Artisan café: The Meadows is back after Irene’s devastation

The Meadows is back after Irene’s devastation

  • Artisan Flatbread Pizza and Black Bean Salad at the Meadows Café and Golf Center. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Chef Ron Riopel supervises as Joel Hallowell makes an Artisan Flatbread Pizza at the Meadows Café and Golf Center. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

For The Recorder
Published: 5/17/2016 2:14:23 PM

Many Franklin County homes and businesses suffered in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. One of the saddest-looking local sites was the Meadows Golf Course in Greenfield. The once pristine greens were awash in water and stayed muddy for months.

According to the golf club’s general manager, Ron Riopel, the fate of the course remained uncertain for a couple of years. In the fall of 2014, Constant Poholek of Attleboro, who co-owns two other golf courses in Massachusetts, purchased the property.

Poholek consulted Riopel extensively — and eventually brought the experienced chef and food manager on board. Riopel, who lives in Indian Orchard, also runs Primrose Dining Services in Agawam. He works hard but expresses enthusiasm about the Meadows.

Riopel’s right hand is Donna Giard of Bernardston. She acts as clubhouse manager and the face of Meadows with the public.

Giard came in looking for a part-time job to ease her into retirement, Riopel told me when I stopped in for lunch with photographer Paul Franz. “After the first day I fell in love with her,” recalled Riopel.

The two put in many hours renovating the course, the clubhouse, the kitchen and the menu. The clubhouse café at 398 Deerfield St. opened last fall, and after a cold-weather hiatus is now serving meals again.

I asked Riopel how the menu and atmosphere differ from those of the restaurant’s previous incarnations.

“Most people that operated this place over the years had a bar serving food. We have a restaurant that happens to serve alcohol,” he replied. “We want to be family-oriented.”

He noted that he and Poholek have developed a two-year plan. This year they plan to add a driving range and perhaps a nine-hole miniature golf course. The driving range should be open by mid-June.

Next winter, he explained, they hope to expand business by opening the course to cross-country skiers in the winter months and serving ski-lodge fare in the clubhouse.

In the following spring and summer, “if all works out,” Riopel hopes to take advantage of the course’s proximity to the river by offering canoe and kayak rentals. He believes that river travelers will enjoy the restaurant’s new outdoor cooking area.

“This is going to be a whole family fun center,” he predicted.

The Meadows has faced challenges recovering its beauty and playability as a golf course — the managers planted flood-resistant grass last year — but Riopel and Giard are cautiously optimistic. They predict that the course will look spectacular by June.

Both are golfers. “My uncle played here when it was 50 cents a round,” Giard boasted. The two are encouraged by the passion of the golf club’s members, who number about 200. Over the last couple of years, members have volunteered to help clean up the course and remove trees.

“People are just thrilled that we’re here and (we’re serving good food) and we make an effort to be friendly and know people’s names,” said Giard. “We’re getting regulars, which speaks volumes, and people send their friends.”

Both the golf course and the café are open to non-members as well as members. The café is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

Although the café was closed over the winter, Riopel predicts that in the long run, service will expand. He would like to offer breakfast on weekends.

“I think we’ve got this right,” he asserted, gesturing around the clubhouse. “Now we just have to let people know we’re here.”

Riopel designed the café’s menu around simple, fresh, satisfying foods. He and prep cook Joel Hallowell shared two of its most popular recipes. The first, a flatbread pizza, nicely pairs crunchy/creamy textures and flavors. The second is a simple, tasty salad with plenty of fiber and protein.

Artichoke, Spinach and Feta Flatbread Pizza

Ingredients:

onion, thinly sliced

butter as needed

1 artisan flatbread (artisan flatbreads tend to be a little thicker than regular ones)

about 2 tablespoons marinara sauce (enough to cover the flatbread thinly)

3 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1 generous handful of spinach

cup sundried tomatoes

1 large marinated artichoke heart, cut into pieces

3 ounces feta cheese (more to taste if you like!)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Begin by caramelizing the onion slices. Preheat a small skillet until it is hot; then reduce the heat and add a small amount of butter. Add the onion pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Next, assemble the pizza. Warm the flatbread briefly on both sides in a pan or on a grill. Remove the bread from the heat, and spread the marinara sauce on top. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top, followed by the spinach.

Next, add the sundried tomatoes and the pieces of artichoke, and generally sprinkle feta over all.

Set the heated oven to the broiler function. Ron Riopel doesn’t have to do this as he has a small pizza oven, but broiling should do with a home oven. If you have a pizza peel, place the pizza directly in the oven. If you have no peel, place it on an ovenproof sheet or tray.

Broil the pizza until it is brown, 4 to 5 minutes.

Serves 4 as an appetizer or 1 (generously) as a main course.

Sweet Corn and Black Bean Salad

Ingredients:

1 cups frozen corn, defrosted

cup chopped celery

cup chopped red onion

1 cups cooked and drained black beans (canned will do)

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (If you are not a cilantro fan, you may use parsley, but the cilantro gives the salad great flavor.)

1 to 2 cups commercial golden Italian dressing

Instructions:

Combine the vegetables, beans, and cilantro in a large bowl; then stir in the salad dressing. Let the mixture sit, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This recipe makes 12 side servings.

Tinky Weisblat of Hawley is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling Taffy.” If you have a suggestion for a future Blue Plate Special, please email Tinky at: Tinky@TinkyCooks.com
For more information about Tinky, visit her website: www.TinkyCooks.com




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