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Tony G's Barbeque, Belmont: Anyone?

As a long-time Belmont resident, I must beg to differ. Gustavo left because the space was way too small. Every time I looked, the place was filled at dinner time. And why wouldn't any good restaurant do well here? We eat food, just like people in other towns.

For a long time there were comparatively fewer restaurants in Belmont than in other nearby or similar towns, but that was because Belmont was dry. That is no longer the case. The only issue that a real barbecue place (e.g. one that used traditional methods involving many hours in a smoker) might run into is complaints from neighbors about the smoke. It might not be feasible to run a smoker in that neighborhood. There are too many residences close by.

Where to buy pork hocks near Waltham?

Give Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds in Sudbury a try. It's a straight shot out route 117 from Waltham. I just checked their on-line mini-store inventory spreadsheet and they do have them in stock. Call Pete when you know when you are going to go there and he will put what you need in the mini-store for you.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating: I purchase meat from several local farms. Pete and Jen's has the tastiest pork.

Here is the mini-store inventory in case you are interested in seeing what else they carry.


Sour salt

I recently saw it at the Wegman's in Burlington.

Where to get Pearl Hot Dogs?

I saw regular-sized packages of Pearl hot dogs at Market Basket recently. If memory serves, this was at the MB in Waltham.

Please recommend a spice grinder good for Indian cooking (dry and wet grinding)

Yeah, my Vitamix is perfect when the stuff to be blended is of sufficient quantity. However if I am only making a small amount of something like a curry paste, it is not the right tool. I have used a Krups coffee mill for grinding dry spices, but the Sumeet could handle larger quantities and get a more consistent finer grind. So yes, being able to make smallish quantities of curry pastes is the key factor here.

Jul 28, 2015
PinchOfSalt in Cookware

Please recommend a spice grinder good for Indian cooking (dry and wet grinding)

My old Sumeet Asia Grinder is showing its age and needs to be replaced. Thinking about how I have used it over the years, all I really need is a unit that grinds dry spices and can also handle wet pastes. (My food processor and blender can handle other tasks.) What unit would you recommend? I am in the Boston area, so a unit that I can buy around here would be great. Ordering over the Internet could work too, so any suggestions about websites that might carry your favorite brand/model would be helpful too. Thanks!

P.S. FWIW, the problem with my Sumeet is all the rubber parts are deteriorating and falling apart. Replacement parts are not readily available, and what I have found on the Internet is exorbitantly priced.

Jul 28, 2015
PinchOfSalt in Cookware

Adding new briquettes to maintain heat - pre-lit or not?

About the ash - it is all about temperature. When just the edges are burning less heat is being produced than when a briquette is burning all over its surface.

About how long it takes for a briquette to fully take effect. I have never measured the time, but my gut tells me that it probably depends on the brand. Depending on what I am barbecuing or grilling, I might use briquettes, charcoal, or wood chunks (alone or in combination). Each of those materials burns at a different temperature and rate. In particular, it is easy to see large differences between different brands of charcoal. Rather than thinking that this is all very complicated, I prefer to think of barbecuing as a creative art, like cooking. Rather than follow exact recipes, one can learn the principles behind them, practice, observe, and enjoy coming up with the particular approach that is most pleasing. Enjoy!

Adding new briquettes to maintain heat - pre-lit or not?

No need to use the chimney once your barbecue is going. Just drop the additional un-lit briquettes on top of the ones that are burning. Try to distribute them evenly, in a single layer. It is not necessary to be perfect.

The reason you are supposed to get the briquettes lit and ashy before you cook is to be sure the grill is good and hot when you begin cooking. This helps you match the cooking times in recipes and may also help with food safety.

If your Weber is a model with a thermometer in the lid, that can really help with the learning curve. If you watch the thermometer you can see when the temperature is dropping - time to add more briquettes - and how much it goes up when you add a certain amount. Just take a look at the temperature as you cook - no need to obsess - and you will quickly gain a "feel" for the process, banishing the stress and making barbecuing fun as it should be.

