Outdoor dining in Annisquam

Finding The Market restaurant on Cape Ann is not simple.

To get there, diners must traverse the mazelike roads of Annisquam village. And it’s easy to drive by the place once or twice—the only indication that the modest, shingled shack holds an eatery is a faded sign left over from a previous tenant, the Lobster Cove Market and Restaurant.

MarketSignStill, on just about every summer night, cars line the road in front of the eatery and customers mingle on the deck as they wait for their tables. Now heading into its sixth season, The Market has developed a loyal following of foodies drawn to the restaurant’s ever-changing menu and fresh local ingredients.

“Find the best local food you can and do as little to it as possible,” says Nico Monday, who, along with wife Amelia, owns and operates the restaurant. “That’s our philosophy.”

And the approach has been working. The Market is almost always crowded during the six months it is open. It has been featured in Food and Wine magazine, and celebrities have been known to stop in when they are in town.

Though The Market opened in 2010, Nico and Amelia’s story starts years earlier in a different restaurant in California. Nico grew up in Berkeley, just up the street from Chez Panisse, the famed restaurant owned by chef Alice Waters, who is widely considered to be one of the trailblazers of the local food movement. (Waters is also Monday’s godmother.) By the time he was 13, Nico was bussing tables at the restaurant. After high school, he traveled through France and Italy, working in as many kitchens as he could—“That was my cooking school,” he says—before returning to cook at Chez Panisse.

Amelia is a Gloucester native. While attending college in coastal Maine, she turned to cooking as a way to occupy herself during the long, snowy winters. When she graduated, she headed to culinary school in the Bay Area. She secured an internship at Chez Panisse. “Basically, I forced myself upon them,” she says. And that position eventually evolved into a job.

MarketSqIt was at the restaurant that Nico and Amelia met and fell for each other. They worked together for about five years, absorbing Waters’s simple, ingredient-driven approach to cooking. “That really shaped how we think about food and look at food,” Nico says.

Eventually, though, they decided it was time for something new. The couple, not yet married at the time, set their sights on Europe, lining up jobs in Spain. But at the last minute, their visas fell through and they found themselves adrift without a plan. They considered finding summer jobs on Cape Cod, but soon started thinking about a bigger endeavor, a restaurant of their own, perhaps.

Then they heard about an old empty waterfront restaurant—in the past it had been a basic breakfast joint—in Amelia’s hometown. They leased the place sight unseen, and within two weeks they had opened The Market, Nico remembers. “We said, ‘I’ll bet if we just started cooking food, people will show up.’”

That first summer, they operated with just a handful of staff, and Amelia and Nico cooked every dish that left the kitchen. They wanted to work with locally grown ingredients but didn’t yet have any relationships with area growers, so Nico’s brother set out in an old Subaru, knocking on farmers’ doors and ask- ing if they had any food they could sell him.

“When the little car was full of produce, he’d come back to us and we’d say, ‘OK, that’s what’s for dinner,’” Nico says. “We were just this little ragtag band of restaurateurs figuring things out.”

Today, the operation has a more regular system in place, but the spirit is still the same. Nico and Amelia are in regular touch with local farmers, finding out what produce is going to be ready and flavorful each week. They buy their fish from local sellers every day. Each morning, often over coffee, they write a new menu featuring the ingredients they have available that day.

In spring, dishes might include English pea and goat cheese ravioli or fish stew with local scallops, squid, and haddock. Tomato-zucchini fritters might show up mid-summer, and pork Milanese with bacon-sautéed apples might make an early autumn appearance. Many menu offerings list the farms from which ingredients were sourced.

Amelia takes particular pride in crafting a course she says many restaurants too often overlook: the salad. Her versions often include unexpected components like spiced pistachios, tuna confit, and preserved lemon. “We think about salads as much as we do the entrées,” she says.

The restaurant space itself, she says, matches the vibe of the food: unpretentious and a little rustic, but demonstrating care in execution. The seating is split between a cozy, window-ringed dining room and a wooden deck jutting out over Lobster Cove, a narrow arm of the Annisquam River. The décor includes an abundance of wood, chalkboards, and checkered tablecloths.

The Mondays make improvements to the space every year. They recently added a new bar; this year’s plans include handmade butcher-block-style tabletops, some fresh paint, and new seating on the deck.

