Friday, December 29, 2006


A Very Good Dog

Second 017

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

100 Mile Thanksgiving Meet the Washington Post

Very nice article here, in the Washington Post, featuring (and inspired by)'s Sara Irani. Congragulations to Sarah! Hope she inspires you to eat local this Thanksgiving.


Sarah has written more here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

100 Mile Thanksgiving

As I posted on a few weeks ago, several groups, including the blog, which I am affiliated, are encouraging people to eat local this Thanksgiving. For those in the Chicago area, it's really not too hard.

It's easy to find a locally produced turkey. Hoka's are natural and delicious (see the web site for places to buy).

Hopefully, your larder contains squashes, onions, beets, potatoes (sweet or white) to make what you need. Me, I have plenty of these things in my basement (not the least, 50 lbs of Wisconsin potatoes recently purchased for the grand price of $9.49). You might also have some pie pumpkins. Listen, if you have not put any of this stuff down, don't fear. The Green City Market is open this Wednesday and next Wednesday. All of this produce will be there. I bet you can find some of this at Whole Foods too. What's more, farmer's like my friend Vicki, are still yanking things from the ground. Beets, greens, turnips, carrots, broccoli; is there anything we still need? In case anyone wondered, plenty of cranberries grow in Wisconsin for the sauce. You could have purchased local flour for your dressing/stuffing, but I won't care if you at least stuff with locally baked bread.

Dessert, well, are you sick of apples yet. Shouldn't be. You have many more months of eatin' em. Apple pie, brown betty, crisp, crumble, shlump, slices, pudding, how many desserts do you need? More, this is the time to uncork those Michigan sour cherries so expertly individually quick froze, or maybe you have some papples left. Slice some papples, combine with Upland's award winning Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, some black walnuts, and you have another dish.

The only problem, obviously, is to drink. There are wines coming from Illinois, Michigan, but I cannot speak of them. So, go ahead, drink a good California chardonnay, snobs be damned, it's good. Still, if I was around for Thanksgiving (I'll be on the road), I'd at least try to accent with some local drinks, maybe some hard cider. I would, for sure, offer up some of the rhubarb wine purchased this summer in Amanna, Iowa.

Seems to me that it's pretty hard NOT to have a local Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Fame of the Papple Lady Grows

At the gala Seventh Generation Ahead dinner the other night, I shared a few words with Oriana Kruszewski, the papple lady. I told her how much my kidz loved her fruit. She failed to mention the nice write-up she got the is week in the Reader.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Eat Local - Brandy's (Home of the Gyro)

First Look

One of the nice things about (the ease of) blogging, is the ability to write about things that matter to, well not many. In this case, a hyper-localized look at the new fast food restaurant that opened up about across the street from me. Otherwise, there was nothing local, sustainable or organic about this place.

I was surprised and not surprised about Brandy's; not the food, I hardly found anything surprising with Brandy's food. I was surprised by the capital invested. I guess from their materials this is the third Brandy's, and they also seem connected to something called Chiggy's Gyro's. They seem to be plowing some profits into the new operation. It's a brightly lit, high ceiling-ed space, panted reds and yellow, two flat panel TVs, neon; and big, not Portillo's big, but bigger than the average hot dog stand.

Brandy's has a vast menu. Missing only an olive burger and a Monte Cristo and it would be a typical "Local Greek" diner. The menu spans at least three countries worth of fast food, Italian (beefs, pasta), Greek (including something over $14 called My Big Fat Greek Plate), and Mexican (tacos, nachos, carne asada). A treat for all, there is a whole display case of jello.

Although this is the home of the gyro, I chickened out. I saw they were cutting from the cone and then griddling, one of my pet peeves. I tried instead a burger. It was one of those charred things, well cooked, with a hint of the natural gas, but neither completely broiled to death, nor too propane tasting. The roll was one of those corn dusted fluffy things. Fries, fake skin on, but don't worry Brandy's, Thomas Keller uses the same trick. These fries were mildly crispy and a bit starchy. The sliced pickles on the burger were deli style and good. I saw a few gyros go out the hatch, and griddled be damn, they at least looked worth a try.

What was most interesting (I guess) about Brandy's, was how many people were there for lunch. I never realized there was such a latent demand for fast food around the 6500 block of North Avenue. Perhaps some of that capital also went into market research. On first pass, a decent enough place to have in the 'hood.

