Thursday, May 28, 2009

Local Eating in Northampton

For Memorial Day weekend, Matt and I took off for Northampton, Mass. Those who know me from elsewhere or read my Moroccan Mint Tea blog know my love of Northampton. I stumbled across the place by accident last summer on a trip with my mom and kids, and have been in love with it ever since. Matt agreed to make a trip with me, and has friends to visit there besides.

This wasn't at all like meeting the rail-thin, impeccably-groomed Manhattanite (who by the way was very very nice, nothing at all against her); these were my kind of people. (I'm hoping they're not insulted by my thinking so.) Conversation ran the geek gamut, from Harry Potter to Star Wars to Star Trek to who-knows-what, including my personal favorite, Fandom Wank. We also talked a fair amount about local eating, because one of them, Rob, has adopted a raw diet, which also tends to be local. He's had a hard time finding meat in his current location, so if I can ever get him out here to visit, I'll be sure to drag him to the farmer's market with us; he'll absolutely love it.

At any rate, I was hoping that, in a town like Northampton, a locavore might find something of interest to write about. We passed a sign that read "your locally grown food co-op," and swung in. It was the River Valley Market. I wondered whether they'd only carry local items (you could find enough to fill a store in Saratoga, after all), or just emphasize local producers.

It was the latter. It wasn't a bad place, but I'm still more partial to Honest Weight. (Good thing, since it's much closer.) They did have some local items, with local asparagus and fiddleheads front and center, but not as much as I'd hoped. We bought some definitely-not-local strawberries and truffles (the chocolate kind, not the fungus) and hit the town.

It was a good evening. Kicked around Thornes' for a bit, which I always love. Hit the brewpub for a drink or two. Teased Matt about how long it took him to pick a beer. That sort of thing.

The second day was truly my favorite, though. I love socializing, but sometimes need a little quietude afterwards to clear my head. Nothing much was open when we were done eating our bagels in town, so we headed for the Smith campus. The place was full of families from the graduations that weekend, and older ladies who were there for an alumni gathering. Old friends happy to meet up again, and newer friends getting ready to say good-bye. Matt and I just walked through on our own agenda.

Off the athletic fields, we found a trail and started following it. What I had thought was a pond on the campus turned out to link to Mill River, with trails on either side. I had no idea where we were going, but I'd just eaten and had a cup of tea in hand, so I was good to go for a while. It was beautiful scenery, and some well-meaning soul had been walking the trail ahead of us pulling garlic mustard; wilting plants littered the path for most of the walk. That made me chuckle.

Eventually we asked someone on the other side where the path led to, and it sounded kind of far, so we came to the conclusion that eventually we'd just want to turn around and go back. So when we were ready, we crossed and went back on the opposite side. (Much of the river is shallow and rocky; all we had to do was take off shoes and roll up pants.)

Hit a few shops on the way back into town, and as we were headed towards a used book store I'd noticed the day before, Matt said, "Local Burger & Fries."

I said, "What? Where?!?" He pointed across the street. We made a note of it for after the book store.

I worried that Local Burger & Fries might be named thusly because it was the local burger joint, not because you could get actual local food there; it just seemed too good to be true. But no, they do! Even the potatoes came from a local farm, and any one of the family members there will start listing off the farms that different foods come from if you ask. The fries are hand-cut and fried in peanut oil, and absolutely fantastic. You can get your burger in black angus or grass-fed, and they'll ask you if you want "pink or no pink?" They have turkey burgers, potobellos, and their own version of a veggie burger (no doubt to keep it local).

The only complaint I have is the lack of healthy stuff. It's true that you don't go to a burger joint for health food, but it would be nice to be able to order a salad. The menu is a bit limited - but their simplicity could be part of their success, focusing all their energy on making a few items really, really well. And they certainly do.

1 comment:

  1. what a delight to read! Brought back memories -- all good ones!

    ~ soonie