Friday, March 14, 2008

Winter Marketpalooza

Winter Market Reminder

Robin works very hard for your markets. She was out again, foraging away. Come see her handiwork at 3, yes 3 markets this weekend. Market details are a few posts down. Here's what she said about what's coming up:
What's new? Hmmm. I got some sweet and tender baby (micro) greens from Heritage Prairie Maket, a mix of red and yellow chard, radish, and something else. They consider it their "chef's blend"; also some radish micro-greens.

AquaRanch* will be attending the Lemont and Elgin markets, so if anyone wants to get up close and personal with the aquaponics man, Myles Harston, here's your chance.

The markets have very different times this week, as noted [below].

Each market will have plenty of tilapia, lettuce and kale, basil, mushrooms, pea shoots, cheese, and more, but with three markets this weekend, some items will be spread pretty thin (particularly fair trade olive oil and the above mentioned micro-greens); Epiphany (Ashland & Adams) is likely to be the odd-market-out and I won't be there (my sister will cover for me) but if someone wants something particular, or a particular kind of cheese, catch me (via email before I divvy it up tonight.

*Am I the only one who thinks this sounds like the secret fortress of some superhero?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sneak Some Local In

3 Meals A Day

Breakfast - Try Milk and Honey granola with Traders Point Creamery yogurt.

Lunch - Pack some dried fruit from Seedling fruit of Michigan. Order online or pick some up at Pastoral.

Dinner - Pick up a nice piece of fish, local fish from the lakes around here. Home base for the nice piece of fish is Robert's. Now in the able hands of Artuo, he can hook you up with the best whitefish around.

Bonus Late Night Snack - You have no shortage of local candy to pig out on, but do you know La Maison du Bonbon, more like La sub-Maison du Bonbon. A tiny shack of a store attached to Shanahans on the Forest Park Strip (7353 Madison). For a very long time, they have been making French cremes, something a bit more substantial than a Three Musketeer bar but not quite as solid as chocolate itself. Now, don't let the allusion to Three Musketeer bars fool you. These may not be the finest of fine chocolates, but they really satisfy in a very old fashioned kinda way.

The Ice Age Recedes

Good for?

Winter is not all bad for a localvore. Nature's refrigerator provides much extra storage room. For instance, we can barely enter the bungalow from the back because of the six packs of beer nestled by the door, staying cool and staying out of the way of needed space in the fridge. We take fullest advantage of the weather in our attic. During the winter it gets cold enough there to keep our apples, or potatoes, our stored roots very happy. And Mother Nature is taking that away.

So, at dinner last night, we were talking about what's left in the attic. After baking potatoes on Tuesday night, our 50 lb bag of russets is reduced to the odd sized. We still have a fair amount of sweets (some to be reserved for my wife''s famous kugel come Passover); there's a good sized bag of reds and some heirlooms from our jaunt to Madison a while back. It's potatoes every day I announced.

Younger daughter, "cool".

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Pleasures of Participation

House Made Sausage at Freddy's in Cicero

I said to my wife as we were walking to our car after lunch at Freddy's--typical Freddy's lunch (and say it to yourself with your best Cicero accent): some mah-ska-choli, a pork cutlet sang-wich wit da jar-dun-yar and beef gravy, some steak pizz-E-ola, and some bread my friend to mop up. I said, we got the two best places to be VIPs at, Freddy's and Vie. I said this after telling her that the 1/2 pound chunk of house made soprasetta in my hand was marked n/c, no charge. Joe does that a lot when we stop by. There's always a bit of something on him.

So, when I kvell over the soprasetta, consider yourself fully disclosed. One of the joys of being a localvore in the Chicago area is our sah-sage. Who cares if our one fresh fruit for months on end is the apple, we have sausages. From the Vienna hot dog (my family especially likes the big ones, 2 to a lb) to each of the 100 or so Polish markets around town, just as many (more) Mexican places with their fresh made chorizo, fresh made Italian pork sausage, brats at Paulina and Ream's Elburn, to the Thai Grocery's sausage; Chicago is awash in great sausage. Yes, much of it is made from meat of non-local origin. It is still made here, and it is still good.

Right on top of that pack are some of the offerings at Freddy's. His soprasetta is wide, not too wide, about five inches across and covered with the most beautiful bloom. You never would know mold could be this gorgeous. The white contrasts so wonderfully with the fire-red of the spice induced meat. As is wont in sausages made in small quantities, there is a looseness in the bite that brings eating pleasure. It brings extra mouth feel and chew. Then, there is that spice. Joe's sopra will not make you run for the drinking fountain. It will leave gentle reminders with your endorphin receptors. Maybe you'll have to pay for your soprasetta at Freddy's. It's worth it.

