By Suzanne Besser
Twenty neighbors recently got a good taste of how to ‘eat local’, why it’s so important and just how much fun it can be.
They were participants in a private tour and cooking class for Beacon Hillers at the Boston Public Market, the long-awaited market at 100 Hanover Street that opened last summer. It features a variety of more than 300 products by about 35 farmers, fishermen, food producers and artisans from Massachusetts and throughout New England – ranging from honey made in a beehive onsite by the Boston Honey Company (Holliston) and seafood caught that day at Red’s Best (Boston) to tempting mini-cider doughnuts sizzling at Red Apple Farm (Phillipston) and specially crafted cheese boards from Peterson Boards and Bowls (Gill).
The neighborhood event was sponsored by the Beacon Hill Civic Association Green Committee, the Beacon Hill Garden Club Conservation Committee and The Trustees. “By promoting products from New England, the Public Market also promotes creative approaches to New England’s seasonal changes, from salad greens grown in containers in East Boston to purveyors of interesting cuts of fish and meat not usually available on supermarket shelves,” said Eve Waterfall, who co-chairs the Green Committee with Diana Coldren.
And creative indeed was the cooking class menu, which featured Flat Iron steak, an interesting cut of beef now served in restaurants but in few private homes. It was chosen by guest chef David Harnik, owner of a Boston mobile food truck and catering company called The Dining Car. “In my experience, people are mystified by meat. They stick with standard cuts and certain ways to cook them,” he said.
“I introduced the Flat Iron steak (Chestnut Farms, Hardwick) because it is very tender, flavorful and inexpensive. I realize that people today are very conscious about using their time efficiently,” he added. “This steak cooks in five minutes and the whole main course in about 30 minutes.”
The rest of Harnik’s menu comprised seasonal ingredients from Public Market vendors. “When something is beautiful at a particular time of year, like winter squash, I love to use it,” he said. “It’s part of a natural flow, the cycle of food. It’s ok if we don’t have a big beautiful red tomato in our salad now when we know we will be able to enjoy it this summer.”
Under Harnik’s guidance, class members paired up to prepare and cook the main course, which took little more than thirty minutes. During that time they also munched on a platter of various cheeses from Apple Farms (Ipswich), Ruggles Hill Farm (Hardwick), Grey Barn (Chilmark) and Westfield Farm Capri (Hubbardston), along with black mushroom caps, garlic and chopped shallots. Kabocha, a sweet thin-skinned winter squash with a fluffy, chestnut-texture similar to a pumpkin, was cubed, flavored and roasted with smoked maple syrup (Siena Farms, Sudbury). Potatoes were pureed with fresh horseradish and sweet onions, and mixed green lettuces (Corner Stalk Farm, East Boston) were tossed with candied walnuts coated with honey (Boston Honey Company).
After pouring glasses of Pinot Noir (Coastal Vineyards, South Dartmouth), the group dished out and devoured what they agreed was a very delicious dinner. “Not only was the evening a great opportunity to get to know all the Public Market has to offer, cooking and enjoying the results together made it a really fun community event,” said Katherine O’Keeffe of Pinckney Street.
Both Waterfall and David Beardsley, who helped coordinate the Beacon Hill visit to the Boston Public Market on behalf of the Trustees, said they were excited to introduce their neighbors to this source of local and sustainable foods. “It’s an important new institution that’s highlighting the vitality of agriculture in Massachusetts and throughout New England. Local food and working farms help people re-connect with the land,” said Beardsley, who oversaw the launch of the Appleton Farms vendor booth.
“By creating an indoor venue for New England farm and fish products, the Public Market works to support the New England economy and keep production nearby,” added Waterfall. “Local production means less trucking, greater confidence in the source of products, use of local assets and local job creation for farmers, fishermen and artisans. For any farm to be successful, it is essential to maintain a reliable outlet for the distribution of seasonal products.”
The Boston Public Market is open year-round on Wednesdays through Sundays from 8 am to 8 pm. Bike parking is located directly outside the Market on the plaza opposite the Greenway. Directly above the Market is the Parcel 7 Parking Garage that can be entered at 110 New Sudbury Street. With proof of purchase, the Market validates parking there for a rate of $1.
Another cooking class and tour has been scheduled for Beacon Hillers on April 20. A menu and chef has not yet been set. Those interested in learning more about it should email [email protected] closer to the date. Chef Harnik’s recipes for the above mentioned steak, squash and potato dishes are available by emailing [email protected].