Archive for November, 2012

The turkey, “though a little vain and silly…

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

“…is a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards…with a red Coat on.” So wrote Benjamin Franklin, tongue at least partly in cheek, in a 1784 letter to his daughter, noting that “this respectable Bird” and “true original Native of America”¬†would have been superior to the bald eagle as the fledgling republic’s national emblem.

Ben Franklin and Tom Turkey

Ben and Tom

 

Looking ahead to Thanksgiving

Encountering this delicious quotation prompted us to do some gobbler Googling. In particular, we wondered how wild turkeys we’ve seen around town (the handsome fellow, above right, was photographed in Brookline!) compare to domestic turkeys, in particular, the free-range turkeys reared by Misty Knoll Farms¬†of New Haven, VT, purveyed by Kinnealey Quality Meats¬†in nearby Brockton, and prepared and served by Jules.

Wild turkeys

Louise Miller likes wild turkey meat

Louise Miller: "I like anything wild."

Before tapping into search engines, we called our friend Louise Miller, who was born on a small farm in Shaver’s Creek, PA, and married 60-plus years to a hunter of small and large game.

“Some people don’t like wild turkey, because it’s all dark meat and they say it tastes gamey, but I¬†much prefer wild to a supermarket bird. Jack, my husband, liked hunting turkey. He’d just park himself near a tree, where he thought they would be…where he’d seen signs of scratching…and he’d set there and call them. Gobblers will come to find the hen, but they’re sneaky. They can come up right behind you and you never know it. It’s harder–and takes more patience–to get a wild turkey than it does a deer.”

A key distinction between wild and store-bought birds stems from the fact that most commercially raised turkeys are selectively bred to grow faster and develop more breast meat than wild turkeys. Which leads to the question: Where do¬†free-range¬†birds fit in? They’re not wild. They’re not cooped up. Are naturally raised free-range turkeys something ‘in between’?

Why range free?

Up until the 20th century, green feed and sunshine (for the vitamin D) were fundamental to poultry rearing, because these ‘ingredients’ were required to raise healthy birds. But with the discovery of vitamins A and D, in the 1920s, the number of free-range poultry farms began to decline. While some large commercial breeding flocks were reared on pasture into the 1950s, advances in nutritional science led to increased confinement. ¬†Gathering up flocks and putting them all in one place allowed poultry to be raised on a commercial scale.

Monet Wild Turkeys

Foraging turkeys painted by Claude Monet

Of course while confinement yields efficiencies, it also presents problems. Today, the vast majority of the 260 million commercially raised turkeys in the US spend their lives in enclosed, artificially lit and ventilated sheds that house thousands of birds. Overcrowding–often extreme–causes stress hormones to rise, which increases aggression and accounts for a variety of other health problems. And, when disease occurs, it can easily spread.

In contrast, the advantages of a free-range approach are many. According to Compassion for World Farming:

  • Turkeys allowed to exercise and behave naturally have stronger, healthier legs
  • Access to fresh air and daylight means better eye and respiratory health
  • Health problems ¬†associated with a fast growth rate are minimized¬†because free-range farms often raise slower-growing breeds

Free-range turkeys from Misty Knoll Farms

Misty Knoll Farms turkeys in the straw

The free-range turkeys we know and love are those from family-owned and -operated Misty Knoll Farms, in New Haven, VT.¬†When old enough to withstand Vermont‚Äôs cool nights, they are sheltered in open barns and have free access to natural pasture, sunlight, and fresh water.¬†Because the turkeys range free on the farm’s meadows, and¬†because they are fed wholesome grain that is free of antibiotics and animal by-products, their lives–compared to factory-farmed turkeys–are natural and relatively stress-free.

This time of year, as another cold Vermont winter approaches, Misty Knoll turkeys–like any bird in the wild–plumpen up. Allowed to grow naturally to size, they are robust and meatier, and–when roasted–they will be juicy from wholesome feed, rather than from the injected oils and additives applied to factory-farmed birds. ¬†And, because they’re graded and processed on-site and by hand, only the finest birds are offered for sale. While it takes a little longer to rear birds in a free-range environment, Misty Knoll Farms feels good about being able to offer such healthy and nutritious turkeys. And Jules Catering’s Executive Chef Albert Rosada agrees.

Roasted free-range, organic turkeys from Jules

“The turkey breasts we’re roasting today are 22- to 24-pounds–the biggest breasts you can get,” explained Jules Catering’s Executive Chef, Albert Rosado. “Misty Knoll Farms turkeys are wonderful because they’re not full of fat or muscle–and they’re tender. The quality of the meat is grade A”

We asked Albert why he sports a meat thermometer in his pocket. “I need to keep checking. We want to roast white-meat turkey to 160 degrees,” he explained.

