ways to celebrate South Coast cranberries is complete without mentioning the A.D. Makepeace’s annual Cranberry Harvest Festival on October 8 and 9, rain or shine. Every year, hundreds of people visit to see a wet cranberry harvest demonstration, along with cooking demonstrations, paddleboat rides on Tihonet Pond, juried crafters, food vendors, music and more.

…this year has an exciting development — an inaugural bog-to-table event which features a cocktail event held in a flooded bog full of floating berries.

Preceding the festival weekend this year is an exciting development — an inaugural bog-to-table event which features a cocktail event held in a flooded bog full of floating berries. Guests are encouraged to don waders and step right into the fun. Cocktails are followed by dinner prepared by local chefs and caterers that highlights cranberries in every course. Click here for information about the cranberry festival and click here for information about the bog-to-table event.  A.D. Makepeace, Tihonet Road, Wareham.

 

4. Use Cranberries As An Excuse

Acushnet Creamery's Cranberry Harvest ice cream cone (photo by Marlissa Briggett)

Acushnet Creamery’s Cranberry Harvest ice cream cone (photo by Marlissa Briggett)

Celebrate our cranberry-growing region by mixing them with your favorite indulgences. Ice cream lovers should head to Acushnet Creamery and Somerset Creamery. Both places feature a flavor of homemade cranberry-based ice cream packed with craisins, walnuts and dark chocolate chunks. At Acushnet Creamery, ask for Cranberry Harvest and at Somerset, ask for Cranberry Bog.  Chocolate lovers should head to Dorothy Cox’s Chocolates for their locally made chocolate-covered cranberries. Cocktail lovers should head to their favorite drink spots and order a Cosmo or Seabreeze, two of the most well-known drinks featuring cranberry juice. You get the idea….use cranberries as an excuse this month.

Acushnet Creamery, 264 Main Street, Acushnet. Somerset Creamery has three locations: 1931 GAR Hwy., Somerset; 146 County Street, Somerset; and, 1268 Route 28A, Cataumet. Dorothy Cox’s Chocolates, 117 Alden Road, Fairhaven and 8 Kendrick Road, Wareham.

5. Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce

If you don’t already make your own cranberry sauce, it should be at the top of your learn-to-do list. Bursting with antioxidants, it makes everything taste better. Put it on burgers. Put it on mashed potatoes. Put it on ice cream. It’s so easy you don’t even really need to follow a recipe after you’ve made it once. You don’t even have to cook it.

Here’s what I do. Put about 16 ounces of cranberries in a food processor. Cut an orange in eighths (keep the rind and skin on –  told you this was easy) and add it to the food processor with ¼ to ½ cup of sugar (depending on your fondness for sugar). Pulse it all together until the oranges have broken down and distributed themselves throughout the bowl but the cranberries are not too finely shredded. Keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week. Start putting it on everything.

Enjoy your cranberry season!

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Bristol Community College’s Cutting Edge Design

The First Zero Net Energy Campus Science Lab in the Northeast

Last December, I toured the John J. Sbrega Health & Science Building on BCC’s Fall River campus with its architect, Jim Moses from Sasaki Associates. Over the past two years, he’s been making weekly trips to check in on the building — I’d been following its progress on Instagram and wanted to see it for myself.

I also wanted the skinny on this remarkable building which has been garnering national awards for its environmental approach. The goal: to design and construct a zero net energy (ZNE) building, or one that generates as much energy as it uses.

Anyone who has seen the solar array adorning the new parking lot at BCC knows that BCC is serious about renewable energy. President Jack Sbrega was a founding signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Change Commitment and BCC’s climate action plan sets a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.  When it came time to design its new health and sciences building, environmental concerns were necessarily part of the planning process.

Moses told me a little about ZNE buildings. Of the 40 or so ZNE buildings in the U.S., more than half are on the West Coast where the climate is milder. In addition to dealing with a harsher New England climate, BCC had to contend with the enhanced energy needs of a science building. Moses says a ZNE academic lab-science building “is without precedent in the Northeast.”

He told me about the hybrid source heat pump, enthalpy wheel heat recovery and the filtration fume hoods, all of which help create a ZNE building which will provide operational savings of $230,000 per year. He’s passionate about all of this (see more here).

Yes, yes, yes. The technology that reduces carbon footprints is terribly important. We all can agree that a Zero Net Energy building is something to celebrate. But here’s why I really went to see the building. What does it look like?

And here’s the really big news: it’s a beautiful design.

The Sbrega Health & Science Building

The Sbrega Health & Science Building (photo by James Moses).

From the outside, glass, steel, and wood combine to create a building that moves the campus beautifully into the 21st century.  The asymmetrical roof lines overhanging the building, the textured brick patterns, and the long colonnade create an elegant building with character that immediately engages your interest. You’ll want to walk all around the building. You’ll want to enter.

Inside, a soaring center atrium unifies the entire building. Staircases on either end appear to be floating. Glass walls create a window into the lab classrooms which reveal the science happening inside. The glass walls also bring a heavy coolness factor as new-fangled blackboards: they double as writing surfaces.

Moses pointed out areas where chairs and couches will entice students to study and lounge between classes. His hope is that students who would never think to take a science class will come to the building simply to hang out. They’ll see what’s happening in the labs and consider taking a class. “We always talk about science on display,” he says. “The idea is to remove the mystery behind science. If you can see it happening, you’ll be curious and think, ‘maybe I should take a class.’ It’s about inviting people into that world.”


