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Holiday Food Shopping: Bag The Supermarket And Go Straight To The Source

By Katherine Abbott

Orange and green gourds pile up at shop entrances, and the local food co-op has a flyer for free-range turkeys. The harvest season is winding down, but as Pittsfield opens a new winter farmers market and Berkshire Grown expands its holiday markets, it becomes clear that farm-grown food is not just a warm-weather phenomenon — and more than the turkey can come out of local fields. Local farms are offering a widening range of condiments, ingredients and prepared foods for holiday tables. We’ve rounded up a few just as you’re making your shopping lists.

Winter Greens at Chatham Berry Farm
A leaf of arugula tastes sharp and fresh, and the rows of green leaves in the warm tunnel stand out in November. Joseph Gilbert started the Chatham Berry Farm store in 1982 as a summer fruit stand, bringing berries to markets in New York. Now he grows eight kinds of kale even in mid-winter, and red and green bok choy, mustard greens, arugula and many others, even dandelion. In its expanding greenhouses, the farm grows produce all winter.

Its store carries fresh vegetables and soups, sauces, hummus, pestos, dips and salsas made there, plus local farm eggs, cheese, milk and butter; honey from a beekeeper who keeps hives on the farm; pumpkins and squashes, and at least eight kinds of apples, many from Mead Orchards. Gilbert also carries Chatham Berry Farm brand relishes and pickles made regionally.

“We want to be like the old corner store,” he says. “Here you can buy one apple or one ear of corn.”

2304 Route 203, Chatham, N.Y.
(518) 392-4609

Gobbling It Up at McEnroe Farm Market
To the south, McEnroe Farm Market in Millertown, N.Y. strikes a similar chord. Along with apples, squash, potatoes and farm meat, they stock their own deli counter. They’ve already sold out of Thanksgiving turkeys, but the moist, thick-cut turkey in the sandwiches is their own, and so is the chicken in the chicken salad and the kale, broccoli and squash in various deli salads flavored with local maple syrup and white balsamic vinegar.

That turkey sandwich comes with melted brie and a relish tangy with cranberry and onion — worth remembering as a new use for leftovers.

5409 N.Y. Route 22, Millerton, N.Y.
The farm store will be open through Dec. 14, and will then close for renovations in order to focus even more closely on local products.

High on the Hog at Climbing Tree Farm
Half a dozen young pigs come up to investigate visitors under the oak trees at Climbing Tree Farm in New Lebanon, N.Y. A mix of breeds — amber and brown and black — they forage freely in the woods.

Young farmers Colby and Schuyler Gail found their sloping land and then found hardy animals that would do well on it — Shetland sheep in the fields, highland heifers (who will grow into highland cows) and geese. They make their products available to customers through retail locations and local restaurants.

At the holidays, anyone looking for pork or Climbing Tree sausage for breakfast or to add to the stuffing can find it through Red Apple Butchers at Berkshire Organics in Dalton, Mass. The Gails are raising poultry as well, mostly for local restaurants, and people can find the farm’s Christmas goose at places like Allium in Great Barrington, Hotel on North in Pittsfield and Fish & Game in Hudson, N.Y. Climbing Tree Farm sausage also gives its flavor and name to a breakfast sandwich at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge in Pittsfield.

“This is real food,” Colby says, “and it’s harder to find than people realize.”

“I think it makes you feel different when you eat real food,” Schuyler agrees,” healthier and more alive.”

436 West Hill Road, New Lebanon, N.Y.

Roast Beast at Whippoorwill Farm
Red Devon and Black Angus cows and calves gather in the barnyard at Whippoorwill Farm, as Robin Cockerline greets visitors in the farm shop, sorting out ribs for a birthday party or a roast for visiting friends.

Whippoorwill Farm produces some pork, eggs and chickens, and sells raw honey from a friend in Vermont who also makes a honey-flavored Barrhill Gin. (The Salisbury Wine Store just up the road carries it.) But mainly Allen and Robin Cockerline are known for grass-fed beef.

“You have to feed quality grass to get good-tasting beef,” she says, and her husband learned that in the dairy business, where the quality of the grass can affect the flavor of the milk day to day.

Today their beef cattle give them a wide range of cuts, from tenderloin and brisket to fillets and ox tail.

Rob LaBonne from LaBonne’s Markets in Southbury, Conn., comes in looking for beef jerky and leaves with smoked bacon. “You can taste the difference in grass-fed beef,” he says. “It’s the way of the future.”

189 Salmon Kill Road, Lakeville, Conn.
(860) 435-2089
Farm shop open Friday and Saturday year round.

Life of Pie at A-Frame Bakery
Sharon Sutter pats dough filled with chocolate chips into a baking pan. She’s preparing for the holidays in the efficient purple triangle of the A-Frame Bakery in Williamstown.

For Sutter, Thanksgiving means pie — apple, pumpkin, cranberry and blueberry, pecan, maple apple mincemeat — as well as tarts, pumpkin rolls, cheesecake with cranberry pear conserve… the list goes on. As the holidays go on, too, she’ll make Hanukkah treats, often for families wanting to send a holiday memory to students away from home.

Christmas brings cakes, she says — yule logs (bûches de noel) filled and frosted with chocolate and decorated meringue mushrooms, decadent tortes, red velvet. People also come in for baked goods for breakfast: crumb cakes, scones, muffins and quick breads.

Anyone wanting a large order should call ahead, though. She makes all of her baked goods fresh daily, and plans carefully so as not to have much left over, but will willingly adapt for anyone who gives her enough time. The bakery is strictly kosher, and Sutter can make non-dairy or gluten-free treats if asked.

1194 Cold Spring Road, Route 7, Williamstown, MA
(413) 458-3600

Filling in the Corners at Tierra Farm
For a savory almond or a chocolate-dipped hazelnut to round out the meal, Tierra Farm acts as a manufacturer and distributor, gathering and processing organic non-GMO nuts and seeds, and often buying directly from farms.

