Pinoli, Gloucester

January 19th, 2015

Pinoli pasta dies

I once had the opportunity to ask Alice Waters how to change a community’s food culture. “It starts with bread,” she said. Gloucester has some wonderful bread – Alexandra’s, Virgilio’s – and it just gained another.

The bread at Pinoli, the Serenitee Group’s new Gloucester restaurant directed by chef Paolo Laboa, is a tender, grain-flecked wild-yeasted example of Laboa’s ability to make Genovese magic with local Cape Ann ingredients. In Laboa’s kitchen there are two enormous tubs: one holds Alprilla Farms’ wheat flour. The other tub holds Alprilla Farms’ corn meal. Each day Laboa creates the house bread with a combination of these grown-in-Essex grains and wild yeast – the stuff floating in our briny Cape Ann air. Full of character without being heavy, the Pinoli house bread is served with sweet butter made in-house from Ipswich’s Appleton Farms’ cream.

This simple course of bread and butter says everything about the restaurant’s ethos: old world Italian interpreted with Cape Ann ingredients.

Laboa is unabashedly Genovese, encyclopedically schooled in Northern Italian cuisine and technique, classically old world Italian: everyday, every meal, every dish, every bite is a hard-won battle to exact brilliant flavor from the best ingredients at the cheapest cost, which means, as every Italian knows, shop locally.

(For those who don’t remember, Paolo Laboa arrived on the North Shore a few years ago as chef at Pride’s Osteria in Beverly. The Boston food press discovered him, including Phantom Gourmet stardom. Legal Seafood’s Roger Berkowitz, just one of the mandilli-adoring fans, hired Laboa to consult on a new trattoria-style version of the famous fish restaurant. Before Beverly, Laboa had made Genovese cuisine shine at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco called Farina, which the New York Times declared “best pasta in San Francisco.” But these credits pale beside this: In 2008 Laboa’s pesto won “Best in the World” in the pesto capitol of the world and Laboa’s hometown, Genoa.)

one slice foccacia de recco

Laboa’s foccacia de recco, which I interpret as pizza meeting clouds, and mandilli al vero pesto Genovese (billowing sheets of handcut pasta cloaked in a suave, polished edition of the fresh basil, nut, and Parmigiana Reggiano paste) are menu standards at Pinoli. If you never order another item, you will always be happy with silken pasta draped in the World’s Best Pesto and ephemeral sheets of golden dough filled with molten stracchino cheese.

Italian grandmothers from New Bedford to Newburyport might be very happy at Pinoli, because almost every day at 1:00, Laboa starts a large pot of polenta, made with Alprilla Farms corn meal, simmering on the stove. That pot of polenta cooks for 4-5 hours, ready by service. It is rare to be served a restaurant dish in which one can actually taste patience, but in this polenta, like kitchens all over northern Italy, the plump smoothness tastes like time stirred, an integrity and wholeness vacant in instant polenta, which is almost all we know on this side of the Atlantic. (Nonnas, run, don’t walk, to Pinoli for the this.)

The day I visited the Pinoli kitchen a “stockfisk,” an entire dried cod, hung from a hook on the wall. This would be soaked for days, then cooked, flaked, and whipped into a mantecato, or brandade, to be served on toasts as an appetizer.

salt cod mantecato


A plastic tub piled with prickly green sea-urchins sat menacingly on the counter. The eggs from these spiny echinoderms would be scooped out, and used as the binding “egg” in Laboa’s “Cabonara di Mare,” a luxurious bowl of homemade pasta tubes and seafood.


carbonara di mare

Steelhead Trout gleamed from a board. They would be filleted, and their racks cooked into a rich tomato stock laced with spices and chocolate, a nod to Genoa’s historic place on the Spice Route. The fillets would be sauteed to order, and served with the sauce.

Chris Porter, owner of Patriot’s Seafood in Salem, said it is an unusual pleasure to provide fish to Laboa.

“Most chefs call me up and place an order for what their menu demands: ‘I need 10 pounds of cod, 8 pounds of swordfish, etc.; Paolo calls and says, ‘what do you have?’ That allows me to get him the best looking fish at the best prices instead of inadequate looking, expensive swordfish that his menu might require.”

Paolo Laboa & fishmonger Chris Porter

Laboa’s Genovese provenance is bold Italian cooking, which makes his menu surprising if not courageous in Gloucester. Tripe is often on the menu; the day I was there it was simmering once, ready to simmer a second time in a porcini mushroom mirepoix. As mentioned, Laboa is a fan of both dried and salted cod, and uses them with Italian facility; he’s been known to shave raw baccala over pizza. (I may be the last customer on earth delighted by that.)

