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CAPTURE CREATIVE CONNECTICUT FOOD AND FARM PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY FOR THE AGRICULTURAL AND FOOD SERVICE INDUSTRIES

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NORA CUPCAKE COMPANY

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in this issue

6 20 44 62 84 100 112

HEIRLOOM MARKET

JENNA TOTH

THE HOUSE THAT COFFEE BUILT:

ERICA BUEHLER

ECO CRAFTS COFFEE

BLACK WALNUT

THE LITTLE BREAD BAKERY THAT COULD:

GENA GOLAS

FARM BABY

MEGAN JOHNSON

HOOTENANNY: NEW CT FARMERS UNITE!

WILL O’MEARA

VINTAGE, TABLE AND BREWS:

DAVE MARCOUX AND CARA MARCOUX

BRIDGEPORT

FIZZY, FERMENTED LOVE:

KOMBUCHA

MICHELE MORCEY

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LOOKING UP BY LISA STONE KIM

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SPRING 2019 | VOLUME 16

126 142 152 168 184 202 222

A TALE OF TANTALIZING TASTES

COURTNEY SQUIRE

SUGAR & SMOKE BRAZEN BBQ

BEING BRIGAID:

REINVENTING SCHOOL LUNCH

DAN SALISBURY

STREGA

COURTNEY SQUIRE

FRESH PASTA AND SPRING HERB SAUCES

CARLOS PEREZ

BY MOONSONG: FOOD REIMAGINED

WESLEY BARRINGTON AND ANGELINE CHIANG

CO-OP SEW-IN

WINTER CAPLANSON

JERSEY WOOLIES:

MORE THAN JUST CUTE

HEATHER LAFFIN

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Fizzy,

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Love: Fermented

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on Tap at Danbury’s Cross Culture BY MICHELE MORCEY JOHN SHYLOSKI PHOTOS

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W

ith its fizzy essence, tartsweet zing on the tongue and subtle notes of whatever fruit or herb it’s been infused with, kombucha is easing into the “mocktail” scene without overtly being the drink solely of nondrinkers. That’s what’s happening at Cross Culture Kombucha in Danbury, where the fermented tea drink - with roots that date to ancient China - is brewed onsite and offered on draft in a snug taproom. It’s the first space of its kind in Connecticut, and offers some of the same social camaraderie afforded by a small craft brewery or wine bar. Liz and Ian Ceppos, owners of Cross Culture Kombucha, began several years ago as self-taught home brewers, a process that swiftly turned into an obsession for Ian. “My brother showed up to dinner with a jug, and we both tried it,” says Liz. “Ian went crazy making it, and it became a big-time hobby. Soon he was making kombucha in five gallon jugs and a wine fermenter.” Both Cepposes got into making their own kombucha, which they shared with friends. The home-brewing process is simple: tea, water and sugar are introduced to a live culture, called a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). This pliable, fleshy, brownish-grey patty of yeast and bacteria floats atop the liquid in a container to which it adapts its shape and leads the fermentation process, turning sweet tea into a drink that’s effervescent and defies any one description, but leans toward a taste akin to sparkling apple cider.

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“We use fresh, simple ingredients and focus on the tea blends.”

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“With its fizzy essence, tart-sweet zing o fruit or herb it’s been infused with, komb without overtly being the dr

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on the tongue and subtle notes of whatever bucha is easing into the “mocktail” scene rink solely of nondrinkers.”

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In covering the liquid, the SCOBY “mother” makes a sort of seal and eventually increases in thickness, spawning layers of “babies” that can be peeled away and used to brew new batches of kombucha. The SCOBY does its thing converting sugar to acids, and in a week or two, a naturally carbonated drink emerges that’s rich in probiotics and full of good bacteria and B vitamins. Liz says she and Ian joked about starting a kombucha company, and somehow the stars aligned: Liz was in the midst of a job change, she drew up a business plan, found a kitchen and they got to it. The couple secured a shared commercial space in spring 2017 and launched their brand from it that May, once all approvals were in place. They got their product out at a few cafés and became regulars at the Fairfield and Westport farmers’ markets. And so it followed in September 2018: Cross Culture Kombucha taproom and brewery opened on Division Street in Danbury. “We knew one spot had it on tap in Brookfield, but the kombucha wasn’t locally made,” says Liz. “We thought it would be cool to have it as an option alongside all the places serving craft beers and ciders.”

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“Flavors like summery jalapeñowatermelon and gingermint-blueberry infusions allow the company to get creative with what’s in season.”

Their storefront bar area has a mixed industrial vibe, with a wood-topped bar and a few stools. Spouts are at the ready to dispense rotating flavors, like original green tea, Earl Grey, hibiscus elderberry and the rap-inspired “Boogie Down Black,” made with Chinese black tea and “Hip-Hops,” which drinks like a hoppy beer with a hint of grapefruit.

ready one can hear a bit of bubbling in there. A simple taste test is used to see if the kombucha is potable. Too sweet and low acidity? Probably needs a little more time. Vinegary? The batch has gone too long. Liz says much of the process involves playing around, and kombucha itself allows for a good amount of experimentation, like the time she tried to devise a brew that would recall the classic Paloma cocktail.

In Cross Culture’s temperaturecontrolled brew room, the liquid in 12 silver tanks is covered with breathable cloth and stuck with decals of hip-hop and rap artists like Biggie Smalls, Lauren Hill, Ice Cube and the Beastie Boys (Ian is a huge fan). The liquid is always in various states of fermentation, some so close to being

“I made a batch with lime and grapefruit and was disappointed to find it tasted terrible!” she says. “I couldn’t bear to throw it away, so I stashed it in the fridge. I tasted it three weeks later to find it had mellowed into something much more palatable that eventually made its way to the taproom for customers to enjoy.” CT FOOD & FARM / SPRING 2019


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“...sit at the bar a or a kombuc 16

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and order a 12-ounce draft cha flight of four flavors.� CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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“Spouts are at the ready to dispense rotating flavors...”

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The taproom, Liz says, is a good testing place for new ideas. Flavors like summery jalapeño-watermelon and ginger-mintblueberry infusions allow the company to get creative with what’s in season but Liz explains that it’s important not to stray too far from the base, which here includes organic teas and sugar and filtered water. “The culture needs the tea and the sugar. It needs green or black tea for the tannins and you can’t cut the sugar.” The sugar is what the SCOBY, in simplest terms, eats, so the drink’s end result is nothing like soda or juice. Guests of the taproom, which is open three days per week, can sit at the bar and order a 12-ounce draft or a kombucha flight of four flavors. They can also take reusable growlers or bottles to go (Cross Culture Kombucha encourages this practice). Early on, the Cepposes figured out how to control the level of fermentation that results in trace levels of alcohol (less than .5%, says Liz) in the finished product, especially because Ian does not drink. “We wanted to make a space that’s inclusive and not about alcohol,” says Liz. “People want something other than seltzer with lime or juice. Kombucha has more complex flavors and it’s fun. It’s pretty straightforward — we use fresh, simple ingredients and focus on the tea blends.” Cross Culture Kombucha is continuing to expand, and can now be found in 78 stores in Connecticut and New York. The brewery hosts workshops on home brewing, so people can learn the process step by step and make their own kombucha. They’re also building a team of brewers to work in the store. As spring and summer approach, visitors can look forward to food trucks that roll in and picnic tables outside for a complete food and drink experience. CT FOOD & FARM / SPRING 2019


Cross Culture Kombucha

is located at 52 Division Street in Danbury. The taproom is open on Thursday and Friday from 1 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit them online at crossculturekombucha.com. CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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Bridgepor

Vintage, T

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rt

Table and Brews

DAVE AND CARA MARCOUX WINTER CAPLANSON PHOTOS CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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Our perfect Sunday

has a pretty simple formula: good food, local beer and old stuff. In the fall of last year, we started hearing rumors of a new “antique shop” opening up in Bridgeport. If just one person had referred to it as what it really is - an antique and salvage superstore - we wouldn’t have waited six months to make the trip. Mongers Market is located at 1155 Railroad Avenue in Bridgeport. One of us is a full-time antique dealer; the other is an obsessive collector. So while antiquing is what usually leads us to new and unfamiliar locations, (e.g. Bridgeport), it’s food and drink that keep us there longer. Once we had the antique aspect of our Sunday locked down, we had to figure out our culinary plan of attack. Luckily, Mongers Market lies on the outskirts of the Black

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Rock section of Bridgeport, which offers many options. Black Rock is situated on the shores of Long Island Sound, offering the feel of a small seaside town while being part of New England’s fifth largest city. The neighborhood attracts artists, academics and young professionals looking for a small town feel and a short train ride to New York City.

back to the weekly grind. The cavernous 75,000-square foot location boasts an impressively well-organized, floor-to-ceiling collection of beautifully curated antiques, vintage pieces and architectural salvage.

Since opening in August of 2018, Mongers Market has become a destination for many: high-end interior

Immediately after we walked through the front door, we spied our colleague and owner of Mongers Market, John Hiden, hustling past us with a gaggle of shoppers at his heels. Eager customers fumbling with tape measures

designers, hipster upcyclers and DIY types with an antique aesthetic. The store’s Sunday-only hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. make it the perfect opportunity to get out of the house one last time before getting

and lists were led through the aisles, and one by one united with the items they sought (and a few things they didn’t know they needed). Looking for antique doors? Head up to the mezzanine and take your pick from several hundred, stacked like books in every color, shape

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and size imaginable. Stocking up on steamer trunks? There’s more than 100 of those as well. Of course, you’ve got your galvanized wash tubs, nautical hardware, farm sinks, porcelain signs, cast iron table bases, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera... it’s all there. After we picked our way through roughly half a football field of floor-toceiling aisles, we found ourselves among the individual dealer’s spaces. Each beautifully merchandised booth has its own distinct flavor and the “mongers” were on hand to answer questions and make deals. Vintage sweaters, fine antique jewelry, records, art, and sleek mid-century furniture are plentiful and reasonably priced. We left with a few treasures of our own and more than one thing added to our “when we have a house” wish list.

Pro tip:

Be sure to bring cargo straps and padding for that unexpected must-have item that will, of course, only fit on the roof of your car. We’ve been in that situation enough times to always be ready for anything we may find. After working up an appetite exploring every nook and cranny of Mongers Market, we made the seven minute drive to Harborview Market. Located at 218 Harborview Avenue, in the heart of Black Rock, Harborview began its life in the late 19th century as an importer of Scandinavian goods but by the early 90’s was nothing more than a run-down corner store. In 1993, the Torres family began renovations to transform the location into the cozy neighborhood hub that it is today. Even on a freezing winter day, the patio is alive with families sipping coffee and nibbling on freshly baked cookies.

If just one person had referred to it as what it really is 26

an antique and sa CT FOOD & FARM / SPRING 2019


alvage superstore CTFOODANDFARM.COM

- we wouldn’t have waited six months to make the trip. 27


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Stepping through the front door, it becomes immediately apparent why Harborview Market has remained a community staple for over 25 years. The tables are filled with people enjoying a late breakfast, and there’s a line of customers waiting for the next batch of sweets to come out of the ovens. Housemade pastries and cookies are sold so quickly that they never make it into display cases as customers help themselves right off the trays they were baked on. The kitchen is situated in the center of the room and creates an almost performative, “theater in the round” atmosphere. The cooks put out creative and delicious takes on breakfast staples like the “Son Of A Beach:” a breakfast sandwich featuring sautéed baby kale, egg, cheese, avocado, hot sauce & red onion on an English muffin (an absolute dream of a sandwich). The large breakfast menu boasts a broad selection of sandwiches, omelets, hotcakes, French toast, make-your-own Belgian waffles (personal favorite) and a yogurt and toppings bar. The lunch menu is packed with mouth-watering salad and sandwich options, including The Ratzen Burger, a nod to Black Rock native John Ratzenberger (whom you may remember as fictional postal worker Cliff Clavin on “Cheers”). And just when you thought Harborview Market couldn’t get any better, it does: no menu item is over $10.

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Our perfect Sunday has a pretty simple formula:

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good food,

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, local beer and old stuff.

