Eat & Drink

Meat Raised with Integrity: Hogwash Farm

06/20/2017

Hogwash Farm is one of those family-run producers we immediately associate with Vermont. If you’ve ever visited their quaint farm stand in Norwich VT, you’ll get the idea. Locally raised poultry, beef, pork, and lamb cuts are freshly packaged and neatly stacked in the stand’s fridges. You can leave with the meat of your choice, along with a dozen farm fresh eggs, by logging your purchase and paying on the honor system. And – this stand is open 365 days of the year. Can you think of anything as quintessential Vermont as this?

Originally from New Jersey, Nancy LaRowe started Hogwash Farm about 11 years ago in 2006. She had no farming background prior to moving to Vermont. In fact, Nancy was in the food service industry and practiced vegetarianism! “I realized animals can have a great life, and I’m pretty good with animals myself,” Nancy says. She now manages 250 acres of land (hay, pastures, and all) in Norwich.

Nancy found herself in Vermont because she loved the culture and farming. Aside from her liking to nature and hiking, the Green Mountain State offered Nancy the opportunity to join a community innately supportive of its local agriculture. “I got really lucky in Vermont in that I started a business that parallels the movement of people caring about where their food is coming from,” says Nancy.

Nancy loves animals and the very simple, heartfelt relationship she has with them. “I could spend hours in the fields with the pigs,” she says. “Animals are always appreciative.” And this is why Nancy takes such great care in raising her farm animals. “Grass-fed makes a tremendous difference,” Nancy notes, for example. This is the way these animals were meant to be raised. Moreover, this practice is most beneficial to the overall environment! “It makes the soil and animals happier.” When it comes time to slaughter, Nancy inevitably feels sad. However, she goes through the process gently, ensuring the animals experience no stress. To put this final step in perspective, Nancy tends to live by one motto: appreciate the past, respect the now, and look forward to the future.

Most importantly, Nancy believes that how she raises her animals results in superior health and flavor. “It’s not about the volume. It’s about rebalancing your plate with meat and chicken.” Instead of a heaping portion of grain-fed meat, this product is better for you. Pasture-raised meat and eggs are beneficial to your health. They offer you more “good” fats and fewer “bad” fats than commercial products. Plus, Hogwash Farm’s meat and eggs contain no traces of added hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs. Grass-fed animals result in meat with two to four times more Omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain-fed animals.

As the Hogwash business grows and continues, Nancy would like to “continue rotational grazing, but learn to be nicer on the soil.” She’d like to get a system in place where the land’s earthworms and microbes are just as happy as her farm animals. This means being gentler to the earth, getting rid of the tiller, and directly seeding herself. Such a practice is more in concert with nature. Nancy says, “In agriculture, there is always more to respect and appreciate.” 

Hogwash Farm is well known for their meat CSA. In fact, they were the first in the region to offer the particular kind of CSA! The program has been running consistently for seven years now. You can also find Hogwash at the Norwich Farmers’ Market! Hogwash Farm obviously takes great prides in the way they raise their animals. Their efforts to maintain a healthy, happy environment for both the animals and land are certainly not lost on us. Try it for yourself! Hogwash Farm will not disappoint.

Eat & Drink, Stay Local

But First Coffee: Mon Vert Cafe

06/13/2017

Woodstock is a small New England town with so much charm, once named “the prettiest small town in America.”  An afternoon stroll through the village’s green and the many main street shops are among our top recommendations on fair weather days. Lunch in Woodstock, however, is something for which we like to call on Mon Vert Cafe in particular. Newly relocated and focused on local fare, we love to visit their space nestled right on downtown’s Central Street.

The cafe itself began about six years ago, after which Sam DiNatale and her mother, Sandy, took it over in January 2015. This duo has worked to build the cafe into a place for communal gathering, healthy food, and (arguably most important) good coffee!

Sam grew up in Woodstock. After moving away and having her son, Sam returned to Vermont to give her child the same New England upbringing she enjoyed. Sam began working in the bakery department at the Woodstock Farmers’ Market. “I baked at home and really enjoyed it,” she says. “At the market, I started as an entry level cookie scooper and after a few years, had the opportunity to step in as head baker.” As a way of expanding her culinary knowledge base a bit more, Sam also took on the role of pastry chef at Worthy Kitchen.  Now she has baking implicitly woven into her own business. “It’s been an incredible learning curve. I really enjoy it and continue to find new ideas,” Sam mentions.

“This town is my home, and its people are my extended family.” As such, Sam and Sandy aim to create a place where residents, as well as visitors, can enjoy themselves! Their recent move down the street to a larger space allowed Mon Vert Cafe to grow and meet their customer demand – not a bad problem to have!