As Nico and Amelia get ready to reopen The Market after a punishing winter, they have nothing but enthusiasm for the season ahead. Nico intends to get back into the kitchen after spending the last two summers concentrating on the launch and growth of the couple’s second restaurant, pizza-focused Short & Main in downtown Gloucester. Amelia is excited to exercise her culinary creativity.

And Alice Waters is excited about her protegées’ success. “They create absolutely beautiful food,” she says. “It’s a wonderful thing, having young, talented chefs from Chez Panisse starting restaurants that support the farmers and ranchers who take care of the land.”

“It’s like a dream restaurant to run in so many ways,” Amelia says. “It has a quintessential New England summer feel.”

For satisfied diners and happy restaurateurs alike, it seems The Market is quite the find.

This story originally appeared in the July 2015 issues of Northshore Magazine, and on the magazine’s website here

To salivate over some of The Market’s recent menus, visit the restaurant’s Tumblr

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Boston to launch the nation’s first ‘all-local’ public market

BPMoutThe new public market opening this summer in Boston will never sell a banana or an avocado. In the winter and spring, when there are fewer vegetables in the fields, there will be fewer vegetables in the market’s stalls. And if local fishermen can’t catch it, it won’t be on offer.

The Boston Public Market will be home to about 40 vendors, who will sell fruits and vegetables, fish and meat, and honey—all grown, caught or produced in New England.

Most major cities either have large public markets these days or have one in works — think Detroit’s Eastern Market, San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace, or Portland, Oregon’s James Beard Public Market, scheduled to open in 2018. While these markets are all champions of local food and farmers, however, none have taken their sourcing rules quite as far.

Boston’s market will be the first permanent, year-round market in the country to require its products—not just its proprietors—to be all-local, a model that is both exciting and risky, said Elizabeth Morningstar, chief executive of the Boston Public Market Association, the nonprofit that will operate the new enterprise.

“Do I know if it’s going to succeed? I don’t,” Morningstar said. “Do I think it’s the right thing to do? One hundred percent.”

The goals behind the ambitious rules are the same as those driving the burgeoning local food movement: boost economic development, help people eat healthier, reduce carbon emissions from long-haul transportation, and encourage consumers to reconnect with the land where their food is grown.

The state of Massachusetts is paying for half of the estimated $13 million it will cost to get the market up and running. The environmental nonprofit The Conservation Fund has given the project a $3 million line of credit; private and foundation donations make up the rest of the budget.

BPMinThe building is still a work in progress. Men and women in hard hats walk the raw concrete floors where shoppers will meander come summer. Visible ducts and wires run along the ceiling and a stack of pipes obscures a wall that will be covered in a cascade of flowers. The banks of floor-to-ceiling windows that line the front of the building are covered in colorful posters that promote the coming market and prevent passers-by from peering in at the unfinished space.

As the market nears completion, however, questions remain about its pioneering local-only mandate. Will the farms of highly seasonal New England have anything to sell in winter? Will consumers find the selection too limited?

Morningstar has conquered any doubts she once had about supply. More than 300 potential vendors–the vast majority from Massachusetts–have expressed interest in setting up shop in the market, she said. Applicants must submit a rigorous business plan guaranteeing their ability to provide enough product all year. “Even the small businesses have been very diligent about their supply model,” Morningstar said.

The growers selling fruits and vegetables have all found ways to extend their offerings through the colder, less fertile months. For instance, Corner Stalk Farm grows greens in converted shipping containers all year. Red Apple Farm will supplement its fruit with cider and treats like doughnuts. Other farms plan to offer items that will store well throughout the winter like root vegetables and winter squash. The first round of vendors also includes businesses selling meat, cheese, milk, ice cream, honey, wine, smoked fish, and greenhouse-grown flowers.

Not every ingredient will come from New England — market rules allow prepared foods to use components from outside the region, though the final product must be produced locally. The market will also sell chocolate and seasoned nuts grown out of New England, but processed in neighboring Somerville. And it will have a coffee vendor and some smoothies for sale there that will contain coconut.

The question of demand is not as clearly resolved, but there is every reason for optimism.

“Local” continues to be one of the most commercially appealing words in the food business, said Rachel Greenberger, director of food entrepreneurship program Food Sol at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Though the market will not have the one-stop convenience of a traditional supermarket, Morningstar points to data that indicate most shoppers already make multiple stops to buy all of the groceries they want.

Still, consumer education will be essential if the market is to succeed, said Gregory Watson, who was commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources when the plans for the market were taking shape.