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With antiquing and breakfast checked off of our Sunday ‘to do’ list, we grabbed some coffees to go and rounded out the day with a trip to our final destination: Aspetuck Brew Lab (http://www. aspetuckbrewlab.com). Located at 3389 Fairfield Avenue, the Lab was opened in 2015 by the husband and wife team of Peter and Tara Cowles, and was the first brewery to open in Bridgeport since 1940. As “chief beer scientist,” Peter

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says he approaches brewing as a science experiment. It all comes down to molecules, doesn’t it? H2O, to be precise. Peter credits the Aspetuck River watershed with providing them with exceptional brewing water, allowing them to produce clean and crisp tasting beers in a wide variety of styles. Expect a rotating selection of IPAs, pale ales, sours, barleywines and more on draught in the bright,

lab-like tap room. Make sure to check out the light fixtures made from retired laboratory glassware; you may be inspired to head back to Mongers market for some beakers and flasks of your own! The location is family friendly and they encourage patrons to bring snacks, games and spend some time there. We like to order a few beer flights to share so we can each try all the beers and choose which ones to get to go.

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“While antiquing is what usually leads us to new and unfamiliar

food and drink

locations, (e.g. Bridgeport), it’s

that keep us there longer.”

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Pro Tip:

Always keep a clean, empty growler or half-growler in your car. With the opening of so many breweries throughout the state, containers are a must-have when you find yourself in close proximity to a fresh brew.

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From antiques to delicious food and craft beer, Bridgeport is so much more than the smokestacks and grim architecture you glimpse while driving on I-95. It’s a vibrant, eclectic community with its own identity and history. Every place that we visited was filled with positive energy and happy faces. Revitalization efforts and

support for small business in recent years have paid off there in ways that make it a model community for the rest of the state. We had the itinerary for our next visit planned before we were even outside of the city limits; now we just need to narrow down that Mongers Market shopping list.

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Other notable Bridgeport and Black Rock locations: b WALRUS + CARPENTER - 2895 Fairfield Ave Black Rock, Conn. - Situated in the heart of Black Rock, Walrus + Carpenter provides a refreshing take on the cuisine of the American south. While their custom built smoker rolls low and slow out back, live tunes and bottomless cocktails flow inside during Saturday and Sunday brunch. Be on the lookout for exclusive W+C collaboration brews with Connecticut-based and other acclaimed breweries from around the country. b BREWPORT - 225 S. Frontage Bridgeport, Conn. - Pizza and fresh brewed beer done right. Housed in a 1940’s newspaper distribution warehouse, Brewport harnesses the energy of Bridgeport’s forgotten brewing history. 10,000 pounds of American-made brick oven pumps out crispy, perfectly charred thin crust pie that pairs perfectly with any one of the eight house-made beers, or any of the 15 or so rotating guest taps. b PIOUS BIRD OF GOOD OMEN - 3142 Fairfield Ave Black Rock, Conn.- This small store offers an eclectic mixture of vintage and locally made items. From handmade Swedish dish towels to card catalogs stuffed with crystals, this is the perfect place to shop for the hard-to-please person in your life. Just blocks from Walrus and Carpenter, the Pious Bird of Good Omen is a perfect destination for an after-brunch stroll. ABOUT US: Dave Marcoux is a carpenter and Co-founder of Hartford Denim Company. Cara Marcoux is the owner of Juniper Vintage.

rotating selection

“Expect a of IPAs, pale ales, sours, barleywines and more on draught in the bright, lab-like tap room.”

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“ ”

Enter APRIL, laughingly, Bl High of heart, a

~DOROTHY

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“ ”

lossoms in her tumbled hair, and fancy free.

Y PARKER

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NICOLE BEDARD PHOTO

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by Will O’Meara Lisa Nichols photos with art direction by Maria Miranda

WILL O’MEARA OF WALDINGFIELD FARM AND JILL VERZINO 44

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NEW CT FArMErs UNite!

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JESSICA WAWZYNIECKI AND MITCHEL COLGAN OF COLGAN FARM 46

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AS

the early evening crowd shuffled out of Perkatory Coffee Roasters in Middletown, the steering committee of the New CT Farmer Alliance, along with their dedicated coordinator, filed in and began buzzing around the former warehouse space. The sounds of punk still emanating from the speakers overhead matched the farmer-organizers’ tendency towards controlled chaos. For the next four hours, new, young, and aspiring farmers would gather in this space for the New CT Farmer Alliance’s Sixth Annual Hootenanny and Meeting. Tonight, the most dynamic group of farmers in the state of Connecticut would eat, drink, network, laugh, and attend to some official business, too. I have had the pleasure of serving on the steering committee of this organization for the past two years, and as its treasurer since spring of 2018. Our mission is to bring together emerging farmers from across Connecticut to network, share resources, and identify common challenges and opportunities for a more accessible, successful, and diverse

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, t m r a f h ig p of

s

the mo

"

u o r N g c O i T t dynam

f o C e o t nnecticut a t s e h t n i ers

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. . . , h g u a t would eat, drink, network, l

CHARLOTTE ROSS AND CY LARKIN OF SWEET ACRE FARM CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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agricultural community. We are one of 42 chapters of the National Young Farmers Coalition, our fiscal sponsor. As a twenty-four year old farmer entering my ninth growing season, this organization has been indispensable in my development as a farmer. NCTFA serves as the glue for a community seeking to become larger, better connected, and more influential in our state. Since 2010, we have grown our membership to over four hundred beginning farmers, evolving from a networking and community group to a well-organized advocacy group that is gearing up to take on state policy endeavors that address our needs.

that fly in the face of our current agricultural system. Farming is taxing, on body, spirit, and pocketbook. Our existence as farmers can be fraught, especially for the younger generation of farmers facing skyrocketing land prices, a persistent lack of affordable health care, student loan debt, and a quickly changing climate to boot. We do not come to this career out of sheer masochism, though we rarely shy from the difficult, dirty, or dangerous. It is precisely for these

ANd atten official bUS

Perhaps the most astounding feature of the New CT Farmer Alliance: the willingness of a bunch of tired, overworked, and often struggling farmers to gather in what little free time we have for the purpose of creating our own opportunities

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nd to soME USiness, too."

reasons that our organization remains crucial and relevant to new farmers. Our 2019 Hootenanny provided the perfect platform to address some of these challenges collectively and work towards impactful solutions.

The evening was full of opportunities for the discussions that get put off during the busy growing season, and to create farmer-to-farmer relationships that make all the difference in our line of work. One such opportunity came when we had the honor of introducing the new UConn Extension Vegetable Educator, Dr. Shuresh Ghimire. Coming all the way from Nepal via Washington State, Shuresh grew up in a farming family and has dedicated his life and research to promoting sustainable agriculture, both for the environment and the viability of small scale farmers. His presence and energy to support small farmers in Connecticut was welcome, and added one more friendly resource for many of the farmers in the room. We were thrilled to be able to share our recent policy work with our members, and invite them to get involved in the issues that impact their farming careers. Toby Fischer, a member of the steering committee, and I represented the New CT Farmer Alliance at the National Young Farmers Coalition

JESSICA HORSTMANN AND TOBY FISCHER OF GENTLE GIANT FARM

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DR. WHITNEY MILLER. BODHICHITTA FARMS CT FOOD & FARM / SPRING 2019


Annual Leadership Convergence in Washington, DC in November, where we took part in workshops, panels and discussions with the intent of bringing advocacy skills back to our own chapters. Our primary goal, however, was to head to the Capitol and lobby our members of Congress to pass the 2018 Farm Bill immediately, and maintain funding for the countless programs that benefit young farmers nationwide. Ultimately, we were

"We create this space for farmers to share the MOMEnts that may otherwise be held in isolation." successful, and the new farm bill was passed several weeks later. With this momentum behind us, we are eager to take the fight to Hartford and amplify our voices in Connecticut. In preparation for our upcoming attendance for the CT Department of Agriculture’s Ag Day at the Capitol, we asked our members to rank their top three policy priorities in a sticker survey as they entered the event. The top contenders were as follows: health insurance for farmers, land access initiatives, farm-to-school and farmto-institution initiatives, anti-racism work with respect to farming and the food system, and mental health resources for farmers. This marks our organization’s first step toward collecting data from our members in order to work towards a specific policy platform that is equitable, sustainable, and representative of the many young farmers operating in Connecticut. REBECCA ROMANO CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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Though policy sometimes lags behind the needs of farmers, I had the opportunity to introduce our members to Alana DiPesa Truelove, LCSW, who isn’t waiting for anyone to address a serious problem in agriculture. In addition to her work as a psychotherapist, she is a farmer by marriage at Truelove Farms in Morris, CT. FarmAid, an organization that seeks to keep family farmers on the land by promoting food from family farms, growing the good food movement, and helping farmers thrive despite challenges and crisis, came to Hartford in 2018 and found an ally in Alana. She and her husband Tom sat on a panel that tackled stress on the farm, where she discussed “the ongoing crisis of stress, depression, and suicide among the broader agricultural community.” Continuing this work, Alana recently conducted a survey among members of the New CT Farmer Alliance and shared the results at our Hoot. The vast majority of respondents reported feeling depressed, anxious, and helpless on the farm,

with causes ranging from money and relationship troubles, to poor growing conditions and fear for the future. She helped to explain the somewhat dismal results, stating that “many of the factors that cause or exacerbate mental health issues automatically apply to farmers: excessive stress, financial worries, physical health issues and

AARON ROMANO

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pain, family and relationship issues, social isolation, and lack of time for self-care or engagement in enjoyable activities.” For these reasons and more, “the rate of suicide among farmers and agricultural workers is higher than most other populations. Though these rates of suicide generally apply to an older generation of farmers, it is essential to begin preventative work with younger farmers now so as to change these statistics in the future and create a better outcome for this generation of farmers.” Though discussing topics of mental health and crisis is often bleak, we must focus on the outcomes and making an impactful change for the future. Alana offered this outlook: “We talk a lot about sustainability in terms of farming practices, but farming as a profession needs to become more sustainable so the farmers can continue to do this important work. This means helping farmers strike a better work-life balance as well as offering clinically appropriate, accessible treatment when the stress, isolation, and frustration become too much to bear.” In the months and years to come, Alana hopes to collaborate with other young

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"WE can make farming in CONnecticuT more equitable, accessible, and successful than ever

beFORE."

YOKO TAKEMURA OF ASSAWAGA FARM (L), ELLIE ANGERAME OF THE GREEN VILLAGE INITIATIVE (C), MEG FAMA OF THE FARM BELLY (R) 56

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SUSAN MITCHELL OF CLOVERLEIGH FARM

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HOLLI CEDERHOLM & GREG BENSON

ELLIOT MCGANN OF FORT HILL FARM

TOBY FISCHER OF GENTLE GIANT FARM

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farmers and health care professionals to develop a network of affordable therapy and support group options for farmers, as well as a training curriculum for mental health care professionals that ensures sensitivity and knowledge of farmerspecific issues.

"Our group of farmers persists ou

The final official agenda item of the evening was our infamous Cabbage Moth Radio Hour. For the past several years, we have included this opportunity for farmers to share their triumphs, challenges, laughter, and tragedy, modeled after NPR’s Moth Radio Hour. This year, we heard Danielle Larese of BOTL Farm recount a great rabbit escape while away at a wedding, Tom Truelove’s near brush with death by an agitated steer, and Morgan Wilson’s moments of panic as his loyal farm dog chased a fully grown black bear—right into a corn maze full of customers. With no specific theme in mind, we create this space for farmers to share the moments that may otherwise be held in isolation. Enya Cunningham, a farmer from Washington, CT, agreed: “I

ALANA DIPESA TRUELOVE AND TOM TRUELOVE OF TRUELOVE FARMS

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ut of

LOVe for one another,...

look forward to the Hootenanny every year; it’s a great chance to catch up with friends, make new ones, and generally commiserate about farming in Connecticut. I really appreciate NCTFA’s work in encouraging us to get off our farms and remember that we’re not alone out there - there’s a whole community of young farmers in this state and we have so much to learn from each other!” Whether we are learning, commiserating, listening, or checking in with one another, the agricultural community created by the New CT Farmer Alliance is invaluable for beginning farmers taking on this challenging career. The Hootenanny takes advantage of the “offseason” to reinforce this community, one that has kept me, and many others, farming and striving to make our career more viable and rewarding. We all enter this career knowing that farming is difficult, and it often tempts us to quit in favor of something more stable, lucrative, and better understood. But why we stay is more powerful, and was captured by the

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WILL O’MEARA OF WALDINGFIELD FARM AND JILL VERZINO

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...for our environment, for our communities, and for

growing food."

delightful performance of Sarah Lou Richards. Towards the end of her set and the end of the night, she mixed in a cover of The Steeldrivers’ “If It Hadn’t Been for Love.” As I looked around the room, singing quietly in the corner, I saw a half dozen other farmers mouthing these words. It occurred to me that our group of farmers persists out of love for one another, for our environment, for our communities, and for growing food. We can succeed, and make farming in Connecticut more equitable, accessible, and successful than ever before.

