Author Archives: Andrew Gerson

Mash Files: Pittsburgh 2014

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I never thought I would say this, but Pittsburgh really has this Philly boy over the moon with its incredible culinary scene.

Our first Pittsburgh Mash was great, but this year was bonkers, bubbly, fermented, and delicious. There is a magic strip in this town of many bridges, winding rivers, and Steelers fans that, for me, symbolizes the positive growth of Pittsburgh’s culinary scene.

There are tons of great spots in Pittsburgh like Richard DeShantz and Tolga Sedvik’s restaurants e2, Legume, root174, and Acacia, just to name a few. Some of the best can all be found at the end of Butler Street - Cure Restaurant, Wild Purveyors, Allegheny Wine Mixer, Pusadee’s Garden, and the studio of food photographer Adam Milliron are all neighbors in this little corner of Pittsburgh. I could have spent my whole trip on this end of Butler Street gorging myself on house-made charcuterie, drinking great wine and beer, slurping authentic Thai noodles, gazing at Adam’s photographs, and talking foraging and fermentation with my buddies at Wild Purveyors.

I spent hours with Cavan Patterson and his team at Wild Purveyors tasting various spoonfuls of shrubs, fermented mushrooms, foraged mushroom-infused salts, and other delicacies hidden in the outlying lands around Pittsburgh. Cavan’s fervor for the finer, foraged things in life and how they can be transformed and enhanced through natural processes reminds me of the energy surrounding the pursuits at  Kaizen Trading Co at the Momofuku Test Lab here in New York City. Needless to say, my larder is full of fine delectables that may make their way onto the tables at our Dinner Party events soon to start this month, courtesy of our fine friends in Pittsburgh.

I had the pleasure of cooking with Justin Severino of Cure and Kate Romane of e2 for two great events. As always, I was blown away by these two and the flavors they coax out of ingredients. Both of these from-scratch chefs have an amazing ability to highlight local ingredients in new and inventive ways while still holding fast to tradition. Justin Severino, charcuterie master and funnier doppelganger of comedian David Cross, is one of my culinary heroes. His sous chef Nate is one of the young stars to watch out for in the next few years. I was lucky enough to hang out in the Cure kitchen throughout the week, and I can only hope that some of their genius and comical approach to life and food rubs off on me.

If not, I’ll have to roll my way down Butler Street in the hope that some of the magic of Pittsburgh sticks.

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Mash Files: Stockholm 2014

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Combine leading design and conceptual food artist Emilie Baltz, a defunct nuclear reactor buried 40 meters under ground accessible only by a rickety old freight elevator,  a chef with a crazy propensity for absurd dinner parties, a waitstaff garnered in lab coats, and you get a seven course sensory adventure that challenges the very notions of our modern dining culture. This Slow Supper dinner series grappled with the notion of Energia, and I can’t think of a more appropriate stage. It may be the drastic change in weather, the shear amount of moving water, or the fact that it never quite gets dark, but Stockholm has an energy that is palpable.

It is a quiet intensity like the slow rocking of the waves as the ferry pulls up to Hammarby Sjostad to drop you off at the New Carnegie Brewery, or the smell of cut grass mixed with the sea air that surrounds Saby Gard Farm, the location of our Dinner on the Farm. I may never be able to put in words what it feels like to walk the streets of Stockholm, bite into a cold smoked head of shrimp, and take a forty minute drive into the countryside, where I am convinced hobbits and fairies go to make love, dance, sing,and have picnics. But I can say for sure that this place is magical. A place  to relax and be quietly inspired, an inspiration that creeps up on you without you even noticing, like the scent of lilac blossoms, and the countless tulips that dot the streets.

I have visited Stockholm a few times over the past year but I can truly say I fell in love with the city on this trip. It may have been the friendships that we have been developing, the relationships with chefs that I can now count on to help me source for a dinner and provide us a set of hands when we are in the weeds (thanks AG), or simply knowing I can go to Akkurrat and peruse the cellar with Sten, drink late into the evening with CC ( one of our gracious bartenders at NCB), wax poetically with Chris one of our NCB Brewers, or experiment in the kitchen with Billy White and his gifted team in the NCB kitchen.  Stockholm has really become a home away from home for myself and our Brooklyn Brewery team. A city that welcomes us with open arms, glasses filled with delightful beer, and food fit for a hungry viking tribe. A few more trips like this and I can go to Valhalla a happy man.