Along with a retail store at their headquarters in Valatalie, N.Y., Tierra supplies roasted and chocolate-dipped nuts and dried fruit to many co-ops and farm markets in the area. Their maple tamari mixed nuts — walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pecans and cashews — are lightly salty, sweet and roasted for crisp flavor, and make a crunchy treat for holiday guests.

Tierra Farm nuts — as well as nut butters, dried fruits, coffee and other good things — are available in Massachusetts at Wild Oats Co-op in Williamstown and the Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in Great Barrington and Pittsfield, and Lenox Natural Foods . In New York, you can find them at Chatham Real Food Market, the Main Street Grainery in Chatham and McEnroe Farm Market. (But a trip to the store in Valatie is something you need to experience if you are attracted to the aroma of chocolate and coffee.)

2424 State Route 203, Valatie, N.Y.
(518) 392-8300

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Posted by Lisa Green on 11/16/15 at 03:49 PM • Permalink

The Return of the Farmers’ Markets 2014

Farmers Market HudsonIt seems as if a little sunshine was all that was needed to restore our landscape to the familiar lush green of springtime. The much-needed warmth has also benefited our farms; evidence will be on display throughout the region as the seasonal farmers’ markets return. Herewith is our annual update; some markets have passed from the scene, and some new ones have cropped up. Also, Great Barrington’s market has new digs at the fairgrounds. What might you find at any number of the 30-plus farmers’ markets across our towns? Early vegetables including radishes, asparagus, baby turnips, rhubarb, and arugula; staples such as milk, meat, fish, and bread; plus honey, maple syrup, wine, jams, pickles, cheese, and pies. There will also be cut flowers and bedding plants for the house and garden and handmade lotions and candles.

Amenia Farmers' MarketAmenia Farmers’ Market
Outdoor Market: Amenia Town Hall
May 16 - the beginning of October
Fridays 3 - 7 p.m.

Chatham Farmers’ Market
15 Church Street (Route 203)
May 20 - October 21
Fridays 4 - 7 p.m.

Copake Hillsdale Farmers’ Market
Roe Jan Park, on Route 22 between Hillsdale and Copake
May 31 - October 25
Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
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Cornwall Farmers’ Market
The Wish House, 413 Sharon-Goshen Tnpk
May 10 - late October
Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Great Barrington Farmers’ Market
Great Barrington Fairgrounds
May 10 - October 25
Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Great Barrington Farmers’ Market at the CHP
442 Stockbridge Road
June 5 - September 25
Thursdays 3 - 6 p.m.

Rural Intelligence Food

Hudson Farmers’ Market
6th and Columbia Streets
May 3 - November 22
Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Hudson Valley Farmers’ Market
23 Pitcher Lane, Red Hook
Saturdays 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Hyde Park Farmers’ Market
Town Hall Parking Lot, Route 9
June 7 - October 25
Saturdays 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Kent Farmers’ Market
Kent Green
May - October
Saturdays 9 a.m. - noon
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Kinderhook Farmers’ Market
Village Green, intersection of U.S. Route 9 and Albany Avenue.
May 3 -  October 11
Saturdays 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Lenox Farmers’ Market
Shakespeare & Co., 70 Kemble Road
May 23 - October 10
Fridays 1 - 5 p.m.

Millbrook Farmers’ Market
Front Street & Franklin Ave
May 24 - October 25
Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
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Millerton Farmers’ Market
Railroad Plaza (off Main Street)
May 24 - Last Week of October
Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
New Milford Farmers’ Market
May 10th - October 26th
Town Green on Main Street
Saturdays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Norfolk Farmers’ Market
Town Hall, 19 Maple Avenue
May 17 - October 10
Saturdays 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
North Adams Farmers’ Market
Municipal Parking Lot, St. Anthony Drive, between Marshall and Holden
June 14 - October 25
Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
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Otis Farmers’ Market
Parking lot Papa’s Healthy Food & Fuel
May 10 - October 6
Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Pawling Farmers’ Market
Charles Coleman Boulevard
June 21 - September 20
Saturdays 9 a.m. - noon
Philmont Farmers’ Market
116 Main Street
June - October 13
Sundays 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Downtown Pittsfield Farmers’ Market
First Street, across from Common
May 10 - October 25
Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
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Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market
61 East Market Street
May 11 - Thanksgiving
Sundays 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Winter Market: Rhinebeck Town Hall
Sundays, December - April

Share the Bounty Market
Hudson River Health Care in Amenia, 3360 Route 343
July 1 - September 30
Tuesdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Sheffield Farmers’ Market
Old Parish Church parking lot (125 South Main Street)
May 6 - October 10
Fridays 3 - 6 p.m.
Thomaston Farmers’ Market
Seth Thomas Park, 100 South Main Street (Route 6)
July 11 to October 17
Thursdays 2:30 - 6 p.m.
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Torrington Farmers’ Market
Library Parking Lot, South Main Street
June 1 - October 26
Tuesdays 3 - 6 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

West Stockbridge Farmers’ Market
Harris Street/Merrit Way in the village center
May 22 - late October
Thursdays 3 - 7 p.m.
Williamstown Farmers’ Market
Base of Spring Street
May 24 - October 11
Saturdays 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 05/01/14 at 07:51 PM • Permalink

The Gift of Cuisine: A Class at the CIA

By Don Rosendale

Last Saturday I learned how to cook risotto without it turning into mush; how to make mozzarella from scratch; how to mix flour and eggs and crank them through an old-fashioned pasta machine to make tagliatelle; that peppers slice more easily if you cut from the soft, flesh side; that there are three kinds of salt (Kosher, sea salt, and the stuff that comes in the cylindrical blue box), and that there is rarely a thing as too much of it in food. At least there is tad more sodium than you might be ordinarily recommend if your cooking school instructor is Paul DelleRose, and the classroom is a kitchen at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.

Few would dispute that the CIA (called “the Culinary”  by those in the know, to distinguish it from that government agency that is probably reading this over your shoulder) lives up to its boast of being the best cooking school this side of the English Channel. But all those cars in the parking lot at the Culinary campus off Route 9 on Saturdays should be a clue that the kind of food lover who has a Garland stove, a salamander, and a mandolin in the kitchen will be able to sharpen his or her skills with the same master chefs who taught restaurant luminaries like Charlie Palmer.

