Tag Archive: local

Feb 11 2014

Jones Dairy Farm Event at the CIA: Day 2 #spon #jonesdairyfarm

Disclosure: Jones Dairy Farm sponsored this event. No other compensation was received for this post. All opinions and photos remain my own.

Saturday morning we re-convened with our hosts at The Culinary Institute of America for our day of learning and good eats. Breakfast was served from the Jones Dairy Farm kitchen in Farquharson Hall, a space straight out of Hogwarts. No house elves here though–just students and their instructors hard at work at what they love.

Farquharson Hall at The Culinary Institute of America

Rick Lowry, Executive Vice President, welcomed us and gave us a little history on Jones Dairy Farm, maker of my favorite breakfast sausage. Did you know that Jones Dairy Farm has been around for 125 years? On top of that, it has been 100% family-owned for its entire history! That’s amazing! Milo Jones, a government land surveyor from Vermont, founded the farm when he moved to Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin in 1838. He and his wife, Sally, worked a 500-acre dairy farm that was self-supporting, including having its own brickyard, tannery, and blacksmith shop. Their son, Milo Cornelius Jones, was expected to take over the farm in the 1880s, but he was plagued with debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. This setback was the catalyst for what Jones Dairy Farm is known for today: sausage. Milo C. Jones began selling sausage made from his mother’s recipe and the rest is history. By 1910, Jones Dairy Farm sausages were being shipped nearly nationwide. Today, the recipe remains almost unchanged from its original form: pork, salt, and spices. They leave out the MSG, chemical additives, gluten, and other common allergens found in other brands of breakfast sausage. This must be why it all tastes so good!

So what does Jones Dairy Farm have to do with The Culinary Institute of America anyway? Surprisingly a lot.

Jones Dairy Farm products

Philip H. Jones, a Paris-trained chef and President of Jones Dairy Farm since 2001, gave The Culinary Institute of America a substantial amount of money to establish the Jones Dairy Farm Endowed Scholarship fund. This fund makes it possible for three students per year to receive aid toward their pursuit of a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree in culinary arts management. What a huge difference that makes! Recipients must be the cream of the crop–they have to excel academically, demonstrate community service on campus, create a recipe utilizing Jones Dairy Farm products, and explain how Jones Dairy Farm’s history may affect their future in the culinary world. That’s a tall order to fill, but it ensures they are helping the best of the best fulfill their culinary dreams.

Rick Lowry, Jones Dairy Farm Executive Vice President

After breakfast, we moved into the teaching kitchen. There, we received a bit of a pork anatomy lesson. Thank goodness we weren’t expected to perform surgery after! Rick told us about how sausage is made, let us examine different kinds of casings that are used, and showed us where the piggy parts we love come from. He shared their dry aged bacon–a rarity, as it takes a lot longer to produce, but it also is a heck of a lot more flavorful for that time investment. Mmm… bacon. He also showed us one of the more disgusting things I’ve seen in my life–mechanically-separated turkey meat. Or white slime, as some call it. This mushy slurry is an assortment of all the leftovers when the bones have been picked nearly clean–and other unscrupulous companies will not hesitate to use it in their products to cut costs. Bottom line: you get what you pay for. Jones Dairy Farm is not the least expensive in the grocery store for a reason: their goal is to produce the best quality product they can. Cutting costs results in cut quality, too, and none of us wants that to happen.

knife skills class

We followed up the pork lesson with a knife skills class with Chef Justin Ward. I have been wanting to take a knife skills class forever. I manage just fine, but there is no art to what I do with a knife; it is as utilitarian as possible. Chef stressed over and over again that stability is key. You need to trim down what you’re cutting until it will sit securely on your cutting board; you don’t want a carrot to roll while you’re cutting. That’s how accidents happen. A small part of me resisted at first–my frugal mother taught me not to waste anything and all that paring away to a rectangular shape made me a little nervous. But Chef assured us that what we cut off could be saved for making stock–no waste here.

knife skills

Each of us had a station set out for us equipped with a massive cutting board, a chef’s knife, an apron, a towel, a toque, and a plate with a single carrot and a lonely, already-peeled onion. Our challenge: to cut our carrots into 4 cuts: batonnet, medium dice, julienne, and small dice. For the onions, half needed to be julienne and the rest was to be diced. I managed just fine, but I panicked a little when I was being watched by one of the culinary students. She offered encouragement and was very positive–I’m just not used to having someone watch me work a knife. Regardless, I’m pretty happy with the results:

carrot cuts - batonnet, medium dice, julienne, small dice

Next came the ham. Ham! Makes me think of that claymation pirate movie that my kids love–oh, how those pirates love their ham night. Me, too! Rick demonstrated for us how to find the line where the bone goes through the ham so you can find the meatiest part to carve from. Don’t forget to cut a piece off to stabilize it when cutting, just like with your veggies. It looked so darn easy! We then sampled two of Jones Dairy Farm’s hams, which were both delicious. Then again, when isn’t ham delicious? If you’d like a primer on how to carve ham, too, try this video from their website:

carving ham

The real challenge came after this: the cooking challenge. We were divided into 4 groups and each was given a tray of ingredients–a secret until the unveiling. I was seriously nervous about this task. Being more of a baker than a cook, I had some anxiety about what would happen with the big reveal. Luckily, I was given some awesome teammates: Cristina of Cooking with Jeff and Cristina, Dan of The Food in My Beard, and Cate of Sweetnicks. Their fresh perspective on seasonings saved the day when we were given whole heads of broccoli and cauliflower, kale, lettuce, bulgar, oranges, and Greek yogurt. We also needed to select at least 2 Jones Dairy Farm products to feature in a main and side dishes. Cate, fortuitously, had just made a spicy whole roasted cauliflower the night before that could be easily replicated with the cauliflower, Greek yogurt, and juice from the oranges. We sprinkled bits of bacon over the finished product. Cristina and Dan were talking lettuce wraps and making a sort of salad filling with the bulgar, some loose sausage, roasted broccoli, and the kale. The direction they were taking was a new one for me, but an exciting one, too.

cooking challenge

Instructor chefs and culinary students were available and assisting the entire time we were in the kitchen. And I must say, cooking in a professional kitchen is quite different than at home. Spider burners! How I love you! And what an endless assortment of ways to add flavor–nothing like my often inadequate pantry at home! Each of us got to work on our components. I felt a bit like a fish out of water–you know my history with cooking–but I can make bacon like nobody’s business. I slice the bacon before cooking if I want bits–this keeps you from getting bacon shards in your eyes–and sauté in a pan. In less than 20 minutes you have perfectly-cooked bits that are better than potato chips for munching. At least, the chefs in the kitchen seemed to agree on that. We had to hide our bacon from roving hands seeking a snack.

bacon

Lunch was to be what the teams prepared, plus we each had to plate 4 portions for the judges. It was a little surreal–were we part of a television show?–but fun, all the same. I’m so proud of my teammates! I would have been lost without them!

our cooking challenge plate

In the end, team 4 won with their Boston lettuce and pear salad with bacon and onion vinaigrette and scrapple croutons and swiss chard ricotta pesto stuffed mushrooms topped with slab bacon. Great job, Sarah, Lisa, Ashley, and Otis!

The day was capped off with a tour of the facilities. The grounds were blanketed in snow, so we remained in the main building, but there was plenty to see there. Typically there are 2500 students enrolled at any given time, with the average student age being 19. The 5 restaurants on site (one is being renovated currently) serve food prepared by the students–which had already impressed me the night before at The Bocuse Restaurant. I was very interested in the baking classrooms on the top floor but, since it was a Saturday, there was no action to spy on. The work stations, the mixers, the marble–oh, my! That would have been my calling, had I decided to go to culinary school. And the thought did cross my mind several times.

mixer

The drive home was full of fond memories. Being located only 1.5 hours away will make it easy for me to return–I must check out the other restaurants on campus and see the view of the Hudson River! In the meantime, I have Jones Dairy Farm to thank for all the food, fun, and learning of the weekend.

If you’d like to find out more about Jones Dairy Farm

…please do check out their Facebook page. They also collect awesome recipes on their Pinterest page. Or chat with them on Twitter. It’s all good!