“We always talk about science on display,” he says. “The idea is to remove the mystery behind science. If you can see it happening, you’ll be curious and think, ‘maybe I should take a class.’ It’s about inviting people into that world.”


Moses was very mindful of designing this building for the future yet he relished the opportunity to root it firmly in the South Coast’s history. The wood shingles and patterned floor tiles are nods to the history of the Fall River and New Bedford mills and textiles. He showed me some of the photos he used as inspiration to reflect this rich history:

Inside a textile factory

Inside a textile factory (used as inspiration for the Sbrega Buidling)

Inspiration for the Sbrega Building

Patterned textiles (further inspiration for the Sbrega Building)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps an even bigger nod to the past is the oak tree outside the North end of the building. When I visited in December, I saw it protectively surrounded by a chain link fence next to the construction zone and asked about it. The answer was simple. “We wanted to save it,” Moses said.

Saving the oak tree

Saving the oak tree (photo by James Moses)

There’s something incredibly lovely about their efforts to save that tree. It seems particularly apt for the Sbrega Building — reflecting both its healthy respect for the past and its forward-thinking focus on conserving the environment.

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A South Coast Tale for St. Patrick’s Day

The New Bedford Whaling Ship Catalpa

What does a prison break, Queen Victoria, and Australia have to do with St. Patrick’s Day in New Bedford?

The answer lies in a thrilling 1876 escape from a remote Australian prison involving six Irish Nationalists, a secret agent, a rowboat and a fearless sea captain.

Sarah Rose, Curator of Education at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, shared the story with me. Rose recently went to Ireland to set up an exchange between the Museum and Irish high school students.

Here’s the story.

In the late 1860s, the British Empire convicted a number of British soldiers to death for treason for having joined the Irish National Brotherhood (they were referred to as Fenians). Queen Victoria commuted their death sentence to a life of hard labor in a remote Western Australian prison.  Fremantle Prison was a place as infamous as Alcatraz, impossible to escape, with desert to the east, shark infested waters to the west, and long days of back-breaking labor.

The Fremantle prisoners reached out for help to John Devoy, a fellow Fenian who had been exiled to the United States. Devoy raised funds, bought a whaling ship named the Catalpa, and persuaded an American captain, George Anthony, to attempt to rescue them by sea.

It was a crazy idea. One which depended on over a year of planning and plenty of luck. Captain Anthony embarked on the Catalpa under the guise of a whaling expedition.

Meanwhile, James Breslin, an Irish nationalist posing as an American millionaire, was able to gain entry into the prison by feigning interest in cheap labor and investment opportunities in Fremantle. Breslin got word to the inmates that they must ALL be outside on Easter Monday 1876 if they were to be rescued. There would not be any second chances for anyone left behind.

At the appointed time, all six men were outside. Breslin arrived and spirited them away by horses twelve miles down the coast where a rowboat and Captain Anthony waited for them. They rowed with all their might for the whaling ship which waited a few miles out — just beyond the point where international waters began.

But their escape was discovered and the alarms sounded just as they were beginning to row. For two days, the men rowed heroically. They survived an intense gale which broke the boat’s mast and a police cutter bearing down on them. Meanwhile, back at the Catalpa, the first mate was being harassed by an imposing British steamer, the SS Georgette, which had been commandeered by the Australian governor to thwart the escape plan. The Georgette’s captain demanded to board the Catalpa. The Catalpa’s first mate refused entry. The stalemate ended when the British steamer was forced to turn back for more fuel.

The Georgette returned the next day, refueled and heavily armed for combat, after the prisoners had finally reached the boat following a last minute chase by the police cutter. The Georgette came menacingly close to the whale ship and threatened to fire upon the Catalpa. Captain Anthony raised the American flag and dared the British ship to fire, declaring that an attack on the Catalpa in international waters would be considered an act of war against the United States.

But with no available wind, the Catalpa was unable to sail away and the Georgette attempted to maneuver the Catalpa into Australian waters so that it could fire upon the American ship with impunity. Fortuitously, the wind picked up and the Catalpa sailed away.

When the ship entered New York harbor five months later, hundreds of thousands of people greeted the Fremantle Six. Their daring prison rescue was an international story and the Irish fight for independence was reinvigorated.

It’s a story definitely worthy of a swashbuckling Hollywood movie. For more background, check out Smithsonian Magazine or a PBS episode about the event, Irish Escape.

Even better, go to the New Bedford Whaling Museum next fall to check out “Friends, Famine and Fenians” in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Word is that the original flag from the Catalpa may be there.

And to bring it all around to our original question: what does all this have to do with St. Patrick’s Day in New Bedford?

  • The brave whaling captain who led the expedition and boldly dared the British Navy to fire upon his ship was — you guessed it — a New Bedford guy sailing a New Bedford ship out of New Bedford Harbor. Unfortunately, Captain Anthony’s career as a whaling captain was cut short as a result of the incident because the British Navy threatened to arrest him if they found him in international waters again.
  • It’s St. Patrick’s Day.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from South Coast Almanac!

The Fremantle Six (photos: Wikipedia)
Fremantle prisoner Martin HoganFremantle prisoner Thomas DarraghFremantle prisoner James WilsonFremantle prisoner Robett CranstonFremantle Prisoner Thomas Hassett Fremantle prisoner Michael Harrington

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