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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Food Swaps Get a Shout Out in USA Today!

Our swappin' sisters on Facebook alerted us that USA Today recently posted an article about Making the Most of Summer Produce. Tip #4 is take it to a swap, and they specifically mention the food swaps page on the Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking, so kudos to Kate!

We're all for canning, cooking, juicing, swapping, and donating, but there are a few other options that USA Today didn't mention. Whenever I have extra fruit, I lurve freezing it for smoothies. Haven't tried making fruit-infused vodka, but it's on my to-do list. If you have a surplus of veggies, you might turn it into soup or gazpacho and freeze leftovers of that. And if you own a dehydrator, you could go crazy dehydrating fruit for trail mix or sprinkle it on cereal. Yum!

What about you? How do you use extra produce?

Be sure to sign up for the next Boston Food Swap on September 18. We can't wait to see your delicious seasonal creations!

Image credit: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, August 28, 2011

MA Farmer’s Market Week Ends and the Tomato Odyssey Begins

It seems that nature has ushered out Farmer’s Market Week with a bang. Thankfully, your intrepid food swap organizers braved the rain and wind on Saturday to visit a Massachusetts organic, community-supported farm that supplies a number of markets in the state including South Station in Boston.  Yesterday Tara and I (Lyn) trekked to Red Fire Farm in Granby, MA for their 11th annual Tomato Festival.  I get my CSA share from Red Fire so it seemed fitting to visit the people who magically make produce with my name on it appear in my town center every week.  The soundtrack to our trip was The Real Tuesday Weld’s “I Love the Rain” because, although it poured many times during our trip, we couldn’t have had a better time among my fellow members, the food demonstrators, the vendors, and the farmers!

When we arrived, the festival was already in high gear.  

 Our first stop was at the Food Demo tent.  We first saw the gang from Wheatberry Cafe in Amherst demonstrating spelt pasta and some sort of whole heritage grain pancake.  The session's highlight was the not-so-subtle pitch for the Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA.  I had heard about the grain CSA concept recently via a Globe article but was a little turned off to the idea of getting all of your grain for a year at once.  Being an urban denizen with a city-sized condo, the idea of storing a whole year's worth of grain gave me nightmares of tripping over tubs of heritage corn to get to the bathroom every night.  Somehow, seeing the live demo and hearing the stories of cooking with local heritage grains (and beans!) has turned my fear of grain overload in to creative how-can-I-make-this-work energy.  Or maybe the onslaught of Hurricane Irene and her housebound promise are making me rethink the organization in my pantry!   Whatever the reason for my change of heart, I'm seriously considering the option in December.  In fact, I have visions of swapping canned garbanzo and kidney beans (minus the boatload of sodium and the BPA lining) at our winter swaps!  If the rest of the food swapping world needed more convincing, people seem to keep grain mills in the city.  One bicycle-powered option that comes to mind is being offered for swap via the Massachusetts Food Trader!

We also enjoyed another amazing food demo by Chef Jose Duarte of Taranta, the Peruvian/Italian restaurant in the North End.  In the vain of their cooking classes, Chef Duarte demonstrated making mozzerella, gazpacho, and bruschetta.  After one sample of the fresh-made mozzarella, Taranta reservations were made via iPhone on site.  Congratulations Chef Duarte for knowing EXACTLY how to get people in to your restaurant!

Although we walked away from the chef demos inspired to try new things, the real star of the afternoon was the tomato tasting area.  The farm tasted over 100 varieties of their heirloom tomatoes.

Attendees could rate their favorite varieties.


When all of the tasting was done, we could go to the farm stand to buy our favorites!

Although 100 pieces of various tomatoes seems like a sufficient lunch, we had to try the fresh sweet corn being grilled in the husk.  Here's to wishing that the almighty iPhone included Smell-o-Vision.  Apple, get to work on that!

Demos, tastings, and gabbing with vendors like the folks at Relish The Harvest made a rainy pre-hurricane afternoon a kick-ass celebration of local food!  Perhaps the most exciting part of the Festival was that it served as a harbinger for my favorite time of year.  When the saucing tomatoes come in next week, I will buy a half bushel for delivery with my CSA distribution and start on the ultimate swap-worthy Tomato Odyssey.  I can't give too much away in advance, but I will admit that there will be hot sauce involved.  Stay tuned to the blog as the journey unfolds!  And for a taste of even better things to come, this last photo is my autumn version of Santa Claus arriving at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. (to music) It's the most wonderful time (great fanfare) of the year!

