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And to all a good night Cooking for limited diets A year’s worth of reasons to celebrate Winter beverage preview

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In this issue A plate for everyone

Cooking for guests with dietary requirements A brief guide to food restrictions

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Any excuse for a party Unusual holidays to celebrate throughout the year

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Winter beverage preview

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Drink & Dine New England is a special advertising publication of The Berkshire Eagle and the Brattleboro Reformer. For information on advertising in future issues, contact advertising@newenglandnewspapers.com On the cover: Lindsay Cotter/UnSplash This page: Adam Jamie/UnSplash

Photo: Drew Beamer/UnSplash

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A plate for everyone A host’s guide to navigating dietary restrictions By Kimberly Kirchner Cooking for a group is a balancing act in the best of circumstances — calculating batch sizes, coordinating cooking times, reconciling different tastes. There’s a reason professional meal planners exist. However, the average holiday get-together isn’t overseen by an expert caterer. Instead, it falls on the host to manage the many

competing details that make up a successful dinner party. Dietary restrictions are an especially thorny set of complications. Failure to properly address special food requirements can lead to guests feeling anything from uncomfortable and alienated to seriously ill. Fortunately, with a little forethought and some creative substitution, it’s possible to craft a meal that is both delicious and inclusive.

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Know your limits The first step in planning a meal around food restrictions is knowing what not to serve. Generally, it’s considered poor etiquette to demand a full medical history from dinner guests, so you’ll need to take a more tactful approach. Asking guests at the time of the invitation if they have any food restrictions allows them to give as few or as

many details as they feel comfortable providing. If you’re unsure, you can always share your proposed menu with guests and let them tell you if it presents any problems. This keeps the focus on the food, rather than the guest’s individual diet. Most guests with dietary restrictions would rather confirm the menu ahead of time than wind up sitting at the table with an empty plate. Winter 2019


Metro Creative

Make a plan Once you know what your restrictions are, you can begin to map out your meal. First, you need to determine your strategy. Will you be adapting dishes for the whole group so that all guests can enjoy them, or will you prepare additional food specifically for your guests with dietary restrictions? If your guest has multiple or especially strict food restrictions, it may be best to cook them a separate plate that meets their requirements. Ideally, this can be prepared ahead of time, to avoid possible cross-contamination, and served alongside the main meal. It should also match the Winter 2019

quality and formality of what the larger group is eating: when the family’s having sirloin, vegan Aunt Janice shouldn’t have to settle for a frozen veggie burger heated in the microwave and served on a paper plate. When preparing a shared meal, focus on choice and customization. Multiple side dishes increase the likelihood that guests will be able to find something that fits both their diets and their tastes, as will allowing guests to apply their own dressings, sauces and toppings, when possible. If you can’t adapt your main dish to fit your guests’ needs, make sure you offer side dishes that are filling enough to stand on their own. Drink & Dine New England • 3


Prepare and serve

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When cooking for guests with dietar y restrictions, keep in mind that even trace amounts of an ingredient can trigger a reaction. To prevent cross-contamination, designate specific cookware and utensils for each dish. Assemble allergen- or irritant-free dishes before the others, if possible, and on a separate table or countertop. Keep the packaging for any ingredients, in case a guest has questions about their contents. For buffet-style service, provide a sign for each dish with a brief list of ingredients. Make sure serving utensils stick with their intended dish with the help of visual aids like matching plates and bowls or color-coded labels. Let guests with dietary restrictions serve themselves first. There will be less chance of contamination between dishes, and guests who

can’t eat everything on the table won’t be left hungry should your specially-prepared sides prove popular with the whole group. After the meal, clear away uneaten food promptly. Check the storage requirements for unfamiliar ingredients — many gluten-free foods, for example, need to be kept refrigerated. If you’re leaving out snacks for guests to graze on throughout the evening, keep plates covered and provide tongs for any finger foods. Finally, don’t let food restrictions become the main focus of your event. No guest should feel like an inconvenience, or that their eating habits are under scrutiny. As long as the relevant parties know which dishes are safe to eat, there’s no need for an elaborate presentation on controlled diets. Just keep the plates full and the conversation flowing, and no one will waste a moment wondering about what isn’t on the menu.

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Understanding food restrictions People may follow a restricted diet for a variety of reasons, from personal belief to medical necessity. While no dietary requirement should be treated as less serious or legitimate than another, understanding common restrictions can help you ensure all your guests feel safe, welcome and respected. Please note that the guidelines below are intended only as a rough guide. Always check with guests to make sure their individuals needs are met.

