New Turners Falls café The Upper Be incorporates owners’ local food experience

  • Erin Ferrentino and Billy and Tamara McKerchie have opened The Upper Bend brunch café on Avenue A in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Upper Bend brunch café opened Wednesday at 112 Avenue A in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Upper Bend brunch café opened Wednesday at 112 Avenue A in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Upper Bend brunch café opened Wednesday at 112 Avenue A in Turners Falls. Staff PhotoS/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Upper Bend brunch café opened Wednesday at 112 Avenue A in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2019 5:25:12 PM
Modified: 11/7/2019 5:25:01 PM

 By MAX MARCUS

TURNERS FALLS — Knowledge from different aspects of the local food business has been rolled into a new café — farming experience, local food procurement, environmentally conscious waste disposal, the scarcity of coffee places in Turners Falls.

The Upper Bend, which opened on Wednesday at 112 Avenue A, is a brunch café with a rotating menu of almost all locally sourced ingredients. And it’s one of very few places in Turners Falls that has both coffee and WiFi.

The three co-owners, Erin Ferrentino and married couple Billy and Tamara McKerchie, have all spent the last five to 10 years working on local farms, at restaurants and in other aspects of the local food business. So when they started working on opening their own eatery a year ago, the obvious choice was to get as much of their ingredients locally as possible.

“There’s no reason for us to get food from anywhere else. It’s all right here in this valley,” Tamara McKerchie said.

The way the menu works is that there are several basic types of items the menu is built around, the permanent “building blocks” of the menu — sandwiches, salads, baked goods, different kinds of toast, waffles — but the particular recipes will change from time to time depending on what ingredients the restaurant is using, Billy McKerchie said.

The same approach goes for coffee drinks, teas, sodas, juices and flavored milks. Right now, the menu has a homemade rosemary soda, and an espresso drink called a jitterbug — espresso, ice, half-and-half, and making it involves doing a certain dance while shaking it up, Tamara McKerchie explained. But these options will change sporadically.

The raw ingredients are all sourced as locally as possible, and the more complicated ones are either made in-house or purchased locally, Tamara McKerchie said. The restaurant makes its own mayonnaise and bakes all its own pastries, for example, and the sandwich bread comes from Rise Above, the bakery that recently opened in Greenfield.

In a similar vein of thinking, The Upper Bend has a goal of producing no waste, Tamara McKerchie said. In creating their recipes the chefs make an effort to find uses for parts of their ingredients that other restaurants might just throw out. And all disposable containers and silverware are compostable.

“This is so integrated at this point in the way that we conceptualize food and eat food and grow food that I couldn’t imagine doing it in any other way,” Ferrentino said.

The owners acknowledge that these kinds of practices often push prices up, so they are also making an effort to keep their menu affordable. “There’s definitely a tension there,” Billy McKerchie said.

The Upper Bend has been in the works for almost a year, since soon after the salon that had been in the space left, Billy McKerchie said. Renovation work started this spring.

The name refers to the bend in the Connecticut River that curls around Turners Falls. Billy McKerchie found the phrase in a John McPhee book, “The Founding Fish,” about American shad fishing. McPhee refers to this section of the Connecticut River as the “upper bend.”

The Upper Bend is now open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with plans to add Tuesday later.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.




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