Get ‘Em Before They’re Gone: 6 Fleeting Local Things To Eat And Drink As Summer Fades
T.S. Eliot dubbed April the cruelest month, but for me it’s August. Maybe that’s overly dramatic, but each year around this time — as the days shorten and the crisping leaves hint of autumn — I inevitably experience a flood of mixed feelings. Food feelings. Can you relate?
There’s unbridled giddiness and sated nostalgia over the bonanza of produce from local farms, much I haven’t enjoyed for about a year. But I also wrestle with the wistful knowledge that very soon the fleeting flavors of summer will, again, disappear.
Eating, drinking and cooking with the seasons can be blissful. And it just feels right. But there’s that tinge of sadness, too. Fall is coming folks, with its beautiful decay and earthy brassicas — which of course are awesome — but until then I plan to savor and sip our local bounty before it’s gone. I hope you’ll join me. In that spirit here’s a little list of ethereal things I’ve been seeking out and embracing, along with some creative ways local makers are celebrating them at summer’s nearing end.
Yes! Well, technically Farmer's Fizz is a “Prosecco-style” drink since its forebear technically originates from Veneto, Italy. This New England spin comes from the Westport Rivers Winery and it’s a bonafide summer joy. Light, tart, crisp, perky and unpretentious, the Fizz comes casually dressed in a beer “bomber” bottle graced with simple graphics, including a cute tractor and little buzzing bees.
It proclaims right there on the neck, “For sale in Massachusetts only.” This sparkler, made mostly from Chardonnay with a bit of Riesling, hasn't been on the vineyard since November.
Westport’s wine educator Corey Nuffer explained that the Fizz was a happy accident when the growers had a bumper crop of grapes in 2013 and made it as a way of dealing with overage. “Who knew it would be such a hit!” he said. “We’re hoping to have enough to last us through Christmas.”
Some years there’s a rosé version. Right now the white is available at the winery and a bunch of shops on the south coast. It’s also on tap at the Trillium beer garden on the Greenway in Boston.
Red, yellow, orange, mottled. Heirloom, cherry, plum. I am an equal-opportunity tomato-eater. When the plump, fleshy orbs finally arrive in New England I arm myself with a tote bag or three and head to the local farmer’s market. I fill those sacks, determined not to squander what can feel like the shortest of summer eating opportunities.
Sliced with a sharp knife; laid out simply or tossed in a salad; naked or dressed; with cheese and/or basil and/or olive oil and/or vinegar. You really can’t go wrong. If you want a transportive taste of summer in the middle of winter, have a party and make a spicy tomato jam. This recipe from a local blogger looks really yummy.
Sweet Corn And Blackberry Jam Ice Cream
When I’ve mentioned this flavor to people over the past few weeks they practically started to drool. It’s handcrafted in small batches at the Honeycomb Creamery in Cambridge. Husband and wife team Rory Hanlon and Kristen Rummel opened the shop in 2015. This is their second summer with the seasonal flavor.
All of its ingredients — the sweet corn, blackberries, milk, heavy cream and eggs — are sourced from local farms. When I dropped by for a taste last week, Rummel and her young crew were in the kitchen shucking and de-kerneling 200 pounds of corn.
Next step, roasting the golden nibblets with brown sugar, olive oil and salt. Each handmade batch is made into a base, then churned one gallon at a time before getting layered with house-made blackberry jam.
Runnel says people have been clamoring and lining up for this confection over the past few weeks, and she hopes what the team cranks out will last through the end of September. My first taste evoked childhood mornings eating Kellogg’s Corn Pops, but, of course, it was waaaaaay better.
These petite, vibrant-green peppers have become ubiquitous as a pile of small bites at area restaurants, but they’re super easy to make at home — and now’s the time because you can easily find locally-grown shishitos at farms and farmer’s markets. You can just toss the peppers in some oil and sear them on high heat for a few minutes in a skillet. Or char them on the grill. Sprinkle the little buggers in sea salt and you’re done! No forks necessary, just pop them in your mouth. If you want a little more jazz, dust them with Japanese Togarashi or Egyptian dukkah. But be warned! While I can’t prove the stat, it’s said one in 10 Shisitos are hot!
American Gose Ale Brewed With Plum, Blueberry And Peach
The prolific, local makers at Trillium have a lightly-sour, summery new release in their Double Seesaw gose series. Gose, a classic, tart German beer style, is experiencing a renaissance among craft brewers these days. On Friday, Trillium launched its limited-edition made with peaches, blueberries and plums.
The folks there call it “an homage to warm weather and the flavors of a New England summer.” This is their second chapter in the series — the first was made with raspberries — and they say it’s “perfect for those waning days of summer."
Sigh. You can find it at Trillium’s spaces in Canton and Boston, but it’s not clear for how long. The brewery estimates under two weeks, maybe as short as one.
These aggressive, ravenous predators should be in season until October, which feels like an eternity compared to some of the other selections in this list.
Even so, for me, smoked bluefish screams summer — as a rillette, a pâté, or straight up. Sure, its firm, dark, oily meat is not for everyone, but those who love it go bonkers when it’s around. I love to smoke a big fillet at home on a wood plank with woodchips in my Weber charcoal grill (pictured above).
Lots of restaurants feature scrumptious renditions, including Field & Vine’s smoked bluefish salad with arugula, potato sticks, bacon, lemon-poppy seed dressing and herbs. You can find the Boston Smoked Fish Company’s local, sustainable, small-batch bluefish pâté at farmers markets, the Boston Public Market and grocery stores including Roche Brothers and the Big Y.
Readers, what are your favorite summer foods and beverages we should try before the season is over? Let us know in the comments.