FOOD ALLERGIES A food allergy is an adverse reaction by the immune system to a particular food, resulting in hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, an attack can turn into fullblown anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that requires immediate medical intervention. According to the Mayo Clinic, an

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estimated 6-8% of children and 3% of adults have a food allergy. Most reactions are caused by ingestion, when the allergic person accidentally or unknowingly consumes the offending food. However, those with severe allergies may be triggered by simply touching or even breathing in traces of the allergen. The most common food allergies are milk, eggs, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish and wheat (not to be confused with gluten intolerance, as explained below).

FOOD INTOLERANCES Unlike a food allergy, which involves the immune system, food intolerances are usually based in the digestive system. They’re often caused by a lack of enzymes needed to properly break down a type of food, sensitivity to some food additives or gastrointestinal conditions like

irritable bowel syndrome. Eating the wrong food can lead to bloating, cramping, stomach pain and a host of other digestive issues. Some people with food intolerance may be able to eat small amounts of a particular food without negative consequences, or take medication that helps their body properly digest. Food intolerance does not cause anaphylaxis and isn’t triggered by contact with skin, but some sufferers may experience headaches or nausea when they smell certain foods. Lactose intolerance is the most common food sensitivity worldwide, affecting approximately 65% of adults according to the National Institutes of Health. Other common triggers include caffeine, artificial sweeteners, preservatives and food dyes. Gluten and wheat sensitivities are also fairly common, but should not be confused with celiac disease,

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an autoimmune disorder in which gluten causes damage to the lining of the intestines, affecting their ability to absorb nutrients.

OTHER MEDICAL RESTRICTIONS The food we eat can have a major impact on all aspects of our health, even if they’re not directly related to digestion. Many medical issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease, require a controlled diet to keep all systems running smoothly. Sugar, sodium, alcohol, caffeine, saturated fat and cholesterol are common targets of health-related dietary restrictions.

RELIGIOUS RESTRICTIONS Most major religions specify dietary restrictions of one kind or another, though some are more commonly observed than others. Individual sects within a religion may have their own rules, as well. Restrictions may vary throughout the year, in accordance with religious holidays. It’s also important to note that not all members of a religion will follow every rule, at all times. Adherence to religious food law is very much an individual choice. Judaism requires food be kosher, 6 • Drink & Dine New England

meaning it is butchered and processed in accordance with Jewish food law. Pork, rabbit and shellfish are not allowed. Meat must be soaked or broiled to remove any blood, and cannot be consumed in the same meal or served on the same plate as dairy products. Islam, like Judaism, specifies p ro c e d u re s fo r s l a u g hte r i n g , butchering and processing meat. Food that meets religious requirements is considered halal. Pork products and alcohol are forbidden. Buddhism does not specify dietary restrictions, but is often interpreted as calling for a vegetarian lifestyle. Hinduism, like Buddhism, favors vegetarianism. Beef, especially, is considered taboo, though dairy products are not. Christianity varies by denomination. Catholics may abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, and sometimes Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Mormonism forbids tobacco, alcohol and caffeine.

VEGETARIANISM People choose a meat-free diet for a variety of reasons, be it out of concern for animal welfare, the environment or their own health. Vegetarian diets can be divided into

a few groups based on how strictly they restrict the consumption of animal products. Lacto-ovo vegetarians are the most common group and do not eat meat but may consume eggs, milk and other products harvested from animals. Ovo vegetarians cut out both dairy and meat, while lacto vegetarians eat dairy products but not eggs. Pescatarians do not eat meat from mammals, birds or land-dwelling animals, but do eat fish and shellfish. Semivegetarians/flexitarians usually follow a meat-free diet, but may consume meat in small quantities on special occasions.

VEGANISM Veganism is the strictest form of vegetarianism, and involves abstaining from all products harvested from or produced by animals. This includes meat, eggs and dairy products, as well as anything made with gelatin or animal fats. Some vegans also consider honey to be an animal product and therefore off-limits, although the topic is still up for debate. Similarly, some vegans avoid foods containing carmine, a red dye made from beetles.

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Any excuse for a party Let’s be clear. You don’t need a reason to throw a party. But if you’re looking for a little inspiration, or some justification for letting your hair down, you can thank the nation’s hard-working marketing professionals for their efforts to supply a designated holiday for basically everything. Below are just a few of our favorite theme party-ready days of celebration.

