Honest Cooking

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Our friends at Honest Cooking just posted a great interview with Executive Chef Steve Brand in Washington, DC.
Take a look if you’re interested in pretty pictures, real talk from Chef Steve, and a recipe for our Bourbon Spice Rack.

CHECK IT OUT \\ Barcelona Wine Bar: DC’s Small Slice of Catalonia

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The Original Foragers [FC Beat Magazine]

“‘Barcelona is one of the restaurants that started the local food movement in Fairfield County, and I don’t think a lot of people recognize that’, she says. ‘It makes me really proud.’”

Thanks to FC Beat Magazine for a great article! Read the full thing here:  The Original Foragers.

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Francisco’s Bottles of the Week

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By: Francisco Sanchez, Barcelona Corporate Sommelier

Spring time, where to start what to drink?
Here are three of my recent favorite wines for Spring/Summer:

Rose time! 2010 Tibouren, Clos Cibonne, Cru Classe. From Provence, this is a serious rose-complex but beautifully structured. In the nose you will find aromas of semi-dried berry with some nuttiness. It has a great acidity with some watermelon and strawberry on the palate. If you like Sherry or Jura then you will appreciate this wine because it was aged in flor (yeast) for one year.

Oh Rioja…1995 Marques del Puerto, Roman Paladino, Gran Reserva. If you like to drink Pinot Noir or Burgundy then you will definitely enjoy this traditional Rioja. From the red ruby color with slate shades in the outer rim to the beautiful nose and great aromas of vanilla and figs. It is a well-balanced palate with dry cherry notes and an earthy lingering finish.

For cabernet drinkers, I love the Montsant Spain. 2008 Celler Dosterras, Vespres. It is dark purple in color, with black cherry and black berry in the nose. On the palate, this wine is full-bodied with dark cherry, spices, and herbs and has a long lingering cherry finish.

Cheers!

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In the Kitchen: Meet Andrea Anom, Sous Chef DC

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Who is a sous chef? A sous chef is the second in command in a kitchen. In French, the term literally means “under chef,” and this individual is an important part of the restaurant he or she works in, ensuring that everything runs smoothly whether or not the Executive Chef is present. The duties of the job can vary widely, depending on the restaurant and its command structure. This position in the culinary world can be extremely demanding but a great career path for those who want to become an Executive Chef one day. We’ll be introducing you to our talented sous here on our blog and first up is Andrea Anom, Sous Chef in DC:

I grew up in Stone Mountain, GA with my parents and older brother. We are a very tight knit family and my favorite family rituals are Sunday dinners and movie nights. I started cooking at home in the kitchen with my mother, father, and grandmother. My family was always cooking and eating and the first thing I learned how to make was a casserole. We had cookouts quite often so food was always a reason to gather, play music, and just have a good time.

I’ve always loved cooking and thought about being a chef but had a passion for medicine so I began college with a major in biology and planned to attend medical school. I got a job as an office assistant in the orthopaedic department at Grady Hospital with the Emory School of Medicine and it was amazing. I sat in on a few surgeries and was surrounded by doctors constantly. I soon realized that doctors have no lives and medical school is very expensive and I thought to myself, “If I’m gonna be broke until I’m 30 and work  constantly, I might as well do what I really want to do and I want to be a chef!” The next week I changed my major to nutrition. At the time, I was a server because it was hard to bartend or be a line cook with no restaurant experience.  I eventually graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition. I decided not to go to culinary school because I was already working in restaurants while obtaining my undergrad degree.

In June of 2012, I found a job listing for Barcelona in Inman Park (Atlanta). At the time, I was cooking at The Cheesecake Factory and was looking for a new challenge.

use2I accepted the job at Barcelona and trained with then Sous Chef, Justin Gottselig, and I fell in love with my job. I started on cold tapas, worked my way to fry, switched to prep, came back to the line to learn the grill station and then landed on sauté. The sauté station is my baby. It’s a beast but you know you’re a lead line cook when you can make it through your push and then run down the line to bail cold tapas when they get slammed with desserts. I did a little bit of everything in Atlanta. I worked the line three days a week and I prepped two days a week. It was fun to have my hands in so many stages of the food. I definitely became a mother to the empanadas yelling at fry cooks, “Hey! Don’t just throw those in the drawer! Do you know how long those take to make?”  It may sound ridiculous but it is the truth.

