Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Number 9 chips and salsa

Just as I sat down at the market counter with a sandwich, in walked John, president of Paino Organics. Before I knew what was going on he had unloaded three bags of tortilla chips and four jars of salsa. I was hungry anyway, so I gave them a shot.

As you may estimate from the above photograph, John's products now occupy a generous piece of real estate on the Sherman shelves. Their name (Number 9) refers not to the Red Sox' legendary left fielder/fisherman/fighter pilot, nor to John Lennon's musique concrete masterpiece. John was eager to point out that each of his salsas contains no fewer than nine vegetables. A close observer of the above photograph will also notice the middle column of bags containing NINE VEGGIE TORTILLA STRIPS. From the ingredient list: Corn, butternut squash, sweet potato, garlic, carrot, tomato, beet, scallions, onion, potato. Including three alliums, that's ten.

So I tried John's chips and salsa. The salsas were all tasty and very fresh; the hot variety (the first I tried - surely the bellwether salsa) bore a sharp and creeping bite with a depth befitting the seven different peppers included (Want another list? Red peppers, poblanos, jalapenos, habaneros, serranos, guajillos, chipotles, in that order).

All the tortilla strips are pleasantly salty, and exceptionally crunchy as a result (I am told) of adding extra corn bran, which also serves to boost fiber content. The veggie chips have a pronounced sweetness and a pleasing squashy flavor - and I say this as a person who is quite satisfied with one bowl of squash soup per winter, thank you very much. Other than the straight corn chips, the third variety of Number Nines is the Ancient Grain Tortilla Strips, which are equally crunchy and loaded with exotic grains and seeds (What's one more?: corn, amaranth, quinoa, millet, sorghum, teff (!), brown rice, white AND black sesame seeds - nine). These are nutty and delicious. They remind me of the sesame sticks I ate when I was a kid, transposed into a salty chip. Dave looks displeased in this picture, but he finds these chips delicious:

What more is there to say about these? A few more points at the buzzer: All the chips are made from organic corn, and the salsas with lime juice and never vinegar. Most of all, compared to our prior corn chips, they're made far closer to home - Concord, MA, 15 miles away - and are a fair portion less expensive. So, as I said, we ordered some.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Where Did This Come From? pt. 1 - Meat

Here's the first in a series of posts about the farmers, butchers, wholesalers, cheesemakers, dairies, and other folks from whom we order our products, in their own words. See anything for sale from these wholesalers that you don't spot on the shelf? We can order it. Know a better place to get something you like to eat? We are always on the lookout to establish new sources. If it's better, cheaper, or nearer, let us know. First we'll talk about the department about which customers are perhaps the most particular and inquisitive: meat.

Bella Bella Gourmet Foods sends us duck legs and breasts and fat, plus tasty whole chickens (heads and feet included). You can special order game birds, foie gras, just about anything from the class Avians. Our regular delivery of chicken legs and breasts (and, potentially, other parts) comes from Misty Knoll Farms in New Haven, Vermont. We can order whole chickens and turkeys from there, too. Misty Knoll's chickens tend to run a little larger, and more expensive, and headless.

Those Misty Knoll chickens come to us courtesy Vermont Quality Meats of Rutland, VT, who also sell us bacon and sausages from Vermont Smoke and Cure and beef and pork from PT Farms, whose hamburger is relatively inexpensive and has earned rave reviews from all who taste it. Perusing the VQM availability sheet you might notice that they offer many primal cuts and whole animals, as much of their business is with restaurants and butchers. At the store this has earned them the nickname "Vermont Quantity Meats." Jesting aside, should you need a whole brisket, or a crown roast, or a whole goat, we/they have you covered.

Our third regular meat provider is North Hollow Farm, who send us every imaginable cut of all grass-fed beef, plus lots of great pork. Their website contains a lot of information and links about grass-fed meat, plus good specifics about how the farm is run and the animals are kept, just as their packages are very specific about the origin of every cut of meat.

This is something we like a lot at the Sherman. It is our goal to bring you good food without the hocus-pocus. By informing people about where their dinner comes from, how it's grown or made, what's in it, who does it where and how, why it costs what it does, even how and when it's ordered and delivered and why it is or isn't in stock, we improve the food system at large: more clear and accurate information will always favor the job well done, the quality product, the more healthful foodstuff, and ultimately the consumer and the entire food economy.

Stay tuned to this blog for the next installment of Where Did This Come From. For any and all inquiries about meat sourcing, special orders, recipes, or anything else, call or visit Laurel at the shop and she will hook you up!!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sophia's Greek yogurt

Our very favorite children's librarian (Cathy at the Somerville Public) was very insistent that I should carry her favorite yogurt - so much so that she brought me a pint to take home and taste on my time and her dime. Friends, this is how you get things done. I was blown away by the yogurt from Sophia's Greek Pantry in Belmont.

