Get Cookin'

Under the Tuscan Sun: Chilled Tuscan Melon Soup

07/21/2017

The summer heat has set in and we’re beginning to have a lot of fun with this season’s produce! One of our favorite dishes at this time of year is Rick’s Chilled Tuscan Melon Soup – a light and flavorful dish that packs a fresh punch. We’ve previously celebrated melon season by serving melon halves, hollowed out and filled with fresh berries and sorbets. Recently, however, we’ve transformed this original dish to incorporate a different texture and presentation. It is simply too much fun to play with the vibrant color and refreshing taste of this special melon. Thus, we have converted our favorite Tuscan melons into soup! This dish may have a unfamiliar look, but the nutritional benefits have remained. Incorporate your daily dose of Vitamin A, C, and antioxidants into breakfast…get your melon on with our Chilled Tuscan Melon Soup!

Have you heard of Tuscan melons before? Also known as Napoli, Tuscan melon has been around since the Egyptian times, about 2400 BC. These little guys are actually a form of cantaloupe. They thrive in the heat, and as such, have a fairly short season. Most farms will start them in wind tunnels due to our cooler springs. These tunnels help the seedlings thrive to maturity. We source from a small specialty farm in Vermont, which harvests these melons at peak ripeness. Tuscan melons are deeply ribbed and have a crisp, sweet orange flesh. While these fruits are relatively small, they have a thick flesh and small seed cavity. Accordingly, each fruit packs a good amount of soup-worthy ingredient!

We love using Tuscan melons because of their very deep and vibrant melon profile. They tend to have a higher sugar content than other melons, making their natural sweetness top-notch. We are careful to harvest them as they are just fully ripe – when their green ribs start to fade and they have reached their optimum flavor profile. If you smell a ripe Tuscan melon, it screams fragrant and sweet! This makes our melon soup the perfect antidote to a hot or humid New England morning. Start your day off on a cool note and try our recipe for yourself!

Tuscan Melon Soup 

Servings: 5
Difficulty: Easy
Print recipe here.

Soup Ingredients:
1 Tuscan melon
2 limes, zest & juice
1.5 inch knob ginger, grated
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp natural sugar
1 Tbsp coconut milk
Pinch of salt

Garnish Options:
Toasted coconut flakes
Micro basil
Melon pieces
Avocado glacé
Toasted almonds or pistachios

Prepare Citrus Broth
Zest and juice two limes into small bowl. Grate knob of ginger into lime zest mixture. Add honey and sugar – stir until fully incorporated with no remaining sugar crystals. Taste and adjust to your liking (i.e. more honey/sugar for a sweeter taste, more lime juice or ginger for an acidic note). Tailor to your liking!

Prepare Melon
Cut melon in half. Scoop out seeds and any fiber strands surrounding the seeds. Slice into wedges (approximately 4 wedges per melon half). Remove melon rind by holding melon wedge in your hand and sliding a pairing knife between the rind and melon flesh. Slice wedges into 1 – 2 inch pieces.

Method for Tuscan Melon Soup
In a blender, add prepped melon pieces and 3/4 of citrus broth (reserve remaining 1/4 for final adjustments). Blend on low speed to break up melon (about 30 seconds). Gradually increase speed to highest setting, until fully blended. Taste. Add remaining citrus broth for an additional pop of acidity, if desired. Add a pinch of salt and coconut milk. Blend on high speed until fully incorporated (about 10 seconds). Transfer to a closed container and refrigerate overnight (this will develop a deeper melon flavor profile and soften the rawness of the melon). Very important step!!

Plating
Remove soup from fridge and mix with a hand whisk for 30 seconds, until blended. Portion about 4 ounces into a small soup bowl or attractive dish. Garnish with suggested options or your own inspirations. Serve immediately, chilled.

Eat & Drink, Go Explore, Stay Local

Strawberry Fields Forever: Summer Berry Picking

07/11/2017

It’s that time of year when summer produce is at an all-time high. We take this opportunity to incorporate berries, melons, and the like into our breakfast menu as often as we can. Strawberries are a particular favorite. And lucky for us, it is still strawberry picking season around these parts! We personally like to feature Vermont’s seasonal strawberries on boards with pieces of Jasper Hill‘s gooey, delicious Harbison cheese or chunks of their tangy Cabot Clothbound cheddar. Another favorite recipe? Our chilled strawberry soup – the perfect remedy to a hot or humid summer day.

Beyond serving this outstandingly fresh ingredient, we also love directing our guests to local farms for a little PYO (pick-your-own) fun. A number of farms around Woodstock invite the public to come and reap the fruits of their strawberry or blueberry fields. And let’s be honest, picking your own berries makes the produce taste that much sweeter. We encourage you to go out and pick some berries off the vine yourself! We’re sharing a couple berry picking tips, as well as a few recommended PYO farms in the area below.