A part of the reason I started working for Barcelona is because I love all types of ethnic food and I wanted to travel anywhere and everywhere. I heard we were expanding to DC so I contacted our Culinary Director, Adam Halberg, and asked him what the requirements were for trainers. Three months later, I was on a Greyhound to DC. I knew the DC location was going to be looking for Sous Chefs so I made it my mission to continue to work hard and show that I could be a great Sous Chef for Barcelona.

Originally I was DC’s AM Sous Chef but recently my schedule has become more diverse. This gives me a better idea of how our store operates throughout service and gives me the opportunity to become more familiar with the challenges of expediting and running a PM shift. Generally, I’m responsible for supervising and organizing an array of staples that includes all prep items, sauces, accoutrements for specials, the produce order, and most recently the large weekly truck order we receive from Fairfield Foods and our own warehouse.

Ironically, I love that every day is completely different and I never know what is going to happen. Each day challenges me to not only have a productive shift/service but also to make it better than the day before. This can be quite frustrating when managing different personalities, schedules and deliveries. A kitchen truly is organized chaos every day!


use3Working with Chef Steve Brand is amazing! He’s very honest and straight forward. His energy makes you want to work hard with him. I think we work so well together because we have similar ideas of how to manage time.  We both like to push ahead and think about what could be prepared today to make tomorrow more successful. I think he appreciates my organizational skills. Steve is a really good teacher which is one of my favorite things about working with him. It is very hard to find people who see what you want for yourself and are willing to share their knowledge to help you obtain it.

Needless to say I’ve learned a lot working at Barcelona. The transition from line cook to Sous Chef was challenging at times. Learning how to manage people and product properly is an on-going learning experience.

The only thing I would advise someone who wants to be a chef or work in our industry is to make sure you love it. Working in a restaurant is not easy. The hours are long; sometimes guests and co-workers are challenging; you or something you own always smells like food and sometimes you have no life. However  if you love food, it makes everything you go through worth it. I love food. I love seeing people happy because I made something delicious. I’ll never get tired of learning about food and sharing that love with the people in my life :)

 

 

 

 

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Farm Fresh: Caledonia Spirits

todd.bees.hardwickIn the words of Todd Hardie of Caledonia Spirits

I began a relationship with honey bees when my brother Tom and I got our first bee hive and placed it on the top field of our family farm. He was 9, I was 12. We were enchanted by these angelic insects that were always flying and gathering nectar, pollen, and propolis. About 40% of the food we eat depends on insects for pollination, and to a great degree, these are honey bees. Everything that honey bees do for us is a benefit to our communities. Even their sting is beneficial to most people. If you are not allergic to bees, getting sting by a honey bee can be a very healthy thing. Charlie Mraz always said and wrote that beekeepers do not get cancer. Drawn from the traditions of Eastern Europe where bee venom is respected for its healthful properties that support the immune system, many have come over the years and asked to have bees put on them for this venom.

After some seasons with the bees, I knew that I wanted to be a beekeeper in Vermont. I loved the land and the ongoing rhythms of the seasons, and working with the bees keeps one very close to the earth, the flowers, and the cycles of the seasons and life. Vermont is a community where agriculture is honored and respected.