“You want to manage those customer expectations right up front, so [they] don’t come in expecting tropical fruit,” he said.

Several vendors will include educational pieces in their own stalls, Morningstar said. An active beehive will buzz behind plexiglass at the booth of the Boston Honey Company of Holliston and Taza Chocolate of Somerville will have a traditional chocolate grinding stone on display.

In the market’s kitchen, a versatile space in the corner of the facility, visitors will be able to sample produce or practice their stir-fry technique in hands-on cooking classes. Area conservation group the Trustees of Reservations will coordinate the programming.

“This is definitely a radical concept, so the education becomes all the more important,” said Mimi Hall, market programming director for the Trustees of Reservations.

Though a market is always a tourist draw, planners are shaping the Boston facility to serve residents first and foremost, Morningstar said. Most vendors will serve some prepared food options, but the only seating will be eight small tables in the center of the space. The goal is not to become a dining destination, but to stay focused on the needs of local shoppers looking for dinner ingredients, she said.

To make sure the market is an option for all residents regardless of income, all vendors are required to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, (AKA food stamps). Classes will also be priced to make them affordable to a wide range of participants, Hall said. One-third of the events will be free, she said, and another third will cost less than $20.

“We’re making sure people of all different backgrounds and all different means get connected to the land,” Hall said.

If the market succeeds, it could be an important catalyst for growth in the local food economy in New England, several people said. Having a guaranteed year-round outlet could encourage farmers to look at boosting greenhouse production, for instance, said Watson.

The market is also an important step in building needed local food infrastructure, Greenberger said. And for Morningstar, the market will help both grow and satisfy Boston’s corps of local food devotees.

“Shopping in a public market is a value statement,” she said. “People go because they like what it says about them and about the community.”

This story first ran on Civil Eats on May 21, 2015.

Learning the business of food

Veronica Janssens, co-owner of Batch Ice Cream in the South End, has been in the frozen confection business for about five years. But in between formulating flavors and churning out pints, it can be hard to find time to scrutinize financial statements or plot a course for growth.

So, Janssens said, she decided she needed a plan for “running a business in a grown-up sort of way.”

CheeseThe solution she found was a food-focused business course offered by Interise, a Boston nonprofit that promotes small business and economic development. The 15-week class, part of Interise’s StreetWise MBA program, aims to support the growing number of food startups that have popped up in city neighborhoods and rural towns, spurring investment and creating jobs.

With the local food trend showing no sign of slowing, Interise teamed up with the Jamaica Plain food incubator CropCircle Kitchen and Boston Public Market, the year-round local food market that is expected to open near the Haymarket MBTA station this summer.

Liz Morningstar, chief executive of Boston Public Market, said the course is part of her organization’s mission to boost homegrown foodie businesses. But, she added, “It’s also smart business. We necessarily want a stronger pipeline of companies.”

The class, which is free, includes 15 owners from 10 companies that sell everything from herbal infusion drinks to decadent doughnuts. (The group also includes a flower grower who sells at farmers markets.) Some, like Union Square Donuts and Q’s Nuts, both based in Somerville, have already gained buzz for products such as maple bacon donuts and Mexican chocolate almonds.

Others are still planning their official launches.

All want to find ways for their businesses to grow.

On a recent Monday night, the group met at Interise’s offices to polish their elevator pitches to potential buyers, talk about targeting their ideal customers, and trade tips about promoting themselves on social media. For the first seven weeks, the curriculum focused on keeping, reading, and analyzing financial statements; the remaining eight weeks will cover marketing, sales, human resources, and strategic planning.

At the end of the course, the students will have created a three-year business plan. Already, the work they have done has changed the direction of one business.

Barbara Rietscha, owner of the flower-growing operation Stow Greenhouses in Stow, has decided that positioning her company as a farm and florist, moving away from its identity as a wholesaler, is the best plan for expanding her business. She had been considering the change for some time; assessing her financials for class convinced her to accelerate her plans.

As class proceeded this week, product samples — pouches of flavored almonds, plastic tubes of wrapped caramels, boxes of frozen ravioli — littered the tables in the classroom. Business lingo like “end user” (aka customer) and “margin” (the difference between cost and price for each item sold) shared conversational space with talk of flavor combinations and cheesemaking techniques.

These conversations are one of the key benefits of the class, said Christina Barbieri, co-owner of the Amesbury cheesemaker Wolf Meadow Farms. Though she has a business degree, Barbieri has discovered that the food industry offers very specific and unexpected challenges, such as working out the logistics of obtaining ingredients from local sources.