JANUARY National Spaghetti Day January 4 Fun fact: the largest bowl of spaghetti ever prepared contained over 13,000 pounds of pasta and was served in a swimming pool by a restaurant in Garden Grove, California. Even if you don’t have an empty

pool at your disposal, you can still honor this beloved classic with a spaghetti buffet. Offer a selection of sauces and meatballs, accompanied with plenty of fresh bread, red wine and the sweet sounds of “Bella Notte” on the stereo. Also this month: National Houseplant Appreciation Day: January 10 National Popcorn Day: January 19 Puzzle Day: January 29

FEBRUARY National Margarita Day February 22 There’s no better time to fake a tropical escape than February. We recommend a menu of sweet and spicy — think mango salsa, guacamole, roasted peppers and

tacos of all kinds — to complement the drinks. If you don’t plan on making your margaritas ahead of time, you may want to consider having an extra blender or two on hand to keep the celebration flowing. Also this month: National Tater Tot Day: February 2 National Weatherperson’s Day: February 5 International Pancake Day: February 25 National Polar Bear Day: February 27

MARCH National Cereal Day March 7 Being an adult means getting to eat all the marshmallow-packed, rainbow-colored,

sugar-frosted breakfast concoctions your parents wouldn’t let you have as a kid. Granted, you could also offer some more sophisticated options with add-ins like fresh fruit and non-dairy milk substitutes, but is it really a party if you’re promoting healthy digestive function? Also this month: National Dentist’s Day: March 6 National Puppy Day: March 23

APRIL National Velociraptor Awareness Day April 18 Life is short. Dinosaurs are amazing. Why not gather up some friends, put on

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“Jurassic Park” and forget about your modern-day troubles for a couple hours? Also this month: World Party Day: April 3 National Hanging Out Day: April 19 National Picnic Day: April 23

MAY National Paper Airplane Day May 26 A little friendly competition is good for relationships. Offer guests a variety of paper, some basic office supplies and the promise of a fun prize to whoever builds the longest-range aircraft. Measure out distances on the lawn with marking tape and designate an official scorekeeper to lend a little seriousness to the proceedings. If space is limited, test for accuracy instead of distance. Set up a goal bucket and see who can make the most targeted landings. Also this month: National Astronaut Day: May 5 National Mimosa Day: May 16 Scavenger Hunt Day: May 23 8 • Drink & Dine New England

JUNE National Bingo Day June 27 Bingo makes a surprisingly great party game. It’s easy to learn, doesn’t require a giant tabletop and allows for an almost infinite number of players. Simple bingo sets are cheap and easy to find, should you want the authentic bingo cage experience, but you can also write numbers on slips of paper and pull them out of a hat, or use a free online bingo caller. Also this month: National Eat Your Vegetables Day: June 17 National Selfie Day: June 21

JULY World UFO Day July 2 “X-Files” marathon, anyone? Celebrate the unknown with neon cocktails and oddly-color appetizers presented in tinfoil. Round out the night with a bit of stargazing — just in case. Also this month: National Ice Cream Day: July 21

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National Day of the Cowboy: July 27 National Chicken Wing Day: July 29

AUGUST National Book Lovers’ Day August 9 Unleash your inner intellectual on National Book Lovers’ Day, a chance to share your appreciation of the written word. Ask guests to bring along their favorite books, and take turns reading passages aloud as you sip tea and snack on biscuits. Or, as a nod to America’s great literary minds, you can substitute the tea with some themed mixed drinks. Also this month: International Cat Day: August 8 National Waffle Day: August 24

SEPTEMBER Ice Cream Cone Day September 22 Popular legend holds that the ice cream cone was invented in New York City by an Italian immigrant, Italo Marchiony, in the fall of 1903. As a result, we Winter 2019

get this official excuse to enjoy an ice cream cone despite being outside the typical season for frozen desserts. Ice cream cones can also be used for nonice cream applications, if you prefer. Fill them with fruit, crush them up for pie crust, or even fill them with cake batter and bake for a less chilly dessert. Also this month: National Cheeseburger Day: September 18 National Coffee Day: September 29