As one goes north, from Florida to Saskatchewan, the yields of honey increase with each latitude. In Vermont there are five months of cool weather where the bees can gather nectar from the flowers. An average plant is 84% water, and in the south the heat shuts down the water (and thus the nectar) from flowing through the plants. The heat in the south is much more of a challenge than the cold weather of the north. Our first honey house was in Morses Line, Franklin, Vermont, with the land touching the Quebec border. We were between the U.S. and the Canadian customs offices, on some land that once had a bar that straddled the international line. The bar was called the “Bucket of blood” because of the fights there in the 1800′s. In the U.S. prohibition, customers would go from the Vermont side to the Quebec end of the business for their beverages. Years later, there still was a pile of broken bottles in the back yard. On one side of the land, the kids would speak French, and on the other English. Two bachelor brothers had lived there for years, and were beekeepers. They left us a barn of equipment to use with our bees.

In past days, a family in Vermont would have bees, chickens, and elderberries, now many people have dogs, cats and goldfish. That is fine, and I am happy that the bees, the chickens, and the elderberries are returning. It is very exciting.

This mortgage for this first honey house was $1,000 down and $133 a month. There was a two seater outhouse in the rear barn. It was exciting to get plumbing and heat in the house. Next to the house was a huge, sacred poplar tree that the bees gathered propolis from. Our work was very idealistic; the honey went into pint and quart canning jars that were re-usable. A clamshell label was held in place with a rubber band, thus more information could be put on into this label and one did not have to use water and work to get the label off of the jar. With every purchase came a free rubber band. Our label had 8 cycles of the moon on the front of it, Moon Shine Apiaries.

We ran about 180 colonies. While in the seventies, beekeeping was a lot easier than it is now, with most of the colonies getting through the winter then, it has never been easy to be involved in such a labor intensive business and cover all of the costs. We never had a way to heat the honey; I just could not bear to hurt the honey. In the first few hours of extracting and bottling honey, I plucked all of the darker pieces of wax and propolis out of each jar with a chopstick, and then realized that was nuts and we could not do that and continue. We brought this raw honey to market that was never heated or filtered. People would say that our honey was dirty as it had dark specks on top of the jars. We had to get involved in an ongoing education effort to explain to each person that complained or commented that these were small particles of beeswax, propolis, and pollen, the “good stuff” that allows for raw honey to be a medicine, a food, as well as a sweetener.

Most all of the honey in the marketplace was heated and would thus stay liquid for months into the winter and spring. Most truly raw northern honey will get hard by the end of October. There were a few co-ops and health food stores in Northern Vermont that would take the honey and in time, asked for this new way (to them) of handling honey, which actually involved taking the time to do nothing to it at all. This was nothing we started, it was just helping to bring back something that had been done 100 years ago. I began to make monthly trips to Boston to serve the stores there, and always stayed with my grandparents. They were a huge encouragement over the years, and for that I am grateful.

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In Scotland, we were farmers. One branch of the family distilled, and today, one can still buy the Antiquary scotch from Edinburgh. It began with J & W Hardie. My great great great grandfather John Hardie sailed from Scotland to New York City in 1817. It was a rough voyage, and his diary gives thanks for sparing his life on this sailing ship. “There was no work for a young man” in New York then, he wrote and within weeks he was headed to Alabama to farm. His son John farmed cotton in Arkansas and had a seat on the cotton exchange of New Orleans. He said that “the best best fertilizer was the footprint of the farmer” and that has been a guiding force in my life – take the time, fertilize the ground and relationships, keep going, do your best though all the crop abundances and seasons of crop failure. We have always been in the growing and marketing of the crops. Our friends in Quebec call it “transformation”, to give value to a crop and bring it in a value added form to market.

As a young commercial beekeeper, I tried many a path to make the business work. We took most of the colonies of bees to the Pee Dee River region around Mullins, South Carolina for four winters. There the bees can be “split” in the Spring to make up for the loses that they are experiencing worldwide. Spring starts two months earlier in South Carolina then Northern Vermont, and they have flowers to provide nectar and pollen throughout the winter. Spring moves up the Atlantic coats at the speed of 15 miles a day. One Spring we brought the bees from South Carolina to Cherryfield, Maine to pollinate wild blueberries. Moving bees is a Herculean amount of work and expense. I recall the day I was given three checks for $37,000 for pollinating blueberries on a 10,000 acre field in Maine. I was delighted, as I thought I had found a way to make beekeeping work. Later I realized that after all the labor, hiring a tractor trailer, diesel for our own truck, an axel break down in Virginia on the trailer, months of work and the bees not making any honey that summer in Vermont and New York because they were so weak coming off of a month on the blueberries, that we lost money. It was exhausting, but worth trying.