Other bloggers at this event included:

Feb 09 2014

Jones Dairy Farm Event at the CIA: Day 1 #spon #jonesdairyfarm

Disclosure: Jones Dairy Farm sponsored this event. No other compensation was received for this post. All opinions and photos remain my own.

I don’t like bridges. I never have; I never will. I don’t think people should be suspended precariously high above water, just waiting to drop to their deaths. And I hate driving on them.

This past summer, I joined Nutmeg Nanny on a road trip to the Big Summer Potluck. She drove us over the Hudson River. It was the first time we had met in person and so I had to try my best not to hyperventilate, lest she think me a freak. Nearby, another bridge perched even higher, a walk- and bike-way where people could get more intimate with the dizzying height. I looked straight ahead, pretending we were on any other road. I did not want to encounter this bridge again.

Unfortunately, because I make a better co-pilot than pilot, I not only encountered it again Friday, I had to drive over it, too–twice.

You see, I was invited by Jones Dairy Farm to participate in a blogger event at the Culinary Institute of America this weekend. For many years now, I have wanted to visit this well-known campus and see for myself the wonders that lie inside. It was a dream come true to be chosen for this quest! Not only would I be participating in a day of fun at the campus, but they offered to put us up for the night at the famed historic Beekman Arms Inn in Rhinebeck, New York. What an opportunity! I couldn’t wait!

New York countryside

I get nervous about travel. I don’t do it often, and almost never alone. I plan my route far in advance and try to take into account any- and everything that may come up. I also prefer traveling in daylight hours, so I took half of a personal day off at my day job so I could ensure I was safely ensconced in my room before darkness fell.

It was a gorgeous day for a country drive. The snow from the storm 2 days prior had been mostly cleared and the sky was a perfect shade of cerulean blue. Barely a cloud dared smudge this canvas. Perfection. I tried my best to take in all the countryside had to offer, but for some reason, the speed limits in New York are really high. I can’t imagine any corners we’d be allowed to take at 50 mph in Connecticut, yet here, they’re encouraged. With two cars following closely behind, and no shoulder to pull off on, I had to keep my eyes mostly on the road. Mostly.

Beekman Arms Inn

When I arrived in downtown Rhinebeck, I had 20 minutes to spare until check-in. I figured I’d take a little drive down Route 9, knowing at some point I would come across the Culinary Institute of America itself, and at the end of Route 9 was Poughkeepsie. It was too nice to sit in a parking lot and wait, so I pointed my car south and carried on.

This area of New York is full of history. Alright, just about anywhere is full of history, but you are bombarded with signs for historic sites: Vanderbilt mansion, Roosevelt homestead, Mills mansion, etc., etc., etc. In the warmer months, I may return to check these out. For the time being, I ventured on.

Eventually I did find the CIA and tried to quickly assess where I’d be going the next day. But then I got a little confused. Marist College? Oh, hey. I didn’t realize that was here. And the next thing I knew, I was merging onto the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge. The bridge from last summer. And I was in the driver’s seat this time.

My eyes remained glued to the car in front of me. Mostly. Oh, look, ice chunks in the river! It must be really cold way down there… Eeek! My heart was pounding. I crossed the bridge in very little time, but it felt like an eternity. And once I finally exited the highway, I realized I would have to cross it again–and pay for the privilege! Darn tolls. We don’t have those in Connecticut…

So I paid my $1.50 and tried again. This time, in front of a cop. As if I wasn’t nervous enough! I found my way back to the East side and onto Route 9 again without incident. Phew! I survived the bridge and lived to tell the tale! Let’s not do that again…

Beekman Arms Inn

Back at the Beekman Arms Inn, after struggling to find a parking spot in the maze of spaces behind the building, I checked in. They claim to be the oldest continuously-run inn in America. And it’s rumored to be haunted. Have you watched The Innkeepers? I have. Many times. Because it’s based on our own purportedly-haunted inn in Torrington, the Yankee Pedlar Inn. It made for a very rough night sleeping. I’m not ashamed to admit I left the light on all night.

The inn is charming. Just what you’d expect an old establishment to offer. My room was on the 3rd floor at the end of the hall, set off in a corner by itself. It was adorably cute and cozy, and far more than I expected. A fantastic way to start the weekend.