If you’re interested in joining the New CT Farmer Alliance, or attending one of our upcoming events, email Sydney at newctfarmers@gmail.com. Keep up to date by following us on Facebook and Instagram! If you are, or someone you know is, in crisis, or thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide, call the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). If you are a farmer in crisis, call Farm Aid’s Farmer Hotline Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time at 1-800-FARM-AID (1-800-327-6243). Will O’Meara is a graduate of UMass Amherst in Sustainable Food and Farming, an organic vegetable farmer at Waldingfield Farm in Washington, CT, and a proud resident of Waterbury, CT.

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WINTER CAPLANSON PHOTO

Farm 62

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Baby BY MEGAN JOHNSON

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Mackenzie (or Mack, to those who know and love her) was born on a Friday and joined her mother in the barn to milk the cows for the first time on Sunday. It was early fall and the air was still warm; the barn was filled with soft, dry hay and about a dozen milk cows. Laying a newborn down to rest in a barn might sound crazy in today’s society, but for this little baby and her mother it was a natural part of running a dairy farm and being a farmer’s daughter.

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As her mother milked the cows,

baby Mack was soothed by the gentle rhythmic pulsation of the milking machine and the hum of the vacuum pump. In the afternoon the sun would shine through the old windows and warm the barn, even as temperatures dropped outside. Cloaking baby Mack in animal

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skins and wool as she lay in her bassinet was one way to keep her warm and comfortable. That particular winter the temperature dropped below zero more than once, but Mack’s parents worked hard to ensure she was never cold.

tling milk, running the tractor, spreading manure or breeding cows - there wasn’t much that Mack’s mom couldn’t do with a little one on her back. Mack could often be found napping, blissfully unaware of the progress her mom was making.

Within a few months, baby Mack was able to ride on her mother’s back with a special baby wrap. This was a game changer for a new farm mama! Mack enjoyed being close enough to watch everything that went on. Feeding and milking the cows, bot-

When Mack began to crawl around the barn, her folks needed to reevaluate how to keep her safe. Precautions needed to be taken to ensure the baby never got under the cows’ hooves.

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“Feeding and milking the cows, bottling milk, running the tractor, spreading manure or breeding cows - there wasn’t much that Mack’s mom couldn’t do with a little one on her back.”

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“What her folks lacked in skill and e

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experience with children,

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The most obvious answer?

Put her in a calf stall, retrofitted next to the parlor, and filled with soft bedding and toys. Mack would use the old oak boards to pull herself up and watched as the cows walked in and out after milking. One cow in particular seemed to have a special connection with the little human. Her name is Fuzzy, and she’s since been retired to a life of ease, but at the time she was a milk cow in the herd and would always stop on her way out of the barn to put her giant head in the baby stall and check on the little one. Sometimes Mack would reach up and touch her nose with a coo and a giggle. Fuzzy’s milk was high in fat and Mack would point and ask for it during milking. Her mom would fill a baby bottle, with warm frothy raw milk and hand it to Mack to enjoy. At about 6 months old, it was decided to get a baby goat to raise alongside the farm baby. Mack’s parents knew she would want to mimic them and work with the cattle as she grew up, but thought it would be safer for her to learn with a goat.

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This little goat was named Patty Cake

and those two became instant friends as they played together in the baby’s stall during milking. Months went by and before you knew it, baby Mack was taking her first steps in the clover field outside the barn. With mobility achieved, she quickly learned that one of the best places to be on a farm was IN the feed bunk! As the cows came in for milking, they would find their spot in the flat parlor and lick the baby’s feet in between mouthfuls of luscious dried grass.

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“Mack’s now at the age where she can help tools to her father in the shop, feeding calves

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a lot on the farm: fetching supplies, passing with her grandfather, carrying milk crates and much more.” It was pretty common for Mack to be barefoot during the warmer months on the farm. The earth beneath her feet didn’t seem to bother her any and she developed tough soles, I reckon, because she could run across a gravel road like nothing! Risks on the farm are real, so teaching Mack to respect moving things like pulleys, belts, motors and equipment was important from the very beginning. Her parents needed to learn some new habits as well, such as locating Mack before gates were opened, hydraulics were lowered, hay thrown out of the loft and so much more. Admittedly, her folks didn’t know much about babies; however, they did know about keeping young livestock healthy, and implemented those principles in rearing young Mackenzie Rose. What they lacked in skill and experience with children, they made up in love: for their baby girl, each other and the lifestyle of farming.

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Mack, now two and a half years old, has grown up dirty and healthy.

She’s now at the age where she can help a lot on the farm: fetching supplies, passing tools to her father in the shop, feeding calves with her grandfather, carrying milk crates and much more. Several days per week, Mack loads the truck with her mother and delivers fresh milk to stores in eastern Connecticut. Bringing the milk to the stores is just one more opportunity to teach Mack about mathematics, business, and gratitude. When the weather is bad Mack can be found in the farm stand, meeting customers and playing with her toys under the loving and watchful eye of her great aunt. Every day she experiences the joy of life on a working dairy farm. The ups the downs are all life lessons for Mackenzie Rose, the most important of which is that with effort and determination, anything is possible! MEGAN JOHNSON runs Buttercup Farm, a retail and wholesale raw milk dairy. She is 37 years old, from Long Island, and before college had never touched a cow. She’s now been milking for over a decade and is hooked on bovines and excited for what the future brings! She documents life on the farm with her Apple iphone 8 Plus.

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L e h T B d a e r B That 84

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Little Bakery Could BY GENA GOLAS LISA NICHOLS PHOTOS

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If you want bread from The Black Walnut Bakery, you’d better get there early. You’ll be queued up with others, sometimes before the sun has even come up, waiting for the bakery to open. You can watch through one of the bay windows as the bread emerges from the oven and makes its way to the shelves just inches from your nose…only your nose has already sensed what’s coming; the smell of freshly baking bread has been filling this block of East Hampton’s Main Street for hours. The doors will open and soon the bread will be gone, often almost as quickly as it appeared.

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These early morning bakers’ hours are an adjustment for Christian Michalowski, Master Baker at The Black Walnut, and a research scientist at Alexion Pharmaceuticals for twenty years prior to launching his business. Although the dream of opening the bread bakery was eight years in the making, the 2:45 a.m. alarm clock beckoning him to the shop each morning is fairly new; The Black Walnut opened last December 1 to the excitement of his neighbors in East Hampton. And his customers have been enthusiastic supporters, to say the very least. Some are banging on the window at 5 a.m., maybe just to wave hello, but probably hoping for a loaf fresh from the morning’s first bake. There’s the gentleman who buys three large loaves every day. And there are the customers who love the signature Nutella loaf so much that, from their place in line, they will count how many people are ahead of them and how many loaves they can view through the window, and calculate if they will be lucky enough to take one home that day. There are days when Christian sells out entirely within 45 minutes of opening the doors. “As long as you get here before 7:30,” he says, “you should be okay.”

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And the remarkable thing is, no one seems to mind much that the bread sells so fast. “That fifteen minute window of time from when we sell out to when we put the sign out is the hardest time,” says Christian. He’s referring to the wooden “Sold Out” sign that his mother made for him, which hangs from the bakery’s front doorknob once the bread is gone for the day. Turning customers away is hard, but Christian will work with you to ensure you leave with a loaf of his bread. The business’s phone number is his direct line; you can call and speak with him personally to have him set aside a loaf (you probably will want two), or to customize an order.

The doors will open and soon the bread will be gone, often almost as quickly as it appeared.

What if you’re not there before 7:30? Christian will hold your call-ahead order until 9 a.m., or you can pick it up across the street at ECO Coffee House if you’re not an early riser, or you can even pick it up down the road at the Bank of America - Christian’s wife Pina will be happy to help you there. And if you live on Christian’s drive home, he just might offer to deliver it to you personally. Christian usually sends 15

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The Black Walnut follows the European bakery model make the bread, sell out, and go home. And the bakery has been selling out since day one. loaves every Sunday to the church next door he’ll leave the bread on a table in the back with an envelope to accept your payment - but the pastor recently had to make an announcement to the congregation to stop leaving church early just so they could ensure themselves a loaf of this coveted bread. It is just that good. The Black Walnut follows the European bakery model—make the bread, sell out, and go home. And the bakery has been selling out since day one. The first day Christian was open, he sold out of 40 loaves. The next Sunday, 80 loaves. He now makes anywhere from 130-150 loaves every day, plus a few cookies or muffins. Indulge in the sweets, but the bread is far and away the star here. Christian showcases five rotating flavors each day: standards like Honey Oat, French Baguette, and Cinnamon Raisin, and unique offerings like Maple Cornmeal, Lemon Currant, and Himalayan Salt. Quality takes time, especially in bread making. Christian uses a four-year-old starter in all of his bread and allows for a 14-hour cold fermentation to develop maximum flavor. He exclusively uses King Arthur Flour for quality, and there are no preservatives of any kind in his bread. More than 90 percent of his breads are vegan, save for the Habanero Cheddar and Nutella, which include dairy. There are no recipes for his bread - none written down, anyway. Christian has been developing his flavors for years for friends and family, but he makes his bread entirely by eye and by hand, quite literally: you won’t find a dough mixer at The Black Walnut. 92

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There are days when Christian sells out entirely within 45 minutes of opening the doors. In the 700 square foot space, there’s a table top mixer that is minimally used to mix a batch of cookies or cake, along with one refrigerator, one freezer, a four-deck Blodgett oven, and a small three-bay sink, but each giant batch of bread—200 pounds of flour at a time, plus water, salt, yeast, and other flavors—gets mixed, kneaded and rounded by Christian’s two hands. He occasionally recruits the help of Pina and their kids - Grace, 16, and Connor, 14, - on holidays and weekends to help with the register, but The Black Walnut is very much a one-man show. And, for now at least, Christian prefers it that way. “You do what works,” he says. Early on in his business planning, Christian considered offering soup or other light lunch options if he needed to build sales. But selling out of 150 loaves of bread alone, each day, has clearly proven successful. He sells tea and hot chocolate, but leaves the coffee sales to ECO Coffee House across the street; bring your loaf over there to enjoy, or grab a cup first and then cross the street to sit in his shop, either way is fine. He has also entertained wholesale inquiries. “It would be an honor to have them sell my bread,” Christian says. But for now, he remains focused on retail sales. “Everyone wants a relationship now,” says Christian. “They want to know their butcher, they want to know their baker. There’s a Stop and Shop a half mile down the road but everyone comes here for bread.” It sounds like his customers have caught on to The Black Walnut’s motto of “A Simpler Time Remembered” and have embraced this little bread bakery in the center of their town. It’s bread that is bringing a tight-knit town even closer together, one loaf at a time; even if just for a morning, while in line with your neighbors, taking in the heavenly scent of warm bread from the oven while waiting to bring home your own fresh loaf. “The more love and attention you give, the better it comes out,” Christian says of his bread. And that just may be the secret ingredient to the success of The Black Walnut. 96

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“...the bread is far and away the star here.”

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It is

“

spring

again.

The earth is like a child that knows poems by

heart.

~RAINER MARIA RILKE

CASCADING BLOSSOMS BY 98 LISA STONE KIM

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The H t h

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Corps in East H by Erica Buehler

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House at

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Hampton Center Winter Caplanson photos

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Like something out of a storybook, a little village outside the hustle and bustle of nearby towns grows bigger every day. One by one, shop windows come to life and doors open – literally and metaphorically – as passionate small business owners, determined to put their village on the map, take root.