The Institute offers these programs for what might be called the serious amateur (the kind of people who know that ‘garland,’ ‘salamander’ and ‘mandolin’ refer to important kitchen tools, and not the singer, a lizard, or a musical instrument), and the one-day classes range from soups, grilling and Mediterranean cuisine to what is called “Gourmet Meals in Minutes,” a small sampling of its Food Enthusiast program of classes. And as I was reminded on Saturday, this is a great way for a smart husband or girlfriend to give a Christmas present that reaps benefits at home. This was my third session in one of those weekend classes, and this time I chose Italian cuisine.

The set-up in each class is much the same: Each student gets an oversized apron, as big as the ones worn by the downstairs staff in Downton Abbey, together with a toque blanche, that tall hat that is the mark of a chef. (The kitchen help at Gramercy Tavern and One Madison Park may wear baseball caps, but at the Culinary, everyone covers his or her head with a “toque.”) You are split into teams, and each team is assigned a different part of the meal. Which could be a disaster unless the chef in charge plays a strong hand with each group, which was the case with Chef DelleRose (at left), a Bronx native whose dad owned a butcher shop where as a kid he “cooked and ate.” A 1994 Culinary Institute graduate, he was executive chef at several blue chip restaurants before returning to Hyde Park to teach.

After the mandatory “watch the sharp knives and hot stoves” lecture, he showed us how to make mozzarella from scratch using milk, something acid, and salt. Lots of salt. (“Hey chef, what’s your blood pressure?”) A purist would say the mozzarella isn’t authentic because it comes from milk, and not Italian water buffalo, but have you looked at the ingredients on your supermarket cheese lately? I don’t think there are any water buffalo in Wisconsin. And what DelleRose produced, in a few minutes of boiling curd in a pot of salt water, wasn’t the rock hard brick you get in the deli, but a soft, stringy, delicious, and salty cheese. As scooped from the pot, it was softer than Jello and clung to the spoon.

We then began making pasta dough and running it through a machine that looked like it had been there since the site was a Jesuit seminary, to make linguini. Some advice from DelleRose: Don’t cook pasta with olive oil in the water and don’t cook it al dente because you want it to absorb the flavor of the sauce.

And then there was the risotto, helped along by water that had been cured by mushrooms soaking in it for hours. At this point, teams were assembled and assigned tasks. My team included a husband and wife from New Jersey, John and Diana Tully, who normally toil on Wall Street. Our assignments were what Chef DelleRose called “hunter-style chicken” (usually labeled on restaurant menus as chicken cacciatore), tagliatelle Bolognese (a meat sauce in the style of the city of Bologna), and a salad of oranges, fennel and Belgian endive.

I won high praise for my pasta dough, though DelleRose insists he wasn’t tipped off that I was writing about my lesson, and I cheated by letting my teammates do most of the work while I wandered around observing the other stations at work on Sicilian tuna steaks, gnocchi, veal saltimbocca, and pizza with that special mozzarella made earlier, where I learned that pizza dough is different from pasta dough and the secret of great pizza is a VERY HOT oven.

The bottom line: Each class costs $250, and for that you get the tutelage of chefs as knowledgeable as DelleRose, the aforementioned oversized CIA-emblazoned apron, an authentic toque blanche (with the requisite 100 pleats) and a two-pound cookbook carrying a cover price of $36.

Is it worth it? Well, for pretty much the same money, you could buy the new Heston Blumenthal cookbook, but I doubt that you will find anything in its pages you can actually cook. Or maybe, choosing the wines carefully, dine at Restaurant Daniel in Manhattan, but Daniel Boulud isn’t going to stop by your table with cooking tips.

But walking into your dining room, bearing a platter of Sicilian-style tuna steaks, wearing your Culinary Institute apron, and telling your guests, “I learned how to cook this from Chef DelleRose at the Culinary Institute”? Now, that’s priceless.

Culinary Institute of America Cooking and Baking Classes
1946 Campus Drive
Hyde Park, NY
(845) 452-9600

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 12/09/13 at 08:49 AM • Permalink

Sua Buona: Andrea’s Pasta di Casa

By Don Rosendale

pasta casa It will be four years next week since Andrea Salvador dished up her first fettuccine meal. In Milan, they would call a store like hers an alimentari, an upscale deli where you can buy the highest quality pasta, marinara sauce, and dolce. In Amenia, it’s called Andrea’s Pasta di Casa.

Andrea has the map of Italy on her face, a round visage that still has the echo of a picture taken with her father on Easter in 1946 that now graces the cover of her menu. She says she’s visited every corner of Italy in search of recipes except Bari, and has a map in her store with pins showing each destination, except that on this particular day, all the pins have been moved to the middle of the Adriatic by a customer’s children.

Her basic education in Italian cooking came from her grandmother, she says, a “4’ 8” sparkplug” who was born in the village of Santa Appollina near Rome, and who came to America to find her husband. Andrea learned the finer touches from three aunts, Gilda, Viola and Flora, all named after flowers. Then, at the age of 66, Andrea decided she’d be most fulfilled by cooking the kind of Italian food she’d learned at home.

casa pastaAt that point, her friend in Amenia, Peggy McEnroe, told her she was restoring an old townhouse in order to open an elegant patisserie, and there was room upstairs for another food place. And so Pasta di Casa was born, with the goal of selling a select line of pasta, sauces and some Italian dessert specialties, all made from scratch using fresh, local ingredients. (Read our review of McEnroe’s downstairs café, Back in the Kitchen.)