TIPS
1. Despite the temptation, try not to wash your strawberries until just before you eat them. Leaving your berries away from water will help them keep longer (same goes for blueberries). You see, water introduces moisture that wasn’t in the berry before. Thus, premature washing could make your produce go bad faster. This makes sense, when you consider how rain can cause strawberry crops to deteriorate more quickly.

2. Go small! As juicy and luscious as the large berries appear, it is the smaller strawberries that tend to be more sweet and have a deeper flavor.

3. Some farms offer late harvest strawberries. There are mainly two seasons for strawberries – the more popular late spring/early summer season and the late fall/late harvest season. In Vermont, varieties such as Cabot, Clancy, Lateglow come later in the year!

4. Be on the lookout for Winona! Winona strawberries are one of our favorite varietals here at the Jackson House Inn. They are a late/mid-season berry with an intensely sweet flavor and a little peach overtone! These are the beauties we love to serve with Harbison or Cabot Clothbound from Jasper Hill Farm.

PICK YOUR OWN

1. Edgewater Farm is just a hop, skip, and a jump over the river in Plainfield NH. A particular favorite farm of the Jackson House Inn, we are big fans of Edgewater Farm’s effort to incorporate sustainable/organic farming practices. Find information about their PYO strawberries here.

2. Spring Ledge Farm (where the images in this post were taken) is located next to New London NH’s picturesque Pleasant Lake. Pick to your heart’s content, in your own container or one they provide for you. PYO flower and strawberry information can both be found here.

3. Moore’s Orchards located in Pomfret VT. A mere 16-minute drive from the inn will bring you to this haven. We suggest calling ahead for their seasonal hours for PYO blueberries!

FYI – We found this guide extremely helpful!

Fresh, local and delicious – those are “musts” when it comes to a summer meal, whether it is breakfast, lunch, dinner or a quick snack!  Seasonal berries will definitely bring smiles to everyone’s faces!

Eat & Drink, Stay Local

Fourth of July: Summer in Vermont

07/04/2017

Happy Fourth of July to all our readers, near and far! As you may have guessed, Vermont is a bit delayed in its seasons compared to where our guests call home. Being as far north as the Upper Valley, we eagerly await the signs of spring that may have already made their debut in Boston, for instance. This delayed gratification of warm spring days and blossoming blooms, however, simply makes the arrival of summer that much sweeter! Memorial Day is certainly a sign of warm days to come, but Fourth of July is the sure-fire mark that summer has arrived. What better way to kick off the season of ice cream, hikes, pond swims, and picnics? We’ve rounded up our absolute favorite summer activities to enjoy in the area this season.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream
We’re lucky enough to call White Cottage Snack Bar our neighbor. While their Giffords ice cream selection is impressive, we love this place most for their view! There is truly nothing like grabbing some fries or a cone and sitting along the Ottauquechee River in the evening. Feel free to dip your toes in the water on those few sweltering days of Vermont summer!

Cheers Along the River
Many consider Long Trail a staple in these parts. We especially like visiting Bridgewater in the summer months, when the brewery’s outdoor beer garden is open! Overgrown hops surround the covered deck as the Ottauquechee River flows beside you. Enjoy a freshly made brew and a selection from Long Trail’s new food menu – we can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon!

Eat, Drink, Be Merry
Thursday evenings here are revved up a notch in the summertime. Enter the Feast & Field Market, complete with live music, local vendors, and farm fresh eats to satisfy your belly. This market is made possible by a collective led by Fable Farm. The best part? You can taste Fable Farm Fermentory’s delicious libations at the market too. BYO picnic blanket or utilize the market’s picnic tables while you watch the sunset and feast!

Life’s a Picnic
Bring along your picnic basket and blanket – Vermont is the ideal place for outdoor snacking! One of our highly recommended picnic spots is along Silver Lake, across from the Barnard General Store in Barnard VT. Stop into BGS to grab some eats (made-to-order sandwiches and baked goods are available on site) and wander across the street to enjoy the view! Another favorite spot of ours includes the yard behind the Woodstock History Center. Walk through the alley between The Prince & the Pauper and the History Center to find the most beautiful view of Woodstock’s covered bridge. Picnic tables are available to enjoy your eats. We suggest grabbing a little something from nearby FH Gillingham & Sons or The Village Butcher.

A Dip in the Swimming Hole
A Vermont summer is incomplete without splashing around a local swimming hole. We particularly like the area below the Quechee Covered Bridge. If you’ve ever been to Simon Pearce in the summer, you’ve most likely seen swimmers below the falls, hopping from rock to rock. To us, this epitomizes summer in Vermont!

Float Down the River
Located amongst the lively shops in Artisans Park, Great River Outfitters offers up kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and tubing throughout the summer months! Enjoy bucolic scenery surrounding the Connecticut River and spot undisturbed wildlife along the way.

