Friday, August 15, 2008

Glimmers of Local Food

Non-food advice to anyone with with a teenager daughter: hide the camera.

Is it fully her fault? I've been meaning to download the pictures on the camera for ages. I was not sure where I stashed away the cord, but it turned out to be not hard to find. Do I share some blame over the local food pictures being over-written for artistic shots of her and her friend [ed. and her and her friend and Moe the cat]. Instead of pages full of images of what local food looks like, here, my friends are a few glimmers.

Here's a few glimpses of our local meat, beef from our 1/2 cow we purchased over a year ago from Farmer Vicki's Genesis Growers. I think these pics support my view that there is little loss of quality with freezing the meat. On the other hand, the first pic shows one of the downsides with local meat, the butchering. Look at the middle steak. Ever see a ribeye cut that way?

The locavore's mantra is to eat what is in season, eat it in abundance and then be done with it. We may catch up with some frozen asparagus in the winter, but we enjoyed it while it lasted.

This was the riso discussed here and here's Tuscan night mentioned in that same post.

Local fava beans are even more fleeting than local asparagus. We've never had much need for favas until Chad Nichols introduced us to favas and the grill. Here's our it looked the first time I did it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eat Local Meat

Nose to Tail

I've mentioned many a time, that the best way to purchase and consume local meat is by obtaining the whole beast. In this week's Time Out Chicago (via) Heather Shouse talks with several local chefs who get their own animals and then break the carcasses down themselves. Of course your whole animal will probably come broken down already. Still, like the Chefs, you'll have plenty of odds and ends as well as the kiskes or fifth quarter. See what these guys are doing with their local meat.

Eat Local Watermelon

I get my first watermelon of the season this week. Melons take a lot of heat, time, so it takes a good amount of summer to get local watermelon (although my wife interjects that the muskmelons so far have been incredible). Farmer Vicki promised me, in her weekly e-mail, something called Lamar, a seedless melon, and the best melon she has ever grown. I have a feeling she will be right. She usually is.

A lot of local foodies go ga-ga, not over Lamar, but over melons trucked in from the South and sold at the Baylor Melon Market. I am hesitant to throw too much criticism at the Baylor melons. The only time I tried one, at the LTHForum picnic a few years ago, the melons were unfortunately fermented. Still, I put my faith in Farmer Vicki, and I suspect that a certain amount of the Baylor allure stands for the specialness of the product, the transport via bus and the ties to historical agriculture. Then again, a lot of people like the Baylor melons. I want local.

From yesterday's CTrib:
Grower Chris Sutton, owner of Sutton Fruit and Vegetable in Kaufman County, Texas, says that your best bet is to buy local and in season. According to the National Watermelon Promotion Board, you should look for "a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free of bruises, cuts or dents. When you see a nice-looking watermelon, pick it up and feel its heft; then pick up a few others of similar size to compare. At 92 percent water, a good melon should feel heavy for its size. Seeded varieties tend to be sweeter, Sutton said, "because the seed cavities cause it to be riper." How do you know a watermelon ripened on the vine? Easy: Turn the melon over and check for a creamy yellow spot. That's a sign that the watermelon sat on the ground and in the sun to ripen.

Does your melon have a creamy yellow spot?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How Fare the Battle for Local

About 2 weeks ago, I gathered up all the weekly inserts in the Chicago Tribune for grocery stores. I meant to write a post highlighting the amount of local foodstufs advertised by the lot (including Dominicks, Jewel, Tony's, Ultra Foods and Caputo's). As a lot of my ideas of late, it remains inchoate (+ one post in draft form and another post that got killed by an Internet Explorer crash). The bad news from the delay, it seems like the forces of local have had some setbacks.

A few weeks ago, all the stores featured several local items (produce) in their fliers. Today, the pickings are fewer. To wit:

  • Food4Less - No specifically delineated local products. Worse, the navel oranges are highlighted with a big bar "IMPORTED!".
  • Jewel-Osco - See above. No produce labeled local; Australian navel oranges. They do note their peaches and nectarines are "Bursting with Pick'd Ripe First of Summer Flavor [sic]". Believe them?
  • Tony's Finer Foods - Getting better. They advertise "Sweet Michigan Blueberries".
  • Ultra Foods - Take that: home grown green beans, zucchini and yellow squash.
  • Domincik's - One one hand, they have the absurdity of an ad for hot house cucumbers right above copy that reads, "It's Peak Season!", but they do also advertise locally grown blueberries, sweet corn and green beans.
  • Angelo Caputo's - I save the best for last, the staunched of the bunch. They advertise Michigan green peppers, Michigan peaches, Michigan pickles, Michigan grown farm fresh eggplant, Michigan grown farm fresh large ripe tomatoes, locally grown green onions, locally grown Romaine lettuce, locally grown basil, and Illinois farm fresh sweet corn. Where should you shop?

Here's the real kicker. Everything Caputo's advertises, they offer for less than $1 per pound or $1/per item. For instance, their Illinois sweet corn sells 5 for $1. C'mon! Anyone who tells you that local is not affordable or accessible, well get thee over to Caputo's now. I was there yesterday and besides what is on advertisement, the local included cabbages at something ungoldy cheap like 3 lbs/$1 and an assortment of local peppers. If price is a strong concern, stock up on your local now, when it is cheapest. Green beans and corn freeze especially well. Peppers can be preserved in oil. These are not quite canning tomatoes, but Caputo's will have them soon. Eat local.

Let's monitor the battle front in the weeks to come.