That's me with a bucket of yogurt, and about a mouthful of it hanging off the concave side of a spoon. How thick is this yogurt? It would have hung there for several minutes, I imagine, until the warmth of my hand dislodged it from the spoon – indefinitely, really. Once it drops on the floor, it's almost thick enough to caulk your floorboards with. I chose instead to eat it. "Holy cow," I exclaimed, before I realized this isn't a cow product at all. Sophia tells me it is half sheep's milk and half goat's milk, both obtained from Worcester, Vermont. The only goat and sheep farm that Google can find for me in Worcester is Frostbite Falls Farm, which (correct me) may have the distinction of being the world's only Caprid farm named after the home town of a fictional moose.

So what's this mean to you? If you're Cathy the librarian, it means you don't need to drive to Belmont for yogurt any more. If you are a person who already buys yogurt, then this means that your granola-and-fruit experience (or what have you) just got much more engrossing. (As an aside, we also just received a dozen pints of organic Florida strawberries via Enterprise Farm.) If you bought the other Greek stuff from the supermarket, you now have the option of keeping your money nearer by; as I mentioned this supply chain goes back only as far as Worcester, VT – that's 187 miles if you take I-89 – in three steps, including the Sherman. AND I'll wager you'll like this stuff better that the national brands.

The real hooplah though is what this yogurt can do that other sorts of yogurt can't. Because I am stubborn about bothering to read recipes, I've been wondering for some time why my attempts at yogurt-based curries and related dishes have come out a curdled, watery mess. Had I bothered to look it up first I might have noticed that the yogurt to use is strained yogurt, which refuses to curdle as a result of its higher fat content (and conversely, lower water content). I learned this from the Wikipedia page "Strained yoghurt", where I also spotted this photo:

That's a generous spoonful of strained yogurt relaxing on a bed of olive oil. This took me by surprise, but seems very appealing. If you're like me, you've never eaten yogurt in such a context like this, and would be tempted to tart it up with some cracked pepper, or sumac, or other Mediteranean herbs, or a squeeze of lemon juice, or some sea salt, or...

Anyway, it sounds delicious. My dad also used to eat yogurt over scrambled eggs and tomato slices, and I bet this yogurt would be great in that dish. We sell this for $4.25/# in pint and quart containers, or however much or little you care for; it's also worth mentioning that the Sherman Café plans on switching to Sophia's yogurt to accompany our house granola within the next few days, so if you're skeptical, you can come in and try it yourself. I am convinced you'll find it delicious and did I mention that it is astonishingly, preposterously, mind-bogglingly grumose?


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Organic Rye Flour

Recently arrived courtesy the Crown of Maine Organic Co-Op is organic rye flour from Aurora Mills & Farm in Linneus, Maine. I've just now packed this lovely stuff into pint and quart containers, at the expense of my black dress shirt, now covered in a faint patina of stray flour. We sell it for $1.50/#, which it's fair to say is dirt cheap for an organic, New England product.

About Rye: it's a grain (obviously), first cultivated in what we'd now call Turkey, possibly first harvested by accident due to its resemblance to its more accommodating cousin, wheat (which contains more gluten, and less soluble fiber). Rye is distilled into the characteristic North American spirit, rye whiskey (I strongly recommend Rittenhouse Rye if you can find it), and on less jovial occasions we know the grain as a pillar of the cuisine of Central and Eastern Europe, used in a variety of breads and crackers including the celebrated pumpernickel, or in New England-style brown bread (this in addition to its other, more dubious role in local history).

Doesn't that look tasty? We sell local beans, maple syrup, and slab bacon too, you know. A certain bakery in a neighboring city which will of course remain unnamed makes a very keen version of this bread, in case you are still uninspired. Once you are so inspired, come on in for some flour. I'm selling a lot of it to Cuisine en Locale for their upcoming Viking-related food event which you should of course attend, but the rest of the fifty-pound sack is yours for the taking.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Welcome! And a brief tour!

Hello Friends and Fans of the Sherman Market!

At last, here is a space where we can record and document information on the products we provide you! Our hope here is to not only share updates and information about what's going on at the market, but also use this space to share information about where our product comes from, who we work with, why they're doing what they're doing, and other tidbits about each product. When time allows and if possible, we hope physically visit the places where we get our items from and talk with the producers, the farmers, the cheese-makers, and the bakers. We want to take pictures and ask them questions you've been asking us. Our hope is then to retell our experiences to you so that this space can be utilized as a reference or an encyclopedia, if you will, of what you've been eating (or what you've been using - if you have bought soap or lotion, for example).

So without further ado, let the fun and the visits to your local connections begin!

For those of you who do not regularly come to the Sherman Market (or for those of you who are thinking to come visit!), here is a brief tour of what our market looks like inside: