Hyper Local Brew Fest

Hyper Local Brew Fest If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you know that every summer and fall I drop down the Boston Local Food Festival rabbit hole.  You can barely pin me down for an evening and BF thinks I’m merely a ghost for about a month leading up to BLFF.  So naturally, when the organizers contacted me about a summer event to promote the festival and find more awesome brewers I was thrilled and immediately said yes.

So, in June the Boston Local Food Festival team with Sustainable Business Networks of Boston is presenting the Hyper Local Brew Fest!  This will be an evening of fun I assure you!  Our line up is looking more and more robust every day and as we speak we already have wineries, meaderies, and breweries signed up and excited to show us their wares.

So when is this fabulous event?, you ask.  It’s June 16th at the Somerville Armory where it will be set up in a very similar fashion to our Brew Fest last year.  There will be two sessions of tastings with tickets priced at $30 each. There will be music, there will be delicious nomables, just like at the festival $5/serving.  In general it’s going to be a magical experience.  You should come.  You can get tickets here. And, if you use the code HYPERLOCAL today only (March 16, 2012) you get 10% off your ticket!

A Visit with Vianne Chocolates

I love chocolate of all sorts. I will eat chocolate anytime, its familiar and comforting in a nostalgic way.  I love that first bite into a handmade chocolate that makes my mouth want to do a jig, or the soothing way chocolate melts at body temperature.  I am convinced that chocolate would solve most problems and that nothing else calms most ills.  I have been lucky enough to test this theory time and again in all situations and at all times. I love it.

I periodically get the opportunity to eat chocolate like this, decadent dark chocolate with additions that make me swoon and one weekend day I had an opportunity like that.  On the afternoon of July 30th I was given the fantastic opportunity to sit down with the totally charming Valerie, owner and chief candy-maker-extrordinaire of Vianne Chocolates.  Vianne Chocolates is one of the specialty vendors at last year’s Boston Local Food Festival and then I only briefly met her as I showed her to her booth.  As I sat down to interview Valerie she gave me a marvelous linen bag full of goodies!

I immediately fell in love with the sketch on the bag and all of the packaging.  Made by a South End artist these little sketches are a fun and creative way for Valerie to show her local love, and does she have local love.  This girl hails from the wilds of New York and tries as hard as possible to incorporate local produce, jams, herbs, whatever into her chocolates.  From using Kate’s of Maine butter (yay, totally rocking the Maine pride) to using mint she grew herself (!) and sourcing her more obscure spices from Christina’s Spices in Inman Square, Valerie is all about keeping as much as possible local and sustainable!

I also love when companies and businesses choose pet charities that they are passionate about, this is especially true with Vianne and the Pug Bars.  These pug bars, aside from being insanely cute, are for a GREAT cause.  Of every bar that is sold Valerie donates 25 cents to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, how great is that?  So not only does Vianne source as much as possible locally, they support a local charity too!  And if saving animals doesn’t lessen the guilt of eating this fantastic chocolate than nothing will.  😉

Now, then onto the best part.  Let’s talk about the chocolate.  As I sit here eating the beautiful pieces of candy that were to lovingly stashed in my snazzy bag I am abuzz with excitement.  My first chocolate is the Strawberry Balsamic (one of Valerie’s favorites), with it’s creamy white chocolate center, rich dark chocolate coating and generous sprinkle of strawberry dust I am in heaven, glowing with the thrill of perfect chocolate that only enhances the flavor of strawberries with each savored bite.  Chocolate number two is the Green Fairy, an entirely different chocolate than the strawberry balsamic but still totally swoon worthy and, by far, my favorite.   The green fairy is, as the history of it’s name would suggest, an Absinthe spiked truffle that is one of those tongue-dancing-a-jig sort of chocolates.  The crisp chocolate shell followed by the spicy and herbal ganache is a totally mesmerizing experience.  I could sit here and give you a play by play of all the chocolates that were bestowed on me but instead I will encourage you to come to the Boston Local Food Festival on October 1st and try them yourself.  And if you see me around grab me a green fairy 🙂

I wrote this post for the Boston Local Food Festival blog back in the fall, however if you are struggling for a some good Christmas gifts Vianne Chocolates will definitely fit the bill of that person with a sweet tooth.

*All photos in this post are courtesy of www.viannechocolat.com.

A Chat with the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance

It’s a sunny April afternoon and I’m chatting with Niaz Dorry the PR rep for the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA).  When the initial email of possible blogging topics went out I snagged NAMA for a couple different reasons, if you have read my blog much you know that I’m originally a Maine girl and grew up on the coast so the NAMA’s whole goal of sustainable fishing resonates with me.