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“There is an immediate sense of belonging, warm like the freshly brewed coffee drifting through the air.” East Hampton, Connecticut isn’t traditionally known for its thriving town center. In fact, for most of the 90s and early 2000s it was quiet, save for the center’s one and only pizza shop, aptly named Main Street Pizza. Only in the last several years has the village of East Hampton begun to thrive, achieving the charm and aesthetic frequently attributed to the quaint and beautiful small towns of Connecticut. In a seemingly predetermined (but actually coincidental) team effort, small business owners of all kinds and other East Hampton residents have come together to transform Main Street and put the village of East Hampton on the map, wildly overachieving esprit de corps and creating something wonderful and unexpected. The opening of several gift shops, food spots and specialty stores has been met with overwhelming success: the village is seeing more foot traffic, out-of-town visitors, and commerce than ever before. One popular spot, on the corner of Main Street and neighbored by gift shops, a bakery, and a bicycle shop, is the ECO Coffee House. Hard to miss, it practically waves you inside with its various flags and, currently, Mardis-Gras-themed décor. The shop, open six days a week, welcomes anyone looking to escape the cold, do some shopping, or simply have a

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really good cup of coffee. It’s become one of the most visited and talked-about shops in the village and is making a name for itself in the gourmet coffee world. Upon entering, crafts and decorations welcome you in like an old friend. There is an immediate sense of belonging, warm like the freshly brewed coffee drifting through the air. Behind the counter is a woman, just one – the brains, the brawn, and the face of the operation: Susan Popielaski. Popielaski isn’t the typical food entrepreneur; she’s not a 20-something with a food truck, looking for success anywhere but a 9-5. She is a wildly imaginative and industrious 50-something who got thrown a major life curveball, and made it work. Upon getting let go from her job and, around the same time, getting diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, Susan had a revelation: it was time to put her dream of owning a high-end espresso bar in motion. Popielaski, before the coffee house, was a part-time chef with a little background in the food business. But with little money to start and having to work two part-time jobs to save, she made it a priority to do all the necessary research, budgeting,

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and planning to make sure not a single detail was unaccounted for. She worked diligently for two years, even taking a trip to the Specialty Coffee Association in London for two back-to-back courses, earning her credentials as the owner and manager of her gourmet coffee shop, and emphasizing her desire to be taken seriously. The process didn’t come without its obstacles, though; Popielaski had settled on two locations that fell through prior to the discovery of 82 Main Street, the “beautiful building” that is now home to ECO Coffee House. Upon seeing the space for the first time, Popielaski admits she “signed that day.” On October 29, 2017, the doors of ECO Coffee House opened and the real magic began; Popielaski’s dream was finally realized. Support and success poured in from all over, with East Hamptonites eager to sample the goods of their very own highend coffee bar, and the community embracing her in a way she never imagined. “Everyone is helping each other, there’s no backstabbing,” Popielaski says of the village community. “My mantra is ‘Love where you live. Shop local.’” But there was more to Susan’s dream: she didn’t want just a great coffee shop; she wanted it to be a place of gathering and collaboration - and celebration of the extremely talented and creative people of her community who also happen to have disabilities. Receiving her autism spectrum diagnosis was a huge eye-opener for Susan. She was suddenly acutely aware of the struggles people with disabilities face on a daily basis, and wanted to give them a space to be seen, heard, and celebrated for all that they contribute to the world. “I CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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want to change people’s perspectives,” she says. She’s also worked with the non-profit organization Opportunity Works CT in Rockville, which provides programs, workshops, skill training and mentoring for people with disabilities. Some of the resulting workshop art is featured in Susan’s shop. In addition to the space around the coffee bar and register, the shop opens up to an area entirely dedicated to the handmade artwork, crafts, and wares of people with disabilities. Products range from elegant jewelry to postcard photographs, with an entire secondhand clothing section and dressing rooms in the back. As one sips her raw, organic cacao latte, she

“Behind the counter is a woman, just one – the brains, the brawn, and the face of the operation: Susan Popielaski.” can peruse a plethora of gifts, all accompanied by photos and brief biographies of each artist, about 15 vendors total. Popielaski also cares about her patrons’ experiences while in her shop. She enforces a fairly strict laptop-free policy, explaining that she wants her shop to be a place of “intelligence and collaboration,” where you’re “mindful of what you’re doing.” She says that, even though the shop has only been open for a little over a year, she once received “a bad review for having no WIFI. This is not a Starbucks.” Popielaski hopes to rekindle the sense of traditionalism and intimacy of independent coffee shops, where people come for good coffee, conversation with neighbors, and to appreciate the talents of the vendors she features while fully present in ECO’s space. 106

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“Popielaski i

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is a combination of chemist

and artist...�

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It makes sense coming from the one-woman show who does all the ordering, managing, cleaning and exchanging with vendors herself. There’s something admirable about asking others to acknowledge the work that people put into their passions, and when you’re being served a perfectly made caramel cappuccino with a smile and good conversation, how can you disagree? Popielaski is a combination of chemist and artist, infusing some drinks with CO2 for an extra kick and using vivid colors to entice customers to try new things, like her blue and white Butterfly Chai or her blood red Orange Hibiscus tea. She’s certainly come a long way from where she started, at first only having one available flavor to add to her custom drinks and now using all kinds of hand-crafted flavors. She’s got a sizable Instagram following at @ecocoffeehousect which is convincing enough to encourage the trip to East Hampton.

a percentage of its sales going to the ECO fund - a $3,500 grant that people with disabilities can apply for in order to continue making art. In Popielaski’s future, there is a collaboration with shop-nextdoor Wild Roots Eclectic Home Décor, with whom she will soon be sharing a space once a connecting wall is blown out. There will be the eventual release of her craft beer, and new hours to transform ECO from a regular daytime coffeehouse to a bar. And, long-term, she says she can see herself owning her own restaurant. “It’s all about what you put into the universe,” she says. “I’m always thinking of how I can do something better.” Breaking news: Fat Orange Cat Brew Co. just announced the opening “Dexter’s Tunes, Tales & Ales” in East Hampton’s Village center, a used book and record shop where you will be able to enjoy a pint of their beer or a cup of CT wine, shop, read, listen to music, or just chat with friends.

Soon, ECO will be pursuing the sale of craft beer, switching from a daytime organic coffeehouse to a craft brewery at night. Susan would like to have a brew on tap called the Disabled Ale, whose logo has the “dis” crossed out in a nod to the capabilities of people with disabilities. Popielaski plans to have

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By Jenna Toth Nicole Bedard photos Jessica Battista illustration

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Walking into Heirloom Market

at Comstock Ferre has an almost-almost-dreamlike quality. The walls are adorned with hand-painted murals; twinkling lights are strung from the ceiling; and the aroma of fresh pastries lingers in the air. According to the owners - husband and wife team Spiro and Julia Koulouris - the vision for Heirloom came to life almost by accident. “We moved to town, and we would come here when it was the seed shop,” Julia said, referring to the Baker Creek heirloom seeds that gave the company its name. “The upper level was filled with antiques that were collecting dust, and downstairs had a gift shop with a very eclectic mix of items that just never really made sense to us.” The pair would often ask the staff if they had plans to rent out the space or expand upon it, with hopes of turning it into a Vermont-inspired country store. Sure enough, Spiro happened to be walking downtown

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with their son when he popped in by chance. “I just happened to ask the right person, the right question, on the right day, which led to a series of phone calls, emails, and everything else,” he said about the experience. After flying down to the Baker Creek flagship store in Missouri, Spiro and Julia officially took ownership of Heirloom Market in January of 2016.

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...twinkling lights are strung from the ceiling; and the aroma of fresh pastries lingers in the air. CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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In the three years since Heirloom has been open, it has grown into much more than a seed shop, blossoming into a hub for the community of Wethersfield. Spiro and Julia both knew that they wanted to do something with food, having come from a restaurant background. “The heirloom seeds had always been here, so we knew we wanted to incorporate a seed to plate concept into our business,” Julia said. “We decided to look into the grocery end of things and essentially open up a natural grocery store, but we also opened a little cafe where we sold coffee and a few baked goods.” Within a few months, the sales in the cafe began far surpassing those in the grocery section. The public response to Heirloom’s organic approach to food is ultimately what inspired the Koulouris family to shift their vision into one that was heavily food-based, versus grocery-based. “We just embraced what the people were asking for,” Spiro said, “and also what was natural to our backgrounds.” Their menu now offers soups, sandwiches, and wraps, along with their original fare. Some of the most popular items include their avocado toasts, turkey sandwich, and a variety of seasonal soups, all of which are handcrafted by their chef, Jared Levin. At any given time, you can walk into the market and spot a group of friends enjoying lunch, or a couple talking over hot coffee and pastries. The success of Heirloom’s cafe has prompted Spiro and Julia to start offering classes, events, and other activities, like seed starting parties, in their space. “Spring Fest was already happening when we took over, but we decided to keep it going, and each year it has just gotten better and better,” Julia said, referring to an annual event at Heirloom that features

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“

Spiro and Julia are creating a dynamic new history, and a sense of belonging, for this iconic locality.

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live music along with local vendors and artisans. “We’ve even opened up the space for outside events like bridal or baby showers, and the success of that has been really overwhelming,” Julia said, adding with a smile, “I don’t even have any dates available in April!” The upper level of Heirloom is decorated with vintage furniture, all of which can be moved to make space for larger gatherings. What are Spiro and Julia’s favorite things about the community they’ve created? “Running this business just reminds me of growing up, families knowing each other’s names, kids playing with each other… no matter where you live, this is the place people come to meet up with each other. It’s really become a hub,” Spiro said, sparking a sense of nostalgia. The Comstock Ferre property has been a historic part of downtown Wethersfield for generations; it’s clear that Spiro and Julia are creating a dynamic new history, and a sense of belonging, for this iconic locality.

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FIRST SIGN BY LISA STONE KIM 124

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Blossom spring begins by blossom

the

.

- Algernon Charles Swinburne

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W y o e o s r lies eJ a n h t e r mo

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“While well-known on the show table, Jersey Woolies are practically unheard-of in the fiber community. Here at Maplewood Farm, we’re hoping to change that!”

IF

you’ve spent much time in the agricultural community or had the chance to attend a fiber festival, you’ve undoubtedly encountered an angora rabbit. These rabbits are raised by fiber enthusiasts for their lustrous coats which are harvested either by plucking or shearing several times a year. There are four types of angoras recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA): English, German, French, and Satin, each weighing between 5-12 pounds. Angoras are typically thought of as a larger breed of rabbit; their care can be quite laborious, making angora rabbits unsuitable for children. Their hefty price tags, typically $80-200 each, adds to their elite status. While their fiber is sought after by many hand spinners and knitters, raising angoras has proven to be so high maintenance that only the most dedicated fiber artists are brave enough to attempt it. If you’ve had your heart set on raising your own angora fiber, hope is not lost! There’s a more manageable alternative: Jersey Wooly rabbits. While they don’t deliver the quantity of fluff as their standard size relatives, Jersey Woolies grow soft fiber called wool that is

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equally desirable. This dwarf breed is also a more economical alternative to other angora breeds. Weighing in at a whopping three pounds, Woolies are suitable for adults and children alike. It bodes well for their future popularity that Jersey Woolies can be found across the states, with prices starting at $40. Sure, show-quality rabbits can cost upwards of $75, but if your top priority is fiber you won’t need to invest much to get started. Jersey Woolies have only been around since the 1980s, when Bonnie Seely cross-bred a Netherland Dwarf to a French Angora. The result was the best of both worlds: coveted silky fiber in the pint-size package of a dwarf rabbit. Woolies were recognized as a breed by ARBA in 1988, and have since made frequent appearances at rabbit shows and competitions across the country. While well-known on the show table, Jersey Woolies are practically unheard-of in the fiber community. Here at Maplewood Farm, we’re hoping to change that! I first learned of Jersey Woolies in September of 2017. They were casually mentioned in a conversation with another rabbit breeder and, having never heard of

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them before, I quickly turned to Google and began scrolling through the images. I fell in love with their appearance, and within 15 minutes had found one for sale from a local breeder. At the time, I was raising Rex rabbits for meat. While I enjoyed snuggling the little bunnies when they were a few weeks old, my heart was yearning for more. Admittedly, I began breeding Jersey Woolies for their cuddle factor, but soon realized the bunnies were a great fit for my education programs, too. I brought bunnies to elementary schools, story time at the library, and middle/high school special education classes. I also have a reputation for bringing my bunnies to less “expected� places: community meetings, the hair salon, tax appointments, and even

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“I’ve found that the best way to diffuse stress and spread happiness is to show up with a basket of bunnies and start passing them out to everyone!”

