Wednesday, December 24, 2008

They Grow Up So Quickly

It seems like just yesterday it was eggs drowned in soy sauce. Now, it's pig ear salad at Mado.

NB: while pig ears and trout seem fine to her sensibilities, ragu bianco or a white ragu of pork and chicken livers was not try-worthy for her. It is still very much worth ordering. If I was tallying top dishes of 2008, that would have made the final cut.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Year in Local

Semi-maudlin, quasi-spiritual Thanksgiving piece, check; holiday gift guide, check; the last step towards legitimacy, the year-end review. I am so there. Myself and my family found it easier than ever to eat local in 2008 because we had more sources than ever to buy local food.

Needless to say, we ate more local food than ever. We narrowed our biggest gap in local eating, the lack of local food when we ate out. We went out much less, mostly because we had too much in-house to eat. In addition, we found local at favorite restaurants like Mado, Vie and Lula's [ed. Lula's, that's a new one!].

We also narrowed our gap in our exceptions and make-do's. We stored better, so we had more local food in the winter. We worked harder (namely my wife), so we had things like canned tomatoes. We had more of the basics like garlic and onions, and we had less need to go to the "don't make yourself nuts rule" by eating things like out of season berries. Finally, what we really liked about this year was the various lectures and talks we attended (or gave). Local did not just taste good this year.

A happy year in local. Let's roll the tape.

January - We get our food from a top secret drop, on the road in Michigan, and at the smallest superstore.

February - We told you what was in season in this short cold month, but we told you about something even grander. On Grand, acting partially as the new bodega for her barrio, but also as a destination for all, Cassie Green and her then, not quite husband, opened a market focusing on local foods, Green Grocer. Over the course of the year, Cassie supplied us with early crops from Windy City Harvest, speciality local products like Papa Lena's beet chips, and my wife's addiction, Trader's Point Creamery Orchard Trio yogurt. If nothing else happened in local in 2008, we have the story of Cassie. Or not. Another woman made local available in the darkest month's Robin "Winter" Schmier. Here's a report from one of her markets in February.

March - We come close to running out of food (but not potatoes). Perhaps one of the reasons the CTrib later shuts down its Perspective section? Will 848 be next? By the end of the month, new foods arrive.

April - Ramps, the weed for the kook kidz (what about the rest of us). Bravo to us. So, I finally get the meal of my local dreams.

May - A wonderful relationship begins in the comments. Farmer's markets roll-out; nothing ever compares to the one in Madison. Soup-box/soap box program begins at Hull House on local food issues. I rant.

June - I rant for an audience (audio here). Markets are all over the place and Cassie is fully stocked. We are eating asparagus constantly. Mado! MikeG begins putting locavores to film. I rant.

July - The difference between freshly dug and new potatoes. I'm bitter (CTrib does story on locavores without me). Such a deal, free cheesecake and a fantastic group of local experts speaking each week at Eli's Cheesecake Factory. I believe this was the night we ate best the whole year.

August - Michael Morowitz's wife has twins in the middle of trying to start a new online eat local mag: the Local Beet. The month is otherwise dedicated to tomatoes.

September - Melissa and I lay out some tips for getting the rest of the harvest set.

October - Use your head, following the advice in this Sky Full of Bacon production. Mado launched their farm dinners, now my favorite way to eat there. Most farmer's markets wrap up this month.

November - Is there anything else besides Family Farmed Expo? I find time to provide 18 tips towards eating local. The Beet adds the Sustainable Cook and the Backyard Farmer.

December - Winter markets working out very well. How smart is this need for local food?

Coming soon: Mado goes New Year's Eve family style; Paul Virant takes on an Iron Chef; more Sky Full of Bacon podcasts on local food; Green City goes winter.

Happy New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Dilemma of Being a Good Dad

Leftovers (of local food) or take the girlz to Five Guys.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Nothing Says I Love You Better Than Several Loaves of Bread

Freddy's Today

Nice deal. We purchase a pork tenderloin sandwich, change of pace, with the red gravy; a very large prosciutto sandwich on focaccia (so large we bring half home); we get a free sample of several chicken ravioli, alfredo sauce (yum!). Two pops. We leave with three loaves of about the best of its kind, bread in the Chicago area + several more pieces of focaccia.

Note: For a change of pace, and special holiday shopping, Freddy's is open this Sunday. They are also open the day after Christmas.

1600 S 61st Ave
Cicero, IL 60804
(708) 863-9289

More Local Gifts

Via the Stew, a link to a whole host of Illinois food companies. I know some of these people, and would comment more if (or when) I have time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Corruption You Can Use

That's more like it, Blago the Bookie.

Baked Lame at Rodity's

I've heard (more than once) that Rodity's is the place Greeks/Greek-Americans visit more than any other in Chicago's Greektown. Despite my constant quest for authenticity, I have not been there myself. I do like what I see on the menu.

Helen, you missed one way on the bottom of the page, and you wonder why I always say nice things about you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Local Presents

I was talking over the summer to a journalist. I asked why he did not have a blog. He said that he did not think he could do the daily chatter, getting regular posts up thing. He said he feared lists making and the such. I was like, blog filler, lists, holiday presents, top tens, bring it on. No one can fill the Internets with filler like me. I live for the bullet point baby. And what "publication" worth its bytes these days has not published a list of holiday gifts. Only a few of these things below, have come via publicist, so if you want inclusion in next year's tally, start schmoozing me now.

Here's several very good gift ideas for the locavore in your family.

  • Nothing says "I'm with you" to a farmer like a little cash up front. Give the gift of fresh fruits and vegetables each week. Here's a good list of CSAs in the Chicago area. As I have written before, the benefits of a CSA exceed the mere delivery of food.

  • I'm not above paying over $20/lb for cheese, and I love feta cheese, but I've not had it in myself to pay the $20/lb for Hidden Springs Creamery feta. I'm a big fan of all of her cheeses, especially the fresh "Driftless" cheese, but I have not yet sprung for the feta. This is the kinda of over-top gesture that makes an ideal holiday present.

  • The chronocles in Kurt Friese's A Cook's Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland makes the best of holiday presents because it will lead to many finds and adventures as he highlights some of the Midwest's best food people and producers. You can read an excerpt here.

  • Some of the artisans featured in Friese's book are the bootleggers gone legit in Templeton, Iowa. Templeton Rye can be found in Chicago at area Binny's. Rye tastes a bit drier than bourbon, and this whiskey has an appealing smoothness.

  • Find more farmers and artisans by taking one of the Learn Great Foods tours.

  • Make your own farm tour, but combine it with a farm dinner at Prairie Fruits Farms.

  • Drive even further from Chicago to the most ideal place around, Washington Island. Stay at the Washington Hotel or at least have dinner there. Maybe you'll be able to do shots of Death's Door vodka with Martha Bayne.

  • Nothing says I love you to an eat local acolyte than the most essential purchase, a freezer.

  • Fill that freezer with a side of meat. Here's a list of farms in Illinois to get you started.

  • Can anyone in sun-drenched Cali call proscuitto local?

  • Be even more decadent with caviar.

  • It's not so much an eat local present, but it's a good food present nonetheless, à la card chicago is a deck of 52 discount cards for Chicago area restaurants. $30 gets you $10 off each of the places in the deck. With choices ranging from Hot Doug's to Mado to Manny's! as Natasha sez, "it almost ridiculous not to own one." Of course in Nasha's e-mail, she does not say how to get the cards. I got mine at the Family Farmed Expo.

  • There's no shortage of good eat local books. Michael's started a collection over at the Beet. I plan on adding to it soon.

May your holidays be a local holiday!

Eat Local

Quote of the Day
Helen describing China getting around to banning certain chemicals from their foods.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Today's Freddy's Comp

I cannot believe I walked out of Freddy's today for less than $15 (less than $14 but who's counting). A big plate of pasta, pork tenderloin with giardinara, a slice of the porchetta, a big spoonful of roasted potatoes--why mine cannot come out that shade of brown, a roll for sopping and two pops. Some on the house.

It's hard, then to say which I liked best. Like Mado, I do find myself oddly attracted to the bread, Freddy's rolls are that good, but the rest would be blog-worthy if I had to pay for it all.

1600 S 61st Ave
Cicero, IL 60804
(708) 863-9289

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Hard Workin' Woman of Local

Sure, I can eat local food, but these two woman, Robin "Winter" Schirmer and Cassie "Green" Green. Make it happen. Robin had good food at her winter markets last weekend and Cassie has plenty in her store.

She writes in to say her produce aisles include:

Yellow Zucchini
Herbs (just a few)
Who says we cannot eat local in December?

Mado Revealed, More

Great write-up and pictures of about the whole Mado night's menu on LTHForum (kinda reminds me of a certain scene in Diner).

