Friday, July 25, 2008

Read Local

Slow News Day

As the blogger known as Atrios would say, "I got nothing." So instead here's some good places to find eat local reading.

Tomorrow I may brave to the scene to shop with Alice Waters; otherwise it's Oak Park Farmer's Market for me. Sunday night: Mado.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What's Local - Marion Street Cheese

Eat Hard to Find Local Cheese (and more)

Fromage fanatics, let alone locavores clamor greatly for one cheese in particular (leaving aside any general clamor from bootleg real Camembert and that kinda stuff). I'm talking the 2007 American Cheese Society Grand Champion of Cheese; the Midwest's own Raclette from the Leelanau Cheese Company of Michigan. Well, courtesy of a well-traveled source, Marion Street has it now. Rich and creamy with the intensity and complexity of an aged raw milk product. Get there.

Want more cheeses? Today was the day for retailers to poke and prod the wares at the 2008 American Cheese Society shindig in Chicago. I know some folks from Marion went with their wallets open. Check in with them to see what they got.

Eli's Cheesecake Lecture Series Update

My wife and I have been well enjoying the weekly lecture series at Eli's Cheesecake on sustainable entrepreneurship. Last Thursday, Lynn Peemoeler talked about her experience in food policies including urban gardening, starting farmer's markets and eliminating food desserts. The schedule has changed for this week. Instead of organic farmer, Stan Schutte, it's heritage poultry raiser, John Caveny.

He will speak from 1-2 PM. Eli's is located at 6701 W. Forest Park Drive, Chicago, which is not too far from Harlem/Irving.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Latest Crush

Yes, what is the mockable?

Iron Chef + Iron Chef Summer Squash Recipe

You think I'm bitter about my lack of reference in the CTrib's Sunday front pager on eating local [ed., won't give one that one up, huh?], what about the lack of notoriety I got for breaking the Paul Virant Iron Chef news. My sole blog scoop! Anyways, in anticipation of seeing my favorite local chef (although these days he's ably challenged by so many others, especially Rob at Mado) on a forthcoming epsiode of Iron Chef, my wife and I have have taken to recording and watching the week's episodes each Sunday on TV Food Network. We had more reason to catch this week's episode because it featured the judging of Chicago food writer and woman of the world, Louisa Chu.

Would we watch Iron Chef America but for the inclusion of people we know? Probably not. We barely watched it until we learned of PAUL VIRANT IRON CHEF CHALLENGER. Still, we now watch regularly. Flat out, it's not close to the original. Sure, you cannot duplicate the camp value of that one, from the giggling ingenue du jour to the What's Up Tiger Lily voicing to the older woman judge whose varied titles include soothsayer. Still, we miss many features of the original.

Foremost, the competing version of Iron Chefs contain competing versions of what it means to be a secret ingredient. It seems that secret is not quite as secret in the USA version. This is apparent in the USA version. As soon as the bell rings, the chef-testants know what they are doing. Contrast to the original where there was a true sense of improvisation. You could literally see them thinking and planning their meals. The rules in our version specify five dishes. In the real version, you never knew how many dishes the chefs could create. There were episodes where the chefs could barely manage two dishes. My wife and I like watching what the chefs create on the US version; how they treat the ingredients, and especially, the techniques employed. We watch mostly because it is the best cooking show on the station. It is not, however, as challenging or as riveting.

Our other complaints are mostly of style. The original's opening montages, the overly dramatic introductions of the histories of the Iron Chefs and the biographies of the challengers is not duplicated in the least. Moreover, the upstart version misses the rivalries, contrived or not (I say not) running through the series: the Ohta Faction, traditional vs. modern, redemption of family honor. Nothing against Alton Brown, who brings some wit and food expertise to the program, but he cannot come close to Dr. Yukio Hattori who could whip out some obscure culinary tidbit out of his tush. Finally, the US version excludes one of the key moments in the original, the over-the-top voice-over descriptions of the prepared dishes. My wife and I watch, but we know what we are missing.

Beyond the inclusion of Ms. Chu, this week's episode hit home for the localvore, summer squash. The judges and commentators maligned the vegetable, but anyone eating local about now is happy to get recipe ideas. Not to give away too much if you have not seen the show yet; one dish really appealed to me, zucchini in a harissa-spiked vinaigrette. I made my version last night.

4 smaller zucchini (think about six inches)
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of Aleppo pepper
5 (or so) beads of allspice
1 lemon
Olive oil, salt, pepper

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. From the small end, cut in 2; from the fatter end, cut in 4--if your squash is fatter cut the whole thing into fourths.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil, add the zukes, cook for about five minutes until tender.

Crush the garlic, Aleppo pepper and allspice, then salt and pepper, add the juice of one lemon. Let the flavors mingle and the pepper hydrate.

Combine the cooked vegetable with the dressing. Pour only a bit of olive oil over. It should taste bright and spicy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Night Local Reigned - Green City BBQ - CLARIFICATION

Department of Whoops

A few nights ago, I raved about the annual Green City Market BBQ. I mentioned in my report how much food I consumed. On LTHForum, Ronnie Suburban confirmed my belief that the fete provided more fare than last year. I believe that food induced coma rattled my mind and weakened my reporting abilities, forcing me to rely too much on stringers, i.e., my daughters.