One night I was loading our red Dodge 1-ton truck at midnight. Especially when it gets warm in the days of spring in the south, one has to load and move bees when it is dark and cool. I had a vision to look into making cough syrup with raw honey and vinegar. The “folk doctor” from Vermont, Dr. Jarvis, has long taught and written about the value of using raw honey and apple cider vinegar to make a healthy drink.

These were the years of 1,000 miles on the roads each week. After the bees were loaded, I drove eight hours to my parents’ farm in Maryland, slept an hour and then started driving north before it got too sunny and hot, which would have been hard on the bees. When I arrived in New York, I unloaded the colonies and worked with them. These long days gave rise to inspiration on how to diversify, give value to raw honey, and use it in traditional plant medicine.

After Cornell Agricultural School, I had moved to Hardwick, Caledonia Country. Caledonia translates to Scotland. After a year there, I realized that I had to be in the Champlain Valley of Vermont and the St. Lawrence River Valley of Northern New York State in order to be a commercial beekeeper, with at least 1,000 colonies of bees. These river and lake valleys are where the bees have traditionally done well. While living in Hardwick, I was the bee inspector for the Vermont Department of Agriculture in Northern Vermont. I inspected the bees of Lewis Hill, and we became friends. Lewis is a gentle giant of Vermont horticulture and with his wife Nancy wrote many books over the years about horticulture, berries, and living in the Northeast Kingdom, the three counties in the north east corner of Vermont.

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For 14 years, Lewis told me about the elderberry, a berry bush that he grew in his nursery. He had cultivated varieties that were hearty for overwintering in the north and that had larger berries. Elderberry has anti-viral agents that get rid of the virus in the common cold.

I was so occupied with the honey bees and building up the operation and the markets for raw honey, that I politely listened to Lewis when he suggested that I look into the elderberry, that I did not hear him for 14 years. In this time, we built the operation up to 1,900 colonies, but the winter losses continued to escalate and be severe most seasons. Then I started to see elderberry syrup in health food stores that was made with white sugar and/or fructose from Europe. I realized that we could make a higher quality product with raw honey and local, organic elderberries right at home in Vermont. I went back to Lewis and told him that I wanted to learn more about the elderberry from him. He was happy that I was finally opening to learning about the elderberry, took me into his office and pulled out research articles and books for an hour.

Tim McFarline and I developed our elderberry syrup formula at the Vermont Venture Center, with the help of the Cornell pilot plant in Geneva, New York. Agriculture is so challenging and humbling, I learned how to ask for help, and we were blessed over the years by herbalists and scientists in Vermont-New York-Quebec-New Hampshire who we collaborated with.

As a second product after the wild cherry cough syrup with raw honey, the elderberry syrup allowed us to continue to diversify away from relying so much on selling just honey from our bees. Honey Gardens Apiaries was blessed to continue extending its line of traditional plant medicine one season where the bears were getting more of honey than we were sending to market. Hardly an hour went by when I did not have to deal with putting bee hives back together after the bears came into a bee yard. They are looking for the protein in the young brood. While I learned that the bears can communicate across four counties within a day if there is a message about an crop of berries or where the bees are, it was not much comfort as our losses were so great. If there was a tree next to an electric fence, they would climb the tree and then vault into the bee yard, across the electric fence. They are smart.

Then, one day, I was putting eight hives back together that the bears had pushed over in domino effect. Boxes of bees and honey were everywhere. This was a campaign we were not winning. A very clear message came to me that we were spread out too far as commercial beekeepers, should work closer to home, and develop a honey product with purple loosestrife. This beautiful purple plant was spreading throughout many of the towns we worked in Vermont and more so in St. Lawrence and Jefferson Country, New York State. This particular yard was surrounded by thousands of acres of purple loosestrife. I soon learned that the plant has strong antibiotic, antiviral, and fungicidal qualities. We began to harvest it and mix it with raw honey, usnea (lichen that grows from living a dead trees), and propolis to make a throat spray and wound wash.