So, why do people drive from Massachusetts and New Jersey and trudge up a steep flight of stairs to pay Andrea $6.50 a pound for linguine when the local supermarket offers fettucini, fusilli, two kinds of penne, orecchiette, bucatini, four ziti sizes plus zitioni agnoletti, for as little as 99 cents a box? And why do they pay $10.50 for a 32-ounce jar of Andrea’s marinara sauce when the supermarket version is $2.50? Fabio Fassone, a “Facebook friend” from Rome who is considered Italy’s leading authority on cuisine, solves the pasta part of the equation by explaining that, while the pasta which comes in a box and what Andrea kneads and extrudes by hand may look alike, they are two very different products. Dry pasta, he reveals, is made with semola di grano duro; fresh pasta with farina di grano tenero. “The fresh pasta,” he writes, “is made from superior wheat, with eggs, it tastes different, better.”

pasta collage The answer to the second question of why Andrea’s sauces are worth much more than their supermarket cousins, is found on the labels and on your taste buds. The label on a container of Andrea’s sauce puttanesca—she prepared a batch for me to sample that takes four hours to make, but was well worth the wait—says it’s made from fresh tomatoes and onions, taggiasca olives, anchovies, capers, rosemary, basil and red pepper flakes. The store-bought kind, one with a famous chef in his toque blanche on the label, includes, among other ingredients, tomato puree diluted with water, dehydrated garlic and celery puree, a couple of chemical things I don’t even recognize, and anonymous “spices.” Other bottled sauces aren’t much different, and one brand even admits that it substitutes soybean oil for olive oil.

The proof is in the tasting of course, and my four-hour-simmered puttanesca—the name supposedly comes from Italian ladies of the night and what they savored after their amorous evenings ended—contained tomatoes you could lift with a fork, slivers of onions, and while subtle, the taste of garlic and anchovies. (Andrea says that because so many of her customers don’t need to exude garlic to repel mosquitoes or zombies, she roasts the garlic beforehand). The supreme test: It was better than what I can make at home, and as good as I’ve had in an expensive New York City restaurant. At $10.50 for a 12-ounce sample, it’s well worth the investment.

pasta casa kitchen Everything she makes is unfrozen, except for her gorgonzola or goat cheese raviolis. “They get mushy after a while if they aren’t frozen,” she says, but so many customers insist on the fresh kind, that “I always have a pot of ravioli on the stove.”

Andrea says many of her customers are “weekend people” from New York City who take her pasta and sauces home because they can’t find the same quality back in Manhattan. Plus, she says, “A lot of people with Italian heritage have popped out of the woodwork because they appreciate good, old-fashioned Italian cooking. Aside from pasta and sauces, other popular items at Pasta di Casa are Sicilian meatballs ($8), pizza ($23), and kale and butternut squash soup ($9.75). She also offers four kinds of lasagna and will do osso buco and whole roast chickens but needs three to five days notice.

One other difference between Andrea’s labels and the supermarket kind—hers don’t have calorie calculations. But during the time I lived in Italy, I observed that pasta is a twice-a-day staple, and I never met a fat Italian.

Andrea’s Pasta di Casa
3312 Rte. 343
Amenia, New York
(845) 789-1414
Monday - Thursday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Friday: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 11/25/13 at 10:33 AM • Permalink

Pick Your Own Time: An Apple (Or Plum, Pear, Or Pumpkin) A Day

windy2Photo courtesy of Kwaree Blog

By Tim Eustis

Having gorged ourselves on the summer fruits and vegetables of our area, it’s time now to explore the autumnal offerings at pick-your-own orchards and farms. Apples galore are everywhere, and you can also find mums, plums, pears, pumpkins, and even broccoli. If you’re feeling stagnant in your cooking, just visit one of these local treasures and you’re sure to be re-inspired: think local pork chops grilled with a cider glaze, homemade apple sauce on the side, roasted potatoes, and a local hard cider or Pinot Noir. There’s also a special sensation to the experience itself. As Suse Wicks, the store manager of Great Barrington’s Windy Hill Farms (above), says, “people aren’t used to picking their own food,” and when they come down the hill from seeing the majestic views of Monument Mountain and Belchertown State Park, “they’re speechless. To be so close to nature affects you externally and internally — it’s primal.”

Many of these locations will have vegetable stands and farm stores with pies, cheeses, jams, and ice cream, plus activities for children like hayrides, pumpkin decorating contests, and more. It’s a literal cornucopia of fruits and veggies and things to do. Of course, it’s all seasonal, and different varieties and fruits come and go, so calling ahead is advised.

Litchfield County

auvegineAngevine Farm, Warren. Known for its PYO Christmas trees in the winter, they’re now open for pumpkin picking. On the first Sunday in October, they present Pumpkin-Palooza, with pumpkin-based games for children, a band, and pumpkins galore. (Open on weekends.)

The Action Wildlife Foundation, Goshen, is known for its drive-thru safari, petting zoo, and exotic animals, as well as a museum showcasing mounted animals from North and South America and Africa. Katie, who works there, boasts that they “have a zebra,” something you can’t find just anywhere. Starting the first weekend in October, they’ll offer hayrides and guided tours of the animals on the property. Children will find, in various locations, pumpkins for them to take home. The farm store has pre-picked pumpkins, as well as jams and other local offerings. (Runs through October 31, open Thursdays through Sundays.)

Barden Farm, New Hartford. A simple, but well-stocked, PYO farm focusing on pumpkins. They’ll have hayrides and a pumpkin decorating contest the first weekend of October, starting at 1 p.m. (Open seven days a week.)

Columbia County

samascottLove Apple Farms, Ghent. Some of the different varieties of apples at LAF’s PYO include Czestar, Gala, Ginger Gold, and Macoun. What they’re really known for, however, are the authentic Mexican lunches cooked by Laetitia Martinez, who’s been there for the over 21 years. Her tacos and tamales, in particular, should not be missed. They have a playground for kids, hayrides, and a pumpkin PYO. The farm store has seasonal fruit and the requisite jams, pies, and donuts. (Open seven days a week.)

Samascott Orchards, Kinderhook, has the rare offering of PYO vegetables, such as broccoli, beans, eggplant, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and peppers, as well as the “big, apple PYO season” (above left) which is in full swing. They’ll have pumpkins, too. At their garden market, just down the road from the farm, is a Corn Maze, petting zoo, and homemade ice cream stand, as well a cider mill. (Open seven days a week.)