Image thoughtfully provided by Mon Vert Cafe

Food is a main contributor to the act of gathering, and this is not lost on Sam. “My father once owned a coffee shop. Growing up in my household, anything less than flavors of chicken cacciatore or linguini with white clam sauce was a rarity.” Basic food doesn’t seem to be in Sam’s vocabulary. She grew up to truly appreciate good food and, in turn, takes pride in the food she serves others. The fact that she can share the food she loves with a community she admires is the cherry on top of the successful business.

Vermont has a very large impact on Mon Vert Cafe. Sam notes, “With all the amazing products and farms around here, Vermont makes it easy!” Offering local food isn’t difficult because it is so abundant in these parts. “The food industry in Vermont is an awesome group of people. They love food, high quality food.” The cafe proudly dons a list of local producers used in Mon Vert on a daily basis. More than simply supplying, Vermont producers also have this way of building a relationship with customers like Sam. Jesse and Sarit of Plymouth Cheese, for example, will come and deliver their cheeses in person. They will take their time to chat and maybe even eat lunch at Mon Vert. The cafe also supports local makers! Just check out their Farmhouse Pottery serveware that came from right down the road. This is the beauty of Vermont’s food and community-based culture … there are so many deep connections to be had here. 

Sam looks forward to learning more about offering to this community. With a baking backbone well-secured at Mon Vert Cafe, she’d like to delve deep into the coffee aspect of her business. Sam plans to learn more about the detailed roasting process that goes into artisan brews. Mon Vert currently offers Vermont Coffee Company for their coffees (found here at The Jackson House Inn as well!), which makes for a true and classic customer favorite. Mon Vert Cafe may also be expanding their cold-brew options in the near future!

Mon Vert Cafe is the ideal place to sit, relax, and enjoy some lunch or breakfast. In fact, Mon Vert now has outdoor seating! On warm summer days, we can’t imagine a better situation. Sam is working on some patio seating to place behind the cafe as well! Ahhh there is nothing quite like sipping on coffee with a view of the Ottauquechee River. We are really looking forward to this addition! What are you waiting for? Head on down to the Woodstock Village and get a taste of our local fare.

Go Explore

Wood-Fired & Whimsical: Two Potters

06/08/2017

Tucked in the hills of Bethel VT, two potters have created a homestead in which they, along with their two children, could live out their dream of craftsmanship. A balance of family and work makes for an inevitably busy, yet vivacious day-to-day schedule. However, this chosen lifestyle evokes a strong bond between them. The children see their parents following their passion and creating a home which can foster that creativity. It is here in Vermont’s bucolic landscape where Becca and Nathan have created Two Potters – a manifestation of their love for family, ceramics, and the thoughtful process behind their product. 

The couple met each other about nine years ago, when Nathan called Becca out of the blue to inquire whether she’d be interested in teaching a clay workshop in his studio. Both potters with similar interests and obvious chemistry, a two-hour phone call led to their engagement three months later! The couple found an old hill farm in rural Vermont to live, work, and raise their family. Since moving, Becca and Nathan began transforming the property to accommodate their trade and vision.

They started by collecting bricks to build their own wood-fired kiln. In fact, it took the couple three years to design and build this massive structure themselves. The final design now earnestly sits beneath a barn roof, large and impressive, awaiting its next firing. The kiln is big enough to walk into and stand straight up. Becca and Nathan construct make-shift shelving to utilize as much of the kiln space as possible. Once the pieces are stacked and ready, Two Potters begins their single firing process. This labor-intensive technique creates a beautifully unique look for which Becca and Nathan are now known.  

It takes months to create enough pottery to pack the kiln to capacity. Once fully stocked, over 800 pottery pieces are fired for four days straight, day and night. Becca and Nathan stoke the kiln with scrap slab wood throughout the firing to reach a temperature of over 2300 degrees Fahrenheit. The subsequent wood ash creates a natural glaze on each piece. After a week of cooling, Becca and Nathan remove the pottery from the kiln. This process is no joke, making each piece highly anticipated and special. Hearing about the amount of time and care involved in Two Potters’ firing prompt us to appreciate their pottery even more. After all, many of Becca and Nathan’s ceramics have been in the making for months!

The couple behind Two Potters also built their own timber-frame pottery studio. Nestled just behind their home and storefront, Becca and Nathan walk across their lawn to begin the workday. They each take turns playing with their two kiddos and throwing behind the wheel. Pieces such as bowls, mugs, mason jars, and pitchers consistently turn out of the Two Potters studio. A few of these pieces are fired in a small electric kiln Becca and Nathan have on hand. In a very resourceful fashion, the power in the studio derives from solar panels on the roof of the Two Potters showroom. Additional electricity from these panels helps power their pottery wheels and other studio electronics as well.