Mash Files: Chicago 2014

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On the Mash tour this year, we have invited diverse groups of inspiring people to break bread with us around the table for an event we call Family Meal. This five to six course meal (depending on how ambitious I am feeling) is about bringing together some of the folks that make up the dynamic culture of each city we visit. This mix of chefs, entrepreneurs, artists and craftsmen makes for an exciting evening of collaboration, and conversation based on innovation and the preservation of local food tradition.

This event is one of the most enjoyable of the tour for me because I get a chance to cook and eat with my peers who inspire and drive me to continue the work I do to preserve local food systems and promote the values of craft beer and good food. In Chicago, our table was graced by the Chicago Dinner Lab team, the folks from Dark Matter Coffee, Chicago Honey Co-op, Co-op Sauce, Crumb bread, and one of my favorite Chicago haunts, Untitled. Cooking for a room with such discernible tastes can be daunting, but a few Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ales help to calm the nerves. I wish we had a bigger table so we could have invited all our new friends like the gang from Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits, West Loop Salumi, Letherbee Distillery, and chefs like Nicole Pedderson and Jared Wentworth, but sadly our Air B&B had some space limitations.

I rarely get to serve food and sit and eat with my guests, but this event allows for just that. One of my pet peeves with the restaurant industry is the disconnect between chef and guest, but Family Meal allows me to interact with people while they enjoy their meal, and give feedback that helps to improve my pairings and dishes.

We ate and drank late into the evening, and by the end new friendships and potential future collaborations had been established, along with the realization that Claire Dietzen of Dinner Lab really loves pink Starbursts and can consume a whole pack in a matter of seconds. Standing on the back deck among a sea of conversation and clinking glasses, I felt a true sense of satisfaction, and a reaffirmation of what we are doing on this crazy Mash adventure. This dinner party truly encapsulates the essence of the Mash: collaboration, pleasure, discovery and good people coming together to celebrate. If the rest of our family meals are half as memorable as this one I will be a happy man.

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Mash Files: New Orleans 2014

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The polar vortex may have kept our growing season at bay, but it did conveniently make the Super Sunday parade fall during the New Orleans Mash tour, which for me is an acceptable trade off. The Mardi Gras Indians took to the streets, second line bands behind them, dancing their way through throngs of onlookers in their dazzling suits.  For the second year in a row I have had the pleasure of being one of the many spectators in this brilliant showing of African American tradition mixed with Native American culture.  Big Chiefs, Spy Boys, Wild Men, musicians, hundreds of suit clad children, and thousands of onlookers made up the procession. There may not be another Sunday tradition as interesting and dynamic as this one.  the history of the Mardi Gras Indians can be traced back as far as the 1850′s, and what was once a bloody and  violent gang like encounter has now become a peaceful and music filled day of wonder.

The parade ebbed and flowed like a snake almost oscillating, with an energy that was palpable. A few drinks didn’t hurt, as I grooved my way through the excitement snapping photos and screaming encouragement, as mothers, children and even big chiefs chanted along the parade route with a mix of shit talking and poetic hymns, lost in a cloud of barbecue smoke. Food vendors line the streets running the gambit form makeshift grills to full rigs with huge smokers bellowing.  Hot oil bubbles away as fish and shrimp get fried on their way to meet open buns  smothered with all the po-boy fixings.

The craftsmen, showmanship, focus and dedication at this event is unmatched. A desolate neighborhood becomes a cultural melting pot, a beautiful mix of races, socio-economic classes and smiling faces all coming together to honor and celebrate a rich history that is as distinctly New Orleanian as the crawfish boil. The links between the food culture of New Orleans and the rich history of the Mardi Gras Indians is ripe with similarities. New Orleans is famous for its mix of indigenous flavors and dishes combined with the techniques ingredients and traditions of those that colonized, settled, and became a part of the social fabric of this dynamic city. There is nowhere else in the United States where so many cultures mix together to form such a strong, proud and unique identity. Music, food and good spirits run through this city like the rivers and bayous that contribute to its rich food heritage. This liquor town is slowly becoming a craft beer haven as more and more attention is being paid to the practice of good beer. And if this attention is anything like the concentration it takes to build a Mardi Gras Indian suit, then bead by bead we will see a vibrant craft beer culture develop over the next few years, with all the gallantry and frills fit for a Big Chief.