6518 W. North
Chicago, IL

The Bears

Pick Your Shots

A week ago, the Bears killed Buffalo. It was very satisfying because Dick Jauron's Bills played a lot like Dick Jauron's Bears. Timid. The announcers mentioned during the Bills game that Jauron had said something to the extent of, "I do not mind punting." That's Dick. Any play can turn out bad; let's just avoid them. If we can punt, punt. At the end of nearly every quarter, Jauron's team always let the clock run out. I mean, one less play is one less chance for...

Lovie Smith does a lot of things not that different from Dick Jauron. Except. He plays to win. He is not afraid. What a different message that sends to his team. Which is why his team is winning.

Which is oddly enough, something I think he did wrong last night. Down two touchdowns in the 4th Quarter, on 4th down, within field goal range, with the unstoppable Robbie good as Gould, he went for it. A winning mentality. Go down giving it our best shot (Jauron would have put some points on the board and hoped). Yet, yesterday, Sexxy Rexxy, gosh he sucked. I knew the defense had a better chance of scoring. The perverse way the Bears played and the game went yesterday, those three points really could have mattered. On any other day, that 4th and call was right. Not last night.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Eat Local - This Thanksgiving

100 Mile Thanksgiving

More here

Does Jim Hendry Eat Local?

I hope so.

Maybe he'd find his way to this little blog, and he would read my advice, as a very (very) long time suffering Cubs fan--emphasis on the suffering.
Don't Hire Lou Pinella

Lou's probably a great manager. He would be a very good choice if Joe Torre did not return to the Yankees. He is the wrong choice for the Cubs. He is Dusty re-visited. Really.

Remember how good a choice Dusty seemed. I loved it. And maybe Dusty is a good manager despite all that has happened. I give him credit for the run in 2003, and I especially remember how he finagled a Shawn Estes [ed. is that how it's spelled?] win in the stretch. I also realize no manager could have won with the cast of pitchers he had this year. Still, Dusty was not a good manager for the Cubs. These Cubs. Neither will Lou.

Could Lou get any performance out of the Tampa Bay Devil thingees? Hardly. Dusty and Lou are both managers for mature, complacent teams. The Cubs need to be anything but complacent. They are surely not mature. In fact, what the Cubs need to do is live with a bit of immaturity. Stop these cockeyed win-now, plug-in, attempts. Instead, build a team. Hire the manager that can build. That's Joe, Joe Girardi.

And Jim, to celebrate the hiring, I'm sure you'd love dinner at Vie in Western Springs. I hear Chicago Magazine upped their rating by another star.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What's Local this Week at Costco (Oak Brook)


Of tiny hydroponic bell peppers and triple washed (but washed enough?) lettuce, Costco? While I pledge (or hope) that a deformed "baby" carrot never again touches the tender lips of my precious offspring, I still find plenty of reasons to shop at Costco. After all, it's a leading Blue company. And you never know what you might find.

Yesterday was the second time I've run into a Wisconsin cheese extravaganza at Costco. As I noted on my last post on the Eat Local Challenge Blog, I've come to find that the very fact that something is local makes it taste especially good for me. Some times I wonder if my love for local cheeses is delusional. Plenty of foodies seem more interested in Red Hawk this or Vermont that. Me, I'm plenty satisfied with what I find around me--and at sale at Costco in Oak Brook, Illinois this week.

How much am I brainwashed on local, well, what got us to the Wisconsin cheese display in the first place were samples of pepper jack. A very typical, cheap, commercial type Wisconsin cheese. Yet, like 97% of cheese spreads and cheddar shaped like footballs, it tasted darn good. We took. It was not just cheesy cheeses. For instance Costco was also offering a Carr Valley, Cocoa Cardona, for a reasonable price of $12/lb. We got pretty much all of the varieties on sale yesterday, about five types of Wisconsin cheese.

Not just cheese, Costco was also selling big ol' Wisconsin smoked hams that ran about $50 per. If I was having a Christmas party, I'd surely buy one.

Local is where you find it. In a world where some version of mozzarella can go with some version of tomato every day of the year, it's nice to know that there is also something unique, regional, even there at your Costco. Seek this out. Your brain might turn as mushy as mine.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My Chowhound

Mr. Peabody Set the Wayback Machine to Las Vegas - The Venetian

After recently finding that my pizza primer post got lost in the move to Chowhhound ver 2.0, I've decided to re-post anything I find/need here or on I will be citing this post later today.