You can find Becca and Nathan’s pottery in the Two Potters showroom (located in the farm’s old milk house!). Simply call or email Becca and Nathan to schedule a time to visit. Some pieces are also available on Etsy. Good news for you newly engaged couples – Two Potters now also accommodates registries! We suggest you keep an eye out for Becca and Nathan at the Mount Sunapee Craftsmen’s Fair this August, if you are in the area, as well. We’ve fallen in love with the burnt oranges, light blues, and tiny birds that adorn Becca and Nathan’s pottery. It seems that there is a piece to fit every person’s aesthetic. Moreover, Becca and Nathan are two of the most genuine people we have ever met. Their passion and enthusiasm for their craft is not only visible, but also contagious. The beauty of Two Potters’ pieces truly reflects the down-to-earth personalities of the craftsmen who made them. 

Get Cookin'

The Proof is in the Pudding: Heady Jelly Bread Pudding

05/30/2017

Weekends seem a bit sweeter as we head on into summer. Spring has a way of reenergizing us around this time of year. The warm weather has us savoring our breakfasts as we chat in anticipation of the day’s plans – outdoor hikes and leisurely drives are a few of our favorites. Regardless of what you have in store for the afternoon, a day of true enjoyment should start off with a spectacular morning meal. Here’s the trick – something light yet filling, flavorful and enticing. Bread pudding is just the ticket to start your day off right!

Our bread pudding is a fairly rare dish coming out of the kitchen. It came about for the first time upon a guest’s request. In true Jackson House fashion, we wanted to serve a pudding that digressed from the standard recipe. Instead, we aimed to create a surprising yet delightful recipe of our very own. We opted for a version on the more loose and fluffy side.

Combining airy bread with farm fresh cream helps lighten up this traditionally heavy dish. Our bread pieces fall into the bowl and fully soak in the citrus broth. We ditched the traditional firm square portions for a creamy and luxurious bowlful of pudding, instead.

If you’ve dined with us before, you know how much we like to put a little Vermont twist on our breakfast plates. We elevated this particular dish by adding some Potlicker Heady Jelly (that’s right…Heady Topper bear jelly!). Have you tried it? Heady Jelly is special due to its pleasant complexity. A subtle hop flavor balances a fruity base, and we swear you can feel a hint of carbonation as you spoon this jelly into your mouth. Of course, this recipe rocks because it’s adaptable! Have a particular ingredient on hand that you think will be tasty atop your brioche? Replace or add it into the broth recipe! We love the idea of experimenting with other Potlicker beer jellies (Apricot Ale and India Pale Ale, in particular). Feel free to also alter ingredients based on seasonality. Fresh blueberries, for instance, can replace the dried cranberries in the height of summer. That’s the beauty of this soft and delicate bread pudding…so many ingredients can complement its brioche foundation.  Make ours or make it yours!

Soft Bread Pudding with Heady Jelly

Servings: 6
Difficulty: Easy
Print recipe here.

Pudding Ingredients:
1 cup farm fresh whole milk
3 cups farm fresh heavy cream
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and seeds scraped (save seeds)
12 large free range egg yolks
1 cup tart dried cranberries
1 ¼ cup natural cane sugar (set aside 1/4 cup)
1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1 loaf – brioche, challah, or sourdough (tear into 1-2”pieces – brioche & challah will yield lighter, feathery texture)

Prepare Pudding

Preheat oven to 300°.

Lightly butter a 9 ½” x 13 ½” x 2” baking dish and set aside. Bring the milk and cream to a slight simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove pan from the heat and add the vanilla seeds and pods. Cover and allow to sit for 20 minutes to infuse flavors. Combine egg yolks and 1 cup of natural cane sugar in a large bowl, whisk until blended to light yellow color.  While whisking constantly, temper the yolks with a very small amount of warm cream mixture. Continue to gradually pour the remaining milk mixture into the yolks until completely combined – whisking at all times. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer and discard the vanilla pods (these can be reused to flavor sugar or another recipe). Add nutmeg and combine well. In a large bowl, toss the bread pieces and the cranberries. Place in baking dish. Pour 1/3 of the liquid over bread pieces and let rest for 5-7 minutes. Repeat two additional times until all liquid is incorporated. This will ensure that each bread piece is sufficiently soaked. Sprinkle the top with remaining sugar.

