Stuff and Nonsense: around connecticut

Showing posts with label around connecticut. Show all posts
Showing posts with label around connecticut. Show all posts


Gresczyk Farms' 2019 CSA

Every Friday in the summer I stop at the Southington Farmers Market and pick up my CSA partial share from Gresczyk Farms. Sometimes I take a leisurely stroll around the market, stopping for empanadas or roasted garlic three-grain bread or even more vegetables, but usually I'm tired out and just grab my share and run. It's a pity, because the Southington Farmers Market is really a nice little market with a good variety of eats and other products. There's usually music of some kind and everyone is just so friendly.

And you're thinking "That's all well and good, but what the heck is a CSA?" CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and the idea is that a farm can sell shares of its anticipated crops to people within the local community. Those people, in turn, receive a weekly box of what the farm grows in exchange for advance payment (and, in some cases, a set amount of volunteer hours on the farm). Some farms include items like jam, pickles, bread, meat, cheese, eggs, wine, etc in their shares. Gresczyk Farms offers eggs -- my partial share provides me with a half dozen most weeks and I don't expect to buy any eggs for the rest of the summer.

Most CSAs offer early bird subscriber discounts and I subscribed to Gresczyk Farms CSA program back in January at a 5% discount. This is my second year with Gresczyk Farms and I imagine I'll stick with them next year. The farm offers a flexible pick-up schedule, allows me to skip weeks or reschedule my pickup day without penalty, and (this is important) allows me to swap parts of my share if there's something I don't want that week. Last week, for example, I was offered cilantro, but as I didn't have any immediate plans for cilantro that weekend, I swapped it for the price equivalent in beets. I also receive an email from the farm every Thursday night with a detailed list of what my partial share will contain and suggestions for using those items which certainly helps when it comes to menu planning.

If you want to try find a CSA near you, LocalHarvest maintains a great index!


Around Connecticut: Raspberry Picking at Lyman Orchards

Early last Saturday morning, before the sun burned off the clouds and the temperatures hit stayintheairconditioning numbers, I went raspberry picking. At Lyman Orchards, again, because I couldn't find another farm with raspberries ready to pick. The spring was, for the most part, rainy and cool which slowed the growth of some crops. In some ways this is a boon -- while Lyman's strawberries have come and gone, my CSA which is 40-ish miles north, has just begun picking. But if you want to go raspberry picking right now, there isn't much choice in farms.

While Lyman Orchards is a large farm -- 1,100 acres -- staff does a great job with directional signage and I've had no problem finding the fields I needed. The strawberry fields were quite close to the entrance to South Road, but the raspberries were a bit further afield on Powder Hill Road and that was fine as it was a beautiful morning, I was in no rush, and the additional distance gave me more things to look at -- many fruit trees, netted bushes that might have been blueberry, a pond, etc.

Parking is available in a dirt lot located to the left of the raspberry fields and visitors can pick up containers or trays at the little red shed located between the parking lot and the field. For the 2019 season, Lyman Orchards' raspberries are $5.65 per pound. The small green containers are free and the large trays are $1.75, but (as with the strawberries), the tray is free if you pick 10 pounds or more. Visitors are welcome to bring their own containers and I brought a duct tape reinforced box lid which the staff member at the shack weighed and noted before I began picking.

The rows were well groomed and orderly with lots of straw thrown down on the ground between them, which turned out to be a godsend as I spent most of my picking time on the ground, looking up through the raspberries leaves at all the beautiful deep-red clusters of berries waiting to be picked. Many people around me were going along, picking whatever they could see at the top, but I just found it a lot faster and easier to pick from the middle and bottom.

I picked five pounds in just over an hour, by which time the sun had come out and begun baking my brain. I paid up, drove home, and made jam.

More about jam later.


Around Connecticut: POA Summer Social Cat Café

Spent a few hours today cuddling strange cats at the Protectors of Animals' Summer Social Cat Café in East Hartford. The Protectors of Animals is a no-kill, non-profit animal shelter and rescue that has provided safe refuge to homeless and abandoned cats and dogs in Connecticut since 1975. The POA  hosts cat cafés several times a year as a fundraiser and they all have different themes. This one was brunch-y with mimosas, quiche, and some kind of ridiculously delish chocolate and peanut butter bark, among other things.

