Food for People

I forgot an important concept in the post about the NOFA conference–the idea of growing food for people. Both of the conference keynoters mentioned it, saying that farmers and farms have drifted away from the people they feed. Some farmers won’t eat what they grow, tainted as it is with the knowledge of what they’ve done to it.

 The fact is, though, that they’re growing food for other living, breathing, upright-walking and nutrient-craving human beings. Perhaps the disconnected nature grew out of our hyper-connected lives. Just as it’s easier to slander someone who’s just connected to you by a nebulous internet, so can you ignore decent growing practices when your link to consumers stretches over highways and national borders, and ends up in some air conditioned supermarket you will never see.

 Phew – said it!

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Corny but Good

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You Obies out there may recall the Foxgrape Restaurant in downtown Oberlin. I suspect it was the place where you’d take your folks on Parents Weekend when Weia Teia was booked. I guess you could say it had its share of loyal fans… ok, maybe one loyal fan who parked her long face and faded flower-print skirt by the window every day for lunch. She had the time to wait for the servers to slice the bread and make the sandwiches and screech out steamed milk for espresso drinks while also tending to tables.

Well, I worked at the Foxgrape. And lemme tell you, for all its shortcomings, the sous chef could really make a mean polenta lasagna. Pair that with some of the housemade pumpernickel bread and white bean soup, maybe a side salad with the ginger peanut dressing, and you actually had yourself a meal to rival Weia’s pad Thai or a Black River Cafe omelet.

Here’s my version, which I made for Shabbat dinner guests last week. You can do just like the picture above by serving it with a salad of black beans, purple and red peppers, and fresh corn (this had a simple lime juice and garlic dressing) and a new potato salad with Balsamic vinaigrette, dill flowers, and capers. But the lasagna is a meal in itself. (Click to keep reading for the recipe). Continue reading

Travelogue Part III: 3-Ways in the ‘Natti

I have to applaud Gold Star Chili of Cincinnati. In their quick takeout line–in an airport, no less–they offered a vegetarian version of their signature dish. Now veggies have an (almost) equal opportunity to clog their arteries and broaden their arses with chili cheese fries, chili with garlic bread, and Chili 3-Ways.

The latter is what I got, as you can see here. I say the veggies don’t quite have the same opportunity to acquire those sophisticated Western maladies because the vegetarian chili is full of  (what else?) vegetables instead of meat. It’s hard to see, but they include corn, onions, peppers, mushrooms and other goodies included in the not-too-picante sauce. The “ways”, if you can’t tell from the photo, are Spaghetti, Cheese, and of course Chili. Continue reading

Travelogue Part II: Sustainable Booze

 

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How do you move a 500-pound barrel of bourbon? Roll it downhill, of course! This is what Woodford Reserve does, and has done for years. No fossil fuels or electricity required.And how about getting that sweet flavor and striking amber color in the booze? Could it be some processed corn-derived sweetener? Or lab-produced tint? Nope. Just caramelized oak.

Same idea for the aging process. Mustn’t they consume kilowatts upon kilowatts of energy to regulate the temperature of the warehouse maturing rows of barrels in wooden bunks? As it turns out, the bourbon needs the changing seasonal temperatures to do its thing. Only rarely does Woodford turn on the AC or the heat to adjust what Mother Nature gives them. Continue reading

Ribbed, Red, and Ready to Whip

Sex WhiskThe next part of the travelogue is coming up, but I couldn’t resist showing you this in the mean time. Can these people really sell a whisk that looks so much like a sex toy with a straight face? And without blushing?

If you think the resemblance is just a coincidence, consider the one color it comes in: devil horn red.

I’m just sayin’.

Travelogue Part I: Mass Movement

Last weekend, I was in Massachusetts for the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s annual conference.

What did I see? Well, first we made a stop at Ellen’s parents’ farm. The conference springs forth pretty much entirely from an office just above the basement greenhouse where the seedlings come to life each year. Outside the control room, family photos, country wall paper, and the smell of the wood stove that cooks the food and heats the water…

 

Continue reading

Good Stuff

When Cliff Luhn asked how my burger was and I said it was good, he smiled and nodded with approval. He wasn’t just pleased that I was enjoying my Vegetarians are People Too ‘Shroom Burger (two organic portobello mushroom caps oozing with cheese and battered with panko breadcrumbs) as a fellow diner. I could see the satisfaction went deeper.

“A lot of R and D went into that,” Cliff said.

He proceeded to tell me–with some reporter-like prompting on my part–about the process he and Good Stuff Eatery’s chef, Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn, went through to arrive at the succulent burgers, tasty fries, and unique mayos of the new hot burger joint in town.

I was pleased they did enough testing to realize hydrolyzed soy burgers are not the way to go for the herbivores. In addition to that, Cliff said, they tried countless kinds of potatoes to choose the specific type of russets for their fries, which are cut in house.

Although Good Stuff specializes in burgers (R-and-Ded to the perfect ratio of sirloin to ground beef), they have lots of touches a vegetarian foodie can appreciate. Spike has fused his way to fries that will satisfy American, Belgian, and English tastes in chip consumption. A condiment station offers five different mayos including mango and Sriracha, and a bottle of malt vinegar nestles next to the requisite ketchup and mustard on each table. And if you’re not into any of those options for your fries or want a change of what to dip, you can try them with the Vidalia onion rings.

The milkshakes, handspun with house-made frozen custard, include creative flavors like Soursop Hop Strawberry and Toasted Marshmallow. The place even offers points of interest to locavorians and the pesticide-averse–they strive to cull all of the ingredients from within 60 to 100 miles, and like I mentioned, the ‘shrooms are organic. I could go on, but you get the idea.

I appreciated Cliff’s openness. Unless you’re a fancy New Yorker writer covering a chef with tongue cancer, you probably have not gotten an in-depth look at the birth of restaurant fare. I know I hadn’t, and I felt special. It was great, and I’m not just saying that because my meal was comped!

Spike’s sister, Micheline–the friend who connected me to this whole free taste test–also gave me a peek into the process. In addition to the big stuff like making sure the word gets out about Good Stuff, she sees to things most people wouldn’t even think of, like Braille menus for blind customers and sushi bar-style check off menus for deaf folks. Micheline not only has the PR skills, but can get behind the counter to make a mean toasted marshmallow shake to boot. Aside from the obvious whole whole marshmallows and custard, though, she won’t reveal what goes into it.

People Come and Go, But Coffee is Forever

A feature of my past and current kitchen is a beautifully illuminated and framed post about coffee. A reader and friend was inspired by the piece and thus made it my one and only post to achieve that kind of immortality.

I realized today that it’s been exactly a year since I wrote that.

In that year, I’ve had 2 apartments, taken my first 4 graduate classes, traveled to the other side of the globe and back, changed my cooking priorities, moved out of a relationship and into singlehood, and grown closer to some friends while others have become more distant. And one friend has left this Earth. But I’m still sipping that life-giving cup o’ joe each day. Funny how things change, but vices remain the same.

Hot Fuzz

‘Tis the time for fresh peaches! But you can only nibble so many whole ones and spoon down so many cobblers. That’s when it’s time to try the new rage this year and put your fuzzy friends on the grill!

To get that party started, I tried a grilled peach slice with a veggie burger at a recent grill out session. It was delish. You can also try grilled peach salsa.

I recommend yellow peaches for all your grilling endeavors. The white ones are too tame, without that sour compliment to the sweetness.

Have fun!