Bake the uncovered pudding in a water bath in the oven for 1 ¼ hours, or until the pudding is set and the bread is puffed and lightly brown on top. Remove from water bath and allow to rest for minimum of 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cranberry Citrus Broth Ingredients:
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 grapefruit
1 tsp of orange skin/zest, thinly cut into ½” long strips
1 tsp of grapefruit skin/zest, thinly cut into ½” long strips
1 tsp of lemon skin/zest, thinly cut into ½” long strips
½ cup tart dried cranberries
3 Tbsp honey
1 star anise
pinch of finely chopped rosemary & thyme
4 Tbsp Potlicker Heady Jelly (adjust to your liking) 

Prepare Broth
Combine all ingredients in saucepan.  Very lightly simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to infuse.  Adjust sweetness level accordingly to desired taste. Remove star anise.

Serve
Cut the warm pudding into square portions and place in center of plate or soup bowl. Top each serving with 2-3 tablespoons of citrus broth. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

Stay Local

Bucolic Bliss: The Jackson House Inn Grounds

05/18/2017

We’ve been experiencing a glorious stretch of Vermont spring weather. The flowers are out, the sun is shining, and we are all craving ice cream cones! Most notably, this is also a time of great celebration for our inn. Mid-May marks not only Christine Jackson’s birthday, but also our SEVENTH anniversary of owning the Jackson House Inn! We can’t believe how lucky we’ve been to call such a bucolic place home. Woodstock VT is certainly a very special town, and we consider our little corner of it to be especially tranquil.

One of the main attractions of the Jackson House Inn remains our relaxing grounds and gardens. In addition to being a short distance away from the Woodstock Village (closer to White Cottage, Farmhouse Pottery, and the Woodstock Farmer’s Market!), we revel in the quiet spaces we’ve helped cultivate since taking ownership of the inn. In the seven years we’ve been here, there have been many changes to make our landscape appear as it does today!

Since moving into the Jackson House in 2010, we’ve proudly maintained the yellow and white color scheme of the home. However, much effort was put into rebuilding the porch, stairs, and railing before reopening. As opposed to opting for standard spindles, we decided to have the railings hand-cut to maintain its original, detailed pattern which had been visible across the front for so many years. 

When we first purchased the Jackson House Inn, the grounds were full of perennials, wildflowers, ferns, and shrubs that had originally offered a natural sense! We were able to keep a lot of what was already here. For instance, our pond was created by the owners who originally opened the property as a bed and breakfast in the 1980s. While we cleaned and manicured the area, we’re thankful for this beautiful addition to our gardens, which guests continue to enjoy today! 

Improvements we did make to the grounds include a revamped herb garden, raised beds, and a new “zen” garden! Before making many of these changes, we first and foremost were forced to take down a massive, old maple tree in the backyard that had rotted. This helped open up the backyard, allowing more sunshine and space for guests to enjoy the property behind the inn!

Next, we curated our herb garden beside the dining room to grow herbs that we use most often for breakfast! Our friend, Oliver, built a trio of white birch teepees to protect and aid our seedlings one year (oh, how we miss these beauties!). We also replaced a once lush tree maze with raised garden beds. The trees that had been planted long before our arrival were developing larger brown areas each year, so we decided to utilize the space for raised beds! This portion of the grounds now provides an abundant amount of edible greens and flora we can, again, use for breakfast. We’ve also found an additional use for these beds as various celebrations arrive at the inn – the perfect platform for a line of champagne glasses!

Finally, what we have fondly named our “zen garden” has replaced an old circle of overgrown juniper and crabapple trees. After clearing the space, Oliver constructed a tall cairn in the middle. He also built various smaller cairns to carry the zen characteristic all the way back to our pond. Of course, all stones used for our cairns were harvested in Vermont!

Last but not least, we’ve made a very cool change to the outside of the inn – our sign! Having originally said “restaurant,” we quickly adjusted to sans public eatery when we first moved to town since that part of the business had ceased operation years before. Today, we have new and improved signage to match our branding inside the house – a blend of respect for history and a focus on the comforts we all expect in 2017! We absolutely love its clean and minimalist look. 

Lucky year seven is off to a FANTASTIC start! It’s fun and exciting to see the transformation of our inn throughout our time here, and we now look forward to spending some time outside in this warmer weather. We say it every year: Vermont sure is beautiful in every season!

Eat & Drink, Go Explore

The Language of Nature: Free Verse Farm

05/09/2017
Image thoughtfully provided by Free Verse Farm.