Albert halves organic free range turkey breast

Executive Chef Albert Rosado halves a succulent 24-pound turkey breast.

Halved organic free-range turkey breast

"We give our turkeys a lot o' love," Albert says.

Seconds after Albert finishes slicing, he passes breast meat along to Line Cook Jeff Ginyard, who ladles hot gravy. Moments later the turkey is sealed and wrapped, locked up in an insulated cart, and wheeled out the door!

Jeff ladles turkey gravy Jules Catering

When it's time for the holidays Jeff, Albert, and free-range turkeys are a winning team.

 Mmmm, that turkey looks so moist and smells so great. What else is on the menu? we inquired.

“Oh, we’ve got lots of great menu items,” replied Line-Chef Jeff, as he handed me the order sheet. “Today, for example, some of our corporate clients will be enjoying this little preview of a Thanksgiving feast.”

PRE-THANKSGIVING LUNCH MENU
Roast Turkey with Herbed Bread Stuffing
Butternut Squash Ravioli in Basil Cream Sauce (Vegetarian Entrée)
Cranberry Chutney
Mashed Potatoes with Sweet Potato Swirls
Field Greens with Apple and Cheddar
Roasted Fall Vegetables
Dinner Rolls
Warm Apple-and-Pear Crisp with Whipped Cream

 

Photo Credits:
Portrait of Benjamin Franklin circa 1785 by Joseph Duplessis: National Portrait Gallery, Public Domain
Male Wild Turkey, Brookline, MA: Sasha Kopf, Wikimedia Commons
Louise Miller Talks Turkey: Liz Muir
The Turkeys by Claude Monet: WikiPaintings, Public Domain
Misty Knoll Farms Turkeys: Rob Litch
Turkey Prep at Jules Catering (3 photos): Liz Muir 

 

Farm and Chef Partnership

Misty Knoll Farms is an active member of the Vermont Fresh Network (VFN), a state-wide organization dedicated to building innovative partnerships among Vermont farmers, chefs, and consumers to strengthen Vermont’s agriculture.  


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‘Particular party planner’ Mimi Deignan

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Mimi makes many lists...

“Where’s Mimi?”

This was more or less our mantra when we popped in to observe all that’s involved in setting up a Country Wedding for 200 guests on a balmy autumn afternoon.

We found ourselves repeatedly asking this question, not because Mimi wasn’t where she was “supposed” to be…

Not at all!

It was because Mimi was very nearly everywhere very nearly all at once.

A background steeped in hospitality

“This apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” Mimi laughed, when we asked where and when her career as a professional party planner began. “I was born into a world where food and entertaining were more than usually central to family life.”

Mimi checks lists more than twice!

“My grandfather Loughran had his own butcher shop in Quincy Market–the old Quincy Market, which was all about food. And my father ran a wholesale food business that operated throughout New England.”

“But the biggest influence on my career was my mother, a homemaker who not only entertained with great panache in our Boston home, but who did the very same thing for many others. Tea parties, fashion-show luncheons, tea dances–you name it–all on behalf of good causes. My mother happily volunteered for this nonprofit work–she was never paid for her efforts–and yet her work was of professional-calibre and everything she did, she did with flourish and flair.¬†No wonder my mother inspired me!” Mimi exhaled. “She inspires me, to this day.”

Party-planning particulars

“It all begins with listening, site visits, layouts, the proper amounting of food for the chefs, handout sheets for staff…. There’s no way to succeed in this line of work if you don’t stay on top of even the smallest detail, which is why I named my business, ‘Particular Party Planners.’ I owned and operated my Belmont-based company for 21 years.”

“When I sold Particular Party Planners and moved back to Boston, I must confess to not being easily impressed by the offerings of many caterers. But when I saw and sampled Jules Catering’s food–and when I recognized the talents of Owner-Chef Anita Baglaneas–how extraordinarily delicious her food tastes and how artistically she presents it–I wanted to part of this creative enterprise. From Day One Anita and I hit it off, and I’ve been with Jules for 14 years.”

A  country wedding

“Another talented individual with whom I’m always pleased to collaborate is Lo McShay of¬†LoLo Event Designs,” Mimi continued.¬†“While Jules¬†has all the resources and expertise to independently plan every type of event, we’re also happy¬†to team up with creative partners, like Lo.”