Beekman Arms Inn room 36

After having a breather in my room, I met up with some of the other bloggers who would be attending the event at the CIA–as well as representatives from Jones Dairy Farm and their marketing company–for a meet-and-greet cocktail-and-appetizers hour in the lobby. It was casual, allowing us all to get to know each other a little better while sampling treats made with products from Jones Dairy Farm. My favorite: the risotto balls with bacon. What isn’t improved by bacon?

From there, we caravanned to the CIA campus for dinner at The Bocuse Restaurant. What a treat! Bocuse is the French restaurant at the CIA–a white table cloth venue where dressing up is a must. As you walk in, you are greeted by an illuminated wall of wine. Swanky!

The Bocuse Restaurant wine

We started with a champagne toast and then Black Truffle Soup. There were the cutest little mushrooms ever enveloped in that pastry crust! For my entree, I chose Braised Beef Short Rib with celeriac-potato puree, hibiscus-infused parsnips, wild mushrooms, and beef jus. WOW! I am not much of a cook, but I want to know how to prepare this–it was phenomenal. The beef was so tender it could be cut with a fork and the mushrooms were so flavorful. I had to keep myself from licking the plate!

The Bocuse Restaurant

Dessert was, in a word, amazing. I’m not entirely sure what we ate, but they prepared blood orange ice cream tableside with a KitchenAid mixer equipped with a hand-crank and a little bit of liquid nitrogen magic. Each scoop was served with a pizzelle wedge. Following that came an assortment of chocolate delights including a sugar capsule that was ceremoniously cracked open to reveal a liquid interior that seeped out. I envy anyone who can master sugar arts–after my candy cane endeavor, I’m not sure I’m ready to try that again any time soon. And if the chocolate on the rest of the plate wasn’t enough, out came another plate with fruit gelees, nougat, espresso truffles topped with gold flakes, and olive oil cake bites. The perfect finishing touch to an already amazing meal.

Back in Rhinebeck, the group divided. A few of us went for a drink at The Liberty Public House before calling it a night. Others couldn’t resist the pull of their pillows, eager to get the night’s sleep over that lay between them and the big day at the CIA. There was much to look forward to… (which I will discuss in the next post…)

back in my room at the Beekman Arms Inn

Dec 11 2013

Yelp’s Holiday Bazaar at the New Britain Museum of American Art

I have always been a cheerleader for shopping locally whenever possible and Christmas is an excellent time for supporting your local shopkeepers and artisans while checking names off your list. What better way to do so than at a holiday bazaar? One-stop shopping AND you get to meet and learn about the people who will be the recipients of the hard-earned dollars you’re spending!

Yelp's Holiday Bazaar

Emily Cahill of Yelp Hartford hosted a Holiday Bazaar at the New Britain Museum of American Art on Saturday and I was lucky enough to be on the guest list for this fabulous event! I welcomed the opportunity to browse the museum for the first time (I know, that’s sad–I’ve lived in this state my entire life and I’ve never been to the New Britain Museum of American Art!) while putting some good cheer into my season.

Yelp's Holiday Bazaar

Vendors were spread throughout the museum, providing ample opportunities to check out the exhibits. Have someone on your list who loves jewelry? Then Kate Stephen Jewelry has you covered. Does your pup deserve a little something special? Dogology is the place for you. Want a little something sweet but don’t have a sweet tooth? Poor & Pretty cupcake soaps and jars of frosting (whipped soap) are just what you need. From vintage clothing to gorgeous wooden cutting boards, eco-friendly t-shirts to hand-made pottery, there was so much to browse and enjoy! I had to restrain myself–I was there to shop for gifts, not for myself!

Poor & Pretty's cupcake soaps

In addition to the feast for the eyes was the feast for the body–food samples scattered throughout the museum. There could have been more savory choices, but I really enjoyed the chili I was able to scoop up from the Agave Grill/Wood N Tap table and the French bread from Hartford Baking Company close by. (Actually, I could have eaten that bread all night–but we already know that I’m addicted to carbs.) I had a bite of Original Aruna Blend chocolate–a raw chocolate from Aruna Chocolates with cacao, honey, maca, spirulina, chlorella, cayenne,  Himalayan sea salt, “and love”–and shared a moment over our same names (Kerry, meet Carrie). Divine is too weak of a word to describe what I ate. I broke my rule and bought some hot chocolate for me. We’ll just call it health food and move on.