To see more pictures of the festival, including the farm's early cache of pie pumpkins, check out the Flickr feed for the Boston Food Swap.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Our Farmers' Markets: Copley Square

Bordered by our city's tallest building, a 19th century church and the oldest municipal library in the nation, the Copley Square Farmers' Market is surrounded by beauty and history. Working around the corner affords me the luxury of shopping in this beautiful setting whenever the mood strikes.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, the lawn in front of Trinity Church is lined with 15 or so tents, with offerings from farms across the state. Siena Farms wows with their presentation of overturned baskets displaying bunches of carrots and ears of corn. Stillmans not only brings produce but a freezer full of their organic chickens, lamb, beef and pork products. If you happen to stop by and they have ground lamb, snatch it up! It's a commodity. I like to pick up a bouquet or two of flowers from Old Friends Farm to brighten up my apartment. The sunflowers and purple basil stalks are lovely right now. In addition to produce, there's a goat cheese purveyor, the Herb Lyceum, Iggy's Bread and the Danish Pastry House. I bought a variety pack of cider donuts from Hamilton Orchards today, and their soft cakey sweetness is the perfect precursor to autumn.

10 years of Boston residency and the beauty of Copley Square is still awesome to me (in the original definition of the word). Shopping for gorgeous food in that setting reminds me to be grateful for life's simple pleasures.

The Copley Square Farmers' Market is every Tuesday and Thursday from 11am to 6pm, May to November.

As if you didn't have enough reasons to sign up for the September Swap!

The Boston Food Swap is pleased to announce that the guys of the Dasagaffel Brew Club will be sampling a custom-made creation at the September Swap! 
The brew is a medium-bodied IPA with a good balance of hop bite and sweetness.  It's not overly hoppy and the added sweetness will sit well with those who don't consider themselves to be hop-heads.

We will have the full explanation of a "gaffel" at the swap, but what you need to know now is that four Cantabrigians have taken it upon themselves to keep alive the legacy of the gaffel, choosing beer as the appropriate vehicle to do so. Ian Ganley, David Graham, and brothers Mike and Peter Paul Payack named their brew club after the catchphrase of their youth, “That’s a gaffel,” changing the spelling to slightly disguise it and give it the ring of an old European beer.

Today, Dasagaffel Brew Club (it was either that or The Cambridge Gaffel Historical Society) strives to carry the torch, letting the red-handed flame of the gaffel burn well into the twenty-first century and beyond. The Dasagaffel Man in the logo still wears the characteristic red mark on the back of his hand that so many knuckle-headed Cantabrigians could be seen sporting in the 80’s and 90’s.

Aside from their love of gaffels, the members of Dasagaffel share a deep love of well-crafted beer and have been crafting their own (well) in Cambridge since 2008.

Want to learn the origin of a "gaffel?"  Want to sample the exclusive Boston Food Swap IPA?  Start concocting creative swappables (check out some of our old blog posts for ideas), plan your route to Space With A Soul, RSVP to the September Swap today and (Quite literally) raise a glass to the art of home brewing!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our Farmers' Markets: SoWa

I so rarely have a free Sunday. Luckily for for me, I had no plans for the first day of MA Farmers' Market Week, so I strolled over to the SoWa Open Market to enjoy the day.

Being a designer and a decor blogger, one of my favorite summer activities is strolling the Vintage Market for heirlooms and project pieces, and the Open Market's rows and rows artists' stalls for creative crafts and knick knacks. But this Sunday was a day to explore the neighboring food stands!

Much larger than my old standby Copley Square, SoWa hosts about 30 vendors on any given Sunday. The Herb Lyceum offers a grand spread right near the entrance to the market. In addition to the abundant produce, there's flower stalls, brownie purveyors, imported Italian olive oil, even a local beekeeper with an actual hive on display. A couple meat CSAs sell their wares from large freezers. The only farmers' market operating in the South End, this transformed SoWa parking lot is bustling with activity throughout the day.

After snapping photos and chatting with vendors, I walked over to the Open Market to enjoy lunch from one of Boston's oldest food trucks and listen to a concert from my friends' saxophone ensemble.

It was a perfect Sunday.

The SoWa Open Market is every Sunday from 10am to 4pm, May through October.

Monday, August 22, 2011

As More Farmer's Markets Sprout Up, Can Demand Keep Up?

