Friday, February 15, 2008

Winter's Just a Market Away - Extra, Extra

Wait, There's More

Barely a minute after the ink's dried on the last post, I get an e-mail from Robin on new stuff at tomorrow's market in Chicago (see below):

*Organic lettuce, kale, and chard
*Two kinds of basil (both organic)
*Other organic herbs: sage, oregano, parsley, cilantro, and dill
*Five kinds of mushrooms: buttons, portabello, cremini, shitake, and oyster
*Onions: red, yellow, and shallots
*Arugula, cress, and pea shoots

Winter's Just a Market Away - In a Day - Market Reminder

Fair Trade + Farmers Market Saturday, February 16 ~ 10am to 2pm
Epiphany Episcopal Church, 201 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago (Corner of Ashland & Adams)

Here's some idea of what the market should look like.

For details of what should be there, see this post or this post. Also, for some good word on the meat vendor, Arnold Farms, see here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Local as We Wanna Be

Make Pizza

Pizza, yes pizza again, but before I get into the pizza let me tell you about dinner on Tuesday night. It exemplified local, winter eating, in Chicagoland. Something old, something new, something frozen and something...argh, I wished I garnished our salads with Maytag blue. In other words, a mix of stuff from storage, stuff preserved, and stuff still growing.

To wit: take about ten fingerling potatoes from the attic; quarter, douse with homemade rosemary oil (local green house rosemary) and roast at 400o. Those will take about forty-five minutes, enough time to prepare the rest of dinner. Take a portion of bacon off your Nueske slab (every localvore has a slab of Nueske bacon laying around, if not they should!) and cube. Render the fat in a cast iron pan, reserve the crispy parts for later. Dice a keeper red onion and sweat in the bacon grease. Add a package of thawed asparagus spears. Cook long enough to beat six or eight or more eggs in a bowel. Add eggs, with bacon, to pan. A bit of shredded local Fontina cheese would not hurt (it did not hurt us). The pan should be at medium heat or less. Let the eggs cook just enough to firm up the bottoms. Then stick in the oven. The eggs and potatoes should be ready at the same time (roughly). Serve with green salad.

OK, getting back to the pizza. Pizza again. Grammy night. While others might call in, our family was fortunate enough to have it made in. Something to eat in front of the TV until Amy Winehouse would or would not destruct. (Just for the record, who is Ray-Ray?)

I cannot figure out if these are our most local pizzas yet. On one hand, the tomatoes for the sauce came from Italy; on the other hand, the crusts were made entirely of Wisconsin wheat, a mixture of hard and soft wheat. The top pizza uses hand made mozzarella from Caputo's Cheese of Melrose Park, the bottom is potato and shredded Fontina (local).

My wife was a bit concerned that the wheat flour would be too grainy for the pizzas. It turned out to be the opposite, at least on the bottom pizza. The heartier wheat really set up the potatoes. These fingerlings, the La Ratte we got in Wisconsin are about the most potato-y potato out there. If I remember my old high school chemistry right, I would say they had a much higher molarity count of potato molecules. Which, I think I am saying means, there was a hell of a large amount of potato flavor crammed into these potatoes. It needed the balance of a strong crust.

Tonight's local mushrooms with local pasta, tomorrow's cholent with short ribs from our cow. It's good to be a localvore.

What's Local @ Whole Foods, River Forest

Something Lucky For Lunches

The kidz lunches are a small chink in our eat local armour. While they're happy with Nueske ham sammys, I'm not always keen on paying that much for lunch meat. So, the ham or turkey I pack them away with, let alone the peanut butter, is seldom local. I am, however, determined (as I have said before), to not let a phoney whittled down "baby" carrot grace their impressionable lips. I have this vow, while also trying each day, to pack away something veg in their lunch. One localvore solution is sprouts or sprouty things.

Sprouts/microgreens are available enough. The winter markets around the Chicago area have them, the Thursday Geneva market has them, Madison has them, Irv and Shelly have them, and...and, now Whole Foods in River Forest has them. Last night I found about three varieties of sprouts grown by Chicago Indoor Garden, an urban agriculture venture. I picked up a pack of sunflower shoots--which really taste like sunflower, not something vaguely chlorophyllesque.