This is trattoria food; if you’ve been to Italy you know bowls of trattoria pasta bolognese arrive at the table garnished only with the steam rising from the hot noodles. Dishes at Pignoli arrive the same way – bare, not fussed, no smears of sauces or parsley arabesques. If the restaurant’s ambience were plank tables and re-checkered tablecloths, nothing would seem amiss, but inventive cocktails and candlelight sometimes seem disconnected with the cuisine’s unadorned arrival. This may sometimes confuse guests, but I say just have another slice of bread.

We’re very lucky to have restaurants in Gloucester maximizing local ingredients: The Market Restaurant in Annisquam is religious about it, as is their sister restaurant Short and Main. The Gloucester House, family owned on Gloucester Harbor for over fifty years, maintains 6-8 local lobster boats in local waters fished by local lobstermen; they use approximately 2,000 pounds of lobster a week. Mehaffey Farm in Rowley is supplying much of their produce in season. (The Gloucester House also makes their own bread; their cornbread is beloved.)

There are environmental benefits to “food less traveled.” The local economy fattens on a local diet; the food tastes fresher, and we take back the term “local cuisine.”

Appreciating true Cape Ann ingredients is not just noble, it’s practical; Laboa knows no other way, but it’s wonderful to see more of this in Gloucester.  If you have doubts about how delicious real local food is, start with bread.




3 Duncan Street
Gloucester, MA

(978) 281-3997

Remembering Marvin Roberts

January 15th, 2015


I met Marvin Roberts at Shaw’s a few years ago; he was standing behind me in line, and said, “lady, that’s the worst looking rhubarb I’ve ever seen.”

I’ve told this story before. Marvin insisted I follow him to his home on Witham St. for some real rhubarb, not the wilted stuff available in a grocery store on a Sunday night at 8:30.

“Just give me time to get home; I’m on my bike.”

Marvin was that very thin man with a gray beard you always saw riding a bike in the Shaw’s neighborhood. He had a Ph.D. in Botany, and had taught in four different universities, the last being Salem State. His paper on the ballistic seed dispersal of the illicium plant received international attention. (Exploding ilicium seed pods, the plant’s great evolutionary trick, can shoot 40 feet.)

I can’t say I was a real friend of Marvin’s, because he was very private, but I spent enough time to see – and admire – how much Marvin loved growing things. His garden, I’ve said many times, was raucously vibrant and diverse: those thick juicy stalks of rhubarb had leaves the size of tabletops. Jumbled over a 1/4 acre hillock grew asparagus, rhubarb, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, cherries, horseradish, kale, beans, every kind of allium and herb, and that’s only what I can remember.




After just a short tour of the garden with Marvin, I no longer saw a quiet Gloucester guy, grayed by time, who rode his bike everywhere, or an academic who referred to plants only by their Latin genus and species, who read the NYT front to back every day, quoted from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, and noticed when I missed a week writing my column, as he did; I saw a skinny kid who loved science more than anything in the world. I didn’t see the aging Marvin worrying a discolored peach tree leaf with earth-stained fingers; I saw a boy in his parent’s Ohio backyard who loved nothing more than a whole day with his hands in the dirt helping his father plant potatoes.

On Cape Ann Marvin collected red algae to make his own blanc mange. He grew things from produce that Shaw’s was tossing out. He salvaged begonias (Begoniaceae) and lamium (Lamiaceae)that people had long ago placed on graves in the cemetery, and that were being composted, and he grew them into lush decorative elements beside his herbs. I’m lucky to have received a grandchild lamium from one of these salvages.

I’m also lucky to have received some Coral Bells (Saxifragaceae,) from Marvin. The original plant is on his mother’s farm in Ohio; Marvin planted divisions from that plant in each of the four states in which he lived. Coral Bells in Marvin’s Witham St. garden were practically taking down a wall, such was the energy with which they burst out of the crevices. Now there’s one in Folly Cove, too.



A book loan from Marvin, be it horticulture, history or a cookbook, was always a good one. I learned from him about the history and international significance of wheat, and later about Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem Artichokes), and discovered in his loaned cookbooks a great recipes for a Christmas Porridge and Cape Cod Fish Balls. If anyone stumbles upon the Burpee Cookbook, snatch it; it’s great. That was a loan from Marvin long ago, and I’ve been looking for my own copy ever since.

