Little League Baseball foods


There’s a tee shirt that says, “I have no life, my son plays baseball” and that pretty much sums up my past few summers. On the plus side (aside from actually enjoying the games), I’ve had fun sampling Little League and youth league snack bars.

Many are nothing more than teenagers selling sodas, power drinks, water, candy bars and, if you’re lucky, microwaved popcorn. Others actually have a cooked food thing happening.


On the fully-pro side, in late August, we went for a week to Dreams Park in Cooperstown, New York.  It’s impressive that each week they host 104 youth teams, playing on 22 fields and bring in thousands of guests who need to eat while watching daylong tournaments. They have their food service down, with snack bars throughout the park, all with the same menu, including a number of healthy choices. Not so healthy but the BLT wrap I had one day for lunch was pretty darn good.


More frequently, however, it’s as much a labor of love as a business. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time at my local Little League complex in West Roxbury, Mass. There are three fields and at times the place is packed. This is a baseball neighborhood, which also includes Roslindale, where I live, just a few minutes away.


Vikki and Joe run the snack bar. They have the usual snack bar fare: chicken fingers, fried mozzarella sticks, hotdogs, slushies and occasionally I see a special such as a meatball or Italian sausage sub or egg sandwiches for 9 am games. But what I think are the best items are the fries and burgers.


The fries are just plain addictive. I’m not sure how they cook them or what type of frozen fry they use, but they are salty, slightly greasy, crinkle cut goodness. The burgers are not what you would expect – no pre-made frozen beef patty here – it’s a smallish, seasoned handmade flat patty cooked on a grill top and put on a hand size bun. If you order the cheeseburger, the cheese becomes one with the burger and bun when you pull it open to add your condiments. I always go with the yellow ball park mustard and relish. It’s nothing fancy at all, but it’s a real burger eaten outside, while watching a game. I’ve eaten a lot of these over the years and at $3 each, it can’t be beat with a side of fries.


My son has outgrown little league and is moving on to other baseball endeavors, so I will not be hanging around the little league complex much next summer. But I will occasionally stop in and see the coach – an excuse, really, to saying hello to Vikki and ordering up a burger and fries.


While I’m on baseball food, if you’re a fan I’m sure you’ve noticed menu additions at major and minor league parks across the country. These days you can get just about anything you want. A few years ago we were eating sushi, just because we could, while watching a Mariners game at Safeco Field in Seattle. They also had some amazing garlic fries, fires piled high fresh chopped garlic and of course some great local brews to wash it all down.


Even my home park Fenway has added new items. I hear the Cuban sandwich is pretty good. But for me, I’m happiest with a Fenway frank, with mustard and onions, a bag of roasted peanuts and a cup or two of draft beer. That’s what I call classic ballpark eats and it just doesn’t feel right to leave Fenway without a mustard stain somewhere on your clothing.



Roslindale Farmers Market Opening Day 2012





It’s getting close to that time: opening day. Baseball season has already started, so I’m talking about the next big opening day in my life, my local farmers market. My local market begins June 2nd. I’m also hoping the Red Sox start getting a little better by then.

I love my market and all of the folks involved. It takes a small army to put together this weekly Saturday community event. The Roslindale (Mass) Farmer’s Market not only has great produce, locally made foods, plants and crafts, there’s also live music and always  something going on that brings the community together.

Last year, I attended opening day – and I was also there on the final day, doing a food demo and giving out samples with Chef Odessa Piper. Odessa is the former owner and chef of the reknown restaurant L’Etoile in Madison Wisconsin. Her restaurant was one of the early pioneers of sourcing all locally-raised ingredients.

Odessa now lives in Roslindale and has become part of the community by being involved and using her experience at our farmers market. It was a pleasure sous cheffing with Odessa, and I hope we can do it again this year.

 As for opening day, I can’t wait to see my farmer friends and neighbors and of course, I’ll be picking up beautiful and delicious local produce, grass fed meats and other local products for my clients and family.

The love of my Farmers Market and community has also inspired me to lead what I call The Roslindale Farmers Market Tour of local ethnic and gourmet shopping. Checkout the web page for more information: http://www.lesteresser.com/food-tours/.

I hope to see you there.


Roslindale Village Farmers Market

Saturdays June 2nd to October 27th 2012

Adams Park

Roslindale, Massachusetts 


Wild Foraged Ramps


Pulling into a client’s driveway in early April, I’m overcome by the strong odor of fresh compost. I joke that what I have smells better than that. Actually, I liked the smell. It smells like spring and gardening season.

This is when I met Bill, a landscaper and wild food forager. He sells his finds to chefs and restaurants. He offers me a bag of fresh wild ramps he had foraged earlier in the day. Even covered with the dirt, they were beautiful and I was impressed.

Being a personal chef is being part of a food subculture, where I meet many cool people – not just chefs, shop owners and foodies, but also small local farmers, photographers, writers and even a forager, like Bill.

The following week, Bill sends me a text that he has more ramps. The first batch were so delicious, I order two pounds.

Ramps grow wild and only in the spring. The season is short, so it’s best to enjoy while you can, and in fact, this time of year you can’t open a cooking magazine without seeing at least a mention or recipes for ramps. They are a wild scallion-like onion, with strong garlicky taste. The green leaves and stems are both edible.

I’ve been using them in everything from scrambled eggs, pasta and creamed spinach to beef stew. The raw leaves are also great on a sandwich. I hope you get a chance to add them to your menus while you can.