Any reported sightings of Chef Dean Zanella of 312 Chicago, a locavore chef if the city ever had one (and even more notable for his zero waste and recycling efforts); were mistaken and any reporting that the awesomely cute kidz hawking ice cream at the 312 stand were related to Chef Zanella was also mistaken. Those said kidz went with 312 pastry chef, Kim Schwenke. They do resemble their dad. It's just that their dad is not Dean Z.

Vital Information regrets its errors and blames all on the vast amounts of items he was forced to ingest.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Great Local Event

I've been way remiss in not posting this earlier.

The Oak Park Micro Brew & Food Review, produced by the Downtown Oak Park Association and Seven Generations Ahead, features tastings of 50 craft beers from 15 local microbreweries from across Illinois.

Sample beer from the most skilled craft brew masters. Eat organic food from Oak Park restaurateurs and local farmers. Listen to roving musicians and participate in festive activities that will delight and entertain. Enjoy the new Marion Street shopping area. Admission is $35 and can be purchased at

A VIP pre-event celebration will be held at the new "green" Marion Street Cheese Market, and will include a select craft brew and cheese tasting, a tour of the new facility and its green features, and a welcome from brewmaster extraordinaire, Pete Crowley, president of the IL Craft Brewers Guild; tickets are $65 and include the VIP event and the Oak Park Micro Brew & Food Review.

For more information and ticket purchasing go to here on the Seventh Generation Ahead web site.

You Go Girl!

Adam P has left this blog in VERY able hands.

Favorite Product Watch

Found in Local Markets Recently

  • New potatoes - Fox & Obel, Green Grocer
  • Gunthrop Farms smoked ham - Fox & Obel
  • Trader's Point Creamery - Orchard Trio Yogurt (specifically Orchard Trio) - Green Grocer

These are the types of foodstuffs that make it good to be a locavore.

Eat Local Orange Juice

Well, there are many locavores that can wake up each morning with a refreshing glass of orange juice from oranges grown within their local area or local foodshed. If your oranges are out of season, you can even use some stuff you put away in your freezer. OK, that aint us here in the Chicago area. Anyone around here abiding by a local diet, whether a 100 mile radius or my more expansive Big 10 Conference, will not find oranges. Here, local orange juice?

Last night I had the chance to speak to a small group of people on my favorite's of topics, eating local [ed., you would like the chance to talk about the media issues, but no one's giving you that platform, right?]. As I am wont to do in such talks, my first bit of advice to the crowd is the way to starting eating local is to not eat local. In other words, don't make yourselves nuts eating local. If you want a glass of orange juice to start the day. No sweat.

An audience member last night, though, instinctively hit on one of my favorite themes. If you cannot eat it local, eat it as-if local. She talked about making her own orange juice. How different the amount of juice one gets when squeezing her own oranges compared with opening a carton, but this juice, her juice satisfied her more, and as we both agreed, came with the lack of packaging one associates with local. We further agreed that juice oranges, even those found up North, tended to be more flavorful oranges than the standard supermarket oranges and surely more flavorful than the standard supermarket orange juice. Good points all around. Then, another audience member added another good juice point. We used to know juice glasses as tiny glasses. We drank a standard portion in three ounces. It made sense, the amount of juice obtained from DIY squeezing. That's what it was supposed to be. So, I say. Go ahead, drink juice. Make it as-if local by squeezing it yourself.

Another key message (I believe) about eating local (beyond don't make yourself nuts) is that local is an imprinteur, a roadmap. Way more than organic, I find the word local, well not so much the word but the sussying out via label reading and other research, leads to the type of food that matters to me. Firstly, it leads me to food made with respect for the things that matter to me such as humane animal husbandry and good environmental practices. Secondly, it leads me to food made with care, artisanalship, quality, things together that equals what matters most, deliciousness. The corollary of this message becomes then, if it cannot be local, look for products that have the traits of local. Take my morning coffee. I would not survive, period, if I looked for local coffee. I do survive, however, on coffee that is fair trade (or better) and organic. Roasted by local companies like Blue Max, all the better.

Tomorrow morning, have a nice, small, glass of orange juice, secure in your knowledge that you are a locavore.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Kudos of the Day

Department of Expected and Unexpected

The man known far and wide as Eat Chicago has two new family members and a third on the way. Congrats to him and Petit Pois (or is that Cookie). What took you so long!

The woman whose surname dictated her career path, Cassie G, collects another honor; this one from Chicago Magazine's new Best of issue for her green entrepreneurship. Way to follow destiny.

The guy with the roving camera freelances in an unexpected spot and helps spread the fame of Chicago's best restaurant. I assume the next Sky Full of Bacon short will be on Spike TV.

I knew Marion Street Cheese would have a fine collection of local cheeses* in their new store. I learned that it was a lot more snazzy than I imagined during the whole wait for the open thing. Now, I find that this place already makes, what I believe to be the best danish in the Chicago area. I am going to have to scrounge around the vital information piggy bank and commission David the Hat Hammond to write an ode to this pastry as I do not have words to fully describe. Let me at least leave you with these words of encouragement: made with Zingerman's cream cheese.

*VITAL CORRECTION - I reported the other day that I found no BleuMont Dairy products at the newly expanded Marion Street Cheese. Well, I was WRONG. I was there yesterday and they had the bandaged cheddar.