Monster Food Truck Festival

Last weekend, we spent part of the day apple picking in Harvard, Massachusetts. Usually I prepare a picnic to bring along, but this time since I had cooked for a party the night before, I did not have the time.We decided that after absorbing the peace of the orchard, we would swing by and check out WZLX's Monster Food Truck Festival in Framingham in the Shoppers World parking lot. The event was scheduled 11:00AM to 5:00PM.

My car was filled with apples and people – myself, my wife, Esther, my son, Lenny, his best friend, Griffin, and Griffin’s mom, Li – when we arrived at the festival a little after 3:00PM. We found about a dozen food trucks and outdoor cooking stations, a live band playing and lots of people. “This is a carnival without the rides!” said Li. She nailed it, it was a carnival of food and everyone was there to have fun tasting the goods. Food trucks have just started making the scene in the Boston area. As I understand it, there have been strict regulations and, frankly, New Englanders just don't like to jump too quickly on every trend. So this was really my first food truck rally/meet/festival.

We first made a quick lap around the trucks, lined up back to back, to see what was available. We noticed a couple were already sold out, and most had long lines of excited, hungry festival attendees. My son and I, along with Griffin, ended our lap right in front of Woodman’s fried clams – yeah that place in Essex. There’s nothing like apple picking followed by a cone of perfectly fried belly clams from one of the best places in Massachusetts to make a perfect New England fall day. Esther and Li, disappeared, headed to the long line at Snappy Dog, a funky woman-run dog stand.

Next, I got in line for Spoon, specializing in Carolina BBQ, Lenny and Griffin were in line at Grilled Cheese Nation. Esther finds me and offers me a bite of her Snappy dog with chili and green salsa, it was delicious. Next Lenny gives me a bite of his grilled cheese and bacon. Yes, the Spoon line was long. By the time I'm up to order, many items have been scratched off the list. My original plan was to get a couple of ribs, hush puppies and a pulled pork sandwich, but I ended up with five ribs and a very generous side of collard greens.

Now BBQ ribs are one of the things I cook best, I'm not here to review, every cook that is obsessed with real BBQ has their two cents to offer, so I'm not even going there. I'm just glad they are sharing their love from their food truck. Every bite was eaten by our small team of food truck reviewers. I even kept dipping my bare rib bones in the sauce and sucking it off.

The grand finale was an ice cream sandwich from Frozen Hoagie. I was pretty full, but I had no problem finishing it. Afterwards I lay in the thick grass of an island in the parking lot, thinking another very good day in the world of food. It was the best shopping mall food court I've come across and it was in the parking lot.



Attleboro Farmers Market Paella Demo

I was thrilled to be invited to do a cooking demo at the Attleboro Farmers Market. 
I brought my outdoor cooker and very large pan, did a step by step on how I cook my seafood
 paella and gave out tasting samples. I had a great time at this very nice market and made a bunch of friends. Making friends is easy when you're handing out delicious food. 

The market runs until the end of October, visit Saturday mornings at 74 Main Street Attleboro Ma. It's in the public library parking lot.

Tell them Chef Lester sent you!



Wine Tasting at Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod

I read recently that these days in America, if you throw a rock there's a good chance you will hit a vineyard.

Pulling into the driveway a sign read 3,100 miles to Napa Valley. This is not California's wine country, Bordeaux or the Loire Valley. This is North Truro, Cape Cod Massachusetts.

My Wife, son and his friend were staying down the street at a beach cottage. We rode out hurricane Irene a few days earlier, and were enjoying nearly empty beaches and picture perfect weather. My wife and I decided to take a little break from the beach, our sun burns and, actually, my frisbee arm needed a little rest, to visit Truro Vineyards for a tasting.Truro Vineyards' tasting works a little different than other vineyards we've visited. We're accustomed to plunking $5-$10 on the tasting bar and picking wines, tasting and talking to the wine pourer. We love  talking with vineyard folks, we've learned so much about wine doing this. At Truro Vineyards, the tasting is done in groups on the half hour. We had 10 minutes until the next tasting - perfect for browsing local art, wine paraphernalia and jams, jellies and of course wines in the very nice gift shop.

The tasting was out the back door of the shop, to a very nice covered pavilion with tables and chairs, in a beautiful setting with a view of grapes growing on the vines. The price was $8 to taste 5 wines, but we could taste all 10 if we didn't mind sharing the pour with a person at our table. Sounded perfect for us and that's what we did, as did almost all the other 15 or so people at our tasting.

