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By Emily Mason
Local food enthusiasts: meet your neighborhood tavern. The Cheshire Tavern at the Fitzwilliam Inn is serving a powerhouse mix of local, seasonal foods, warm atmosphere and a pricing scheme that is very user-friendly. Last Saturday marked the Nickerson and Crocker Family’s one year anniversary of owning and operating the area’s historic, 200 year old inn. How fitting that what makes this inn cutting edge today is the family’s commitment and return to the very (local and seasonal) culinary roots that would have been so traditional and commonplace in its first 100+ years of operation.
The Cheshire Tavern (formerly the Thistle and the Crown) is currently sourcing all of their meat, dairy, grain and vegetables from area farms such as Tracie’s Community Farm (veggies) in Fitzwilliam, NH, Manning Hill Farm (dairy) in Winchester, NH, Four Star Farms (flour and grains) in Northfield, MA, Smith’s Country Cheese in Winchendon, MA, Adam’s Farm (pastured meats) in Orange, MA, Diemand Farm (turkey) in Wendell, MA, Hijinks Farm (flowers, herbs and veggies) in Jaffrey, NH, Monadnock Berries in Troy, NH, and their family’s own EIEIO Farm. It is truly a family owned and operated business from farm to table. Impressively, year-round tomatoes, red onions and oil have understandably been the only exceptions to the otherwise all local cuisine.
I met with Leesa, Rachelle and Roxanne (owner, chef and bartender, respectively) of the Crocker family who were all equally passionate about keeping it local. Rachelle and Roxanne, who grew up on the family farm, developed their commitment to local food from experience. According to them, their dedication to local foods was a process. As kids on a farm, local was just the way it was done; it was always a part of their lives and how they thought about food. Over time, they learned more and more about the nutritional value that real food and pastured meats provide and of course they could taste the difference.
The great thing about tasting the difference between local and industrial foods is that it has made practical business sense as well. All three of the Crockers agreed that by using good-tasting, high quality area foods, they don’t need to get elaborate with the recipes to doctor foods of lesser quality into something better. This saves money! By keeping their menus simple, flexible and in-season, the Crockers have been able to keep their purchasing costs down and consequently, their menus are surprisingly affordable.
Another benefit to sourcing locally has been the relationships that the Crockers have built with their farmers. The Monadnock area and Tristate region farmers have a rich network established and are mutually invested in the success of the local economy. If one farmer is short on potatoes, for instance, that farmer will know who is flush with them and can offer suggestions. Money spent on local foods, after all, is money spent on local farmers rather than the packaging, advertising and transportation costs of industrial foods from afar.
On the horizon for the Cheshire Tavern are even more local food ideas. Rachelle is planning an expanded pub menu that will include homesteaded foods (such as cured meats, pickles, homemade sausages and sauerkrauts, and wild foods and herbs) as well as locally sourced but classically identifiable pub fare in the form of hot wings, pizza and area beers.
For more information about the Fitzwilliam and the Cheshire Tavern or to see their current menu online, please visit: http://www.fitzwilliaminn.com/
Hours: Thursdays-Saturdays, 5-11 PM
If you have had the opportunity to experience the Tavern’s local foods this year, please do comment.