Friday, February 01, 2008

What's Local, Last Day of January, Geneva, IL

Local Superstore

I've justified the money I've spent on eating local by noting it's my hobby. A hobbyist has no (no) problem taking the hour ride, in the snow, from Oak Park to Geneva, to sample a winter market.The Geneva Winter Market is housed in a building that includes an Amish inspired restaurant, a deli counter, a freezer filled with local meat, and an outstanding cheese store called Curds and Whey. The totality of the shops made the hobby that much more palatable.

The farmers market part was snug but useful. Believe me, a localvore will take any vegetable this time of year. Both of those cabbages pictured came home with us. We also picked up a box of micro greens. We left the carrots and potatoes for others. Besides those things, from an un-named Wisconsin farm (or at least a farm whose name I cannot remember); there were hoop house greens grown by Erehwon Farm. Everything was being sold in its planters, but the planters could be returned for a refund. The selection yesterday included pea shoots, sunflower shoots, a mix that included baby mustard and arugula and cilantro. We purchased the last. Other local material included eggs, syrups (maple and sorghum) and several forms of Wisconsin wheat.

Around the corner from the farmer's market nook--think the dining room in a 19th century farm house, there was the meat market and the cheese store. The owner of Inglenook is of Amish heritage, and the deli sells several Amish products from Pennsylvania. Rob, whose cheeses we were sampling and buying urged us to try the ham being sold. Technically, these items are beyond our local paradise (even as expansive as we define our foodshed), but the products are surely local in spirit. And so damn good. The ham had a strong smoke, like Wisconsin hams, but also it had a salty tang not that far from say a Kentucky ham. We could not resist a pound. Likewise, we could not resist a chicken from Farm Direct Black Angus Farms. The freezer case by the meat counter also included Black Angus steaks, roasts and burgers. Besides the beef and chicken, the Inglenook freezer included lamb from Mint Creek Farm.

Vegetables, grains, eggs, syrups, meats, a localvore could really stock up. Save room, however, for the cheeses. The Curds and Whey cheese stock is as well stocked as any cheese stand I know. Rob's passionate and extraordinarily knowledgeable. His stock is not wholly focused on local cheeses, but it is almost entirely focused on artisinal and farmhouse cheeses. As such, he had several local cheeses such as Bleu Mont Dairy's overly flavorful bandaged cheddar that we love. He raved about some Wisconsin farm butters, so we bought some of that too. Overall, it was a worthwhile visit to Geneva.

The complex, at Inglenook Pantry, is at 11 N. 5th Street, about a block north of State Street, in Geneva, IL.

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