Mash Files: Philly

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Any time you arrive in Philly and get to head straight to a lunch at Amisyou know you are in for a good week, especially when you end that evening at  Zahov for dinner.   Tuesday morning I headed over to the Belgian Caféto start prepping for our Local 2 Ways dinner with an old chef and friend , Evan Seplow.  Famous for their Mussels, the Belgian did not disappoint. A full dining room of guests enjoyed Heaping bowls of citrus infused mussels along with the refreshing taste of Sorachi Ace.  The lemon verbena nuances of this farmhouse saison perfectly balanced the creamy bite of the mussels and the tart orange notes of the broth.  Local 1 was a welcomed companion to a pulled duck risotto with dried cherries and seared duck breast, accentuating the light fruit flavors of this golden Belgian Abbey Ale.   With many more courses in between, and a delicious sweet potato beignet with a snifter of Black Chocolate Stout as a finale, guests left feeling satiated and merry.

Slow Supper came early in the week and I jumped from the Belgian over to my Buddy Mike Sultan’s new food truck commissary to prepare for our feast at  Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Garden, withJonathan Adams of Rival Bros Coffee.  Our Ten previous Slow Suppers were situated in incredibly unique spaces,but this was by far the most awe inspiring.  This dynamic mosaic-ed visionary  environment is a true ode to the human imagination and spirit.  The energy surrounding this meal was incredible as family, friends, colleagues, and strangers dined in the most eclectic art space I have ever had the pleasure of hosting a dinner in.  The beautiful collages mirrored the array of dishes that we sent out, a mix of plated and family style courses taking inspiration from German beer hall cuisine.  Ravioli of pheasant and foi gras celebrated our Silver Anniversary Lager, and its artist created one of a kind labels where a perfect match for the decor, as well as the gamey, yet delicate filling of this handmade ravioli topped with pheasant skin cracklings, parley leaf salad, and creamy beer hollandaise.   The star of the show, however was a choucroute. This heaping dish of wonder, jam packed with homemade smoked sausage, boudin blanc, sauerkraut, and confit duck legs left our guests transfixed as they sipped their glasses of Local 2.

The dinners ended early in the week, but the adventures continued with an array of happy hour events at Time, including some rare beer samplings and a serious beer and cheese pairing with Rocco Rainone, an old buddy from Di Bruno Brothers.  New Jersey and Pennsylvania cheeses also graced our flat bread creations at Molly Malloy’s in their newly renovated home at the Reading Terminal Market courtesy of Valley Sheppard Creamery.   Chef Bobby Fisher executed the delicious cheese lathered flat breads that we had created that morning with a slew of local ingredients including double smoked apple wood bacon from Country Time Farm available at the Fair Food Farm stand at the other side of the market.  Reading terminal has a similar feel to the Magic Garden with a delicious and colorful mosaic of market vendors, prepared food items, Amish crafts, book stores, and an eclectic mix of locals, and tourists from all walks of life.

After an exciting week of Mash events I finally got a chance to relax on Wyebrook Farm with my master butcher pal Brian Mayer, and his family.  Brian helped curate Wyebrook’s diverse polyculture, butchery, and curing program with the rest of the staff. This historic property is a true testament to simple, yet sustainable animal farming practices, not to mention a majestic place to spend the afternoon. I ate amazing food in Philly all week long, (and cooked some too) but the best bite I took the whole week was a simply prepared burger with the most flavorful meat I have ever tasted. Here’s to the simple things Philly!

