Friday, April 18, 2008

What's Annoying at Whole Foods (River Forest)

A Blogger Blogs About Whole Foods

Let us count the ways Whole Foods, River Forest can annoy or perhaps amuse:

  1. Produce section contains no items identifiable as local
  2. On the other land, Morton Kosher salt label "local"
  3. When I decide to give in and buy some radishes anyways, no radishes
  4. "Jewish" display in honor of forthcoming Passover holiday contains hammontashen
  5. Younger daughter does Dad proud by trying strawberry and subsequently gagging
  6. Aged balsamic vinegar not very old

Gotta Have a Gimmick

Sicilian Olive Oil at Freddy's

I think it was before Joe brought us a slice of pizza (and I'll get back to this in a second); my wife sez, "are you gonna write something about Freddy's". "I would", I say, "but what?" Then, we sampled the little cup of olive oil that Joe had brought us over earlier to try. "From Sicily."

Granted a bit of olive oil is not as big a bribe as say 3 balls of burrata he gave us last lunch, but variety is good (and later he made up with the pizza!). I finishd my breaded chicken sammy--how's that for a before Passover meal, a sandwich AND something breaded and my half of the (first) pizza, so I tried the olive oil. OK. Somethign to blog about.

My wife, the aptly designated Condiment Queen has been on an olive oil kick a bit of late. At Fox & Obel a few weeks ago, it seemed like she spent a good 3o minutes sampling expensive olive oils. When an olive oil impresses her these days, that's an impressive olive oil. This one did. We find olive oils, good ones, to be either buttery and rich or strong and herbal. This one leaned buttery, but it had a good kick of green flavor too. Before leaving Freddy's my Queen sent me in to purchase a bottle. She (and I) were quite impressed when the liter bottle came to only $14.99. And it was organic too boot. It's Paesano unfiltered, cold pressed.

Now, the pizza. Long time Freddy's eaters know that Freddy's make two type of thick Chicago pizza: pan pizza (always for sausage) and sheet pizza for the other toppings including breaded eggplant. Lately, he's making a third pizza, a more classic Neapolitan, with a thinner-chewy/crisp crust. It does not have the bells and whistles of the new breed of notable Chicago thin crust pizza places (Coalfire, et al.), but it sure tastes good. We had ordered the Margherita-ish version made with conventional cheese. It rose above. Freddy's just has a way with grains. See also their breads. The capricossa (sp?) that he brought over, with ham, artichoke hearts, crappy olives and fior di latte was just as good.

New pizza. New olive oil. New Freddy's post.

1600 South 61st Avenue
Cicero, Illinois 60804

Eat Local MySpace

Eat Local Trendy

Look who's got a Myspace. I think that blogs (and the such) are great business tools, like how the folks at Marion Street Cheese are using their page.

What's Local Sahar's Meat

Eat Local Fish

There are certain stores I shop mostly for local. Cassie's Green Grocer or Marion Street Cheese. Granted, one of my favorite things to buy at Sahar is the veal shoulder, and veal is essentially a local product to my area. I was just reading about how veal is a by-product of the dairy industry--birthed female cows join the heard, male Holstein's, well that's your veal, baby. Most veal comes from Wisconsin, including most likely what they sell at Sahar. I do not, however, necessarily think of Sahar as an eat local kinda place.

Until yesterday. Now, I will be tempted to shop there most Thursdays. It seems that every Thursday, Sahar gets a shipment of farm raised fish from a downstate company called Dallas (IL) Fish Company. Sahar carries catfish, carp and buffalo fish. As I was told, the fish is processed (that's food talk for killed) on Wednesday. The especially bloody-fresh looking carp verified that. We had other stuff we needed to eat in the house on Thursday, but I can easily see making the trip to Sahar for some freshwater fish on another Thursday.

