By C. Dennis Pierce
“Everyone loves fried chicken, Don’t ever make it. Ever. Buy it from a place that makes good fried chicken.”
As it is stated, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute”. This week has given us record highs and record lows. Local gardeners and farmers are anxiously waiting for that first hard frost. Both want to get their garlic in the ground and nestle them with a blanket of straw while gardeners are in search of the best time to plant their bulbs just hoping that their monetary investment does better than the stock market and that the evil skunks, voles, mice, squirrels, chipmunks and other creatures don’t ravish the crop before the flowers make their spring debut.
This month I sought out a unique venture that has sprouted in Columbia, Connecticut. Before I share my exciting find I want to shed some light on our history of buying locally. The roots of the “Farm to Fork” initiative stretch back to the 60’s and 70’s when consumers became increasingly dissatisfied with processed foods that they found bland. One of the first farm-to-table restaurants in America was opened by Chef Alice Waters who opened her restaurant in California in 1971. Her restaurant, Chez Panisse, featured fresh, locally grown ingredients as part of a seasonal menu. Waters was inspired by the sustainable community food movement she enjoyed when she lived in France.
I had the honor of meeting Chef Waters at a conference at Yale . In 2001 Waters became interested in the culture of food at Yale when her daughter, Fanny Singer ‘05, joined Jonathan Edwards College as an undergraduate. A conversation between Waters and Yale President, Richard Levin sparked the idea for an ambitious University undertaking: a project encompassing a sustainable dining program, a college farm, university composting, and increased education around food and agriculture. Driven by this ambitious vision, a steering committee of students, faculty, and staff tackled the dining program first, inaugurating a pilot project in Berkeley College’s (one of Yale’s twelve residential colleges) dining hall to serve all local, seasonal, and sustainable food. A group of students joined Joshua Viertel, the first director, to write a proposal to establish a campus farm. The proposal was approved by President Levin, and in the summer of 2003, the interns broke ground at the Yale Farm at 345 Edwards Street and ran a composting pilot to recycle waste from Yale’s dining halls. The conference that I attended, “Tilling the Soil; Turning the Tables” on Yale’s campus was attended by 170 people from 19 colleges and universities. And that my friend was the beginning of the Farm to Fork movement on college and university campuses.
But now let me get back to a true local farm to fork initiative. Sure, local farmer’s markets and Co-ops provide a cornucopia of fresh locally grown ingredients, but nothing stands close to the efforts of, “The GOOD Farm” located at 544, Route 87 in Columbia right down the road from Heartstone Winery. Jefferson Monroe and his wife Erin met across the Vineyard Sound on New Year’s Day. After an 8-month courtship Erin moved onto the GOOD Farm where she and Jefferson weathered the pandemic with friends, fried foods, and farming. It started in 2021 when they found the farm in Columbia and they were able to purchase it from Walt and Nancy Tabor of Heartstone Winery. Erin has continued her lifelong passion for helping people as a Nurse Practitioner in the Hartford area while Jefferson spends his days raising animals and piloting the Twin Beaks trailer around northeastern Connecticut. So, you ask, what is the Twin Beaks trailer? That dear readers is the true “farm to fork” experience. The GOOD Farm pasture raises hundreds of chickens for the main purpose of becoming the best, gluten free (yes, gluten free) fried chicken that you have ever put into your mouth. My first experience was at the Andover’s farmers market this summer where Jefferson and Caroline Bayarsaihan, one of the members of the farm’s crew, let me experience culinary nirvana. At first glance when lifting the lid of the old fashion cardboard box the fragrance tempted me to jump right in but then upon my first glance I hesitated because the chicken did not look like Kentucky Fried. Adjusting my perception, I realized that because they are using potato flour to coat the chicken, thus making it gluten free, these savory morsels took on a whole different appearance. So, without hesitation I tore right into it, and I can honestly say (having a culinary background) this is by far the best fried chicken that I have ever experienced in my life.