Mash Files: Pittsburgh

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Mash Pittsburgh was deliciously nuzzled between two amazing meals, a dinner at the soon to open Butcher in The Rye, and a collaborative fall dinner at White Oak Farm, with five of the cities culinary juggernauts. The week began in the kitchen making perogies with Chef Richard Deshantz owner of meat and potatoes, and Nine On Nine. Richard opened the first Gastro Pub in Pittsburgh and is playing an integral role in revitalizing downtown Pittsburgh’s culinary scene. Downtown is transforming slowly, but outside of the city center Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods like the strip, and Lawrenceville (where you can enjoy the 40 taps at Industry Public House, or the recent brews at, Hop Farm Brewery a dinner at Cure, the Firehouse Farmers Market, or fill your sweet tooth at Mon Aimee chocolate shop), are setting the tone for the rest of the city.

Butcher in the Rye, this Mad Hatter ode to J.D Salinger is the most interesting restaurant space I have seen this year. At this downtown locale Clock Work Orange meets your favorite hunting lodge, where Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson (think The Shining) would happily meet for bourbon’s and an excellent small plate meal. Butcher boasts one of the largest bourbon collections in the country, and with a an upstairs bar-lounge with barrel aged pre-mixed cocktails on tap will prove to be one the finest drinking institutions in the Pittsburgh area. Rich designed and built the restaurant himself, and never has a restaurant reflected the true nature of a chef more. From the bunny paws that lead to a butchered rabbit on the floor to the tattooed arm that leads you towards the bathroom, boasting the coolest locks I have ever seen not a single detail has been overlooked. This attention to detail carried over into the dishes we created, and paired with a fall worthy selection of our beers.

One of the things that makes Pittsburgh unique is the amount of Chef owned and operated restaurants. Our Sunday Dinner at White Oak Farm boasted three of the city’s top chefs and budding restaurateurs. Each owns all or part of their establishment and run their kitchens with passion, enthusiasm and respect for their ingredients, and their staff. From charcuterie made with heritage breed pigs (Justin Severino, Chef and owner of Cure), to ingredients harvested from her own farm (Kate Romane, Chef Owner of E2), or serious artisan sausage skills, beak to testicle cooking, and creator of the best parsnip soup I have ever eaten (Keith Fuller, Chef and owner of Root 174), I was deeply impressed by these chefs, and honored to share a grill with them on one of the nicest fall days of the year. I will drink homemade moonshine with those crazy folks anytime!

Working a farm dinner with David Cross‘ twin brother Justin Severino is always fun and the banter was as entertaining as the food, and as dry as colorful as our Brooklyn Brown Ale punch. Cocktails provided by bartender  and owner of Acacia, Lynn Falk, and an array of Brooklyn beer kept our jokes quick and punchy, and made for a much more receptive audience. Adam Milliron  snapped photos as over 80 guests enjoyed family style plates that welcomed their beer parings. Kriek, part of our Brooklyn Ghost Bottle Series melded perfectly with a kimchi sausage, and black bean fermented rice, funk met funk head on, and the rounded bourbon barrel accents softened the tartness of the cherries and subdued the depth of heat and acidity from the kimchi infused sausage and black rice.

The camaraderie, humbleness and level of knowledge being passed down in Pittsburgh kitchens from seasoned executive chefs and owners to the younger generation of talent will ensure that Pittsburgh continues to grow and evolve in a culinary capacity. Food writers like Hal B. Klein, and photographers like Adam Milleron are documenting the food, flavors, beers, cocktails, farmers, butchers, brewers and culinary faces of Pittsburgh, forging a vital link with a public eager for industry growth. Combine these folks with the role that Slow Food and other organizations are playing and you have a town poised for explosive culinary growth. Pittsburgh was once famous for its steel, coal, and pig iron, but now its heritage pigs and cast iron skillets are drawing the crowd.

Mash Files: Chicago Edition

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Chicago Mash

All Mash Cities have a certain charm, but Chicago is the city I had the most trouble saying goodbye to. Diverse neighborhoods bleed into each other ripe with unique and delectable restaurants serving fall inspired dishes with a laid back feel. I haven’t experienced this concentration of incredible eating locales in any other city but the one I reside in. The array of talented chefs that grace this town are not doing anything incredibly different than other cities we have visited along the Mash, but they are doing it consistently, creatively  and  collaboratively across the board. The “Shi” is an artistic metropolis with a true neighborhood feel, offering as many cultural perspectives as The Bean (Cloud Gate) itself. Steel bridges connect this lakeside city and add as much character as the myriad restaurants we frequented.