Tragically, I still have a couple of books I need to return to him. I just now learned Marvin died last September at 66 years old; his cousin, Jody Brickner, reported it was a heart attack.  Many on Cape Ann, and in his neighborhood will miss him, including his friends at the Rockport Farmers Market, where his rhubarb sold out in minutes. I hadn’t seen Marvin since last spring, but I will miss him at every turn of the garden season.  Rhubarb and raspberry will never be the same.

Passion is such an overused word these days, but I think I can use it legitimately here, and it is the exact thing I so deeply admired in Marvin. I think passion is something you do even though no one is watching. You do it when reward, or praise, or credit have long since vanished as relevant. Passion is that thing you continue to study when it makes no difference to anyone except yourself; you do it truly and honestly only for your self. Maybe even the self doesn’t matter; maybe the self is lost to an honest passion.

I don’t know many people with a real passion for anything, except Marvin, who was the perfect study. He ventured into the world quietly and lived privately, but I know he never stopped wondering about his soil or marveling at the vigor of his Egyptian onions.




Marvin Roberts will be buried at home in Ohio; I hope the earth above him is covered in Coral Bells.


Marvin young


For anyone interested in making a donation in Marvin Roberts’ memory, Jody Brickner sends this message:

“Marvin taught and did research at Stone Lab for The Ohio State University many summers. This would be a fitting place if anyone were interested in making a donation.  – Anything research or education oriented here would please him.”

“Also, his three-year-old great niece has cystic fibrosis, and a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at her fundraising page would be another way to honor his memory. There is a place for a note for the participant, and that way you can be sure that her parents will get the message. Her name is Annabelle Hanson.  Her mother is Marvin’s niece.”

Marvin with family

Roasted Salmon with Avocado Cream

January 2nd, 2015

 spa food


Midnight January 1, the online wassail and plum puddings images disappear, replaced by images of sparkling glasses of water and large white plates artfully scripted with julienned crudite. Grocery stores can’t stock enough bags of baby spinach. Across the nation there’s a low roar of high protein smoothies whirring in blenders.

Nothing says January like penance, but I don’t enjoy the punitive sound of penance; I think of it as time to do the diet laundry. My January regime usually just means any cuisine east of Uzbekestan, but this year my cleansing consideration has been whittled down to one ingredient:  Avocado.

My teenage daughter, who is on a diet every other day, holidays included, had purchased a while ago a little book called “Cooking with Avocados,” by Elizabeth Nyland. Suddenly, this book is the only one on the kitchen counter; in it seems to be everything we want to eat right now.

In the “why didn’t we think of this before” category there is the simple but delicious avocado and mango smoothie, also the nori-wrapped avocado with toasted sesame sauce. In the “cool is cleansing” category there’s an avocado and cucumber soup; a little heartier, there is an avocado and broccoli salad, made with greek yogurt, cherry tomatoes and topped with crumbled bacon. This will be made in my home before the week is over.

Our favorite so far is Roasted Salmon with Avocado Cream.  Four ounces of cream cheese is blended in a food processor with avocado, garlic and lemon.  Swathe it over a beautiful Coho salmon fillet, and roast.  The combined omega-3’s of salmon and avocado make a sublimely nutritious January dinner.  Packing in the leafy greens, I served this on a collard greens chiffonade sautéed in sesame and grape seed oils, dusted with Gloucester’s Atlantic Saltworks salt.   The laundry is done.


salmon serving

Roasted Salmon with Avocado Cream, from “Cooking with Avocados,” by Elizabeth Nyland

serves 4


4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 large avocado, halved, pitted and peeled

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 clove garlic, minced or grated.

2 tablespoons capers (optional)

2 pounds salmon fillets


1.  Preheat oven 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Using a blender or an electric mixer, blend the cream cheese, avocado, garlic and lemon zest and juice, until smooth. Stir in the capers if using.

2.  Place the salmon fillets on the baking sheet skin side down. Spread the sauce of the fillets and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. (The salmon is done when the flesh is slightly firm and the juices just begin to turn white.) Serve immediately.

Try Pots Chowder

December 31st, 2014

whaling church


Instead of a New Year’s Poem, I’m copying a bit of the finest food writing ever, a reminder of the mercies – if not art – the cod and clam once bestowed on a difficult voyage.

Chapter 15 from Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

Upon making known our desires for a supper and a bed, Mrs. Hussey, postponing further scolding for the present, ushered us into a little room, and seating us at a table spread with the relics of a recently concluded repast, turned round to us and said- “Clam or Cod?” “What’s that about Cods, ma’am?” said I, with much politeness. “Clam or Cod?” she repeated. “A clam for supper? a cold clam; is that what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?” says I, “but that’s a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter time, ain’t it, Mrs. Hussey?”

But being in a great hurry to resume scolding the man in the purple shirt who was waiting for it in the entry, and seeming to hear nothing but the word “clam,” Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open door leading to the kitchen, and bawling out “clam for two,” disappeared. “Queequeg,” said I, “do you think that we can make a supper for us both on one clam?”

However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey’s clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment.

Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word “cod” with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us. We resumed business; and while plying our spoons in the bowl, thinks I to myself, I wonder now if this here has any effect on the head? What’s that stultifying saying about chowder-headed people?

“But look, Queequeg, ain’t that a live eel in your bowl? Where’s your harpoon?”

Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots, which well deserved its name; for the pots there were always boiling chowders. Chowder for breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes. The area before the house was paved with clam-shells. Mrs. Hussey wore a polished necklace of codfish vertebra; and Hosea Hussey had his account books bound in superior old shark-skin. There was a fishy flavor to the milk, too, which I could not at all account for, till one morning happening to take a stroll along the beach among some fishermen’s boats, I saw Hosea’s brindled cow feeding on fish remnants, and marching along the sand with each foot in a cod’s decapitated head, looking very slipshod, I assure ye.

Supper concluded, we received a lamp, and directions from Mrs. Hussey concerning the nearest way to bed; but, as Queequeg was about to precede me up the stairs, the lady reached forth her arm, and demanded his harpoon; she allowed no harpoon in her chambers. “Why not? said I; “every true whaleman sleeps with his harpoon- but why not?” “Because it’s dangerous,” says she. “Ever since young Stiggs coming from that unfort’nt v’y’ge of his, when he was gone four years and a half, with only three barrels of ile, was found dead in my first floor back, with his harpoon in his side; ever since then I allow no boarders to take sich dangerous weepons in their rooms at night. So, Mr. Queequeg” (for she had learned his name), “I will just take this here iron, and keep it for you till morning. But the chowder; clam or cod to-morrow for breakfast, men?” “Both,” says I; “and let’s have a couple of smoked herring by way of variety.”

Go! – Julfest at Spiran Lodge, December 13th

December 9th, 2014




Spiran Lodge flags


A few rich veins of authenticity still marble Cape Ann. One vein is the traditions behind Spiran Lodge, the local chapter of the Swedish order “Vasa,” an active preservation of the Scandinavian culture that brought song, dance and the haunting aroma of wafting cardamon to this granite promontory.

This Saturday is Spiran Lodge’s Julfest. On Friday, the Nisu team will work all day in shifts, lead by Claire Franklin, mixing, allowing to rise, pounding down, braiding, letting rise again, and finally baking the 120 glorious shining loaves of Cardamom Braid, or Pulla, or Coffee Bread; to each Scandinavian culture a different name for this delicious-with-coffee sweet bread mostly known on Cape Ann as Nisu. A pair of members (Peg Lecco and me) will drive to Crown Bakery in Worcester to pick up a brimming order of other Swedish breads and pastries to be sold at the festival, along with many Rockport-made Scandinavian treats.


rising Spiran Nisu


Nisu for sale



There will be pickled herring and the Swedish sausage, Korv. This year, for the first time, Karl’s Sausage Kitchen, a venerable source of Scandinavian and Germanic foods, will help to sponsor Rockport’s Julfest, thus offering an even wider selection of hard-to-find foods, the rich, hearty dishes meant to warm hearts through long, bleak winters, both in Sweden, Finland and Cape Ann.




Coffee and Nisu will be served for breakfast, and for lunch there will be traditional open-faced Scandinavian sandwiches along with choices of fish chowder, pea soup, fruit soup, and rice pudding.

Tables of freshly picked and arranged greens will be for sale, along with Scandinavian linens.  Serenaded by “Silent Night,” the chosen St. Lucia will walk the upstairs hall crowned by a wreath of candles. The enormous orange Dala horse will stand cheerfully on the Broadway Ave, sidewalk announcing “god jul!”

At Spiran Lodge Swedish and Finnish phrases still spring up in a sentence here and there. The members are earnest – and work incredibly hard – at keeping the traditions of their parents and grandparents alive. Matthew Rask describes Spiran Lodge as in transition from an aid society to a cultural center.

“Whereas in the past members looked to Vasa to help them learn the ways of the new country and provide them a means to share problems and solutions with their countrymen, today Vasa provides members a means to share their rich heritage with fellow Americans, and helps them to learn or remember the meaningful ways and values of the “Old Country.”

