Thanksgiving at the Ricig homestead this year was quite a success. Everyone pitched in and we enjoyed quite a lot of local fair. I’ll try and give you some of the highlights.

Mike and I arrived around 12:30 and we were just about the last ones to the party. Sissy and Jason had arrived the night before from Boston. My mom’s side of the family, the Meehan’s, my uncle John, Aunt Ida, and cousins Lauren and Kelsey, drove up from New Jersey as did my Uncle Vito on my Dad’s side. Mike, my brother, and his wife, Kari, live just a few miles away in the same town as my parents. They arrived with their dog bungee after all three finished running the local Turkey Trot. My other brother Jeff came from Clinton, though he had been by earlier in the week to help my dad bring up all extra needed chairs and tables from the basement. And my honorary third brother Sheil trickled in just after Mike and I. Fifteen in all!

Now that you know all the players, let’s get on to the local food and drink. I wasted no time recruiting Jason to help me start a wine tasting of a few local red wines from Priam Vineyards. The idea was to pick which red and which white to feature at my upcoming wedding. Spoiler alert: we never made it to the whites (but there’s always Christmas). We did, however, sample Priam’s St. Croix, Westchester Red, and Salmon River Red. The Salmon River Red turned out to be everyone’s favorite. Though Mike and I were leaning towards the Westchester, it was just a little too much on the sweet side and we had already settled on Priam Blackledge Rose for those who like a sweeter wine.

Jason setting up the wine tasting.

Jason setting up the wine tasting.


After that we moved on to tasting the homebrew Mike had prepared as a potential beer for our wedding. It was a variation on one of our favorite Dogfish Head beers, brewed with cherry concentrate, saffron, Irish moss and a hefty amount of Swords into Plowshares local honey. It was a hit all around and Mike will probably have to brew another batch because I’m not so sure it’s going to last until May!

In between tastings my brother Jeff was outside frying the local turkey from Gozzi’s Turkey farm. We feature two turkeys at the Ricig family thanksgiving, a large one that is deep fried and a small one that is cooked in a clay top pot, which produces delicious moist fall off the bone meat.

Jeff preparing the deep fried turkey.

Dad getting ready to carve the deliciously moist clay pot turkey.

My dad got to work carving the turkeys around 3 while the rest of us got to work preparing all the trimmings to be ready for the table. We spend a lot of the Holiday standing around the big center island in my parent’s house sneaking crisp delicious golden pieces of turkey from the carving board and fresh from the bird stuffing before it makes it to the table.

When we do finally make to long dining table that’s expanded along with our family we start off with a curried butternut squash soup. Mike and I had headed over to the parents’ house the weekend before to prepare it with some local squash from a friend’s garden. Once we finish the soup we get down to business. Not all the ingredients are local, but pretty much everyone pitches in and brings something so it’s quite a feast.

The table is set.

Besides the soup, at the main meal the local highlights were the Turkey from Gozzi’s. Apple sauce we canned ahead of time with a medley of local apples from Bishops Orchard, and fresh baked from scratch rolls accompanied with (local) honey butter provided by Kari.

After the meal we usually retire for some napping/football watching/dog walking before we bring out the pies.

This year Sissy provided a deliciously spiced pumpkin pie made with local Massachusetts pumpkins and various other local ingredients that she will hopefully tell you all about in a guest post. While not local, Kari made a mean peanut butter chocolate pie that I’m pretty sure was the only dessert to be completely killed that night. And I made my traditional huge deep dish apple pie made from a trio of local Bishops apples and some mini lemon tartlets, that while not local do involve the best lemon curd ever and provide endless amusement centered around the word tartlet. Seriously, we find the strangest things hilarious.


Recipes to follow next week, hopefully in time for Christmas. For now enjoy the pics!

Oil and Vinegar, Onions and Garlic

Today’s post is about my most favorite summer side dish in the whole wide world. It’s a family tradition and it’s easy to make. In my family we call it tomato salad. In its most simple form in consists of tomatoes, onions, olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a touch of salt and pepper for good measure. In a fancier form, we sometimes add fresh mozzarella and basil. Nothing more. And it is delicious.

