Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter and Rituals of Spring at Restoration Farm

The joys of Easter are upon us, and after a particularly hard winter, the community at Restoration Farm seems to embrace the tasks of spring with renewed vigor. Donna’s hens have been busy producing baskets full of pastel eggs perfect for the holiday.  
Signs of activity and new life are abundant. Caroline, George and Kobi are shelling last year’s pole bean pods, and extracting the seeds in anticipation of this season’s planting. Ever the engineer, George is devising new ways to get the shelling done more quickly.  
Zsofi, Natalia and a group of volunteers are preparing the flowerbeds for a summer of brilliant color. 
Hal has constructed a top bar beehive to attract those stalwarts of pollination.  The bees will enter through the bottom, and build honeycombs draped from each narrow bar that lies across the top.   
At Apple Trace, buds on the two-year old heritage apple trees are beginning to open.  
In the field, tender leaves of kale reach towards the sun.  We will soon be worth our weight in greens. 
Freedom Ranger meat birds have settled into their daily routine of foraging in the fields.  
The Garlic Field is covered with bright green shoots that will soon give way to the first garlic scapes of summer.  
At the Hewlett Apple Orchard, Glenn had pruned and mulched the sweeping hill and planted additional rootstock.
He shows me the progress of the Asian pear, Apricot and Sour Cherry trees he planted several years ago along the dirt road that enters the farm.  Glenn has a knack for cultivating new life and has truly earned the nickname of “Orchard Guy.”   
And, scattered throughout the farm and the historic village are new abodes each anticipating their first flurry of tenants. 
Happy Easter!  Happy Spring!   

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Music Blossoms at Restoration Farm

They call it agri-“culture” for a reason. The modern neighborhood farm nourishes not only the body, but also the soul, and works to cultivate a sense of culture and community among its members.  

Music draws people together, and has always been present at Restoration Farm. Strains of jazz, folk, and rhythm and blues – offered by local ensembles – always accent the family-style potluck dinners held in the field. But now, we’ll be harvesting music even more frequently.
Lettuce Entertain You With Tin House Music at Restoration Farm

Tin House Music at Restoration Farm will offer live concerts at the farm all summer long. The venue is the multi-purpose tin storage shed erected by Nassau County this past winter at the entrance to the farm at 140 Bethpage-Sweet Hollow Road in Old Bethpage.  Sunday concerts start at 2:00 PM with an open mike hour, followed by the scheduled performance.  
The Tin House at Restoration Farm
It’s long been a goal of head growers Caroline Fanning and Dan Holmes to launch an arts and education program that enhances the multi-sensory experience at Restoration Farm. As one who is rarely without music playing, I’m excited about the addition of the Tin House Music series to the rhythm of the farm.  
Head Growers Dan Holmes and Caroline Fanning
The monthly concert events feature an array of home grown bands and performers:

May 4 – Miles to Dayton blends elements of folk, rock, classical and funk

June 1 – The Live Cultures plays original and traditional folk music

July 6 – The Carrie McQuade Trio performs rock, pop, soul and classics

August 3 – Long Island Bluegrass Quartet is an acoustic music group

September 7 – Kerry Kearney is a guitar slide master 

Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased at or email to reserve.     

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Roots Bistro Gourmand: Rustic Fare Meets Cutting Edge Gastronomy

Chef Philippe Corbet and Chef James Orlandi are shattering assumptions of what a restaurant “should be.”         
Olive Oil Poached Salmon with Fried Chick Peas
The co-owners of Roots Bistro Gourmand in West Islip, Long Island have deep respect for the roots of cooking, but aim to transform the traditional bistro experience using techniques of New Age gastronomy.   
Seared Sea Scallops with Wild Mushroom Mousse
Dining at Roots evokes the charm and flavors of French country cooking propelled into the future with gastronomic tools like foams, emulsions and vacuum sealing. In the words of Corbet and Orlandi, the Roots experience “juxtaposes high end cuisine with humor and accessibility.” 

Read my profile of Corbet  and Orlandi here in Edible Long Island’s Spring 2014 Innovation Issue.  

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Crosby’s Vermont Acorn Vinegar

My cousin Paul Crosby – Renaissance man, food artisan and master forager – has been at it once again.  His latest locally sourced, hand crafted product is Crosby’s Vermont Acorn Vinegar, made in Leicester, Vermont. 

I had always just assumed that acorns were not edible.  When I express some (slight) skepticism to Paul, he sets me straight.

“People have been eating acorns forever!” says Paul.  “I’m sure acorns were on the menu at the first Thanksgiving.”   

Indeed, there is a wealth of information available online about foraging and processing acorns, and quite a history of use, particularly among indigenous populations. Acorns are high in tannins, a natural substance found in most plant species.  Tannins are the source of the slightly bitter aftertaste found in coffee, tea and wine.  But, too much tannin can lead to a tummy ache. In their raw state, acorns can be quite bitter because of the high levels of tannins, and must be processed before consuming.  

Crosby’s Vermont Acorn Vinegar is bright, bold, and acerbic with a crystalline, amber color. It’s a strong flavor personality and could overpower more delicate foods, but would pair nicely with robust, confident flavor profiles. Paul has made a simple dressing using Vermont Maple Syrup and Crosby’s Vermont Acorn Vinegar. He’s also mixed maple syrup with the vinegar to make a sweet and tangy glaze for pork loin or lamb.  
Paul Crosby forages for white oak acorns each autumn
To produce his Vermont Acorn Vinegar, Paul starts by foraging and he doesn’t have to stray far from home. “Every fall I gather as many fallen white oak acorns as I can from my property leaving a few for my furry friends. This takes hours and last through October. Once collected they are dried and stored in a cool dry area away from the squirrels. Dried acorns will last over a year if stored properly.”

Then begins the process of turning acorns into vinegar. “When I get ready to start a batch I crack up to 2 cups of dried acorns,” says Paul.  “I sort out the bad ones and put the remaining acorns in a bath of hot water to release the bitter tannins. This is done three times usually to release all the bitterness. I then taste one to make sure the flavor is right.”

The acorns are now processed and ready to infuse in a gallon of white vinegar. This usually takes up to three weeks.

“At this point the flavor and color should be nutty and straw colored,” says Paul.  “After three weeks the vinegar is filtered and put into a pot to boil, and sugar is added to the batch just like the elderberry vinegar recipe. It's boiled for about 10 minutes, filtered and then bottled.”

True to the spirit of foraging, nothing gets wasted. 

“Now you would think at this point, I would throw the acorns away,” says Paul.  “Wrong!  I take them along with a little acorn vinegar and pickle them with the standard pickling spices. They are aged for up to six weeks before eating and taste very nice.”

The website “Eat The Weeds” has a fascinating story on acorn consumption through the centuries, and reports they are high in nutritional value. According to the site, a white oak acorn is 50.4 percent carbohydrates, 4.7 percent fat, 4.4 percent protein, and 4.2 percent fiber. A pound of shelled acorns contains 1,265 calories.  

Crosby’s Vermont Acorn Vinegar is available for purchase online and sells for $12.00 a bottle.   (I received one bottle of Crosby’s Vermont Acorn Vinegar from Paul to use in preparing this post)  A number of Vermont restaurants are also using the vinegar in menu items.   

If you prefer your acorns as lawn art, feast your eyes on the world’s largest acorn and just imagine the size of the squirrel that would take a bite out of this!  
Photo Source:  Eat the Weeds

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved