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Posts Tagged ‘Providence’

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of heading down to the first annual Boston Local Food Festival on the wharf in Fort Point. Now, before I go any further, let me stop right there and take one of my patented asides to address the question half of you are wondering:  Huh? What’s a Fort Point? Where’s Fort Point? I’ve lived in Boston for <<insert number of years here>> and I’ve never heard of it.

For the uninitiated, Fort Point is simply a specific section of South Boston, aka “Southie.” Southie should not be confused with the South End and certainly never confused with the South Shore. (Not that there’s anything wrong with the South Shore. I live there. But it sure ain’t Southie.) Fort Point’s also conveniently across the bridge from South Station. Got it, Southpaw?

For some time now, Fort Point has been hyped as the next “up and coming” area of Boston, and has become a trendy spot for artists, loft dwellers, and foodies, thanks in no small part to the efforts of local superstar chef Barbara Lynch. (More on her another day. Suffice it to say “GODDESS”). Fort Point’s most recognizable resident, however, is the giant Hood milk bottle that stands watch over the Boston Children’s Museum. Check out the Friends of Fort Point Channel website for more info on the neighborhood.
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Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to the festival. If, like most folks, you judge the success of a festival by the number of attendees, then all I can say is that this was a resounding success. It was CROWDED! Yup, the local food movement has Boston all wrapped up in a tizzy. A tasty tizzy, inspiring an event that was pure Boston, through and through. In a move that brought a smile to my face, they even trotted out Mayor Mumbles (as we affectionately call him) for some grammatically incorrect opening remarks.
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The festival had a little bit of everything, from food to demos to games:

  • free food samples
  • butchering demonstrations
  • food vendors and trucks
  • non-profit orgs and charity crop sharing
  • slow food twister
  • cider pressing & butter making*
  • chicken coops & container gardens
  • a competitive seafood cooking throwdown
  • live music
  • beer tasting

*The butter making was super cool — maybe because I tend to enjoy kids activities more than most kids (or certainly more than an adult ought to). Basically, you take whole cream, put it in a Mason jar, shake it for about 20-25 minutes, and it separates into butter and buttermilk. Seriously, isn’t that COOL????

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In no particular order, some of the things I especially enjoyed were:

Pickles from Grillo’s. Seriously? I couldn’t get a picture of the pickles without someone’s hand in it because there were that many people jockeying about for a taste.
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Pig butchering demo by Chef Matt Jennings. Folks were NOT sticking their hands in THAT photo, but I still couldn’t get close enough for any gory pig photos. You’re crushed, I know. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Matt is the chef at Farmstead down in Providence, which has been on my “To Eat” list for far too long! Marcy, it’s time for another food trip to R.I.
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Fish cooking demo by the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association. You all know how to say “Gloucester,” right? Yeah, it’s “Glosstah”. Angela Sanfilippo (at left) was just fabulous to listen to. Very engaging. I loved hearing her stories of how the organization got started and her own involvement in helping to protect the local fishing industry here in Massachusetts.
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Bobby O’s pita chips. Pretty self explanatory, really. They tasted fantastic, so I snapped a photo in lieu of a business card (it was a “Zero Waste” event, after all!). Go buy some.
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Alternate grains from Four Star Farms. WARNING! About to expose myself as a super ultra geek. I had to buy a bag of the triticale flour because (gulp) in the Star Trek “Trouble with Tribbles” episode, the Tribbles were gorging themselves on the ship’s supply of quadrotriticale. I like that episode. Moving right along now…
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Olive Berries! Never seen/heard of them before. Chef Didi Emmons brought them out during the seafood throwdown and let us give them a try. Tart! (The berries, not Didi). Aren’t they beautiful?
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Didi’s apron. Lovely, eh? Check out the embroidered pocket… It’s a teacup. Sweet!
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THE FOOD. Rightfully, the star of the show.
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We ended up eating the pork and heirloom tomato sandwich from Sportello for lunch, but unfortunately in my haste to consume, I forgot to take a photo of the sandwich itself! Ah well, you can take a look at the preparation, instead.
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All in all, the Boston Local Food Festival was THE hip place to be on Saturday. A complete list of vendors is on the Food Festival site — help support local food!
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My one regret? Supposedly David Coffin (of Christmas Revels fame) was doing a roving performance of sea shanties and the like, and we missed him. We thought we heard him off in the distance at one point, and tried to steer our ship his way. The throngs of people proved too strong for our tired vessel, so we turned alee, never to find out if he in fact wears something other than tights outside of the Christmas season. Perhaps it’s just as well. I like the idea of Mr. Coffin being perpetually in tights. But that’s another story.