Their website says it best: “Our culinary inspiration comes from the ground up – literally! We raise our animals with an eye towards their welfare and the carrying capacity of our land. What we sell grows out of that ethos and foods we love – many of our dishes were test run at employee meals for months before getting added to the menu. In fact, the idea of frying our delicious, farm raised chicken came from not one, but two separate employees before we even gave it a try. We strive to use flavors that complement our roots – that of our farm and the land we rest lightly upon.”
The concept of raising chickens and then offering the best fried chicken comes with a wry sense of humor and that is the name of their mobile offerings. Twin Beaks Fried Chicken combines some of their favorite things – barnyard puns, the mundane oddities of life and the (occasional) supernatural event or vision. They are mostly just trying to have fun in a little old town called Twin Beaks, trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of: “Who killed Leghorn Palmer?”, while serving and eclectic menu to delight the appetites of all. Since opening Twin Beaks Fried Chicken in 2023, the GOOD Farm has served their chicken, pork, lamb, and eggs as ready to eat takeout from their mobile/kitchen / trailer. While they specialize in fried chicken, they love all of their delicious menu offerings.
I hope at this point you are intrigued, anxious and hungry. The best place to find when Twin Beaks Fried Chicken will be visiting your town is to saunter down to their website and check out their master calendar, https://www.twinbeaksfriedchicken.com/where-to-find-us And that’s not all. If you still have not planned out your Thanksgiving dinner The Good Farm is still taking orders for their turkeys. GOOD Farm Connecticut Turkey Order Form 2023 is on their website under, “Where We Get Our Meats. They will be distributing their turkeys the week leading up to Thanksgiving so that your family can experience a delicious, pasture raised bird for the holiday. At this point I can go on and on but a recommend that you check out the GOOD Farm’s web site, Twinbeaksfriedchicken.com to learn more about the history of their venture, Jefferson, and their full menu at Twin Beaks. Questions? Contact them at email@example.com
Summer vegetables are waning. You will be fortunate if you can still find a tomato at the farmer’s market and if you do grab it since it will soon be a collectors item or just a memory. But to try out the following recipe be on the lookout for fall chard. This tangy relish is a nice accompaniment for pork,
lamb, or a firm fish like swordfish. With its vinegar-soaked raisins it can be a substitute for cranberry relish if you double or triple the recipe.
Chard Stalk Relish With Pine Nuts & Raisins
1/3 of a cup of golden raisins, currants, dried cranberries, or regular raisins
2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of water
¼ cup of pine nuts or slivered almonds
2 tablespoons of olive oil
½ cup of finely diced, red onion
A large pinch of red chili flakes or a small dried red chili, crumbled
½ teaspoon of minced garlic
Stalks from 1 large bunch of chard, preferably rainbow chard. Sliced ¼ inch thick and sauté until tender
Place the raisins or dried fruit in a small bowl with the vinegar and water.
Let soak while to prepare the other ingredients
Place the nuts in a small frying pan over medium low heat.
Toast, tossing occasionally until golden. Watch carefully as they burn easily.
Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
Add onion and red chili flakes and sauté, stirring occasionally until the onion is tender.
Add the garlic, sliced chard stalks and cook for a few minutes.
Add a small splash of water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the stalk are tender
Add raisins (or dried fruit) with their soaking liquid and bring to a simmer
Allow the liquid to cook off slightly
Remove from heat, stir in nuts and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season to taste with salt
Serve immediately or at room temperature.
If you hold the relish and serve later hold back the nuts and add them just before serving.
I hope the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday provides you with the opportunity to gather with friends and family and maybe even dine on a turkey from the GOOD farm!
If you have a suggestion for a farm or a local grower or even a recipe that would feature a local ingredient, please let me know. I will do my best to share your suggestions in a future column. Drop me a line at Codfish53@Yahoo.com. So, Peas be with you. Come celebrate with me and remember, every day is a holiday, and every meal is a banquet. I’ll save you a seat at the table!