Julfest is a holiday visit like no other. Rare in a landscape sprawled with shopping malls and chain restaurants, authenticity is a commodity worth hoarding when you find it. Visit next weekend for the St. Lucia, the fluffiest of rice puddings, and the authenticity.

Here is a recipe from the Spiran Lodge newsletter. Cardamom, the cinnamon of Scandinavia, is a brilliant addition to the densely chocolate flour-less cake we’ve been making for years.



Dala horse



Spiran Lodge Flour-less Chocolate Cardamom Torte


11 ounces dark chocolate

2/3 cup unsalted butter

6 eggs, room temperature, separated

1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons ground cardamom, divided

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2.  Line a spring form pan with parchment paper and butter generously.

3.  In 30 second increments, melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave. Stir until completely smooth and melted. Alternately, melt the chocolate and butter gently over a double boiler. Set aside.

4.  Combine the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat on high until very pale and fluffy – about five minutes.

5.  Mix the vanilla, salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom into the melted chocolate. Then fold the chocolate into the egg yolks.

6.  In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites on high until they hold stiff peaks. Fold carefully into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

7.  When the torte has cooled, heat the heavy cream until near boiling. Add the chocolate chips and let sit for two minutes. Stir until completely smooth. Ad 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, and either serve immediately with the cake or pour over the cake and let set one hour.

Give “Cape Ann”

December 9th, 2014

Cape Ann is riddled with talented bakers, cooks, crafts people, and earnest organizations. Here is a list of wonderful ways to make your gift giving local, supporting our community, and promising delighted recipients.

1.  Atlantic Saltworks.  Everyone should be giving salt this year.  Atlantic Saltworks, started by friends Heather Ahearn and Alison Darnell, is based in Salem, MA, but the salt is hand harvested in Gloucester.  Not only are you giving a handful of natural Cape Ann, but Atlantic Saltworks is the ideal gift for cooks who loves a flakey finishing salt, Gloucester’s version of the famous Maldon.  Isn’t a salty, crusty finish the perfect symbol for this city?  Atltantic Saltworks are available at The Cave and Lula’s Pantry, among other venues.

2.  Af Klinteberg Nisu.  Grandaughter Carson Af Klinteberg has returned to Cape Ann to continue the Af Klinteberg nisu tradition begun by her grandmother fifty years ago.  Nisu, the cardamom-scented Finnish sweet bread meant to look like a young Scandinavian girl’s braid, represents the still active community of Finns who arrived here one hundred plus years ago to work in the quarries.  Sweet, tender, delicious with coffee, nisu is an easy way to take one’s history.  Call (978) 281-0928 to inquire about where Af Klinteberg loaves are available, or to order full batches.

Af Klinteberg



3.  Alexandra’s “Peace Bread.”  Extend an olive branch to a friend for Christmas.  Olives, the international symbol of peace, riddle a crusty Alexandra’s Olive Branch.  The ratio of salt to black kalamata richness to crusty baguette is so perfect it’s hard to know which is a vehicle for the other, bread for olive or the reverse.  Smear with fresh unsalted butter and the story ends not just peacefully, but happily ever after.  Alexandra’s Bread, 265 Main St., Gloucester.

4. Mortillaro’s Lobsters and Gift Certificates.  Send someone a lobster, or freshly packed lobster meat, and they will hear the boats chugging out of a foggy harbor at dawn, such is the relationship between Gloucester and these marine crustaceans.  Mortillaro Lobster is a Gloucester institution; their holding and processing practices are so well respected their lobster meat earned a place in the Lobster Mac and Cheese served backstage to Neal Young and Willie Nelson at the Farm Aid concert last year.  The caterers at Farm Aid are fussy.  They want local, organic, sustainable foods, or at least as close to those adjectives as possible. Mortillaro uses no chemicals in its tanks, and its meat is the freshest there is.  Mortillaro Lobster, located at 60 Commercial St. (on The Fort), looks like an imposing wholesale business, but they welcome retail shoppers.  Walk in the metal door to purchase live lobster, fresh meat, or gift certificates, all Willie Nelson approved.

Mortillaro Lobsters

5. Woodmans of Essex; five generations of stories, 100 years of recipes, by Winslow Pettingell. Give fried clams, or at least the recipe for famous Woodman’s Fried Clams, the ones for which flip-flopped crowds wait hours in a line.   Part cookbook, part nostalgia, Pettingell’s book covers one hundred years of Woodman’s fun and history, starting when Chubby Woodman first dropped a clam in hot oil.  “Woodman’s of Essex” is filled with old photos and stories that would make anyone affectionate with the Essex River’s unique clam-digging culture a little misty-eyed.  Available at Woodman’s in Essex and online.

