Several weeks into the new year, we are starting to see how our resolutions are panning out (mine — not so well). One thing I have had a lot of success with is eating and shopping more locally, thanks in large part to being here at Formaggio Kitchen.
We work hard to bring in some of the finest foods from all around the globe, highlighting small producers and family-owned businesses we know and trust; the quality of the products is simply better, and we aim to honor their hard work and passion. From brebis and gouda to stilton and English cheddar, some products are simply best made where they originated, by the farm families who hold time-honored recipes.
Lucky for us, being in the agriculturally-rich and food-forward region that is New England, our side of the pond has a lot to offer, too. Many of our awesome cheesemakers, farmers, chocolatiers, brewers, bakers and other producers are located locally, even within 100 or so miles of our Cambridge shop. We love that they are able to stop by and deliver their own product, sample out goodies to customers and maintain a local presence in the store, and I try to support them each time I shop for my own groceries after work.
Local can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but one simple way to narrow it down is to set a mileage limit — 100 miles from your location is a common choice. We may not be able to grow or make everything within 100 miles of 244 Huron Avenue, but we’re proud to showcase plenty of options from our local producers! Here are some of my favorite local products:
New England is rich in small, local honey producers, and Massachusetts is no exception. Rick Reault, of Carlisle Honey (Carlisle) is a legend in the Massachusetts bee community. With over 10 years of bee keeping experience at Carlisle Honey, Reault is also one of the most influential teachers of beekeeping practices in the state. Most honey producers have worked with him at some point in setting up or maintaining their hive, and Reault is a major force in expanding bee keeping to new families and new generations. We’re particularly excited about Carlisle Farm’s new single varietal honey, Red Bamboo. One of the only single varietal honeys we’ve see in New England, this darker colored honey is made with the nectar of the Japanese Knotweed plant, with a warm round sweetness. Run Dog Run Farm (Westport), is another of our favorite local producers, producing exceptional wildflower honey as part of the operations on their family farm, as are the beautiful bottles of honey from the small honey producer Black Pond Apiaries (Harvard).
Did you know that Massachusetts was the birthplace of American artisan cheese? (I bet you thought it was Vermont) According to the Massachusetts Cheese Guild – which represents some of our local producers like Ruggles Hill Creamery (Hardwick) and Mozzarella House (Everett) – Massachusetts has been leading the charge with the nation’s first dairy cows since 1624. And, naturally, where there is milk, there is someone figuring out how to store surplus milk – in wheels of delicious cheese.
Cato Corner Farm (Colchester, CT) is nearly local under our criteria, and they have been turning out cheeses from their small herd of Jerseys for decades. We recently received a wheel of their ever-popular Bridgid’s Abbey for our counter – a slightly squishy, extremely versatile cheese; it sits next to consistent customer favorite and award-winner, the creamy and stinky Hooligan. A newer cheesemaker, the almost six-year old Grey Barn Farm (Chilmark) is keeping Massachusetts’ cheese tradition alive and growing with cheeses from their own herd’s organic milk. With new cheeses coming in all the time, ask your cheesemonger for their favorite local cheese of the week!
Similarly, you may think tea is something that simply needs to be imported. For the most part, you’re right – despite ongoing efforts to propagate camela sinensis here in the states. However, herbal tea is another story. We were so excited to finally start sourcing local tea last fall! Karnak Farm in Saco, Maine grows acres of elderberry and chamomile plants destined for high-quality herbal infusions. (It’s 99 miles away! Really glad it just makes our 100-mile cutoff.) Their elderflower tea makes a delicately sweet, floral beverage with a lightly creamy mouth-feel that’s perfect for warming up on a wintry day.
We love our local New England produce. Red Fire Farm (Granby), Sweet Autumn Farm (Carlisle), and Joe Czajkowski Farm (Hadley) all fall within 100 miles of Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge, and bring in some of the best produce items year round. As we get closer to spring and summer, we can’t wait for Red Fire’s French breakfast radishes, Joe Czajkowski’s ramps and fiddleheads, and Sweet Autumn Farm’s duck eggs and specialty produce like green eggplant. Just outside our 100-mile mark, on the border with Massachusetts in the Berkshires, is Sparrow Arc Farm (Copake, NY), another of our favorite local producers. Among other things we’re hoping for more fresh fava beans from them in the spring!
Perhaps even better is the upcoming local morel season! We’ll be getting some locally foraged morels from New England fungi authority Ben Maleson (the exact location of the miraculous local treats is a well kept secret, but we’ve got an inkling they’re just within Boston’s city limits). Another amazing local resource is Four Star Farms (Northfield). We source locally grown wheat flour, corn meal, wheat berries and other grains from this sustainability-focused farm.
Though eyes usually dart to baguettes, ciabatta and other mainstays of the bread counter, I really like taking home Dan’s Brick Oven Bread (Richmond, NH), especially his original desem loaf. Desem refers to a whole wheat sourdough starter, and from the aforementioned brick oven up in Richmond, New Hampshire, Dan stone mills heirloom grains for his flours and turns out gorgeous, dark round loaves made with this natural leavening agent. The resulting bread is dense and nutty, full of satisfying whole-grain texture and a slightly tangy flavor. Because it’s a sourdough bread, it keeps very well, too. It goes with all the winter soups I’ve been making for dinner, but also holds its own with salted butter or as a healthy take on a grilled cheese. See if you can snap one of these up when they first come in! (Usually Wednesdays and Saturdays.)
No list of local specialties would be complete without a mention of the incredible things we make in-house. All of Alice’s baked goods and pastries, Julie’s charcuterie, Eduardo’s homemade dinner each weeknight, a plethora of from-scratch deli salads and just-made sandwiches, and our seasonal Saturday BBQs begin and end right here at FK, and they feature New England ingredients like meats from PT Farm (North Haverill, NH) and Misty Knoll Farms (New Haven, VT) (both just a little over the 100-mile circuit) and local milk and cream from Thatcher Farm (Milton).
Eating local never tasted so good!
For more locally made treats, look for other staff favorites, including: Lakota Bakery cookies (Arlington), EH Chocolatier bonbons (Somerville), Effie’s Homemade crackers (Hyde Park), Kayak Cookies‘ Salty Oats Cookies (Hyannis), Somerville Chocolate bars (Somerville), Fastachi roasted and mixed nuts (Watertown), Iggy’s breads and croissants (Cambridge, MA), and breads from Clear Flour Bakery (Brookline) and Pain D’Avignon (Hyannis).
Leah Wang is still a farmer in Maine (in her heart and mind), but loves being a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.