I Heart Butter

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Beth Gombala makes cookies. Not just any cookies – hers are expertly baked, beautifully designed and custom decorated sugar cookies that come in various shapes, sizes and colors. Some people might say, “what’s so special about a decorated sugar cookie? I can pick one of those up at the local grocery store!” It is obvious that they have never tried one of Beth’s works of art…

Beth grew up baking with her mother and grandmother. In college, she majored in Graphic Design, which definitely gives her an edge when it comes to the decoration process. After working for the government, she decided she wanted to take her love of baking to the next level. While living with her husband in England, she started a company making her gorgeous treats. It wasn’t until they moved back to the states that she took her baking one step further.

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Her first step was perfecting the recipe for the cookies themselves. And let me tell you, as someone who isn’t usually a fan of decorated sugar cookies, these truly taste amazing! I guess I shouldn’t expect anything less from someone who put the word “butter” in their business name. Beth is also currently working on two other cookie flavors to add to her repertoire – chocolate and lemon.

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Beth’s process is amazing – she recently invested in a small, tabletop projector that uses a USB drive to project images onto her work surface. Using the pictures as a guide, Beth pipes the icing onto the cookies with such precision and talent, you’d think it was done by a machine. When she told me she had the Dishing the Dirt logo and was going to make me a custom cookie while we talked, I had a hard time paying attention to anything else! Watching her work so expertly, with such a steady hand, is like watching an artist with a blank canvas. Every movement of her wrist and fingers had purpose, like a dance she was doing to create the most beautiful cookie I’d ever seen!

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Beth and her cookies will join us at the Mosaic Central Farm Market on Sunday, August 31. Stop by for a taste – she always has little samples set out for people to taste – and pick up a cookie for something or someone special! After all, that’s what Beth makes these cookies for. They aren’t really an everyday thing in her mind; they are unique treats for special occasions. Although, they’re so good, you might just find yourself picking one up for that special someone, and one to treat yourself! She also does custom orders for large events, so the next time you plan a party, think I HEART BUTTER! Your guests will love Beth’s cookies.

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Spiral Path Farm

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Lucas Brownback has lived on Spiral Path Farm his whole life. Located near Loysville, PA, the farm has been the home of his parents and family for 36 years. He and his brother work the 255 acres themselves, planting and harvesting all of their produce with such personal care and detail, it’s amazing they have time for anything else! The farm was certified organic in 1994 and twenty years later, the Brownback family is still wholly committed to continuing their sustainable and organic practices. I was lucky enough to visit the farm on a beautiful day in early August, and what I saw really opened my eyes to this type of farming.

When I drove up, Lucas was on his knees picking herbs from a beautiful garden planted directly in front of his parents’ house. His father, a hobby-builder, designed the house himself. With views of the Pennsylvania mountains surrounding the farm, Spiral Path is truly a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of the urban existence that I’ve known my whole life. The perfectly manicured and expertly organized rows of crops are breathtaking, reflecting the amount of work that goes into running a farm of this size.

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The reason for my initial surprise was simply the sheer size of the whole operation. If you’ve seen Lucas’ stand at the Bethesda Central Farm Market, you’ll agree- it’s very unassuming. Beautiful produce, sure, but you would never guess the magnitude of their farm operation. Lucas tells me that much of their produce is actually sold wholesale at Wegmans, with the other majority going to their CSA customers – a great way for subscribers to receive “a wide variety of local in-season foods harvested at the peak of their ripeness, flavor, vitamin and mineral content.” The abundant bounty of produce we see at Spiral Path’s stand every weekend is nothing compared to what this farm produces on a regular basis!

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Lucas only takes cash at the market. He might be one of the few vendors who continues this practice. To him, it’s a matter of principle. His goal is to keep the middleman out of the process – to promote the cash going to the producer with no hands in between. Although he will admit that this might prohibit some sales, to him, the message is the most important part. And he’ll tell you, “I drove all the way out here to bring you food, you can put in the effort to stop by the ATM on your way here!” As a patron, he said that to me when I asked about the cash-only policy. I totally got it! And I really appreciate where he’s coming from.

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Stop by the Spiral Path Farm Stand on Sundays and take in the beautiful array of vibrant, colorful organic produce that Lucas and his whole family work so hard to bring to us. They have a wonderfully tasty salad mix, super fresh kale, beautiful eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini and a variety of squashes. Ask him about the farm and talk to him about what you do with your veggies. He’s always there with the biggest smile, waiting to help you eat healthfully, locally and sustainably.

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The Pure Pasty Co.

Traditional Beef

If you are not a pastry chef or connoisseur, you are probably unfamiliar with the savory delicacies The Pure Pasty Co. in Vienna, VA offers. The Pure Pasty Co.’s traditional Cornish pastries are usually associated with Cornwall, UK.