Even before some unnamed family member dropped the camera, I was short on food pics on the blog. I can share my Mado gluttony word-wise, but I trust these pics, likes these pics before, will also give an idea of Mado-goodness.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quote of the Day

Why Helen is the most beloved woman in food blogging, discussing the CTrib's Good Eating section:
With the all-Blagojevich-all-the-time news cycle right now, we were surprised the Trib even ran a food section at all today. But then we learned from Bill Daley's twitter that the Good Eating team plans their story schedule literally a year ahead of time. Therein, we believe, lies the difference between blogging and Legitimate Journalism, because we plan our story schedule approximately twenty seconds before hitting "publish."

The Costs of Local

When that five dollar pint of raspberries goes in one sitting, it's easy to think local food is more expensive. Surely if you price local meat, you will be tempted to turn vegetarian. Still, I contend that local food saves money. Moreover, the price of local food pays back in many ways.

The key factor, more than anything, and Mado, Vie, Lula, etc., aside, local food is about cooking your food. The Chicago Tribune, happy its bankruptcy is now yesterday's news notes the advantages of cooking while talking about my wife's passion, cookbooks:
Cooking at home can be more economical, yes, but that's just the beginning of the bonuses with inspired recipes from a new cookbook. Cooking can bring family members together, it can open a window to other cultures, it can teach kids to become more independent, and it is almost always a more nutritious way to eat.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Who Can Get Any Work Done Today

With this to read.

The Effects of Goose - Latest in Mado Family Dinners

Two Big Thumbs Up

I'm not saying I skipped eating yesterday, but a fairly light dinner of pasta with River Valley mushrooms and leftover beets (Genesis Growers) about did the it for me. My bloodstream was still oozing goose fat, the effects of Sunday night's family dinner at Mado. I'm stuffed.

As I've said before, as good as meals at Mado can be, there's no better way to enjoy the output of Chefs Rob and Allie Levitt than through their family dinner. The theme this time was goose, which like the wild boar previous, was procured by George Rassmussen of Swan Creek Farm. Rob Levitt managed to get the goose, or at least the goose fat, into most everything he served. Allie Levitt wisely restrained herself.

There may be no bigger attraction of the Mado Family Dinner than the all-you-can-eat buffet at the start of the meal. Call me crazy, but this is the one time I can eat as much of Mado's from-scratch (the starter's name is Francine) bread. OK, I'm pretty crazy about the sour cherry mostarda too; yea, and like the four year old a few seats away from me, I also very much enjoyed the goose liver mouse and goose rillettes. Of course one of us took two helpings. Rob mentioned that he had never worked with goose livers not of the fattened type before. So, you do not get that buttery foie thing. Instead, you get animal essence, like all the efforts of that goose had been channeled thought its normally operating liver to show its natural flavor goodness.

It takes much restraint to not simply gorge on charcuterie. I very much love Mado's next course, the vegetable antipasti. I am always so impressed and happy with the things they can do with a few ingredients. Mado seems able to slice up any vegetable thinly, dress it, and make it taste too good. They did this the other night with sunchokes and watermelon radishes. On the other hand, the roasted carrots got a bit of assistance from the goose cracklins.

We moved on to what some might call the primi piatti, which to others would be a meal and a half. Rob braised the lesser cuts of goose, the gizzards, wings, necks, and served it over polenta. To me, the goose tasted nicely Medieval, with some type of ancient spicing, but Rob insisted that it was really just the flavor of the goose as he used only a limited amount of rosemary and sage. My one complaint, the ratio of goose to starch. As good as the goose was, it was a bit too much compared with the polenta, but like I say, I'm also the guy hording the watermelon radish.

Rob places a salad course between his primo and secondo or main course. Frankly, it's always been an odd duck of a course (no pun intended!). Not that the food has not been good--I mean I loved-loved last dinner's apple-fennel-boar bacon salad, but I do not quite agree with the placement of this course. The idea of returning to a salad soon after similar vegetable antipasti seems, well, redundant. I'd suggest Mado put the salad after the main course as a palate refresher. (Me, I would still eat it if that's your fear.) On the other hand, no one much thought of this dinner's salad as a salad anyways. Big tubes of goose sausage about hid the frise component of the dish. Then, buried within, chunks of potato fried in goose fat. Really, this is about as ideal of a dish for my tastes as possible. All the things I like, matched in the ways I like. And like the braised goose, the goose sausage had a taste that said ancien cuisine, something to do with its course yet mushy texture (in a good way!).

Goose showed up in the main course, not just in the spit roasted breasts but in the turnips roasted in goose fat. I'm not sure which one I liked more. I do not believe any goose fat bolstered the carnival squash puree, but I liked that one a lot too. Now, cannot you see why a little green salad would fit in nicely about now.

Instead, we headed full bore into Allie Levitt's handiwork. The slices of sour cherry pie were not so big, but the pastry-ish crust was big in butter. There were two platters of the chocolate ginger cake, one with slices made from a bundt pan, one with slices cut in triangles. I asked Allie which one she thought contained more cake. She said the bundt type slices. Good, as that's the one I had eaten. I'm never going to be unhappy with sour cherry pie, certainly not one made from intense Seedlings cherries, but the spiced cake certainly thematically drove home the meal. An old fashioned dinner for sure.

I had about a third of a bottle of Limoncello with me, and all around me were very happy for its cleansing powers.

Mado's next family dinner will be a New Year's Eve extravaganza. Rob expects to make cotechinno. I've suggested he get some local caviar.

1647 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL
(773) 342-2340
Two Thumbs Up!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Freddy's Revealed

Annmarie at Freddy's today pointed me to this great set of pics of her place.

(BTW, my latest food fantasy is to team up Rob from Mado with Joe from Freddy's.)

Obligatory Freddy's disclosure: lunch of pork sandwich, giardinara, beef gravy; pizza ala Napolina and eggplant in Freddy's red gravy no match for doggy bag Joe sends us home with: pasta with clam sauce and much more eggplant.

1600 S 61st Ave
(between 16th St & 18th St)
Cicero, IL 60804
(708) 863-9289

Deep Thoughts

  1. Roasting beets smell surprisingly good
  2. Local water is nicely cold this time of year

Gosh, I Love Helen

As I eagerly await Sunday's Mado goose dinner, some other goose thoughts crossed my desk. Hear what she has to say!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

New Local Beet Feature Up

The best dressed man on the Local Beet team has turned in his latest dispatch. David "Hat" Hammond talks local with one of the localist of chefs in the area (and future Iron Chef Cheftestant). See what Paul Virant of Vie has to say at the Beet.

Café des Architectes in the Hotel Sofitel, Brunch

How's the Thumb Thing Working?

The VI family, especially the girlz of the VI family, love a good tea, especially a good tea around the winter holidays. One year in search of good tea we discovered the well designed Café des Architectes in the Hotel Sofitel just off of Rush Street. Impressed enough with tea, we returned for what we found to be a stellar brunch. So, when the Thanksgiving weekend denouement required a brunch, Mom and Dad pushed for Mado brunch, but since we had already imposed Thai on younger daughter the night before, we let her have her way with Sofitel. The thumbs gave this one nine, which the wife thinks points out the limitations of the system. In true MikeG-ian fashion, I would say that is exactly the kinda of result that makes the system work. Let's go to the score cards.

Mom - She's happy not doing dishes. She likes upscale-ish types of place. She likes brunch. She's somewhat aghast that from the basket of French pastries brought to the table at the start of the meal--a strong plus for this place--that our younger daughter manages to eat the whole pain au chocolat without giving her a taste. Mom's a bit peeved over certain service flaws, but will leave that to other thumbs. She very much enjoys the brunch sampler consisting of three juice shooters, a four plate combo of scrambled eggs with chorizo (the hard Spanish kind), avocado tian, french toast and smoked salmon, and ending with three mini desserts (pumpkin cheesecake, maple creme brulee and chocolate-orange cake). Mom does note that nothing beats the truffled eggs she had at her first Sofitel brunch, but the cooking overall is very good. Two Thumbs

Dad - Dad...Dad, did someone say local? Dad detects quality ingredients! The salad side on the steak sandwich he splits with daughter is like salad at home. Sauteed fingerling potatoes, while a bit underdone are very sweet. Late research confirms this [ed. such a foodie, you did not even know about the Noguier hire?]. The split thing gets Dad plenty of tastes, but he allows daughter a much bigger portion of steak sandwich. Darn, as it's quite good, both the meat and the meat juice soaked toast. See, there's all sortsa stuff on the brunch sampler daughter avoids like the caviar on top of the avocado and the aforementioned smoked salmon, so she gets more steak. Two Thumbs

Older Daughter - All good. No one complains as much when she eats the entire pan au raisin. Not being Dad, asparagus alongside crabcakes and eggs does not bother her (that much). Two Thumbs

Younger Daughter - Any surprise here? Endless glasses of orange juice (all tables seem to get all-you can drink juice and coffee), the bigger bits of the mini-desserts, pain au chocolate, croissant AND several slices of baguette (don't ignore the last just because there's fancier stuff around). She did not pick this place on a lark. How many thumbs can she give it? Two Thumbs

Elijiah - How would our picky and persnickety friend react to the uniformity of opinion above. Well, Elijiah's here to make sure we see all. He's duly impressed with the look of the place; loves his coffee like they serve it, in French press pots, but also finds said coffee a bit on the weak side. Elijiah demands better service from such a place. He practically holds a stopwatch to the time it takes to clear dirty plates. The way the waiters make the rest of us pass dishes around annoys him too. Like some of the commentators on LTHForum, he's snobbish over anything molded in a ring these days, even if the avocado tian tasted fine. He wants his guacamole deconstructed not Frenchified. And the brioche. While the rest of us found pastries in the basket to love, he found a dry and tired brioche. Elijiah is not happy. One Thumb

Café des Architectes
20 East Chestnut Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Nine Thumbs

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Food - Inventory Update

I've described a bit on the Local Beet how we've been getting the stuff. The only throw-out last week was a yucky cauliflower. Tired arugula and fennel fronds and older celery all went into the stock pot. (Last inventory report here.)