physical therapy. I’ve found that the best way to diffuse stress and spread happiness is to show up with a basket of bunnies and start passing them out to everyone! Over the course of 2018 the fiber part of my farm truly blossomed and the Jersey Woolies earned their place as a permanent feature. My current breeding program includes four does and three bucks, and a variety of colors: blue, black, blue martin, smoke pearl, chestnut, Siamese sable, and broken black. My rabbitry is housed in a small enclosed building with full walls, windows, and a roof. The rabbits get ample sunlight and fresh air without being exposed to snow, wind, and rain which would compromise

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“my hope is that fiber a

seek out a Jersey Wooly

and begin to raise

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the quality of their fiber. Each rabbit has its own 24� x 24� cage; expectant mothers are moved to bigger brooder cages in their last week of pregnancy and remain in the larger cage with their kits until the babies are five weeks old and fully weaned. Mothers are then returned to their own cages and the babies stay together for several more weeks, until they are sold or ready to live alone. While I do enjoy my small collection of Woolies, they have proven difficult to breed and my rabbitry has grown very slowly. Their litter size is comparably smaller than most breeds, ranging from three to five kits at a time, and their mothering instincts are not strong. Losing an entire litter is disheartening

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and not unusual. While breeding these rabbits is unlikely to turn into a lucrative business model, that hasn’t been my goal. Instead, my hope is that fiber artists of all ages will seek out a Jersey Wooly breeder in their area and begin to raise their own fiber. I realize it’s not feasible for most spinners and knitters to raise sheep, but anyone can raise a Jersey Wooly! Jersey Woolies are low maintenance keepers and delightful as pets. In order to keep their coats clean and free of matts, they should be brushed at least every other week with a flea comb to remove any loose hairs. I brush out the Woolies in my rabbitry twice each month, harvesting about an ounce of fiber each time. While an ounce doesn’t sound like much, the wool from all seven rabbits fills a one-gallon storage bag. It is a LOT of fiber, though it weighs practically nothing. In fact, it takes about 15 minutes to thoroughly brush each rabbit and much of that time is actually spent pulling fluff out of my eyes and mouth. Bunny fluff flies everywhere, so this task is best done outdoors. Once harvested, the fiber is immediately ready to use. Because there is no lanolin in rabbit fiber, it does not need to be washed. As long as the rabbits live in wire-bottomed cages, they will stay nice and clean, and their fiber will be free of the vegetable matter found in sheep and goat fleeces. While it is possible to dye Wooly fiber, I prefer to spin

it naturally; I enjoy seeing the variety of colors in my rabbitry reflected in the colors of the yarn. You may be wondering just how much yarn this translates to; I recently core spun an ounce of Wooly fiber over cotton and got

just over a hundred yards of yarn. Of course if spun alone, the yardage would be less, and if you blend it with other fibers you could stretch it out even more. Jersey Wooly fiber is perfect for the crafter who wants immediate gratification: you can harvest the fiber and spin it up within the hour. You don’t need to spend a week scouring, drying, and carding before finally sitting down at your wheel. You can go from “barn to yarn” in the course of a single day.

“It’s not feasible for most spinners and knitters to raise sheep, but anyone can raise a Jersey Wooly!”

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Interested in learning more about our Jersey Wooly rabbits?

Find us online at MaplewoodFarmer.com. Wondering if these cuddly, fluffy bunnies are right for you? Read on for feedback from two others who have experienced Maplewood’s Jersey Woolies:

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“The first time I visited Heather’s farm, I fell in love. Her animals are beautiful and you can feel her deep love for them. The Jersey Woolies are the sweetest bunnies you could ever meet. So gentle and curious. Our family loves them!!!” - NICOLE C., QUAKER HILL, CT

“Upon searching for farm animals, I came across a post for a black Jersey Wooly bunny at Maplewood Farm. When I inquired, Heather was inquisitive of my interest and knowledge about rabbits before agreeing to sell me one. I found this to be very respectable and made me feel secure in my purchase. We arranged a time and date for me to visit and potentially pick up the bunny. When I arrived at Maplewood farm, Heather led me to her rabbit cottage and handed me the bunny...now called Bean. He was so friendly and snuggled into the curve of my neck. As she gave me the tour of her farm, it became very clear that not only were her bunnies very social and well cared for, but so were all of her other animals. It’s been approximately 8 months since I have brought Bean home. Heather has become a friend and mentor in growing my own farm. I direct people to her farm and her products regularly.” - ANN C., ELLINGTON, CT

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Co-op

Sew-In:

When We Were More Vermont Than Vermont BY WINTER CAPLANSON

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Windham

is moving toward joining 14 other Connecticut towns in banning single use plastic bags. The Willimantic Food Co-op, located therein, has been working to increase awareness its shoppers’ awareness about methods for reducing the use of plastic, single-use, and disposable items…but discussion about implementation of a ban has added urgency to the conversation. To be clear, municipal waste in Connecticut is burned to create electricity at five trash-toenergy plants throughout the state. Despite haunting “Sea of Plastic” social media images, what is collected from your trash bin in this state is not dumped into the ocean or buried in a landfill. But banning plastic shopping bags isn’t only designed to attack a litter issue and potential impact on wildlife. Single use plastics are nonrenewable resource consumption hogs made using either petroleum or natural gas. They take huge amounts of energy to manufacture and transport across the country. And stray plastic bags that land on roadsides do release dangerous chemicals as they slowly break down.

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The problem with simply announcing a ban is that this leaves it up to retailers and shoppers themselves to work out a way to replace them. Some food markets offer compostable plastic bags created using materials that will theoretically allow the bags to decompose through composting. However, the intensity of light, oxygenation, and consistently high heat required for them to actually decompose is typically only available through municipal “windrow” composting of kitchen waste - which is not currently available in Connecticut. While paper bags can easily be substituted for plastic at the checkout, paper can’t stand up to damp fruits and vegetables in the produce section. Although it is recyclable, paper has its own environmental impact, too, as production can lead to deforestation and an increase in greenhouse gases. Your standard-issue reusable shopping bag aren’t ideal either. They’re often are made in China and Vietnam, from heavier and thicker plastic, which takes more energy to produce, then shipped to the USA in fossil fuel burning cargo ships. And few people wash their reusable grocery shopping bags, so they can harbor E. coli and other pathogens. Well, that’s a downer. How’s a person to choose chard, pick peppers, select celery and bag ‘em up in the produce aisle, guilt free?

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Consider this: do you even need a bag?

“Customers may be using plastic bags to group produce items out of consideration for the cashier,” explains Willimantic Food Coop Wellness Associate Cari Nadeau, “People apologize if their unbagged produce gets our checkout counter wet and I say ‘No, I LOVE it that you haven’t put it in a bag! You don’t ever have to put your produce in a bag here!’” The most environmentally-friendly (and hippest, I might add) produce bag is machinewashable, and handmade…from cloth. If you have a sewing machine and can sew a straight seam, you can make your own.

But what if you don’t?

To that end, Co-op member Eliana Hancock proposed a “Sew-In” where cloth produce bags would be made and given away. And a requisite social media post was made:

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In an effort to reduce produce plastic bag use, we’re hosting a sewing event where we’ll give cloth produce bags away for free. Accepting fabric donations NOW in the front of the store. 123 Facebook shares later, “Insane amounts of beautiful fabric poured in,” recounts Nadeau. Hancock invited a friend to come sew, too. She contacted Willimantic Schiller’s Sewing Circle, a local sewing machine and supply shop, and they said they’d donate fabric and send an employee to join in the sewing. “It was suggested that we could gather and work at someone’s house, but I wanted us to be here at the Co-op, very visible, in the café space in the front of the store. I hoped people would ask us what we were doing, why we were sewing together, so we could talk with customers about it,” said Nadeau. Co-op staff and working members rounded out the volunteer crew, with four people sewing and four more cutting fabric and snaking in hemp twine drawstrings. Sewers brought their portable sewing machines and their know-how. “I had a pattern ready, but Eliana arrived with a cardboard template so we cut fabric to that, super-fast. The sewers used whatever methods they preferred to sew three sides and make a channel for a drawstring. “We made over 100 bags in three hours. People loved this event from start to finish. I really had no idea they were going to be so excited about it,” enthuses Nadeau.

It’s a day we were more Vermont than Vermont.

“I love this!! Great job, Sewists!! Great job, Co-op!!” - LOLLY NICOL

“This was such a cool idea!

Thank you for the pretty cloth bag and I hope that you make this an annual event.” - AMY PEARSALL “I still have my produce bags from when we did this at the Meadow Street location 15 years ago!” - CATHERINE GRACE MORIARTY “This is an awesome idea. Truly promoting green lifestyles.” - Jurneez Farm “This is so amazing! Grateful to all those who were involved.” - MAGGIE MACHA

“I love The Co-op even more now!” - AMY LABOSSIERE

“That’s what we want,” confirms Nadeau: “to offer events people can take part in, to contribute, for co-op member-owners to feel connected and involved…to create an atmosphere of change that feels doable, fun, and builds community.” If shoppers use fabric bags instead of plastic even just once a week, that will eliminate about 200 plastic produce bags a year. The Willimantic Food Co-op is planning another produce bag Sew-In for March 31. The Willimantic Food Co-op is located at 91 Valley St, Willimantic, CT. Follow their Facebook page for Sew In and other event listings.

Not only did customers love the gift of a handmade bag, they loved their co-op a little more for making it. CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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fo

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Friday night. Cocktails by candlelight.

The analog sounds of Curtis Mayfield and Etta James reverberate around the bar and lounge area of Conspiracy, a second floor, Main Street Middletown attraction, but that’s only the beginning of the sensory joyride you’ve chosen to embark on. What these vinyl vibes carry with them is the crackle of pork chashu torched to perfection, the sizzling sounds of Japanese sweet potato caramelizing on the griddle, and a handsome bowl of spicy miso destined for a beloved belly. Bask in the glory of craft ramen and cocktails. Slurp like you’ve never slurped before. This is ramen by moonsong, and like all great adventures, it starts with a story. Two culinary transplants, one from Boston, one from New York, meet in New London, Connecticut. Conversation develops and so does a concept: there is no such thing as waste, but another product to be made.

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Wesley

Two weeks before turning 21, I made a trip out to Western Massachusetts, to help a friend move into their new apartment. We found ourselves riding the longboard wave that swept the East Coast and when in Rome, or hilly Western MA, there’s nothing better to do. After a day’s work, we rode off into town, enjoying the setting sunshine, the cool summer breeze, and the whoosh of our wheels that trailed behind. Soon it came time to wrap things up. My friends had made their way to the bottom of a hill, but what they didn’t know was that I had hit a small patch of sand on a slope not too far behind them. I had spun around and been bucked off of my board. The world went black even before I even hit the pavement. In and out of consciousness, I finally awoke at the entrance to a hospital and walked into the ER lobby, letting the receptionist know that I didn’t feel quite right. Once admitted, things escalated quickly. The bleach-white boy in the waiting room wasn’t suffering from a stomach bug, he had fractured his skull and received a massive concussion. “My life flashed before my eyes.” At least that’s what you’re supposed to say. For me, the curtains had closed to sports and to life as a student of Berklee College of Music. What followed was rest, recovery 154

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“Bask in the glory of

craft ramen and cocktails.”

and pizza. At the urging of a friend, I started washing dishes for a local pizza chain in order to earn a few bucks and cash in on the promise of free food. I loved it. It felt familiar; we were a giant band that rehearsed during the day and put on a show every single night. I was instantly entranced by the energy that this new element provided and followed these breadcrumbs to Boston. From the Salvadorian cuisine of East Somerville to the white linen establishments of Back Bay, I came to realize that it was all the same - I was surrounded by chefs who poured their heart and soul into their work. Everything they did embodied an undeniable sense of community. The food producers were their best friends, the guests were family, and everyone had each other’s back. You would expect cutthroat competition and an eagerness to trash your ‘opponents’, but not here. Like these chefs, I myself sought a deep connection to my work. However, I was looking for something different. I was looking to leap out into another world. Enter: Brigaid, the school food program piloted by the New London Public School District, which aimed to change school food by putting chefs in each cafeteria in order to serve meals from scratch. CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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Angeline

Growing up, dinner was the most important event of the day. It was common for us to set the table and sit down as a family to a meal of fish, meat, vegetables and soup. Each dish was seasoned to act in harmony with a bowl of steaming hot, perfectly cooked rice. Justice was done to each ingredient that made it onto our plate through great cooking and utilization of the entire plant or animal. I didn’t know it then, but each time we gathered at the table was a tangible expression of love, gratitude and respect for life. Fast forward to college, where I gained exposure to the way other people thought about food and quickly saw that it was not the same. Broccoli stems, my favorite part of the plant, ended up in the trash faster than I could object. After graduating from UConn, I took a position as a laboratory assistant and unfortunately discovered that I hated everything about it. A period of introspection made up my mind: “I am an amalgam of both Chinese and American, striving to represent the best values of both. Food is a fundamental meeting point of each culture’s vices and virtues. I am going to learn how to cook.” I moved to New York City, and while working, I curated my own education through unpaid internships called “stages” during all of my free time. I was obsessed with learning as much as I could about the food world. I began to see food as a creator of community and as an agent of change. This is what ultimately led me to Brigaid. 158

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“Slurp like you’ve never slurped before.”