It’s perfect for locallykatered because it uses readily available local ingredients that I usually have an abundance of it. You have to understand, my family originally hails from New Jersey and our last name ends in a vowel (though to be fair my siblings and I are not 100% Italian, we are a 50/50 mix of Italian and Irish).  But still I’m pretty sure that being from New Jersey and that 50% Italian requires us by law to reserve 75% of any backyard garden for growing at least three different varieties of tomatoes – beefsteak, plum, and whatever wildcard variety your particular family desires, in our family, cherry.

Also a law, there must be onions and garlic in the pantry at all times. It’s like a travesty if we don’t have onions and garlic. I don’t know how I’ve ever gotten anyone to kiss me as onions and garlic go into just about every meal I make. Every time we go grocery shopping Mike is like — really, more onions and garlic? Didn’t you make me stop on the way home for onions and garlic yesterday? Yes Mike I probably did – but I just want to make sure were covered. I think I have him trained well enough now that he just picks up garlic and onions even if they are not on the list I give him.

There are lots of laws regarding foodstuffs in the Ricigliano household, i.e. at least five different varieties of mustard must be on hand at all time, ketchup must be bought in bulk, etc. For the purpose of this post we are going to talk about the oil and vinegar standards that must be up held. I am pretty sure that if you were to look in the kitchens of my parents, my sister, at least one of my brothers, and my own you would find about ten different varieties/flavors of oil and vinegar. The most oft used ones being olive oil and balsamic vinegar. So you can imagine my dismay when I first tried to cook for Mike at his place and found he only had canola oil and distilled white vinegar. The vinegar was only around for cleaning purposes. It was total culture shock. How do you not have at least three types of vinegar?

Now that you have all that information about my family’s kitchen cabinet contents, let’s get to what this blog is really about-recipes with local ingredients. Thanks to my dad’s garden, my CSA from Bishop’s Orchard, my mom’s planted herb garden, and my upstairs neighbor’s (also Italian) garden I had quite the plethora of locally grown tomatoes, onions and basil. So tomato salad was on the menu at least four nights a week this summer.

As an added bonus, and also what this blog is really about, I stumbled upon a new specialty food store opening up in my current hometown of Branford while sampling their wares at the Bishops wine fest. About a week or so later Mike and I were returning from another winery visit and we drove by the store. Actually we wouldn’t have driven by the store if it weren’t for the fact that all summer long Burger King was offering 50 cent soft serve cones, and vanilla soft-serve in the summertime is my Achilles heel, so I took full advantage of that offer whenever possible. I’m not ashamed to admit I double fisted it once or twice.

But back to the specialty food store- What type of specialty food store was it you ask? Well it was an entire store dedicated to infused olive oils and balsamic vinegar! It’s called the Old Quarry Olive Oil Co., and let me tell you they have a huge selection.

So Mike and I wandered into the store, as I had a coupon from the wine fest, and I was overwhelmed by how many different flavors of oil and vinegar there were for me to taste. I turned to mike and said this is going to take a while. And it did. The owner was wonderful and full of information. He was also very accommodating and patient as I tasted just about all of each infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar they had to offer. I settled on two of each, black cherry and blackberry ginger for the balsamic, and garlic and lemon for the olive oil. 

Old Quarry Olive Oil Co.

Now here is the thing about infused oils and vinegars, in my opinion the extra expense is not worth it if you are going to be cooking with them. Mostly because the high heat causes the flavor extracts to evaporate. They are however, wonderful for marinades and dressings and for my most favorite, dipping wonderfully crusty fresh bread. So seeing as I had pretty much busted the budget on fancy condiments that we really didn’t need I had to find ways to put them to good use to justify the expense.

The first of which was the very simple tomato and onion salad. I dressed it with the black cherry balsamic vinegar and the garlic olive oil. I also added lots of fresh basil, minced garlic, a snip of fresh oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. The result was absolute Italian Garden deliciousness!

tomato saladI know that was a very lot of words for a very simple recipe, but come back tomorrow and I will give you a slightly more involved recipe including the blackberry ginger vinegar and lemon olive oil.

If you’re in the Branford area, I suggest stopping by the Old Quarry Olive Oil Co. and sampling until your heart’s content. Just be prepared ahead of time to spend some money.


When I first started dating Mike and I was taking  inventory of his kitchen to see what he had and what I would have to bring to be able to cook there without getting frustrated I came across a heart shaped pancake mold. Now first I bet you are thinking, Kate you are a crazypants, what were you doing searching around in Mike’s kitchen like you owned the place in the early stages of the relationship. But that’s just how I roll. I woo my men with my culinary skills and I need to know what I have to work with. It might be slightly crazy, but Mike didn’t mind as he enjoyed being cooked for.

Also Mike’s kitchen was a mess of hand me down utensils and pots and pans and none of them were in that great a shape.  When we did move in together he had to go to some professory conference right after the move so I took that chance to donate a lot of stuff to good will.

Now it’s not like I don’t have a lot of kitchen stuff.  But in my defense I was a professional baker for awhile and also for awhile my mom worked for a mail order culinary supply store, so combine that with my love to cook and yes I have a lot of kitchen tools and what not, but I use them all, which is key.

Actually My Sissy and her husband, Jason came to see the new apartment last weekend and Amy commented on our use of IKEA products to maximize storage space — which we did get very creative with.  And Jason pointed out that it is necessary to maximize kitchen storage when you are living with a Ricigliano woman as we come with a lot of kitchen stuff.  So I guess it runs in the family.  You should see my mom’s kitchen!

Here is a picture of our creative IKEA storage.  The table is the best because it can fold down to be like six inches wide or fold out to be a full size table that can seat six.  Awesome buy.

Anyway back to the heart shaped pancake mold, which it turns out, was given to Mike by his mom.  Which obviously led to me requesting heart shaped pancakes. Mike complied because he is that kind of a guy, though they did come from a mix — baby steps — eventually I’ll have him making them from scratch.

When we moved into the new apartment and I came across the heart shaped mold again I decided to return the favor.   Mike got a breakfast in bed of heart shaped whole wheat pancakes topped with sautéed local apples, local cider (both from Bishop’s Orchard), and apple maple chicken sausage.  The syrup was local as well. I’d like to say that Mike is spoiled, but he probably ended up cleaning up after me because messy is also how I roll, so trade off.

Here is the recipe for the pancakes:

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour 2 eggs
½ cup cake flour 1 ½ cups buttermilk
2 tsp baking powder 1 ½ cups apple cider
1 tsp baking soda 4 Tbs butter, melted
½ tsp salt ½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
small pinch nutmeg
3 Tbs brown sugar

First I sift the dry ingredients together in one bowl

Then I beat the eggs in another and whisk in the buttermilk, cider, melted butter and vanilla

Then I add the dry to the wet and mix until just combined.

Here is the recipe for the topping:

1 package apple maple chicken sausage sliced (I use alfresco:

2-3 apples diced

¼ cup apple cider

¼ cup maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 Tbs butter or olive oil for sautéing.

Pretty much I just throw the cut up apples skins and all in the pan with either a little butter or olive oil, let them sauté for a bit and then add the cider and syrup and spices so everything gets a nice glaze. I like it to be a little juicy because this way you don’t really need any more syrup on the pancakes, but it’s really personal preference.

I’ve learned to put the pancakes on a baking sheet and put them in a slightly warm oven to keep them hot while I baking them off.  Also I make the topping first and just let that simmer while I’m making the pancakes.

So there you go, a pretty good fall breakfast and a good use of unnecessary but enjoyably whimsical kitchen gadgets!


OK, so I know it’s been a long hiatus, but life just got in the way. It was a little overwhelming trying to start a blog at the same time that I was moving into a new apartment, and also planning a wedding, and in a horrible fog of another Lyme flair up, and you know all the other fun life events that get thrown in there.