Lo McShay of LoLo Event Designs and Mimi Deignan of Jules Catering collaborate on some events

“Given Lo’s background in advertising and her vision for how a ‘New England harvest wedding’ should play out, it was fun for me–and for all of us at Jules–to ensure that the food and service we provide for this occasion complements Lo’s vision in every detail.”

“And, believe it or not, my B.A. in Fine Arts has also served me well,” Mimi continued, “because¬†visual¬†elements are fundamental to the success of¬†every¬†event.”

Burlap, wood, wildflowers, and mason jars instantly transmit the "country wedding" theme

“Look around” Mimi continued, “and you’ll see ‘country wedding’ everywhere–not just in the meadow-like setting for the ceremony, and the wooden benches, and the cotton-covered hay bales–but in the family-style dinner tables accented with burlap and wildflowers and mason jars–and in the menu, as well.

“To give you a glimpse, here’s the menu for just one of Jules’ two dinner buffets offered at this wedding.”

DINNER BUFFET
Pork Tenderloin with Apple Cider Reduction
Capon Roulade with Wild Mushroom Stuffing, Served with an Herb Gravy
A Mélange of Local Autumn Vegetables
Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce
Mixed New England Greens, Julienned Concord Apples, Gorgonzola Cheese Served with Gougères and Balsamic Vinaigrette
Baskets of Assorted Artisanal Rolls and Breads

“Oh, and stay tuned for the cowbell!” Mimi laughed. “Before long I will be luring guests from the cocktail tent to the wedding ceremony by gently ringing this country-style bell.”

Mimi assembles an A+ Team

“Food, presentation, and staffing are of paramount importance when planning and managing a party–and¬†when it comes to staffing any kind of special event, one person I always feel lucky to be able to partner with is¬†Jules Catering’s Staffing and Events Manager, Sergio Ribeiro.”

Mimi and her best right-hand man, Sergio Ribeiro

“Because both Sergio and I agree that appropriate staffing is fundamental to the success of any party, I’m proud to say that we’ve enlisted an A-plus team of 19 waitstaff and bartenders for this wedding today.”

“These are my pals!” Mimi smiled, as she prompted waitstaff in the cocktail tent to strike a pose by the fruit and cheese display, which was a creation of Party Chef Hubeimar Restrepo. “Hubeimar is the master-artist behind this display,” Mimi explained, “but others on the team also pitched in.”¬†

Daniela, Hubeimar, Hannia, Jonathan, and Caio gather 'round sumptuously arranged fruit and cheese

“Did you notice the wooden barrels supporting the bar and buffet tables and the overturned milk crates supporting the fruit and cheese display?” Mimi asked. “I agree with Lo that these details wonderfully reinforce the country-wedding theme.”

Mimi caught us eyeing the artisanal cheese offerings. “Aren’t they gorgeous? All five varieties–Camembert, Gouda, Cheddar, Blue, and Ch√®vre–were made right here in New England, and were specially selected by Jules’ longtime Food and Beverage Manager (and one-time chef of Boston’s Bay Tower Restaurant), Paul Malcuit.”

New England country cheeses: Mountain Blue, Roquefort-Crusted Chèvre, Cave-Aged Cheddar

Party prep was also in full-swing outside the cocktail tent: 

Jules’ expert administrative support person and seasoned waitstaffer,¬†Stephanie Vargas,¬†checked her watch before preparing mason-jar water glasses for dinner. “We time things so that by the time guests are seated each glass will contain a refreshing balance of water and ice.”

Stephanie prepares to fill mason-jar water glasses with ice

“And you must snap a portrait¬†our talented quartet of bartenders,” Mimi enthused as she encouraged them to take a little break and join us outdoors. “Not only is each a talented mixologist with expertise in fine wine, but no matter how frenetic the pace of a party, I can count on them to consistently provide gracious and attentive service, along with perfectly prepared drinks.”

Four of Jules Catering's go-to-bartenders are Ben, Mark, Susan, and Anita

“Of course the same holds true of our waitstaff. On top of being hospitable and attentive to our guests, they know the menus and the particulars of each menu item. And when, on a moment’s notice, I call upon one or the other to switch gears, each is a skilled multi-tasker, ready to jump in and tackle whatever must be done to ensure smooth party flow.”

Always ready to serve are Jules' wait-staff regulars John, Stephanie, Frank, Daniela, and Robyn

¬†“Teamwork is the name of the game, when it comes to staffing any kind of event,” Mimi concluded. “I couldn’t be more proud of my A-plus team.”¬†

Remember those mason jars Stephanie iced? Here, in the dinner tent, Daniela and Frank distribute them

Photo Credits: Liz Muir

 

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