Woodman's Cookbook

6.  Rockport Farmers’ Market T-shirt, tote bag, and coffee mug, designed by Darren Mason.  These goods are “good.”  The purchase any or all three of these cool Darren Mason designed provisions help keep local food in Rockport, supporting the weekly Saturday morning Rockport Farmers Market in Harvey Park July through October.   Also, these purchases support The Rockport Exchange, a non-profit group that organizes, along with the farmers market, Motif #1 Day and HarvestFest.  Orders can be placed online at RockportFestivals The Store or

Rockport Exchange goods



7.  Appleton Farms Gift Box.  Those cows.  Thirty-eight registered Jersey’s will be lined up blinking their doey eyes at you if you arrive at Appleton Farms in Ipswich around 2:30 in the afternoon, milking time.  You can give this Appleton Farms herd as a gift in the form of a rustic wooden box packed with Appleton Farms cheeses:  Broad Meadow – “an earthy nutty semi-hard cheese,” Sunset Hill Triple Cream – “a silky-smooth, brie-style cheese,” and Pinnacle – “a classic farmhouse table, tomme-style cheese.”  Appleton Farms has been working hard at building their cheese repertoire.  After good bread, a good local cheese is the foundation of a good local food culture.  We applaud them and thank the Jerseys.  To learn more about Appleton Farms’ Holiday Cheese Sampler and to order yours today, visit online: or  stop by or call the dairy store: 978.356.3825, located at 219 County Road, Ipswich , open Monday–Friday, 11AM–6PM, Saturday & Sunday, 10AM–4PM.

Appleton Farms Gift box

8. Jen’s Twisted Sauce.  Three jars of this thai-inspired peanut sauce from Bonne Bouche caterer Jen Sanford of Wenham should be in one’s pantry at all times.  You’re home from soccer practice at 7:30; you couldn’t bear one more stop at the grocery store, or another empty pizza box in your recycling.  Toss hot noodles in Jen’s Twisted Sauce.  Top it with some chopped mango, avocado, red onion and cilantro, and you have a fast, flavorful dinner that would please a both fussy pre-schooler and a foodie.  Jen’s Twisted Sauce is the magic that makes grilled chicken breast instantly delicious satay.   Jen’s Twisted Sauce is available at Willowrest and The Cave, among others.

Jen's sauce


Jen's noodles


9. Fudge Everything Caramel Sauce.  Last year we lost our chocolate hearts to the Fudge Everything Fudge Sauce; this year it’s caramel.  The local ladies (from Rockport and Manchester by the sea) of Fudge Everything can now say Caramel Everything.  I say, who wouldn’t? – on ice cream, on baked apples, on fresh pears, on shortbread cookies; caramel everything.

Fudge Everything



10. Brie Baker.  Lula’s Pantry is always great local giving, but this Brie Baker is $22 gift perfection.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to bake and transport that warm gooey brie to the party in one attractive, perfectly sized, dairy-farm-ceramic-evocative dish?  This is brilliant.  Include a jar of Wasik’s Chutney, the perfect oozing brie topping, and make it a Baked Brie Kit.   Lula’s Pantry 5 Dock Square, Rockport.

Brie Baker 2


11. Maple Paddle Knife from Lee & Co.  Lee & Company began when Vanessa Hobbs, 25, of Lanesville, wanted to start a project with her carpenter father, Russell Hobbs.  At a yard sale, father and daughter had found a box of old wooden tools made by a man named Lee.  The Hobbs’ first project thus began with a piece of maple and one of the yard sale tools as a prototype.  They made the tool a little larger, and graced it with curves so that it fit in one’s palm like another hand.  They sanded, and rubbed the tool with coconut oil until it gleamed; behold the Lee & Company Maple Paddle Knife.  Now Vanessa (whose middle name is also Lee) produces beautiful wood kitchen products, all rubbed only with coconut oil, including custom cutting boards.  For more information or to place an order go to

paddle knife


12.  Twelfth Night Riesling.  We don’t have a local winemaker, but we have a great local wine store always ready to educate.  Kathleen Erickson, owner of Savour Wine & Cheese, is a genius at walking someone through a wine crisis:  “What kind of wine do I bring to a potluck dinner party?!”  “I’m serving sole and my guests only drink red wine!”  “I don’t know anything about wine!”  You will leave her store calm without spending a fortune, and feeling a little more wine confident.   When I asked Erickson about a “local” recommendation, she suggested Twelfth Night wines from New Zealand; the couple who own Twelfth Night live in Arlington and chose to be married in Gloucester; that’s the local part.  Twelfth Night wines, from the southern portion of the South Island of New Zealand – almost in Antarctica! – are sustainably grown and hand-harvested.  Erickson taught me to appreciate the strengths and flexibility of a dry riesling, so I am suggesting you give Twelfth Night Dry Riesling, which Erickson describes as “spectacular with food, from seafood to turkey to roast pork and all spicy or salty dishes.” Savour Wine & Cheese, 76 Prospect St., Gloucester

