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Food & Drink

Plenty #16: Jake Levin, author, Smokehouse Handbook

Smoked bluefish and vegetables; photo by Keller + Keller Photography.
Smoked bluefish and vegetables; photo by Keller + Keller Photography.

This is episode 16 of Plenty. I’m your host, Jason Velazquez, and as always, I do thank you for tuning in.

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This edition of Plenty features yet another special guest, Jake Levin, whose food knowledge and skills speak to the very heart of sustainability, which is the preservation of food for later, in addition to indulging in decadent flavor now. His recently published book, Smokehouse Handbook, illustrates how anyone, anywhere, can employ techniques that will up their cooking cred with minimal tools and at minimal cost. At least until you’re hooked and start dreaming of converting the garden shed into a smokehouse — and he can help you out there, too…

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The Brisket, Egg & Cheese is the best breakfast sandwich in town—also the stealthiest.

The unadvertised Brisket, Egg & cheese sandwich is legendary, and not just because it's a limited edition; photo by Jason Velázquez.
The unadvertised Brisket, Egg & cheese sandwich is legendary, and not just because it's a limited edition; photo by Jason Velázquez.

NORTH ADAMS — A lot of people probably think that it’s the local indie journalist poverty thing that keeps me from going out and reviewing more food in and around Greylock Nation. They’d be right, of course, but an even more compelling reason exists: I get tired of chowing down on an entree that’s gonna run north of $20 and then realizing, “I wish I’d just stayed home and cooked that myself. And better.” All told, I’ve got a couple decades or more in the food world, from the field all the way to the front of the house and everything in between. That background can make me wicked appreciative and generous or decidedly unforgiving. The slightly unhinged duality might or might not serve me as a food critic.

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The Finger Lakes: A Composition in Three Movements

Dr. Konstantin Frank vineyards overlooking Keuka Lake. Frank ignited the “Vinifera Revolution” in the FLX; photo by Nancy Koziol.
Dr. Konstantin Frank vineyards overlooking Keuka Lake. Frank ignited the “Vinifera Revolution” in the FLX; photo by Nancy Koziol. 

It never fails: If I see a piano without a sign that specifically says not to play it, I play it. Not for more than a few seconds. Not more than a quick dash over the keys. Usually it’s a bit of Chopin or Clementi. I keep it light. No one likes the attention seeker who sits down and plays an entire recital. For me, it’s something that I just need to do, while standing, for a few seconds.

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Unsung Eats: The KShack in New Lebanon

The KShack, which opened on the Fourth of July, 2019 in New Lebanon, serves up seasonal delights, locally sourced when possible; photo by Robin Catalano.
The KShack, which opened on the Fourth of July, 2019 in New Lebanon, serves up seasonal delights, locally sourced when possible; photo by Robin Catalano.

Drive through New Lebanon on Route 20, and you may notice something a little different: a colorful, comics-esque sign for The KShack. It’s easy to pass if you’re on a mission from Pittsfield to Albany or from New York City to the Berkshires, but this roadside food stand, set off the main drag on Tilden Lane, is worth a stop. In each travel direction.

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Dried tomatoes: Summer’s bounty becomes winter’s secret ingredient

Juliete tomatoes on the vine; photo by Jason Velázquez
Juliete tomatoes on the vine; photo by Jason Velázquez

As you who follow my food rants know, I’m a big fan of the dehydrator. In mid-September mine has one major task—drying tomatoes. This year the fruit of choice is the Juliet grape tomato. A bounty of them will provide the special touch to the soups, stews, and pasta dishes of winter.

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Green beans and carrots: Good individually, spectacular baked together

I sing the praises of my 30” X 72” back and knee-saving stand planter. It has yielded early crops of lettuce, chard, basil, bok choi, bunching onions, parsley, oregano, more. But where it shines is in producing later crops, planted when the others have been harvested, leaving beautiful, rich soil that begs, “More, we can do more.” And we can.

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Savoring Homegrown Onions

A photo of a pile of assorted onions on a table: A treasure trove of oniony goodness; photo by Sheila Velazquez
A treasure trove of oniony goodness; photo by Sheila Velazquez

I stepped out into the cool morning air, coffee in hand, and thought, time to pull the onions. When you’ve gardened or farmed for a long time, things sometimes hit you suddenly. You don’t have to think about them. The day was warm but dry, mid-August, and the beginning of the harvest season. My harvest for one is not time-consuming, and it recharges my seasonal battery as nothing else can.

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Confessions of a prepper: Freeze it, dry it

My kids will tell you that I have been something of a prepper since the 70s. It’s true, because it was then that I began to be concerned about food security. We built a house in the country, and a barn, and then added every conceivable farm animal. Well, maybe we went overboard on the animals. We had a cold cellar under the porch where we kept 600 pounds of potatoes over the winter and a storage area where shelves of canned foods lay in wait. We sold at farm markets and on site. I have held on to some version of this lifestyle during the years. It’s who I am.

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Plenty #15: Eating the Landscape with Chef Brian Alberg

Photo of Hancock Shaker Mill vegetable gardens: The gardens at Hancock Shaker Village are a key educational component of the annual activities on site. Now, visitors can eat their education, both at Seeds cafe and through food awareness workshops; submitted photo.
The gardens at Hancock Shaker Village are a key educational component of the annual activities on site. Now, visitors can eat their education, both at Seeds cafe and through food awareness workshops; submitted photo.

Hey food enthusiasts! In this episode of Plenty, number 15 to be precise, we hear once again from Chef Brian Alberg, a nearly ubiquitous culinary presence in the Berkshires and beyond. Since it’s been quite a while since catching up with him last, we had a lot of ground to cover.

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Farmers market coupons distributed to Williamstown seniors

Franz Burnet-Gocht receives his farmers market coupons from Marion Quinn-Jowett; photo by Sheila Velazquez.
Franz Burnet-Gocht receives his farmers market coupons from Marion Quinn-Jowett; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

WILLIAMSTOWN — Elders lined up bright and early on the first day coupon books became available at the Williamstown Council on Aging’s Harper Center. Each book contains ten coupons valued at $2.50 each, which can be used to purchase fruits, vegetables, and honey in markets across Massachusetts.

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Unsung Eats: Valhalla, Adams — mythic taste, priced for mere mortals

The aptly named burger, "The Balder," bravely adorns itself with lettuce, roasted tomatoes, and onions, allowing it's brave flavors to shine through. Highly recommended side item? The hand cut wedge fries; photo by James Kennedy.
"The Balder" burger bravely adorns itself with lettuce, roasted tomatoes, and onions, allowing its flavors to shine through. Recommended side item? Amazing hand cut wedge fries; photo by James Kennedy.

Here at Unsung Eats we usually have to search out the rare gems for great food at a good value but in this particular case the eatery found us.  We kept hearing, “Hey, have you tried Valhalla yet?” and when the Greylock Glass ran its Greylock Nation’s Greatest: 2019 readers poll, it was Valhalla Eatery in Adams that kept on popping up, so we knew who was going on the short list.

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Forget Everything You Think About New York State Wine

Photo by Kai-Chieh Chan from Pexels
Photo by Kai-Chieh Chan from Pexels

by Nancy Koziol

I was living in Brooklyn on September 11, 2001. I was three years into the dumpster fire of my twenties and in more danger than I’ve ever been in my life. It wasn’t the attacks—the carnage and violence erupting in my city—that put me at risk. I was safely across the river. No, it was me who was responsible for the aforementioned inferno, but 9/11 that helped me start to put out the blaze.

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