I guess finding something local for the veg portion of lunch is not the hard part for most parents. I'm guessing it's having the kidz happy to munch on a handful of sprouts in front of their friends come lunch time. I guess I'm a lucky Dad.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Today's Must Read

The Phil Vettel Game

Monica Eng's been on a roll of late, going on a chowathon with the famous chefs, major profile done in Gourmet. Today, her and Phil Vettel team up in the CTrib to tell the bittersweet tale of a Chef with big fans but small resources. Registration required but very much worth it.

Order Local

Irv and Shelly's Fresh Picks

Last week someone put a comment on the blog about Irv and Shelly's Fresh Picks, a kinda Peapod for readers of Michael Pollan. I did not publish the comment for a few days because the comment bordered on spam or at least free advertising (hint: cut me in!). Then, I thought, well, this site is all about getting the good word out, helping everyone eat local, if this Fresh Pick thing is a resource, why squelch it. And a funny thing happened along the way. I made an order.

I'll reserve more posting until my goods actually arrive on Saturday. In the meantime, I've updated the What's In Season list to include items that a localvore can obtain at Fresh Picks.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Eat Local Cheese

Local Cheesemaker at Marion Street Cheese This Saturday (2/16)

Prairie Fruit Farms makes some of the best goat cheeses that I know. I am especially keen on their Huckleberry Blue [ed., can you lay off the especially keens?]. Come meet farmer and cheesemaker Leslie Cooperbrand this weekend.

From a recent e-mail:
Hello Friends of Marion Street Cheese Market,

Cabin fever, you say? We have a perfect solution.

This coming Saturday, February 16, artisan cheesemaker Leslie Cooperband of Prairie Fruits Farm in Champaign, IL will be paying a visit to Marion Street Cheese Market.

Leslie will arrive around 2:00pm and she will spend a couple hours visiting with our customers. Of course we'll be sampling plenty of great cheeses from Prairie Fruits Farm, and we'll be pouring several perfectly paired wines for you to sample with her cheese.

You will be able to ask Leslie questions about cheesemaking and what it's like to operate a sustainable goat, fruit and vegetable farm in central Illinois. We even have Praire Fruits Farm honey available at the market right now, and it is wonderful!

This should be a fun afternoon of eating cheese and tasting wine, with plenty of discussion on cheesemaking, organic and sustainable farming, and how to best enjoy all the delicious cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm.

We hope you can join us!

To learn more about Prairie Fruits Farm and their organic and sustainable farmstead, you can visit their website at the following link:

Why Eat Local

People Want Safe Food

You can't see those words in the online version of today's CTrib editorial, but it's there on paper. The CTrib uses a decision by Trader Joe's to cut back on sole source Chinese foods as an excuse to remind us that food may not be as safe as we think (and want).
And those consumers are reacting with their pocketbooks. Those who can afford to do so are looking local for everything from baby building blocks to apple cider.

A regulatory system, assets subject to tort decisions, these may be reasons that economists cite as why consumers find local foods more comforting. How 'bout transparency, the chance to know the source, even visit the farm. Whether you take comfort in Big Brother or the little farmer, there are mechanisms that ensure that local food is safer.

Food safety, just another reason to eat local.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Keeping My Vie On It

New Vie Menu Posted*

I'm especially keen on what's happening at Vie as I have reservations for this weekend. The menu's here; especially interesting are the turkey liver mouse and the root veg salad with house made ranch dressing. One of my favorite things about Chef Virant's repertoire is how he is constantly digging into our culinary heritage, and by heritage I don't mean some idealized world of prairie cooking. I mean pages of recipes of things we've all eaten over our years. Old foods made with better ingredients and intense preparation, my idea of modern cooking.

*Posted a few days ago, but obsessive Vie following limited by being away from home.

Year Round Local

Inventory Update

Hopefully, to be blogged, the VI family braved horribly awful weather (swaying across the other lane after hitting black ice is scary, but watching a car on the other side of the Expressway just totally lose control, that's really scary) to buy local in Madison, Wisconsin. Our purchase included La Ratte fingerling potatoes, which may indeed be the best tasting fingerling and heirloom apples ("Odessa calls May apples...").

Here's the updated inventory.

Eat Local Meat

Arnold Farm Endorsement

Helge at Drive Thru puts in the good word for Arnold Farm of Western Illinois. You can get this meat for yourself at any of the winter markets mentioned below.