I sort of rushed things on the blog because it was summertime and I wanted to be sharing recipes and farm/winery visits in real time, but things just didn’t work out that way. It was hard enough to get the visits in and with all the other stuff that was going on. So the blog is going to be revamped a bit and mostly focus on recipes that use local ingredients, some that are currently available, some that were available at the time I made the recipes, and some that are available all year long.

I’m still going to do the winery and farm reviews; in fact, I have a couple of partial drafts from visits I made this summer. They may be a little out of season, but hopefully they will give us all something to look forward to when the weather starts to turn and we all start wondering if Spring is actually going to come again. I’m also hoping to do some reviews of restaurants and bakeries, and maybe even some food carts. There are more and more finding ways to incorporate a little bit of local into their businesses.

So really I am loosening up the definition of this blog to fit my life a little better. Plus, those winery visits were starting to get a little expensive as it is much easier to convince yourself that you can pay $13.00/lb for some fancy cheese after you’ve tasted about 12 different wines. Also- some things to look forward too, get excited for a feast of homegrown Thanksgiving recipes. It’s my family’s favorite holiday and I’m hoping to add a bunch of local touches!

So stay tuned and hopefully there will be lots of good stuff to come!

A Confession

This post is more of a confession than anything else really. Because I’ve been feeling so damn anxious about not having time to post every day with some lovely new recipe from my CSA , or a review of the incredible vineyards I’ve been visiting over the weekends. And I have gone to some truly amazing farms and vineyards and met some really spectacular passionate people who love what they do and the products they are making. And I have a lot of stories to tell, that will eventually come out, just not as fast as I would like probably because life gets in the way. But I do want to thank all the people that have made my summer such an exploratory and flavorful experience.

I kind of got overwhelmed with things and started to feel sad for myself that the tens of people who are reading my blog are not really giving the wonderful people and products I’ve been writing about the exposure they deserve.

This week I am going to be doing a few posts about Bishop’s Orchard winery. And while I was thinking about how to describe the Bishop’s experience, it got me thinking about why I really like the Connecticut wine trail. The truth is, I don’t know much about wine. I’m really just starting to learn. To be perfectly honest, I don’t go on the tastings because I am really all that interested in the wine per say. It’s more about the experience for me. Visiting vineyards in Connecticut is a fun way to get the agro-tourism experience. You get to be outside, you get to see things growing, you get to try a little of this and a little of that. Usually the wineries will have a few other local products for sale from other farms, vineyards, dairies, etc., around the state. So you learn about this cheese from this dairy and this jam made with fruit from this other farm that spreads nicely on this fresh bread from this local bakery. And maybe you go and visit the sugar house that made the maple syrup that was next to the honey from a local apiary. All of a sudden there are a million places to visit a million local products to try and all this fresh produce to take home and experiment with. And you go nuts and decide to try and catalogue it all in blog. And then you go nuts again about not being able to keep up with it all!

McLaughlin Vineyard

What I like most about McLaughlin Vineyard is that it feels like it’s nestled away in the middle of the woods, which I suppose it somewhat actually is. The 15 acres of vineyard hosts two miles of an eleven mile trail system, which offers scenic hiking and is also a bald eagle sanctuary. Mid-December through Mid-March is eagle watching season. I did my tasting with Deedee, the tasting room manager, and she excitedly talked about having viewed a rare golden eagle, the first anyone can remember in the past 20 years.

The vineyard offers a selection of four white, and three red ones. The highlights for me were the Blue Coyote, one of their estate wines which I found to be a very drinkable nice crisp and tangy, light and refreshing white wine. I also enjoyed their Red Fox Rose, I found it to have an enjoyable subtle sweetness too it, falling somewhere between what I would describe as sweet and dry. Dee called it a very versatile wine that paired well with grilled meats, as well as raw veggies and salad.