Sadly, the place written of below is no longer in business. A real shame.

There is a layer of Las Vegas that exists between the strip and the modern suburban "locals" city. Not the convention abled chain spots on and off paradise road, but off-strip and on the road to downtown. It fascinates me, not the least because it also contains Lotus of Siam. Here strip shows, the pawn shops, the taverns, the marriage parlors, a real Algren/Bukowski created world. Within this world is the very original Venetian Italian. When you make the U-Turn to Venetian, you just miss Lucky Massage and could go straight into Shifty's bar and vido poker emporium if not paying attention.

The moment that summed up Venetian came after dinner. When we were waiting for our goodbye cab and learning about the hostesse's tatoo, a frocked man looking very uncomfortable entered. His well endowed date soon showed up and they took a seat. We glanced at the hostess, she said, way too loud, yes that was a minister and a hooker. Well, it's that kind of place, the Venetian. And I mean that as a strong complement.

The waiter has an overly solitious manner that fit well in this place. Here, everyone is Tony Soprano. He warned us so many times that the osso buco would melt in our mouths that I thought he'd chew it for us.

We began our meal with a series of appetizers and strong drinks. Fried calamari, served generously, proscuitto wrapped mozzeralla, a bit small, sauteed mushrooms and garlic bread that made you remember how good garlic bread could be. We should have held off a bit, but everything made its mark.

But first, we had to have salad or soup (he pushed the soup heavily). I stuck with the salad which had as much dressing on one salad as a resturant in Venice would have on all their salads, but it was a good dressing. A friend ordered a ceasar salad. I made the mistake of finishing the huge plate for him. It was too good, enough garlic that I was lucky Ms. VI was 2000 miles away and also heavily dusted in parmagian. I barely was not ready.

On a menu loaded with old fashioned treats, I picked the most old fashioned of them all, veal parmagian. Two decent pounded scallops drenched in melted cheese. Like classic tex-mex, nothing bad about too much cheese and a good sauce. The spaghetti in a sauce cooked to butteery mildness, also fought for a spot in my radidly shrinking gullet.

It's not like I sampled all the rest of the orders, but I can tell you that the osso bucco was denture friendly. The veal chop, charred well, looked worth the price, same with the pasta with seafood.

Someone else on [Chowhound] commented that the Venetian was great for the scene, but the food was an afterthought. I do not know. I totally appreciated the total lack of irony in the kitchen, the fact that this was the type of red sauce cusine that made us fall in love with Italian food. I strongly reconmend the Venetian Italian on Sahara about 1/2 mile north of the strip.

The Venetian is open around the clock. During our friday dinner, the place was oddly sparse. It made it easy to pick up a group chattering away in Italian. Of course, this helped the atmosphere. I'd like to visit again, early in the morning, when the late crew is noshing.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Food for Thought

It's not all chow.

Nosh on this as you digest today's events.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Bread in Chicago - III

I'm pretty strongly on record being a Freddy's advocate. And Joe is always asking me to try something new outta his kitchen. Often a satisfied lunch ends (or begins anew) with a plate of something he sends out. So, if I glorify Freddy's Bread, I express an obvious bias.

Freddy's breads are not great breads, yet they are some of the best breads in Chicago. Like ice cream, sometimes freshness and active participation overcome technical skills or great ingredients. Freddy's breads just taste better. The crust, as shown is not strong or crisp, but the crumb is moist, with a strong taste of yeast. I'm fairly certain that some of Freddy's breads have a touch of shortening, which gives them some richness. They are not cloying nor artificial tasting. If there is shortening the touch is light. Overall, the elements balance, crust, crumb, richness.

Note, on a daily basis, Freddy's offers several bread shapes, and the shapes do influence taste and flavor. This one pictured, what I will call slit bread, is especially doughy/bready and not quite typical of all Freddy's breads. Thus, the rating below is only for this bread.

Freddy's Pizza is at 1600 S. 61st Avenue (16th Street between Austin and Ridgeland)

  1. Freddy's Slit Bread
  2. Liborio
  3. Turano

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Meet the Papple Lady

This is Oriana. She showed up at the Green City Market one day in September. She sells papples or Asian pears or apple pears, which have become the go-to fruit for Hannah and Sophia. Oriana is not the only person who sells papples at the Green City Market, but she might sell the best. Try. She will, willingly offer up a selection of that week's papples in what she calls green, brown or yellow. She also sells delicious dried pears and more conventional pears.
She has some other interesting stuff. Like black walnuts. Like Concord grapes, this is produce that screams farmer's market/local. You cannot find these otherwise. And if people gave up on Concords for the big pits, people gave up on these nuts because, well try to open one. Luckily, Oriana has a device that cracks them. It's still some work, but it's a start.