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Together

In the summer of 2017, Brigaid gave each chef the opportunity to take time off for professional development. Though we didn’t know each other well at the time, Wesley agreed to feed the fish and plants of Angeline’s empty apartment. As our friendship grew, we discovered that what brought us to Brigaid, also brought us together. Our ideals aligned, as did our passion for good food, especially ramen. After long hours in the cafeterias, we would sit under the moon and the stars and talk about work, life, past, present, future and ramen - the best bowls we’ve had, the worst bowls we’ve had, and the legendary bowls we would like to have. New beginnings, born by moonsong.

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Both of us left Brigaid in the summer of 2018. Without too much thought as to exactly where we were going, we decided to go for it. We began a series of ramen pop ups amidst an array of odd jobs. By pairing ourselves with restaurant friends in Mystic, Middletown, and Boston, we were able to take over their space for the evening and serve our own menu. By luck, we met Mark and Jen Sabo, the masterminds behind Conspiracy, a pre-Prohibition style cocktail bar in Middletown. We settled into this beautiful, quirky space and established a residency in January 2019. At Conspiracy, we operate like a restaurant. Still, we remind ourselves daily that by moonsong is a concept.

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“We would sit under the moon and the stars and talk about

w


work, life, past, present, future and ramen...� CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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Our guiding principle is that “there is no such thing as waste, but another product to be made.” We want to affect the problem of food waste through utilization and redistribution within the local food community: from food producer, to chef, to guest. We choose to create food using underutilized products from food producers, with the goal of creating a market demand for those products. In this way, we aspire to revolutionize the way people think about food. Within our short time of operation, we’ve already begun to see results. Seacoast Mushrooms is an organic mushroom farm in Mystic, Connecticut, owned, farmed, and operated by Chris Pacheco. In the beginning of our pop up series, we were able to get shiitake pins, which are the shiitake that are culled to allow others to grow bigger and more beautiful. Typically these would be discarded, but we gave the pins a second life by marinating them in maple syrup and brown rice vinegar, creating a dish of shiitake pickles. The pins themselves gained a reputation amongst the restaurants of eastern Connecticut, and soon became a commodity that we no longer had access to. They became valuable! We still have access

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to other mushroom trim from the growing and harvest processes and continue to turn what no other retailer or consumer would buy today into integral parts of our dishes. The mushroom shoyu ramen on our opening menu owes its depth of flavor exclusively to Chris’s excellent product. Essentially, this is the food revolution that by moonsong wants to intensify in Connecticut. We are optimistic that there will be more stories like Seacoast Mushrooms as we continue “to go for it.” A restaurant can be a source of comfort, but it is also a place of experimentation. At by moonsong, we will continue to provide both through our concept. Our menus will change with not just our availability, but with the availability of those food producers we have yet to meet and the new perspectives we have yet to gain. We invite all people to participate in the revolution, either with us in our space or at other like-minded restaurants. We want to inspire you to pick the weird stuff, ask questions, learn techniques. And finally, bring it all home.

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“ th

WOLCOTT SPRING

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he deep r oot s

never doubt spring will come.�

- Marty Rubin

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&

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FRESH PASTA

& SPRING HERB SAUCES BY CHEF CARLOS PEREZ LISA NICHOLS PHOTOS

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AFT ER A LONG WINT ER,

it’s a welcome sign of spring to see plants sprouting again in gardens and woodlands. After all, there’s a new growing season ahead. But the year’s first herbs and vegetables are often overlooked as we eagerly anticipate summer’s bounty - even though they’re a flavor-packed addition to any kitchen. Foraging in Connecticut (or shopping a good market!) can yield gorgeous varieties CTFOODANDFARM.COM

of mushrooms, tender ramps, fiddleheads, wild asparagus, lemony leaves of sorrel, stinging nettles, and more. Although these items shine brightly on their own, the flavors also meld beautifully with some freshly made pasta. It’s a seasonal meal that’s not only light and tasty, but nutritious and sure to impress as well. Here’s my go-to recipe for fresh pasta and some of my favorite spring herb sauces: 171


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“T HE YEAR’S

FIRST HERBS AND VEGETABLES ARE OFT EN OVERLOOKED

AS WE EAGERLY ANT ICIPAT E

SUMMER’S BOUNT Y - EVEN T HOUGH T HEY’ RE A F LAVOR-PACKED ADDIT ION

TO ANY KITCHEN.”

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BASIC PASTA DOUGH INGREDIENTS

4 C 00 or All-Purpose Flour 4 large eggs 6 yolks 2 tsp salt Additional flour for dusting 1. Mound the flour in the center of a work surface or bowl. Dig a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs, yolks, and salt. 2. Slowly start to incorporate the flour into the egg mixture until it begins to come together. If fully incorporated and there’s still an excess of flour, a few tablespoons of water should help. 3. Using your hands and some of the additional flour, roll the dough into a ball and begin to knead it until the dough feels like it tightens. 4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for a minimum of one hour to relax the gluten. At this point it is ready to use, or can be refrigerated to prepare at a later time. 5. Roll out and cut the dough to your desired shape, using a pasta roller or by hand. 6. To cook, bring a large pot of heavilysalted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender (approximately 3 - 5 minutes).

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WILD RAMP & CHIVE PESTO INGREDIENTS

2 C ramp leaves 1/2 C chives 4 cloves of garlic 1/4 C pine nuts 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan 3/4 C olive oil Salt and pepper, to taste 1. Toast pine nuts by placing in a dry frying pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Over medium-low heat, cook until fragrant and golden brown, stirring constantly. Transfer to a plate to stop the cooking and prevent burning. 2. Blanch the ramp leaves in salted boiling water for about 45 seconds, then submerge into ice water to stop the cooking. Strain well and pat the leaves dry. 3. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the leaves, chives, garlic, and toasted pine nuts. 4. Add the grated cheese, then stream in the oil slowly. 5. Adjust to taste with salt and pepper.

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“T HE F LAVORS ALSO

MELD BEAU WIT H SOME FRESHLY MA

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UT IFULLY ADE PASTA”

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ENGLISH PEA & ASPARAGUS SAUCE INGREDIENTS

1/2 lb asparagus 1/2 C English peas 2 Tbsp. butter 1/4 C spring or green onion, thinly sliced 2/3 C Parmesan, grated 1/2 C creme fraiche 2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped 1 Tbsp. tarragon, chopped 1. Cut the asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces. Melt the butter in a small sauté pan. Add the asparagus, peas, and spring onion. Sauté over medium heat until the onion begins to wilt and the asparagus and peas are tender. 2. Add Parmesan cheese and crème fraiche. Stir to combine. Incorporate parsley and tarragon just before serving. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then toss with freshly made pasta.

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“AFT ER ALL, T HERE’S A

NEW GROWING SEASON

AHEAD.”

WILT ED SORREL SAUCE INGREDIENTS

1 C heavy cream 4 Tbsp butter 4 oz sorrel leaves, chopped 2 Tbsp pasta water Salt and pepper, to taste 1. Slowly heat the cream and bring to a simmer. 2. Melt the butter in a sauté pan, add the sorrel, and slowly begin to wilt. 3. Stir the cream into the sorrel and butter mixture. Use the pasta water to thin out the sauce if needed. 4. Adjust to taste with salt and pepper.

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Bringing the Countryside of Benevento to the Branford Restaurant Scene

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by Courtney Squire Winter Caplanson photos CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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Stepping into

Strega, one is immediately transported halfway across the globe to the smells, sounds, and tastes of an authentic family ristorante set in the rolling hills of Italy, where ingredients come together to reflect the very best of what the countryside has to offer. Owner and food aficionado, Danilo Mongillo, has traveled all the way from Benevento, Italy, to bring his agrarian Italian heritage, experience, and passion to the table in this enchanting corner restaurant in the center of Branford.

Danilo grew up steeped in the rich cultural heritage of his small diverse family farm on the outskirts of Naples. His family raised their own pork and beef, produced milk, made cheese and olive oil, grew grapes for wine, and raised their own vegetables (canning over 500 liters of tomatoes each year from their harvest!). His father is the area butcher, and in his shop, they do everything from scratch, and stock the shelves with local goods made by their neighbors. Danilo’s entire family was always around him - raising, cooking and celebrating food. As a child, he began cooking for his younger brothers as early as ten years old, making pasta and pizza dough, while learning how to operate the wood-burning oven in his family’s basement. As a young man, Danilo served three years in the armed forces, and returned home a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. After his service, it was a natural fit for him to join the Italian police force, working for the Ministry of Agriculture where his job was to investigate fraud in the Italian food and beverage industry, and enforce the country’s strict labeling laws. He was essentially the guardian of Italian tradition, working to protect the integrity of Italian products that for generations have been recognized globally for their flavor, terroir, and quality. As one of the legal gatekeepers of Italy’s cultural identity, Danilo developed a keen sense of respect and

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“Danilo and Marco continue to craft the menu

ŷÿ

seasonally to reflect their own heritage...

...celebrating the spectrum of culinary expressions indigenous to their homeland.” CTFOODANDFARM.COM

passion for the highest quality ingredients. This experience, coupled with his childhood spent on the family farm, has helped shape Danilo’s unwavering passion and deep respect for real food and real flavor that he brings to this gem of a restaurant in Branford.

Passion and respect inform all of Danilo’s decisions regarding where he sources his ingredients and how he builds his menu. The flour they use for the pizza at Strega is the Caputo 00, a very light bread flour from one of the oldest mills in Naples, and a traditional favorite of some of the most esteemed pizzaiolos in the world. The tomatoes for the sauce are the San Marzanoa vital ingredient to make a true Neapolitan pizza- grown in the fertile volcanic soils near Mt. Vesuvius. The cherry tomatoes that add such depth and sweetness to many dishes are the Piennolo del Vesuvio- the hanging tomatoes of Vesuvius. Growers in these rich mineral soils harvest the entire plant, hanging the vine upside down in a well-ventilated area where the tomatoes then stay fresh for months, bringing the wonders of the fresh tomato to the winter palate. The pasta is either made in-house from scratch, or is imported from Rummo, traditional master pasta makers in Benevento that have been making pasta since 1846, with a starch that is “like a cream” according to Danilo. The list goes on and on: the prosciutto di Parma, the gorgonzola, and all the Italian wines on the menu are all certified appellations that contribute to the dynamic dining experience at Strega. Even more important: most of the ingredients are produced by people that Danilo knows personally. Nearly 90% of the wines Strega offers are produced by friends of his 189


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“...this

pizza is the original mother of all pizzas...”

ŷÿ

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“...the prosciutto di Parma, the gorgonzola, and

all the Italian wines on the menu are all certified appellations that contribute to the dynamic dining experience...”

ŷÿ

from all over Italy. They are mostly single-grape varietals, so you can taste the fruit’s unique qualities and discern the environment of the particular area it is from. Sipping the Terra di Giumara Nero D’Avola, one can almost taste the ocean, smoky volcanic soils, and Sicilian sun that coalesce to create this epicurean delight. The house wines hail from Danilo’s hometown of Benevento, offering a glimpse into the tastes of the terrain that molded him as a young boy. Interspersed amongst these worldrenowned ingredients and exceptional wines are also the flavors and foods more reflective of the American landscape, such as lobster from Long Island sound, Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, and popular craft beers. From the very first day he opened the doors at Strega, Danilo has been committed to using certified organic vegetables and grass-fed beef whenever possible. This standard connects him back to his

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childhood in Benevento, where real food consists of real ingredients grown and raised in the tradition of his ancestors. As Danilo becomes more immersed in the local community, he also hopes to bring more of his farming roots to the table by building relationships with area vegetable growers, as well as local pork and beef producers who share the same quality standards and ideals he has known all his life. Strega is forging a new path forward these days with the addition of Chef Marco Giugliano. A rising star in the global culinary scene, Marco’s resume includes Ristorante Quattro Passi, a 2-Star Michelin-rated restaurant near the Amalfi coast, as well as Taverna Estia, located on the outskirts of Naples. Taverna Estia received its second Michelin star during Marco’s tenure there- an enormous accomplishment for any chef. Just maintaining a Michelin star is enough to make or break any chef’s career, but

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“Sipping the Terra di Giumara Nero D’Avola, one can almost taste the ocean, smoky volcanic soils, and Sicilian sun that coalesce to create this

ŷÿ

epicurean delight.