Stroll Through the Green
Wednesday nights in the summer mean Market on the Green in Woodstock VT! This is the perfect opportunity to stroll through our town green, listen to live music, as well as peruse fresh and local goods from local vendors. Producers such as Plymouth Cheese and Free Verse Farm are regulars at the market. We also love Vermatzah‘s delicious bread, stuffed with seasonal ingredients. This is a mid-week treat we love to frequent!

 

Summer is here according to the calendar and the weather, so it’s time to take in the variety of activities around Woodstock.  Enjoy any you choose!

 

Eat & Drink, Stay Local

Authenticity in Tradition: Sugarbush Farm

06/29/2017

This week, we venture up the winding dirt road to Sugarbush Farm, first through the Woodstock Village and past Billings Farm, along the backroads toward Quechee. We pass by a few of the most idyllic little barns along the way (and maybe some “not so little” ones) and spot the yellow signs for Sugarbush. A smile appears on our faces each time we drive by one of Sugarbush’s bright signs. They are a welcomed reminder to “keep going” or that we’re “almost there!” – reassuring us that we have just a bit more to go up the dirt hill. 

We consider Sugarbush Farm one the mainstays in our little town. Not only was the farm settled following the Revolutionary War, but they’ve also been doing “agritourism” before it was even a word. Sugarbush is a truly historical destination that exemplifies a long-standing personalized way of doing things. In other words, it is the traditional Vermont cheese & maple syrup farm. 

We chat with owner Betsy Luce and clearly understand that family pride runs deep at this farm. Betsy’s parents moved to Woodstock in 1945, when she was just 2 years old. “My grandparents were from southern Vermont and my parents had been living in New York City and were a part of the back-to-the-land movement.” The farm evolved through the years to produce the kind of food it does today. Betsy’s father began smoking cheese in the 1950’s as a way to supplement his farming income. Betsy also married Larry Luce, who had grown up making maple syrup. “So we combined the maple syrup and cheese business,” notes Betsy. By the 1980’s, Sugarbush Farm started inviting folks to the farm to sample their cheese and syrup. Word spread and the people kept coming!

Family is the main vein running through this business. Betsy and her husband have converted their home’s old living space to accommodate tastings, as well as their farm’s gift shop. Their two sons, Ralph and Jeff, also operate the sugarhouse, ship international orders, track cheese inventory, and maintain the grounds. Thus, the farm is the perfect combination of old and new. The farm maintains its natural beauty and old-school character, while also continuing to evolve as the next generation takes over.

Tradition, history, and agriculture define Sugarbush, and Vermont provides the perfect opportunity for such a place. “Vermont is very proactive in promoting Vermont products and agritourism,” says Betsy. “The buy local movement in our state is very helpful to a business like ours.” In this fashion, it is important for Betsy and her family to maintain the bucolic integrity of the farm. This, in turn, pays respect to the history of the farm and Vermont’s agricultural efforts as a whole. Such pastoral landscape is a large part of what draws residents and visitors to Vermont, and Betsy fully supports the maintenance of Vermont’s lush scenery. “I believe the push to keep open spaces and prevent more sprawl is helpful in keeping our state beautiful which will make more people want to visit.”

Sugarbush Farm finds inspiration in the feedback they receive from their visitors. Betsy mentions, in particular, the “comments, return visits, and telephone orders made by visitors who are appreciative of us opening our farm to the public.” This kind of reaction is of no surprise to us. When you walk onto the farm, you immediately feel the welcomeness of the place. Tastings are held directly in the farm home. A kind staffer greets you and offers a sampling of cheese and maple syrup. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to try a special edition cheese, such as the 11-year-aged cheddar we tasted (extra sharp, extra delicious!). Stepping further inside the house, you find the old farm-kitchen-turned-gift-shop. Its multiple shelves don many of our Vermont-made favorites, like Potlicker jellies and Whisper Hill soaps. Sugarbush obviously loves to promote Vermont brands, like themselves. Still, Betsy would like to “be able to feature even more local producers!” 

Once you’ve had your fill of cheese and syrup samplings, you can make your way down the hill to the farm’s working sugarhouse. A promotional video and self-guided tour await you. Believe us – you’ll leave this place with all the maple syrup knowledge you could ever want! There is truly nothing like gazing out from the farm’s sugarhouse to see grazing cows and rolling hills as far as the eye can see. We consider this particular spot a true Vermont gem.

Visit one of the original agritourism destinations yourself! It’s just around the corner! This farm is certainly a fun place for kids and those who are kids at heart. Feel free to peruse the Sugarbush products on their website, or find them in local stores throughout Woodstock and Quechee. Take a step back in time, and see what a traditionally-run farm looks like today at Sugarbush Farm!

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.

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