And there were cats. So many cats. Shy cats. Friendly cats. Big cats. Little cats. Young cats. Old cats. Cats who hunted the red dot. Cats who preferred feathers on a stick. Cats who just wanted to sleep. Cats who wanted to climb on all the things. Anyway, I petted many kitties and took a few of the ones I spent the most time with.






The Husband spent a lot of time fawning over two adorable stripy kittens, but everyone loves kittens and they will easily find permanent homes. It's the shyer, older cats I worry about. Riley, for instance, is an intensely shy and gentle FIV positive senior cat. She was either a stray or a dump and has had some dental issues. Will someone look at her and see the sweetheart she is?

If you are inclined to become a cat's person, Protectors of Animal has many available for adoption and is open to the public Saturdays from 10:30 AM to 4 PM.


#WordlessWednesday: Purple Iris

A beautiful purple bearded iris blooming amongst the
weeds at Jem's Garden & Dairy Barn, Manchester


#WordlessWednesday: Orange Princess

Lush "Orange Princess" tulips blooming in the greenhouse at Elizabeth Park.


#WordlessWednesday: Brook

All the rain & snowmelt have given Birge Pond Brook new energy.


#WordlessWednesday: Loom

Loom at Bloodroot Vegetarian Restaurant (& bookstore!) in Bridgeport, Connecticut.


Turkey, Turkey

Small feathered dinosaur.

Have you every stroked a turkey? Last weekend Barnes Nature Center, part of the Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut, hosted two turkeys from its sister center, Indian Rock Wildlife Preserve. The pair, a male (tom) and female (hen), had been raised together since hatching in May and seemed very at ease with the crowd of humans that had turned out to gawk at them.

And pet them. I'd never touched a turkey before and was, for some reason, astonished to discover how soft and satiny they felt. Even their raw-looking heads were soft -- like kidskin. And warm! Especially the dewlap/wattle.

Look at that display!

Don't know what a dewlap/wattle is? It's the fleshy growth under the turkey's neck. The fleshy bit that hangs over the beak is called the snood. The lumpy red bits around the base of the wattle/dewlap are called caruncles. How do I know all this? A young man was very eager to explain it all to me so that the next time I see wild turkeys in my backyard I'll know exactly what I'm looking at.

We were allowed to feed the turkeys and, being adults, we were allowed to feed them by hand instead of from a paper cup. I was completely chuffed to get both turkeys eating out of my hand at the same time. I felt like some kind of Turkey Whisperer. However, I am not going to try that with the turkeys that occasionally visit our backyard. "Local Woman Pecked To Death By Wild Turkeys" is not the headline I want to follow my death.

I have conclusively determined that turkeys like food.


Autumn's Bounty

While I'm not hosting Thanksgiving this year, that has not kept me from unrealistic fantasies of covering my kitchen counters with Brussels sprouts, carrots, turnips, parsnips, cranberries, winter squash, and potatoes. Fall is my favorite season and its harvest produces my favorite flavors. Food-wise there is nothing that makes me happier than a sheet pan packed edge-to-edge with roasted fall vegetables.

I first discovered how delicious roasted vegetables could be at a little restaurant in Montpelier, Vermont in the early naughts where I, in a fit of vegetarianism, ordered a platter of what turned out to be delicious vegetable candy. I have been hooked on roasting vegetables ever since.

Growing up, there were many vegetables my mother cooked that I insisted I did not like, but I've come to realize it was not the vegetables but the method of preparation that was off-putting. Boiled vegetables are, generally speaking, ick. Sautéed or lightly steamed vegetables are better. Roasted vegetables are the best. The sugars in the vegetables become caramelized, creating a layer of sweetness and depth of flavor that cannot be achieved with any other method. Also, I love the crispy, slightly charred bits that stick to the pan. Those are, for me, the cook's reward.