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“He was essentially the guardian of Italian

tradition, working to protect the integrity of Italian products that for generations have been

ŷÿ

achieving an additional star is the stuff dreams are made of in the culinary world. Marco has taken the traditional family recipes Danilo has introduced at Strega, and infused the menu with his own innovative take on classic regional favorites.

Strega offers a diverse menu that represents many of the different regions and nuances of Italy’s best culinary traditions. The Fritto Misto is representative of street food from Naples, with its fried arancini (risotto balls), potato croquettes, and montanara (a fried pizza dough). The Bucatino Cacio e Pepe hails from Rome, but the addition of Sichuan peppercorns lends a slightly citrusy undertone to this famed pasta dish that is both smooth and luscious at the same time. The Rigatoni alla Genovese, a somewhat lesser known Neapolitan specialty, is a delectable centuries-old traditional ragu of slow-cooked beef and onions served with pasta. Danilo and Marco continue to craft the menu seasonally to reflect their own heritage, celebrating the spectrum of culinary expressions indigenous to their homeland.

It hasn’t always been easy for Danilo and the staff at Strega to forge a new path into the culinary landscape of Branford. One of Strega’s signature dishes is their totally authentic Neapolitan pizza, complete with its charred crust and chewy texture from the fermented and bubbly dough. Light as a feather and cooked for less than a minute at 900 degrees in a woodburning oven, this pizza is the original mother of all pizzas, though a far cry from what most Americans know today. The simple balance of textures and flavors remains underappreciated by some patrons who are ensconced in a world of New Haven-style pizza pies, famous for their thin and crispy crusts. The pizza we know and love here in Connecticut has most certainly evolved from this original Neapolitan form, and Strega is the place to go to taste this centuries-old tradition and sample one of the best examples of Neapolitan pizza found in this part of the world. Danilo remains steadfast in his commitment to offering the authentic Italian experience, while at the same time giving something back to his new community and home. Strega strives to

recognized globally for their flavor, terroir, and quality..” CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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offers something different, something that adds a counterpoint and value to the distinctly Italian-American and New Haven style of Italian food so ubiquitous and cherished by the Branford community. Danilo and Marco are well on their way to weaving their own narrative of culinary identity into the cultural fabric of the New Haven area, creating cuisine with a distinct fidelity to the Italian tradition that serves to enrich both. As Danilo says, “I don’t compete. I don’t need to…I just offer another kind of experience and option. We are

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not in competition, we help each other, that’s how it works.” Strega continues to put itself on the map, both with visiting Italian nationals who find their way here for a taste of home, and locals who enjoy the amazing food, great drinks and upbeat atmosphere. Strega is honored to have been awarded the “Eccellenze Italianne” award for the third time, celebrating the best of authentic Italian businesses and products throughout the world. Strega also just received the incredible distinction of being named a

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“2019 Top Italian Restaurant” by the esteemed Gambero Rosso Restaurant Guide, welcoming Connecticut into the ranks of the world’s finest Italian food destinations for the very first time. But Danilo, who exudes passion and love for what he does with every ounce of his being, will be the first to say that “this is beautiful. We want to be here, we love to be here. But the end goal is the food, not the recognition.” Find Strega at stregarestaurant.com and facebook.com/stregarestaurant.

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It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want

– oh, you want it you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache,

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” t so!

-Mark Twain

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NICOLE BEDARD PHOTO

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Being Brigaid: Reinv by Dan Salisbury Winter Caplanson photos

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venting School Lunch CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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There’s an indescribable

and hectic fervor that buzzes in and around restaurant kitchens. What arguably unites them all, however, is the passion of the teams that run these businesses, which often are manifested through the mantras within the kitchen walls. The famed American chef, Thomas Keller, and his acclaimed Californian restaurant, The French Laundry, lays out an ever-changing inspirational quote in the kitchen - in perfectly cut painter’s tape – to inspire the back-of-house staff. New York’s Eleven Madison Park, which took the top spot in the restaurant guide World’s 50 Best in 2017, is widely known for the phrase, “Make it Nice,” which hangs framed in the restaurant and has evolved into the name and ethos of the multifaceted restaurant group itself. Kitchen lingo often beckons those cooking and serving food to push hard, keep one’s head down, and find excitement and fulfillment in getting through another busy night in the kitchen, day in, day out. In New London, Connecticut, there are a team of chefs bringing

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that same passion and energy to changing the face of school food in the United States. Brigaid, founded by Chef Daniel Giusti, has focused on recruiting chefs to work in school kitchens. The American-born Giusti established his name leading one of the world’s top restaurants for years; he helmed the kitchen of Noma, the Scandinavian fine-dining mecca, from 2013-2016. His departure from the restaurant was spurred on by his self-admitted desire to “feed a lot of people,” and in February 2016, Brigaid was established, choosing New London, CT as the first district to pilot the model. There are currently five chefs that work in five schools in the New London School District, with the goal of transitioning from heat and serve kitchens to more involved, hands-on scratch cooking. It’s 6:45 a.m. inside the kitchen at Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School, and things are

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“Brigaid’s target food cost for each dish is

$1.25 , including milk.” CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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in full swing. On any given day, Chef John Thompson and I tackle breakfast, lunch, and supper for roughly five hundred students who will enter the halls within the next forty-five minutes - and who will stay until roughly 4:00 p.m. It’s no easy task, but we both have appropriate training. John is an accomplished Michelin-starred chef, and as the lead cook for the school, my training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, has provided a strong foundation for successfully producing breakfast and lunch in a presentable and timely fashion. With a rotating music playlist blaring in the background – our staff varies in age from the early twenties to late seventies - we start the day. Fresh eggs are cracked, strained, and seasoned. John pours a gentle stream of the egg mixture into waiting four-inch hotel pans; at the same time, I’m pulling out whole wheat chocolate-chip muffins that are made fresh daily. Temperatures and holding times are recorded and logged, the mass of students are served in a half-hour period, and we clean, breakdown, and reset for lunch prep.

“[We] tackle breakfast, lunch, and supper for roughly five hundred students.”

At Winthrop, there are six lunch “waves” consisting of a quick twentyfive minutes, the first starting at 10:40 a.m., and the sixth wave of students leaving the cafeteria at 1:40 p.m. This time frame is specific only to Winthrop; the other elementary schools, the middle school, and the high school in the New London School District all have their own iterations of lunch waves, but the principle of serving a lot of kids in a very short amount of time remains the same. The USDA’s National School Lunch Program is the driving factor behind the structure of lunch in most American school cafeterias, with Brigaid being no exception. The program, originally funded as part of the National School Lunch Act of 1946, allows schools to be reimbursed for

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“...the goal is transitioni to more inv

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ing from heat and serve kitchens volved, hands-on scratch cooking.�

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“I fell in love with using food as a vehicle to make a difference, and I’ve been fortunate to find like-minded people who are just as invested in the ride as I am.” each lunch meal sold – a grand total of $ 3.39 per lunch for the 2018-2019 school year - but only if the meal is nutritionally compliant in a wide variety of categories. Following the Offer Vs Serve (OVS) subset of the program - with the goal being to offer a variety of meal components and eliminate unnecessary waste, rather than just serve the entire meal - each reimbursable meal must include at least three out of five defined components. Students must take a fruit or a vegetable, and are given a choice to take at least one - but not more than three – of the other components: a meat or meat alternate, a grain, and milk. Got the basics? Good, but we’ve barely scratched the surface. There are more complex nutritional guidelines to follow as well: minimum serving size,

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sodium limits, caloric intake, the subgroup of vegetable credited, saturated fat percentage…the list goes on and on. That $3.39 reimbursement rate must cover food, labor, and equipment, among other costs; in all, Brigaid’s target food cost for each dish is $1.25, including milk. With different limits for the three age groups (elementary, middle, and high school), there’s some variation in serving size and flexibility between each school; however, with a fairly low return on investment, Brigaid is forced to be extremely creative in menu development. Take chicken souvlaki, for example: fresh chicken is processed into bitesize pieces; marinated with fresh lemon, herbs, and spices; skewered; and roasted in the oven. We then present the chicken with a madeto-order naan flatbread. We have

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“Almost every Wednesday night during the school year, the Brigaid chefs in New London host a $5 Community Meal. ”

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“With a rotating music playlist blaring in the background – our staff varies in age from the early twenties to late

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plenty of other menu items that rotate on a monthly basis; with each school running a hot entrée daily and a pasta that changes weekly, there’s plenty of variation and exposure to new foods and ideas.

e seventies -

we start the day.”

There are days when the entrée doesn’t go over too well with the kids, even though we’ve put our heart and soul into developing it. There are times when older equipment fails and lunch must be produced for at least five hundred kids. There are moments when the staff have mentioned that it was easier before Brigaid took over: New London cafeteria staff are paid the same as before Brigaid stepped in, and we’re pushing them to learn, grow, and produce more and more every day. Transitioning from a heat-and-serve operation, to one producing scratchmade food daily, simply has challenges. I want everyone on my staff to be the best versions of themselves that they can be, but I’m not going to push my employees to overexert themselves, either. Head down, adapt, and move on. There’s always a silver lining to be found, though. We roast kale chips with a pinch of salt and a touch of oil, and we can hardly keep up with the demand. For a few of our dishes, we bake warm pans of cornbread for each wave of students, and serve slow-roasted, thyme-glazed carrots on the side. At the core of things, the act of preparing something so simple as our in-house, three-day fermented whole wheat pizza dough, or hand-

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rolled enchiladas served with beans simmered with sofrito and served with seasoned rice - and showing the kids that we care - is hopefully beneficial to these students in the long-run. We also try to do what we can for New London and the surrounding community at large. Almost every Wednesday night during the school year, the Brigaid chefs in New London host a Community Meal at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School. For $5, you’ll get a solid meal and a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Come down and say hi. Brigaid chefs, cooks, and personnel - myself included - try our best to navigate the mysterious waters of the industrial food complex. It’s not

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easy; we all place a serious amount of pressure on ourselves to do the best job we can with the given resources, to work within nutritional and financial constraints, and to produce the sheer volume of quality food needed in the limited hours allotted during the school day. Exposing kids to thoughtful, nutritious, and filling food - when some students might not receive anything of this sort outside of the school cafeteria – is an incredibly rewarding and humbling feeling. I was fortunate enough to land a position with this organization that is completely applicable to my Applied Food Studies degree from the Culinary Institute of America; a bit cliché, but I fell in love with using food as a vehicle to make a difference, and I’ve been fortunate to find like-minded people who are just as invested in the ride as I am. Instead of inspirational quotes on our line, we have taped-up thank you notes and cards from the students. I always keep a rotating collection of cookbooks to draw inspiration from in the kitchen office, but this is counterbalanced with stacks of the newest government nutritional guidelines or Excel spreadsheets of newly developed Brigaid recipes we’re going to test that day. At Winthrop and the other schools where chefs run the kitchen, we try our best to “Make it Nice,” but perhaps we can be known for something similar - we’re really just trying to cook with a purpose.

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“Exposing kids to thoughtful, nutritious, might not receive anything of this s

– is an incredibly rewardi FAMED CHEF AND TV PERSONALITY JAQUES PEPIN SHOWS SUPPORT FOR BRIGAID DURING A WINTER COMMUNITY MEAL. 220

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, and filling food - when some students sort outside of the school cafeteria

ing and humbling feeling.� CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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A Tale of Tantalizing Tastes:

Sugar & S m o k e

Brazen

BBQ BY JENNIFER C. LAVOIE

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TERESA JOHNSON PHOTOS

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G

ood barbecue seems to always have a backstory to it, like the smoke rings that build in a well-smoked brisket: the layers tell a story. You want to know how the rings got there. What makes that lovely pink layer? How hard was that to achieve? The passion and dedication that Sugar & Smoke Brazen BBQ puts into making delicious heaps of rich, smokeysmoky meats, sweet and savory sauces and sides creates the kind of food you want to savor – like a good story.