Berkshire County

pumpIoka Farms, Hancock. PYO offerings here include pumpkins and Indian corn, but there’s also hayrides, a petting zoo, pedal-cart racing, and decorated pumpkin races. Plus, take a hay-wagon train ride, or visit the rather David Letterman-ish sounding “pumpkin slingshot.” (Some activities have a small fee, the rest are free.) The farm store sells pies, cider donuts, and sandwiches. (Now open on weekends through October).

applesBartlett’s Orchard, Richmond, is justly famous for their heavenly cider donuts. Owner Cindy Bartlett also trumpets the variety of apples they have, saying that, with the rise in popularity of juicing, people ask which ones are best for that particular endeavor. She recommends beginning with a McIntosh base, which gives the most juice, and add Idared, Northern Spry, and Red Delicious for their body and dense flavors. Bartlett’s also has PYO flowers and pumpkins. Their farm store is well stocked with grocery items, their own freshly ground peanut butter, and… did we mention cider donuts? (Open all week long.)

wineryHilltop Orchards/Furnace Brook Winery, Richmond. Orchard manager David Martell says, “people ask for particular heirloom varieties of apples, such as Macoun or Northern Spry,” but these are only two of the 27 different varieties available, with Honey Crisp and Gala being some of the most popular. On weekends, there’s live music, hayrides, and guided hikes available by appointment. Freshly pressed cider is offered year round, as well as cider donuts and Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. cheeses. Hilltop also makes Johnny Mash hard cider, described by The New York Times as “quite dry tasting but with lovely finesse.” (Open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.)

Dutchess County

picktopBarton Orchards, Beekman. This is one of the county’s many PYO farms, with vegetables in season, apples, berries, pumpkins, a garden center, farm market, and gift shop, and homemade products. There are also the requisite number of fall events, with hayrides, music, and a haunted house corn maze the weekend of October 18 & 19. (Open daily through the end of October.)

Greig Farm, Red Hook. The Greig Farm has been open to the public for PYO fruits and vegetables for more than 60 years. Enjoy the ambiance of a century-old dairy barn while perusing local vegetables, fruits, eggs, cheeses, meats, fish, flowers, and more from local Hudson Valley farms, plus plenty of apples (Jonamac, McIntosh, Honey Crisp, Gala, Macoun, Empire, and Ginger Gold) and PYO pumpkins. Open daily, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 09/22/13 at 08:42 AM • Permalink

Global Gourmet: Four Markets Bring International Flair to North Street

food collage When you need a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, you pack the reusable totes and head to the local supermarket. But where do you go for a bit of gooseberry conserve, cassava couscous, stuffed cabbage rolls, or broad-bean noodles?

Until recently, the answer was Albany, Springfield, or even farther afield. But these days, North Street in Pittsfield is a hot spot for international foods, with four ethnic groceries catering to very different palates.

Tucked between narrow storefronts on the north end of the street, Berkshire International Market has been offering African, Caribbean, and Latin foods since 2009. Owner Goundo Behanzin, a former accounting teacher who hails from the Ivory Coast and Benin, settled in Pittsfield with his wife in 2004. “I had been teaching students how to set up a business,” Behanzin says. “So I thought, why not open my own? And North Street had good foot traffic.”

Latinos typically drop in for comfort foods like frozen tamales, dried fish, and plantain chips. Meanwhile, African locals are thrilled to pick up traditional foods such as goat meat; African chicken (tougher but more flavorful than U.S. varieties); and products derived from cassava root, such as dough and attiéké, which is similar to couscous.

These, along with Latin American culinary and medicinal herbs—from epazote to cancerina bark—are the store’s treasures. Behanzin also plans to import African crafts like masks, baskets, and drums. “It will be a little piece of Africa on North Street,” he comments.

asian market4Diagonally across the street sits the Asian International Market, owned by Phillipines-born Virgin Galliher. She met her husband, a native of Dalton, while studying in Hong Kong, and moved to the Berkshires in 2006. Galliher was quickly discouraged by the need to drive to Albany or Hadley to find authentic Asian foods. “I met a lot of Asian women who complained about the same thing. So I decided I should bring it here,” she says.

Like Behanzin, Galliher chose her location for the visibility, but says that most customers now find her through Facebook or word of mouth. Among her best-sellers are several varieties of rice, ramen and other noodles, and common Asian cooking ingredients—palm sugar, fish sauce, sriracha, ponzu, fresh seaweed—that are almost nonexistent in mainstream markets.

The energetic, multilingual Galliher is happy to lead a tour of the store and point out the more unusual items, like dried star aniseed, cassava balls, dried mushrooms, and Indian sauces. Galliher says, “I tell people, ‘If you can’t find something but you have the box or label it came in, bring it in and I’ll try to find it for you.’”

Maria'sMaria’s European Delights is the newest of the North Street groceries, but it’s the oldest business. Owners Krzysztof and Maria Sekowski emigrated from Poland more than thirty years ago, and worked at Rising Paper in Housatonic. But when the company folded in 2007, they decided to parlay their love of food into a unique grocery and deli catering to Central European—primarily Czech, German, Polish, and Hungarian—tastes. 

After five years of hidden-gem status in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it plaza on Route 7 in Great Barrington, in January the Sekowskis moved into a generous store/café space almost smack-dab in the middle of North Street. Fans have discovered prepared foods such as golompki (stuffed cabbage rolls), bigos (hunter’s stew with kielbasa), and salatka jarzynowa (vegetable and egg salad), as well as twenty varieties of pierogies. Some make daily pilgrimages to the deli counter, which boasts a dozen sausages, even more cheeses, and meat lover’s delicacies like pâté-stuffed bacon and head cheese.

