Every Foodie loves a garden

Zucchini flower growing at Long Hill Farm in Beverly.

Gardening season is upon us — and as we so often realize this time of year, gardeners and food lovers are close kin. Whether you’re a fan of The Victory Garden’s What’s Growing This Weekend with Paul Epsom or Food Trip with Todd English, you know that every Foodie loves a garden.

Last night, Barbara Emerson, brought home this concept when she spoke about “Edible Landscapes” at the public library in Manchester-by-the-Sea, giving her audience a wealth of gardening inspiration. Emerson, a gardening consultant and master gardener, is founder of Have Green Thumb in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

While I’m not (yet) a gardener, what I learned from Emerson was liberating. For example:

  • Vegetables don’t have to grow in rows. You don’t even need a plot of land. Emerson has grown vegetables in every kind of container — including cloth bags. All that’s really required is a small spot of sun and decent soil.
  • Interplanting is mixing ornamental plants and vegetables. Imagine violets or nasturtiums interplanted with cucumbers or lettuce. (Your dinner salad is practically done!) Putting a lot of plants in one place leaves less open soil, which means less weeding and less work.
  • Plant according to the time you have available, and according to the vegetables you enjoy eating.
  • PMO – Pretty Much Organic – is okay. Really.
  • Roses are edible. Put the leaves in salads, use rose water in cooking, make rose hip tea. Nasturtiums – also edible – have a peppery flavor.
  • New trends in gardening: Pink blueberries (a recent phenomenon, available locally from Corliss Bros Nursery in Ipswich), cloth garden bags made from landscape fabric that let you garden without a plot of land (check them out at SmartPots.com), and self-watering containers (high-end versions available from Lechuza).
  • Make it easy and realistic for yourself. Place vegetables or herbs close to the kitchen, within easy reach. If they’re too far away when you’re cooking, you simply aren’t going to grab them.

A trend survey conducted by the Garden Writers of America indicated that the number of home vegetable gardeners was up 37% last year, and it’s expected to boom again this year. With Emerson’s advice on gardening — practical, fun, liberating, and realistic — I can envision it booming in my own backyard.

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Essen! Jewish Food in the New World kicks off Sunday

Western Massachusetts has its share of attractions, both natural and cultural. A fair bit of the cultural attractions are facilitated by an organization called Museums10, a consortium of galleries and museums ranging from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to the Smith College Museum of Art to the Emily Dickinson Museum.

Museums10 is on the radar of foodie folks these days for two reasons. The first is called Table for 10: The Art, History, and Science of Food, a months-long festival of cooking classes, demonstrations, lectures, and literary dinners. Most of the events take place this summer and fall — hitting just about all of the institutions involved in Museums10 — and it kicks off this Sunday.

Which brings us to the second reason foodie folks are paying attention. Essen! Jewish Food in the New World opens this Sunday, May 16, at the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. The exhibit explores the idea that kitchen pots and grocery shelves chronicle the tale of the American Jewish experience from the early 20th century to today.

The full schedule of events also includes a series of paintings of jam-filled doughnuts and a public art project that transforms a traditional mobile food cart into a visual and culinary moveable feast.

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Finding Champagne in unexpected places

There’s a shop on Newbury Street called Fresh that sells skincare products, soaps, and perfumes. It is not a place you’d expect to find the chicest wine tasting in town, but that is exactly what’s happening there tomorrow night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The link between skincare and wine?

At Fresh, it’s called Citron de Vigne. It’s a line of soaps, lotions, and perfumes that were inspired by the Champagne region of France. “Inspired by” means that the soaps and lotions are infused with a citrusy scent. “Inspired by” also means that the perfumes are formulated with a sparkling, effervescent aroma similar to what you’d find from a bottle of Champagne.

That’s where the wine tasting comes in. With a focus on the component grapes of Champagne, that is, specifically pinot noir. Jo-Ann Ross, certified specialist of wine and founder of J Ross Wine, will lead a casual, intimate tasting of wines from Champagne and Burgundy, where the pinot noir grape thrives.

See for yourself how inspiring that grape, those wines, and Citron de Vigne can be. Just check with Fresh for times and other event details.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Wine and personality: Dr. Su Hua Newton at BOKX 109

The fish course of seared Petrale sole was served with Newton Vineyard's 2007 Unfiltered Chardonnay.

At first glance, Dr. Su Hua Newton seems an unlikely winery owner. She is a scientist by training. She wears a red blazer and black tights that just might be leather. She and her husband, Peter Newton, came to Napa way back in the day, when the valley’s landscape was more likely to be growing walnuts than grapes.

But then Newton begins to speak — as she did Friday night at the Newton Vineyard wine dinner at BOKX 109 Restaurant in Newton — and you realize the roles of winery owner, winemaker, and marketer suit her to a T.

That’s because she is intelligent and pragmatic (useful for one of the first-comers to the Napa wine scene). And because she is vivacious and charming (you’d have to be, to pull off some of the achievements Newton Vineyard has accomplished).

Plus, she is self-effacing and funny, and definitely not taking herself too seriously.

That last — an energy of self-deprecation and humor — helped open the door to the lively, even boisterous crowd that gathered in BOKX 109’s private dining room recently. Newton Vineyard’s reputation typically inspires a hushed reverence, thanks to wine critic Robert Parker’s 96-point rating of Newton’s wines, its inclusion in Parker’s ranking of the world’s 100 greatest wine estates, and premium price points per bottle. Newton Vineyard’s history, in other words, evokes an expectation of stuffiness.