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There’s a long-standing theory that I was a cat in a past life. I have a penchant for snuggling up in soft blankets in a patch of sunshine, I do (somewhat embarrassingly) enjoy my boyfriend’s lap and a good rub of the head, and I like to take “time outs,” where I simply curl up and rest with my eyes closed, half awake and half asleep. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I don’t have nine lives.  I do, however, think I may have nine stomachs. One for each course of the meal I ate Friday night.

Yes, you heard right. I had a NINE course meal. The adventure began when my friend Marcy befriended a chef down in Providence, RI, and was invited to come down to check out his restaurant.  Knowing that I would probably throw a tantrum if this event occured without me, she wisely invited me to come along. We arrived at Zooma around 7:30 after a mildly fear-inducing ride through the center of a heavy rainstorm. I figure fear is good for the appetite, though — by the time we got out of the car, I was thankful to be alive and ready to indulge in some carnal pleasures. And indulge we did.

We were shown to the “Chef’s Table,” which was something akin to pulling up a bar stool to the edge of a kitchen island. Sitting side by side, we had a clear view into the kitchen and were able to meet the chefs preparing our food, as well as catch up with Chef Jeff Burgess, who was expediting orders to our left.

We started with a bottle of Crios Malbec from Argentina, and that was the last decision we made for the evening, aside from answering “Would you like another course?” with a resounding YES. And another. And another. Jeff put together a tasting menu that walked us slowly through their menu of regional Italian food. As a general rule, all of the food at Zooma is based on principles of simplicity, quality, and fresh, local ingredients. The exception that proves the rule being the buffalo mozzarella and pasta flour, which are imported from Italy, and San Marzano tomatoes during the off-season (otherwise, the tomatoes are actually grown on Zooma’s roof!)

So without further ado, our menu:

1st course:  tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella with olive oil, sea salt and vin cotto

2nd course:  grilled asparagus topped with an egg, shaved pecorino romano, sea salt, and olive oil

3rd course:  bucatini served al dente with ramps and garlic in olive oil

4th course:  handmade tagliatelle with fava beans in a light butter sauce

5th course:  artichoke raviolis with braised lamb sauteed with a hint of olive oil, marinara and a mirepoix medley

6th course:  pan-fried trout over an asian-inspired slaw of carrots, sauteed ramp bulbs and diced ramp tops, topped with a citrus-cilantro salad

7th course:  seared sea scallops with romesco and warm spinach

8th course:  rib eye steak with mashed potatoes and grilled zucchini

9th course:  passion fruit and peach gelatos from Ciao Bella

Really, it was all insanely good. The mozzarella was to die for — softer, creamier and more subtle than your standard supermarket fare. The asparagus, egg and pecorino dish was one of my absolute favorites. Simplicity at its best, the asparagus was young and fresh, no doubt first of the season, and grilled to perfection, keeping its verdant color intact.  It’s pretty much an ideal lunch for me, and I plan to mimic this one at home frequently.  The tagliatelle and fava beans was another favorite.  The butter sauce was incredibly light, especially considering that, well, it’s made of butter; a purposefully light hand when saucing the pasta helped. Handmade tagliatelle — enough said. But the FAVA BEANS. Oh my. I’m a convert. I need to learn more about them and start looking up recipes, because they are now my new favorite bean. They were like a more buttery, meaty version of edamame. Just delicious.

I do enjoy a good braise, and this one was appropriately tender to the point of falling apart. It reminded me that I do in fact like lamb, which I somehow had managed to forget in the years between now and my childhood, when a good rosemary leg of lamb was a staple at Easter dinners. Speaking of childhood, I had to start clapping my hands with glee when the trout came out, as that’s another beloved food that brings me back to the early 80s. Summers in Newfoundland during that time involved my frequently being woken by the smell of fresh trout, dredged in flour, crackling away in a cast iron pan on the stove, the tasty outcome of that morning’s fishing expedition.

I hit the wall about the time the sea scallops came out, but pushed on through to the rib eye course, which was where I first reluctantly had to have the plate taken away without eating everything on it. The lip-puckering passion fruit gelato was the perfect end to the evening, even if it did upstage the more delicate peach gelato.

A nice side note about Zooma is that, with the exception of Chef Jeff, most of the cooks are students at Johnson & Wales, the well-respected culinary school also in Providence. Maybe it’s the old Northeastern student in me, but I definitely like the whole work/study concept, and admire Zooma for supporting the school and Chef Jeff for helping them get a hands-on education. They all did themselves proud.

Now excuse me while I go resew the button that popped off the top of my pants on the ride home.

Trattoria Zooma on Urbanspoon

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