Archive for the ‘Vendors’ Category

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.  


If you enjoyed this, please share!

Anita dreams of sushi…

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

O-Bento Sushi, that is, from John Kim’s shop in Waltham, MA.

“Jules’ food is all about taste, color, texture, balance, and freshness,” explained¬†Jules Catering’s Owner-Chef Anita Baglaneas, when we explored the topic of sushi after seeing the 2011 documentary¬†Jiro Dreams of Sushi.¬†(The film delves the lifelong quest for sushi perfection by 85-year-old master-sushi chef,¬†Jiro Ono, in Tokyo.)

“That’s why we feel such an affinity with John Kim of O-Bento, and that’s why he’s Jules’¬†only sushi vendor. The sushi he delivers to our kitchen three or four times a week is as pure and fresh as it is beautiful to the eye.”

The first word subtitled in the film is ‘deliciousness,’ we recalled.

“When I dream about O-Bento Sushi,” Anita smiled, “deliciousness most definitely applies.”

Central to this O-Bento Sushi display is Maki (hand-rolled sushi) wrapped in Nori (seaweed)

 

Sushi artisan

South Korean-born-world-traveler John Kim, who founded O-Bento Sushi soon after he “fell in love with the Charles River” and moved to the Boston area in the late 1980s, barely finds time to¬†dream about sushi, simply because he allots many more hours to meticulous fish selection and sushi preparation than he does to sleep.¬†Because his product cannot be offered to customers except when it’s absolutely fresh, this purveyor of sushi must grab sleep when he can, which is usually between¬†7 p.m. and midnight.

John Kim of O-Bento Sushi sharpens his knives twice a day

Outside this narrow window, John is either accepting deliveries of fresh fish from both near- and far-flung places (Southeast Asia, Nova Scotia, Maine, to name a few)…or he’s engaged in sushi preparation and presentation…or he’s overseeing prompt deliveries to Jules Catering’s Somerville kitchen, as well as to a host of other metro-Boston clients.

When morning deliveries wind up around 10 a.m., John¬†may find time for¬†a short nap.¬†In rare spare time he enjoys hunting for antique sushi platters and boxes. “O-Bento¬†is Japanese for ‘lunchbox,'” John explained.

Sushi rollout

'O-Bento' is Japanese for 'lunchbox' (front, left)

When it comes to raw fish, what does it mean to be ‘fresh’? we wondered, as John Kim and a longtime colleague expertly prepared for a Saturday delivery.

“Absolutely no smell, no blood, bright skin, firm flesh.”

We surveyed John’s pristine shop. We inhaled deeply. We nodded in appreciation.¬†

No doubt about it, there was no fishy scent, not a trace of blood, and the bright colors of the oh-so-fresh fish astounded. As did the speedy process: No sooner was the hand-rolling of sushi complete, than the rolls were sliced, arranged, and packaged for delivery.

Sushi “rollout” happens¬†fast!¬†Still, we managed to catch much of the process in still-photos:

 

Sushi, defined

Bowl of Sushi painted by Ichiyusai Hiroshige

Sushi¬†means “raw fish,” correct?

No! ¬†The Japanese word¬†sushi¬†means “sour-tasting.”¬†

This surprised us, but made perfect sense once we learned that the common ingredient to all sushi is vinegared rice, not raw or cooked fish.

O-Bento Sushi (like all Japanese sushi) features short-grained Japanese rice flavored with vinegar, sugar, and salt.

Jules-style sushi (variations on a traditional treat)

“Whenever we want to provide our clients with top-of-the-line Japanese sushi,” Anita Baglaneas explained, “we always turn to John Kim. But sometimes–for example, last May when we celebrated Jules’ 25th anniversary–we team up with O-Bento Sushi in a somewhat different way.”

“Because we developed a menu that improvised off of the traditional maki (rolled-sushi) and prepared some variations that called for something other than Japanese rice, our Executive Chef, Albert Rosado, prepared many of the fillings. One was a Greek-style maki roll with Arborio rice, feta, and tomatoes… another was a Jewish-style roll with smoked salmon and chived cream cheese… still another was a Spanish-style maki roll filled with saffron risotto, chicken, and¬†chorizo–all rolled up in thin-sliced Spanish ham.”

An example of Jules Catering's sushi variations rolled by O-Bento Sushi

“Even when Albert prepared the sushi fillings, John and his team at O-Bento rolled them up, which was no small feat given that we offered some 1600 pieces of sushi that night!”

O-Bento and Jules

O-Bento Sushi has been providing Jules Catering with sushi for about ten years, we observed, as John Kim paused for a photo before hopping into his van and setting off on deliveries.

John Kim has been providing sushi 'lunch boxes' and other sushi products to metro-Boston customers since 1991

“That’s right,” John smiled. “I am happy when my customers are happy, and Anita has taught me so much. When I started out I knew little about the American market, and she was my mentor. Yes,¬†I value my longtime relationship with Anita and Jules.”

 

Photo Credits
Sushi Rolls from O-Bento Sushi and portraits of John Kim: Liz Muir
Bowl of Sushi by Ichiyusai Hiroshige: Wikimedia Commons

If you enjoyed this, please share!