A Day at the Beach & Dinner at Woodman’s of Essex, MA)

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Oh, how I miss being in the country. The beauty of Clark Farm is unparalleled, don’t you think?

Last Sunday started at the crack of dawn, when the roosters started crowing and the boys barreled down the stairs like a herd of buffalo.With AHS ‘12 in the books, Henry and I finally had time to hang out on the farm with the Rodgers family. 

We were expecting Bill, Hayley, and Diane to pop by for brunch later in the morning, but I was too hungry to wait four hours to eat. For my first meal of the day, I fixed myself a rolled omelet with farm-fresh eggs, sauerkraut, sautéed greens, and a slice of cantaloupe. 

(Now that I’m back home, none of the “farm-fresh” pastured eggs I’ve purchased locally come even CLOSE to holding a candle to the pert bright orange yolks and thick albumen of Clark Farm eggs.)

By the time our pals arrived mid-morning, I was ready to eat again. Breakfast Part Two!

Diana baked trays of wild boar bacon…

…fried venison sausage…

…and sizzled some eggs in butter.

She also picked some Japanese eggplant from their garden…

…that were tossed in coconut oil before spending a short stint in a hot oven.

Mmm…mmm…good.

Once our bellies were full, we all trudged outdoors for a guided tour of the grounds and the animals.

Bill got up close and personal with the piggies that foraged in the shrubs.

Farmer Andrew spent his day off teaching a bunch of city slickers how he raises the food we eat.

Before heading back to the farmhouse…

 …we stopped by the mobile hen coop to gather more eggs.

Before long, it was time for Bill, Hayley, and Diane to head home, so we said our goodbyes.

Our plan for the rest of the day was to soak up some rays at Crane Beach. First, we stopped at a local Whole Foods…

…and picked up some meat and vegetables at the deli counter.

And then it was off to the beach to splash in the surf for hours.

The weather was gorgeous and the waves were gentle. At the end of the day, we managed to haul back a haf-dozen pails of seaweed and sea shells for the farm animals. Andrew told us that the hens peck the calcium-packed shells, which makes their egg shells harder. And the seaweed provides a natural source of iodine for the animals. Who’da thunk it?

The farmer’s walks (for realz!) on the beach made me hungry. For dinner, we drove over to Essex to inhale platters of seafood at a local spot called Woodman’s — the birthplace of the fried claim! — that’s been in business for almost a century.

A big plus: With just a few exceptions, all the menu items are gluten free.

Yes, I know that “gluten free” doesn’t mean “Paleo-compliant,” but I never said I was Paleo perfect. Besides, you know the saying: When in Essex, get the “Down River Combo” — a pile of crunchy fried clams, shrimp, scallops, and fish.

The gigantic plate of fried seafood also comes with a side of cole slaw and your choice of fries or onion rings. I opted to sub sweet potato fries for a small upcharge.

Crunchy, moist, and tasting of the sea.

We also shared some steamers…

…and Diana showed us the proper way to devour ‘em.

Butter makes everything taste better, no matter how ugly or phallic.

It was the perfect end to an exhausting, fun-filled day at the beach.

Only one more day of East Coast eats remaining!

Clark Farm & The Sustainable Feast in the Barn

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When our friend Diana Rodgers (of Radiance Nutrition and Sustainable Dish) invited us to stay on her family’s farm, we couldn’t say “YES!” fast enough. This was a chance to not only to spend time with Diana, Andrew, and their adorable kids, but also to see up-close how and where good food is grown. Plus, the Double-Os would be able to roam around on the farm while we attended the Ancestral Health Symposium at Harvard — win-win!

Thankfully, the Rodgers didn’t kick us out after I almost burned down their 270-year-old farmhouse within a couple of hours of arriving, because we thoroughly enjoyed our week at Clark Farm

The farm has a long and fascinating history. The charming, two-and-a-half-story white clapboard farmhouse on the property was built in the 1740s, and the cavernous wood barn dates back a hundred and fifty years. Beyond these structures lie vast, rolling green fields, lush with vegetation and rich with loamy soil. When you close your eyes and think of what a quaint New England farm should look like, what you’re picturing in your mind is Clark Farm.

Employing sustainable, organic farming methods, Clark Farm is a model of locavorism. We often don’t think about how and where our foods are sourced, or who is responsible for providing us with the freshest, healthiest ingredients. I’ll admit it: I’ve taken farmers for granted in the past — but having spent a week on Clark Farm with the Rodgers family, I saw just a little bit of the work that goes into feeding us, and I was awestruck.

Please take a moment to read Diane Sanfilippo’s post on Balanced Bites about the tour of Clark Farm that we took on Sunday morning. It perfectly captures how I feel about the importance of supporting local farms like this one. Small farmers don’t have grand expectations of great riches; they choose this path because it’s a labor of love. And it’s up to all of us to support what they do.