Here's the latest tally.

Tomatoes - Catalina's holdovers

Mushrooms - crimini and oyster

Salsify - The key find at the first winter market, five or so roots worth.

Bok choi - One head; one head of bok choi is not the easiest thing to use

Celery - 4 bunches of heirloom from the first two Fall CSAs; these are mostly for stock and related. I have a batch of vegetable stock in me soon. 1 bunch from Cassie

Brussels Sprouts - 1 bag

Apples - 2 quarts honeycrisp are the current eating apple. In storage: 1/2 bushel fortune, , 1/2 bushel of mutsu, a 1/2 bushel of mixed including northern spy, akane, winesap, courtland, granny smith and a few other varieties; 1/2 bushel of granny smith; 5 lbs of mixing baking (cortland and law rome); 5 lbs of mixed, empire/fuji; 8 large romes (for baked apples) + quart bags of raritan and empire; a quart from Seedlings I'm forgetting which type...

Pears - Several Yali from Orianna, one something from Nichols holding out in the fridge.

Tomatoes - I hit the Green City Market two weeks ago, and a few of the tomatoes purchased are still alive and well. There's some in the attic but let's not talk about them today.

Red bell peppers - All of the last red peppers have been roasted. Some have been packed in oil; the rest in vinegar.

Jalepeno peppers, Serrano peppers, Cayenne peppers, Other hot peppers - poblanos, habeneros, pasillas, etc. - some left - my babies

Sweet peppers (a long green variety) - 6

Beets - 4 larger + 12 or so baby

Rutabagas - Maybe 6

Cabbage - 2.5 larger green; 1 whole red

Garlic scapes - forgotten but amazingly holding up, will make a strange taste of Spring in Fall

Turnips - Several larger and several baby

Radish - Some regular ol' radishes + 2 daikon + 5 or so "easter egg" from Catalina + 6 black radish

Celery root - About 8

Lettuce - 1 bag

Carrots - lots + more from this weekend

Garlic - More than enough as we got a braid of local garlic

Leeks - 6 bunches of 3

Dry onions - Plenty, most of theTropea have been used though + several pounds of cippolini.

Shallots - 5 or so lbs of larger and about 1 lb of smaller

Sweet potatoes - A good amount

Potatoes - 25 or so smaller + 1/2 bag of Yukon gold; when I did the move from basement to attic, I found more potatoes than I thought we had, cool + many heirloom (German butterball, fingerlings, etc.) + several pounds of yukon gold, kennebec, norland; still have not got my 50 lb bag from the wholesaler.

Kohlrabi - 2 large; 2 medium;

Winter squash - 1 large-ish spaghetti; 8 acorn, 4 Mexican style pumpkin, 4 butternut, 8 or so carnival, one white pumkin-ish looking thing.

Spinach - 2 bags worth



Herbs - rosemary, parsley, dill, marjoram, mint, cilantro

Parsley root - 5

Horseradish root

Dry beans including yellow-eye, Great Northern and red kidney - A good amount

Grains - Michigan grown and ground pastry flour; Illinois grown and ground corn meal; Illinois grown and milled all purpose flour; wheatberries + new bag of corn meal, new bag of soft white

Mado's Next Family Dinner - December 7, 2008

I've mentioned before that as much as I like eating at Mado, I like eating best there during the family dinners. While I knew a family dinner was in the works, Rob and Allie were a bit late announcing the details. From a recent e-mail:

it's time for mado's next family dinner!
on sunday, december 7, 2008 we will be featuring goose from swan creek heirloom farm. look forward to goose sausage and spit-roasted goose breast and, of course, allie's amazing desserts. the goose dinner will be 5 courses served family style, beginning at 6pm and will be $65 per person, not inclusive of tax and gratuity.
to reserve seats at the table call or email.
hope to see you there!!


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thai Avenue

VI Restaurant Scale in Action - 8.5 Thumbs

As I explained the other day, this blog has now introduced its soon to be trademarked, patented, talked about late night on WGN, food score. The ten thumb system. We put it to use yesterday at Thai Avenue.

Thai Avenue is not the flat out best Thai restaurant in Chicago (I'd say Spoon with more confidence if it has not been over a year since my last visit there), but for a variety of reasons, it is my family's favorite. Reason's for favorite-ness includes the authority of the flavors and the willingness to help with the menu (and a new picture menu makes getting the Thai-Thai food easier than ever) as well as a special place in blogging memory. Much of the family is also a fan of the lunch specials, but that did not apply to last night's dinner.

The compilation:

Older daughter - She of the cast iron gullet scarfs down on many helpings of bamboo salad done medium + on the heat scale, a wondrous dish of funk and heat. She gobbles down several pieces of Thai fried chicken, likes the chicken laab and the stir fried on-choy too. A solid two thumbs.

Younger daughter - Pouty for a good long while over the very fact of eating Thai food, settles in to a Panag curry after Dad throws a conniption over the mere idea of her getting a plate of lemon chicken. Dad also convinces her that she'll like the on-choy. Besides, there's sticky rice to be had. She does, does and does, but not especially being fan of Thai food, gives it one thumb.

Dad - Dad gets angee-angee over the thought of being at a beloved Thai place and being left out of the ordering. Fit later, he's enraptured with the dishes on the table. Two thumbs.

Mom - Settles down Dad but perhaps hold grudge over not getting noodles--damn Dad has to be "authentic". Likes what she eats but not the order. One and one-half thumbs.

Elijiah - Did not need Elijiah's thumb yesterday. His role played by dinner guest. Dinner guest not into Thai the way Dad's into Thai, but she's quite happy with healthy stir fry, hold various stuff, and won ton soup. Two thumbs.

Thai Avenue
4949 N Broadway
8.5 Thumbs

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A New Year of Thanks Starts Now

Just as I ended my list of thankful's, I get a very new and nice present. Message on my voicemail yesterday from older daughter:
Dad, I just wanted to tell you that my favorite dish at Thanksgiving was your carrot-jalepeno salad.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Another Winter Shopping Option

Although the Oak Park Winter Market is probably more convenient to most of Chicagoland this Saturday, there is also another fine shopping option Saturday and all winter long, the Heritage Prairie Market in Elburn, Illinois.

(NB: No Green City Market this weekend, but a full schedule of Green City Markets all December. And there's always the Geneva superstore on Saturdays all winter.)

On the Heritage Prairie web site, they show what a farmer can do in this winter climate:
The season of Winter
Fall seemed to saunter in and out in a hurry, and we've changed gears into winter farming. Even as snow begins to accumulate on the ground, vegetables keep coming. At this point in winter season, there isn't much light or heat for growing. Beds of spinach and leeks outside won't get bigger but will continue to be harvested through Christmas and after. Inside our four moveable houses are carrots, scallions, kale, and a variety of salad greens. Root crops like beets and storage radishes have all been harvested and will keep for months in cold storage. Raspberries and other fruit trees were planted, along with next year's garlic. This season has also been one of stewardship for the land. Ted, Mike, and Katie have spent time amending the soil with dried leaves (to improve soil structure of heavy clay soil) and gypsum (to provide calcium to balance our heavy magnesium soil). On a side note, the farm team is already choosing side for the HPM Hockey teams. Pre-season training is happening now, as we wait weather cold enough to keep our new ice rink frozen. Look for more details to come as temperatures drop!

A representative from Heritage Prairie was at Green City Market the other day. He had a list of available produce. Pretty good! Here's some highlights:
  • Arugula
  • Cavolo Nero
  • Beets
  • Fennel
  • Chard
  • Lettuces

I have a feeling this winter will be even easier to eat local.

Winter Market This Saturday in Oak Park

Big supply of late season produce expected at this week's winter market in Oak Park. Winter Market @ Pilgrim Church, the same location as the regular farmer's market. Details here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Thanksgiving Hot Dog

+ Introduction of New VI Family Restaurant Scale

People have their cherished Thanksgiving food traditions; a special stuffing, a way with the turkey. Growing up, my mother cooked a good dinner for sure, and when it was not her, it was an almost equally talented Aunt. My mother even has a dish, a cheesy, gooey, 60's style, with canned green olives, corn dish thing that's on the table each year. Still, I have another cherished holiday tradition, one we revised this year, the holiday hot dog. See, each year, while my mother was hard at work, or we were otherwise waiting for the big dinner, we needed a meal. My mother would send me the two blocks away to our neighborhood hot dog stand, Ira's. Even with the big meal ahead, I'd have two Vienna dogs, all the works, minus onions, plus a bag of average fries on Thanksgiving.