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I was pleasantly surprised to discover that McLaughlin also produces maple syrup from February to March, and recently expanded to being an apiary as well, producing fresh honey, the key ingredient in the meads they were to launch a couple of weeks after my visit.

I’ve always been intrigued by mead, I mean the idea of fermented honey can’t help but cause me to want to make references to the nectar of the gods. Awesomely, they launched their mead along with  a traveling Shakespearean company production of one of my favorite Shakespeare faursts, Much Ado About Nothing, which also gave name to one of the two new meads they’ve created –  much ado about mead – and also a more traditional braggart mead, common to the era of the bard himself. Unfortunately, I had family visiting that weekend and missed out on the play and the mead. Hopefully, they will do it again sometime. I’m not sure if the meads are available for purchase yet, or even if they will be to buy on a regular basis.


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All in all I would suggest taking a whole day to visit McLaughlin Vineyards. Start off with a hike and maybe do a little bird watching if it’s the correct season. Move on to the tasting room for a very attentive and informative pouring; and whether you pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on their beautiful grounds along with your new favorite wine, or pick up some local foodie delights they offer in their country store you are sure to enjoy.

Dee was nice enough to share a recipe for a cold shrimp dish that pairs well with both of my favorites, the Cayuga White and the Red fox rose. I prepared it for Mike who thoroughly enjoyed and requested it become a regular dinner rotation. Which was fine with me since it was super easy to make. The recipe can be found in the websites food pairing link at the bottom of the page:

I adopted it a bit, substituting my own spice mix in place of the Good season’s mix. Instead I added 3 cloves minced garlic, a Tbs. of onion powder, a pinch of both cumin and paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. For veggies, I used summer squash and zucchini that I had on hand from a friend’s garden, and a red onion. I also marinated the shrimp and veggies separately for a few hours. Then I sautéed the shrimp and entire marinating mixture in a frying pan. While in a separate pan I sautéed the vegetables until they were slightly tender, and tossed everything together in a bowl to serve. As I mentioned in the previous post, Mike and I enjoyed it with a side dish of the cranberry bean dip, some pita chips, and of course, the Red Fox Rose.

Cranberry Bean Smush

Time for another recipe with ingredients from my CSA offerings: CSA Cranberry Bean Smush

Last week some cranberry beans, also known as shelling beans or, gorlotti beans, or some other names depending on who you ask, showed up in our Bishop’s Orchard CSA share.

Whatever name you give them both the beans and the pods are light beige color that is mottled with a cranberry red streak. I thought they were very pretty to look at, but had no idea what to do with them.

I looked up some recipes that suggested sautéing them with some other ve

getables and serving them as a light summer side dish. Sounded good, but I wanted to make something I could store for later use and I wasn’t so sure how receptive Mike would be to eating what looks like speckled red lima beans. Actually, since I share the CSA with my parents there resemblance to lima beans, which my mom hates, led to her giving me too big bunches of them for just me and Mike.

Being a lover of hummus and other squished bean dips I quickly found a few recipes for cranberry bean “hummus” (side note my sister likes to point out to me all the time that it is not technically hummus if chick peas are not involved, hence the quotations) and took elements from a couple of them to create my own cranberry bean dip. I was intrigued by one recipe that listed a spice called sumuc as one of the ingredients, but sadly several calls and visits to specialty markets left me empty handed and I was in too much of a rush to wait for it to come in by mail order. Though I did order some and plan on experimenting with it at some point. If anyone out there has ever used sumuc, I’d love to know what you did with it. My research made it seem like a very versatile spice that paired well with a number of things.

But back to the cranberry beans. I used the idea from one recipe of incorporating zucchini, which I also happened to have on hand from a neighbors garden and substituted cumin in place of the sumac.

cranberry bean smush

Here is the recipe I came up with:

8 oz. shelled cranberry beans

1/2 of a white onion (I had left over from a previous CSA share)

2 medium sized zucchinis

1/4 cup tahini

2 Tbs. olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic

1 lemon zested and juiced

salt and pepper to taste


First, I put the shelled beans and roughly chopped onion in a pan and covered it with water. I brought that to a boil and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

While that was going on, I sliced the zucchini in rounds, brushed them with olive oil on both sides, and sautéed them for a few minutes on each side until they were slightly browned.