Another thing she has is ground cherries or chokeberries, which are, I believe, a relation to the tomatillo. Don't let the cherry part fool you. They are more vegetal than fruity (in fact the black walnuts are a lot sweeter). Still, they have a sly, yet and interesting intense taste. Best, Oriana promises they will stay for a long time in their protective husks; something to think about as I have told the kidz that this year, baby carrots are anathema in our house.

Do say take minute to say hi to the Papple Lady, sample, and buy.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Bread in Chicago - II

When I was last poking and prodding bread in Chicago, I had a bread that was Kevlar hard. Today's bread, from Turano is very much the opposite (summing up the issue with Chicago breads, too something).

Too soft. You could easily ball up a loaf of this Turano bread and play indoor soccer. It is not a bad bread, now. It tastes fresh. It just lacks anything approaching a crust.

I realized after two efforts that letter grades would not work--I already fear that Liborio's B is too high. Therefore, like Dom's beef rankings at Skillet Doux, I will simply rank the breads against each other. Here's the scale to date:
  1. Liborio
  2. Turano

Friday Cat Blogging

Moe Returns

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fall, When Hearts Turn To

More Produce.

Most of the farmers markets in the Chicago area close down by the end of October. What's a Localvore to do hence?

Find a CSA. This will be the second year that Farmer Vicki/Genesis Growers will be offering a fall CSA, and the second year that the VI family will be using this CSA for fall produce. The cost is $140

Proposed crops include:
lettuce heads
baby lettuce
winter squashes
sweet potatoes
broccoli raab
miscellaneous greens
pie pumpkins
occasional warm weather crops (tomatoes, cucumber, peppers)

To sign up for this CSA contact Genesis Growers

Over the course of the fall, Vicki also includes items like dried herbs, goat milk soap and canned goods. Our experience last year was that the fall CSA did not provide enough for the week in a particular box, but it was enough when you combined the boxes with other stuff in the house. More important, I think experience will help Vicki provide more this season. Finally, a Fall CSA is only as good as the weather. Early snow or hard frost can kill the best of plans.

Angelic Organics offers a fall/winter CSA, but you have to already be a user of their farm.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Bread in Chicago

I'm very interesting in knowing about bread in Chicago and finding the best of breads. I said I'd write about it. I guess I did not say when.

So, the story continues.

First up, one of my favorites. There are several in the class that is Italian mass-market: Turano, Gonnella, D'Amato's. I find people tend to ignore this one. Should not. I think the picture gives a good indication of the heff in this crust. It's a heavy, solid bread that will last several days. It's weakness, like so many around these parts, too dry in the crumb. Liborio breads are available at the versions of Caputos in Elmwood Park and Melrose Park. I'm not sure where else. Overall, a solid B.

I forgot to mention another site with resources on Chicago bread. Gemma used to do more of a job covering bread in Chicago, but even without the bread reports, her site is so damn pretty--look through her archives.

I fixed the link to Pro Bono Baker as I do not think it was taking you to the main page.

Great Smells of Chicago

Who can forget Gene and Judes?

Daily Musings 007

This is the smell of your childhood if you grew up around here.

2720 River Rd
River Grove, IL

Friday, September 22, 2006


Like many others of my faith, I'm hard at work cracking black walnuts, trimming cardoons (oy vay).

This is not your Bubby's Rosh Hashanah. More some other time.

Pizza Primer

I once wrote (IMHO) a pretty good pizza primer for Chowhound, because if nothing else, Chicago pizza needs a good primer. And not listening to Mike G's sage advice, I did not save it/copy it to somewhere else on the Internets. The post seems lost in the protocols of New Coke Chowhound, which limits the amount of responses on a page. While I have that blogger's love of one's work (modern Oscar Wilde: "I'd blog so I'd always have a favorite place"), the pizza summary in this week's Reader is a good substitute. I'd suggest, perhaps, that people make their own copy. Besides, it has this gem from Hat Hammond on my beloved Freddy's:
Zabar's of Cicero

More important, there's been a lot of changes in the za scene in the last few years, with the addition of some more Euro-style pizzas. The data is here.

