Valley Bounty: 30Boltwood
Published November 12, 2022 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette
By JACOB NELSON
For the Gazette
In a literal sense, all food served at a restaurant is farm-to-table. It came from a farm, made its way through a supply chain, and was transformed by the hands of a chef before being plated for you to enjoy. What separates one restaurant from the next is all about the how – how the food they source was grown, how it got to their kitchen, and how they prepare it.
At 30Boltwood, a restaurant housed within the Inn on Boltwood in downtown Amherst, scratch-cooking using high quality and often local ingredients is the name of the game.
“The farm-to-table experience at 30Boltwood is upscale-casual and New England focused,” says Executive Chef John Piskor. Down to the soups and sauces, almost everything on their seasonally shifting menu is made in-house.
Piskor’s career in the restaurant industry spans decades, but he came to 30Boltwood just four months ago, excited to find a kitchen that suited his style and sensibilities.
“There are a lot of restaurants in our area, but fewer focused on technical preparation and cooking from scratch,” he says. “When you prepare dishes like that with the best ingredients, they taste even better, and they taste even fresher. That’s part of the excitement.”
At the height of fall, local ingredients provide easy inspiration. “We’re putting a lot of winter squash on the menu right now,” says Piskor. “We have a butternut squash bisque, and delicata squash with a golden beet puree over lentils and red quinoa – that’s a good vegetarian option.”
Some local items, like cheeses for appetizer boards and the yogurt, eggs, and maple syrup served at breakfast and brunch, are available year-round. Others, like spring fiddleheads, summer heirloom tomatoes, or even local paw paws a few weeks ago, make fleeting guest appearances, stealing the show while they’re in town.
Part of the job when you’re running a farm-to-table restaurant is keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s in season nearby. Sometimes that awareness comes from direct relationships with farms. For 30Boltwood, Old Friends Farm and Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst and Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland are customary points of contact and are large enough to sell food in quantities the restaurant needs. But when work in the kitchen demands most of your time, it’s nice to have well-connected allies who can scout further afield too – in this case locally minded food distributors.
“A lot of our ingredients come from Black River Produce,” says Piskor. Based in Vermont, the company has direct relationships with over 600 New England farms, connecting wholesale buyers like restaurants, cafeterias, and retail stores to the evolving bounty of fresh food. They pick up from farms, communicate with buyers, and deliver all within a few days.
“We also buy a lot of fish from Berkshore Seafood,” Piskor adds. “They’re going to the docks every day, so they can tell you what’s new or exciting.”
Local – and the benefits of buying local – are relative. For 30Boltwood, buying ingredients from neighboring farms when possible and then regionally through distributors is the best strategy. It’s how they balance their desires for fresh ingredients, being a conscientious consumer, meeting their bottom line, and feeding everyone they serve. And they serve a lot of customers.
In addition to restaurant customers, the Inn’s kitchen cooks for over a dozen events each week, including multiple weddings most weekends.
“There too we’re focusing on local sourcing as much as we can, which I think is pretty rare,” says Piskor. “And we do lots of special events in the restaurant, particularly during the holiday season.”
That starts with Thanksgiving. 30Boltwood is now accepting reservations for a fixed price, sit-down dinner on Thursday the 24th, and pre-orders for prepared take-and-bake Thanksgiving dinners for four (or more), to be picked up Wednesday the 23rd. Orders for Thanksgiving to-go close Sunday the 13th, and can be made through their website (30boltwood.com).
The restaurant’s sit-down Thanksgiving dinner features three courses and plenty of options. Traditional New England fare of meat and roasted root vegetables are centered, surrounded by creative sides, and brightened by well-paired sauces. Special dinner events are also planned for Christmas Eve and Christmas as well as New Year’s Eve, each with their own thoughtfully crafted menus visible on their website.
A special afternoon tea seating will also be offered every Saturday afternoon this December, as well as a one-off holiday dinner on Thursday December 15th, coinciding with the Downtown Amherst Sip & Shop Stroll. “These types of events let us get creative with menus that we couldn’t cook every day,” says Piskor.
For him, opportunities for culinary creation and bringing joy through food are invigorating. Especially when the dining experience heightens eaters’ connection to that food, where it came from, and what it represents.
“Food is what drives us, and our relationship to it should be held close,” he says. “I think if you’re a chef and you don’t recognize that, you’re in the wrong business.”
Piskor’s road from line cook to Executive Chef wasn’t easy, working through culinary school and then with several restaurants and food service groups throughout the Valley. Now in a leadership role, the challenges are different.
“Despite all the headaches, at the end of the day I love to cook,” he says. “And that keeps me going.”
30Boltwood is open for dinner daily from 4 to 10pm, breakfast on weekdays from 7 to 11am, and brunch on weekends from 9am to 2pm. To learn more about them and other restaurants serving up locally grown food, visit buylocalfood.org/find-it-locally.
Jacob Nelson is communication coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture).