Saturday, July 05, 2008

I'm Not Bitter - Chicago Tribune Front's Local

While the story should run on the front page of Sunday's Chicago Tribune, it's already front and center on their web site. I'm entirely happy that the Trib's profiling locavore's. The challenges of eating local will diminish as more people eat local. I believe, have remarked often, that demand, consumer demand, will make local happen the most. Want more farmer's markets; shop at farmer's markets. Same with winter markets. Don't just dabble. Let your wallets talk. Demand can achieve year round local produce, right here in Chicago. Demand can create meat that's not frozen all the time. Demand will get you more and more restaurants with local food. So, I'm happy first of all that the article highlights a few others that are keeping local, with various degrees of extremism. I am happy, obviously, with the top of the news placement, and I am happy that the article will encourage more people to eat local. I'm not bitter that my comments to the reporter last week were not included. The story is mostly a good primer for eat local starters, and I'm not bitter over the fact that I asked the reporter to mention this humble blog, and he did not.

Really, I'm not bitter. I'm not a bitter kinda guy. My family calls me Mr. Not Very Bitter. It's just that I did not start eating local last month, nor did I commence my web site (this one) in 2008. Been doing it, my family and I, for three plus years. Not giving it a whirl, not a one week challenge and not in time for the duration of farmer's markets. We do it summer and winter. We maintain it because the reasons for eating local, all the reasons for eating local, do not go into hibernation when the farmer's markets pack away. And, we do it, surely a bit, for the challenge too, to see that we can continue to do it. We know the challenges. Just because my family and I believe we have as much, nay more experiences on eating local in our area, we're not bitter. If I was a bitter kinda guy, I'd be bitter. Instead, I'm happy the Trib's got the Eat Local beat.

Certainly, a bitter guy would not share the three challenges to eating local I mentioned to the reporter the other day. After all, if they were not good enough for the Chicago Tribune, could the be good enough for here?. The challenges to eating local in Chicago:

  1. Tracking down one's food. To eat local in the Chicago area means working for your food, whether it's shopping at farmer's markets or figuring out how to have local meat, it's not just a question of hitting the closest supermarket.
  2. Can local be done year-round? To eat local in the Chicago area in the winter means a combination of winter shopping and storage. I'm not sure which is the bigger problem. Do you have the time to run to Madison? Do you have the space and resources to horde food?
  3. Time. As I have said often, local needs time. It needs time to figure out what works, how to do things that work for you, and it needs time to prep, to get your local food on the table.

As to resources, there's plenty here, including my trademarked best seasonality guide. Look over the links on the sidebar for any help you need to eat local. If I was bitter, I'd go an erase them all right now.

I look forward to your participation in the Eat Local Challenge. I'm with you all the way. Not the least bit bitter.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Funny Pages

For years, no aspect of the media has more matched the daily machinations of our lives more than Baby Blues. In that vein, see this comic. Note, it took them less than a 1/2 hour to yank the actual image off this web site.

The Cost of Local Food

Yesterday, I spoke with a local reporter about the challenges of eating local. One challenge I did not mention was cost. I did this because I do not believe cost is a challenge to eating local. At least let me put it this way, I certainly think that I am paying the fair cost for my food when eating local. That does not mean that there are not ways to make local less costly. Jen Maiser at the Eat Local Challenge site has some good ideas on how to spend less money as you go local.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

MCA Farmer's Market

We Need After Hour Farmer's Markets!

We had the perfect Tuesday afternoon planned. I spent the morning ably in work, completing a case, but perhaps the day's events were foreshadowed by a software glitch that prevented me from sending out this report. Rick Bayless, by way of Macy's 7th floor, left a bad taste in my mouth too. It cost me over $10 for slices of chicken breast (I'm not sure if a whole breast made it on my sandwich), a small container of salsa from a jar and a watery diet Coke. I gotta certain amount of love AND respect for Mr. Bayless. He is very local ya' know, but I also find, well, they never call hm Rick "Value" Bayless.