Friday Cat Blogging

Guess Star, the Dog

Daily Musings 006

Don't Give Head

Missing Lettuce

Earlier this summer I finally got my copy of Nose to Tail Eating, whereas Fergus Henderson lays down his culinary principles. Now, while I'm at least curious about rolled spleen and salted pig liver, I doubt I'll ever get an audience, and the recipe for brawn (headcheese) is at least fun to read. One dish, however, that I wanted to make almost immediately was the Little Gem with anchovies and tomatoes--as soon as ripe tomatoes arrived in the market. There was only one problem, I could never find the Little Gem lettuce.

I slightly chalked that up to the idea that my local farmers did not plant Little Gem. Wrong. In fact searching for some Romaine the other day, I got the truth. The farmers are growing Little Gem (and Romaine), just not selling the heads. It seems that head lettuce is too tricky, too much work, to unproductive. So, the farmers pick the lettuce leaves as they grow. They do not wait for a full head to form. If they do, there is a chance, so I was told, there will be too much waste.

I appreciate the economy, but there's many times I'd like a little head [ed. gosh no]. For instance, I was thinking that long Romaine leaves would really work well with the Zuni roast chicken/bread salad that we are having for Rosh Hashanah. I could not find that. And I learned that a lot of lettuce mixes contained Little Gem, but I was not gonna make Fergus's dish by picking out the particular leaves. Let's not forget a good wedge salad. Localvores should not have to skip such decadence. We need to bring back the head.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thinking of Something To Say

Eat Local Spinanch

I've been wanting to comment on the bagged spinach issue, but I have not been sure exactly how to put it. More important, I do not want to appear callous given the seriousness of many of the illnessess.

The Washington Post (reg. required) notes some of what I've been thinking. Quoting fellow Eat Local Challenge Blogger Jen BB:
"If there ever was a reason to shop local, this is it," says Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, a home gardener and food blogger from Syracuse, N.Y. The latest contamination scare makes it "more critical than ever to eat closer to the source," adds Baskerville-Burrows. "If we patronize smaller, local farms and something goes wrong, we can trace it back directly to the producer."
By the way, Jen has some other good stuff on the spinanch issue and eating local generally. Do check her blog.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Organic Farming is Hard

I've said it before. Michael Nagrant does a good job of making the same point. (Note to self, if it takes to Monday to see a New City, you're not getting out enough.)

Throughout the morning, even on this "self-imposed day off," Covelli's running from the kitchen to the walk-in refrigerator, conversing with his pickers--"Pick the Sungolds before they get watered or they'll split like a motherfucker"--and rehashing the sauce recipe with his kitchen hand Eric Davis. Covelli says, "If I was in school, I'd be one of those ADD kids. I'm either super-focused, or not focused at all." He adds, "farmer's aren't patient, that's what makes them so effective."

The farm highlighted, Tomato Mountain, is one of only a few that shows at Chicago's Green City and Dane County.

Need more, here's Farmer Vicki's message this week
Fall is the season for harvesting. And boy oh boy, are we harvesting. The barn is filling up with nice goodies for the fall and winter. I find satisfaction in that. I love seeing loads coming in from the field. It is a time when the fruits of our labors are very evident. But, it is also a season for hard and long laboring. We are trying to grow crops, plant greenhouses, harvest fresh items for CSA and market along with cleaning up the field for winter. Then we add the harvest of the storage crops. But, we love it. The guys especially enjoy harvesting the big stuff. They enjoy picking and tossing. The field rings with their laughter and jesting. What characters! They are really great to have around. Farming would not be so much fun without their antics. I am truly blessed with their fun attitudes.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ooh That Smell

I'm a list lover, so, of course, I loved today's Tribune At Play. And one of us Chowhound's favorite reporter's, Monica Eng, chimed in with 8 great aromas. I do think she should have made it a top ten. How could she miss:

Johnnies on North Avenue
Costco on Clybourn when the roasters going full blast

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Eat Local

I just put up a post on the Eat Local Challenge Blog on some of the eating local I came across in my recent road trip through Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The post only scratches the surface on what's out there. Over time, I hope to document more.

Apple of her Eye

Oak Park Farmer's Market September 9, 2006

This is the favorite of the Condiment Queen, who spent some formative tasting years out east.

Here's the kidz favorite.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Kris Kringle?