Sahar Meat (and fish!)
4829 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 583-6098

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Local Science

Farmer Vicki's Genesis Growers

I came to know and admire Farmer Vicki because of the outreach she does at Hatch Elementary School in Oak Park. I've also been a big buyer of her stuff at the Oak Park and Green City Farmer's markets because she has some of the fairest prices around. Still, I would not be such a proponent of Farmer Vicki if her produce did not taste good. It does. So, I was a bit surprised to see this is her weekly CSA e-mail:
This year we have begun a new fertility program through AgriEnergy. I have wanted to try this program that is based on scientific data, but never felt we could afford it previously. They begin with a soil sample from all fields. Following analysis they mix specific fertilizers to meet the specific soil requirements. This is a dry formula. Then we have two different liquid mixes that we can run through the irrigation. One is beneficial microrganisms to build soil health and vitality and the other is a fertilizer based in fish emulsion, kelp, guano, and chicken manure. All their products are organic and Omri approved. So, my request is to add your input to my observations on weather our crops this summer are improved as a result. I have always used an organic mix, but never with such specifics. It has always just been a generic blend.

I guess part of me sez don't mess with success. I also applaud her inovation and desire to be the best. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Vital Question

Hi! I'll be travelling through Chicago this summer on Amtrak. I'd love to be able to hop off the train and hit a farmers' market or a restaurant serving local foods. Can you recommend things near the Amtrak station? We won't have a car with us.

Cincinnati locavore Valereee posted this in a comment, but it was in a post from over a week ago, so I'm not sure who will see it. It's a good question, so I made a new post.

Valereee, you will find that the train station is within walking distance of Chicago's downtown ("the Loop") as well as very convenient to public transportation to get you where you need. The key thing would be the day of the week you hit town (and to some extent, how long you have).

There are farmer's markets in the Loop several times a week. I'm assuming that the schedule will be the same as in the past, Tuesday's there will be a market at Federal Plaza (Dearborn and Jackson). Thursday's there will be a market at Daley Plaza (Dearborn and Randolph). There's been in the past, a market at the 311 S. Wacker building; that would be five minutes from the train station, but I am not sure if this market will exist, nor its date. You should be able to find the list of Chicago farmers markets all over the 'net soon (soon, not quite yet).

If it's Wednesday or Saturday, you may want to consider, if you have the time, the Green City Market. It leans more organic than some of the other markets, although some of the vendors at Green City can also be found at the downtown markets. I'm not an expert on the Chicago bus system but I believe there's a bus that goes from Union Station to where Green City Market is located (south edge of Lincoln Park). You can also take the Clark Street bus from the Loop.

In the Loop, there's a Chef, Dean Zanella, that focuses a lot on local food--and word in the street is that his restaurant, 312 Chicago, will be even more local driven starting this Spring. Not quite cheap, but not a fortune either.

If you are looking for a different version of Chicago local food, you may want to consider one of the most local of foods (as in Chicago's about the only place you can find it), and that's the Italian beef--see this link for details. About a mile west of Union Station is Al's Italian Beef. It's about the priciest beef meal, but it's considered one of the top two or three of its genre in the world. I should note that Al's has a distinct (and different from other IBs) that a small but vocal group is not keen for. A lot closer to Union Station is a place I like a lot, but is also a place that shares the distinction of being one of the few places to get turned down for an LTHForum Great Neighborhood Restaurant award, that would be J&C Bombacigno's. TheirItalian beef is more conventional, but the spicing is actually closer to Al's than most IBs. Both Al's and J&C have great versions of fried potatoes.

Finally, if you want something even fancier, there's Blackbird, a small walk from the train station (619 W. Randolph). It's one of Chicago's best restaurants, and there's a strong, but not exclusive focus on local foods. The cooking here is stellar. If it's crowded, you can eat at the bar.

Wait, one more thing. In the Loop, there's a cheese store, Pastoral (53 W. Lake), it's at the opposite end of downtown from the train station. They do not have a very local focus for their stuff, but there will still be a few good Wisconsin cheeses you might not now.
Have fun!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Latest in Vie

Menu Posted a Couple of Days Ago

A brief thrill of excitment hit me as I was looking at the new Vie menu the other day. Frog legs, the menu included frog legs. Did Chef Virant use my idea of watercress coulis for frog legs? Sadly no. Menu still looks good. I look forward to trying the rabbit.

A Box Full of Radishes

Inventory Update

We received the second box of our Spring CSA last Thursday. It came with radishes, a lot of radishes. Two bunches, about fifteen radishes each, with blooming radish greens to use too. It's nice to taste something different. The latest inventory report follows.

(previous update)

Cranberries - Not saved for naught. Plan on making cranberry mostarda for Passover's bollito misto.

Celery - Some

Herbs - Did not do a good job of using up all the basil we had, so had to toss a lot. Still holding strong in the fridge are rosemary, thyme, cilantro, mint, and oregano. The new CSA box included a bag of rosemary. (Unrelated rosemary comment: On Top Chef last week the judges complained about rosemary in the beef carpaccio. Call me crazy, but I always thought beef and rosemary was a pretty classic combo.)

Winter squash - Still have some.

Keeper onions - As I noted last week, we added to our inventory with some local onions found at Andy's in Albany Park. It's vital to keep on top of onion stock as new bulb onions (as compared to green onions/scallions) are still several months away. We also got one red onion in our CSA box.

Garlic - Garlic remains fine, and we should last until the new garlic arrives.

Cabbage - Red head remains.

Sunchokes - "I peeked in on the sunchokes last week, about 25% were going/gone. As I say, tired but eatable"--what I said last week.

Carrots - Another three or so large from the CSA box to add to existing stock.

Parsnips - Remains

Potatoes - In anticipation of Passover kugels, we added some Wisconsin russets. Vicki's last CSA box contained about ten reds. Others left in the Bungalow include fingerlings, purple and pinks.

Apples - On one hand, finally got to some of those hangers-on for pie; on the other hand, added from Andy's supply of Michigan apples (Macintoshes, Red Delicious, etc.)

Lettuce - CSA box included bag of baby lettuces.

Microgreens/Sprouts - Finished one box of microgreens, have one bag.

Burdock root - 1 lb - No change

Arugula - One bag left, holding up quite well.

Beets - A good amount of beets.

Kale - Used last week's kale as a polenta topper; this week's CSA came with two more bunches.

Escarole - CSA box included a head escarole that went into Friday night's soup, so not really part of current inventory.

Radishes - And radishes.

Local Pantry
Cheeses, yogurt, eggs, noodles, pork, beef, lamb, bacon, granola, grains, milk

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Local As I Wanna Be

Document It

A while back, my wife made an apple pancake for weekend brunch. Should I take a picture I asked. "Document it" she said. Here's the apple pancake and a few other local meals, giving you all a good idea how we survived the Chicago winter eating local food.

This is a your standard nice piece of fish (Great Lakes whitefish) from Robert's on Devon stuffed with local (frozen) greens and breadcrumbs, roasted on a splayed keeper onion.

Assorted stored roots, boiled (served with corned beef, horseradish sauce)

Local eggs, boiled 8 minutes, greenhouse arugula, green goddess dressing made from first of season, wild watercress.

Eat Local Shabbos

The Versitility of Ground Meat

Buy 1/2 cow and you get a lot of ground meat. At least there's a lot to do with ground meat. When the weather seemed Spring, early in the week, I thought I'd mix the ground beef with some local onions (minced), local garlic (minced) some local herbs and some non-local spices, toss it on the grill and call it kefta. By Thursday, we were thinking spaghetti and meatballs. Friday morning, the weather seemed grillable again.

As I noted earlier today, I cannot just have food. I need food in the proper combination. What goes with kefta does not go with spaghetti and meatballs. Because the morning sun did not fully convince us of kefta, we went shopping for antipasto fixin's. At Caputo's Cheese Market, we did not really buy, and the rain that came seemed not enough to stop the grill.

Indecision brings new ideas. Sheppard's pie my wife suggested. A new way to use the ground beef. By the time the kidz came home from school, we had not figured it out. We surveyed. I mean one of the reasons spaghetti and meatballs was not moving full speed ahead was that I thought the kidz did not like. The survey results came in, and the meatballs, to my surprise/dismay, came in third, ahead of the kefta. Of course, to my real dismay, the write-in, Wingstop, came in first in the survey of kidz choice for Friday Night Dinner.

In second, they picked the devil they did not know, Sheppard's pie.

Hat Hammond would be proud of the recipe my wife dug up, from Staffmeals, one of her favorite cookbooks; ketchup being the secret ingredient to the ground beef. It did add a touch of sweetness that married well with the frozen peas, frozen corn (all local) sauteed in plenty of local butter and finished with a good splash of local cream.

Before the Sheppard's pie, I made soup from local escarole, a prosciutto end from Caputo's and the rind of some Roth Kase Grand Cru Surchoix Gruyere and a semi-soffritto of local onions, local carrots. Sheppard's pie seemed to demand a cheese plate and we sampled four great local cheeses: (from strongest down) , Hook's Blue Paradise, Hook's 10 year old cheddar, a new wedge of the same Roth Kase used in the soup and Zingerman Creamery's Manchester. We had to drink local. The kidz had Filbert's root beer. Mom and Dad finally found the L. Mawby Michigan champagnes we've been searching (Marion Street Cheese). We had Sex (hahhaha), a fitting Sheppard's pie kinda wine. We digested our food in front of recorded NBC Thursday night comedies, then ate pie.

What's Local Marion Street Cheese Market

Local Coincidence

The meals in the Bungalow, local as they may be, are a constant jigsaw or maybe Rubik's cube. One move, one meal, one dish, leads to another dish, another ingredient. We build from our inventory but embellish constantly. If we make this, it needs that. Take Friday. Pie was planned. Originally, my wife thought maple--I asked her "maple what", and she sez, "just maple"; just maple, think pecan pie without the pecans. She had made maple the week before and was interested in trying it again as last week's was a bit too sweet (who woulda thought). Then, going through some recipes, she finds a maple-apple. Sounds great, we've been carrying these pie apples for months. But here's the thing. Just maple gets garnished with whipped cream (with a hint of maple in the cream). We have cream. Maple-apple needs ice cream. And not just any ice cream. After our visit to Cassie's Green Grocer, we are spoiled to any other ice cream. It must be Trader's Point Creamery Vanilla. It has the further advantage that, when slightly melted from the warm pie, it will make a custard sauce like we dining at Hogwarts.

Friday morning, my wife calls Trader's Point Creamery in Indiana. "Where do you sell your ice cream." I mean nothing against Cassie, but her store's just a bit too far this day. Trader's Point cannot answer. They promise to e-mail.

Friday afternoon, I make the challah run. One bakery in Oak Park bakes challahs for Friday's, Prairie Bread Kitchen. PBK is not the worst bread in Oak Park, but that's one of these tall midget contest kinda things. What I like best about PBK, much more than the challah, is the Marion Street Cheese Market next door. When I make the challah run, I invariably stop at Marion, sometimes just for a taste, but usually something, some pricey cheese for the week.

No e-mail had arrived from Trader's Point by Friday afternoon (in fact as of now, no e-mail yet). I would have to get a non-local, not quite as good ice cream, probably Hagen-Daz. I noticed that Marion Street Cheese had newly displayed (to me), Trader's Point Creamery cottage cheese and fromage blanc (highly worthwhile products). How 'bout ice cream? I asked. It turned out they did. In back. In a freezer. Mostly stocked away for the staff.

The pie came out very fine. As expected, the ice cream complemented even finer.