This is a different giving category, but an important one.  A $25 Open Door Meal Basket provides a holiday meal that includes a 14-16 pound turkey, potatoes, stuffing mix, cranberries, gravy mix, dinner rolls, apples, carrots and squash for a struggling family in Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, Manchester-by-the-sea or Ipswich.  Download the gift certificate here: or pick one up at the Open Door offices.  The Open Door 28 Emerson Ave, Gloucester.

Girls Rule Gravlax

December 4th, 2014



Jason Grow Photography

Maisie Grow, as photographed by her professional photographer-father Jason, is one of three Grow daughters – Matilda, Jemima and Maisie. They are a talented bunch, who have never for one day not lived up to the words on the twins’ birth announcement – “Girls rule.”

Maisie recently brought a shining platter of gravlax to my home; (Jemima often helps make the gravlax, I’m told, but was not around that day.) This is basically Ina Garten’s recipe, and, like so many of her recipes, worth sharing as much as possible. This one should be “required” – not elective – on holiday menus.  About presentation, Maisie is ready for her own cooking show.

For more information on Jason Grow Photography, or just for a gorgeous tour of great portraiture, from Norman Mailer to Doris Kearns Goodwin, go to:


Garten Gravlax





3 pounds fresh salmon, center cut

1 large bunch of dill, plus 1/4 cup chopped dill for serving

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons white peppercorns, crushed

1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds

Pumpernickel bread, for serving

Mustard Sauce, recipe follows


1.  Cut the salmon in half crosswise and place half the fish skin side down in a deep dish.

2.  Wash and shake dry the dill and place it on the fish. Combine the salt, sugar, crushed peppercorns, and fennel seeds in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly over the piece of fish.

3.  Place the other half of salmon over the dill, skin side up. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

4.  Place a smaller pan on top of the foil and weight it with some heavy cans. Refrigerate the salmon for at least 2 and up to 3 days, turning it every 12 hours and basting it with the liquid that collects.

5.  Lay each piece of salmon flat on a cutting board, remove the bunch of dill, and sprinkle the top with chopped dill. With a long thin slicing knife, slice the salmon in long thin slices as you would for smoked salmon.

6.  Serve with dark pumpernickel bread and mustard sauce. You can also serve with chopped red onion and capers, if desired.

Mustard Sauce


1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon ground dry mustard

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill


1.  Combine the mustards, sugar, and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped dill. Serve with the gravlax.

Still Lives & Thanks

November 27th, 2014


Still Life, oil on canvas, 30 x 34


With everyone’s pies baked, I’m stepping briefly out of the kitchen and into an art gallery.  Janet Rickus’s meticulous still lives offer just the right elements of stillness, fecundity, and grace that many of us will be considering today.

Represented by The Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA, Rickus will be part of the Clark Gallery December Salon Show from November 25 – December 30th, with a celebratory reception at the gallery Saturday, December 6th. For more information go to:

Thanks to my friends and blog readers – and both! – for your support, humor, and recipes throughout the year; I wish for you all a joyful Thanksgiving, full of winter squash and pie.




One Year Old Pumpkin, oil on canvas, 16 x 16

Houle Family Meat Pie

November 25th, 2014

Pork Pie


Karen Houle Hunter is the dental hygienist at Rockport Family Dental. In between the “open wides,” we talk about food. Karen is from Rhode Island, and knows the best places there for clam fritters and clam chowder, not the Rhode Island brothy version but a Manhattan-style clam chowder with honest briny freshness. Beneath the glare of the hygienist’s lamp we talk about family recipes, what she’s making for dinner, or bringing to a school potluck. (A good potluck recipe is as valuable as a good pair of black pants.)

Karen’s first question on my last visit was “how’s the cookbook coming?” I gave her the update, including my regret that, although the manuscript is turned in, I never was able to find a Fall River meat pie, or an authentic recipe for it. Authentic meat pies apparently know no state lines; Karen’s Rhode Island family, living a crow’s flight across the Taunton River from Massachusetts, also call meat pie a family tradition.

In Fall River the meat pie is said to have arrived over a hundred years with French and English mill workers, a lunch that both nourishes a hungry cotton spinner, and is easy to carry.

