Thursday, March 20, 2008

Every Week NOT a Market

Winter Market Update

Do note, Robin's got no markets this weekend. Stay tuned for her final extravaganza. Details to be posted next week.

In the meantime, go shop at Cassie's Green Grocer or order from Irv and Shelly.

What's Not Local

Eat Local Wishlist

Mike Sula, in this week's Reader, reports on an Uzbek [ed. is that Uzbeki?] restaurant in Buffalo Grove that I've been meaning to try. The women behind Chaihanna lament their vegetables:
"In Uzbekistan, she says, the carrots are light yellow and taste better."

Maybe, perhaps, there is no carrot grown around here that tastes as good as Uzbekistan, but I tend to doubt that as carrots are especially suited for our Northern climate. In fact, when the ground thaws just a bit more, Farmer Vicki of Genesis Growers is gonna remove the carrots that have been whiling a way in her ground growing ever so large and ever so sweet. See the thing is, I doubt very much that Chaihanna's cooks buy from Farmer Vicki. Neither do the cooks at any Thai, any Vietnamese, Middle Eastern or Mexican place that I know. Wait, scratch the Mexican. Rick Bayless may not buy from Farmer Vicki, but what he does not grow himself, he buys from other local farms (in season at least). These cuisines centered themselves so much around great produce. Imagine your fatoush, your orange curry, your quesadilla de flor de calabeza made with local, farm fresh stuff. When an "ethnic" foods tend to get spruced up, your Pasteurs, your Alhambras, most of all, your Arun's, there's a tendancy first of all to dicker with the recipes; more important, most of the extra money seems to go into the decor. Why not the sourcing?

When I dream local, I don't so much dream about fresh produce in March, year round markets or a chicken that can be had non-frozen (although these are all on my wishlist), what I really dream about is a person running a little ethnic joint that is working hard to find great ingredients for his or her food. My dream faces five challenges. First, there is time. Sula's Uzbek ladies were so busy baking their breads and pickling their watermelon, did they possibly have time to shop the markets. Second, even if, per chance, they could hit the market, what would they do come winter. Even Paul Virant sneaks stuff in sometimes. Third, there is cost. Can many of these places recover the higher food costs for local food? Fourth, there is the is the menu problem. Bayless uses local farmers when. All of these places have their near set menus. Menus based on expectations for that food, best sellers if you may. Do any of them adjust their menus seasonally? Finally, and probably most pervasive, there is no infrastructure in place to get these people local foods. Some of that dovetails to the first issue, time to shop, but I think it's more. Like I say, do those woman even know such a carrot can easily be found. Really, these issues are near impossible to overcome. I can dream.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Eat Local Lamb

Try Locally Raised Lamb for Easter (or Passover)

Good article from today's CTrib on local lamb.:
"When you're buying from a local grower, you're buying from someone who really knows his own land. Many revel in the uniqueness of the flavors of regional lamb,"

The article includes a small sidebar on buy-direct sources for local lamb. The article also mentions Marion Street Cheese Market as an outlet for local lamb (Country Cottage). A couple of other places for local lamb are Cassie's Green Grocer and the Inglenook in Geneva. Both of those places sell the lamb from Mint Creek Farm.

What's Local, Costco, Down by the Riverside

Apples are Always

Big ol' bag of Michigan red delicious apples for sale today at the Costco on Damen, just north of Fullerton, Chicago. To think we were running low. (Unfortunately the one thing we needed, turns out to be a seasonal item. Anyone know a good store for a keyboard?)

Eat Local Disscussion

Chicago Green Drinks

I wish I could attend this event tonight at Jefferson Tap & Grille (325 N. Jefferson Chicago), but alas I am needed at PADS.

Save This Restaurant

Orange Garden Chop Suey

Putting my palate on the line, I eagerly signed up for Gary Fine's Orange Garden expedition. You can read about our meal at the end of this thread.

For those wondering why the hell Orange Garden Chop Suey is showing up on this blog, I'm a long time "fan" of this place. I believe strongly that it needs urgent landmark protection. Really!

Also, to address a something that's come up a few times in recent days, both in seriousness and last night in mockery: I am perfectly happy with my eat out exception to our eat local rules. I believe in local, try to eat local, but I also thoroughly enjoy eating out. I am not gonna give up one for the other. Still, as I have said before, we eat in much more than before. Hat Hammond asked me for the 848 segment, what about the cost of eating local. I conceded that our food costs were probably higher than before, in house, but we were still spending less on meals because of the decrease in restaurant meals. Eating out is expensive, a family outing to the World's Greatest Hot Dog Stand approaches a twenty these days. We do, however, go out a few times each week. For the variety, for the convenience, for the company, you will still find me and my family at restaurants, including restaurants that don't serve local.

Orange Garden Chop Suey
1942 W Irving Park Rd
Chicago, IL 60613

Eat Local On Air

848, Friday

Listen in this Friday as David Hammond discusses eating local, cooking local and all things Virant on his segment for WBEZ's 848. 848 airs from 9-10 AM. I do not know when in the broadcast the eating local segment will appear. Podcast will be available here.

Pay heed to a certain higher pitched but yet bellowing voice here and there in the segment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Vie Menu, a Day Later

Latest in Vie Menu's

Believe it or not, it took me a whole day to notice Vie's new menu. He's still in artichoke mode. When I was schmoozing with him last week, Chef Virant noted that he's a bit more willing than usual to stray from his Midwestern farms. The kitchen's a bit tired of cooking from winter products. So he's getting his hands on things like the baby artichokes and stinging nettles and using them in his current menu. I'm happy to cut him some slack. In fact we're going next week with the $$ from the CTrib article. I got my eye on the fresh bacon with house made giardiniera.

The Color of Local

Color Your Way to Health

They, those guys, they say that you should eat colors. Healthy food is colorful food. The more colors you see, the healthier you will be.

One of the first things you learn if you attend farmer's markets regularly is that color changes. Each week brings a new dominant color. Early on, the color is primarily green; at the height of summer, the market radiates gold from the corn and peaches. There's a time when it's all red, peppers and tomatoes. It would follow that a localvore's plate would be so colorful. Then.

Around the start of March our plates had a color: brown. Baked Wisconsin russet potatoes stuffed with Wisconsin mushrooms, brown. RP Pasta with mushrooms, brown. Pizza with long cooked onions, brown and brown. So, let me tell you it was a real treat last night.

A simple dish, par-boil some purple potatoes; take the thaw off of a bag of frozen broccoli, drain; cook an onion until soft in a cast iron pan, season the onions with garlic; add the potatoes and broc, a bag of peas from the freezer, all of that stuff to the pan. Stir up good over medium heat. Open a package of firm tofu, dice and include. Finish with your secret sauce (my wife's had soy, tamari, hoisin and some other stuff; as I have said before, she will not reveal her exact ingredients for the blog). When the tofu comes to temperature find yourself with a pleasant break from drab food.

Cook's note: the peas can be added frozen, but the broccoli throws off too much water. A minute in the microwave and a strainer will keep your stir-fry from getting too diluted.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Current Inventory

An Apple a Day Means They Will Eventually Go Away

Localism makes you loopy. As everyone else curses the weather getting cold again, I rejoice in another week of storage. There is, however, a dwindling supply of food, especially apples. We plan a foray to Madison this weekend to stock up a bit.

(last inventory report)

Cranberries - two packages, amazingly these seem to be holding out. What they are for, I have no idea.
Celery - Farmer Vicki gifted us with a brand new, simply enormous head of celery. It looks like those vegetables that grow in Alaska. We plan on freezing and drying much.
Herbs - rosemary, thyme, basil, cilantro
Winter squash - Our pace right now is: toss one about every two weeks; that still leaves about five. Like the cranberries, we are gonna have to find a use soon.
Keeper onions - we are very good on onions. We added about ten the other day from Farmer Vicki.
Sweet potatoes - I thought we were low here, but found a stash. These are mostly holding up well. Some have been used in my wife's famous sweet potato kugel.
Garlic - like onions, we are holding fine and should have enough garlic to last us through until the new crop.
Cabbage - I finally tossed the ugly head of white that has been in the basement fridge, but we still have a head of red.
Sunchokes - 2 lbs - Our emergency food
Carrots - We were running out, but I got about five pounds a few weeks ago at the Geneva Winter Market.
Parsnips -We have used some, but parsnips like the sweet potatoes keep magically re-appearing
Potatoes - Dwindling but fine. All of the bigger russets have been baked, but there's still a good amount of odds and end sized; the 1o lb bag of reds is hardly touched and the heirloom types are partially there.
Apples - These are about gone. We have about five yellow delicious. The rest were dedicated to baking, Granny Smiths, Rome and a bag of seconds. We might need to dip into the Granny Smith's for kidz lunches.
Lettuce - Alaska sized head of leaf lettuce from Vicki
Microgreens - When I went foraging with Robin, I got a big container of peashoots in Elburn. We have been working our way through them since.
Mushrooms - No current crop of mushrooms
Celery root - 2 lbs - no change
Burdock root - 1 lb

As always, there's stuff (meat, veg) in the freezer. We have some local grains but would kill to find a source of local all purpose/white flower. Riddle me this: what kinda flour did the pioneers bake their pies with?