This year, maybe because I was reminiscing anyways about the hot dog tradition, but also to reward the hard work that the three girls did raking leaves, we hit a newish hot dog spot not too far from us, Ody's at the intersection of Grand and Austin. I asked someone who looked vaguely in charge (he was not the owner), why they opened here. Ody's is a ground up, orange and red brick, investment of a building, and frankly one that baffles me. The stretch of Grand from Narragansett all the way to maybe Cicero, which Ody's sits in, is like the crash reconstruction center of the city, with endless junkyards, body shops, auto re-builders, window fixers and other related businesses. Perhaps dent and ding men make for a hearty lunch crowd. Perhaps such workers work late hours as Ody's is also a 24/hr operation.

Foodwise, it's striving for a bit of the Maxwell aura with a large, above average Polish saw-sage, grilled onions on top. I'm glad my wife ordered it as I have a reason to return. The hot dogs were only about average, with a skinned snap but also too luke warm, the bun being really too cool. The fries are fresh cut, but to prove some point, very below average. I tried to get them to cook some longer but that did not help in the least.

Now, I was realizing that when I do the occasional restaurant review, I need a gimmick so I can get picked up by Helen and the mmmmm midweek links guys. I cannot do food porn as after losing one camera, my older daughter went and broke the next camera. A new camera is out for at least 2008. I aint gonna wow them with MikeG-esqe wit, nor can I be as stunningly original as Hat Hammond. My odd finds never seem to strike the fancy the way ReneG's does, something I suppose having to do with his damn scholarship. But do they have the VI Family ten thumb system?

The four of us each has a thumb to rate. Then because my wife felt the scale too narrow, I decided to add in the Elijah thumb, two extra thumbs for contingencies, balance and a theoretical ten point scale. And how did it work at Ody's?

Both parents gave it one thumb. The kidz each gave it one and one-half thumbs, insisting that the scale allowed for such measurements, and Elijah gave it one thumb, for a total of 6 thumbs (outta 10).

Ody's Drive Inn
6001 W. Grand Ave., Chicago
6 Thumbs Up

Thankful for Local Food

(Cross posted from the Local Beet, with links galore below)

It aint fun to dwell on bad decisions made over the years. I like to kvel in the good ones, like the one to eat local. Eating local is something I like to celebrate over and over. For the most part (Nigerian eggplants aside), I know we eat exceedingly well in the Bungalow. I know we are doing our part to manage the Earth’s resources and conditions. I also know that I can be confident in my products. I support my community. I support practices that matter to me. Local. I am grateful for those who make the local life possible, better, easier.

I’m not gonna beat around the bush and throw a few ringers up top. Rather, I will start with the best. The local adventure would not be at all possible without the support and assistance of the rest of the Local Family. These are kids that willingly eat the Sheila Special: Wisconsin cranberry cheese, microgreens, jam for lunch all winter long, and they find it cool that Dad packs some tye-dye radish in that lunch. Mom works her butt off. This year she canned bushels and bushels (literally) of tomatoes. Put away spiced peaches and chutnized others. She even realized my long dreamed fantasy of drying our food, doing a few batches of tomatoes. Many an early morning, one arose with me to assist in carrying our food home from the market . We roadtriped to Wisconsin for cheese and spent hours at Detroit’s Eastern Market. Local is a family venture for the Local Family.*

I like nearly every farmer’s market I visit. I discovered this summer that maybe Evanston’s market is technically better than Oak Park’s: more vendors, more of my favorite farmers like Henry’s Farm and Green Acres, organic apples, better bread (grrr–inside Oak Parker thing). Still, I am extremely grateful to have the market we have each Saturday in Oak Park from late May through October. It is a buyers market; I mean it is a market that people actually buy, and it is stocked accordingly. My go to farmer is Vicki and her Genesis Growers, but I love the variety of Nichols, the stone fruits of Hardin Farms, the shelled peas from Stovers, a bunch of fruits, especially berries, from Walt Skibbes, other organic things from Sandhill. I bought my hog from Dennis and Emily Wettstein, and I should buy more cheese than I do from Joe at Brunkow. The greatness of the Oak Park Market got me to eat local in the first place. Could not do it now without it.

This was the year that my local shopping options extended mightily. Winter eating became so much easier–to balance a salad, from any lettuce, even water grown, against a diet of onions and potatoes really helped–because of the emergence of the winter markets thrown together through the hard work of Robin “Winter” and the Church’s Center for Land and People. Robin not only got me food to eat in the darkest months, she introduced me to a bunch of local products I did not know like Ted’s Grain’s from near DeKalb.

Robin was not the only woman working her tootsie off, making local food more available to greater Chicagoland. Cassie opened Green Grocer, the only store in Chicago with it’s raison d’etre as local food. As much as I like farmer’s markets, I also want local food available seven days a week, through normal retail hours. Besides carrying farmer’s produce, Cassie carries the full array of local foodstuffs: Blue Marble Dairy milks, Trader’s Point Creamery yogurts, Mint Creek lamb, local eggs, pastries baked up by the very large Bruno clan. She manages to get a lot into a not very large space.

My wife and I stumbled into the best program of local food this summer when we happened to stop by the Eli’s Cheesecake Farmer’s Market. For several weeks in July and August, they presented a local superstar: Lloyd Nichols of Nichol’s Farm; Terra Brockman of the Land Connection, Stan Schutte of Triple S Farm, local food activist, Lynn Peemoeller. My wife and I made it a point to be there each week to learn.

OK, when I say best, maybe it was the free cheesecake they plied us with, the closeness to the speakers, and the whole seridipitous nature of finding the program, but the Eli’s Cheesecake series does have some competition for local food program top-ness; that would be last week’s Family Farmed Expo. You’ve read a lot about it already, and expect to read more about it one of these days.

And, I’m running on forever. There’s much to be thankful for. I’m glad to live only a few hours from the nation’s best market in Madison; glad that my local boundary includes so many fine cheeses, glad that there is a newly expanded cheese store in Oak Park (Marion Street); glad that in nearly everywhere I turn, I can find better products by finding the local products.

I cannot stop. What about all the local chefs. I’m not just grateful for the good things Rob and Allie do in the kitchen at Mado, I’m quite grateful for the opportunity they are giving my wife to assist them. I always admire the things Paul Virant does at Vie. Lula’s really expanded the local food on their menu and it shows.

MikeG has given local food a much wider platform with his well recieved Sky Full of Bacon podcasts.

I’m quite grateful to the groups that gave me a platform this year to spread the message of local eating; the League of Woman Voters, Dilettante Ventures, Highland Park Cable Access (!); Midwest Foodways Alliance, Oak Park Temple, MENSA, the Chicago Tribune; WBEZ, the Oak Leaves, and the aforementioned Family Farmed.

Finally, obviously, to Michael and the Local Beet for putting a little more ooph, a lot more design and resources into the local eating publishing industry. I’m quite happy blogging here, and I look forward to many future posts.

Happy Thanksgiving

*SPECIAL BONUS COMMENTS FROM THE REST OF THE LOCAL FAMILY: “those Nigerian egglants were the worst things we ever ate” “it’s so embarrasing getting weird food in our lunches” “it’s so boring all the time at the markets” “why do you use aint in your writing” “we are never going near another Nigerian eggplant the rest of our lives” “can we just go to Five Guys”

Sad News This Week

Just when I am putting the finishing touches on a post on all the things I am thankful for, I am sobered up with this e-mail reported on MikeG's web site on a fire in Wisconsin destroying the hard work of Arie McFarlan, raiser of the rare mulefoot pig.

It is with the deepest and most profound grief that I write this message. At 5:30am November 19th, 2008, we awoke to our beautiful 100 year old gambrel barn engulfed in flames. Trapped within the barn was my beloved stallion, several rare Mulefoot hog sows with their litters of piglets, an extremely rare Wessex saddleback boar, a favorite guinea hog boar and all of my dearly loved cats. Although we made attempts to rescue our animals, we were unable to save any from the barn.

We were able to run pigs from their pens near the barn to the pastures and get them away from the heat & flames. Many animals in these pens were burned and have suffered smoke inhalation. Though it is several days after the fire, we are still losing animals we have been nursing and trying to save.

The fire burned with such intensity that it caught a large tree and our new barn on fire as well. The firemen were able to save our new barn, but our gambrel was a complete loss. The fire marshal reported that the fire was burning in excess of 2000 degrees due to the way the metal items in the barn melted and puddled. The fire was apparently caused by a failure in the main power breaker. When the power transformer began to melt, we lost power to the whole farm. This also left us without water, as our well is pumped by electricity.