Water and yeast temperatures for bread and pizza dough

You should always use cold tap water for cooking. Hot tap water is great for washing dishes, but it may contain dissolved impurities from the heating system. Heat the tap water in a microwave or on your stove. I strongly urge you to get a thermometer. An inexpensive one is only a few dollars and will save you much more than that in wasted ingredients. Yeasts are very sensitive to temperature. It is very easy to kill yeast with water that is too hot. (OTOH, yeast will still grow if the water is too cool, just more slowly.) If you feel you must make do without a thermometer, you can check to see if the water is too hot by sticking your pinky finger into the water and keeping it in there for, say, 10-15 seconds. If the water feels only comfortably warm to you, then it is probably not too hot for the yeast.

May 25, 2015
PinchOfSalt in Home Cooking

Instacure #1

I have purchased casings at Market Basket and at the Burlington Wegman's. In both cases they were pork casings.

Name of the Italian Restaurant that used to be at 75 Chestnut Street

Ah, Nat and Chet. A very Boston-area reference! Love it, miss them.


Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds in Sudbury. (See more about them in the other currednt thread about lard.) It is often marked as "call" on their spreadsheet listing what is currently available. That means they have it but you have to ask for it to be retrieved from their main storage freezer before you go to pick it up at the mini-store.

Where to buy lard- Waltham

What Chris said. Plus, supermarket lard has added stuff that did not come from the pig. I have been using lard (both kinds) from Pete and Jen's for years and have been very happy. It keeps forever in the fridge, too.

If you do go to Pete and Jen's, do give their pork chops a try. Of all the sources in the area that I have tried, I like theirs the best. Great flavor and not overly lean so they cook up juicy, not dry.

Corn Syrup - WHY is it in everything???

Kindly note that table sugar IS sucrose. Sucrose is a single molecule, not a mixture. The confusion here may stem from the fact that a sucrose molecule is built out of one of each of two smaller molecules, glucose and fructose, both of which are classified as simple sugars. In the case of sucrose they are bonded together chemically, which is not the same thing as simply mixing the two together, whether dry or in solution.

Apr 24, 2015
PinchOfSalt in General Topics

Wegman's has big Passover selection-good for when you run out during the week and the Kosher mkts are closed...

I was just at the Burlington Wegman's. With lots of time left in Passover, many of the kosher for Passover items have been marked down by a lot, like 25 percent or even 50 percent. If you expect to need to make a rest-of-the-holiday Passover run, the large Passover display in the back of the store (near the yogurt) is worth checking out.

Moving to Andover / Salem area, need guidance from locals please!

The two Market Basket locations where I shop both stock multiple kinds of Rotel. The Burlington Wegman's has the regular kind.

You did not say if you were looking for flour or corn tortillas. There is a factory in Chelsea that makes very good corn tortillas - Cinco de Mayo. The factory is literally blocks from the Chelsea Market Basket, where I have often found the tortillas to be so fresh they are still warm! My closest MB, in Waltham, carries these tortillas but the one in Burlington does not. They also show up in smaller specialty store (such as Russo's in Watertown, which, alas is nowhere near you will be living).

What kinds of peppers are you looking for? Fresh peppers such as jalapenos and serranos are easily found; poblanos are standard in some markets but not others. As for dried, you can get bags of reasonably fresh (i.e. not so old that they are completely brittle) anchos, pasillas, guajillos, and arbol chilis at all the Market Baskets where I shop at good prices.

You didn't say whether you and your husband do any Texas-style barbecue, but if you do, I can assure you that there are good sources for brisket around too. Wegmans in Burlington regularly carries nice big pieces in their family pack section, for example. However, when it comes to meat you may also wish to consider local sources. I belong to a meat CSA (sadly, no North Shore distribution sites for my CSA) but there are also some local farms producing wonderful grass-fed beef. I highly recommend Wheelview Farm. It is in western MA, about 100 miles away. They also do regular drop-offs in the Boston area. Their beef is amazing. (In fact, I have a brisket in my freezer and I plan to inaugurate my grill this year with one of their T-bones.) There is some delicious pork being raised here in MA and many sources of local chicken and eggs. If any of these things are interesting to you, just ask and I am sure you will get plenty of suggestions.