1600 South 61st Avenue
Cicero, Illinois 60804
2 Blocks West of Austin Blvd. @ 16th Street (On the Corner)
Monday - Saturday: 10 am - 7 pm Closed on Sunday

Proof is In the Taste

Nashville Chef Goes Local

Chef Jeremy Barlow at Tayst (via)

To prove his point, Barlow took his staff to a local farm to pick and taste radishes, carrots and other produce right from the ground. "Oh wow. This is what it's supposed to taste like," he said, re-enacting his employees' reactions. "The mustard greens tasted like you were literally spooning Dijon into your mouth."

The restaurant's web site is here.

Eat Mo' Local

Five Servings a Day

More ways to add some local to your daily diet.
  • Bake a bread from local grain. When I went out foraging with Robin, one of our stops was Ted's Grain's near DeKalb Illinois. Besides hearing the woeful tale of a cheatin' husband, we got to see the operation. Does not take much of a grinder to supply our winter markets with local organic grains.
  • Have some of last season, preserved. Did not can or freeze, find someone who did. The easiest way to get some fruit from last year is in jelly. Hit the Amish country in NE Indiana or wind your way to Door County, you'll find all sortsa great jellies and jams made with in season local fruit. If you stick close to Chicago you can at least find American Spoon. Try Whole Foods for instance.
  • Relive your hippy days. Back then you called them sprouts. Today hip chefs call them microgreens. Irv and Shelly sell a bunch on their site; Robin has them at her winter markets. You knew how to use them then, figure out how to use them now.
  • Get you kidz funny looks at school. Pack those sprouts as a little veggie side, or give them the sandwich my wife invented: Wisconsin cranberry cheddar, sprouts and jam, preferably on a whole grain bread. If you cannot get them to eat sprouts, try Papa Lena's beet chips available at Cassie's Green Grocer. As I like to say, they get chips and a veg, you're both happy.
  • Sneer at Saveur. They picked 30 great butters, but could not manage to find one from the Midwest. Get them some of Mt. Sterling's goat butter or Clarendon Hills (see what she sez). In a pinch, there's always Organic Valley.
  • Yesterday I mentioned some of the finer in local cheese. There's a time for that and then there's a time for gooey, guilty cheese. Cheese spread. Really, is their anything more pleasurable to eat (at times) than from a plastic tub of Wisconsin cheese spread. Probably the most famous, maybe the best, is Merks. If you want to feel ever more upscale, there's Brunkow's raw milk spread.
  • A loaf of mini-rye, cheese spread, a six pack of Leine's Big Butt Dopplebock, you are almost ready to watch the debut of Top Chef Chicago. What's missing. Summer sausage of course. Mitt garlic, mitt nitrates, mitt lotsa fat, it's Wisconsin's gift to the world of chaucuterie. Bobby Nelson's is a real blast from the past and my favorite source for summer sausage. Rob at Curds and Whey in Geneva often snags some for sale.
  • Scramble some local eggs. I was lucky enough to get to hang out in the kitchen of Vie the other day (to be on a WBEZ segment soon, I'll post when I know). Chef Paul Virant showed us his technique for making creamy eggs. Here's what I can tell you: whisk like crazy and fold in whipped cream. Using farm fresh eggs matters too.
  • And remember, save a rain forest by eating a potato today.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eat Local Meat

"Where'd Ya Get the Cow?"

As my older daughter's been highjacking the computer--who now knows more about her research topic, SNL, me or her? I never responded to PJ's question in the comments. It's a good question. Where'd the meat in our freezer come from.

3 or so years ago, when we starting eating local, our local was not quite as local. We ate some local meat, but we balked a bit at the price of some of the meat being sold at the farmer's markets. We just were not ready to pay that much for all of our meat. Buying meat in bulk has been a real Godsend. We had the chance to purchase 1/4 of a heard of cattle raised by Farmer Vicki of Genesis Growers. Nearly a year later, we are still eating that cow. We also have 1/2 lamb that we purchased from the Wettstein's. The per pound price for bulk meat makes it a lot more affordable. Getting the meat that way has ensured us that much more of our diet is local.

Genesis Growers is not a viable source right now for meat. There are plenty of options though. The Farm Direct site lists tons of farms in Illinois that sell local meat. The site includes the Wettstein's who sold us our lamb as well as Arnold Meat and Farm Direct Black Angus who sell at Robin's winter markets. See below.

Local meat is very doable.

Winter's Just a Market Away

Shop Local

March is not without its local. Really.