Clark Farm will be starting a CSA soon, so if you’re in the greater Boston area, make sure to sign up for the farm’s email newsletter

I’m also forever indebted to the Rodgers family for giving our boys an unforgettable farm experience. Every morning, the four kids — all of whom got along famously — disappeared into the fields, collecting fresh eggs, catching fish, stomping around in the barn, scurrying after the Rodgers’ dogs, Otis and Chase, and generally having a blast with each other.

They’d visit the pigs as they rooted around in the soil and shrubbery…

…the sheep and goats grazing in the pasture…

…the ducks waddling around the perimeter of the farmhouse…

…and the chickens as they foraged for grubs and laid some of the freshest oeufs we’ve ever tasted. By the way, you can also buy pastured eggs on-site at Clark Farm and they’re definitely worth the drive — even all the way from San Francisco.

There was one other huge benefit to staying with the Rodgers: We had the shortest commute to the Sustainable Feast in the Barn at Clark Farm on Friday night. Without question, the feast was THE highlight of our trip to the East Coast.

Although the skies opened up the night of the dinner, the barn gave warm and welcome shelter to the more than one hundred guests who arrived at the farm…

…including the littlest ones who scampered to and from the farmhouse.

Fittingly, Diana was a radiant host, greeting the party-goers at the barn doors…

…who were treated to the sight of a barn transformed. With lights strung up around the rafters and music by the talented QWILL, the place was gorgeous. If you didn’t know that the venue was a working barn, you’d think it was a movie set — albeit one with live goats in a pen that the guests couldn’t resist petting. (Lil-O and Diana’s daughter also entertained guests by jumping in and out of the pen — something you don’t often see at suppertime.)

The menu was written out for guests to read while they mingled, lined up at the bar, and munched on the hors d’oeuvres served by Chive

…including curried lamb kabobs in blanched greens with spicy coconut cream…

…broiled Essex claims (served with a minty pesto)…

…and an herb omelette (made with Clark Farm eggs) with housemade spicy kimchi.

Me? I strategically situated myself between the ad hoc kitchen set up in the back of the barn and the bar in the front, knowing that the servers would be sure to come my way. My favorite bite was the wild boar belly and spiced-roasted beet appetizer, which I hunted down every time I spied another platter coming my way.

The kids dressed up for the event, but stayed only for the mix-and-mingle segment of the evening.

Still, they lingered long enough to reunite with Diane and Bill and Hayley

…and greet the Norrises, Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, and others. (No joke: When Big-O spotted Robb, his jaw dropped open. Pointing excitedly, my little Paleo fanboy asked “Can I meet ROBB WOLF?” Yes, I have him nicely brainwashed.)

The littlest ones also worked briefly at the raffle table. Who doesn’t love child labor?

Read all about the dinner (and view more photos) after the jump!

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AHS’12 Day Two (8/10/12)

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Yeesh. We got home from Boston late last night, and I’m already feeling the crush of all sorts of work-related and mommy duties to tackle — not to mention a backlog of several days worth of posts to write. 

Well, I guess I best get crackin’. Let’s pick up where we left off: Last Friday.

As you’ll recall, we were staying as the guests of Diana and Andrew Rodgers on Clark Farm, their place in Carlisle, Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, Friday’s breakfast of eggs, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe that Diana whipped up was incredible.

The eggs were freshly collected from the chickens on the farm, and were bursting with color and flavor. 

I savored it with a steaming cup of coffee and some zesty, crunchy homemade purple cabbage sauerkraut. Diana has mad skillz in the kitchen, and it was a rare luxury to be able to just sit back and enjoy someone else’s cooking for a change.

Meanwhile, the kids were already up and running around the farm. Before we were even done with breakfast, the boys had already caught a couple of catfish in the pond.

And then, we were off to Harvard Law School for Day Two of the Ancestral Health Symposium. If you followed my Twitter feed and/or Fitbomb’s (or followed the #AHS12 tag on Twitter), you know that we tweeted furiously throughout all the presentations, so I’m not going to recap the talks again. (There are, however, a bunch of different summaries of AHS you can find online, like this one and this one.)

After all, I’m all about the food. Speaking of which, at lunchtime, we headed outside for a big catered buffet by Boston’s Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q.

I piled a plate high with chicken, ribs, sweet potato mash, pickles, and collard greens…

…and chatted with friends while we ate.

A few more academic sessions later, we drove back out to the farm for THE social event of the conference: The Sustainable Dish Farm Dinner.

It was jaw-dropping — the barn at Clark Farm had been transformed into a rustic, glowing dining hall filled with locally-sourced food and libations. Diana’s guest list included a who’s-who among the Paleosphere, international travelers and locals alike.

With our kids running around (and in and out of the goat pen) and our friends and Paleo heroes all in the same room, I spent the night laughing and eating — my favorite activities.

I had a blast. I can’t possibly do the dinner justice in just a few sentences — so I’ll recap it in more detail (and with more photos) in my next post. Stay tuned! [UPDATED: Here’s my post on the farm dinner!]