Here's a simple recipe to try. 


Ramps with Pappardella

Cut white parts of ramps in to quarter inch pieces

Coarsely chop ramp greens

Sauté briefly in good quality extra virgin olive oil

Toss with fresh cooked pappardella pasta

Kosher Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste and a splash more of olive oil, if needed.

Simple delicious


Trotters and Peas, Snout to Tail

Many years ago I heard a blood-curdling scream from the kitchen, after my wife peered into a pot of black eyed peas I had cooked – she had never seen trotters and peas. Trotters: Pig’s feet. I had to explain that the market was out of smoked ham hocks which I usually used, and was excited to find smoked trotters.

It depends on what you’re used to and what you’re squeamish about. She grew up eating kosher beef tongue – some might find that equally disturbing.

These days, there’s a lot of talk about being sustainable. The snout-to-tail movement is hard to avoid, it’s on the radio and television, in cook books, magazines, and newspapers, and being put into practice by many well known restaurant chefs. It makes sense to me that if you eat meat, use as much of the animal as possible. In America, many people seem to be a little squeamish about anything outside of a cleaned boneless chicken breast or a supermarket steak or chop that comes shrink-wrapped. I prefer to buy my meat from a butcher and even better when I can watch them grind my meat or hand cut my steaks.

 In my neighborhood there is a Halal butcher where I occasionally shop, especially if I need a large amount of lamb. On a good day, Mel the owner and butcher of Quality Meats may hang a whole lamb on a hook behind the counter and ask me what piece I want. I’m usually ordering a shoulder, chopped with the bones for stew meat. He cuts off the shoulder and cuts it up before my eyes. All done in a few short minutes.

I do understand having a problem seeing the whole animal hanging on a hook. But for me, it hits home that
 I‘m about to cook and eat something that is real and helps me give the deserved respect to the animal.  Also, I love to know what I’m about to take home or to a client’s house to cook.

Back to snout to tail. This movement has brought back America’s interest in charcuterie – the preparation of items such as bacon, sausage, pate’s, confit, hams, and terrines. Originally a way to preserve meats, today we enjoy the flavors from the processes of preserving such as smoking, brining, curing, pickling, fermenting and others. Many charcuterie items make use of some of the extra parts of the animal. I think of headcheese.

For part of my youth, we lived on a farm. We grew vegetables and raised animals for our own food.  My dad made head cheese a couple times, he was not much of a cook at all and his headcheese was not very good. His tasted more like a low grade spicy spam, but he tried and I respect his eagerness to use as much of the animal as possible. I also remember homemade pickled trotters floating in a bucket, nothing like you would get from a seasoned charcuterie chef. 

   I’m making some of dad’s culinary dreams come true. I’ve been  working with basic charcuterie type of items, smoking meats and fish. I’ve also been making sausage and they’re really good, curing meats and fish: my lox gravlax is great and the home cured bacon – especially after it’s smoked – is decadent. Next on my agenda is terrines and pates. My wife has sort of gotten used to trotters or maybe I’m just imagining that. For now, I’m not going to push my luck around here by picking meat from a pigs head sitting on the kitchen island for hog Head Cheese.


An Amazing meal in Segovia, Spain: DiVino

During a recent visit to Madrid Spain my wife, son and I took a daytrip to Segovia, about 30 minutes by train. (As an aside, I love that bullet train; I don’t understand why the U.S. has not adopted more of this mode of traveling.)


After hours of visiting the sites, we began looking for a place for lunch. Usually we try to venture away from the hyper-touristy areas, even if it’s only a block or two away.

Not far from Plaza Mayor, we notice the sign to DiVino. The door was a little discrete and it took a moment to try to figure out if it was a restaurant? Wine bar? Tasting room? We decided to go in and see.

Before we knew it, we were seated in a beautiful, modern, classy-but-relaxed dining room. We were given menus, my wife and I were curious about the kangaroo steak until we noticed the prix fixe menu.

It didn’t take much time for us to decide – well, actually, I ordered the prix fixe for us with my bad Spanish. Maybe it was by accident, but we were all eager for the 6-course gourmet feast.

The wine was brought to our table with three glasses. My son is 12, and we occasionally let him have a small taste of something we think is a little special, but his own glass might be a little overboard for our American family. After the wine was uncorked, the waiter poured himself a small tasting into the  third  glass, then a tasting for me. He seemed please by the big smile on my face after my first swirl and sip.

Before we had time to enjoy the delicious bread, the first course arrived. It was beautiful. Partridge pickled with Bierzo D.O. (a wine from the northwest province of Leon) pepper and Xerez vinegar. The dish was wonderful and the partridge was cooked to perfection. I wondered if it was prepared in a sous vide. It was topped with lentil sprouts. This was serious food.

The meal continued with…

Boletus mushroom Carpaccio with duck foie grais with an apple mustard sauce

Black Rice with seafood, squid ink, cuttle fish with a spring onion aioli

Cod with basil, almond and anchovy sauce (an amazing presentation)

Deer meatballs with a smoked cheese espuma and ham

Dessert Hot chocolate soufflé with whipped yogurt cream and a fig biscuit topped with toffee sauce.

That was a great surprise and experience to stumble upon DiVino. As I said before, this was serious food. Segovia is a beautiful city and the aqueducts are super cool to see. Also, try the ponche – mazapan and lemon sponge cake – at Limon y Menta.