Winter Farmers Markets this Weekend!
Saturday, March 15 ~ Lemont
Saturday, March 15 ~ West Loop Gate/Chicago
Sunday, March 16 ~ Elgin
~ 1 ~
10 A.M. TO 1 P.M.
Winter Farmers Market
in Lemont at
St. Alphonsus Parish
210 E Logan St
(Corner of Logan St & State St)

~ 2 ~
10 A.M. TO 2 P.M.
Fair Trade + Farmers Market + Café
in the West Loop Gate neighborhood of Chicago at
Epiphany Episcopal Church
201 S Ashland Ave
(Corner of Ashland & Adams)

~ 3 ~
10 A.M. TO 2 P.M.
Winter Farmers Market
in Elgin at
Unitarian Universalist Church of Elgin
39W830 Highland Ave
(about 3 miles West of Randall Road-Hwy 34)

Last Thursday I had the chance to forage for the market with Robin. What thanks we owe her! I imagine she'll have this same sorta stuff this weekend:

Cheese, in a variety of flavors

Yogurt, in a variety of flavorsHoney in a variety of flavors

Organic lettuce, kale & chard

Organic herbs (basil, dill, sage, oregano, parsley)

Spicy greens & shoots

Organic Yukon Gold potatoes

Fresh mushrooms (several varieties)

Onions & shallots

Jams & preserves

Apple & pear butters

Goats’ milk soaps in heavenly scents & fun shapes

Infused vinegars & dried herbs

Organic wheatberries & several varieties of milled flours

Maple & sorghum syrups

Fair trade coffee, chocolate & tea

Fair trade organic olive oil from the Palestinian region

Eat Local Now

Welcome Aboard

Again, thanks Colin for giving me the space in your paper. The ability to keep me appearing sane speaks well (very) for your editing skills. All the people stopping by, have you added some local to your diets this week?

March may not seem like the best time to start eating local, but the budding localvore can find it with not that much effort.
  • Shop at one of the winter markets Robin works so hard to pull-off. There will be three this weekend. I will post details soon.
  • There's always apples, mushrooms, onions and potatoes.
  • Drink local milk. I think I'm too young to remember the way milk "was supposed to taste." I think it tastes a lot like Kalona Organic, milk you need to shake (non-homogenized). You can find this at Whole Foods and many speciality markets.
  • Eat local cheese. That's not a hard one, finding say a big block of yellow cheddar from Wisconsin. Consider, however, one of the grand cheeses from our area, a Roth Kase Private Reserve, a tub of Driftless fresh sheep's milk cheese from Hidden Springs Creamery or the Carr Valley stuff nestled away at your neighborhood Costco.
  • Come Thursday, shop the local superstore in Geneva. Pick up some of your local cheeses from Rob at Curds and Whey.
  • Talk local with Cassie at her Green Grocer. She'll stock you up on all things local you did not even know about.
  • Order local. Irv and Shelly's Freshpicks have 24 (!) local produce items for sale this week as well as local meat, lamb, eggs, yogurt, etc., etc., etc.
  • Try a seasonal beer. Spring crops are still (very) far way, but we have Spring beers like Capitol Brewery's Maibock and Leine's Big Butt Dopplebock.
  • Take pride in your pork. Nueske hams and bacon from Wisconsin are excellent and from Iowa probably comes as good a prosciutto as you will find (La Quercia).
  • Splurge local. Some chefs give the ol' "we use local when" spiel. Some chefs really do use local, and then there's Chef Paul Virant who has made his restaurant, Vie, in Western Springs a beacon for fine dining and local eating. Want to know how good it is, try his creamy farm eggs or local lamb.
  • Dream local. While you are waiting for the farmers markets to get going and onions do not sound appealing anymore as a vegetable, visit the web sites of some restaurants that pride themselves on their local and seasonal cooking. Fergus Henderson only cooks whats ready, and his whole beast ethos is true to the Eat Local movement. Dan Barber is lucky enough to have his own farm to create from. And all localvores need to check in weekly on the menus at Chez Panisse.
  • Believe local. Alice Waters may be serving a spring vegetable ragout this week, but Larry Russo in St. Paul and Tory Miller in Madison are working right now with almost all Midwest local products. On the Eat Local Challenge Blog you can find a bunch of others who embrace their local eating.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Eat Local in the News

C'est Moi

I hope you all had a chance to read the piece I did for the Chicago Tribune this week. Thanks to Colin and Monica for the opportunity. I read great (better) with editors.

For the many people dropping by for the first time, sorry I could not put up something interesting today. My daughter was glued to the computer for a school project.

For those looking to learn more, check out some of the sites to your right, especially the Eat Local Challenge Blog, which I contribute.