Two years ago, I had the good fortune to meet Warren Bobrow. In charge of all things good to drink at the Brimfield VIP Tent, he started my morning of antiques spotting with “Corrected Coffee” and recharged my afternoon with jokes and a Croft Pink Porto on the rocks. Below is a fun interview with friend Warren and Klaus Gnome. Both will be at White Square Books in Easthampton on Saturday to talk about their new book and highlight hot buttered rum, a gorgeous little cup of buzzzzz with tea and a lime/mint simple syrup!
SP: So, how did you two meet? Is it true that you go everywhere together?
WB: Klaus and I met back in the early 90’s. He belonged to my old friend Heather. She grew up with his whole family. According to Heather, Klaus was yearning for some travel, since he spent most of his time up on the mantel. He sometimes got himself into trouble with the other gnomes and it was time to see the world. Yes, Klaus comes with me almost everywhere. He traveled to Abruzzi in Italy with me in September, New Orleans the month prior and he is well known in New York City as a bon vivant. A normal day for Klaus usually begins with a cup of cafe correto. Corrected coffee. Coffee with a kick. Hey, Klaus, save some for me!
SP: Warren, are you excited about your new book? Was it a dream come true to become an author?
WB: I never thought I would become an author. I just knew that I didn’t want to be an executive secretary any longer. I had to figure out what I was passionate about or otherwise face financial destruction. That’s the only way you change, when faced with a crisis! My book came out of pure effort. There is nothing more important to me than sitting down at the Mac and just writing. Free form sometimes. Flow of consciousness. I work in silence surrounded by the forest outside. It’s very peaceful and it allows me to concentrate on the task at hand.
SP: Klaus, did you help with the book? Which apothecary cocktails are your favorite?
WB: Klaus helped me with all the recipes. He has a very determined approach to testing them and is uber-excited to start testing some new drinks this morning. Klaus is sleeping right now.. He had a rough night last night. I have some Fernet Branca for him when he wakes up. I’m a true fan of the hot buttered rum. Very effective for sleep disorders and when you have a cold.
SP: Since the book has been published, do you know if anyone has been cured from drinking one of the restorative cocktails?
WB: I know many people who have taken the restoratives but Klaus isn’t telling who they are. Nor am I!
SP: Are there more books planned for the future? Give us the scoop!
WB: Yes, there is another book on the horizon. My deadline is December 1st! I only can tell you it involves whiskey. Shhhh!
I spent a lot of time with my Italian grandmother in her kitchen. It’s where she taught me how to pronounce words properly. Mozzarella was shortened “mozzarell”, calzone sounded more like “calzonay” and I’m pretty sure my 10 year-old self once wrote prosciutto on a holiday grocery list as “proshoot”.
Prosciutto appeared only on special occasions, sliced thin and served as an appetizer. The nutty, buttery, salty delicacy always appeared with dates, melon or asparagus. Just like its Spanish cousin jamón that I ate when I lived there, prosciutto comes from the hind leg of a pig. It’s dry-cured and anyone in the know will tell you that the really good stuff comes from Parma.
My search for the good ‘proshoot’ brought me to Springfield’s old Italian neighborhood and a tiny shop that has bustled since the 1950s. Inside the glass case was exactly what I looking for: Parma Ham.
I watched as the butcher deftly layered thin, rosy slices on paper and wrapped them neatly in a brown package. I walked to my car, holding it tight. The cold, blustery day and fading sunlight didn’t matter, I was going home to create a dish in the very same kitchen where my grandmother taught me how to speak. Talk about warming the heart!
My plan is to make this flavorful, gluten-friendly dish this holiday season when entertaining guests inspired from Betty Rosbottom’s cookbook, Sunday Roasts. I’m certain it will be what I bring to family celebrations. The best part is that you can make it ahead of time and it tastes even better atop a creamy Parmesan polenta.
Parma Ham Stuffed Chicken with Pesto and Gorgonzola (Serves 4)
What You Need:
4 boneless chicken breasts
8 slices prosciutto
Small wedge Gorgonzola, crumbled
½ cup Pesto, store-bought is perfect!
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Wooden skewers, soaked in water
½ cup olive oil
What You Do:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Filet each chicken breast and set aside.
- Take one, open it like a book and cover with plastic wrap. Pound into 1/4-inch thickness with a rolling pin. Repeat.
- Arrange flattened chicken breast on your work area. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then place two prosciutto slices in the middle. Add cheese and a hearty line of pesto. Close and secure with a wooden skewer. Repeat.
- Place pieces in a heavy pan prepped with olive oil. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Rest chicken breast a few minutes before removing skewers and cutting into 1-inch slices.
