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Hawthorne Hotel’s hearty autumn offerings.

by Terri Ogan

Say goodbye to the shrink-wrapped fruits and vegetables that fill the cases of the chain supermarkets. Chefs from a variety of restaurants have been making their way to local farms on the North Shore to gather the finest ingredients and produce to create exquisite cuisine.

“Using local foods has been up and coming for about a year,” says Steve Nelson, executive chef at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem. “It’s definitely becoming more and more prevalent.”

Nelson usually begins his quest for the best local foods by getting out there and seeing what’s good. Then comes the creativity of developing the dishes using the ingredients he finds on the local farms, for example Ingalsby Farm in West Boxford and Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton.

As for the inspiration that goes into these dishes, that comes after Nelson finds his foods.

Last spring, the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem had their first Harvest Festival, which featured an array of the freshest produce around, including lots of green vegetables paired up with the finest all-natural local meats and seafood.

“That was our first harvest festival,” says Kristie Poehler, the director of sales and marketing at the Hawthorne Hotel. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do one every season.”

Hawthorne Hotel’s Fall/Winter Festival will run Nov. 4-10, 2008. The menu will change daily according to the market availability of fresh vegetables and produce. But Chef Nelson and his team expect to be offering lots of greens, root vegetables, and the other heartier foods of autumn.

It isn’t just about the produce, though. Not only do the chefs at the Hawthorne Hotel find the freshest, most delicious foods grown by local farmers, but they also find the finest wines to be perfectly paired with their masterpiece dishes.

“I had the most luck with Jewell Towne Vineyards in Amesbury,” Nelson says. “They surprised me! I tried some of those wines and said, those are the ones I want. The Nantucket Vineyard is pretty amazing also.”

For more information and sample menus and recipes, please check the hotel’s website, For reservations and more information, call 978-825-4311.

Harringtons Head West

The Publick House in Sturbridge is a bit of a haul from Essex County. But now it’s under the same ownership as the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, and discerning visitors will see the connections between the two inns. For one thing, the Publick House certainly holds its own in the fall festival department! Sitting on 60 acres of land just one mile from Sturbridge Village, the Publick House Historic Inn provides a quaint, Yankee-oriented experience for people of all ages. It is particularly renowned for its annual Scarecrow Festival. A total of 6,000 to 8,000 crafters, artists, and visitors from all over the region gather to enjoy this unforgettable weekend each year. Managers at the Inn expect to have 50 to 80 extraordinary scarecrows, some created by individuals and others by groups, on display for everyone to enjoy. Following the Scarecrow Festival is the Harvest Festival, filled with delicious food and drinks to top off the weekend. This year’s Harvest Festival will be the Inn’s 19th, and it will be held Oct. 18-19 on the grounds of the Publick House. For more information, visit