What do you follow up an experience like that with? A car bomb cupcake from NoRa Cupcake Company, of course. Literally the icing on the cake. And all over my fingers. But that was perfectly okay; I licked it off.

NoRA Cupcake

It’s not a party without some spirit–or spirits. And Connecticut is home to many wonderful companies who hope to make your spirit bright this season. I saw the guys from Ripe Bar Juices again (they were at A Taste in Simsbury in August) and had a chat with them. Their rum punch? I think I’ll make it for Christmas this year. Maybe I’ll share it.

Ripe Bar Juices rum punch

Next to them was the Tanduay table where you could get a taste of a gingerbread syrup-based cocktail with this tasty Asian rum. It was pretty wonderful and the guy pouring the drinks was a riot. His mirth was infectious–you couldn’t resist smiling even when hearing him from across the room.

Tanduay Rum

I found Onyx Moonshine, where they were mixing drinks with DRY Soda (I had one mixed with Vanilla Bean, an unusual yet refreshing drink). I use Onyx in just about any drink that calls for vodka. In fact, my last batch of homemade vanilla extract was made using their moonshine.

Onyx Moonshine

I discovered Peel Liqueurs, which was totally new to me. They make all-natural fine Italian liqueurs, offering 3 flavors: Limoncello, Cremencello, and Bananacello. I sampled the Limoncello, which was tangy and delicious. Sadly, I did not win the monstrous flask they were giving away as a prize, but I’m sure the winner is having a good time with it now.

Peel fine liqueurs

My favorite, favorite, favorite brewer was there: Olde Burnside Brewing. I tried to be unobtrusive in snapping a shot of their display, but was teased out of hiding and stepped up to the table for a better shot–and a great conversation. Father Christmas Highland Ale was being poured, their best selection, albeit a seasonal one. Sadly, no bottles were sent to Torrington this time, but I have the inside scoop on where to find them–and that the packaging has changed. The old blue bottles are no more–look for the 2-pack boxes instead.

Olde Burnside Brewing Company

Eventually, the night had to end, and for me that was earlier than the event was over. I missed the music, for which I’ve heard much praise since, but I couldn’t stay. Kudos to Emily Cahill on an event well-done! Yelp’s Holiday Bazaar was all I imagined it would be… and more!

Disclosure: Admission to Yelp’s Holiday Bazaar was free with a $10 donation to the New Britain Museum of American Art. I was not compensated for this post.

Oct 16 2013

Chocabaret-An Artisan Chocolate Tasting Meets A Cabaret Show #Giveaway

Chocabaret

What exactly is a Chocabaret?

Chocabaret is the hottest idea to come out of New York City in a long time! The brainchild of the singing Chef Jackie Gordon, it combines a cabaret performance with a chocolate tasting–or, as she calls it, eatertainment. There will be songs, big laughs, and even an educational component. You’ll learn how chocolate is made, how to select good chocolate, and how to taste it like a professional, all while actually tasting some awesome artisan chocolate! I can’t think of another show like it. You don’t want to miss this!

Chocolate Makers that will be featured include:

Chocabaret is SOLD OUT

…but lucky for you, I have a pair of tickets up for grabs! That’s right, Kimberly Moore of The Hungry Goddess and I have teamed up to give you the opportunity to see (and taste!) this once in a lifetime performance for yourself!

Chocabaret happens at 4PM on Sunday, October 20th at Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd St., NYC.

Enjoy!

And I can’t wait to hear all about it!

The fine print: Winner is responsible for his/her own transportation to the show. Each ticket includes: a platter of nine chocolate bon-bons and bars samples, cacao bean, nibbling chocolate, flavor wheel, score sheet, rating scale, palate cleansers, a bottled water, and more. There is a one drink minimum per ticket and gratuity is not included.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This giveaway is sponsored by poet in the pantry and Kimberly Moore of The Hungry Goddess.

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