Until Su Hua Newton is in the room.

That was the case on Friday. Maybe some of the guests came to the dinner anticipating a certain level of seriousness. What they got instead was communal seating around just a few tables in the room, exciting food (and I do not say that lightly), and the edge and the flair of BOKX 109, packaged with the unusual — even daring — flight of unfiltered wines from Su Hua Newton’s vineyards.

Maybe the next time these guests see Newton Vineyard on the wine store shelf, they’ll remember Dr. Newton’s sense of humor more than the unfiltered character of most of the wines. Maybe they’ll remember their conversation with fellow guests more distinctly than how well the Red Label Chardonnay paired with the oysters (outstanding though the food at BOKX 109 is).

Or maybe what they will remember is that Napa is full of personalities like Dr. Newton’s — personalities that flavor more than the wines.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer: Goodies for a cause

More than 150 Boston-area restaurants participate in the week-long Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer fundraiser, starting today.

The thing about fundraisers is that you have to give something — cash, normally — in order to get. And what you get is often intangible: a good feeling or the sense that you’ve done something worthwhile.

This week, the “get” is a little more tangible and a lot more tasty.

Starting today and going through Mother’s Day on Sunday, some 150-plus restaurants, bakeries, and cafés all over greater Boston will donate 100% of the proceeds from designated desserts to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

It’s called Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer, and in the past 10 years it’s raised almost $400,000 for the cause.

I suspect its success has a lot to do with the kind of desserts — very tangible, very tasty — that are on offer. The list is heavy on chocolate (souffles, bouchons, tortes), fresh fruits (raspberries, strawberries), cupcakes, cheesecakes, and even whoopie pies (one version crafted with pink filling, another served straight up with milk).

Comfort food galore.

Check out the full list of restaurants and zoom in on one in your neighborhood.

Then stop in. And enjoy the feeling that you’ve done something worthwhile — for breast cancer research, and for your belly, too.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Wine dinner this Friday at BOKX 109; special discount for WGBH members

Unfiltered wines are all the rage — we’re living in a pared-back, honest era, people — but few wineries get unfiltered wines right.

Newton Vineyard, which wine critic Robert Parker calls one of the world’s greatest wine estates, is one of those few.

This Friday night offers a chance to taste Newton Vineyard’s work for yourself, when BOKX 109 American Prime restaurant hosts a wine dinner that includes three of their unfiltered wines — a chardonnay, a merlot, and a cabernet sauvignon. Better yet, WGBH members can get $10 off the price of the dinner (keep reading to find out how).

Here’s the plan:

Walk into the Newton Vineyard wine dinner and they’ll hand you a glass of the 2008 Red Label Chardonnay.

Retail price: $20/bottle.

While you’re getting settled, catch a server (or two, or three, it won’t be hard) and indulge in the passed apps of poached oyster shooters, lobster and ricotta cavatelli, and wing confit.

Once you’re seated, they’ll place your first unfiltered wine of the night in front of you — the 2007 chardonnay — to pair with the seared petrale sole with spring peas and morel cream.

Retail price for the wine: $45/bottle.

Then comes the second course with another unfiltered wine — the 2005 merlot — along with barbecued pork belly with Boston baked beans and sweet corn nage.

Retail price for the wine: $45/bottle.

Next up is Newton Vineyard’s iconic Bordeaux blend, called The Puzzle (2005) at $78/bottle retail. It’s matched up with Long Island duck served two ways — smoked breast and confit thigh — with melted leeks and lentil fondue in a red wine and shallot jus.

For dessert you’ll drift back to the unfiltered wines with the 2006 cab and a dark chocolate tart with drunken berries and toasted meringue.

Retail price for the wine: $40/bottle.

Is a $95-five course wine dinner worth the price? Well, here’s what you’d pay course by course (and this doesn’t even include the food):

$20

$45

$45

$78

$40

You do the math — then email your reservation to me at WGBH: cathy_huyghe@wgbh.org, and your WGBH membership gets you a $10 discount. See you there!

Details: Newton Vineyard Wine Dinner, hosted by Dr. Su Hua Newton. BOKX 109 American Prime restaurant, inside the Hotel Indigo, 399 Grove Street, Newton. Friday, April 30, at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $95 plus tax and gratuity; WGBH members get $10 off when you email Cathy Huyghe with your reservation.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Music, dancing, and loukaniko: Greek Independence Day in Boston Common

In honor of the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire (and Greek pride in general), the Greek Independence Day festival took over Boston Common on Sunday. The festival gave a hint of the wonderful culture — and food — one might experience on a visit, as with WGBH’s upcoming LearningTour.

Dancers in costume, with ethnic music in the background, help set the stage at yesterday’s Greek Independence Day celebration in the Boston Common.

Guests and participants take breaks to enjoy the weather, the crowd, and the food.

Food kiosks, even those selling products not exactly Greek by origin, fly the flag nonetheless.

Fried dough toasts in oil before being powdered with sugar.

No Greek festival is complete without gyros.

A gyro kiosk worker prepares slices of meat for cooking.

Shish kebabs and loukaniko were for sale as well. One guest described loukaniko as “like kielbasa but spicier, with orange rind in it.”

Shish kebabs for a crowd.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.