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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Food is Not Forever

Beet It

Getting some carrots out for the kidz lunch today I spied some fuzzy white. Drat. The bag of beets, about 1/3rd of our beet inventory, in the kitchen fridge was horribly moldy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What Was Local in Ann Arbor

Signs of Ann Arbor Farmer's Market - January 19, 2007

Wanna know how cold it was. Too frigid for apples. One farmer stood in the cold; when a hearty customer arrived, she would bang on the truck door. Her partner, with the better end of the deal, would pass along a bag from the stash. Cold.

How cold. Cold enough that we bought 3 bison meat patties outta sympathy.

The Ann Arbor Farmer's Market runs year round. On a very cold day in early January, 2008, there were five vendors. Two selling apple and apple based products, one with eggs, one with bison and one with lettuce grown in a hoop house.

The Ann Arbor Farmer's Market is at 315 Detroit Street. It can be a bit tricky to get as the streets in the Kerrytown section of Ann Arbor diverge from the greater grid of the city; plus there are several one way streets. It's a prime foodie zone, not just because five vendors will brave bitter cold, but there's also Zingerman's, Sparrow Meat, which is a great source for Michigan dried beans as well as dry aged meat--we picked up a 3 month aged porterhouse for $7.99/lb, a goddamn steal; and Tracklement's, which is not local in source, but local in production, and perhaps the premier smoker of salmon, both hot and cold smoked, in the USA.

Sunrise Sunset

What a difference a month or so makes. It seems like only yesterday I was making her a tofurkey sandwich (perhaps local as soy is so prevalent around here); to last night, when she's sopping up the drippings from the pork chops (Wisconsin) with the remaining polenta (Indiana cornmeal).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Winter Market Details

So Much to Blog

Zingermans, Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, 5 courses of beef at Hai Yen, Wife's award, Mom's bagels, America's Farmer's Market, etc., etc., etc. Might as well go with the most current. Robin Winter nicely provided me the names of the farmers/vendors at the forthcoming winter markets. She does warn that some farmers might not be there in person, but her and her team are working hard to have the goods there regardless.

I've put my comments on the vendors in italics.
Scotch Hill Farm*, Brodhead, WI (goats' milk soap and CSA subscriptions) - Regulars at the Oak Park Market, quality produce, I always find myself buying something from them.

Ted's Organic Grains, DeKalb, IL (a variety of milled flours, meals, and grains) - Don't know, but we are always, always looking for sources of local grains.

Natural Beauty by Margie, Chicago, IL (natural beauty products) - not really what I need

Herbally Yours, Willow Springs, IL (infused vinegars and dried herbs) - Jim's a great guy; I wish he still could sell his mustards and horseradishes.

Arnold Farm, Elizabeth, IL (pastured poultry and grass-fed beef and pork) - Don't know this particular farm. Personally, the VI family is fine on meat, but we adore all local sources of meat.

AquaRanch, Flanagan, IL (natural farm-raised tilapia and organic lettuce, kale, and herbs) [these are grown aquaponically, which is aquaculture + hydroponics, an amazing process in which the fish provide the nitrogren source for the produce, so it doesn't need to be added chemically] - I'd get some fish if I did not have plans on Saturday. I'd rather lettuce, kale, etc., grown in the ground, in hoop houses, then hydroponically. While hydro looks great (really great), I find it tends to the bland side. Still, I'd much (much) rather have local hydroponic than Cali. I'll buy a lot.

Mount Hope School Farm, Mount Hope, IL (popcorn)- We still have locally grown popcorn from our foray to Indiana this summer.

Seedling Fruit, South Haven, MI (apple and pear butters) - Higher quality Michigan fruit, preserved. We have at least some of their stuff stocked away; on the other hand, we have so much jellies, we have a moratorium on this kinda stuff.

River Valley Ranch, Burlington, WI (fresh mushrooms, several varieties) - We've been happy customers of their stands at Green City and Madison. Looking forward to buying.

Sugar River Dairy, Monticello, WI (yogurt in several flavors)- Don't know, sounds cool.

Edelweiss Creamery, Monticello, WI (cheddar and gouda)- Don't know, sounds cool.

Ropp Jersey Cheese, Normal, IL (a variety of Jersey cheeses)- Don't know, sounds cool (especially).

Local As We Wanna Be

Make Pizza!