Also it's an easy/completely lazy way to cook. Put your chopped vegetables on a baking tray, toss with oil, season as needed, and roast in a 425°F oven for 20-30 minutes or until desired level of yumminess is achieved. If you want to be fancy, you can stir the vegetables and rotate the pan about halfway through the cooking time for more uniform roasting. Sometimes I do this, but I usually don't because I'm off doing Important Things like napping meditation or laundry.

Anyway, dreams of mounds of autumn vegetables led me to attend Gresczyk Farms' annual Fall Festival this past weekend. This family friendly event had touchable farm equipment (I know a tractor when I see one, but that's about it), a hay bale playscape, food trucks, tons of free samples of locally produced goods (including wine), live music, and so much produce. Tables and racks and carts of fruits and vegetables. And that doesn't even include what was already for sale in the farm store. I walked in with fifty dollars in my pocket and walked out with four dollars and So. Much. Stuff.

From Gresczyk, I bought Brussels sprouts, turnips, carrots, yellow onions, and yellow potatoes. I also purchased a wee perfect-for-two chocolate cream pie (The Husband loves chocolate cream pies) and wedge of strawberry rhubarb pie (ditto) from Granny's Pie Factory, a pie shop in East Hartford I have been meaning to visit since last Thanksgiving. Because pie wasn't enough for sweets, I picked up three six packs of Real Cookies Bakery -- cinnamon chip, ginger molasses, and triple chocolate. Operating out of Canton, Real Cookies' cookies are definitely very morish and I ate almost all the ginger molasses cookies while watching Doctor Who. (How many times can I use "cookies" in one sentence?)

You may be astonished I did not purchase any parsnips or winter squash. Gresczyk Farms, rather surprisingly considering the bounty of veg they were selling, did not have any parsnips. I was briefly excited by cream colored roots that, disappointingly, turned out to a variety of carrot. Soul? Crushed. That's when I decided to buy too many cookies. Or that's what I'm telling myself.

More likely, we just wanted cookies.

As for the squash ... my bag of holding was simply overloaded and could not accommodate squash without rupturing. I could probably have loaded The Husband up with squash, but he wouldn't have been happy about it and I'd already picked up so many other things he doesn't like to eat. The Husband, not liking vegetables (that aren't corn, peas, green beans, proper baked beans, tomatoes, or cucumber) since 1976.


Around Connecticut: The Sweet Beet

I've been following The Sweet Beet, a vegan health food market in Granby, on Instagram for almost a year now and their postings invariably fill me with a strong desire to get in my car and head north. Unfortunately, Granby is about 45 minutes from here and that always seemed like a long way to go to get a smoothie or chickpea salad sandwich. Until Friday, that is.

This was my Friday off -- the perfect time to tootle around the northern part of the state, admiring the fine beginnings of fall, collecting my farm share, and drinking vegan yumminess. I headed north from West Hartford after therapy, reducing my trip to a mere half hour. Pulling into Sweet Beet's shared parking lot, I found myself full of a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I had looked forward to visiting for so long ... surely I had overhyped the place in my head?

Happily, no. The Sweet Beet is charming and staffed with very nice, helpful people who want you to have an exemplary shopping experience. I obtained the "Candy Corn" smoothie (boo-nana, pineapple, mango, turmeric, carrot, hemp, cinnamon, and coconut ... best smoothie I've had in 2018) of my recent fantasies, as well as a number of interesting krauts and pickles, several store-made ready meals for work, and a few mini cupcakes ("Sweeties") to share with The Husband.


CSA Share Goodness

CSA Saturday! Yes, I usually pick up my farm share on Friday afternoons at the farmers market, but with the Italian Festival on I knew that parking would be madness and moved my pickup to the farm. Glad I did, because Gresczyk Farms' store is full of even more deliciousness. Picked up a pint of Hastings Farm honey yoghurt (the best yogurt) and a quart of garlic kosher dill chip pickles. Just been standing in front of the fridge, eating the pickles straight from the tub.

What did I get in my partial share this week?

  • Half dozen eggs
  • Half dozen sweet corn
  • One pound pickling cucumbers
  • Half pint blueberries
  • One bunch golden beets
  • One bunch white onions

I'm not going to do anything fancy with this week's share -- berries in yoghurt with granola, onions and cucumbers in salad, beets roasted and pickled, corn grilled with butter, eggs scrambled with toast.