Yesterday kicked off Massachusetts' Farmers Market Week, and we've enjoyed watching all the buzz about farmer's markets. As pointed out in yesterday's post, the number of farmer's markets in the Commonwealth have more than doubled since 2005. That's good news for people like us who want ready access to fresh, local fruit and veggies, but perhaps not such good news for farmers competing with each other, as several recent articles suggest.

Is the rapid growth of farmer's markets undermining their success?

According to an August 8 article on MassLive.com titled Glut of Massachusetts farmers markets spreading customers too thin, there's a high concentration of farmer's markets in the Amherst area (10 within 10 miles) and in northeast Massachusetts near Chelmsford and Westford but not enough customers to support those markets. A Care2 blog post dated August 20 looks at the topic on a national level, noting that profits are down for many farmers in over-saturated markets, including those in the Berkshires.

Fortunately, the MassLive.com article notes that some densely populated communities like Cambridge do have enough demand to sustain farmer's markets every day of the week. So, maybe the solution isn't reducing the number of farmer's markets but increasing demand.

Here in the greater Boston area, we're fortunate that to have so many options for food. Lyn, Tara, and I all live in communities that value "real" food and support local farmers. But many people in these communities still don't know how to work fresh ingredients into their meals (we can help with that!) or they assume that farmer's markets are too expensive (not necessarily true) so they stick to the grocery store.

Worse still are the communities (what Michelle Obama calls "food deserts") that simply don't have access to these options. The First Lady is encouraging large grocery store chains to expand into these food deserts, but we'd love to see farmer's markets sprout up in those areas as well. Perhaps as more people across the country discover the versatility and nutritional value of fresh produce, they'll be more likely to visit their local farmer's market. And when they do, we hope they'll share the "fruits" of their labor by swapping these delicious creations.

What do you think? Is there such a thing as too many farmer's markets? How can we ensure that farmer's market succeed amidst increased competition?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's Massachusetts Farmers' Market Week!

Here at the Boston Food Swap, we are super excited because the state has proclaimed this week, August 21st - 27th, Massachusetts Farmers' Market Week!

There are over 240 farmers' markets in the Commonwealth, more than double since 2005, according to Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott J. Soares. The proclamation states that markets "create a festive open air setting which enhances community spirit and civic pride by offering a natural place for community gathering,” and “help heighten public awareness of the agricultural diversity of Massachusetts and the benefits of buying local and preserving open space." We couldn't agree more! Read the proclamation here.

The official kickoff will be Monday, August 22 during the 27th Annual Tomato Contest at the City Hall Plaza Farmers' Market.

To help you observe this festive week, we've compiled a list of Boston-Area Farmers' Markets (or you can use this nifty map tool):

Harvard Square Farmers' Market, 1 Bennett St/Charles Hotel, 10am-3pm
SoWa Farmers' Market, Thayer Street off Harrison Ave, 10am-4pm

City Hall Plaza Farmers' Market, 1 City Hall Plaza/Government Center, 11am-6pm
Central Square Farmers' Market, Norfolk St at Bishop Allen Dr, Noon-6pm
South Boston Farmers' Market, 460 W Broadway, Noon-6pm

Copley Square Farmers' Market, Boylston Street & Dartmouth Street, 11am-6pm
South Station Farmers' Market, Summer Street & Atlantic Ave, 11:30am-1:30pm
Dorchester House Farmers' Market, 1353 Dorchester Ave, 11:30am-6:30pm
Jamaica Plain Farmers' Market, 671 Centre Street, Noon-5pm
Harvard University Farmers' Market, Oxford Street & Kirkland Street, Noon-6pm
Grove Hall Farmers' Market, 461 Blue Hill Ave, 3-7pm
Dudley Town Common Farmers' Market, Blue Hill Ave & Dudley St, 3-7pm

City Hall Plaza Farmers' Market, 1 City Hall Plaza/Government Center, 11am-6pm
Cambridge Center Farmers' Market, Broadway at Main Street, 11am-6pm
Davis Square Farmers' Market, Day St & Herbert Street, Noon-6pm
Charlestown Farmers' Market, Austin Street & Main Street, 2-7pm
JP/Community Servings Farmers' Market, 18 Marbury Ter, 4-7pm