All of our feed (approximately 1000 bales of alfalfa), our tools, watering troughs & feeders, buckets, piglet pens, fencing supplies, power cords, winter heaters, saddles & horse gear, construction materials for our new barn and so much more were completely destroyed.

We cannot replace our rare breed pigs. They simply do not exist. Our work for nearly ten years has been to preserve and save these breeds of pigs. We cannot begin to express our sense of loss over these animals, not just from our lives, but from all future generations.

This tragedy has made it even more clear to us that these rare breeds are in a very precarious situation. At any moment, a disaster, accident or disease could take yet another species from this planet.

Our friends have already begun to rally around us and offer support. We have received many calls and emails from the folks at Slow Food USA, Animal Welfare Institute, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and Dakota Rural Action. Because of this outpouring of encouragement, we feel compelled to persevere and insure that future generations are able to raise and enjoy these breeds, and that biodiversity amongst pigs is preserved.

The Endangered Hog Foundation has been established to help us rebuild and to help continue work with endangered pig breeds. We fully intend to carry on with our DNA research, breeding program, establishing new breeders and promotion of endangered pigs. We have already begun the process of cleaning up the debris and will begin construction of a facility to continue working with our pigs as soon as spring arrives in South Dakota. Temporary measures to provide for the pigs during the upcoming winter are underway.

*We need your help*. Our immediate needs are for physical labor to help with clean up and building temporary shelter to winter the pigs. Additionally, we need to find a source for alfalfa hay square bales, to obtain portable shelters for the pigs due to farrow in early 2009, hog equipment and hand tools.

Donations can be sent to the “Endangered Hog Foundation” in care of Maveric Heritage Ranch Co. at the address below or through the link on our web page at

Thank you to everyone who has offered support. I cannot describe how it feels to stand in a place of profound grief and intense gratitude at the same time. We will carry on through the love and support of our friends.

Endangered Hog Foundation
Maveric Heritage Ranch Co.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bloggy Goodness

Great new stuff on the Beet.

I always say that when I ditch the last twenty-five pounds around my midriff, I'm gonna write a million dollar, best selling diet book. After all, who'll buy such a book from a chubby guy. On the other hand, and I hope she does not mind me saying this, but Melissa has quite the, er, integrity to offer diet suggestions. She has some great tips on the Local Beet.

Michael found someone (perhaps?) totally new to the Chicago online food world. Brad Moldofsky is our resident gardener, and he introduces himself here. I am fairly convinced I am going to try to add the local to my local food next year with a bit of a garden myself, so I really look forward to the online assistance.

Gettin' Thankful Early

While others around me will be whipping up big dinners, I plan on, tomorrow, whipping up a big post here and on the Local Beet on all the things I am thankful for (at least foodwise). High on that list will be the existence of Cassie Green and her invaluable Green Grocer. Still, before getting to that list, I want to put the word out from Cassie that she has tons of local produce and great locally made breads in store now. You can do no worse than have your last minute shopping needs met by our town's localist of stores.

Eat Seasonal Food - Winter Squash

Like every aspiring food producer in town [ed. and out?], I'm pitching video projects at local food celebrity MikeG. While at lunch yesterday, the Sky Full of Bacon auteur confessed that he does not use winter squash in his repertoire. He blames it on Home Grown Wisconsin having sold out of their CSA shares. "If I was forced to use it, via my CSA, I'd use it," he says. Or was it just not porky enough Mr. G.

The world of winter squash is indeed a bit daunting. Besides the whole, bake long enough just to get it soft enough to slice in half so you can bake long enough to peel issues, there are other issues associated with winter squash. Namely, what the heck will they taste like after all that trouble. See, although we call a lot of products winter squash, inside they are really three different veg. As today's NYTimes notes, even experts do not always agree on the profiles of various squash. Still, the article gives it a try.

Winter squash are one of the best things to have in a local house as they last nearly forever, with little effort needed in food preservation. Surprisingly enough, for a product associated with winter and cold and storage and such, I find that Sephardic Jewish--it seems that pumpkin's an especially Jewish veg in some parts of the world, Italian, and North African cookbooks are great sources for zucca recipes. There you go MikeG, instead of cooking something as mundane as winter squash, how 'bout you try something exotic like zucca.

Round Steak?

So, yesterday I went to the basement freezer for some meat. How could we stay a locavore family if my wife was grumbling about Kuma's. I'd make burgers to keep her. The 1/2 frozen state of the meat at dinner time, however, led to my version of keema instead of burgers with my secret sauce. But that's neither here nor there for the question at hand. As the supply of Bessie dwindles, we are left with the odds and ends, especially the round steaks. I found three packages of round steak on my way to ground beef yesterday. What does one do with round steak.

It's not that I keep kosher, nor have I had any trouble finding uses for the sirloin or other cuts from that end of the cow, but the round steak, for whatever reasons, seems like an especially foreign cut to me, goyish to me, or at least rural to me [ed. which is a more PC way to say it?].

Advice on the round steak much appreciated. NB: these are round steaks, not roasts or anything else.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Benefits of Bayless

One of the best things about this weekend's Family Farmed Expo was the Rick Bayless demo. We got an easy to make, seasonal recipe, and we got needed advice on where to hide some of the babies.

Bayless spent most of the time on a potato soup. We got to sample, so I can tell you it's good, but he other thing he made, we made last night, a zip, zap zooey of a dish, and I can tell you it's good too. As I keep on reminding people, there is still food very much in season and very much at its seasonal peak. Not many plants take to cold better than spinach. We picked up a bunch from a farmer at the Expo. Rick told us what to do with it. Make tacos.

His method: he sautees chorizo with some onions, flavors with rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt (truth be told, our Supremo chorizo was so nicely seasoned, we did not do much else with it); then throw the stuff over the pile of washed spinach. Serve in tacos with some salsa, queso fresco and such. I made a quick salsa fresca with a few of my lingering tomatoes, a jalepeno, a tropea onion minced, lemon juice and some cilantro I've recently picked (another cold weather fan). Sliced radishes provided a nice crunch. See.

For some peppers, I did not get a chance to ask Rick, but I asked his sous chef. I was like, what the heck do I do with all these habeneros I still have. Freeze she said. I did. (Full list of frozen foods here.)

I got my money's worth from the Bayless demo at the Expo.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Eat Local Thanksgiving and Other Upcoming Holidays

At the Family Farmed Expo panel on Thanksgiving, us locavores did not talk much about the upcoming holiday. Rather, we talked about living the local life generally, including how much Whole Foods could meet that need. There are options available still for a local Thanksgiving. See my latest Local Beet post.

At the Slow Foods booth at the Expo, they would not give me a copy of their holiday meat listing. They did not tell me it's online. It may not be of help for a Thanksgiving bird, but the sources can probably provide meat for Hanukkah and Christmas.

As I mentioned on the Beet, I will soon post some local holiday drinking tips.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Live Bloggin' the Expo

I'm gonna try to check in a few times over the course of the next few days from the Family Farmed Expo. Results at the Local Beet.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I'm glad I'm on Helen's good side (for now, what she could say about my editing skills...). See here for some of the less fortunate at the very indispensable MenuPages Chicago.

Deep Thought

Opening a new jar of "good" peanut butter is not nearly as much fun as that first stab of Jiffy.

Cool Weather Crops Available

Daily Herald discovers local food still around (h/t Ronnie Suburban)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Local Food Inventory

Subtraction by Subtraction

As I mentioned on the Local Beet, the VI family went through one of its periodic local food purges. Too much ambition, too much travel, too much working, too much love buying. It was worst than first reported; yesterday I found more crappy food: collards, a few too soft pears, the rest of the grapes. We've subtracted quite a bit from the inventory, but we always manage to buy. Here's where we stand today. (Last report here.)

Strawberries - Yes, local strawberries (indoor grown). I managed to squirrel away two pints from Robin at last week's winter market. These are not truly part of the inventory as they've all been eaten, some cooked into pancakes. Not the world's greatest strawberries but not as bad as supermarket either.

Fennel - I took half of Robin's strawberries but all of her fennel. On Sunday, I slow cooked the two heads for fennel marmalade, which has not been eaten. I've saved a bit of the stems/fronds for stock.

Salsify - The key find at the first winter market, five or so roots worth.

Bok choi - Last week's CSA contained one head; one head of bok choi is not the easiest thing to use

Celery - 4 bunches of heirloom from the first two Fall CSAs; these are mostly for stock and related. I have a batch of vegetable stock in me soon.

Brussels Sprouts - Enough to fill a newspaper bag x 3

Cucumbers - I think there's one somewhere in the fridge. Could be more purge material.

Arugula - 1 bags, but some of questionable quality. Stock!

Apples - Each week of the fall CSA has included apples, but those are mostly gone. In storage: 1/2 bushel of mutsu, a 1/2 bushel of mixed including northern spy, akane, winesap, courtland, granny smith and a few other varieties; 1/2 bushel of granny smith; 5 lbs of mixing baking (cortland and law rome); 5 lbs of mixed, empire/fuji; 8 large romes (for baked apples) + quart bags of raritan and empire; a quart from Seedlings I'm forgetting which type...