If there was any concern that Maria’s might falter without proximity to the large Polish population of Housatonic, Krzys puts that to rest. “We’ve done twice the business in this location than we did in Great Barrington,” he affirms.

britAt the southern end of North Street is the quirkiest of the four markets. Sheffield, England native and IT professional Alan Greaves, who relocated to the Berkshires after meeting his wife while on vacation here in 1999, relates a food-shock experience similar to Galliher’s. “There was nothing familiar in a 150-mile radius,” he recalls. “I sometimes drove to Boston, New York City, or Canada just to find products.”

In 2011, Brits ’R’ Us opened its doors, to the delight of local Anglos—Greaves notes that there’s an “island” of Brit expats in Great Barrington, as well as a Scottish contingent in Lee—and Anglophiles. Most come in search of frozen meat pies, Yorkshire pudding mix, Irish scones, and Marmite (a yeast-based, love-it-or-hate-it spread; Greaves, for the record, hates the stuff). Customers can also load up on Indian sauces and chutneys (hugely popular in England); conserves like gooseberry and tawny orange; blackcurrant soda; McVitie’s digestive biscuits; and biltong, a spiced South African jerky; plus kitschy Dr. Who and Brit collectibles.

Greaves, whose business has grown almost entirely by word of mouth, is hoping to open a second location in Albany in the fall. It’s part of his mission to spread the word about authentic British foods. “When I first came to the U.S., I kept hearing about Thomas’ English Muffins,” he says with a chuckle. “There is no such thing in the U.K. The only place you’ll see them is in a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich. I want to give people the real thing.” —Robin Catalano

Berkshire International Market
340 North Street

Asian International Market
375 North St.

Maria’s European Delights
146 North St.

Brits ’R’ Us
80 North St.

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 04/14/13 at 01:08 PM • Permalink

The Land of Oil and Honey

oil and honeyWho knew one could achieve a higher education in those basic yet exalted substances, honey and olive oil, in the spiffy heart of Rhinebeck? Housed in the old hardware store building, Bumble and Hive on East Market Street is a two-year-old general store of sorts, filled with more than 50 varietals of honey, accessories, children’s clothing, antiques, jewelry, and hard-to-find cosmetics. Around the corner, the equally new Pure Mountain Olive Oil offers dozens of varieties of olive oil and balsamic vinegars. Each hyper-focused shop has highly trained staff dispensing an academic knowledge of their product.

Bumble and Hive’s owner, Holly Haal, was drawn to the Rhinebeck location. “It seemed like a really good choice. It’s a very pedestrian-friendly culture here. There’s so much foot traffic and the merchants work really well together.” Rhinebeck resident and Pure Mountain Olive Oil co-owner, Zak Cassady-Dorion felt the same.

oil and honeyHaal is a vat of knowledge about honey, bees, and their plight, but she wasn’t always on the honey wagon: she endured the corporate grind for many years, and knew she wasn’t being true to herself. “I’ve always been an artist. I went to Rhode Island School of Design. I took a smart, grown-up, semi soul-crushing nine to five job because that’s what you do,” but she always wanted to do something more creative. “I decided life was too short to be locked into something that wasn’t fulfilling for me.”

She first opened shop with children’s cloths and tchotchkes, including honey, but saw that the latter was selling faster than anything else. “I really stumbled into the honey thing. I listened when it started flying off the shelves. So the shop morphed into this,” she says referring to her 1,000 square foot retail space.

Bumble and Hive source their honey from far and wide, like Catskill Provisions ($12 per bottle) from Long Eddy, NY, made by a former fashion magazine editor turned beekeeper, to Manuka Honey from New Zealand ($39.95 per bottle), which is said to have medicinal purposes. Haal’s right hand and secret weapon is Christopher Richards, a Bard student and a rock star on all things sweet and golden. “It doesn’t spoil; archaeologists have found edible honey in ancient Egyptians’ tombs,” he says. “It has an antiseptic quality and was recommended on the battlefield to heal wounds and burns. It also has antioxidant properties.” The store also boasts a honey bar, where almost every brand can be sampled.

Zak and CharlieTucked across the way is another small specialty-foods gem, Pure Mountain Olive Oil, started by cousins Zak Cassady-Dorion and Charlie Ruehr (left), who are infomercial-crazy about their oleaginous wares. They love everything about it: how it’s produced, the traditions behind it, the delicate process of pressing the olives, even the fact that an olive is actually a fruit. Rhinebeck employee Holly Condina says of the men, “They are like fine-wine zealots, but with olive oil. They just know everything there is to know about it. It’s remarkable.” At Pure Mountain, the oil is tasted in a similar fashion to wine. Cassady-Dorion and Ruehr instruct clients to “swirl it in a cup, warm it a bit with your hands to open up the flavor, and smell it. Seventy percent of taste is really based on smell. Let it roll around in your mouth and cover all of the areas of your tongue.”

oil and honeyThe oils are housed in Italian-made “fustis,” large metal containers — specifically made for the substance — that line the Tuscan orange colored walls. Pure Mountain staff are there, sommelier-style, to guide and educate customers on the product’s health benefits. (In Ancient Greece, it was applied to the skin and hair after bathing to protect from the elements. Athletes slathered their bodies in it and dusted them with sand to protect their skin from the sun and regulate body temperature. Also, its polyphenols are natural anti-oxidants that may prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and slow the effects of aging.)

Pure Mountain Olive Oil sources their product and soon hopes to have a more direct hand in the process. Currently, there are more than 30 varieties, some extra virgin, some infused, like their very popular garlic and mushroom, blood orange, and rosemary olive oil ($17.95 & up). They import from the usual places: Italy, Spain, Greece, and California but also from places one wouldn’t expect like Chile, Turkey, and Morocco.

The shop’s team works on different blends, but there are recipes and olive oil facts all over the walls. Cult flavors disappear off their shelves, like “butter olive oil” and seasonal “pumpkin,” but there will always be a new infusion on hand to try.  —Dale Stewart

Bumble and Hive
47 East Market Street
Rhinebeck, NY
(845) 876-2625

Pure Mountain Olive Oil
23 E Market Street
Rhinebeck, NY
(845) 876-4645

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Posted by Dale Stewart on 04/02/13 at 10:28 AM • Permalink

Seders and Beyond: Klara’s Cookies

Each year at Passover, seder tables around the world ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” This week, New Englanders lucky enough to have Klara Sotonova’s handcrafted macaroons on hand will be asking themselves another question: Why are Klara’s Gourmet Cookies different from all other cookies?

The pillowy, coconut-stuffed macaroons from the Berkshires-based bakery are a far cry from the sugary canned variety that show up in grocery stores each spring. (Made with rice flour, Klara’s macaroons are safe for Sephardic seders, but may not be kosher for Ashkenazic ones.)  Just one bite of the gumdrop-shaped treats has the power to summon long-buried memories of Passovers past—the warm, spicy scent of the corner store bakery, or the busy clatter of your mother’s kitchen, crowded with relatives rosy-cheeked on Manischewitz.

Sotonova, a Czech Republic native who moved to the Berkshires at age 19, says she’s been told that her vanilla-walnut crescents, which fly off the shelves at Easter along with her lemon-poppyseed shortbread, have similarly transportive properties. “We call them our time machines,” Sotonova says. “A lot of people take a bite and say, ‘Wow, my grandma used to make something just like this.’”

But unlike matzoh and Cadbury cream eggs, Klara’s cookies aren’t just a holiday specialty. They’re available year-round at 165 stores across New England—from Berkshire Organics to Guido’s to Nejaime’s. Triplex Cinema sells them at its concession stand; The Red Lion Inn rewards returning guests with a variety pack. Since founding the company with her husband in 2006, Sotonova has built a veritable cookie empire, churning out 4,000 macaroons, 7,000 crescents, 2,000 shortbreads, and 1,500 linzer cookies every week in the professional kitchen on the first floor of her home in Lee. The secret to her sweet success? Family.

Growing up in Chrast, a small town two hours southeast of Prague, Sotonova spent weekends in her grandmother’s kitchen, covered in flour from head to toe. “She’d let us play with the dough and help—pretty much anything we wanted,” Sotonova says. “Grandma’s house was like heaven.”

Baking was a ritual that brought the women in her family together. “Sunday was the day my grandmother would make this yeast dough with poppy seed filling or farmer’s cheese filling with raisins, or she would make kolache—yeast dough with apple butter and streusel,” Sotonova says. Each year around Christmas and Easter (Klara is not Jewish herself), her female relatives would crowd into a kitchen for four days at a time, baking twenty kinds of cookies to pass out while making the rounds to the homes of friends and family.

When Sotonova left the Czech Republic to take a position at Great Barrington’s Camp Eisner dining hall, she took her grandmother’s collection of yellowed, dough-splattered recipe cards with her. She soon put down roots in the area, studying hospitality management at Berkshire Community College and working at Swiss Hutte in Hillsdale, where she met her husband Jefferson Diller. The pair dreamed of starting their own restaurant, but worried about balancing work and family life. Then, one fateful day in November 2005, Sotonova baked her husband a batch of vanilla-walnut crescents.

“That was kind of it,” Sotonova recalls. “He’d eaten the whole container by the time I got home from work. He was like, ‘I have never had anything better than this. What else do you make?’” The next year, Klara’s Cookies was born.

“I felt I had this passed-on tradition that seemed pretty cool to share with people,” Sotonova says. “We get so busy with our lives, with our computers and iPhones. Traditions are, in a way, disappearing.”

Through Klara’s Gourmet Cookies, Sotonova has kept her family’s tradition alive. And she’s kept the cookie business in the family. Each morning, she and Diller wake at 4 a.m. to start baking while their three-year-old daughter Mika sleeps upstairs.

One day, Sotonova hopes to pass Klara’s Cookies on to her daughter. So far, Mika—who’s partial to the chocolate-coconut macaroons—certainly seems interested.

“She always wants to help,” Sotonova says, “and we’ll be like, ‘No, not yet.” What’s the problem with getting a junior entrepreneur on board the cookie team? “Well, there are health codes,” Sotonova says. “And you’re not allowed to lick your fingers.” —Sarah Todd

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Posted by Sarah Todd on 03/24/13 at 08:34 PM • Permalink

My Own True Love

Rural Intelligence FoodOur love affair began years ago. It was never one of those civilized, time-consuming “Harry Meets Sally” things, with platonic friendship origins, the inevitable glance, date, and eventually, relationship. No, ours has been a white-hot smolder that has yet to simmer down. To this day, from the moment we are together, which is pretty often in the winter, until our parting hour, there is no limit to the passion we share.

I’m speaking, of course, of chocolate. (What’d you think, I was talking about a man?) Or chocolat as the French satinly refer to it. That exquisite by-product of cacao seeds that has wended its way through three millennia as an aphrodisiac, a warming drink, and what we have today: A melange of flavors and artistry assigned to just about all holidays (Easter being no exception).

But chocolate’s most common ally in our culture is love, and what better time to pay homage to the global drug of choice than in the month of lovers? As Valentine’s Day draws near, the RI region is virtually dripping with chocolate-themed events, and rich with cacao-inspired treats to heat up the palate and boil the blood in the coldest point of the season. Here is our lovingly selected guide to all things chocolate, no lover required (because then you’d have to share).

Rural Intelligence FoodEvents in the Region
Leave it to the Berkshires to devote an entire month to chocolate. Chocolate Berkshires has fast become a staple for warding off the winter blues and features events from Vermont to Great Barrington, all devoted to playing up the cocoa strengths of the county. The month finds its epicenter at Chocolate Springs in Lenox. Bring your sweet tooth and feel free to drool (delicately, of course) over specialty chocolates from master chocolatier Joshua Needleman. Not that you need any prompting, but there are some heaven-sent desserts to choose from as always. (I highly recommend the Chocolate Raspberry Brandy Mousse Cake.)

