Friday, January 18, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Not my last visit to Vie, but some time last fall, I was chatting with Vie Chef and Owner, Paul Virant at the bar. Somewhere or another the Internet menu thing came up. To my chagrin, Chef Virant confessed that updating the menu on the Vie web site was about his lowest priority each day. Still, I barely get to my middle priorities, every once in a while, Paul even gets to his lowest priorities. In other words, after days of pumping up his site's numbers, I found myself with a new menu. See how Vie's coping with the winter.
Eating local did not end with the shipment of the first peach in January. I've been poking away, a bit at Ann Vileisis's intriguing new book, Kitchen Literacy. She discusses the rise of modern food sensibility, away from eating local. Speaking of the rise of Del Monte canned goods in the 1920's:
The message was unequivocal: In earlier times, Mother Nature had merited the reputation of providing over and over again. Her unending abundance was considered miraculous in its own right. But in the modern order, it was no longer dazzling enough to merely to provide a yearly harvest. Annihilating distance, merging seasons, and accumulating all harvests, it was technology of the human can that now deserved reverence and awe.She goes on to show how Del Monte lured eaters with promises of abundant farms in California, Oregon and Hawaii. The can made consumers want their food, that food, not the food grown nearby.
Their food seemed sexier, more glamorous. Why, because our food, Northern food, northern food, winter food, consisted of beets and rutabagas and turnips. Depression food. If you could, you'd rather a nice can of food. There was a time when the finest restaurants would not think twice about serving those canned peas. Famous French dishes were built around the canned peach. Yet, now, in the modern era, we take our mashed turnips and we like it.
I cannot tell you how happy it made me last night when I saw my peeling away at some turnips. First of all, she was doing some wise culling, finding the most sprouting thing in the basement fridge. Second, she was making mashed turnips. Am I a lucky guy. She did balance the bite of the turnips with Yukon Gold potatoes. I cannot give you the rest of the recipe because she banished me from the kitchen before the actual mashing process (for whatever reason she's not keen on me publishing her recipes, she would not let me know all the spicing on her cholent the other day to keep me from posting its recipe). There was obviously butter and cream and salt, and all I can say is it was not just me who liked it. The kidz had two portions.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Answer: green chile stew at Flo (1434 W. Chicago). Actually, I generally like the New Mexico-ish food at Flo, but yesterday's red soup with three, count 'em three pieces of chicken did not hit the spot. Still, I blog not to trash Flo, but to praise them. See, toward the end of the meal, after we had received our bill, I mentioned the riddle of the day to our server. With hardly a second to think about it, he gave the best answer possible to the problem. He offered to take the stew off my bill. No prompting. Like I say, I've generally liked what I've had at Flo, and as much as I did not enjoy what I ordered yesterday, I left with a good taste in my mouth.
Of course I should stop here, but I cannot help but compare to an experience at Burger Bar in Las Vegas about a month ago. This was really fool me once, OK, fool me twice, I'm the fool, kinda place. I had a mediocre experience there last year, but had convinced myself it could have been an aberration. Anyways, yada-yada, there was a turkey burger, and yada-yada, it sucked. Greasy fowl-flavored liver on a bun I think my wife called it. As we were sharing, we each tried, resulting in a burger with only two bites taken. The unfinished burger sat on our table all during dinner. No comment. Finally at check time, when I got the obligatory how were things (I mean if you don't wanna know, don't ask...). I said this turkey burger tastes like fowl-flavored liver, explaining the pun. See that's fowl as in poultry. No I did not say anything quite like that, but I did say we thought the turkey burger sucked. Nicely, I said it nicer. And the waiter was like. Cool, dude, never heard that before. Picked up the charge card and ran the full amount.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
My wife and I have an in that allows us to shop at the restaurant supply house. Unfortunately you cannot walk in and buy the local stuff we found today. Still, if it's at the wholesaler, it may show up somewhere by you. Look. Local IS where you find it (I mean the other day we had a blast finding local at the River Forest Jewel, including Michigan oatmeal, I just did not take good notes to post on it.)
Local at the supply house: incredibly vivid bass from the Great Lakes. They wisely angled the fish to show its magenta gills; not pretty but key for those in the know. Other freshwater fish today included lake trout fillets, lake smelts, rainbow trout, whitefish and carp. There were ten pound and fifty pound bags of Wisconsin potatoes and three pound bags of Michigan apples.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Baked local winter squash from storage, Wisconsin maple syrup; chicken and dumplings: hen from John's Live Poultry (5955 W. Fullerton, Chicago), local carrots and parsnips from storage, local peas from freezer, dumplings made with local corn meal.
Wisconsin farmed raised rainbow trout from Whole Foods (see here) with local red potatoes from storage.
Imported salumi, imported olives, indeterminate packaged artichokes, imported prosciutto, Wisconsin provolone, house-made, hand made mozzarella from Caputo's Cheese Market; imported pasta with local broccoli--broccoli recently harvested from Illinois hoop house--imported Parmesan cheese, local garlic from storage.
Mixed greens recently harvested from Illinois hoop house, imported feta cheese; imported pasta with jarred pasta sauce from Tomato Mountain--locally grown, locally produced.
That's roasted vegetable, before and after. The veg, all from storage: sweet potato, parsnips, turnips, delicata squash and carrot.
The core of the meal, Jewish cassoulet or cholent. Rumor has it that both cassoulet and the Spanish bean and meat dish, cocido ARE based on cholent, the dish meant to stew while the ovens cannot be re-lit. Not keeping kosher, nor sticking around for a Saturday lunch, we have our cholent for Shabbat dinner.
Michigan dried beans, storage local onions, storage local potatoes, local beef, local eggs. Both the eggs and the meat comes from Farmer Vicki's Genesis Growers (as does a lot of the other stuff we ate this week.)
Pancakes made with local flour and local, frozen blueberries. Maple syrup, local.