Pears - Five bosc pears and some Asian

Tomatoes - I hit the Green City Market two weeks ago, and a few of the tomatoes purchased are still alive and well. There's some in the attic but let's not talk about them today.

Red bell peppers - All of the last red peppers have been roasted. Some have been packed in oil; the rest in vinegar.

Green bell peppers - About 2 or 3

Jalepeno peppers - Tons (still)

Serrano peppers - Some

Cayenne peppers - 1 pint, but letting them dry

Other hot peppers - poblanos, habeneros, pasillas, etc. - tons - my babies

Beets - Most of my beets have been roasted and eaten or have gone to mold, but about six holding out.

Rutabagas - Maybe 6

Cabbage - 3 larger green; 1 whole red

Garlic scapes - forgotten but amazingly holding up, will make a strange taste of Spring in Fall

Turnips - We keep on getting turnips in our CSA boxes. I've steamed some. We also have some from long ago that might still be edible.

Radish - 1/2 beauty heart; some regular ol' radishes + 2 daikon

Celery root - About 8

Cauliflower - 1 head

Eggplants - The skinny had been around for weeks. I roasted them on Sunday, not the best of foods but passable. The several of the globe eggplants that I had plans for did not make it. The Nigerian eggplants, I bake tonight.

Lettuce - 2 bags

Carrots - lots

Garlic - More than enough as we got a braid of local garlic

Leeks - 6 bunches of 3

Dry onions - Plenty, including some Tropea and several pounds of cippolini.

Shallots - 5 or so lbs of larger and about 1 lb of smaller

Sweet potatoes - A good amount

Potatoes - 25 or so smaller + 1/2 bag of Yukon gold; when I did the move from basement to attic, I found more potatoes than I thought we had, cool + many heirloom (German butterball, fingerlings, etc.) + several pounds of yukon gold, kennebec, norland

Kohlrabi - 2 large; 2 medium; I thought I used the greens when I made the rest of our collards yesterday, but a check of the upstairs fridge finds them out and about.

Winter squash - 1 large-ish spaghetti; 8 delicata; 8 acorn, 4 Mexican style pumpkin, 4 butternut + 2 butternut that have already been souped, soup 1/2 drunk.

Herbs - rosemary, parsley, dill, marjoram, mint, cilantro

Parsley root - 5

Dry beans including yellow-eye, Great Northern and red kidney - A good amount

Grains - Michigan grown and ground pastry flour; Illinois grown and ground corn meal; Illinois grown and milled all purpose flour; wheatberries

Now You've Done It - The Scary Parts

Sky Full of Bacon 06: There Will Be Pork (Pt. 2)

Well, this is the video we have all been waiting for. MikeG takes us deep into the heart of darkness to (almost) witness the critical act between farm and table. What we do not see, we feel through the thoughtful words of Lula's Jason Hammel (who also provides an interesting twist on the celery of all things).

I think it is good and important to have seen your food in its natural state. I certainly got to see my cow on the prairie before she became my gobs and gobs of kefta. I'm not as certain it is necessary to witness the slaughter or as Jason says, take the next step at DO the slaughter. Still, I think it is good and important to see the process, as we can, through the lens of Sky Full of Bacon. A real service to all.

In tribute to the woman who is the master of the re-cap, go read Helen's comment's on Mike's There Will be Pork Part 1. and the resulting dinner.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Latest in Local Beet News

Introducing the The Sustainable Cook By Melissa Graham

Before I headed to Austin Texas, I promised a few new items at the Local Beet. Foremost, I mentioned that the Beet was adding a dynamic voice that would greatly expand the ideas presented. Melissa debuts her new blog on the Local Beet today. The spirit of her intentions are captured:
We can impact the food world in big ways, by making lots of good small decisions everyday. This feature, the Sustainable Cook, will provide information and tips to help you make these good decisions. If we all were to make even some small changes each day, we would go a long way to healing our planet
Make the Sustainable Cook part of your regular reading.

You can also find Melissa blogging here, including some great use for bubbly.

Volunteer for Family Farmed Expo

You all know I'm very in to this forthcoming Family Farmed Expo. Well, I know that volunteers are still needed. Volunteer for a 2 hour shift at the Kidz Corner and get free admission to this great local food festival. From Purple Asparagus:
On Saturday November 22 and Sunday November 23 from 11-4, Purple Asparagus will again be organizing the Expo's Organic Kids Activity Corner where you and your kids can have some fun while learning about sustainable foods. There will be crafts, face painting, story time, a reading corner of books related to food, farming nature, tastings of local food and a label reading discussion.

If you'd like to volunteer, contact Melissa Graham at

Tomorrow's Mado News Today

I probably do not need a trip to the Green City Market tomorrow, but two of my favorite chefs are doing a demo there. Come meet Mado's Rob and Allie Levitt and see what seasonal dishes they have to show. It's a full day at Green City, with well known cookbook author Sheila Lukins, signing her new book, TEN: All the Foods We Love and the Perfect Recipes for Each. Mado at 10:30; Silver Palate at 11.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Get a CSA

Local Beet Editor in Chief Michael Morowitz is very enamored with the Home Grown Wisconsin CSA he subscribed to this year. He summarizes the experience, with totals, at the Beet.

Me, whenever I hear discussion of a CSA, I have to give my lecture on all the great ancillary benefits of belonging to a CSA. Here's my comment to Michael's post
Gosh I wish I could be so organized! Very well done.

I've said this many a-time around the internets. I really enjoy and appreciate being part of CSA even as I have certain CSA reservations. Like you, I enjoy cooking, cooking new things and having a base of material. I also enjoy (maybe too much see forthcoming blog post) shopping. I like the challenge of cooking what is there, but I also like the pleasure in finding something at the market. If nothing else, I rue two things about CSAs. First, the quality of one particular item is often screwy, like not really enough kale. Second, there's always somethin' I'm not wild for, mostly an Asian green-ish type thing.

That all said, I would not even consider ditching my CSA. The most important thing about a CSA, it aligns you with a farm and a farmer. You are there when she needs you. She is there when you need her. It is altruistic, but beneficial too. To paraphrase something Michael Pollan said, by belong to a CSA, you learn about the real and true issues that affect farmers and affect our food. The forced interchanged from a CSA from country mouse to city mouse helps all.

A CSA helps in other ways. It affords one, typically, a chance to visit a farm, learn more. At times, a CSA might get produce too limited for other outlets. CSA subscribers earn extra benefits. The biggest one, I believe is ongoing access to the CSA, including access to other wise closed CSAs such as off-season CSAs.

Michael's done a good job of selling a CSA. Hopefully, I've sold some of the side benefits.
Remember #7 in the chai of local is subscribe to a CSA.

Family Farmed Expo Program Announced!

100's of Locavores, Chefs, Politicians, Activists, Retailers, Wholesalers, Farmers, Distillers, Butchers, Bakers and Candlestick Makers (and Combinations Thereof)

If you have any interest in local food. Cooking it. Eating it. Finding it. Selling it. Building better systems. Getting better items. The impact on the environment. The impact on the government. Having your restaurants more green. Having your shops and such more greeen. Cassie Green. Green grass beef. Green grass dairy. In the city, in the fields, on the farms. On your plate, in your glass. For the everyday. For the holidays. Fresh food fall all. In your school, in your store, at your neighbor's house next door. Learn it. Live it. Love it. Family Farmed Expo 2008.

I am quite pleased to be involved with Family Farmed 2008's gigantic festival of local food being held this forthcoming weekend, November 21 through November 23 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph. I will participate in a panel on November 23, hosted by my friend and favorite food reporter, Monica Eng, on making your holidays more local. In addition, I will reporting on the event, perhaps live blogging it, for the Local Beet.

This Expo serves several purposes. Foremost, it is a celebration of the foods and farmers of the Great Lakes. You can meet the people growing the food. Meet the people shaping the food into quality manufactured goods. Some of the most famous chefs in Chicago, Rick Bayless, Gayle Gand, Paul Kahan will teach you how to make best use of the foods. The whole local, local food world will come together for a localicious party on Friday Night. Beyond celebrating, it's about educatin'. It is about better reaching the consumer, better reaching the institutions. It's about the tiny, like growing your own patch of food, and it is about the whole, like the food systems in Illinois; from greening your backyard to greening the great big earth. The Family Farmed Expo is bringing them all together. It's got me impressed.

Wait. There's More. There will be a farmer's market, reminding you that even in late November, there is plenty of local food to be had as well as introducing you to foods you did not know could be had. There will be exhibitions by local manufacturers who create outstanding products. For the young uns, there will be a kidz area run by Purple Asparagus. No one's gonna walk away bored.