“It’s so different from anything you learn in a textbook,” she said. “We’ve been learning so much from other people.”

Interise is watching the dynamic among the food entrepreneurs closely, said Johnny Charles, the organization’s Boston program manager. StreetWise MBA is a national program; more than 2,000 entrepreneurs in 36 communities have participated. In the past, classes have generally included a mix of businesses specifically chosen so that the students don’t find themselves trading tips with their competition, Charles said.

The food class, therefore, is something of an experiment by focusing on a single industry, he said. It will help Interise find new approaches to serving a range of small companies.

“Are there different ways we can think of supporting different businesses in different industries?” he asked. “There’s still some learning to be done.”

The goal for many of the students is to secure a slot at Boston Public Market when it opens in a few months. The final line-up of vendors — there will be about 42 to start — has not been announced, but is likely to include some of the class participants, Morningstar said.

Regardless, she said, the public market is eager to support even those businesses that don’t end up as vendors, because they will help to expand the food scene in Boston. That ultimately benefits the public market, the companies, and their customers, she said.

For entrepreneurs like Janssens, the importance of the class is more straightforward: It encourages her to focus on the business aspects of her ice cream company.

“The class makes you step back,” Janssens said. “You have to answer the hard questions you sometimes try to ignore.”

This story originally appeared in The Boston Globe on March 12, 2015. Click here to read the full story and see photos of the students. 

Latest in farm fresh products: We deliver

LEXINGTON — When Amanda Bosh goes grocery shopping, it’s all about super fresh apples, artisan cheese, free-range chicken, and organic Brussels sprouts.

But Bosh doesn’t get these products at an upscale supermarket. Instead, she heads to a local private school, where she will pick up the best quality meat, dairy, fruit, and vegetables.

Bosh’s bounty, packed tight into a reusable grocery bag, comes courtesy of Farmers to You, a company that delivers to Boston area consumers direct from Vermont farms. In addition to drop-off sites such as the Waldorf School of Lexington, the company offers home delivery in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and a few suburban communities.

Farmers to You is one of several area companies expanding the local food movement beyond farmers markets and trendy restaurants, tapping into the growing demand by consumers to know and understand the source of their food. Some businesses, like Farmers to You, deliver from farm to fridge. Others add another stop and more convenience, by preparing local farm products as ready-to-eat meals. Still others connect New England farms to institutional food services, such as school cafeterias.

Farmers to You, based in Calais, Vt., was founded in 2009 with the dual mission of supporting farms and food producers in Vermont and improving the access of Boston area consumers to fresh farm products. Something GUD, a Somerville startup, works on a similar model, sourcing foods from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island and delivering them to pickup sites and homes from Quincy to Newburyport.

Prices are comparable to what a shopper would pay at Whole Foods for similar items, the company founders said. For example, a gallon of organic skim milk is about $6 both through Something GUD and at Whole Foods.

The difference: Most of the money spent with these local food businesses goes to the farmers and artisans producing the food.

Greg Georgaklis, the founder of Farmers to You, estimates the farms with which the company partners receive about 65 cents for each dollar customers pay. On average, farmers nationally get just 15.5 cents per dollar spent by consumers in supermarkets, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

“My vision of the future would be that 50 percent of food that’s bought is bought somehow directly through farmers,” Georgaklis said.

Farmers to You delivers to about 480 families that spend an average of $65 each week. The company estimates it will turn a profit when it signs up 600 families, which it expects to do by spring.

At Cuisine en Locale in Somerville, owner JJ Gonson turns local foods into frozen meals that are delivered weekly to the company’s 35 customers.

Each delivery includes about 10 pounds of prepared food, about enough to provide four meals for two adults. At $145 per week, the service costs about the same as getting takeout a few times a week, Gonson said.

Farmers to You was founded in 2009 with the dual mission of supporting farms and food producers in Vermont and improving the access of Boston area consumers to fresh farm products. Among the products it delivers to Boston area customers, organic ice cream, maple syrup, eggs, and apple butter.

Gonson uses only fresh foods produced within a 100-mile radius of Boston, never using ingredients, such as lemons, that can’t be grown here. She estimates her sales last year generated about $150,000 in revenues for area farmers, and she expects that to double in the coming year.

“We don’t even own a can opener, nor a lemon reamer,” she said.