What You Need:
3 cups water
1-1/2 cups stone ground corn meal, such as Bob’s Red Mill
1 tsp salt
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
½ stick unsalted butter, cubed
What You Do:
- Bring water and the salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan.
- Add polenta and stir constantly until thickened.
- Remove from heat and fold in Parmesan and butter. Cover and set aside. Stir before serving.
Follow Parma Ham on Twitter for a chance to win $50 worth of the world’s most famous ham. Click on the banner below to participate. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and Parma Ham.
In a celebration of nose-to-tail butchery and sustainable hog production, the Berkshire Food Guild presented a full day hands-on whole hog workshop at Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with their butcher, charcutier and chef.
Sometimes I actually get leave the kitchen and visit places that make delicious food and talk with good people Here’s a story about my gluten-friendly lunch at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
I was very excited when Stephanie Gravalese-Wood, long-time foodie friend and marketing and communications manager at the Red Lion Inn, invited me to lunch. I had never eaten at the storied Stockbridge place, known for its quintessential New England cuisine and staging Christmas photo shoots for Japanese magazines in the middle of July.
But I was worried. This was the place of pewter chargers, Hitchcock furniture and delicious things full of gluten. Sure, the executive chef Brian Alberg has made ten dinners at the James Beard House and has been featured in Boston Globe, New York Times, Gastronomica, Saveur and Good Morning America…but has he ever made a meal for me?
“We pride ourselves on having options, no matter what a person’s sensitivity is. Everyone should be able to experience really good food, whatever the modifications needed,” said Stephanie.
There are real options, too, not just ones relegated to one corner of the menu or marked with a sad little dot among a sea of scrumptious non-prospects. The servers help gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan diners navigate the menu. They are all allergy-awareness trained, can break down dishes and even give suggestions as to the best pairs from over 400 selections of wine.
As usual, I did my best test our server and I must say that she was unflappable. I settled on the chick pea and quinoa patty with green bean-radish salad and dressed mesclun greens, a popular dish that Stephanie ordered, too.
While we waited, we nibbled on gluten-free rolls and drank Harney & Sons Earl Grey tea while talking about the Inn’s food philosophy. I knew of the Inn only as one with classic options in a beautiful setting tied to a farm to table values with local, seasonal ingredients. I didn’t know that Alberg took the idea a step further as the president of Berkshire Grown, a regional association that champions the flourishing local food movement.
“We want to source as locally as possible. We’ve been doing this and we’ll still be doing in twenty years. It’s definitely not a fad,” she said.
Working together with over 90 farms in the Berkshire-Hudson region, these partnerships mean real economic development. Even before the growing season starts, Alberg is meeting with farmers and collaborating. Farmers visit the kitchen as frequently as its regular staff and names of places are often worked into selection titles.
I learned that staples like clam chowder and comfort food standards of pot pie, pot roast and turkey dinner have been celebrated along with the Inn’s famed lodging for over 200 years. They proudly have their own spot on the menu, as the Widow Bingham’s Favorites, and minister to the core group of customers, a solid foundation of seasonal and generational guests during summer or Tanglewood season.
There’s a younger crowd, though, that enjoys the dishes that are riffs off these classic American favorites…ones that feature the late summer harvests in quiche, Eggs Benedict and penne with roasted vegetables. Berkshire greens Caesar salad with white anchovies and mouthwatering burgers with local Grafton Cheddar and Bayley Hazen Bleu cheeses can be enjoyed with Big Elm Brewery’s Red Lion Ale or Johnny Mash hard cider in the Lion’s Den Pub, the newest addition that opened in 1934. It’s said to be the first bar in the county to have received a liquor license after prohibition.
“Our menus have been constructed so that people with different sensibilities can enjoy great, local and historical cuisine. There’s a special experience when you come to eat a place like the Red Lion Inn and no one should be limited because of their dietary restrictions,” said Gravelese-Wood.
We happily dug in when our dishes arrived. The mark of a good meal is when no one talks but we couldn’t help pointing out what we liked best. “It’s like eating a whole plate of the best part of Thanksgiving, the stuffing!” The chick pea and quinoa patty topped with a creamy, spicy sauce had a great texture and color with its carrots and sunflower seeds. It rested on a bed of greens, cucumber, red onions and green beans with refreshing, lemony dressing. “SO flavorful!”
The gluten-free rolls were light. Steph described them as “exactly what I needed” but I was partial to the whipped butter. We finished our lunchtime with a plate of Taza salted almond chocolate. Next time, I think we’ll pick a darker chocolate.
Lunch might have been on the house that day but all thoughts and opinions are my own.