Who/where did Bendtsen's bakery get mentioned tonight? Stat shows several hits to the blog on this tonight from several places in the country.

Needless to say, I'm hungry and also have an excuse for more photos. I hope to get a kringle soon.

Save the Date




A Celebration of Our Commitment to Sustainable Living

Seven Generations Ahead
4th Annual Benefit Dinner & Celebration

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Chicago Cultural Center, Gar Hall
78 East Washington Avenue (at Michigan Avenue), Chicago


Live Dance Performance

Organic and Local Food

A Taste of the Seasons is a 100% carbon neutral, wind-powered event.

In every deliberation we must consider the impact on the seventh generation.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Bear Down

If I could take any solace with the dwindling supply of heirloom tomatoes on Farmer Vicki's table on Saturday, it was the Bears began their season on Sunday. The new season is always of highest interest at the start. What will become; will it become a season of interest? So, here's my quick assessment of the Bear's victory:

The coolest thing about the game, and one reason, I believe, they had such any easy time, is they discovered that they place offense with 11 players. Using both the fullback (especially) and the tight end really helps.

We may have our own Antwon Randel El

While pitching a shutout, the defense did not look great. There seemed to be a lot of plays that took in chunks of field. It seemed to my untrained eye, that the defense benefited from time of possession, favorable spots, and a lot of awful passes from Mr. Favre.

I'll be watching next week.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

The New Black

Does this background make the photo's look better?

Note, a few other things. I have no idea why the links/archive part of the blog is WAY down there. When I figure that out, maybe I'll update the links! Also, it appears in the update that I have ditched the Haloscan code somewhere. Instead of trying to fix that, I'm just gonna use the Google comments--not that I get so many comments. But any comments or help on the redesign are appreciated.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Green City Market
September 6, 2006

It's beginning to feel a lot like fall here.

It was so fall-y yesterday at the Green City Market that I am sure I just did not notice it as much last week [ed. too busy shaking down the fresh mozzarella rumors?] It's a great time to shop. There are still plenty of tomatoes, eggplants (both normal and what, abnormal?), corn; berries, but there was all of the things associated with fall including wild mushrooms, squashes and root vegetables.
I'm still not used to how long it takes for red bell peppers to arrive because they seem so summer. The last few weeks, I've got some red bell pepper like things, like Vicki's pimientos, but this is the first week I got honest too goodness red bells--not that I did not also purchase these tiny red sweet peppers from Green Acres. As soon as I got home I roasted the big ones.

Daily Musings 081

Here's some of what else was there this week.
The biggest rutabagas I've ever seen, the wild mushrooms

The bees were in full force!

The obligatory dog shot.
Daily Musings 037

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Menus That Change

When I was looking for the link to the River Cafe book below, I found their web site. It has one of the best examples of seasonal/daily menus I have seen.

Here's some more restaurant sites that change often, allowing you to see how the chefs react and use what's around them.
Chez Panisse (updated weekly)
St. John (daily)
Heartland (St. Paul, MN)--warning the menu is a pdf file (daily)
L'Etoile (Madison, WI) (daily-ish)
Vie (a few times a month)
Farmer's Market Find of the Week

Mozzarella. It was real interesting several weeks ago at the Green City Market. A genuine market swept the market. And by interesting I'm not sure if it was that there was market rumors or that it actual reached me, a mere shopper. The rumor, Traders Creamery had fresh mozzarella. Of course by the time it was a rumor, the mozzarella was gone. Since then, or perhaps because of that, I've been a bit obsessed with getting fresh mozzarella at the market. After all it's the peak of tomato season, and this thread has been motivating me anyways. But really, it seems more like finding and buying fresh mozzarella seems like being tipped off by your broker to a real cool IPO. No?

I've mentioned Brunkow cheese before (and coincidentally, Time Out Chicago highlighted them this week as well). They have told me in the past that fresh mozza was just too much week. Until now or shall I say then. The other day. Oak Park Farmer's Market. Saturday Morning. Not cheap ($8/lb), yet this was, well this was the fresh mozz we dream about. I bought two balls. Brunkow uses a bit of vinegar and seals the balls in plastic, so the stuff is not fresh-fresh (he knows), but it still tastes of well contented local cows.

I think there will be some next week.

This book has some great ideas for other things to do with fresh mozzarella. (It's one of my favorites.)