I have spent the better part of my life watching lobster men (and women) struggle to stay afloat literally, making barely $2.50/lb off the boat for the gourmet crustacean that sells for upwards of $15 down here in Boston.  These are people that sign on for a hard life where the boats are frequently jury rigged and all out wars over good lobster grounds are had.  In Lubec (pronounced lou-beck. If you live there you are a Lubecker, FYI) where there are excellent lobster grounds (compliments of the Bay of Fundy and epic tidal waters) there are heated arguments over the fishing lines daily; Canadians from Campobello Island and Lubeckers both want to lay claim to a tiny strip of fierce tidal waters that gather lobsters like no one’s business.  These waters are pretty fruitful still but not what they once were.  About 10 miles from Calais, ME where I went to high school is St Croix Island, a first epic fail at European colonization.  When people were left on St. Croix they were left there by someone who had seen the Bay of Fundy being fished – in the early 1700s it was said that you could WALK from Maine to Nova Scotia on the backs of the cod in the bay.  This was obviously a hyperbolic statement but the point stood, there was a lot of cod, now there are regulations on fishing it and you’re lucky if you even see one.
When I get on the phone with Niaz I start to discuss my background with her – the strife of my hometown and the fishermen there with these very stories that I have seen constantly.  She’s been there.  She knows of a sardine factory close by that was shut down in October.  Being a fisherman is hard and NAMA is there to back them, working to change policies and create communities of fishermen that work together to fish safely and diversely. NAMA’s ultimate goal is to have a successful marine biodiversity in local waters and to help local economies connect with local fishermen.

NAMA is working together with communities and fishermen to change policy and create successful small local fishing and sales practices.  They offer a lot of opportunities for fishermen to offer their wares and present a central area that aggregates local Community Supported Fishery (CSF) shares (find your local CSF here and there are a TON of recipes on how to use the fish in that CSF here).  They are traveling all over New England teaching and talking about fishing to communities, hosting Seafood Throwdowns and being a resource to those small towns that need to see a policy change.

NAMA will be at the Boston Local Food Festival on October 1st as both a sponsor of the festival and to host a Seafood Throwdown.  What exactly is a Seafood Throwdown, you ask?  HAHA, I say.  The Seafood throwdown is a competition wherein two local chefs are given – a secret seafood ingredient, $25 and 15 mins to shop the market stalls for ingredients.  It’s exciting, it’s delicious, and it’s oh-so-much fun.  Last year saw delicious results and I expect this year to be no different.  So come to the Boston Local Food Festival and show your support for local fisheries, local chefs and some nice competition!

If you have any questions at all about NAMA, it’s goals, or just want to donate you can visit the website at http://www.namanet.org/ and I know they love to educate and answer questions!  So give them a call or email and pick their brains.

All images are courtesy of NAMA’s website at http://www.namanet.org/

Craft Brew at the Boston Local Food Festival

Photo Credit: http://www.bostonlocalfoodfestival.com/

Beer.  We all (ok, most) love it.  From a hearty stout in the depths of winter, to a citrusy summer ale – beer soothes stressful days and always makes sitting in the sunshine better.  Is there really anything better than a well-made craft brew?  I’m so glad you agree with me!  Now, let me discuss how I plan to celebrate this fondness for beer (and other imbibe-ables) at the Boston Local Food Festival.

Those of us over at BLFF central have spent the past year garnering feedback and working to create a second truly awesome event for the city of Boston to enjoy even more than they did last year.  With that in mind, we have set up another (drumroll, please) BEER TENT!  We took all of last year’s feedback and applied it to this year’s event (our space is bigger!) and we will have scheduled tastings, during which time tasters can drink and hang, but afterward they can go back out and enjoy more of the awesomeness that is BLFF.

What is craft brew, you wonder?  Our definition of craft brew over here at HQ is small-batch, locally sourced and alcoholic (because what fun is brew without the wickedness?) bevvies for the 21+ set.  We currently have Cambridge Brewing Company, Watch City BrewPoverty Lane Orchards, and Blue Hills Brewery on board and will keep you updated with more brewers as we receive confirmations.  The tastings will be 2 oz pours for as long as your ticket allows you to hang out in the Daily Catch Seaport Outdoor Grotto (otherwise known as our tasting venue).

So, what’s the scoop on imbibing in all of this delicious craft brew awesomeness, you wonder? Well, aren’t you lucky that you’re here.  Craft brew tastings will be in three two hour blocks (11-1, 1:30-3:30, 4-6) so if you have your eye on one of those blocks, you should make sure you follow @bostonlocalfood on twitter and facebook so you can be the first to see when craft brew tickets go on presale :). Each block will be capped at 225 tickets so GET YOUR TICKETS EARLY.  Remember, we SOLD OUT of tickets last year, so don’t be the sad kid when you go to get tickets day of and they’re gone.  That’s no fun for you as you walk around the festival getting thirsty and wishing for a brewski (while your friends are merrily tasting their afternoon away). Just saying.

So come to Boston Local Food Festival, have a beer, chat up a local (and truly amazing) brewer of the beverage you are imbibing and have an AWESOME time.  I know I will.

Reminder: The Boston Local Food Festival runs for one day only!  October 1, 2011 from 11 am to 5pm.  It will be a lot of fun, look for more information about it here in the near future!