Recently, I found myself back in my hometown of Fort Kent, ME, serving as the caterer and concessionaire for a leg of the IBU Biathlon World Cup. While I was there I took my crew to visit Joey and Janice Bouchard, the owners/operators of Bouchard Family Farms, where ployes, the traditional buckwheat pancake endemic to northern Maine and Atlantic Canada, are produced. After Janice invited everyone into her kitchen for a taste of their products, the Bouchards took us on a tour of their buckwheat mill. We learned about the buckwheat plant–an herb in the rhubarb family–and we learned that their variety of buckwheat has a neutral taste unlike other species; best of all, buckwheat is gluten free.
I shot some video as we toured and a few weeks later, local food activist (and biathlon catering alumnus) Alex Steed and I got together to talk about our experiences in Fort Kent and about how ployes and their unique history, healthful qualities, and their inherent versatility make for an almost perfect food. The two of us have recently experimented with the possibilities that ploye mix and buckwheat flour offer. The “Ploye Tortillas” that Alex came up with, along with the recipes in my last Guiding Stars recipe article, are just a few of the myriad ways that we as cooks can start with an obscure–or common, for that matter–local product and turn out delicious and nutritious permutations that transcend its humble roots.
In that vein, I plan to post more videos in the coming months featuring other regional favorites. By pairing the videos with recipes and techniques that increase the product’s versatility and improve or enhance their healthfulness, I hope you’ll feel the same satisfaction that Alex and I experience every time we find another way to get the most out of an old standby from a very unique place. As always, you can expect the convenience and reliability of Guiding Stars’ rating system–both for the products and the recipes. Along the way and as our culinary worlds diversify, I hope that the producers of these hidden gems can reap the rewards for working so hard–as the Bouchards do–to provide us with foods that simultaneously nourish our bodies, expand our horizons, and preserve our traditions.
If you have any recommendations about regional products or ingredients that you think we should explore, leave a comment below and I’ll add it to the bucket list.
About the Expert Chef
Erin Dow balances three food worlds. As a mother of three young children, she’s fighting the battle every parent faces: how to keep her kids interested in the foods that keep them healthy.
As the chef and owner of her catering company Eatswell Farm, she utilizes original recipes and techniques–focused on enhancing the enjoyment of locally-sourced ingredients–to best interpret the client’s vision. And as Consulting Executive Chef for Falmouth-based Professional Catering Services, a business specializing in production and backstage catering for concerts, she develops and executes menus that accommodate the strict nutritional requirements of the music industry elite.
Erin and her family raise their own chicken for meat and eggs, have dabbled in pastured Narragansett turkeys, and have a very weedy but very large and productive garden.