I strained the beans and onions and removed the zucchini from the pan and put it in the fridge to cool down while I zested my lemon and peeled my garlic.

Then I put the cooked but now cooled beans, onions, and zucchini in my food processer; added the lemon zest and juice, tahini, olive oil and cumin, and processed it until it was smooth and creamy. I added salt and pepper to taste and pulsed it all a few more times.

The Cranberry beans had a nutty richness which was nicely offset by the lighter zucchini flavor. I would say it was a huge success as it introduced me to a new legume and is a recipe I will definitely make again. I probably never would have sought out cranberry beans had they not happened to show up in my CSA. Which is one of the things I like best about the whole CSA experience in general; being introduced to new locally available produce and being pleasantly surprised with what you find. Next time I see  cranberry beans at my local farmers’ market, I will likely pick some up and try new ways to enjoy them

I served the CSA Smush with pita chips as an appetizer before a shrimp dish, which was a suggested wine paring during a recent visit to McLaughlin Vineyards. Check back tomorrow for the recipe and my review of the vineyard.

A Rhapsody and Serenade at Jones Winery

Jones Winery is unique in that it calls itself a family friendly winery.  Considering it is connected to the Jones Family Farm, famous for their pick-your-own berries in the summer, Christmas trees in the winter, and Harvest kitchen, a farm to table cooking studio that offers classes throughout all the seasons, this makes sense. During my visit I talked to one of the tasting room hosts, David, who told me Jones family first and foremost is about educating people, about eating healthy from the land, and giving people the chance to have this unique experience that is dying in this country.   He proudly pointed out the motto on the back of the Jones Farm employee shirt, “be good to the land and the land will be good to you”.

To keep the farm family friendly, the tasting room and patio which are centrally located on the farm do not allow open bottles on the premises; they do sell their wines by the glass but limit each guest to two glasses per visit. They also do not allow outside food but sell local cheeses and other light fair.

This is the kind of place you want visit for a family outing where the kids can go berry picking or enjoy many other fun things the farm has to offer.  This is not the winery you want to visit if you plan on spending an afternoon picnicking and letting the wine flow freely.  That being said, it is still quite a wonderful experience for anyone who enjoys fresh and delicious products. . The farm itself is beautiful.   It is also kid friendly.  While I was there a lot of parents with young kids came in to do tasting after having entertained the young ones with berry picking. Kids can often feel out of place at some of the wineries.

Now that I’ve given you some idea what to expect on your visit it’s time to talk about the wines.  Jones carries a mixture of fruit wines as well as the more traditional grape wine.   David personally poured my tasting and was nice enough to answer all my questions. He explained that Jamie Jones, the 6th and most recent generation of Jones farmers to add something new and unique to the farm started planting grapes for the vineyard in 1999, though the first wines were not sold until 2004.

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Jones offers 11 or so wines, though I think that varies on availability. Most of the wines available are either 100% estate or Connecticut grown. I highlight a few that I liked, but check out their wine list for more details.

I enjoyed their Pinto Gris which is entirely locally grown. Pinot Gris is usually my white wine of choice and this one is very pleasant, it was light and not too sweet.  David mentioned the pinot was the farms signature grape, and that they had the most success with growing the pinot and the cabernet franc grapes. This brings us to another one of my favorites:  the Rose of Cabernet Franc. I thought it would be a great summertime choice for red wine drinkers as it was more dry than sweet.

A good dessert wine was the Raspberry Rhapsody, which they paired with a dark chocolate during the tasting. What intrigued me most about the wine was that David mentioned he uses it in his brownie recipe. While, I sadly forgot to pick up a bottle during my trip, I plan to purchase one on my next visit and incorporate it in a new baking experiment, possibly a flowerless chocolate cake, or rich chocolate mousse.

Last but not least of my favs I experienced in the tasting is the Strawberry Serenade. It’s a sparkling wine, and what can I say, I love my bubbly! I’m trying to convince Mike that we need to buy a case of this for the champagne toast at our wedding.

While it wasn’t available yet when I visited the tasting room, I did get to try one of Jones’ newest wines at the Shoreline Wine Festival (which I hope to recap later this month). The recently created a summer red called Beacon Light No. 8,is named for an historic light tower that was in a series which guided planes from New York to Boston in the 1930’s and was at one time located nearby the vineyard.

Overall Mike and I had a lot of fun visiting Jones winery. Though I think next time I will plan ahead and see what else is going on. Their harvest kitchen hosts cooking classes and wine pairing dinners throughout the year, they hold a seasonal farmers Market on Friday’s and in the summer and fall some type of pick your own is usually going on. Check the website for more details on events.

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A Few Sips at White Silo

I’ve discovered through my visits to wineries on the wine trail that each one is unique and it’s usually hard to tell through their websites what the experience will be like. One of the things I really set out to accomplish with these reviews is to give my readers an idea of the personal feel of the wineries and what to expect if you want to plan a day trip and get a chance to soak in everything each place has to offer.  I know some people just want to do a tasting, get their passport stamped and move on to the next one. But for me it’s really more of planning an enjoyable day trip and getting to take in some tastes and scenery.

I visited three wineries in one day, which was a bit ambitious, but I had mike along to keep me in line. That weekend happened to be the same day as the Goshen wine fest, and I lucked out because all of the tasting rooms were less busy, and each still had someone very informative and knowledgeable about their products available to talk with me without the usual crazy distractions of a normal weekend on the wine trail as most of the regular wine trail tourists were over at the festival. This meant I got in a lot of good face to face interview time and probably more of a tour than I would have on a normal weekend.

First on the list:   White Silo — it was definitely a long trek from Branford, but I am so glad that I made it. This one definitely fills the unique bill.  One of the things I am really enjoying about this whole process is the people that I get to meet and talk with.  In my experience it’s always interesting when the topic is one that the person is passionate about.  At White Silo I met with Ralph, the current owner of the winery/farm.

Ralph was a unique character himself, and loaded with information about the winery and its history.  He used to work as an engineer, and bought the farm in 1985 after retiring from a community college teaching position.  The farm started out as a pick-your-own type, but that proved to be less economical ,and he was about to pack it all in 12 years ago when he got a call from Cornell University about a program working with small scale fruit farmers to set up wineries.

The winery has evolved a lot since its inception but it is still a fairly simple “three man operation” as he describes it. They make mostly fruit wines, and have the only rhubarb wine I’ve encountered so far on the trail. I got a close up view of it as he invited Mike and me in to see view the product in its various stages of fermentation. The final product was crystal clear and made for a very enjoyable and drinkable table wine.

We got quite a tour and a definite education on the wine making process before we stared the tasting. He showed Mike and me around the fermentation room, encouraging other visitors to take a look as well, mentioning that they had no secrets — everything is done by hand.  It is definitely a family operation. Ralph talked excitably about his son’s plans to start growing more grapes and including some more traditional wines in the future.

The winery allows outside food for picnics and has tables fitted with umbrellas set up in their outdoor garden overlooking the winery.  If you don’t want to bring your own food, boxed lunches are available but must be purchased in advance. However cheese plates are available for those who didn’t plan ahead.

As we walked outside to view some of the crops, Ralph gestured to picnickers on the hillside above.  He noticed they were swatting flies away and let them know he had a supply of straw hats available and promised they would keep away the bugs as they did not like flying underneath the brim.

The farm is small and has had various incarnations dating back to 1935, when it was a dairy farm. Ralph remains committed to keeping the farm growing no matter what Mother Nature has to through at him. He talked about pest control and remains committed to using as little chemical as possible, as he put it, “It can’t be good for the person spraying, and it can’t be good for the people eating”.  He proudly showed me the thorn-less blackberries bushes, and encouraged us to come back on August 17TH  for their annual blackberry festival.