One last thought. Veggie CSAs are very popular around here. Maybe winter makes us especially cherish local produce when it is available. It is getting late, but if you are interested, now is the time to sign up for a vegetable CSA. (I am already fantasizing about the local greens I will be getting from mine in almost exactly two months.)

CSA Guide?

Check out Waltham Fields Community Farm. It is close by in Waltham. They use organic growing practices. You get to choose what you like from a large array of produce; you are never stuck with items that you do not enjoy or already have in your fridge, as can sometimes happen with CSAs that distribute pre-selected boxes or bags of produce. They also allow for share splitting, as the shares are sized for a family of four. I have been a member for several years and split a share with a friend (and her family). It's working very well for me. On top of all the excellent produce, the CSA does a lot of social good. It runs educational programs for children and adults, plus it makes a special point of providing its amazing veggies at a very low cost to people in need in the Waltham area.

Here is their website:

Where can I buy Zungenwurst (blood tongue sausage)?

I purchased some there about six months ago. In my experience it is something they usually have. However, it might pay to call ahead to confirm they have some in stock.

Moving to Andover / Salem area, need guidance from locals please!

Mmmmmm, the Clam Box. A friend and I went there after our annual apple picking/unpasteurized cider acquisition run last September. Very fine, but I must admit that Farnham's is my favorite, if only for sentimental reasons. Sitting inside, staring out over the salt marshes, good conversation with a friend I hadn't seen for years. Good times.

Now there's something for elsanor and her husband to look forward to - fresh off the tree apples munched in the car (or maybe even while they are still in the orchard) and made into pie and after that, super yummy brown apple cider ice cold and just short of getting fizzy after a few days in the fridge.

Missing Maine Shrimp (year 2), Looking forward to Shad Roe & Soft Shell Crabs

I used to be able to buy it every year at the late, lamented Greer's Seafood here in Belmont. Happily, there have been alternatives, such as the Fresh Pond WF. If it is any near your stomping grounds, you might give Fresh Pond Seafood in Arlington a call. They might carry it or be willing to get some for you.

Moving to Andover / Salem area, need guidance from locals please!

Hey Treb, let's not scare our new neighbor-to-be away! I would easily choose all the snow we got this winter and the shoveling over the 100 degree temperatures and drought of a Texas summer.

The truth is, as you and I know, the Boston area is a great place to live and eat. The thing is, it is different from Texas. We have stuff they don't and vice versa. I would like to hope that even though there are differences in ingredients, cultural influences, and cooking techniques that define regional foods, elsanor will discover our local flavors and products and come to enjoy them as we do. Wild blueberries in August. Native asparagus. Shad roe. Really fresh fish. Maine shrimp (when there is enough to allow a harvest)...

Moving to Andover / Salem area, need guidance from locals please!

There's a big, new Wegman's in Burlington MA. Not at all close to Andover, but you probably will find yourself in the inner western burbs from time to time.

You are in luck when it comes to German food. Karl's Sausage Kitchen in Peabody is in Peabody, not very far from Andover. (Both towns are on the North Shore, that is, basically everything in MA that is up the coast north of Boston.) There is a very nice German/Scandinavian grocery selection, heavenly wursts and cured meats, and a small cafe.

About Market Basket. There are old MBs and a bunch of brand new MBs. Do not be put off by the low prices. If you have an opportunity, stop by one of the new, large stores, poke around and you will find all sorts of amazing things that you might expect to find only in specialty stores. For example, the new store near me stocks items such as Italian 00 flour and Nielsen-Massey vanilla powder. I get my organic King Arthur Flour at MB. Market Basket is a very good choice for quality seafood. Just wait a few months and check out their prices for lobster.

