Anyone who's been reading this blog for awhile or listened to my interview on NPR would know that I'm a huge fan of Will Gilson, chef of Garden at the Cellar. Bryan and I probably dine there at least twice a month, if not more.
The food quality is excellent, the prices are very reasonable, and . . . those rosemary truffles fries! Will Gilson cares a lot about sustainable ingredients and responsively-raised food. He is fanatical about sourcing quality ingredients, and his menu changes frequently to reflect the freshest local produce available, many of which come from his family's farm in western Massachusetts.
So imagine my surprise when I was invited to a dining tour with Will Gilson in partnership with Muir Glen.
Muir Glen? The company that makes organic canned tomatoes? Canned? Really?
Yes canned. I seem to have forgotten something kind of basic.
There's about 3 feet of snow outside as I am typing this. There's no such thing as local produce during the winter. You can only source produce locally for about 6 months out of the year.
Will explained how during the winter months in New England it's virtually impossible to get fresh local produce. In the past, the restaurant imported canned tomatoes from Italy during these cold months. However, he has since switched to Muir Glen, citing the fact that not only does it taste better, it's being sourced from a place that's at least a bit more local than Italy.
Muir Glen tomatoes are grown in northern California using certified organic methods. For the past two years, Muir Glen has been growing a limited "Reserve" line of tomatoes. These special tomatoes are a different variety than the classic Muir Glen tomatoes. This year, the Reserve variety is the Meridian Ruby, a deep red tomato with a "delectable" tomato flavor.
We got to taste these Reserve tomatoes firsthand. Will prepared a "Tomato Vine Dining Tour" where every single appetizer and entree incorporated Muir Glen tomatoes.
Slow Cooked Pork Belly with Sweet and Sour Tomato Jam
We started with a bunch of delicious appetizers. Pictured at the top of the post, clockwise starting from the top left: flatbread pizza with smoked tomatoes and roasted cauliflower; grilled bruschetta with tomato, eggplant, and smoked feta; cheddar sandwiches; and tomato soup shooters.
I loved the flatbread pizza (can I tell you how amazing roasted cauliflower tastes on pizza??), though the tomato soup shooters came in a close second. Both the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich are staples on the menu at Garden at the Cellar, which I've ordered often. According to Will, "the tomato soup pays my mortgage during the winter months."
Bryan's favorite was the slow cooked pork belly. Lingbo Li (who I finally got to meet in person!) quipped to Bryan as he munched on what must have been his third or fourth pork belly appetizer, "I love how the tomato jam is, like, sitting on fat."
Local seafood and tomato stew
We sampled several main entrees which were prepared using the special Reserve Muir Glen tomatoes. The seafood soup was quite good, made with a lobster stock and augmented with mussels, shrimp, and lobster meat.
Braised Lamb with tomato and curry leaf confit
Will cooks his lamb sous vide for about 17 hours before further cooking it with curry leaf (purchased from Shalimar right in Central Square!), edamame, and Muir Glen tomatoes. I thought this dish was only OK. I couldn't really taste the essence of the curry leaf, and I'm not sure how much the edamame added to the entire dish. The overall flavor was fine (the lamb was still very soft!), but nothing particularly exciting.
Pasta with grilled sausage and parmesan
Everyone at the table agreed that the pasta was excellent and probably the universal favorite. It definitely disappeared the most quickly. Will's own housemade sausage was absolutely delicious, and the overall flavor of the sauce was hearty, rustic, and wonderfully satisfying on such a cold winter evening.
Each gift box contains four cans of Muir Glen tomatoes: two cans of the Reserve line (diced tomatoes and fire roasted tomatoes) and two cans of the the classic organic line (diced tomatoes and fire roasted tomatoes with chipotle).
The best part? Included is a small book containing recipes developed by 5 different chefs around the country (including Will Gilson) for the tomatoes! In this book, you'll get the recipe for Will Gilson's tomato soup shooters, grilled cheese sandwiches, and the sausage pasta!!
This Giveaway will be open until this Friday, January 28th at Midnight. To enter, please comment below and tell me your favorite way of enjoying tomatoes.
P.S. It was great to meet so many Boston bloggers at this event, like Wine Dine With Us, Vegitate, Meal Makeover Moms, Free Food Boston, Travel, Wine, and Dine, Lingbo Li, and A Thought for Food.
Time to time I receive free products, meals, etc. as a food blogger. I do not receive any payment for blog posts/reviews nor am I required to write a post when I receive free products, meals, etc. The views expressed in this post are completely my own. The above meal was sponsored by Muir Glen.
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