The business evolved from Gonson’s work as a personal chef. The company operated out of shared commercial kitchens around the Boston area for the first seven years, but moved into its own space about a month ago after buying Anthony’s function hall in Somerville.

Rather than focusing on individual consumers, FoodEx in Roxbury serves institutional buyers – school districts, universities, hospitals.

JD Kemp, the chief executive and cofounder, wants to reach what he describes as “the other 90 percent of the market” – people who don’t go out of their way to pursue local food.

FoodEx secures commitments from institutions to buy produce, eggs, and dairy from farmers throughout the Northeast. The company’s customers include about 40 universities, school districts, and individual high schools.

FoodEx runs its own trucks and warehouse. This distribution system cuts out several steps — and costs — in the supply chain, which means farmers get above average prices while buyers pay the same as or less than they pay to conventional suppliers, Kemp said.

“We’re unique in this area – and perhaps in the country,” Kemp said, “because we are focused on wholesale and trying to find solutions that go beyond the individual consumer.”

This story originally ran in The Boston Globe on December 6, 2014. Click here to read the story and see photos and graphics.

At bakeries, it’s all about the pies for Thanksgiving

MEDFORD — Buck Rollins never gets sick of pie. Not at the beginning of an overnight bakery shift, facing 12 or more hours of pressing dough or piling fruit into pans. Not six hours later, when he finds his groove and pie-making takes on a Zen-like rhythm. Not even at the end of the night, when up to 2,500 pies have passed through his hands.

WFPie

“You gotta have the right amount of caffeine, you gotta have the right amount of sleep, you gotta have the right amount of food,” said Rollins, imparting his recipe for round-the-clock baking. “It’s exciting.”

Rollins leads the 38-person pastry team at the Whole Foods Bread and Circus Bakehouse here, playing a key role in churning out 80,000 pies destined for dinner tables throughout New England, New Jersey, and New York City. As Americans sit down for their annual ritual of family, turkey, and overeating, they can expect to spend on average $49.48 to make a Thanksgiving dinner for 10, including $5.53 to make two homemade pumpkin pies, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which represents farms.

For Rollins and his team, Thanksgiving also means a much needed break after spending the last week and a half making pies nonstop. That amounts to about 8,000 pies a day — 10 times what the Whole Foods bakery typically produces other times of the year. By the time Thursday rolls around, the team will have turned 25,000 pounds of flour, 11,000 pounds of butter, 22,500 pounds of sugar, and nearly 20 tons of fruit into the most quintessential of Thanksgiving desserts.

Not only is Whole Foods focused on pies, but so is Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., the region’s biggest grocer with 220 New England stores. While it does not bake its own pies, the chain expects to sell some 250,000 pies this Thanksgiving, said spokeswoman Suzi Robinson. Maine-based Hannaford Bros. sells 168,000 pies in 181 stores during November, some made in-house and others from outside vendors, said spokesman Michael Norton.

The Medford bakery is one of five Whole Foods has around the country, but the Massachusetts facility makes, by far, more pies than any of the others, according to the Texas-based grocer.

“Sure, there are easier, more efficient ways to produce the quantity of pies we sell during the holidays, but the priority for Whole Foods Market is making sure our customers get a delicious pie,” Rick Bonin, vice president of the company’s North Atlantic region, said in a statement.

The pie-making marathon at the Medford facility begins more than a week before Thanksgiving. This year’s goal: turn out 27,000 apple pies, 20,000 pumpkin pies, 16,000 pecan pies, 10,000 blueberry pies, and 7,000 cherry pies for 52 stores.

Hanging on the wall in the bakehouse is a thermometer-shaped “Pie-O-Meter,” marking the pastry team’s progress toward these numbers. Late last week the team was more than 80 percent of the way to its target. They get there by going from one daily shift to three, turning the bakery into a round-the-clock operation.

“The average human could not do what our team members do,” said Rollins, 49, who has been with Whole Foods for 17 years. “It’s amazing.”

The crew working so hard to produce dessert for this distinctively American holiday is a thoroughly international group. Rollins banters with them in English; they respond in accents inflected by their native Burmese, Spanish, Cantonese, and Creole.

The concept of using crust to contain other ingredients has been around since ancient times, said food historian and author Barbara Haber of Winchester.

The now-traditional pie trio of apple, pumpkin, and pecan probably evolved along with Thanksgiving, as a way to incorporate some of the distinctly American ingredients that are abundant at this time of year, she said.