Lake Michigan provides a gorgeous city backdrop, but it also creates the brisk winds and chilling temps that make Chicago one of the coldest cities in the country. I think the chefs there understand this better than others and truly value the short growing season, preserving the rich bounty for the cold months to come, and honoring the fresh ingredients in a simple, yet sophisticated manner. The network of chefs that I encountered was truly inspiring, and everyone seemed to know everyone creating a culinary community that spans many bridges.

Slow supper prep at Found restaurant reminded me of Chris Sheppard’s kitchen (at Underbelly, Houston), with more preserves and pickles then I could imagine. The walk in refrigerator boasts a rainbow of pickled produce that could have easily been an installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Packed Mason jars abounded like the preservation kitchen at Blackberry Farm, as captivating as the amphitheater and BP Bridge in Millennium Park, by architect and artist Frank Gehry. Nicole Pederson might be a pickle queen but she sure knows her way around rabbit rillettes, and presses a mean goat pate that tastes of barnyard and pistachio, a perfect accompaniment for one of our Ghost Bottles of Crochet Rouge Riesling. Combined with pickled sausage, fresh made mustard, and sweet but tangy plum butter. This course and many others demonstrated the typical style of many of the chefs we encountered, with a full understanding of local ingredients and a playful, yet traditional approach.

Small Bar’s rabbit pate, marmalade, and parsley salad also accented the nuances of Crochet Rouge Sauvignon Blanc, expertly prepared by Executive Chef Justin White.  Ghost Bottles graced the tables at both of our meals, but  Carnegie Special 175th Anniversary Porter was most appropriate in capturing the essence of our 1883 World Fair Slow Supper feast, and a perfect accompaniment to the dramatic reading by Paul Durica, author of Chicago by Day and Night, as well as the delectable poached pear and sponge cake it was served with.

Our week of Mash events melded perfectly  with the intoxicating energy of Chicago, from its many farmers markets, artistic and thoughtfully designed green spaces, diverse neighborhoods, talented chefs, and impressive architecture. From Longman and Eagle, to Lula café, Nightwood, Fat Rice, Little Goat, there were more great restaurants then I could imagine, or find time to eat at. Whether sitting in a hole in the wall Mexican place on the east side, dining on Randolph street, or out in Evanston you can be sure that Chicago’s food scene will leave you satiated, smiling, and extremely impressed. I just hope your stay is longer than mine. I am in agreement with my cousin Ari, Chicago may be the greatest city in the country, at least four months out of the year. I hope your larders are packed for the remaining eight months. Stay warm Chicago, can’t wait to see you next year!

MASH Files: DC

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The District of Columbia might be the Nation’s Capital, but with such a vibrant Ethiopian community it is also the epicenter of Ethiopian cuisine in the US. Chef Hiyaw Gebryohanness, founder of Taste of Ethiopia was a perfect Slow Supper DC ambassador. I learned about the history and culture of Ethiopian cuisine, as we prepared modern riffs on Ethiopian classics. My Injera-baking compatriot expertly demonstrated the proper way to make an authentic one hundred percent teff crêpes (an ancient grain and staple of Ethiopian cuisine). The three day fermentation process yields a tart and sourdough-esque batter that is griddled on a hot plate until bubbles form on top and is slid off with a hand woven reed mat to join the steaming stack. Injera is the tastiest utensil I have ever encountered, and it served that purpose in 3 different iterations throughout our 6 course meal, a crisp chip for berbere guacamole, a perfect spoon for a rich and spicy chicken peanut Stew (Loze Wet), and a sweet version  to scoop up the last bits of Cardamom Honey wine Pudding.

We got a chance to see some of Hiyaw’s family and friends  at other Ethiopian restaurants around the city as we quested to find a few bottles of the homemade honey wine, Ethiopia’s answer to mead, a super potent but delicious drink. Over sixty  guest filled the cozy second floor loft at  Studio 52 to break bread the Ethiopian way, with a family style meal paired with Brooklyn big bottles, eye inspiring projection candy from Nuit blanche, and comic book inspired menus and place mats from local artist and illustrator Elizabeth Graeber.

