To fill the need for locally raised meat in the Great Barrington area, Jeremy Stanton has decided to open a butcher shop in the spring of 2010. His plan is to create on a modest scale a food business that is completely based on the use of local agricultural products. In addition to specializing in sustainably raised meats, Jeremy will produce his own spirits made from fruits grown in the region using a small-batch distillery. Jeremy and his wife Emily hosted a dinner to fundraise for the Meat Market and Southfield Spirits last night, which I attended with Susan.
As the rain poured down onto the event, people held umbrellas over our heads while escorting us to the dinner tent. By the time the first course was served, most women had ditched their shoes and walked barefoot across the soft, spongy grass. Most of the cooks, waiters, and organizers were soaked, but their spirits hardly looked dampened.
We nibbled on assorted charcuterie and sipped a light pink sunshine rhubarb cocktail. All the breads were handmade by Emily, which we layered with house-made salamis, terrine of pork, veal and ham, proscuitto, and mousse of pork liver.
The first course was a soup made from beef broth. Jeremy tries to use the whole animal when cooking, so his shop will offer stock for people to make soups from the animals he prepares. Blue Moon Farm oyster mushrooms were freshly cut into my bowl before the soup was poured from a pitcher. A citrus Coalescence wine complimented the delicate consommé.
Next came the famous rooster ravioli served on a bed of Farm Girl Farm field greens. At this point, I heard a man sitting nearby declare that if the meal ended now he would be very satisfied. “Jeremy has my blessings!” he confidently stated. I absolutely agree, and with a few more cocktails I may have stood up to give a speech.
Surprisingly, the sound of rain beating down on the tent only added to the intensity of the evening. It must have been very stressful to work under such conditions, but I think the guests were only more impressed by the performance. Who needs another perfect picnic in the sun? It was as if the weather was demanding that we support Jeremy’s endeavor against all odds.
I had a wonderful view of yellow sunflowers contrasted against a man’s bright blue shirt until we cleared the flowers for the next course. Although I was slightly disappointed the brilliant color combination was gone, all of it was washed away as soon as the platter of house-made sausage, mustard, pickled beets, braised cabbage, and breads arrived. The saying, “melt in your mouth” was prominent in my mind for the rest of the meal.
Jeremy’s small batch “Monument Valley” hard cider 2008 deserves its own paragraph. This home brew was made from apples Jeremy gathered from neglected orchards. He explains that every farm in New England had a cider orchard prior to modern times that produced its own blend of cider. Many of the orchards have survived, so he harvests their fruits, crushes them using a hand built press, then allows them to ferment in oak barrels. Some is bottled for hard cider and the rest is distilled into spirits. He says he has been aging the eau de vie de pomme (apple brandy) in oak which, as it ages, becomes a more subtle and complex beverage.
He would like to use other fruits and vegetables grown in the region to create a line of spirits. “Imagine a Hudson Valley Potato Vodka and a Berkshire County Corn Whiskey along with orchard-specific vintages of Apple Brandy,” Jeremy suggests.
If you aren’t full yet, envision a whole leg of organic grass fed beef from Herondale Farm. It was spitted over an oak fire and served with salsa verde, heirloom tomatoes sliced fat from Equinox Farm, corn off the cob with grilled poblano chiles and summer onions. Everyone applauded as the leg of beef was carried to the front of the room to be sliced.
Dominique from Moon in the Pond Farm gave a speech about the importance of locally raised meat in a time of highly industrialized food production. His words hit home for me. I was a vegetarian for three years after learning about the feedlots and animal mistreatment. What is more hopeful than boycotting meat entirely is now having the option of eating sustainably raised meat. Moving one step further from not eating meat because it is absolutely repulsive the way it is raised, to finally having the opportunity to consume real meat is a very powerful change. As a young woman pointed out, “MEAT” backwards spells “TEAM!”
Dessert was hanging from the peach tree next to our table. How much more local can you get? Skinned and halved peaches were served with basil creme anglaise and tuiles, (tiny cookie crackers). My opinion of basil not going well with sweet things was proved wrong. The house-made dandelion wine topped off the meal and the Apple Brandy put me over the edge. I left full of food, inspiration, and liquor. Best wishes to Jeremy for his dreams of combining culinary skills, local and sustainably raised foods to enrich the community.