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Chefs in the Woods Where the Wild Things Are

Foraging at Cricket Creek Farm with Berkshire Chefs

Last Friday morning, a group of local chefs visited Cricket Creek Farm in South Williamstown to take part in a foraging walk hosted by Mezze Restaurant Group and led by expert forager Evan Strusinski.

Coffee was a required prelude for this gang and a bit of bramble bushwacking was involved but we all learned a lot and it was a nice break from a busy kitchen. The group included Nancy Thomas, owner of Mezze Restaurant Group, and Dan Hardy, chef at Mezze Catering, plus Joji Sumi, executive chef, Nicholas Moulton, sous chef, and Pete Jaenecke from Mezze Bistro + Bar. Chris Amendola, chef, Patrick McGinley and Lauren Lebhar, pastry chef, drove up from Allium Restaurant + Bar in Great Barrington to check out the scene. We were joined by Red Lion Inn executive chef Brian Alberg as well.

Chefs gathered at the farm store and headed into the woods to learn about wild edibles and most likely places to find them. We learned invasive plants are the optimal ingredients for a sustainable menu. Evan pointed out stinging nettles, milk thistle, garlic mustard, ramps and morels and sure enough, some of these items made it to the restaurant menus that night!

This excursion was a preview to this past weekend’s walks which are part of an educational series entitled Where the WIld Things Are: Foraging Walks in the Berkshires. The wild edibles walks have been very popular and most have been sold out thanks to a mention in the New York Times Dining Section and a segment on WAMC’s Northeast Public Radio. There are still a few spaces left for this Saturday’s walks in Lee and Stockbridge on May 21.

Chefs are gearing up for Berkshire Grown’s Farmed + Foraged culinary event this weekend when 25 eateries will present menus and specials celebrating the first greens of the season from our local farms. Menu items will highlight house-foraged items such as fiddleheads, nettles, ramps, morels and pheasant back mushrooms. It’s a great time to come out after a long winter of eating squash and root vegetables and try something new. Visit Berkshire Grown’s Farmed + Foraged website and check out some farmed-and-foraged-inspired menus beginning this Friday!