#WordlessWednesday: Orchids

Two of the thousand orchids on display at the Nutmeg State Orchid Society's annual show and sale last weekend.


#WordlessWednesday: The Hill-Stead Museum

Hill-Stead, a Colonial Revival mansion, was the first architectural project of Theodate Pope Riddle, fourth registered female architect in the United States.


#WordlessWednesday: At Walnut Hill Park Rose Garden

Roses in bloom at the Walnut Hill Park Rose Garden in New Britain. The Garden was first built in 1929 along Grand Street, but was relocated to the World War I Memorial when garden restoration began in 2009. Walnut Hill Park itself was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr.


Around Connecticut: Goldburgers

Whenever we hit the Newington Farmers Market, we stop at GoldBurgers for lunch. As good as a really good homemade burger can get, Goldburgers is always miles above. These are the freshest, juiciest, most flavorful burgers going and, trust me, we eat a lot of burgers.

One of my favorite burgers off the regular menu is the "Twice Roasted" -- two beef patties layered w/ provolone, CRISPY bacon, roasted red peppers and onions on a sesame seed bun (ridiculous amount of seeds on that bun!) spread with a schmear of roasted garlic. All burgers can be customized, so if you prefer chicken or need MOAR GARLIC or want to skip the bacon, they'll accommodate you. (The Husband occasionally orders bacon-y things sans bacon and I've finally trained him to ask for bacon on the side so I may enjoy his bacon and mine).

The daily specials board is always worth checking out, too, as it always contains interesting stuff. Of the daily specials I've tried, "Fried Chicken Mac Attack" -- fried chicken strips, fried mac 'n cheese square, tangy slaw, blue cheese, and hot sauce -- is probably my favorite as it was totally yum with perfectly balanced flavors & textures.

We've also shared the poutine a couple times. While I feel the gravy could have been beefier, the salty fries and squishy cheddary curds were omnomnomilicious. The first time we ordered these, the man behind the counter was happy to tell us all about how Goldburgers makes its fries -- hand-cut every morning, blanched, and fried as needed -- and what they're doing clearly works as Goldburgers' fries definitely vie with Five Guy's as my favorite fry.

Fountain sodas are all provided by Hosmer and the assortment is fairly good -- in addition to safe standards like Pink Lemonade and Cola Red (Coke analog), there's more interesting flavors like Black Cherry and Birch Beer. Goldburgers also offers freshly brewed unsweetened iced tea, bottled water, and a few other beverages I don't pay any attention to ... because Goldburgers' unsweetened iced tea is good.

tl;dr: Everything at Goldburgers is good. Go there.


Around Connecticut: Litchfield Hills Farm-Fresh Outdoor Market

I started visiting the Litchfield Hills Farm-Fresh Outdoor Market in August and it has quickly become my go-to farmers market. It's easy to get to, provides ample parking, and has just about everything I could want to buy. Also, it puts me conveniently close to Bantam Bread and several yummy vineyards. Yes, Bantam Bread is a regular at the market, but I like the whole grain spelt (so deliciously sour) and that's found at the shop, not the market. Also, Wave Hill Breads is usually on hand with their unforgettable caramelized garlic bread and their shop is a zillion-million miles from me, so ... Wave Hill at the market, Bantam at the shop.

Free "sample" carrot, cucumbers, fiery pickles, lemon curd,
garlic loaf, & a "normal" loaf for The Husband.

Beautiful peppers (for stuffing!), crunchy cucumbers, sweet strawberries,
& the World's Best Blackberries.

Hillhome's Texas Pickles are sweet-HOT & my new favorite pickle.
Go through a jar every 2 weeks.

The Litchfield Hills Farm-Fresh Outdoor Market runs Saturdays through late October, when it then goes on hiatus until reopening as an indoor winter market.

Litchfield Hills Farm-Fresh Market
Center School parking lot
Woodruff Lane, Litchfield
Saturday 10-1



Around Connecticut: Hosmer Mountain Soda Shack

The Husband gave up caffeine about six months ago and now drinks nothing but caffeine-free or decaffeinated products. While Barry's makes a decaf black tea blend that still brews a proper strong cuppa, soda's been a bit of a problem. (Yes, yes, we shouldn't be drinking soda ... blahblahblah ... don't care). So, I thought, why not take him to Hosmer Mountain Soda Shack, that paradise of retro pop, and let him run amok?