A Bean By Any Other Name: A Gluttonous Gift Guide
Of course, there is the whole business of gift-giving that comes with the Valentine’s Day territory. Even for the most skeptical and jaded at heart, a little chocolate goes a long way (maybe all the way to the boudoir), and if you happen to be living with the object of your affection, well, it’s a free-for-all…in the name of love. Put down the four piece Whitman’s sampler, get the hell out of Rite-Aid, and do chocolate (and your love) some justice with, for starters, a blood red tin of Harney & Sons Valentine’s Blend chocolate tea infused with roses. You can order online or visit their Millerton store for an olfactory epiphany (and some gorgeous gift ideas).

Rural Intelligence FoodTea whets the palate nicely, in preparation for the glory ahead. That glory could arrive in the form of a juicy classic — chocolate covered strawberries from Catherine’s Chocolates in Great Barrington — or a wild, worldly adventure — Chocolate Bark in Ginger Thai, Peppery Cashew, and other mouth-watering flavors courtesy of Your Spice of Life in Hillsdale (order online, and soon!). Either way, the chase is on for chocolate, and as Hemingway pointed out on several occasions, there is nothing quite like the chase. Sometimes a quickie is worth a thousand elaborate courtships, and it’s, well, quicker. Pop in to Rubi’s in Great Barrington for a rich, black-as-night bouchon, and chase that down with a latte if you like to linger.

Speaking of linger, most of us would like the culinary libations of the love season to last, ultimately, forever. Or at least through the year. There’s beer-of-the-month, jelly-of-the-month, even bacon-of-the-month, so let there be chocolate. Verdigris Tea and Chocolate Bar in Hudson offers a sumptuous (it may even be deemed as indulgent and gluttonous) Chocolate of the Month Club that includes mouth-watering confections like latte cups, chocolate-dipped caramels, artisan chocolate mini-pears, and gorgeous chocolate pyramids. Cleopatra and Eve would’ve fainted on the spot…

Rural Intelligence FoodAnd while you are licking your teeth clean from all of this decadence, make sure you look good. Jane Iredale Mineral Cosmetics says you can have your cacao and wear it, too. The Chocoholicks compact contains four shades and flavors — Blood Orange, Espresso, Very Berry, and Chili Pepper — of super juicy lip gloss for a lip-smacking good time. You may want to be a little selective about when and where you wear the chili pepper. Some like it hot, but not too hot! —Nichole Dupont 




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Posted by Nichole on 01/28/13 at 06:15 AM • Permalink

Reaping the Winter Harvest

Rural Intelligence FoodIt used to be that this was a nation of farmers: From our Puritan forebears eking out a life on the unforgiving land to patriotic families planting victory gardens to aid in the war effort. Everywhere you looked, even in the urban nooks and crannies, the land yielded its riches to those who cultivated it. But that all changed in the post-nuclear 1950s, when bomb drills reigned in schools and suddenly the land was forgotten.

“The post WWII generation thought that food came from the supermarkets,” says Berkshire Grown executive director Barbara Zheutlin. “They lost that connection to the land that their grandparents had. Thankfully, in the last 10 to 15 years, people have started to wonder ‘where does my food come from.’ It’s happening in the whole region, the whole country. We are rediscovering farmers and the roots of our food.”

In a nutshell (or should I say corn husk?) farming is sexy again, and good food even sexier. With this newfound interest in working the soil — thanks largely to young farmers and their dogged determination to re-cultivate the nation — also comes a demand for fresh food, regardless of the season. With this in mind, Berkshire Grown began hosting Holiday Farmers’ Markets, both in Williamstown and Great Barrington, in the hopes of giving area growers and food artisans an extra boost before the sluggish winter. But what began three years ago as an experiment in the parking lot of an old firehouse has grown into a much-anticipated harbinger of the winter holidays, as well as an off-season nod to the hard-working hands of the men and women who literally feed the people.

Rural Intelligence Food“When we started the winter markets it was purely experimental,” Zheutlin says. “It was a way to get people here, even though there was snow on the ground. Now the farmers actually start growing for it, in anticipation of being to sell at the market. What we found is that the vendors are responding very quickly and are eager to be a part of it. This is the most delicious way to strengthen the local economy.”

With some 70 vendors signed up for this year’s markets (that take place December 15 and 16) food lovers and gift seekers can all get their piece of the holiday pie. From Brussels sprouts to homegrown soups and healing honeys to hand-spun yarn, the winter markets offer a dizzying array of treats and trinkets (and, yes, sampling is encouraged!), all generated from the bountiful earth and its fluffy inhabitants. The festive mood is in part generated by the farmers themselves, who fill the room with chatter and advice for the best recipes. In fact, Suzy Konecky, who is the creamery manager for Cricket Creek Farm (of Maggie’s Round cheese fame) in Williamstown, looks forward to the markets, as much for their social appeal as for their financial potential.

Rural Intelligence Food“These markets serve a very important function,” she says. “Being in the public eye and having that community space is a great way to remind people that we’re here. Through every season, we’re here. Most people associate local food with the summertime. They don’t think about what’s available in the wintertime. Our CSA (for meat and dairy) runs year round. The table, so to speak, is overflowing.”

Cricket Creek is one of many local farms – including Farm Girl Farm, Sweet Brook Farm, Raven and Boar, Tortured Orchard, The Berry Patch, and many others — which will occupy a space at the holiday markets. And while growers, weavers, honey makers, and bread extraordinaires sell their wares inside at both Muddy Brook Elementary School and Williams College, outside the giant festive stall, The Meat Market will be slinging bratwurst on the grill and local musicians will light the air with folksy cheer.

“It’s just as much about the food as it is about the farmer,” says Zheutlin, who is expecting at least a thousand visitors or more to each market. “It’s about connecting with them on an individual basis and the process. The story behind the food is not something you have the privilege of hearing that often.” —Nichole Dupont

Berkshire Grown’s Holiday Farmers’ Markets
Saturday, December 15 at the Muddy Brook Elementary School Gymnasium, 318 Monument Valley Road, Great Barrington
Sunday, December 16 at the Williams College Towne Field House, 82 Latham Street, Williamstown.
Each market will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information on winter markets in the RI region visit our Dining Intelligence guide.

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Posted by Nichole on 11/13/12 at 03:19 AM • Permalink