There are certain staples of the localvore's kitchen. Dishes to use the odds and ends of a CSA box or this week's special buy. Eggs are a standby, a lot of things around can be folded in. Pasta serves the same purpose. Add pizza to the list. We had fresh mozzarella picked up at Zingerman's a few days earlier. It needed a showcase. Pizza!

My wife used a Mark Bittman crust recipe, not too complicated and not needing an extended rise time. As I say, it was all about the Zingy mozz, some of the best I've ever tried. Just mozzarella would be a little plain. The first pizza was garnished with the not-so-local Condiment Queen tapenade; the second pizza had the more appropriate base of pesto from local basil, local garlic and imported pecorino.

We are already planing our next foray to Michigan.

Winter Farmer Markets - Oak Park, Chicago

Stock Up

Remember the post about winter farmer's markets in the Chicago area. A little birdy put something in my in box yesterday to remind us about markets this Saturday. See here for details.

According to the e-mail, the following will be available at the markets:
*Both Farmers Markets**
will feature most or all of the following:*

· Tilapia (farm-raised in Illinois free of antibiotics, mercury,
herbicides, hormones, pesticides and steroids)

· Cheese & yogurt, both in a variety of flavors

· Honey in a variety of flavors

· Organic lettuce, kale & herbs

· Organic micro-greens, including baby arugula (rocket)

· Organic baby red potatoes

· Fresh mushrooms (several varieties)

· Popcorn

· Apple and pear butters

· Goats’ milk soaps in heavenly scents & fun shapes

· Pet products

· Bath & body products

· Infused vinegars & dried herbs

· Organic milled flours, several varieties

· Wool yarn & woolen goods

· Maple & sorghum syrups

· Beautiful fruit tarts & cakes by the Sisters of Fraternite
Notre Dame

· Fair trade coffee

· Fair trade organic olive oil from the Palestinian region

· Opportunities to learn about CSAs (community supported
agriculture) and purchase your subscription for this summer

· And much, much more!

Meat & poultry will be available in Oak Park only.
*Quantities of some products are limited, so shop early!*
Look's cool!

PS: I'm trying to find the names of the farmers/vendors.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Inventory Update

See here.

What's Local at Costco - Bucktown

Local's Where You Find It

As my late Mother-in-Law would say, we did a numba at the Chicago Costco today. Amazing how a bunch of $15 bottles of wine can add up. As always, we're on the lookout for all things local. And a localvore can always find something.

Of course, Wisconsin cheeses; the kidz love the convenience of sliced Tillmook cheddar, but I held strong and purchased some Organic Creamery sharp cheddar instead. We found a 10 lb bag of Wisconsin red potatoes (luckily we're a boiled potato lovin' family) and a 10 lb bag of red delicious apples from Minnesota (luckily we're an apple lovin' family). To burnish our local street cred, we snickered at the grown in a test-tube baby bell peppers.

What's Local at Whole Foods

In the Valley of the Shadow of Corporate Food Location

The relatively new Whole Foods located in Northbrook at the intersection of Techny and Willow is nearly surrounded by facilities of Kraft Food. Planned? Anyways, needing to do some shopping and looking for a quick bite on the way home from Northbrook Court, we stopped there last night.

First of all, let me confess that I transgressed big time. Of all the foods for sale including buffalo shrimps, "smoked" brisket, tired panini, and Asian noodle bowls (at least), nothing quite appealed. So I went with a standard, salad bar. What could be more non-local. And I sure paid a price. Tasteless trayf. Still, any trip to Whole Foods is a trip to see how they are holding to their commitment to sell local.

It's not that Chicago area Whole Foods are local-free. There's always Amish milk from Iowa; good Wisconsin cheeses like those from Antigo or Brunkow's great spreads; even locally made pasta, but when I hear local, I think foremost of fruits and vegetables. In that vein, in the look on the bright side vein, Whole Foods was not barren. They were selling, last night, not one, but two types of Michigan apples. For the Whole Foods-ish price of $1.99/lb, they had heavily waxed McIntoshes and more natural looking Fuji. We bought four of the latter just to show our support.

In turn for my support, Whole Foods, how 'bout you doing this for me (I know you read my blog). Start buying salad mixes produced locally, in hoop houses--try Growing Power. Don't tell me you cannot find local potatoes, the local wholesaler has them. What I really want is for someone to pack away and store, at better conditions than can be had at a suburban home, turnips, beets, rutabagas, etc. Be my root cellar and I will pay your prices. And while I'm at it, local ham is all the rage, why are you not selling it?

What's local around you?