They began telling us about the Truro wines and the vineyard and coming to each table with some generous tasting pours — more of  a lecture than a casual conversation, but very informative. We learned that some of the grapes come from upstate New York, and I did notice a resemblance to some of the wines I've tasted in the Finger Lakes area. The whites were a true taste of summer, Pinot Grigio was bright and crisp and the Vignoles was fruity but dry. We also tasted a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay. The Zinfandel was much lighter than the big bold Russian River reds that I love, but it was refreshing. Cabernet Franc is the signature grape of Truro Vineyards and is also used in their meritage blends. I really enjoyed the Lighthouse series (it comes in a bottle shaped like a lighthouse) - especially, surprisingly, The Cranberry Red, a blend of Beaujolais and Cape Cod Cranberries! I could drink this chilled any summer evening, although they recommend it paired with roast turkey. Thanksgiving is just around the corner!

 Later that evening, we met up with some old friends at The Lobster Pot in Provincetown. While being led to our table, I couldn't help but notice a display of Truro wines, and was tempted. But, my mojito ended up being refreshing after a day of fun and sun.









Vegetarian Catered Party

Last week, I catered a vegetarian party. Near the end of the party, a guest asked me if it's true that chefs hate cooking vegetarian? I forgot exactly what I replied, it had been a long day of cooking and I was caught off guard with the question. Thinking about it now, I cook and eat just about everything – meat and potatoes, tofu and eggplant, as long as it’s good quality and tastes good to me.  

I think many chefs would agree that the most frustrating thing is extensive limitations. As a chef, I love hearing the words, “We eat everything, surprise us, ” and being able to go wild!  I can shop for what looks fresh that day.  But, as a chef, I'm also up for challenges and when they come along, I put myself into a different mind set, it's time to get very creative. 

I cook for all kinds of clients with all kinds of tastes and diet limitations. Some are allergy- or health-related, some are personal taste, some religious or cultural, some for personal and environmental reasons. I respect all diets, everyone should enjoy good food. Basically what I'm getting at, if you are a real chef, and truly care about food and people, drop the snobby attitudes, use your creativity and prepare delicious dishes with what you are allowed to use. With a little extra work I'm sure you'll come up with something that you would be proud to serve. 

I once cooked for a dinner party, not being allowed to use, onions, peppers, garlic and few other things. That was the hardest cook date so far and I survived.

Here's the vegetarian party menu, which went over great!


Chilled Gazpacho soup

Bread crumb, vegetable and parmasean stuffed tomatoes with a homemade molecular Greek olive oil powder

Roasted multi colored beets with a baslamic reduction

My own style of Buffalo tofu with homemade blue cheese dressing, carrot and celery sticks

Vegetarian outdoor cooked Paella with broccoli florets, artichoke hearts, red peppers and peas

Fried eggplant slices with a homemade spicy tomato jam

Mini whoopie pies from local Whoopi Monster


Everyone enjoyed the dishes. Many items were local and organic.




Rose Hip Jelly

Poking around in my freezer, I discovered a bag of rose hips that I picked with my friend Hthaiwan last summer at a Cape Cod beach. Rose hips – sometimes called wild beach roses – grow in abundance along the beach dunes here in New England. You'll recognize them by the jaw breaker sized red berries. My plan was  to make something with them as soon as I returned home to Boston, maybe dry them out for tea or even find a recipe for rose hip soup, a dish I've never had, but have always wanted to try. Well, that never happened. I ended up throwing them in the freezer and finding them nearly 11 months later.

Needing freezer space, I thawed them out and they looked pretty good. The seeds and hairy insides are irritating to the mouth, and I've been told that the hairs can be used to make itching powder, so I decided to make a jelly. I removed the stems, put them in a pot of water, and simmered them for over an hour. Near the end, I mashed them with a potato masher to bring out the tart flavor and strained them in a jelly bag. I brought the liquid to a boil, and added sugar, lemon juice and pectin. Man, was I surprised how good this tasted! The fragrance was also very sweet  and floral.  I then did the usual prep ending with a 10-minute processing in a water bath canner. I ended up with some excellent canned jelly: a little sweet, a little tart.

Next week, I'll be spending some time on a Cape Cod beach and I'll be bringing a jar of my Cape Cod rose hip jelly to the beach cottage. I expect, I'll be returning back to Boston with more foraged rose hips.

While foraging for rose hips, resist climbing around the protected dunes. There's always more than enough within easy reach.

Rose hips are very high in vitamin C.

Next I'll deal with that bag of Asian raspberries in the freezer, that I picked last month from my own garden.

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