Keep your eyes peeled on these pages and the Local Beet for more information on the Family Farmed Expo. Please come out to see me chat. For a long time, I have been extolling the virtures and pleasures of the eat local lifestyle. Here's a chance to get yourself into it as well.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

ABC 7's Hungry Hound Covers Local Farmer

Meet My Farmer, Farmer Vicki

I should hardly say I have one farmer. I buy a ton of stuff from Chad Nichols at the Thursday Eli's Cheesecake market. I divide my fruit purchases between Hardin and Skibbes at Oak Park. I would buy more from Henry's Farm and Beth Ecles's Green Acres if given the opportunity, but then there is Farmer Vicki's Genesis Growers. She supplies me with a weekly box, Spring, Summer AND fall. The dead of winter, she's been known to have a stash or two of greenhouse veg for sale. We also get our eggs from her, our chicken, and we still eat from a cow she raised. She opens her farm to me a few times each season, and even has let me work it. Meet her in Steve Dolinsky, the Hungry Hound's, latest video.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mikes Cover Hog

Newest in Sky Full of Bacon (and Reader)

Not satisfied with starting with a stagnant hog head, Mike Gebert teamed up with the Reader's Mike Sula to follow three mulefoot hogs from farm to table. Sula's been writing about this for a while and does an excellent summation in the latest issue of the Reader. Go here for various versions of Mike G's mulefoot video (part 1).

This is not just an adventure in local eating, nor a behind the scene look at some top chefs at work. Rather, it is crucial and critical viewing and reading to accept what one does in the cause of deliciousness let alone for basic consumption.

Today's Mado News

Antipasto Lunch at One of the Reader's Best New Restaurants

Mado announces their antipasto lunch:
from 11am until 2:30pm tuesday through friday, we will be offering an antipasti platter. It will feature our vegetable antipasti, seafood antipasti and charcuterie, and will come with house-made bread and grain mustard. the platter will be $29 and will generously feed two or more.

The Reader names Mado one of its best new restaurants for 2008. From Mike Sula's original review:
Mado By the time you’ll be reading about what I ate at Allison and Rob Levitt’s minimalist Wicker Park restaurant, you may have to wait until next year to try some of it. That’s because much of the menu at Mado, in the space formerly housing Barcello’s, reads like a shopping list for the week’s Green City Market. Preparations are simple, with all due reverence given to the superior quality of the ingredients, raised by an A-list of regional agrarian rock stars.

Next Mado news? The latest in farm dinners.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

November 16 2008 4:30 - 6 PM - Unity Temple, Oak Park

Eating local IS about getting the best food; not just the food that tastes best, but the food that best serves your greater community. That community includes our wide blue earth. Us locavores believe we aid the earth by keeping our diets mostly local. There are many other ways to eat that reduce your carbon footprint; hence having an impact on global warming. This Sunday, in Oak Park, Jill Ovnik will speak on ways to eat that help the environment.

Unity Temple is at 875 Lake Street, Oak Park. RSVP to Additional Information can be found at The Power of 10 or the Low Carbon Diet.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On the Local Beet

Why 18

Ever get a check from a Jewish friend for $54. You scratch your head. $54. But it's three times chai, that's why! See, all Hebrew letters also have numerical values. This means you can add up the letters in a word to get a number. A lucky word, chai (pronounced with a hard ch), adds up to 18--chai, by the way, means life. Since chai = 18; 18 = life. As the Torah states, choose life, etc., etc., Let's just say, we Jews have a thing for 18.

I had been asked to put together a tip sheet on local eating for a conference being put together by the Union of Reform Judaism on green issues. I made a top ten list of ways to eat local. Then, one of my daughters came up with the very bright idea of making it a list of chai, 18. With a bit of editing, it's now the latest feature on the Local Beet.

Although I am currently in Austin, Texas, I did just finish up a post I started the other day on the much fun myself and my two daughters had shopping the winter market and eating Top Notch Beefburgers. Lotsa other local family news in that post including brunch at Mado, forthcoming liquor license at Cassie's Green Grocer, and events this week and in a few weeks.

I'll try to check in again during the week. In fact, if I feel ambitious, I'll update the inventory after much shopping last week (i.e. this).

Friday, November 07, 2008


I shall probably be off-line, or infrequently online over the next week as I forsake local food for Texas BBQ. Please stay tuned to the the Beet; lotsa new developments:
  • Our resource pages are starting to come online. The great thing about the resources, is that the information is culled from our personal experiences, not just from Google.
  • We should have an additional blogger up soon. A great and dynamic voice, and one that will greatly expand the ideas presented on the Local Beet.
  • Since you will be longing for my stellar version of "prose", there should be an article by me up soon on the Local Beet feature page.
  • Michael beet (haha, get it) me to posting on the NYTimes great article on root cellars. We will continue to speak and report on how one can cellar and cold store on the Local Beet. You can also chart the inventory here.
  • All the rest of the Local Family news in my latest blog post there.

Talk to you soon. Eat well!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Getting to, er, Michael Pollan

Department of Better Late Than

The VI family gets two papers each Sunday, the CTrib and the NYTimes. From these, I am surest to read the Trib's sport section (not missing the weekly poker column). Next in priority is usually the Times Travel section. Leisure brings, in no particular order, the Times Book Review, the Trib Travel, the Week in Review, the front sections and maybe something in business and style. From there, onward. These days, because I try to make Sunday a, well if not at least a work day, but a productive day, I do not get too deep into my papers. Instead, around Sunday night, I start parsing and sorting and saving for some other time, as our recycler comes on Monday morning. Hopefully, in the week to come, I will get to my paper parts. A long story to say that I saved Michael Pollan's recent food polemic to re-jigger our food system, but never got around to reading it. Luckily, I happened today, to run across Michael Ruhlman's summary of Pollan's solutions to the problems in our food system.

For you readers who might bookmark Ruhlman with the idea of going back (and then, of course going back to Pollan), here's my summary of the summary. Some really good and urgent things that should happen.

—Train a new generation of farmers, spread them throughout the land, and make farming a revered profession.
—Preserve every acre of farmland we have and make it accessible to these farmers.
—Build an infrastructure for a regional food economy—one that can encourage and support the farms and distribute what they grow (rebuild or create regional distribution systems).
—Provide cities grants with which to build structures for year-round farmers markets.
—Create local meat-inspection corps so that we can create more regional slaughter facilities, perhaps the biggest impediment to our being able to find local hand raised meat. (This is huge.)
—Food stamp debit cards should double in value when swiped at a framers’ market; give farmers’ market vouchers to low-income women and children (why does he exclude men, I wonder; a different subject perhaps).
—Make changes in our daily lives: teach children how to cook; plant gardens in every primary school and equip them with kitchens; pay for culinary tuitions (or forgive loans) by requiring culinary graduates to give some service back to such undertakings such as teaching kids how to cook; increase school lunch spending by $1 a day; grow more of our own food and prepare and eat our food together at a table; accept the fact that food may be more expensive and eat less of it.

Do read what Ruhlman has to say, but do, especially, read what Pollan has to say.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sob Time

Weep here.

Winter Markets Soon!

This weekend brings the Chicago area the first of two winter markets organized by my hard working friend Robin "Winter" and the team at the Churches Center for Land & People.

  • Chicago / Beverly - Saturday November 8, 2008 - 9am to 1pm - - Church of the Holy Nativity - 9300 S. Pleasant Ave.. Chicago, IL 60643

  • Elgin - Sunday November 9, 2008 - 1pm to 3pm - Unitarian Universalist Church of Elgin
    39W830 Highland Ave., Elgin, IL 60124

A wide variety of local foodstuffs should be available at these markets:

• Grass- & grain-fed beef
• Pastured pork
• Free-range chicken
• Mushrooms
• Milled flour & cornmeal
• Goats' milk soap
• Natural tilapia
• Honey
• Basil & other herbs
• Swiss chard, lettuce, kale & other greens
• Onions, garlic & shallots
• Sweet basil vinaigrette
• Raw fibers, yarns & woolen goods
• Yogurt
• Potatoes
• Eggs
• Tomatoes & bell peppers
• Root vegetables
• Hot peppers
• Winter Squash
• Apples & cider
• Beauty & spa products
• Salsas, sauces & preserves
• Infused vinegars, herb blends & rubs
• Cheese & cheese curds
. . . and much more!

There is no reason local eating has to stop. By the way, I recommend that you sample the delicious brunch at the Beverly market, but also save room for two of my area favorites: Top Notch Beefburger and Cupid Candies.

The New (Local) Beet

Redesign out. Catch the Beet!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Eat Local Now and Forever

Inventory Update

When the Localbeet's new design is up and running, you can see how this local family has continued to build its inventory for now and the foreseeable future. We eat some, set much aside, and process other to make it last. Some of the processing makes it last a lot longer, some of the processing makes it last a bit longer. For instance, of the last red bell peppers arriving, some went into the freezer, others were roasted and oiled and still more were roasted and vinegar-ed. Half our giant stalk of Brussels sprouts was shredded, a Mado inspired dish to last a bit. Another Mado dish my wife loves to make is Delicata squash, roasted, which will also last a bit. The tomatillos in the fridge finally went into salsa, and then, some of our large stock of beets were roasted and marinated. The full accounting of what's been processed is here.