At Whole Foods, the pie process begins with the crust, a simple mixture of flour, butter, dry milk powder, salt, and water.

Each 350-pound batch of dough is divided into smaller balls, which are individually pressed into foil pans. Another group of bakers loads each shell with a filling made from fresh fruit: apples, blueberries, cherries, pumpkin. Workers then top the pies with another layer of dough or a thick sprinkling of sugary crumbs.

After assembly, most of the pies are frozen and shipped to Whole Foods stores, where they are baked on premises. Pies hit the shelves within 24 hours of baking. Most of the 9-inch pies sell for $11.99; pumpkin pies cost $9.99 and pecan pies are a little pricier at $14.99.

“The quality is like you made it at home,” said Rollins, whose favorite pie is pecan, followed by apple or maybe blueberry. “But you couldn’t make that pie at home for the same price you can buy it from us.”

From a ball of dough to golden-brown doneness, each pie takes about eight hours to complete, Rollins said.

After all this, he really never gets tired of pie?

“No way!” Rollins said. “Pie is awesome, man.”

This story originally appeared in The Boston Globe on November 21, 2012. Click here to see the story, video of the pie-making facility, and graphics breaking down pie production (pie charts, if you will).

Cape brewer taps into collaboration

Read the story at CapeCodOnline.com.

PROVINCETOWN — In the basement of Cabot’s Candy last week, the blade of a commercial mixer stirred about 30 pounds of caramel-colored molten candy into a frothy swirl. Candy store owner John Cicero was making peanut brittle.

A blue flame roared beneath the copper mixing bowl and the air slowly filled with the aromas of the candy’s ingredients: butter, caramelized sugar and beer. Yes, beer. Cape Cod Red, to be specific.

When Cabot’s started producing the ale-infused candy — known as “Beer Brittle” — earlier this month, it became the latest in a sprawling group of local companies to partner with Hyannis-based Cape Cod Beer to create new products with the brewery.

“If we can combine and work together ” we can make a lot of good things,” Cicero said, explaining his confectionery collaboration with Cape Cod Beer.

As the local food movement gains in strength and popularity around the country, the local brewery is putting those principles into action with business collaborations that participants say strengthen local companies while creating more distinctive, interesting products.

“We believe wholeheartedly in being part of the community and we believe if small businesses do business with each other, it’s better for everybody,” said Beth Marcus, who owns Cape Cod Beer with her husband, Todd.

In 2009, the brewery started giving its spent malt — the grain left over after the brewing process — to Ian Sullivan at the Underground Bakery in Dennis, as an ingredient for bread. The two businesses got together when Sullivan suggested that Cape Cod Beer sell fresh, local bread in its retail shop. Todd Marcus proposed the idea of using the brewery’s grain in the bread, and a new product was born, Sullivan said.

“I tried a bunch of different recipes at home and ended up with the one I use here — it’s a good, solid, sturdy bread, without being too heavy,” Sullivan said. “It seemed like a natural fit to produce a local product from a local company that could be used to generate business in both locations.”

About a year ago, Centerville Pie Co. started using Cape Cod Beer’s porter in its braised beef pie. (“It’s like a beef stew in a crust,” bakery owner Kristen Broadley said.)

And Cape Cod Beer’s collaborations aren’t just about using beer as an ingredient in other products. The brewery has worked with local ventures to produce limited-edition offerings of its own, too.

In December, the brewery released Port-O-Vino, a porter aged in an oak barrel previously used to store merlot at Truro Vineyards. And in March, Beanstock Coffee of Wellfleet and Cape Cod Beer collaborated on a coffee stout.

For most of the businesses involved in these collaborations, working with other local businesses has provided a promotional boost.

“I think a lot of people who are (Cape Cod Beer) regulars and have their growlers refilled probably don’t know a lot about us. You get them asking questions,” said David Roberts Jr., owner of Truro Vineyards. “I definitely have heard some feedback from a people who were exposed to us through that particular brew.”

Sullivan regularly has customers who come to his bakery after learning about his business (and his bread) at the brewery.

“I am 100 percent sure that plenty of people end up here as a result of our exposure at the brewery,” he said. “Some times they come directly down after the tours.”

He uses the Cape Cod Beer logo on signs and packaging for the bread at his shop, and the Underground Bakery’s name appears on the bread sold at the brewery.

“We cross-promote pretty effectively that way,” he said.