We often emphasize the benefits of organically raised produce and livestock. It’s our true belief that farm fresh vegetables and meat are superior both in flavor and for our health. We recently took a step back, however, to consider the entire cooking process. More than just the basic meat or vegetable goes into a well-rounded recipe. Beyond salt and pepper, we love to elevate our meals with herbs and seasoning. This emphasizes the fact that we should perhaps be paying more attention to the care and effort put into the cultivation of herbs and flora. After all, what better accompanies a thoughtfully chosen protein or vegetable than local, organic herbs? We are lucky enough to have a wealth of knowledge available via a local producer, Free Verse Farm!

Owners Misha and Taylor originally met in college. Taylor studied English, while Misha learned the ins and outs of environmental studies. A precursor is certainly not lost on the couple as they reminisce about their college days. Misha supplied the campus cafe (where Taylor worked at the time) with dried tea herbs he grew on his on-campus organic garden. Misha notes, “For a long time, I had been interested in local organic food. I liked to raise awareness. I sold produce to dining halls, but also found that fundraising and informing were best done by selling these dry herbs in the cafe where students were studying.” Lemon verbena and peppermint were top sellers with the students. Their aromas were undoubtedly attention-grabbing! Still, the local food movement at the time focused a lot on food, as opposed to herbs that are so easily grown at home or on a resident farm. Taylor states, “A lot of times, teas are imported even though we are capable of growing a lot of chamomile, for instance. We grow a lot in one season, and it becomes stable once dried.” Why wouldn’t we be focusing on the local herb and tea industry in addition to food, especially if it is so easily grown locally?

Following college, Misha and Taylor found themselves working on an organic farm in California. As Taylor studied to earn her masters in poetry and creative writing, Misha dove into herbalism. He learned how to use and prepare herbs, as well as how to establish an organic farming practice. The couple began farming on land near Misha’s hometown of Norwich VT in 2012.

Taylor and Misha’s relocation was a fortuitous one. “Many people have their own gardens here in Vermont,” Taylor says. “They’re more familiar with herbs and flowers than your average city dweller. And people are also good at preserving things! Long winters justify drying your own herbs for tea and culinary use.” This agricultural familiarity within the community lends to a more open-minded mentality toward holistic healing. As such, Taylor and Misha find themselves often chatting and educating amongst their customers at local farmers’ markets. “People are open-minded to the idea that plants can offer more than just flavor – healing and uplifting qualities. It’s a welcoming community,” mentions Taylor. Keep your eyes out for Free Verse Farm at the Norwich Farmer’s Market and Woodstock’s Market on the Green this summer! Free Verse has also been selling their blends to an increasing number of stores in-state and throughout New England!

Herbs are the main inspiration for this duo. Taylor and Misha are motivated by working with the land itself. “We do not see the land as a place to impose our will of straight row crops,” says Misha. “The plan has always been to find ways to connect more deeply with the property.” Free Verse Farm works with their 38 acres of dry slopes, wet low pockets, open fields, forest, and little meadows to cultivate herbs and flora in areas they naturally flourish. Misha notes, “Herbs are very particular. Elderberry, for instance, likes moist soil. Thyme and oregano thrive in dry soil.” Little habitats throughout their property allow for pockets of herbs here and there. The plants that grow wild are the most surprising and interesting to witness throughout the seasons. 

Taylor is especially motivated by the creative energy that comes from working with Misha in every aspect of the business. “We bounce ideas off each other and collaborate on every level.” They find euphoria in seeing the herbs at full bloom, drying them, finding how well color and smell are maintained, as well as blending and coming up with names or recipes. The entire process keeps creativity and collaboration varied. In fact, Free Verse Farm loves to collaborate! Taylor and Misha have worked with a distillery, brewery, and restaurants in the past. Taylor and Misha always have their ear to the ground for similar potential projects. Moreover, working with partners like breweries has helped people engage more with herbs. The beer culture today celebrates flavor experimentation. Consumers are more open to trying beer with chamomile, for instance. The recent popularity of double IPAs has also opened the door for herbs, allowing Free Verse to fully embrace bitter taste and reference the verbiage of bitters or alcohol. 

All in all, Free Verse Farm is producing a very Vermont product focused on remedies, teas, and culinary blends from herbs we can grow locally. Taylor and Misha love involving the community (local, Vermont, New England!) with what they’re doing on the farm. As such, Free Verse Farm continually adds farm tours and workshops to their events calendar. Taylor and Misha also make the farm available to host your own event! A Shakespeare reading and yoga retreat are just two examples of recent events held on the farm. Feel free to contact them with any inquiries!

A taste and wellness trend are causing people to engage more with herbs in recent years, and we fully embrace this movement! Why not take thought into each and every aspect of your dish? Free Verse Farm provides us with a large dose of inspiration in both their honest methods and innovative blends. Check out their online shop and discover how organic herbs can change your life for the better! 

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