Friday, June 4, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend on the Vineyard – Mermaid Farm Hamburgers and Hot Dogs

I must have done something right in a previous life because I have been blessed in this one with many trips to Martha’s Vineyard.  I never take a single visit for granted including my most recent over Memorial Day weekend.  I was staying just outside of Vineyard Haven on Lake Tashmoo with my great friend, Larry, who happens to live next door to my great friends, Natalie and Curt.  Another friend (this one Larry’s) generously flew me up from the city with a few others, including a big, sweet dog named Jackson.

First things first, I always take a walk when I get on the island.  Many of the homes on the Vineyard can be found down country roads like this one.  

There is plenty to see on my walks, especially if I take the time to really look around.

I pass a few farms on my way to and from the beach, one of which I mentioned in a post this past Easter.  

Back then we saw piglets that weren’t even 24 hours old.  Those same little ones are not so little any more and getting bigger by the day!

These cows belong to Liz Thompson, another farmer on the road.  

I’m not sure what breed they are, I just know they are beauties, especially with the sunlight dappling through the trees and hitting them just so.

After my walk and some sort of food consumption, it’s off to one of the many other island farms (add in a boat ride and that’s pretty much my routine while I’m there).  Larry is my partner in crime for farm hopping; we both love to stop and chat with the farmers.
One of my favorites is Mermaid Farm and Dairy on Middle Road in Chilmark. The 36-acre farm, owned by husband and wife Allen Healy and Caitlin Jones, is the only dairy on MV.  Larry and I first visited them about a year ago; I had heard they sold raw milk and coming from a state (New York) where its sale is illegal, I wanted to get some.  We stopped for a minute and ended up staying an hour.

Caitlin and Allen are typical Vineyard farmers:  laid-back, smart, and as nice as can be.  They took the time to talk to us about everything from farming to dairying to local gossip about cell phone towers (We quickly found out the latter is a topic near and dear to Caitlin’s heart.  She’s quite passionate and outspoken about her desire not to have radio frequency emissions anywhere near her kids or her organic farm!)

In addition to unpasteurized, unprocessed milk from grass-fed cows, Mermaid also offers yogurt (they just got approval from the state to sell it), grass-fed beef and lamb, nitrate and MSG-free hot dogs, flowers, herbs, and all kinds of amazing, chemical-free produce.   

On Saturday we swung by to pick up the main course for dinner that night. The house on Tashmoo was filled with a bunch of newly graduated high school boys having fun as well as Larry’s sister, Randy, who did an admirable job of keeping some sense of order.  Add in Curt and Natalie (who is eating for two nowadays) and we had a hungry crowd awaiting.

Like most farms on the island, Mermaid is self-serve.  There is a small shed just as you turn into the drive where Caitlin’s gorgeous fruits and veggies can be found.  We groaned when we heard she had sold out of her strawberries by the time we got there.  But after picking up ground beef and hot dogs from the freezers in the barn, Caitlin met us at the car with a pint of just-picked strawberries.  She is the best!  And so were the strawberries….

The weather was terrific all weekend long – except the night of our locavore barbeque.  Not to be deterred by the lousy weather, Larry donned foul weather gear to man the grill, Curt supervised (sort of), Natalie supervised Curt (definitely) and a feast was soon on the table.  

The hot dogs were unbelievable and Larry’s hamburgers so full of flavor they didn’t need any dressing up. 

We drank wine from a barrel Larry made himself at City Winery in New York City.  The labels weren’t ready yet so with a bit of improvisation with a wax pencil we had one of the first tastes of 2008 Tashmoo.  

His cabernet, made with grapes from Napa’s Bettinelli Vineyards, was still young and oaky but had wonderful structure and was quite delicious.  We toasted to the prospect of experiencing this lovely wine mature over the coming years…and to Caitlin and Allen for their hard work and exceptional food.

Larry’s Pasture-Raised, Grass-Fed, MV Locavore Burgers
Recipe courtesy of Larry 

2 pounds Mermaid Farm ground beef
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large bowl mix beef, shallots, green peppers, Worcestershire, and Tabasco with hands until everything is neatly blended.

Form burger patties by hand, making sure patties aren’t too thick or they won’t cook correctly.

Preheat grill to high.  On both sides, lightly brush burgers with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Once grill is heated, cook until burgers are just barely medium-rare.  The idea is to quickly sear them but not overcook.  With the low fat content of grass-fed beef this is critical, as they will very easily dry out.

Place burgers on a plate and let stand two minutes while toasting buns on grill until slightly blackened.

Serve burgers with lettuce and tomato and nothing else or you won’t taste the wonderful meat.

Before eating remember to give thanks to the beautiful animal that gave his or her life for your pleasure.

Makes 6 burgers

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