Beanstock took advantage of its collaboration with Cape Cod Beer to expose more potential customers to its product by giving away free coffee samples with the first 100 bottles of ‘Stock Stout sold.

“There was definitely good response to it,” coffee company owner John Simonian said. “It’s always good for us to get more awareness out.”

At Cabot’s Candy, customers came in looking for Beer Brittle the same day Cape Cod Beer announced the new product on its Facebook page, Cicero said.

These partnerships, however, are just as much about community as they are about commerce, said participants.

“We really wanted to try using local ingredients,” Broadley said. “Locals need to take care of locals.”

At Cape Cod Beer, this commitment carries through to the inventory of the brewery’s retail shop, which stocks felted soap made by Woodside Woolies in West Barnstable, ice cream from Cape Cod Creamery in South Yarmouth and candlesticks made by Green Lantern, a Cummaquid-based program for learning-disabled adults. Marcus recently calculated that 75 cents of every dollar the brewery spends on products for the retail store (not counting glassware) goes to local businesses.

These product choices, along with the local collaborations, are all guided by the same principle, she said.

“It’s about helping to showcase other companies that are doing some cool things,” she said. “I can feel pretty good about that.”

Cuttyhunk post office in jeopardy

CUTTYHUNK — The Cuttyhunk ferry pulled up to the rural island at 10 a.m. on Thursday, carrying a load of people and supplies.

Longtime residents and visiting day-trippers lined the benches, and racks of Portuguese bread were stacked on the floor of the main cabin, en route from a New Bedford bakery. And riding along with the captain in the pilot house was a stack of boxes and bags: the day’s incoming mail.

The ferry provides a postal link from the mainland to the island, delivering letters and parcels two days per week in the winter and every day but Sunday in the summer.

“You use it to order your groceries, you use it to send money back and forth from the businesses — it’s your lifeline,” island resident Bonnie Veeder said.

When the boat arrives at the docks, ferry owner and captain Jono Billings loads the day’s deliveries onto the back of a golf cart and drives them up the hill to the island’s lone post office.

Now, however, that tiny, shingled post office is among the 43 Massachusetts locations being studied for possible closure by the U.S. Postal Service.

‘It would be devastating’

On Thursday, residents worried that losing the post office could make it harder for islanders to get everything from Netflix DVDs to food and prescriptions.

“It would be devastating,” year-round resident Paula DiMare said as she returned from her daily trip to the post office, holding a pile of envelopes and magazines. “I just think it would be very, very sad for this island to lose that contact.”

Cuttyhunk is the most remote of the Elizabeth Islands, a chain of islands that trails off from Woods Hole, separating Buzzards Bay from Vineyard Sound. With a year-round population of only a few dozen people, the island has just a handful of social meeting places: the ferry docks, the market, the church and, traditionally, the post office.

“It will really change the character of the town if it closes,” said Gail Blout, a selectman for the town of Gosnold, of which Cuttyhunk is part.

The first post office opened on the island in 1877, according to an account written up for the Cuttyhunk Historical Society by a longtime local resident. Mail was brought from the docks to the post office by horse. The office changed locations at least two times in the intervening years, before settling into its current spot in the 1950s.

Throughout the years, the post office had been a place for residents to meet and chat. Former Postmaster Carlyn Nunes — whose mother, uncle and niece have all also served as Cuttyhunk postmaster — remembered the office as a bustling, social place.

In recent years, however, the post office has lost some of that atmosphere, many residents reported.

“In the past, the postmistress was more social and consequently the post office was more social,” summer resident Nancy Wilder said.

But the importance of the post office to Cuttyhunk life has not changed. Now, as throughout the post office’s history, there are no alternatives to postal service on the island.

“Everybody doesn’t have a boat to go get their mail on the mainland,” said Kim Leonard, owner of Aritzen Barn gift shop. “What do we do, use carrier pigeons? Carrier sea gulls?”

Frances Veeder, Nunes’ sister, owns the house the post office is located in and rents the space to the U.S. Postal Service. But the first she heard about a possible closure was when she read a news story online, she said.

“We haven’t had any real notice,” she said. “They haven’t talked to me.”

Postmaster Janet Burke declined to comment on the record, but said that it is too soon to be writing obituaries for her office.

No decision yet

The post office has not announced any definite closures yet — only studies. The U.S. Postal Service will be gathering information about each targeted location, including customer feedback, employee workload and what other post offices are in close proximity, said Dennis Tarmey, spokesman for the postal service’s Greater Boston district.