On to the wine tasting; the tasting room features beautiful handcrafted wood tables form a local carpenter and displays pieces by a number of local artists. Ralph personally poured our tasting but took care not give Mike too much as he was driving.  I was pretty charmed by the personal consideration.  They make a dry and semi-sweet version of each of their fruit wines, rhubarb, blackberry, raspberry and black current.  They also make two dry grape wines, the Upland Red, and Ralph’s personal favorite the Upland White. They also feature a sparkling raspberry wine and a White Silo Sangria, a mixture of either the dry Rhubarb or Upland White, and the Sweet Blackberry. You can purchase a glass to enjoy at the winery, or the two wines are sold as a set to mixed together at your convenience as Ralph feels that the Sangria is best when made fresh.

My favorites were the dry rhubarb; which was a very refreshing summertime wine. I also liked the semi-sweet variety of the black currant.  The Cassis, which Ralph mentioned was popular with his European customers as a digestive or Aperitif.  Being a fan of all things that sparkle, I also enjoyed the Sparkling Raspberry which was like drinking a fizzy fresh raspberry and not all overly sweet.

On our way out Mike and I purchased a bottle of the sparkling wine, which Ralph encouraged us to save for a romantic evening as once it was open, it would be best to finish off the bottle to keep it from going flat. Not that finishing off a bottle of sparkling wine is something with which I have a problem.

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Two Peas in a Pod Soup

I got a lot of peas in my CSA for a few weeks, both sugar snap, and shelling peas. While I love them both raw, I was in the middle of moving and had to find a way to use what I had left before it was time to pack up the kitchen stuff. The result: Two Peas in a Pod Soup. I’m a sucker for clever names, whenever I get a pedicure, I have to read through all the names on the OPI nail polish and usually choose one based on whatever whitty name tickles my fancy rather than color.

I’ve often wished I knew how one goes about getting a job naming things like nail polish, paint, and color swatches. When I was roommates during some of my time in New Orleans with my friend Jeff (from the last post), we decided to paint each room a different color. Our favorite was the living room which was a very bright shade called curious blue. We spent a lot of time sitting in that room and saying to each other “Are you looking at my blue? It’s curious!” and giggling. It may have been that we breathed in too many paint fumes as it was August and we were experiencing a whole new level of heat and humidity and thought it best to paint with the windows closed and the air conditioner running.

That was my long winded way of getting to how I named my soup. Mike, my husband to be and resident sous chef these days, was helping me shell the English peas and when we found one with just two peas we got all mushy and joked about how they were two peas in a pod, just like us. I know it’s beyond cheesy, but cut us some slack we’re newly engaged and incredibly silly.

But on to the recipe…

½ lb. sugar snap peas, strings and tips removed

½ lb. shelled English peas

1 diced onion

1 Tbs. olive oil

2 cloves minced garlic

1 Tbs. fresh mint

1 Tbs. fresh thyme

1 tsp. cumin

4 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion and olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. You can use a frying pan and transfer to a large enough pot later or just sauté them in the bottom of the pot. I have a wide deep cast iron pot that works well for me.

Once the onions are translucent, add the snap peas, the shelled peas, and the garlic. Sauté for about 10 minutes until the peas are soft.

Add the chicken broth, mint, thyme, cumin, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 15 minutes.

I then transferred the soup to my food processer and pureed it. However, if you do not have a food processor that is sealed for liquids DO NOT try this, it will be a huge leaky hot mess. I’ve learned that the hard way over the years. An immersion blender or regular blender will work fine.

At this point the soup can be strained for a smooth creamy style soup, but I’m a hearty type of girl and left mine the way it was. I couldn’t let all that good fiber go to waste. I think if I had strained the soup it would have been nice chilled on a hot summer day. If anyone tries it this way let me know how it comes out.

Mike and I ate it hot with one a loaf of peasant bread from local bakery Judies in New Haven. The bread is amazing buttery and salty and extra crusty, just the way I like it!