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Five years ago we began to make mead, wine from honey. It is a wine that is older than grape wine, from the days of King Arthur’s court. It is appropriate to the north where honey bees are a more of tradition in our communities than grapes. It takes about a year to make good honey wine, and it is easy on the body when one drinks it, which is important for me. In the old days, the term honeymoon came when a couple was married and drank wine for a month to get pregnant and start a family. The wine nurtures amorous thoughts.

We continued our diversification with the bees and honey when we started Caledonia Spirits. Our mission was to employ people and to support agriculture in the region. Now we are buying honey, corn, elderberries, juniper berries from farmers. Three years ago, we built a winery and distillery on the banks of the Lamoille River in Hardwick. It is a very beautiful place, just south of the river, Hardwick Lake and the town forest. You can hear the loons on the lake at night. We have planted elderberries all around the building, and there are two bee hives there.
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The adventure continues. Andrew Pinault is working with Ryan Christiansen to distill spirits. I am the assistant to the assistant and enjoy the marketing, graphics, and bees and working with all of the characters and personalities of the team that make this work. We all have gifts that complement each other. Ryan started a successful home-brew shop and loves fermentation, yeast and the quest for quality. Now he is our Head Distiller and makes Barr Hill Gin and Barr Hill Vodka and Elderberry Cordial. Whiskey is aging in the barrel and our brand new whiskey is still being carefully distilled, after we retrieved it at the Portland, ME harbor in early January 2013. Our gin and vodka stills were custom designed and built, using recycled stainless steel and parts from the US instead of buying stills from Europe. On Friday, the smell of honey vodka was in the air. The stills do work. They bring me glasses of spirits to taste, and I am learning. Our gin has a strong tone of juniper berries. The vodka can be creamy, really lovely.

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It is good to be back in Hardwick. It is a collaborative community where people help each other. Many of us get together the first Tuesday of the month for dinner and discussion. The host picks a topic that she or he needs help on. When I need a tractor to push snow around, I borrow it from Vermont Soy. We help them develop a plan to do demos in Eastern Massachusetts, get raw milk from their North Hardwick Dairy and are looking forward to learning more from them about how to grow sunflowers for oil, for people and to power diesel tractors and vehicles. High Mowing Seeds did trials for us this past summer with 22 varieties of sugar beets as we seek another source of carbohydrates for our beverages that is sustainable and will give the local farmers another option for a crop. After cheese and spirits buyers from NYC leave the Cellars at Jasper Hill, they come to Caledonia. I help the new beekeeper at the Jasper Hill take care of her bees. We love their cheese.

gin.medalWe would be honored for you to visit. In the town north of Hardwick, Barr Hill is in the center of the town of Greensboro. This beautiful hill has been conserved by the Nature Conservancy, and is a great place to hike or cross country ski. The view on our spirits labels is of forests and farms, Caspian Lake and mountains to the South. From the top, you can see the White Mountains, Camel’s Hump, Montreal, Lewis Hills’s nursery, his great nephew Shaun’s brewery, and over to his brother Jasper’s farm. Pete’s Greens is close, the next town north, Craftsbury. We are inspired by the high places.

Caledonia Elderberry Cordial, Barr Hill gin, and our Barr Hill vodka are now available at the distillery, some farmers markets, and the State stores of Vermont in a few weeks. Then we will work in Massachusetts, where Renee has cultivated great relationships with our honey wine.

I am inspired to be in New York City today, where my great great grandfather landed in 1817, and spend the time with our daughter and her friends who just moved to Brooklyn. They are part of the farmers markets, working on fair trade, organic agriculture policy and the growing healthy food system.

Thank you for your support of our work with honey bees and those that work in agriculture.

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