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So what is this latest British invasion sensation called a Pasty? It is a savory dish made by placing a filling – traditionally meat and vegetables – on a flat pastry circle, folding it over on itself, and crimping the edges in a braid-like fashion to form a seal. After baking, the result is a semi-circle of yummy goodness, perfect for eating on the go or sitting and enjoying with a cup of tea.

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Before bringing them to the US, founder Michael Burgess took note of the booming demand of this food-to-go market and thought, “there were no British pies or pasties in the U.S.!” Burgess saw this gap in the market across the pond from his home in England, and with no baking experience to speak of, he began to bake and craft these delicious pasties at home, driven by a passion characteristic of all his previous ventures.

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5 years ago, Michael moved to the U.S. After a challenging year, he opened The Pure Pasty Co. with the talented Nicola Willis-Jones as head chef. Claiming that her passion is putting “everything in a pasty,” she has worked hard on doing just that with delicious and unique results!

Regular favorites that are offered include Traditional (ground beef, potato, onion, carrot, etc.), Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chicken Masala and Moroccan Lamb. In addition, they always have a rotating vegetable option and a Chef’s Special. Previous specials have included Peanut Chicken, Thai Lamb Pie, Philly Cheesesteak and Spinach & Feta. Chef Nicola also rotates desserts every few weeks, sticking mainly to traditional tastes like Strawberry Rhubarb, Peaches & Cream and Treacle Tart. All of the ingredients are sourced as locally and as fresh as possible; organic flour and shortening, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, local berries and sustainable Palm Oil can be found in the pantry of their in their open-concept kitchen. If you come to their store to buy a pasty they will invite you to watch them work!

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The Pure Pasty Co. joined Mosaic Central Farm Market this year and was an immediate hit. They are looking forward to opening another storefront in the near future. Come stop by The Pure Pasty Co. stand at Mosaic. Every week they have both hot and ready-to-eat pasties, as well as cold ones you can take home with you to reheat and serve later! If you haven’t tried one yet, you are in for a real treat!

If you mention this blog post, they’ll even give you $1 of any take-home pasty!


 

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Prime Seafood

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There is a real gem at the Pike and Bethesda Central Farm Markets. Jim Chambers, the owner of Prime Seafood, brings his extensive knowledge, experience and extraordinary product to our markets every week. Just talking to him will change your perspective about fish (in the water or on your plate). Jim is so well-educated and experienced, I guarantee you walk away from your chat with a new-found sense of appreciation for the fish, the health benefits, the need for better conservation practices and even cooking tips for preparation in your own kitchen.

Jim Chambers grew up fishing in Florida with his grandfather. Knowing this was the life for him, he graduated from college with a degree in Marine Science and continued to earn a graduate degree in Biology. After spending 3 years on active duty in the military, Jim continued working with the Army Corps of Engineers in various environmental roles. He was involved in building water control structures, preparing environmental assessments of plans, and general environmental protection – standing up for natural resources.

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Soon Jim was hired by the National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) to work on policies regarding coastal and marine fish. He was in charge of protecting habitats and used legislature to stand up for the environment. He even helped fight to stop an oil refinery from being built that would have affected the James River, potentially wiping out a whole species of crabs!

In 2000, Jim retired from NMFS and went to work for the National Audubon Society for a year. It was after this, while working at in the fishery department at Galleons, that he first got the idea to “start a business as a fish broker.” He decided to buy a restaurant and he started taking business classes at Montgomery College. This plan morphed into his current business, Prime Seafood, which provides seafood to local Washington restaurants. This made perfect sense since Jim knew fishermen and organizations that provide high-quality fish to locations around the country – why not take advantage of these connections?! Jim is now the principal distributor of seafood to 70 well-known restaurants, many on the “Washingtonian’s Top 100”- including the restaurant that I work at, Blacksalt Fish Market and Restaurant!

This is Jim’s first year bringing his seafood to Central Farm Markets’ customers. He prides himself on supplying sustainable, high-quality seafood at extremely competitive prices. His business partner, Chef Paul Sorrentino, expertly fillets all of the seafood and makes all of the prepared items provided at market, such as Shrimp and Crab Po’ Boys, Crab Cakes and Ceviche to name a few. All delicious and all ready to go home with you.

Salmon Cuts

Prime Seafood offers fresh boneless fillets of wild King Salmon, Halibut, Sablefish, Ahi Tuna, Cod, Mahi Mahi as well as Scallops, fresh Maryland Jumbo Lump and Lump Crabmeat. This week they will have smoked Salmon and Salmon “Candy” made from the richest tasting salmon in the world (Says Jim: “come ask us why, we like educated consumers”).

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In closing, I’ll say this – if you like seafood, and you are getting yours from anyone other than Jim Chambers of Prime Seafood, you are doing yourself a disservice! Stop by Pike Central on Saturday or Bethesda Central on Sunday and see and taste for yourself. Take time to ask questions, learn about what you are eating, where it comes from and why sustainability is so important to us all. Jim loves educating his customers and Paul loves feeding them!

Visit Prime Seafood’s website to learn more about Jim Chambers and his fish!