Ethiopia may have been the inspiration for Slow Supper but it was Modern American with a new world Italian flair that graced the tables at Local 2 Ways. A Scallop crudo paired with Sorachi Ace started the meal off right. House cured Charcuterie and Foie Gras torchons welcomed the delicate fruit flavors and malt balance of Local 1, our golden Belgian Farmhouse ale. High gravity bottles abounded throughout the meal, to the last sips of Black Chocolate Stout that accompanied a warm and rich chocolate brownie with house made salted caramel ice cream. The new Match Box location is a serious addition to the 14th street corridor which boasts a slew of new eateries, watering holes, and funky places to be entertained after a long day on the hill (that’s Capitol Hill to those of you unfamiliar with the political lingo).

I did not have the pleasure of encountering any politicians, but I did get to hear the diplomatic comedic rants of those two hilarious buddies of ours Nick, and Joe as they waxed poetic about current issues in the world of VHS. Found Footage found itself at a super secret speak-easy theater called Warehouse Theater that I had trouble finding, until I realized the employees only entrance was just a silly ruse. DC, you get me every time.

Backdoor politics and backdoor theaters may be the norm here, but Glen’s Garden Market where Togather was held is a welcomed addition to the local DC food scene, where your neighborhood co-op meets event space and bar. Get your shopping done while enjoying a pint and maybe learn something too. I sure did, as Tracie McMillan author of the The American Way of Eating discussed the economic realities of our current food system with food writer and co-author of The Founding Farmers Cookbook, Nevin Martell. Nothing like an Oktoberfest and some intelligent discussion to end a rainy evening, especially if the meal you had beforehand was at Little Serrow ( my new favorite Thai spot).

We may have missed the cherry blossoms, but all in all DC Mash was a Capital success!

Mash Files: Boston

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Mash Boston reaffirmed my love for bodies of water.  This sounds strange but bays, oceans, tributaries and the beauty they encompass set a perfect backdrop for our week of events.   My past Boston culinary experiences were limited to super carnitas burritos at Anna’s Taqueria when I would visit an old girlfriend during college. Things have changed quite dramatically over the last ten years, and great restaurants are popping up all over offering interesting riffs on traditional New England cuisine along with many other styles of food.  I had one of the best clam chowders of my life at Island Creek oyster bar, New England of course, none of that tomato malarkey.

I was able to gain a new respect, and perspective on aquaculture and the vital role it plays in New England life.   The Atlantic Ocean, its tributaries, and the many rivers that lead into it have long been a source of sustenance, income and leisure, for New Englanders, playing a vital role in the areas evolution.  Much of our week was focused on maritime activity or its byproducts.  A small detour from our seafood centric meals was our Local Two Ways dinner at Poe’s Tip Tap Room with Chef Brian Poe, and many happy hour events at Stoddard’s Pub.  If you think I am busy you should check out Brian Poe, juggling three restaurants with the expert skill and precision of a veteran circus clown (the talented ones that hurl multiple flaming bowling pins effortlessly, while telling jokes). Brian and I prepared antelope tips and kangaroo tartar with a pistachio and yuzu gremolata.  I don’t know about you, but I have never eaten, let alone prepared kangaroo in my life, needless to say it was a night to remember, and as  I hop from city to city it is a flavor I will hold onto and savor.

We were back to the sea the next morning as we headed out of Boston towards Duxbury bay, home of Island Creek Oyster Co.  We arrived nursing hangovers that would make a college student proud, and were met with the sweet salty air of the ocean and Chris Sherman the Vice President of ICO, and one of the most knowledgeable, well spoken, and  downright enjoyable people I have met in a while.  Our trip began in the hatchery where oysters are bred, reared and transferred to holding tanks below the docks where they spend their first six months of life.  The algae lab is the most essential part of this process.  Multiple strains of algae (oyster feed) are grown in tanks and tubes of various sizes and pumped into the tanks that house these growing prehistoric creatures.  We boarded a small boat and headed out to the oyster beds that dot the bay, protected by a large half moon strip known as Duxbury Beach, and boarded the floating house where oysters are sorted into three different grades.  The passion and expertise of these rugged oyster farmers, and savvy business men, have made these oysters a coveted mainstay at Thomas Keller’s Per Se, French Laundry, and many other fine dining institutions across the couomtry.