Darrell Minkler and Beth Wolter are the owners of Sugar & Smoke Brazen BBQ, a take-out barbecue restaurant located at 74B School Street in Putnam, CT. They bring their collective experience and stories to their own unique style of barbecue. Minkler and Wolter met eight years ago, working side-byside for a catering business. They would often joke about opening their own restaurant, but the joking eventually became serious, and in 2017 Sugar & Smoke Brazen BBQ was opened. The popularity of their barbecue is growing, and a new location is now open at Vineyard Valley Golf Club, at Braymen Hollow Road in Pomfret. The menu in Pomfret is nearly identical, with a few added handhelds for the golfers. Wolter said that Minkler was adamant about smoking. Minkler does all the smoking while Wolter does

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the baking and the sides, known as “supports” in BBQ lingo. They created a unique menu: fast, fresh, with more vegetables, more color, and more spice, but also offer some standards. Wolter explains, “Making everything in-house makes a huge difference. When the cornbread or the coconut cake comes out of the oven, or the ribs come off the smoker, customers can see it and know they’re getting something they can’t find anywhere else.” Wolter makes everything from scratch: barbecue sauces (Carolina and Kansas City), tropical black bean salad, maple jalapeño cornbread, jalapeño potato salad, Sriracha coleslaw, smoked pit beans, collard and mustard greens - and my personal favorite, smoked candied bacon. Minkler tends to his smoking like a mother watches over her baby. Using his prized Lang competitionstyle stick smoker, he will stay up

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all night to smoke a brisket that typically takes 12to-16 hours. “We do it the old-fashioned way,” says Minkler, as he loads up the smoker with 20-inch sticks of hickory or red oak. For Minkler, the true emblem of top-quality and expertly smoked meat is the deep pink smoke ring. (There’s a definitive separation of people who feel that the smoke ring matters and those that don’t, but if the beautiful pink rings from Minkler’s brisket are what he prizes, then I’m definitely in Darrell’s camp on this one). Minkler and Wolter built and refined the Sugar & Smoke menu based on what their customers wanted, and then married it with their experience and unique styles. For example, Wolter came up with a killer meatloaf recipe. Her meatloaf is not the typical indistinguishable mound of protein. With a combination of the trimmings from smoked racks of ribs and

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scratch-made maple cornbread, you’ve got yourself one tasty, moist meatloaf. Wolter explains: “Nothing on our menu is an afterthought. People love the smoked meat, but they also appreciate the unique sides and housemade desserts. The care we put into our food shows.” I agree. When I visited Sugar & Smoke, I giddily took home some brisket, but in my haste, I forgot to have them include their barbecue sauce. The brisket was amazing, even without the sauce. It was moist and flavorful with just the right amount of smoke. What makes their food so good? I can’t help but go back to their stories. Wolter’s interest in cooking began with a love of Indian food. She first tried Indian food in New York City and was hooked. While living in Boston, two friends taught her how to cook both Indian and Ethiopian food, and opened her eyes to a whole new

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realm of spices. Wolter continued to cook for family and friends, but didn’t start cooking professionally until working as the Dietary Coordinator at Summit School in Manchester. In her role, Wolter was involved with all aspects of planning, shopping, and cooking breakfast and lunch for 50-70 young women and staff, five days

Sacramento, California. Minkler remembers those summers spent working in the restaurant as the best he ever had. He explains that his father was an early innovator back in 1972, offering health shakes before they became all the rage - and sprout sandwiches. Even California Governor Jerry Brown frequented his father’s

“They created a unique menu: fast, fresh, with more vegetables, more color, and more spice, but also offer some BBQ standards.” a week. Wolter improved upon the usual school food fare by adding more fresh produce, more ethnic food - and having the girls bring in their own home recipes. Minkler’s culinary experience started early. He began prepping and using a slicer at the age of 10 when he worked for his father in his family’s restaurant in

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restaurant, apparently always ordering a fruit salad.

Wolter and Minkler have worked together for a long time. I asked them what their secret is, and Wolter said “it has to [work]. We don’t have a choice. Occasionally, there’s some yelling, but we get over it because we can’t do this alone.

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“Minkler

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r tends to his smoking like a mother watches over her baby.�

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“We’ve both had experience in seeing or participating in some businesses that were successful and others that were not. Mistakes and miscalculations will be made, but hopefully our combined knowledge will lessen the number. There’s a certain amount of luck involved, but it’s mostly about integrity and hard work...a lot of hard work.” Minkler explains that Sugar & Smoke’s menu design sets them apart from other barbecue joints. They don’t follow whatever trend might be hot, but instead they design the menu to reflect their own unique style. The menu changes weekly; past specials include smoked Cubano (pulled pork, pit ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickle

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chips and mustard), Asian chicken soft tacos, and weekly dessert specials. By the way, don’t forget the “cheap dates:” pork belly snacks in variety of flavors, including brown sugar and habanero; maple, orange & chipotle; and bourbon & black pepper, gumbo, and chili verde. Minkler and Wolter also offer a standard menu that includes fan favorites such as ribs, brisket chili, maple jalapeño cornbread, mac and cheese, candied bacon, half-pound burgers with pork belly and cheddar, smoked pit beans, and coconut cake. During the holidays customers can order a honey-brined, smoked turkey and Sugar & Smoke will soon be offering half chickens.

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Sugar & Smoke’s food tells a story. Its narrative is powerful, encouraging us to revel in their smokey, spicy, unique barbecue flavor, much like getting lost in a really good story. Come and try Sugar & Smoke’s barbecue, bury your nose in the rich, smoked flavor of the brisket or ribs, take a couple bites of unique, spicy sides, and finish off this tantalizing tale with a slice of sweet coconut cake.

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SUGAR & SMOKE is located at 74B School Street, Putnam, CT. 860-928-7842. Take-out only. Open Tuesday and Wednesday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Catering is available) SUGAR & SMOKE AT VINEYARD VALLEY GOLF COURSE is located at 34 Brayman Hollow Road, Pomfret Center, CT. 860-974-2100. Dine in or take-out. Open Thursday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.

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Maple Candied Bacon & Whisky Butter BY WINTER CAPLANSON

Want to try your hand at making the oh-so-trendy and very delicious Candied Bacon? This addictive snack is everywhere right now: it’s crispy, chewy, sweet, salty, smoky - and a little spicy. A crowd-pleasing finger food, you can also use it as a garnish for baked sweet potatoes, soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts or cocktails! The Beamhouse in Glastonbury shared their recipes for easy Maple Candied Bacon - and The Butcher’s Daughter, their signature cocktail for which the bacon is a crowning touch:

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aug

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…c a

Maple Candied Bacon ndied

INGREDIENTS

baco

n is

ac

Applewood smoked bacon Maple syrup Brown sugar

row

Chili powder Red pepper flakes

No need to be fussy…the measurements are all to your preferred taste!

n

Slather the bacon in maple syrup; toss in brown sugar.

ing tou

ch!”

Bake on parchment-lined broiling pan at 375 F for 20-30 minutes until done, depending on thickness of bacon. Remove from oven, sprinkle with chili powder and red pepper flakes, then let cool. Garnish your cocktail... sip, sip, repeat.

Butcher’s Daughter Cocktail INGREDIENTS

*1.5 oz Buttered Mellow Corn (house recipe below) .75 oz Schneider Hopfenweisse .5 oz Velvet Falernum .25oz Gran Classico Bitters Stir, strain, and garnish with Candied Bacon *Buttered Mellow Corn 1 stick Irish or other grass-fed butter 1 750 ml bottle Mellow Corn (a high-proof, goldcolored American corn whisky) Brown the butter. When melted, combine with the whisky in a large bowl. It will bubble a bit. Stir well. Let sit for 24 hours, then refrigerate. The butter solids will rise and coagulate. Remove solids and strain the whisky through a coffee filter to completely remove particulate. Store your Buttered Mellow Corn in the refrigerator. BONUS: Gently re-melt and blend the Whisky Butter; pour off into a ramekin to use in cooking or baking. CTFOODANDFARM.COM

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Behi

When Wesley Barringto at By Moonsong, isn’t cook delicious treats, he can be enjoying the outdoors, no the season.

Jessica Battista is a loc who graduated from the H Art School in 2015. She spe small business branding an design for food and bevera

Nicole Bedard has a pass

highlighting who is behind what products/services the Follow on IG: @nbedardph

Erica Buehler would like

thank coffee for helping he and for pretty much everyt else she accomplishes in lif #caffeinationmotivation

Winter Caplanson, our E

in Chief, and photographer Connecticut Food and Farm verdigris, Labrador Retriev deep, dark shadows.

Angeline Chiang loves d

loves cooking too, and is ch Moonsong, but mostly she Big dogs, small dogs, dogs dogs with cats... She loves

MAPLE SUGARING TIME BY LISA STONE KIM 240

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ind the Pages

on, chef king up found matter what

cal illustrator Hartford ecializes in nd packaging age.

sion for a brand and ey provide. hotog

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dogs. She hef at By e loves dogs. with hats, dogs.

our contributors

Gena Golas bakes by day, but her best job is being a mom to Lenny, 5, and Lucy, 2 (even though the pastries are usually better listeners).

Dave Marcoux is a carpenter and Co-

Megan Johnson runs Buttercup Farm, a retail and wholesale raw milk dairy. She is 37 years old, from Long Island, and before college had never touched a cow. She’s now been milking for over a decade and is hooked on bovines and excited for what the future brings!

Juniper Vintage.

Teresa Johnson is a full-time

photographer in Woodstock. She enjoys spoiling her mischievous cats, pretending she likes to cook, and competing with her husband at mini golf. Teresa can often be found photographing her way through a wedding, chasing golden hour in the Quiet Corner, and talking smack at the driving range.

Heather Laffin is a teacher-turned

farmer in the Quiet Corner. She is a fiber enthusiast and enjoys sharing her sweet animals with children in the community.

Jennifer LaVoie relishes writing

that story - whether it’s about mixing a terrific cocktail, or finding the best smoked brisket, or saving money at your local food co-op, it’s the people behind these stories that keep her picking up the pen!

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founder of Hartford Denim Company.

Cara Marcoux is the owner of Michele Morcey grew up in a

restaurant family and spent her formative years flipping burgers and grilling chicken and ribs at her dad’s popular BBQ spot in Waterbury. She continues to cook more healthful options (sometimes) for her own kids and enjoys being part of an extended tribe that is passionate about food.

Lisa Nichols is a photographer/ designer who goes wherever she needs to to get the shot. She recently launched a photo biz that specifically specializes in food photography called Bread & Beast. Will O’Meara is a graduate of UMass

Amherst in Sustainable Food and Farming, an organic vegetable farmer at Waldingfield Farm in Washington, CT, and a proud resident of Waterbury.

Carlos Perez is Chef/Owner of La

Palette Bakery & Birchwood Catering in Watertown. His latest venture, Chez 180, is set to open in Westport later this year.

Dan Salisbury currently cooks for Brigaid. He enjoys writing, petting dogs, and learning as much as possible. Instagram: @salisburyd

Anna Sawin would have written this bio 100% in gifs if the format allowed. Since that’s not a thing, she’s instead telling you that she is a wedding photographer on the New England seaside, and she is hoping CT Food & Farm will interview Engine Room in Mystic solely for the purpose of getting their pickled onion recipe. John Shyloski is a CT/NYC food and music photographer who can be spotted running, biking or indoor rock climbing. He’s also looking forward to baseball season starting. Catch him on Instagram @jshyloski_food_and_ beverage Courtney Squire spends the better part of her time growing delicious veggies on her farm in Pomfret, CT, and cooking up a storm every chance she gets! Jenna Toth is a junior at Eastern Connecticut State University, pursuing a degree in communications. She enjoys writing, traveling, and taking naps.

Rita Rivera, Connecticut Food and Farm’s Graphic Designer, drank 15+ soda pops while designing this piece and realizes she might have a problem. She posts a lot of pictures of her dogs on Instagram @loveandpopart.

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Profile for Connecticut Food and Farm

Connecticut Food & Farm Magazine, Spring 2019, Volume 16