The inventory of raw foods is below. We won't be starving for a while, but I worry that its staying too warm for all of my keepers.

Bok choi - 2 large heads

Celery - 2 bunches of heirloom

Brussels Sprouts - Enough to fill a newspaper bag

Cucumbers - 2

Arugula - 3 bags

Apples - Cox orange pippen for immediate eating, then another six or so in the weekly CSA + 1/2 bushel of mutsu, a 1/2 bushel of mixed including northern spy, akane, winesap, courtland, granny smith and a few other varieties; 1/2 bushel of granny smith; 5 lbs of mixing baking (cortland and law rome); 5 lbs of mixed, empire/fuji; 8 large romes (for baked apples) + quart bags of raritan and empire.

Pears - About 15 lbs left including 8 new Asian pears from Oriana, the papple lady, (sold via Green Grocer Chicago)

Grapes - A big handbasket is mostly full of grapes in our downstairs fridge - Somewhat forgotten

Tomatoes - All of the red tomatoes have been eaten; the keeper tomatoes did not keep, but we have a bunch of green tomatoes to process or fry

Red bell peppers - About 8 or so medium peppers

Green bell peppers - About 4 or 5

Jalepeno peppers - Tons

Serrano peppers - Some

Cayenne peppers - 1 pint, but letting them dry

Other hot peppers - poblanos, habeneros, pasillas, etc. - tons

Beets - Maybe 24 smaller and 16 larger

Rutabagas - Maybe 6

Cabbage - 2 larger green; 1 whole red

Garlic scapes - forgotten but amazingly holding up, will make a strange taste of Spring in Fall

Turnips - 2 large white, 3 red "salad" turnips plus a dozen or so sitting around since last spring

Radish - 1 beauty heart; some French breakfast radishes, some regular ol' radishes + 2 daikon

Collard greens - 2 bunches

Celery root - About 8

Cauliflower - 1 head

Eggplants - 1 large, about 8 Nigerian red and 8 or so skinny

Lettuce - bag

Carrots - lots

Garlic - More than enough as we got a braid of local garlic

Leeks - 6 bunches of 3

Dry beans including yellow-eye, Great Northern and red kidney - A good amount

Dry onions - Six or so smaller red; two quarts red torpedo, about five Tropea, several pounds of cippolini; 22 lbs of yellow + more red torpedo

Shallots - 5 or so lbs

Sweet potatoes - A good amount

Potatoes - 25 or so smaller + 1/2 bag of Yukon gold; when I did the move from basement to attic, I found more potatoes than I thought we had, cool + many heirloom (German butterball, fingerlings, etc.) + several pounds of yukon gold, kennebec, norland

Kohlrabi - 2 large; 2 medium

Winter squash - 1 large-ish spaghetti; 8 delicata; 6 acorn, 4 Mexican style pumpkin, 4 butternut

Herbs - rosemary, parsley, thyme, mint, oregano, marjoram, dill

Parsley root - 5

Grains - Michigan grown and ground pastry flour; Illinois grown and ground corn meal; Illinois grown and milled all purpose flour

Friday, October 31, 2008

Up Beet

For those looking for their Local Family update, the Local Beet is down for now and for maybe the next couple of days, as we roll out our updated design. I think you will be well impressed with the new look, so stay tuned at

I've already jotted down on the Beet, what I got at a last farmer's market yesterday (Eli's Cheesecake) as well as what came in the last summer CSA box. You should be able to see the notes as soon as the Beet is up again. I'll need those notes to update the inventory. It's a week behind.

I did update the preservation list after putting up some red peppers in the freezer this AM.

The Chicago area has at least two farmer's markets this weekend. Green City is not even thinking about closing yet, although it will be in its late fall location, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Bill Kim of the hot on the scene Urban Belly is doing a demo this Saturday. Evanston is also up and running for one last week. If I was not committed to the food pantry, I would really like to be here tomorrow.

Whether you want to make the run to Madison tomorrow or not, the Harmony Valley web site gives a very good indication of just how much stuff is still out there this time of year.

Last, don't fret if you cannot make these last markets, you got plenty of options.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Much to Eat at Mado

I've mentioned at, that as much as I love Mado, I love it best when offered up family style. I have had the privilege of being there for both of Mado's "Family Dinners", multi-course affairs built around a theme and a farmer. The first one was a harvest dinner, with Nick Nichols of Nichols Farm. Last night it was George Rassmussen of Swan Creek Farm and a wild boar he procurred. I've enjoyed about all my eating at Mado, but I probably enjoy it most at the family dinners.

Like a Chinese banquet, Mado's family dinners operate on the principle that each dish is merely a cog. That the meal comes from the entirety of dishes served, each part playing off another. What's more, there are two more ways that these meals remind me of Chinese banquets. First, there is a mindfulness to the meals. It is not just food on a plate, but food from a farmer nearby, and I mean as in sitting nearby. Moreover, there is a theme to each meal, a chance to think about what the chef is thinking. Second, like a good Chinese banquet, once has to be very careful not to fill up on the initial courses. Chinese banquets often begin with platters of cold cuts, including something meat jelly-ish (as well as often, jellyfish). Mado starts you with two of their house charcuterie. As with a Chinese banquet, it takes will power not just to fill on these things. Hell, it takes me will power not to fill up on the radish parsley salad and fig mostarda. I did have room to eat much food.

I took only one portion of the roasted honey-eggplant 'cause that's a dish my wife's working on herself these days. I did eat two of the made from risotto, arancini. My attempt to eat even more helpings of the canelinni beans with boar shank was ruined by them taking the dish away (despite my pleas). I did, I guess, then have room for two helpings of the boar ragu with house made noodles. I only had one plate of salad, shaved fennel, heirloom apples, boar bacon, chestnuts, but who needs more than one plate of salad, but it was a big plate though. I would have liked a few more slices of the spit-roasted boar loin, but then again, I finished both the slices of cake offered while most around me were splitting at that point. Finally, to help drive a point home, I hope, I ate lavish amounts of roasted celery root and sauteed mustard greens. I wanted the house to know these were very much appreciated.

'Cause I pretty much appreciate all that Mado does. Not just the local-seasonal menus, the nose-to-tail eating, but also the enormous generosity of Chefs Rob and Allie Levitt who have been training my wife in the finer points of kitchen science and who also allowed MikeG and I to show the world what a head can taste like.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Don't Stop Now

After dropping off several bags of product (and some yogurt) in our car, my wife and I returned for a second round of the final Oak Park Farmer's market of the season. I reminded my wife that at one time, the final weeks of the market consisted mostly of gourds and bales of hay (it seemed). Today, well there was so much food, it took us two good laps. Moreover, there were so many people, the line at Farmer Vicki's Genesis Grower's was out the door. With this much product, really, should the market shut down today?

There are certain reasons the market's gone into hibernation. Said Farmer Vicki's got a great guy that works for her, although he's one of the few non-gregarious farmers I know. He did reveal much, however, in his laughing reaction to my comment today to him, "glad to be done." Farming and especially market farming, and even more especially organic/sustainable farming like Genesis Growers is incredibly difficult work. The hours on the field are many. Then vending requires very early rising and very full days. I can see why these guys are ready to get some good rest. For some, inventory is dwindling. One of the Michigan fruit guys said that with the two downtown markets they will be at next week, they will have effectively sold all of their crops for the year. One of the Oak Park vendors was plum our of potatoes, to my chagrin as I had planned on buying. At another vendor, all of the tomatoes left were green. Things could be wrapping up.

Or should they? I am bothered by two things. First, I want the pro's to store the crops. Probably 2/3rds of the stuff for sale today could be for sale in a few months, the beets and celery root and parsnips and squash and onions and potatoes and most of the apples, and a few of the pears. These things would last so much better in good cold, conditions, with the proper humidity, moist for most, dry for some, conditions hard to replicate in a suburban home and even harder in an apartment. Kept well, they could be divvied out to aspiring locavores for a good period. Second, there can be robust late season farming. At the Thursday Eli's Cheesecake Factory market, Chad Nichol's was marveling at all of the cold weather crops. Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach all come out better after some frost. Beets and carrots and parsnips can stick around until the hardest frosts, and even those frosts can be put at bay with a bit of tech. A bit more tech, of course, allows for winter farming of lettuces, herbs, arugula and other items.

I've said this before, but the opportunities are wide in this area. There are farmers in the Northeast who do not begin their season until now. Snug Haven Farm in Wisconsin also operates on this schedule. There should be guys who pick up the slack when the hard working market farmer's take a snooze. There are outlets for winter produce. Robin's got her markets, Cassie's got her Green Grocer and Irv and Shelly have their delivery service. Plus, there's the Vie's and Mado's and Lula's serving market driven menu's. Cannot someone jump into this demand?

There is really no reason that the markets need to wrap up now...except for the farmer's who need a well deserved rest.