Final decisions about the fates of individual locations should be made by December, he said.

The postal service also put forth the possibility that some communities could end up with “Village Post Offices” — limited postal-service operations located inside retail businesses. These locations would sell stamps and flat-rate envelopes and boxes and could also operate post office boxes.

Some on the island were skeptical that such an option would be a solution for Cuttyhunk. None of the island’s stores are currently open year-round, and all occupy small spaces.

“The market barely has room for what they’re already trying to sell,” Wilder said.

Tamsin Hewes, owner of The Corner Store gift shop, said she might be willing to offer postal services in her shop, if she could figure out the logistics of running a year-round operation from her seasonal shop.

“It would definitely be something I would consider,” she said.

“I would just have to figure out staffing year-round.”

Many islanders were optimistic that Cuttyhunk would retain postal service in some form, even if the official post office were shut down.

“I think probably there’s other ways it could be done,” said Kathy Olsen, a year-round resident for the past 12 years. “If it can’t stay, there’s got to be a solution. This island always reinvents itself.”

This story was published in the Cape Cod Times on July 29, 2011. Read the story and see a photo gallery at CapeCodOnline.com.

Cape pies are O so good

Oprah Winfrey just wanted to clear up a few things.

“I am calling,” Winfrey said during a brief phone conversation yesterday, “to confirm the pie-gate escapade actually did happen.”

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Harpo Productions denied that Winfrey had purchased a selection of pies from the Centerville Pie Co. while on the Cape last week for Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s funeral.

Yesterday, however, Winfrey set the record straight.

“It’s absolutely true,” she said, calling while on vacation in Hawaii. “It’s a great pot pie, I tell you.”

Pie

Word of Winfrey’s interest in the Cape Cod pie business broke last week, when Kristin Broadley, owner of the Centerville Pie Co., confirmed she had delivered some of her wares to the media mogul and her traveling party — including security personnel and best friend Gayle King — at their Hyannis lodgings.

“It’s a good thing I opened the door. Security usually doesn’t let that kind of thing through,” King said in a phone interview yesterday. “But I saw pies and said, ‘Let me just take a look-see.'”

And though she is not usually a fan of chicken pot pie, King was convinced to try a bite.

“It was: Oh. My. Goodness,” she said.

The whole group, in fact, was so impressed with the pies that Winfrey called Broadley directly, delighting the pie shop proprietor.

A good word from Winfrey, after all, has been known to make instant bestsellers out of everything from books to bath and body products, a phenomenon often referred to as the “Oprah Effect.”

Two years ago, Provincetown’s tourism director had to resign his post when it was revealed that he, in a fraudulent attempt to harness Winfrey’s promotional power, had falsely claimed she had endorsed his self-published book.

After Winfrey’s initial phone call to the pie shop last week, her assistant followed up with an additional order. Later yet, he called again to add to the order.

In all, Broadley said, she delivered more than 20 pies — including the chicken pot, custard and banana cream pies the group had ordered, as well as a few bonus confections — to Barnstable Municipal Airport before Winfrey’s plane departed on Friday.

Over the weekend, King — who hosts a program on Winfrey’s Oprah Radio on Sirius XM — heard that doubt had been cast on Broadley’s story. On King’s radio show on Monday, she attested that she and her famous friend had indeed enthusiastically eaten the pies and ordered more for the road.

She even called the Times during the live show, but reached voice mail.

“We didn’t want anybody to think that Kristin wasn’t telling the truth,” King said. “I am on a mission to make sure people know about her.”

The coverage has triggered an avalanche of interest in the Centerville Pie Co., Broadley said.

“We’re getting calls from all over the place wanting pies,” she said.

At least 50 inquiries have come in from places like California, Illinois, Tennessee and Texas, she said.

And King, also an editor at O, The Oprah magazine, said she would love to give the pie shop even more publicity.

“She is definitely magazine-worthy,” King said.

But the relatively young company — the shop opened on Route 28 just five months ago — is not yet set up for shipping, or even to take credit cards.

“Oh boy, am I working on that,” Broadley said yesterday.

She hopes to have the ability to accept credit cards set up by the end of the week, she said, and has been busy meeting with vendors about packing and shipping her wares.

“It’s just kind of neat,” Broadley said of her company’s sudden fame. “We’ll see what happens next.”

This story was published in the Cape Cod Times on August 20, 2009. Read the story, see photos and listen to Gayle King call Sarah at CapeCodOnline.com.