Kendall Square Farmers' Market, 500 Kendall Street, 11am-2pm
Prudential Center Farmers' Market, 800 Boylston Street, 11am-6pm
Mission Hill Farmers' Market, Huntington Ave & Tremont Street, 11am-6pm
South Station Farmers' Market, Summer Street & Atlantic Ave, 11:30am-6:30pm
Boston University Farmers' Market, 775 Commonwealth Ave, Noon-5pm
JP/Loring-Greenough Farmers' Market, 12 South St, Noon-dusk
Codman Square Farmers' Market, Washington Street & Talbot Ave, 1-6pm
Coolidge Corner Farmers' Market, Beacon Street & Centre Street, 1:30pm-dusk
Dorchester-Bowdoin Farmers' Market, 230 Bowdoin Street, 3-6:30pm
East Boston Farmers' Market, Bennington St & Westbrook St, 3-7pm
Dudley Town Common Farmers' Market, Blue Hill Ave & Dudley St, 3-7pm

Copley Square Farmers' Market, Boylston Street & Dartmouth Street, 11am-6pm
Boston Medical Center Farmers' Market, 840 Harrison Ave, 11:30am-2:30pm
Harvard Square Farmers' Market, 1 Bennett St/Charles Hotel, Noon-6pm
Allston Farmers' Market, North Harvard Street & Western Ave, 3-7pm

Chelsea Farmers' Market, 500 Broadway, 9am-Noon
Fields Corner Farmers' Market, Dorchester Ave & Park Street, 9am-Noon
Everett Farmers' Market, 410 Broadway, 9am-1pm
Union Square Farmers' Market, Washington Street & Prospect St, 9am-1pm
Cambridgeport Farmers' Market, Magazine Street & Memorial Drive, 10am-2pm
Mystic Market Farmers' Market, 530 Mystic Ave, 11am-3pm
Frederick Douglas Square Farmers' Market, Tremont Street & Hammond Street, 11am-5pm
Jamaica Plain Farmers' Market, 671 Centre Street, Noon-3pm

We'll be updating with farmers' market-related content, so make sure to check back throughout the week!

Image credit: Edible Boston via Public Radio Kitchen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Boston Food Swap: August Recap

On Sunday, August 14, we held our 3rd Boston Food Swap, which will also be known as the "Swap(.com) Meat" for two exciting reasons!

Professional Swapaholic and Swap.com maven Melissa joined us for her first food swap! We were so excited to have her experience the community of our type of swapping, and we are looking forward to working together in the future! You can check out Melissa's recap here.

The OTHER exciting new addition to Sunday's swap was MEAT! Stas, our wonderful host from Space with a Soul, brought two types of home-smoked meat, including these delectable turkey meatballs! Diversity is what swapping is all about, so if you do something different, like smoking, sausage-making, or pasta-drying, there is a place for you at the Boston Food Swap.

Beverages also made a big splash at this swap. Mike was at our first swap in Somerville and joined us in Fort Point with his home-brewed kombucha with mango puree.

We even had bourbon slush in the house! I managed to snag a jar of this delicious concoction and it's in my freezer, just calling for some ginger ale, a porch chair and a big straw.

Here we all are in our first group photo! Don't we look like a happy bunch, posing with our swappables?

See more photos of the event here.

Don't forget to join us in September!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Swap perspectives from Seattle

We posted a few times in June about swapping perspectives from around the country.  Those posts were meant to get people new to swapping comfortable, show how easy swap recipes can be, and also show how swapping is fun!  With the August swap quickly approaching (http://bosswappersaug.eventbrite.com if you haven't RSVPd yet!), we wanted to offer another perspective from a swap across the country!

Check out a view from a Seattle swap this spring.  You'll learn how most swappers think about how to make their next item and how diverse a pantry can look post-swap!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New Feature! Swappable Treasure Hunt

Still struggling with what you will make for the next swap?  What better source of inspiration than Boston's food blogging community?  Every month, we'll scour the blogs for each writer's most swappable recipe gems and we'll share the treasures with you.  For starters, check out:

From Hillary Davis of www.marchedimanche.com
  • ·      Edamame Guacamole -  http://carrotsncake.com/2010/05/happy-cinco-de-mayo.html
And once you decide what treats you'll make, RSVP for the next swap!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Follow our Swappables board on Pinterest!

Are you as obsessed with Pinterest as I am? I'm finding it to be a great way to organize inspiration in various areas of my life, and the Swap is definitely one of them! I started a pinboard chock full of seriously swappable recipes & ideas. Follow it here!