For Mexican groceries, I do not know the North Shore well enough to give an example there, but if you are driving into Boston, you could try the Chelsea Market Basket, which stocks a large selection of Mexican and Central American foods.

How long do I boil/simmer pork sausages before browning them?

The white stuff is protein. It may look strange but it is harmless.

Mar 19, 2015
PinchOfSalt in Home Cooking

Blood Farm is back!

Just heard a story about Blood Farm on WBUR. They have rebuilt and are open for business again. This is great news for local agriculture and for their customers.

More here:

February 2015 Openings and Closings

At the risk of driving the discussion OT, the Belmontonian actually is Belmont's only news source (not a paper since it is online only) that actually has a reporter based in Belmont. The reporter (who is also the publisher) has a wry sense of humor that reflected here and there in his reporting. There's been some excellent in-depth reporting on some issues of concern to the town. I am not concerned about the photo in that article when I can also read an in-depth article about, say, what is going on with the long-delayed Cushing Village development project.

Meat CSA 2015

More about the Pete and Jen's situation here:

Changes at Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds

I recently received the following letter from Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds, a wonderful source of locally raised chicken, pork, lamb, beef, eggs (and other assorted item) in the Concord / Sudbury area. For reasons outlined in the letter, they are looking for a new location, hopefully not too far away from where they currently farm. Perhaps someone here might have a good lead for them. More generally, it is an interesting tale about the nitty gritty of local agribusiness.


As it is said, all good things must come to an end...or at least a fork in the (farm) road! After many years of growing our farm in Concord, and more recently in Sudbury, it is with mixed emotions that we convey the news that Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds is in the beginning stages of a transition. As many folks may or may not know, Backyard Birds has, since its inception, been rooted on land and in infrastructure owned by Verrill Farm. Pete has been employed as the Assistant Farm Manager at Verrill Farm since March of 2003. As we began raising raising our first few lovely hens way back then, it has mostly all taken place on property owned by the Verrills (we are typical of young/new beginning farmers, most commonly leasing land rather than owning it).

As we have slowly expanded our business over the years and accelerated our growth (a bit) in the last few to meet the ever growing demand for our tasty products, the demands on Pete's time have grown as well. Managing our farm and our new helpers became an increasingly difficult balancing act and the Verrill's now believe that our business has "become a conflict" and have asked us to move on. So...the time has come for us to go our own way. We remain forever grateful to the Verrill's who have "incubated" our business all these years and allowed us access to all their abundant land and critical infrastructure.

On March 31st, Pete will officially end his employment with Verrill Farm after 12 productive years, and with that, the end of an era! At this time, we have been told we may remain on the land and in our home until the end of 2015, but we will need to leave our current housing and remove all our assets from the farm property by December 31, 2015. It is a tremendous disappointment to be asked to leave the Sudbury homestead we have worked extremely hard to improve and where we created a more comprehensive "farmstead" the past 2 1/2 years. We had been working on a longer-term lease agreement for the property with the Verrill's and we have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars clearing the land and renewing the property to transform unused, overgrown and marginal land into a vibrant farm. It was never our expectation that our departure might need to be so swift. Despite our efforts and overtures, unfortunately, the Verrill's are not interested in leasing us the house/property after this growing season.

OUR PLANS ARE EVOLVING and are in flux.

THE MINI-STORE IS MOVING! As part of this transition, the mini-store will be moving to the Sudbury farm location March 31st, 2015. We will miss our little funky space on Wheeler Road, as we are sure many of you will! We will transition the mini-store to a lovely little green shed at the base of our driveway at 101 North Road in Sudbury (right on Rte 117, just a mile down the street from the existing mini-store) and never fear - there will be no disruption in your ability to get tasty goodies anytime! Our freezers, fridge, and all our tasty products will still be for sale at this location (same spot as the monthly chicken pickups). The NEW Mini-store "Deux" will be open 24/7 until at least early December 2015. We hope to find another location or locations(s) in town to retail our products after this year. We will continue to sell our eggs to Debra's Natural Gourmet and Hutchin's Farm. We will no longer be retailing eggs at Verrill Farm.