Friday, September 01, 2006

What's Local This Week at Caputo's
What's Local Everywhere

Well before the farmer's market season started, my wife and I would find local food in the oddest of places--like Michigan apples and Minnesota potatoes at the dollar store. I also noted that on any given week, if one looked a bit, one could find something local at your neighborhood market; for instance Caputo's.

Am I just paying attention or is there more focus on local produce?

Whole Foods has realized that there is a 32 degree of food coolness out there, that organic hardly cuts it with the cutting edge foodies. They now offer pamphlets on how they stock local. Recent visits to their store in River Forest, Illinois found much local produce including many vegetables from Wisconsin (local AND organic); peaches from Southern Illinois and some so-so (and expensive) heirloom tomatoes from Michigan. The Seedlings people from Green City (and other markets) have told me that their melons will soon be for sale at Whole Foods (if they are not there now).

Or Sunset Foods on the North Shore. Scroll down their weekly flier to see the ads for local (really local) vegetables.

And my neighborhood Caputo's, plenty of Michigan apples and peaches and plums intertwined with their other produce.

My wife speculates that the stuff was always there; it's just that stores are labeling things more because local food is "in". I'm not sure that's the case. I think because local food is more in, the market has opened up more to local food. Regardless, it's a good thing.
Friday Cat Blogging

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Eat Local Challenge
The Spice Conundrum

I make no bones about not being pure to the Local Challenge. When asked/challenged, I pretty quickly throw out coffee and then olive oil. Because the first is crucial to my sanity and the second is necessary to most of my [or especially] my wife's cooking, they are things that always come to mind. If I think about it, however, I would come up with all sorts a other exceptions. A major challenge to the Eat Local Challenge is spices. After all, most spices come from exotic locations like the Malabar Coast or shall I say, "Malabar Coast"--you know what I mean. Surely, one needs spices to cook...or do they?

Right now we have peppers coming out of the wazoo. Went to Milwaukee and could not resist the bags of small peppers for a dollar, went to Minnesota and could not resist the bags of small peppers for a dollar--and I bought out the entire supply of micro bell peppers at a quarter each. At Madison I bought a godly amount of Hungarian hot wax because I want to duplicate the vinegar peppers at Old Town Serbian, and Farmer Vicki just keeps on piling them on me. There must have been 25 (at least) various peppers in our box this week.

Many of the peppers we are already drying; from there we can make our own spice powders or chile flakes. Other peppers are going into the freezer or into vinegar. Our intention is to create a slightly new palate to cook from. Of course, we have fresh herbs now and many dried herbs (some we have done ourselves, some from Farmer Vicki). I'm not saying we will never stir up a pot of curry again or dabble in international, spice dependent cuisines, nor would we skip nutmeg in a squash puree or cinnamon in an apple pie, or hell, I'm not skipping fresh cracked pepper on my salads, but over time, it will be a lot less of their spices and a lot more of ours.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Green City Market
August 30, 2006

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It's always fun to go to a farmer's market, and Green City is generally funner than most because of things found only there. Still, today's market was missing something. It's just that the market the other day in Oak Park seemed so over-flowing. Today's Green City seemed like, well just another week.

There were a few new spots for the week including the first grapes (no Concords yet) and new stuff from Trader's Creamery--fromage blanc and creme fraiche.

Japanese sweet potatoes are not something you run into too often.

It also seemed like melon week.

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There's always a market for weeds!
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Here's a few more shots form this week's market.
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Monday, August 28, 2006

Oak Park Farmer's Market
The Peak!

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If you ever wanted to see what the fuss was about farmer's markets, now is the time. Summer is still flowing with sweet corn, tomatoes (and more tomatoes) and other fruit/vegetables like eggplants and bell peppers. And oh the fruit, berries, melons, peaches, but also the start of fall: apples and pears.


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The tomatoes, mostly mini, in the first picture are from Farmer Vicki/Genesis Growers. Below, the okra and radishes come from Nicholl's Farm, the peaches from Hardin Farms and the apples, which are softball sized, come from the stand next to Hardin. The herbed oils are from my friend Jim at Herbally Yours.

Credit to my daughter Sophia for some of these pics (I'm not saying).

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Playing with Paint Shop

I have no idea what I'm doing. Look artisic?

It's stuffed grape leaves from the Parthenon in Chicago.
My First Food Pic

Nathan's at the Mall of America (where else?)

Seems not quite sharp enough, but otherwise, I'm happy.