OCTOBER National Fluffernutter Day October 8 Fluffernutter sandwiches are a New England treasure, and should be honored as such. No need for fancy substitutions here: just sliced white bread, creamy peanut butter and a hearty scoop of Marshmallow fluff. Pair with local craft beer and a viewing of “Good Will Hunting” to complete the experience. Also this month: National Taco Day: October 4 International Day of the Nacho: October 21 Maple Day: October 23

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NOVEMBER Sandwich Day November 3 Sandwich Day is a celebration of both the popular breadbased food and its namesake, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. Whether the Earl did in fact invent the sandwich, or it was just a case of the wealthy and

titled retelling history, Sandwich Day is a great opportunity for those of us who are less culinarily gifted to serve up some delicious food. Making great sandwiches is all about the ingredients, so a trip to a quality deli for fillings and the local bakery for bread is all that’s needed to make a successful party.

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Also this month: National Fast Food Day: November 16 Homemade Bread Day: November 17

DECEMBER Card Playing Day December 28 In the wake of copious holiday feasting, a party where food isn’t the primary focus has some appeal. There’s a nearly infinite library of card games out there, of all levels of complexity. Have a few games ready to keep things fresh throughout the night, and take plenty of food and drink breaks for a low-pressure escape from the busy holiday season. Also this month: National Gingerbread Day: December 12 National Chocolate Covered Anything Day: December 16 National Bacon Day: December 30

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Winter Beverage Preview New England breweries and distilleries offer up holiday-ready spirits and brews

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Sapling Maple spirits Liqueur, bourbon and rye Saxtons Distillery Handcrafted in small batches using Grade A Vermont maple syrup, Saxtons Distillery’s Sapling Maple line is a distinctly New England collection of spirits. Rich maple flavor balances each drink for a smooth, sippable result. Choose from the distillery’s flagship Maple Liqueur, Maple Bourbon and Maple Rye. Try them all, as well as exclusive tasting-room only spirits like this season’s Barrel-aged Snowdrop Gin, at either of Saxtons Distillery’s two Brattleboro, Vt. tasting rooms: the Riverside Tasting Room on West River Road, and the recently-opened Grand Tasting Room on Chickering Drive, which boasts a full bar and a selection of games including shuffleboard and foosball. Visit saxtonsdistillery.com for a list of additional retailers throughout the region. Get it at: Saxtons Distillery Grand Tasting Room: 155 Chickering Drive, Brattleboro, Vt. Riverside Tasting Room: 485 West River Road, Brattleboro, Vt. 802-246-1128 | saxtonsdistillery.com

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Aztec Winter Stout Bright Ideas Brewing Inspired by Mexican hot chocolate, Aztec Winter is a milk stout flavored with cocoa nibs and ancho chiles. A seasonal offering, it will be released in a canned four-pack starting around Thanksgiving. Keep an eye out for a new coffee-forward Baltic Porter, due shortly after. Both will be available at the company’s brewery and taproom on the Mass MoCA campus in North Adams, Mass. Get it at: Bright Ideas Brewing 111 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass. 413-346-4460 brightideasbrewing.com

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“What Would Jesus Brew?” Belgian ale Whetstone Station Brewery This year, Whetstone Station is reprising its seasonal Belgian strong golden ale, “What Would Jesus Brew?”. While last year’s batch relied on frankincense and myrrh for its spice and aroma, this iteration will draw on traditional Middle Eastern fruits like figs and dates. The 2019 version will also be quite strong, boasting at least 10% ABV. “W.W.J.B.” is available for a limited time in bottles and on draft at Whetstone Station in Brattleboro. Check whetstonestation.com/beer-list for a real-time list of available beers. Get it at: Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery 36 Bridge St., Brattleboro, Vt. 802-490-2354 whetstonestation.com

Forager Gin Gin The Distillery at Greylock WORKS Forager Gin is a new release from Ryan Max Riley, the one-man operation behind Ski Bum Rum and the Distillery at Greylock WORKS in North Adams, Mass. True to its name, Forager Gin mixes traditional gin flavors like juniper berries and coriander with locally-foraged ingredients. Each season will have its own unique blend, based on the materials available at the time: spruce tips for spring, wildflowers for summer, rosehips and berries for fall and birch sap for winter. Currently, Forager Gin is only available in cocktails and tasting flights at the distillery’s bar, which is open to the public Friday and Saturday from 5-9 p.m. Riley hopes to start bottling his gin and distributing it for sale at select local shops between December and February of next year. Get it at: The Distillery at Greylock WORKS 506 State Road, North Adams, Mass. skibumrum.com

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