Aside from Cola Blue, Cola Red, Sarsaparilla and Red Lightning energy drink (which tastes like pomegranate creme soda and I would drink all the time if it weren't an energy drink), none of Hosmer's sodas contain caffeine. If soda, caffeinated or no, isn't your thing, try the flavored seltzers or the spring water.

Hosmer makes over 30 different flavors including "old-fashioned" sodas like cream soda, sarsaparilla, birch beer, root beer, and ginger beer -- which Hosmer describes as "dangerous" because it's sooo spicy, warming, and delicious -- as well as the traditional colas and manymany fruity flavors. The Husband seems quite fond of the pineapple and peach sodas whereas I am, obviously, all about the ginger beer.

All Hosmer products are sold in glass bottles (12 oz and/or 28 oz depending on variety), so you need to save the empties to return if you want your deposit back. Don't simply toss them, willy-nilly, into the household recycling bin ... as we have done, more than once.

I strongly recommend filling a 24-pack with a little bit of everything your first time, and then keeping a list on the fridge of what you've drunk and whether it's worth repeating or, a month or so down the road, you'll find yourself standing in front of cases of Orange Dry trying to remember whether you liked it or had even purchased it that last time 'round. As an added incentive to buy more soda (do we need one?), Hosmer offers a "buy ten cases get one free" tally card ...

Visiting the Manchester store reminds me of going with my mom to the old Hostess thrift store (outlet) in Norwich -- that same sort of utilitarian-yet-hospitable "our stuff is so awesome we don't need to be fancy" vibe. The staff is friendly and perfectly willing to answer any questions, but seem also just as happy to leave you alone browse. (And there are hard decisions before you ... how many sodas? which kinds?)

Hosmer Mountain Soda has two locations in Connecticut, the one we've visited at 15 Spencer Street in Manchester and another at one at 217 Mountain Street in Willimantic. The Manchester store is closer to home, but I'm sure we'll manage to get to the Willimantic store one of these days, too.


Around Connecticut: Torrington Farmers Market

Popped in at the Torrington Farmers Market on Tuesday, while I was out running some other errands, and picked up a delicious assortment of vegetables. It's a small market -- at least on Tuesday -- with, I think, five produce tents and one seller of soaps, but everyone was extremely friendly and wanted to talk about their stock so I ended up spending more time at the Torrington Farmers Market than I'd expected. Which is fine, really! There are worse ways to spend part of a beautiful August afternoon ... doctor's waiting rooms, for example. Ugh. NO DOCTORING IN THIS POST GOSHDARNIT.

Produce! I bought some! Including ground cherries (aka husk cherries) which I had never eaten before, but upon downing a sample knew I had to own a basket of because ohhhh the extraordinary flavor. Both sweet and slightly bitter all at the same time. Kind-of like tiny tomatoes and yet also completely unlike. The woman I bought them from recommended adding them to salsa or salads, but I've just been eating them by the handful every time I pass through the kitchen. Ground cherries have quite a lot of vitamin A and C as well as niacin and thiamin, so there are certainly worse things to mindlessly snack upon!

Not shown in the photo are the four ears of corn I bought to go with that night's barbecued chicken. The corn was 50¢ per ear, which might seem like highway robbery but for the DROUGHT (we're six inches below normal rainfall levels for this time of year) and the pure, unmitigated DELICIOUSNESS of those ears.

The Torrington Farmers Market runs Tuesdays and Saturdays through October. While I enjoyed Tuesday's visit, I'll have to stop back on Saturday to see if the market is bigger -- this seems true of my city's market, anyway -- and I'll need more ground cherries, too! [ed. 9/4/2016 -- went on Saturday and it's twice as big and twice as busy]

Torrington Farmers Market
St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (parking lot)
837 Charles Street, Torrington
Tuesday 3-6
Saturday 10-1
Accepts cash, WIC FMNP, & SFMNP