They may call me "Mr. Farmer's Market"(although my family also calls me Mr. Thin Slicer and Mr. Mirth Provider but that's neither here nor there to the point at hand). No one loves farmer's markets more than me. I've driven in horrible storms to get to Madison's market; braved sub-zero weather for a market in Ann Arbor. I'll get out of bed at the crack of dawn to ensure my Saturday includes a stop at the Oak Park market. These days, I'm at at least 2 markets a week. Because I am Mr. Farmer's Market I can criticize the hell out of them.

Really, I said that wrong. I don't mean to criticize farmer's markets. I mean to criticize the idea of farmer's markets. And it's not even farmer's markets I am criticizing. What I mean to say is that farmer's markets are a problem for the locavore. OK, what I mean to say, is that you should not have to rely soley on farmer's markets to eat local. Make sense yet? All I'm trying to get to is that it would be helpful if farmer's markets had hours that facilitated more people eating local. Like, for instance, how 'bout a market that was open on the way home from work, so you could be inspired by the bounty and then cook dinner.

The market at the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) is advertised as going to 6 PM. Back to my swimmingly planned day. The plan was that Mom and Older Daughter would take advantage of free Tuesdays to see the Jeff Koons exhibit, and Dad would get another market under his belt. I did a bit of recon while they got a head start on me--there's only so much high class porn masquerading as art [ed., don't forget floating basketballs too!] I need. It looked like a very adequate market. I was especially interested in buying new potatoes, basil and baby zukes. The problem, when we left the market around 4 PM, about 1/2 the stands were packing up. We did buy fruit from Ellis and Nofke who swore they'd stay to the end. The MCA market is also the only market in the the Michigan Ave/Streeterville area. I'd have better things to say about it if it kept to its schedule.

Just today I was telling someone that one of the key challenges of eating local was the tracking down of one's food. I caveat-ed that by saying I, personally, find pleasure in the hunt, but I recognize that not everyone else does. I want people to adopt local eating. I have less of a need for people to adopt local eating challenges. Local eating will become less of a challenge when there are more options for getting local food, including farmer's markets that stay open late.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Return of the Brilliant One

Quite the week for the old team to rear its beautiful head. First, we got the launch of MikeG's Sky Full of Bacon; then I get an e-mail this afternoon that the linguistically over-qualified one, RST, is back to posting. His latest can be found on the 'hound (just like in the bad old days, and this post is about as classically RST as can be.). Maybe we'll here from Zim soon.

What's In Season Now - July

Remember, everything you read about seasonality but this is wrong (wink-wink). I'm not gonna do a full update for July yet because things have not changed much since the last report. Moreover, the full glory of summer, the peaches, the tomatoes, the cukes, have not arrived. Still, a couple of great products have just shown up.

  • True, freshly dug new potatoes. A lot of shoppers like to think of any smaller, red or waxy potato as a new potato. We should reserve the term only for the real thing. These are potatoes dug within a day or so of vending. Unlike other potatoes, they are not cured (about 1/2 down the linked page). They do not have to be red either. Any potato can be eaten "new". The tell tale sign of a new potato is peeling skin from the farmer washing the potato. I'll post some pictures soon. Also, unlike other potatoes, new potatoes should be stored in the fridge and eaten soon after purchase. They are best cooked/dressed lightly.

  • Tiny summer squash. I was just reading in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Family book how vegetables do not ripen the way fruit does. They're there when they're there and ready when they are there. In other words a baby zucchini is no less and no more ripe than a mondo zucchini bread zucchini. Still, one tastes light and delicate and one, well, as I say, it's good for bread. This is the time for light and delicate.

On the downside, strawberries and asparagus are just, just about done.


Freezer and Inventory

Frittatine alle Verdue

With Eggs

In cooking, eggs often serve as a binder. For a locavore, eggs often serve as a binder too, bringing together the disparate ingredients one has obtained over the weeks. For a while I've been hankering to make frattanine alle erbe, tiny egg pancakes filled with greens and herbs. While I have greens in the Bungalow, I decided to make what I'm calling frittatine alle verdue, with vegetables instead as I mostly wanted to use some hanging around scallions and my large supply of garlic scapes. These made for a nice Sunday brunch, with a green salad on the side and challah from Friday night.

The mis en place is below, at least my attempt as such. As I noted the other day, I've been channeling my inner Italian Grandmother. I'm also trying to channel my inner Escofier these days as well. Notice the assortment of egg sizes from Farmer Vicki's Genesis Growers. Also, notice how I trimmed off some scraggy ends and long growing roots from my scallions.

I rough cut basil, scallions and scapes and sauteed them for about five minutes in olive oil over medium heat. Until soft but not ashen.

To make the frittatine, you crack one egg into a bowl. Mix with a fork. Season with a bit of salt, a shake of nutmeg cannot hurt if you got.

Lightly oil a small, heavy bottom pan, preferably cast iron, add a dollop of the verdue, then pour in the egg.

It took me several attempts to master or at least determine the right technique here. The idea is to make something akin to a crepe not an omelet. My problem was my pan was exactly the right size for the frittatine, but exactly the right size made flipping difficult. It was hard to get a spatula in under the eggs.

My tendency at first was to revert to French habits [ed. you?]. I used a fork to pull back the cooked eggs from the edge, letting some of the uncooked eggs fill-in. I wanted to fold the egg to cook the wet inside. Instead what I found was just be patient. Let the bottom cook long enough, over medium heat, to really firm up the whole thing. Then it was possible to slip the spatula in and give a good flip. Under this method, the second side needs only about 10 seconds.

I kept the frittatine in a 175 degree oven until I finished the dozen.

The finished product served with some grated (local) Parmesan style cheese and some salsa verde I've had around (freshening up a bit the other night with some new herbs).

Monday, June 30, 2008

What Does a Sky Full of Bacon Taste Like?

There are a lot of us in the Chicago eater community with talent, at least in bits and pieces. Then, there are a few with real talent. MikeG's one of those guys. He's a master sketcher, designed the LTHForum logo, takes some mean photo's, but especially he's a master of the edit machine. You think he's just taping, but the end product looks like something you'd see on TV! A few years ago, he and fellow talent, David the Hat Hammond, made an outstanding documentary of the new Maxwell Street Market and its attendant eating pleasures called Gorilla Gourmet (buy a copy here). Mike's set his camera a-workin' on the Chicago food world, starting out with a topic near and dear to me, local eating. More, he showcases my pal Cassie Green of Green Grocer in the video. He plans on doing many more videos.

MikeG, also known as Mike Gebert's new site is Sky Full of Bacon. He blogs here and you can watch the eat local video here.

Martha Bayne Hate Watch

It's been ages since I've published any vehemence towards Ms. Bayne (who I've never met, but only heard nice things about) (more hateful stuff here). Now via, I learn that I'm gonna spend days, weeks, months, in glorious jealousy as Ms. Bayne ideals away with this stack of books living the good life in Washington Island, Wisconsin, eating fresh caught lawyers and downing shots of bitters--ostensibly to write a book. Yeah right. Your just rubbing it in mine and the rest of our faces.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

What List?

We swore we did not need much. We really only needed, emphasis on the need, one thing: garlic. But who could resist white carrots from Farmer Vicki's Genesis Growers? Our purchases were added to this list.

In other market spotting fava beans made their brief exposure here, at Nichol's Farm.

NB: Genesis Growers is at Green City Market Wednesday and Saturdays and Oak Park on Saturday. Nichol's market schedule here.

Eat Local Later

More stuff set aside. See running list here.

Also, to add to a post from the other day, a lot more peas went in to the freezer. Stover's cut us a great deal, $3.50/lb for 10 lbs of shelled peas.