HELP us FIND a new home farm! We are actively seeking a new, local, home base for our farm! At this time, we are proactively exploring several options in the area and we hope to leave no stone unturned! We need a home to live in and approximately 5+ acres of dry land to house an unheated greenhouse for our laying hens in winter, a small pasture, our orchard, and space for our equipment, rabbitry, brooder, and to store our mobile chicken coops. We would love to reside in Concord, but we are very open to moving our home farm to surrounding towns and continuing to serve the local area. We are speaking with other farms in the area to explore potential synergies and share existing farmland. It is and always has been our plan to partner with vegetable farms to share the wonderful fertility of our beasts and to improve the beautiful and productive soils of Concord.

We welcome any leads or possibilities as time is of the essence! We recognize that many of the best situations are often not advertised publicly, but rather sourced through local networks, word of mouth, and good fortune, so we hope that many of you may have connections or ideas you could introduce us to. We would like to find a nice home to live in, even if it cannot be on the same property as our equipment/home farm. If we cannot find a local property to call our new farmstead within reasonable proximity to farm fields in town, we will have to face the harsh reality of relocating our farm to a more affordable farming community in neighboring states or to central/western Massachusetts. We really hope you can help us discover local opportunities to stay in the area as we would like to continue to grow our business here, but we cannot do it without your help and support!

Farm Volunteer Days! We also want to plant a seed now that we will be organizing several volunteer work days on the farm this year to help us break down and pack up our farm infrastructure. Most fun will be dismantling our two high tunnels (greenhouses), digging up our perennial plants and removing all the fruit trees, trellis, and fencing in the orchard we just planted, loading farm supplies in portable trailers, and more! We hope you can join us for a few big projects and we always appreciate our helpers by sharing in community meals with some farm-grown tastiness!

Lastly, we want to assure folks...

YES - We are growing great food as always....Expect to continue to get the high quality, tasty products you expect from us.

AND YES - we plan to continue being your innovative, sustainably-minded farmers well into the future...hopefully nearby!

This season, we plan on growing all our great meats, eggs, and other items just as we always have. We will be updating our online store over the next week and will soon begin accepting 2015 pre-orders for chicken, pork, and turkeys! In fact, we plan to expand production for 2015 and provide more fresh veggies, fresh chickens every 2 weeks (some cut-up in addition to whole birds), along with regular availability of fresh pork! Since Pete will be focusing 100% of his efforts on Backyard Birds going forward, it will surely be an amazing growing season! The one big challenge being...where we will be moving to at the end of the year. So, please stay tuned, and send us your ideas, suggestions, contacts, and good vibes! It is a trying and stressful time for us, but we are keeping our heads held high and taking a giant leap forward with the hope and trust that our future will be brighter and tastier than ever with your continued support!

Meat CSA 2015

In case Snow Farm does not turn out to be the right choice for someone, here are some other local (Massachusetts) farms with which I am familiar and can recommend:

Signal Rock Farm - lamb only. In the winter they come to various locations in the Boston area so people can pick up items they have pre-ordered. (Not a CSA.)

Wheelview Farm - specializes in beef. They make periodic trips to the Boston area so people can pick up items they have pre-ordered. (My favorite beef comes from here.)

Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds (Concord). You go to their mini-store whenever you like and purchase whatever you need (pork, lamb, beef, eggs...) Their stock is seasonal. Their beef is from Wheelview Farm. My favorite pork is from Pete and Jen's. They also raise chickens, which you must pre-order for pickup during summer and fall.

Finally, I will put in a word for my meat CSA, Chestnut Farms. They deliver monthly to various locations in the Boston area. Great people.

Costco - looking for Kirkland Signature EVOO (Toscano) at a local branch

It has been at the Waltham Costco for several weeks now.


Actually, Thai cooking uses Kaffir lime leaves. Kaffir limes are different from key limes (or Persian limes for that matter).

Jan 27, 2015
PinchOfSalt in General Topics