Lowell’s Boat house, the oldest active boat house in the country was the setting for our Slow Supper dinner with Chef Marc Sheehan of Brasstacks (a local pop up restaurant concept). Marc honed his skills at Blue Hill, under Dan Barber before taking over some of Boston’s best kitchens.  I was thrilled to put out plates that mirrored the flowing history of the Merrimack River and work with such a young and talented chef whose historically relevant and technical approach to cooking left our guest begging for more.  Quahog bread and Black Ops pretzels where paired with Silver Anniversary Lager, and the boisterous conversation and glass clinking echoed far across the river just feet from the long wooden  planked  communal table constructed for our dinner by master boat maker and teacher Graham McKay of Lowell’s boat shop.

Our week culminated in a cyclical manner with our Togather event featuring Erin Byers Murray, author of Shucked, Chris Sherman, and Graham McKay discussing the waters that have shaped their lives, careers, and outlooks.  My sea legs felt much sturdier after absorbing bits of their passionate conversation that flowed effortlessly like the Merrimack, or the tides of Duxbury Bay.  All hands from our week of adventures were on deck for this memorable event. Sipping Brooklyn Summer Ales, and slurping oysters felt more like an outing with old friends then a literary reception. Boston I can’t wait to set sail for your waters next year. Ahoy Mattie’s!

 

 

Mash Files: Twin Cities

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Lakes, Gnomes, boats, a City rivalry, large communal feasts, outrageous storms, winding rivers, and a castle, no this is not the next episode of Game of Thrones, but the Twin Cities Mash I speak of. Our week kicked off with a dinner hosted by Monica Walch of Dinner on The Farm, on the rooftop of Solera, overlooking scenic downtown Minneapolis, and ended with our Slow Supper dinner hosted by The Brooklyn Brewery team, Jamie Malone of Sea Change and Monica Walch at Soap Factory, cyclical or what?

Our whirlwind week continued at Happy Gnome (our Mash Headquarters) where beer and cheese abounded, and I had the opportunity to get to know some Twin City beer aficionados as well as sample some local brews. Besides being home to a slew of Craft Breweries, Twin Cities has a cutting edge restaurant scene that is borderline incestual, but incredibly delicious. All the young talent of the last 10 years seems to have worked together at one point or another as they trained under their predecessors, and are now operating (or own) the best kitchens in town. I had the chance to work with two of these rising stars who are running great teams, cooking exceptional food, and inspiring those who work alongside them (and me).

Our Local 2 Ways dinner with Landon Shoenfeld, Executive chef, and owner of Haute Dish was one of the best meals I have collaborated on. Each dish not only paired perfectly with the beers selected but had incredible nuances, flawless execution, and were true visual works of art. I have never been in a kitchen where so many chefs seemed genuinely happy to be there, engaged, knowledgeable and incredibly motivated to follow the lead of their Phish loving, easy going leader. Haute Dish was a night to remember, even if the high gravity of the beers consumed made it easy to forget.
Landon is not the only talented chef in town, Jamie Malone of Sea Change not only impressed me (a far easier task), but the folks at Food & Wine, earning herself a place on the list for top ten chefs of 2013 (insert applause here) Jamie may be leading a crazy jet setter life these days ( I can sympathize) but her humbleness, composure, good natured humor, incredible skill, dedication, and mischievous smile make her a great gal to work with and learn from. Slow Supper in a giant art space, langoustine crudo, Sweet bread tortellini, potato pave seared to look like drift wood, Ghost bottles abounding, and a room full of boisterous happy guests, throw in an installation from Nuit Blanche, Stephanie Jarrett (vintage day dreams), and you have one hell of a dynamic eating experience.

Two great meals, boat trips on the purifying waters of Lake Minnetonka, a specialized Found footage Fest, a king sized temperpedic mattress at Castle El Maraghy ( anything feels like a castle compared to my Brooklyn apartment), a stop at The Beer Dabbler to see my main man Joe Alton for all the copies of the Growler, the greatest lightning storm of my life, The sounds of Jonathan Toubin, and riding tandem on a tube with my favorite event producer in the whole wide world, yah you could say it was a great week, Ya-knoow?