Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Welcome Chicago Tribune Readers

Decoding Today's Recipes

Well, if you found this site via today's nice spread in the Chicago Tribune on eating local, I should probably thank Google. My wife asked was I bothered that they did not include my full Internet address. I said no, I liked anyone who called me sensible.

Anyways, however you got here, I hope you are that much more encouraged about eating local, both in September and in the months that follow. Surely, in some teeny-tiny way, your eating local will make an impact on the environment, on the economy around here. Still, if you choose to eat local, you will make the single biggest leap possible in your food quality. You will find, like my family, that most other food will not taste very good. If you like to eat well, you should eat local.

Today's Trib spread on eating local includes several recipes. The paper tells you that aside from condiments and cooking oil, the ingredients can be found local. In a broad way, that's true. It may not be easy. Here's some tips on how to track down some of the ingredients in today's recipes. If there is anything else you cannot find, ask.

Grilled portobello mushrooms
Portobello mushrooms are a cultivated mushroom, really a big version of the standard button mushroom. As such, most are likely grown in Pennsylvania, and while Penn State is part of the Big 10 (I always say my eat local boundary is the Big 10 Conference), Pennsylvania seems a bit far for me. There is a source for local cultivated mushrooms, River Valley Kitchens. They show at several farmer's markets including Green City, Daley Plaza and Lincoln Square. If you ever visit the giant Dane County Farmer's Market in Madison, WI, you will find other local mushroom growers.
Chilled roasted red bell pepper soup with summer vegetables
Bell peppers are one of the easiest local things to find. Many produce markets and supermarkets will be carrying local bell peppers now. It's some of the other summer vegetables in the recipe that may not be as easy. Take celery. If you ever make soup or stew, you probably need celery. Yet, local celery is not particularly easy to find. I've never seen it outside a farmer's market, not at Whole Foods, Caputo's, anywhere like that. At the farmer's market, you will also not find it at every stand. Nicholl's Farm, at 20 area markets, however, is a source. I recommend buying much celery now, cutting it and freezing it, for later use in soups/braises.
Caramelized cavolo nero with slow-poached chicken breast
There is one grower that routinely sells cavolo nero or Tuscan black cabbage, Kinnikinnick Farm, at Green City Market. I'm sure you can make something just as good with the many types of greens from Green Acre Farms, Henry's Farm or Genesis Growers. You will have to shop farmer's market again, for this one.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wettsteins Pork Shoulder Confit, Huckleberry” blue", Local Cranberry Beans, House Made, Michigan Blueberry Parfait, August Hill Winery

New View Menu Posted


Want more?
local plum crisp, fresh raspberries, wild watercress, roasted and pickled peaches, preserved meyer lemons*, kinnikinnick farm heirloom tomatoes, marinated and wood-grilled, lovage, hand cut
I don't know about you, but those are the kinda words that I look for on a menu.

BTW, I'm a menu old on my links, before this, a menu was posted on August 3, 2007, so if you are collecting, you missed one.

In other Vie news, Vie's been nominated for a GNR (Great Neighborhood Restaurant) at

*Not a local ingredient, but I know that Chef Virant gets them "local" from a friend of his.

Monday, August 20, 2007

How to Eat Local

The Price You Will Pay

The Chicago Eat Local Challenge is almost here. I imagine a few more of you signed up this weekend at Green City. The melons and tomatoes and what not, I am sure, had you salivating. You'll be eating fresher. You'll be getting more varieties. You'll be doing your part for the environment. Have you stopped to think of the cost.

No, not the price of tomatoes. You can get cheaper heirloom tomatoes from Farmer Vicki's Genesis Growers or Nicholl's Farms than you can get at Whole Foods. Not the price of gas from running to some u-pick in Indiana. Not the cost of having to plan your meals in advance as you wait for your local meat to defrost. I mean the price you pay in water.

Local food is wet, really wet. The descriptor I've used a lot for local food, especially fruits and vegetables, is that it tastes alive. Not alive like the tiny worm that crawled out of one of my tomatoes last week; not alive as in so close to the farm I can practically smell the manure. I mean the food has a vitality, a spunk, that supermarket food does not. This summer, which has been the summer of the Greek salad, I really pinned down what made that alive-ness.

The cooking utensil I used the most of, of late, is the strainer. It started with salting the cucumbers, crisp them up. Soon, I needed to lay tomato slices across a strainer or else the salad would be in a pool. Now, I find that so many of my farm fresh veg throw off an enormous amount of water. Take my bell peppers, are these supposed throw off so much precipitation? Chile peppers? I do not, not, have enough colanders, strainers, salad spinners and other such devices to dry my food. I do not especially like wet food, makes dressings all watery and gets the rest of the plate soggy. It is a price I pay for having my food exceedingly fresh. Local.