Karen, bless her Rhode Island heart, brought me not only her family’s recipe, but, on a busy Saturday morning, she baked me an authentic Houle Family Pork Pie, which fed a bunch of hungry kids and their parents in my own home that Saturday night.

Everyone declared the pie delicious, and me incredibly lucky to have a friend who made such things. Thanks, Karen!



serving pork pie



Houle Family Pork Pie

Ingredients 1 pound lean lamb

1/2 pound ground pork

2 medium onions, chopped

5 celery stalks, chopped

salt and pepper

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

dash of clove

1 large baking potato, cooked and mashed

1 recipe double pie crust


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a large skillet saute the meat, adding water if the mixture gets too dry.  Simmer for a half hour, or until the meat is cooked through.  Drain off the fat carefully.

3.  In a separate skillet sauté the celery and onion with the salt and pepper to taste, the poultry seasoning and the clove.  Add to the meat mixture.

4.  Add the mashed potato to the mixture and stir carefully.

5.  Roll out half the pie dough, and line a 11” pie pan. Turn meat mixture into the dish. Roll out the second dough, and cover the pie. Crimp edges and cut vents in the top. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown. Karen says this is especially good served with gravy.



slice of karen's pork pie

photo by Jemima Grow

Bisq Brussels Sprouts – baked with Pears and Manchego

November 18th, 2014


Bisq Sprouts


Keith Pooler may be the chef/owner of Bergamot, the eminent Somerville restaurant, but his heart still beats unequivocally for Gloucester, where he grew up. In fact, when Pooler began scheming a dinner previewing his new restaurant (named “Bisq,” which means something like “Bergamot in Inman Square”), he imagined a long table set on Gloucester granite, Folly Cove waves breaking over the conversations of the Boston food press.

Well, that didn’t happen. If you think it’s hard for Cape Ann residents to drive over the A. Piatt Andrew bridge, it’s even harder to get the Boston food press to cross the Tobin.

But, Pooler did have a “we can’t wait for Bisq to open!” dinner for a few scribblers of cuisine – this time at Bergamot – framing the new restaurant’s alchemical wine menu and small plate versions of the parent restaurant’s “progressive American” cuisine. Dan Bazzinotti, currently sous-chef at Bergamot, will be retitled “chef de cuisine” at Bisq.

For the writers’ dinner Bazzinotti showed off his flare with house-created charcuterie – from sanquinaccio to homemade kielbasa to a deconstructed pig’s head. We also tasted house-smoked mussels in a yam and pear potage.and roasted skate wing with sunchokes, and pearl onion rissole.

This was dining to wow, lush combinations of local surprises like apple mostarda draping the sanginaccio and chicken liver-filled flatbread, but I also left with a recipe to recreate at home: Bazzinotti’s Brussels sprouts tossed with quince, pancetta, and almonds, just warm enough to soften the small cubes of manchego cheese tucked within.

I’ve adapted Bazzinotti’s recipe only because, while I adore quince, I know that I’m the only person on Cape Ann (along with the owners of my former house) who has access to them. I made the dish with Bosc pears, and nothing suffers.

This “peared” down version of Bisq Brussels sprouts would be a noble addition to the Thanksgiving table. But don’t stop the Bisq story there.  Watch the website to find out when Bisq officially opens. Be stronger than the Boston food press, and drive over the bridge. Visit native son Keith Pooler there or at Bergamot; Keith loves to talk Gloucester, particularly the best swimming spots. You will have an amazing meal, and Keith will feel a little closer to home.


Bisq Brussels Sprouts



Bisq Brussel Sprouts, adapted 

serves 6, easily doubled


2 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed of stems and halved

3 bosc pears, unpeeled, cut into 1/2” pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

generous grinding of fresh pepper

1 tablespoon butter

3 shallots, diced

1/4 pound pancetta or bacon, diced

1/3 pound Manchego cheese, diced

1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted

1/2 cup light cream


1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  In a large bowl toss together the Brussels sprouts, chopped pears, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour into an oven proof dish or roasting pan, and roast for 25 minutes, or until sprouts are browned and just cooked through, but not soft.

3.  Heat a large skillet to medium high, and add pancetta or bacon, and cook until crisp, about 15 minutes.

4.  In a separate pan, cook shallots in butter until softened.

5.  When the parts are cooked, in a large bowl toss all – Brussels sprouts, pears, pancetta, shallots, manchego, almonds and cream – together lightly. Pour into a ceramic baking dish, and bake just to warm and melt the cheese, about 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm.