Eat Local Radio – This Sunday

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Posted: December 31, 2009 at 10:07 am

Just in time for the holiday stupor to wear off, we have a treat for you.  This Sunday yours truly, along with the hardest working woman in winter marketing, Robin Schirmer, will be guests on Mike Nowak’s Chicago Gardening show on WCPT, starting at 9 AM this coming Sunday (January 3, 2010).  If you cannot get to a radio, you can listen to us streaming live at www.chicagoprogressivetalk.com.   We will have plenty of tips for you on how to continue to eat local this winter and beyond, and we will promote like hell all the forthcoming winter markets.  Tune in.




End-of-Year Lessons

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Posted: December 30, 2009 at 11:50 am

William Alexander’s The $64 Tomato is a treatise on how one family spent thousands of dollars to grow a few bushels of vegetables. While Mr. Alexander’s methods and situations are very different from my own, I found myself sympathizing with his outlook on life, his reasons for gardening, his frustrations with nature’s refusal to obey his will and his children’s propensity to roll their eyes at his gardening obsession.

For the few hundred dollars I spent on gardening supplies in 2009 ($250, to be close to exact), I got a modest return in food ($165, by my estimation). The value I put on the harvest is based on farmer’s market prices rather than on-sale-at-the-local-grocery-store costs. And the input costs don’t include long-since-amortized capital investments like the rain barrel, compost bin and, of course the land on which I grew the greens. If I had to add a portion of the mortgage payments to my input costs, the results would be much worse.

But since I’m doing the math my own way and since the balance sheet has to balance, the $85 difference between input and output paid for trial-and-error gardening lessons that I won’t need to learn again next year. Here (free to you!) are a few of these lessons, at a cost to me of just over $10 a lesson.

The Cages Worked

More than once, I watched a flock of birds land on the caged Square Foot Gardens and I chortled at their helplessness. Perched in confusion atop the plastic rigging, they seemed bewildered at how yummy insects could be so close, and yet so unobtainable. They squawked and chirped a lot, crapped a bit, and left my garden little worse for wear.

While the unprotected tomatoes were quickly stolen by squirrels, the ones in the cages avoided animal attack. It was weather that killed the caged tomatoes, and we only four or five fruits from the square foot gardens. Still, they were the tastiest fruits I’ve ever eaten. Candy-like, in fact. With each bite (actually, these were small enough that there was only one bite), I smugly thought, “I get these and you don’t.” I shook my tiny fist in victory at the rodents who were no doubt hiding behind a wall somewhere.

Something There is That Doesn’t Love a Cage

One problem with fencing out the world is that, in upsetting the natural order of things, I was faced with a slug problem that could otherwise have been handled adroitly by the birds who frequented the unprotected garden. The cages were a pain to build and to move each time I needed to get at the garden. It was an eyesore to visitors who came looking to buy the house and storing two 64 cubic foot, splinter-covered wobbly monstrosities remains a challenge.

Planning Pays Off

The notion of succession planting—that a single plot of land can bear multiple harvests in a season—was only possible because I sketched the garden out in advance and thought through what seeds or transplants would fit nicely in which spots. By knowing ahead of time exactly which seeds went where, I was able to give most of the plants enough space to grow unfettered and live out their leafy lives to the best of their abilities. After that, it remained up to me to figure out how to cook vegetables that I only grew in the first place because they fit my plan, and not because I really looked forward to eating them. Still, it was pretty easy to fall in love with collard greens.

I Should Plan Better

Among the many things I failed to think through was how large some plants can grow (both tall and wide) and how their heft might affect their neighbors. My Brussels sprouts, which produced two or three meals’ worth of veggies for the four of us, were so tall and heavy, that the smaller cage lacked the height to let them grow. So I had to let them lay on the soil, which took up precious horizontal space in my square foot garden. Next year, I can extend the height of the cage so I can stake them up vertically.

Despite all my careful planning, I didn’t think in terms of shade. An important lesson I learned is that plants needing the most sunlight should be on the south end of the garden. Kind of a no-brainer, I guess, but it’s hard to tell when they’re seedlings that they’re going to block each other’s light. My tomatoes and peppers, suffering from a cool summer already, didn’t need the knockout punch of being on the far side from the sun. Out of more than half a dozen pepper plants, I probably only harvested eight or nine fruits altogether. On the other hand, three luscious purple eggplants (no thanks to my foresight) got enough sunlight (even when shaded by beans) to grow to fruition and contributed to a few outstanding all-garden eggplant, hot pepper and basil sandwiches. For some reason, the unprotected eggplants avoided all insects and critters. No tiny fist shaking necessary. Nobody wanted to nibble on them except me, and they were as pretty as they were tasty.

I had thrown a bunch of peas in the ground weeks before the frost hit. They sprouted a few inches, then died a feeble death. Had I been quicker to plant them, or even started them indoors so I could have transplanted them while six inches tall, I might have gotten one last crop. Next year, I shall plan in four dimensions and not just the boring old three.

Experimenting Is its Own Reward

While adding Epsom salt to my tomato roots seemed to do absolutely nothing (or may, in fact, have done damage) one of my biggest finds was how good broccoli leaves can be. I had originally assumed they were poisonous, because you never see them in the grocery store or on menus. But when picked young, they are the culinary equivalent to collard greens, and retain a smell of broccoli when eaten.

Much of the reward for me has been just watching different plants grow, seeing what effect treating plots differently had on my plants, and noting how wind, water and sunlight influenced the outcomes. I garden, in part, just to satisfy my curiosity. Next year I intend to change things just for the sake of change.

Once thing I tried that I’ve never done before is intentionally saving seeds. In this case, I emptied out a number of bean pods, dried the beans in the sun and placed them in a sealed jelly jar with several silica gel packets (do not eat the silica packet!). They’re sitting in a cool, dark place, and we’ll see if they can spring back to life in May.

Nature Can Restore its Own Balance

The hawks who had been circling I-94 in the spring later began circling over my neighborhood. One day I drove down the alley to see a hawk perched on a neighbor’s tree and stopped the car for a minute just to observe it resting. I waited and admired it until it flew off on its own before I parked in the garage.

The Avian virus had killed off first the large grackles and crows, then the smaller sparrows, robins and starlings earlier in the decade to the point where we would wake up on a spring morning, Rachel Carson-like, and hear only silence. Shortly after that, squirrel and chipmunk corpses began appearing on the sidewalks.

Two years later, free of predators, the small mammal population skyrocketed. Chipmunks dug holes freely wherever they liked and springtime squirrel orgies were so frequent that cars had to slow down on our street to avoid squashing two or three of them chasing each other from tree to tree. Although they hid themselves better, somewhere there were rats or mice as well. On our block, a single cat, owned by a neighbor who doesn’t believe in neutering or restraining their pets, roamed the alley, fattening itself on the abundant prey. But one cat alone does not make the peak of a food pyramid.

Finally, just recently, the rodent population declined and leveled off. I believe it’s the hawks that brought death from the skies, probably eliminating the babies first, then bringing fear back to the alley so the chipmunks conceal their holes better and the squirrels keep their fornicating in the privacy of wherever the hell they do it.

Nature Works Best Without Our Help

My lawn, compared to my neighbors who hire services to spray and maintain theirs, is a sad-looking plot of earth. And yet, you could eat off it. Or from it, as it were. The clover and crabgrass have found their niche and reached an accord with the Kentucky bluegrass that lets them co-exist in harmony. I won’t make the cover of any home care magazines, but if I decide next year to start eating wild dandelions, I won’t have to worry about ingesting pesticides.

This Would be a Heck of a Way to Make a Living

As much as I’ve read about American farmers and as many as I’ve spoken to, I’m still quizzical about why they do it. I know much of what draws farmers to the soil is tradition, history, a love of solitude and self-determination and a desire to avoid the draw of urban life. Still, as much as people complain about subsidies to farmers, our financial system is stacked against them. Our economic/agricultural system is built to make middlemen rich (futures and options traders, petroleum companies, transportation networks, retail stores) and suppress the true cost of good food for consumers. Those who don’t own their own land but instead work to harvest someone else’s crops are even worse off.

Gardening means I don’t have to feed anyone but myself and my family. I don’t need motorized equipment and I don’t have to anticipate what the market might desire by harvest time. I eat what I plant and I plant what I like. I’ve become closer, physically and spiritually, to the land I own and spent more time outdoors as a result. I intend to turn this hobby into a habit and turn these cheap lessons into a better harvest in 2010, when I try again to double my record and grow enough food to feed my family for at least 9 days.

A happy new year to all, and best of luck in 2010.




I Don’t Need no Stinkin’ Beer Year in Review

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Posted: December 28, 2009 at 8:51 pm

It’s that time of year, when everyone and his overeducated yet slothful brother-in-law* is writing about the year in review. (Or even worse, printing it out and sticking inside holiday cards to inflict it on unsuspecting loved ones.) But me, I flatter myself to think I’m an iconoclast, marching to be beat of my own tympani, with a semi-functional mind of my own. I don’t want to have to write up the year in review. I don’t have to follow the pack. I refuse to do what everybody expects. I’m my own man. I don’t need your stinkin’ rules.

 So here’s my year in review column.

 It was a good year for beer in Chicago.

 It used to be Goose Island was the only craft brewer within the city limits (not counting Pete Crowley’s fantastic output at the corner of State and Grand). The Goose is still going strong, especially with their Belgian-style ales – Matilda, Sophie, Juilet, and Pere Jacques. Try each and swoon appropriately multiple times. If Goose Island is the spokesbrewery for craft brewing in Chicago, then Chicago’s long been well served.

 But in 2009, Metropolitan came into its own, initially with its Dynamo Copper Lager and Flywheel Bright Lager. Then Doug and Tracy (craft beer’s obsequious minions) rolled out two amazing beers — Krankshaft Kölsch and Generator Dopplebock — both of which have already been reviewed as among the country’s best beers for their styles. Everyone should taste each of these at least once (because then they’ll want to taste it again, and again, and again, and again, and … well, you get the idea.)

 Half Acregftr opened its Lincoln Square brewery, and Daisy Cutter came out – a most excellent brew, which received 94/100 points from Ratebeer.com. Hopheads rejoice. The retail store at 4257 N. Lincoln Ave. is a great, creative addition to the neighborhood, and now features proper growlers (thanks, Gabriel).

 And Josh is getting close to getting Revolution Brewing, in Logan Square, off the ground. I’ll be watching his excellent blog closely.

LocalBeetBeer2

 A few of us partook of Local Beet beer  – yeah, in retrospect it might have been a bit of a stunt to get the Local Beet name out there. In reality, while it was an interesting brewing experiment, it really wasn’t a very pleasant drinking beer. At a recent LTHForum event, Editor at Large Rob Gardner said he was considering donating a bottle or two for the raffle, as a way to promote The Local Beet. It would have worked, but I’m guessing it was just his way of saying he didn’t want to drink this swill. For the record, it was submitted to a local, prestigious homebrew competition, and was rated “fair” (although it was undoubtedly the best beet beer entered). Comments included “A shock to the senses on first taste,” and “Some kind of Kool-Aid gone wrong,” (the latter from a certain National Beer Judge). But they liked the color and clarity.

 Rob also asked me to name a “best beer of the year.” That’s silly – you can’t compare a subtle, finessed Krankshaft Kölsch from Metropolitan, with a hit-you-over-the-head-until-your-brain-resembles-mashed-potatoes-beer, like Three Floyd’s Dark Lord. That would be as dumb as trying to pick out a best movie of the year from each year’s comedies, dramas, Sci-Fi’s, thrillers, horror pix – each exists within its own realm — certainly there are no common standards that can apply equally to each style.

 (Huh? What’s that? Someone actually does pick a “best movie?” I don’t care, it’s still dumb.)

 But surely, in addition to the beers mentioned above, Ale Asylum’s Diablo Belgian Dubbel should be included among the best beers your faithful Local Beet taster quaffed in 2009. It was tremendously rich, deep  … redolent of caramel, chocolate and coffee flavors. So much so, in fact, that my FDC (Frequent Drinking Companion) thought it would make a great ice cream. Short answer – it did.  Look for more about Ale Asylum’s spectacular beers in a future Southern Wisconsin column, whenever I decide to get around to writing it.

 On the national scene, in 2009, InBev took over Budweiser, and immediately tried to upgrade some of its offerings. They added an average-tasting (at best) American Ale, and a witbier (Bud Light Golden Wheat). The Bud Light Golden Wheat was a knee-jerk reaction to Coors, which has made a good chunk of change with their own lousy version of a witbier, Blue Moon. Budweiser’s thoughtful innovation was simply to identify their beer simply as having “citrus and a hint of coriander, brewed with Golden Wheat” — not using the words “Belgium” or “witbier.” Those guys are soooo clever – foreign countries or real beer words might frighten away the late teens with fake IDs.

 But in terms of formulation, they didn’t learn much from Coors; Bud Light Golden Wheat came in last in a Local Beet blind tasting.

 As an experiment, over the holidays that blind tasting was repeated with several 20-something nephews and a niece (21 – 25 years old). (Their beer of choice is typically Miller Light. Based on that, I’m not positive that their claims to be related to me are true. Or maybe it has something to do with defective genes from my brothers-in-law.**) For the 20-somethings, the Blue Moon came out on top. So, apparently, Coors has a good understanding of what it takes to capture the taste buds of unsophisticated beer drinkers. Bud Light Golden Wheat doesn’t suggest that same level of understanding. It still didn’t do well.

 But it’s only the future that’s ahead of us (unless you’re into wormholes).

 Personally, I’m looking forward to 2010, when Revolution Brewery will officially open, Doug and Tracy will develop even more great Metropolitan Beers, and maybe, just maybe, a few BudMilCoors drinkers will realize there’s a great, fascinating world of craft beers out there.

 Aaah, what am I thinking? There’ll probably be millions more turning legal drinking age who will, like the niece and nephews, prefer Blue Moon to a real Belgian Ale.

 But, at The Local Beet, we’ll try to keep you on top of the good stuff going on locally. And, to a lesser extent, the stuff to reconsider.

 We’ll see you again after the turn of the decade.

 * a fictional construct for purposes of this piece. Neither of my brothers-in-law is slothful. No comment on overeducated.

 ** not a fictional construct




A Snowy Day Strata

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Posted: December 28, 2009 at 4:30 pm

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What ever happened to Christmas? I’m not sure exactly when it happened – the expansion and equal compression of the holiday. Nowadays, the Christmas decorations go up even before the Halloween ones come down. On the other end, the holiday seems to come to an abrupt halt (like the pulling of the arm off a record player mid-album). All of that shopping and planning discarded in a momentary storm of torn wrapping paper. The twelve days of Christmas have been compacted into twelve or so hours. The evening of Christmas ends, our heads hit the pillow, the holiday is over and we’re on the next thing.

Not so in our house. The Christmas spirit arrives late here – the tree put up only days before the 25th, the cookies baked within hours of the holiday – but it remains for the full 12 days. To honor our family tradition, I’m going to dispense with the typical year end lists and other New Year’s miscellany, and instead give the holiday its due.

I love when Christmas falls late in the week, Friday being ideal. With the snowy weather, it’s the perfect time to hole up in our cozy basement giving the little locavore time to play with his new toys and for me the opportunity to clean up the scattered mess that Christmas generates – torn tissue, ribbon remnants, and cookie crumbs. We also have the time to enjoy a leisurely Sunday brunch – an opportunity that doesn’t arise much in December. Hot coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, Bloody Mary’s, and a savory bread pudding using the rest of Floriole’s delicious yeasted corn bread.

Sausage and Cheddar Strata

5 cups cubed yeasted cornbread or brioche
½ pound bulk pork sausage
4 large eggs
1/3 cup 2 % milk
1/3 cup tomato puree
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 roasted red pepper, diced
1 cup grated cheddar

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Lightly toast the bread until firm, but not browned. Cook the sausage until it’s no longer pink. Whisk together the eggs, milk, tomato, salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste. Scatter the bread in a medium casserole dish. Stir in the red pepper, cheddar, and sausage. Pour over the liquid ingredients and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until the eggs are just set in the middle.




A Christmas Star

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Posted: December 26, 2009 at 10:21 pm

IMG_4623

One of my favorite winter indulgences is lemon curd. Spread onto eclairs, filled into tart shells, and topped on scones, it’s velvety and piquant and a delicious change from the usual single dimension chocolate desserts served around the holidays. It’s also a godsend to the busy host as it can and should be made ahead of time (up to 2 weeks) giving you time to spend on other more time-sensitive dishes. The thing that it is not is local.

So when I was looking at one of my favorite cookbooks, Cold Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase, and found a recipe for Cranberry Curd, I was pretty pumped. With the exception of orange juice and a bit of Grand Marnier, this is a local product. With a deep rose hue and a silky smooth texture, we packaged it as teacher gifts and spread the remainder in between star cookies for festive Linzer tarts.

Linzer Tarts with Cranberry Curd
Makes 36 sandwich cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt

With a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after the addition of each one. Add almond extract and beat well. Beat in flour and baking powder on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Mix on medium speed until the dough is well combined.

Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 375°F. After the dough is chilled, cut it into quarters and working with one quarter at a time while keeping the remainder refrigerated, roll out the dough 1/8-inch thick. Cut the dough into 2-inch stars with a cookie cutter. Cut out a small star from the larger star. Gather the scraps, wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerating 2 hours before re-rolling. Repeat with remaining dough. Place the circles on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat 1-inch apart. Bake cookies for 9-11 minutes without browning. Cool cookies on the baking sheet placed on a rack.

Cranberry Curd
Adapted from Sarah Leah Chase’s Cold Weather Cooking

4 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
zest from 1 orange

Combine the cranberries, orange juice and 3/4 cup sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the cranberries have popped and are very soft, approximately 15 minutes. While the cranberries are simmering, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Push the cooked cranberries through a food mill or a fine mesh strainer. Return the cranberries with the butter to a clean saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisk in a small scoopful of cranberries into the egg yolks. Add the yolks to the simmering cranberries, whisking all the while. Cook until the curd is very thick about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the Grand Marnier and the orange zest. Let cook and then refrigerate for several hours.




Merry Christmas

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Posted: December 24, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Too busy cooking and wrapping to post, but I thought I’d share our family’s dessert – a French classic, Buche de Noel filled with white chocolate mousse and a layer of my own golden raspberry jam.

Resized buche




Winter Markets Ahead – Local Calendar

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Posted: December 23, 2009 at 10:10 am

Green City will pick back up with indoor markets, about monthly, from January through April.  Logan Square and Geneva also begin up again in January.  There will be other winter markets.

Green City notes that space is limited for their chef demos at their winter markets.  They require RSVPs.  Invitations are extended only to their newsletter subscribers. Instructions on how to RSVP will be sent out in the weekly newsletter the week of the market. For more information and to get on the distribution, e-mail admin@chicagogreencitymarket.org.

Keep an eye to the Local Calendar, not just for the most current winter market schedules, but for up to the minute intelligence on what’s out there.  Remember locavores don’t hibernate.

Your Local Calendar is below.

WHAT TO BUY NOW

If you want to put green on your holiday table, we believe you can may be able to find rocket (a/k/a arugula), collards, spinach or lettuces as well as micro-greens/sprouts from indoor growers like Windy City Harvest.  Cassie’s Green Grocer may be your best bet for local green.

And do you want to something red to match your holiday green?  Produce Express at the Chicago French Market has Illinois grown, indoor tomatoes.   Now, before you poo-pah these, think about the fact that at the conventional stores they are mostly selling indoor grown tomatoes too.  Do you want your hot-house tomatoes to come from Mexico or come from local? 

The supplies of storage crops dwindle, but you still should be able to find  root crops (including turnips, beets, celery root and assorted radishes), cabbages, sunchokes and hard squash in markets.   Like wise, there remains apples, garlic, onions, shallots and potatoes.

In a pinch, there are mushrooms.

WHERE TO FIND LOCAL FOODS

These stores specialize in local foods:

Local apples and potatoes are widely available in the Chicago area. Look for the local where ever you shop. 

The new French Market at Metra Market offers local food.

C&D Pastured Pork’s sales around town

WHAT TO DO

MARKETS COMING

Saturday – January 3

Chicago Botanic Garden – 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe – 10 AM – 2 PM

Saturday - January 9

Geneva Community Market – Inglenook Pantry – 11 N. 5th Street, Geneva – 9 AM – 1 PM

Sunday – January 10

Winter Market, Deerfield – North Shore Unitarian Church – 2100 Half Day Rd. (Rt. 22), Deerfield – 10 AM – 2PM

Logan Square Farmers Market – 2135 N. Milwaukee – 10 – 2 PM

Saturday – January 16

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is “Are You Game”

Geneva Community Market – Inglenook Pantry – 11 N. 5th Street, Geneva – 9 AM – 1 PM

Sunday – January 17

Logan Square Farmers Market – 2135 N. Milwaukee – 10 – 2 PM

Sunday – January 24

Winter Market, Chicago – Irving Park Luthern Church – 3938 W. Belle Plaine, Chicago – 12 – 3PM

Logan Square Farmers Market – 2135 N. Milwaukee – 10 – 2 PM

Saturday – February 13

Winter Market, Oak Park – Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church – 405 S. Euclid, Oak Park – 9 AM – 1PM

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is “Meat and Potatoes”

Saturday – February 20

Winter Market, United Church of Rogers Park – 1545 W. Morse – 9 AM – 1 PM

Saturday – February 27

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is “Meat and Potatoes”

Sunday – March 7

Winter Market, St. Giles Church – 1025 Colombian, Oak Park – Times not posted

Thursday - March 11

Family Farmed Expo – Financing Farm to Fork Conference - UIC Forum

Friday - March 12

Family Farmed Expo – Trade Conference – UIC Forum

Chicago Food Policy Summit - UIC Forum

Saturday – March 13

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is “Greens, Eggs and Ham”

Family Farmed Expo – Consumer Day – UIC Forum

Sunday – March 14

Winter Market, Park Ridge Community Church, 100 Courtland, Park Ridge – 930 AM - 130 PM

Saturday – March 27

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is still Greens, Eggs, and Ham (we think).

Saturday - April 10

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is Cheese

Saturday – April 24

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is Cheese.

No Dates Announced

Portage Park

Empty Bottle

Keep you eye on Local Beet as we have all your winter needs covered.




Dear Santa:

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Posted: December 22, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Dear Santa,

I know that your sled is already loaded down with Bakugans and zhu zhu pets, but I’ve been a good girl (well, I think) and I was hoping that you might add a few items to your sack for this Midwestern locavore to survive the winter.

Locally grown, all-purpose flour: Yes, I know several farmers sell whole wheat flour – I’ve got a bag of that sitting next to my 1 pound bag of chestnut flour from Hillside Orchards. I am also well aware that white flour was probably the first junk food known to man. Nevertheless, cookies, cakes, pies, even pizza crusts, just aren’t the same with 100% whole grains. I don’t need that much, just 20 pounds or so would do the trick.

Ginger: I love a bit of spice and ginger is so versatile – soups, cookies, and teas all benefit from the zing of fresh ginger. I just read that New York farmers have been selling locally grown ginger at the Manhattan markets. If you drop a few locally grown knobs down the chimney, I promise to freeze one for next year’s gingersnaps, which would absolutely find their way on the cookie plate we set out for you Christmas Eve.

More beans: Three Sisters showed that it could be done. In my view, their tender Midwestern grown black beans rival the best in the world. If you could drop a more varieties of these shriveled beauties (perhaps some Wisconsin grown Ying Yang or Dragon’s Tongue). Just a few bags would get us through the dark days of winter.

Peanuts: I know that a few farmers, such as our friend Vicki over at Genesis Growers, have been experimenting with peanuts. It’s got me jonesing for a bag of fresh locally grown peanuts – perhaps you could wrap them in my son’s Jay Cutler jersey.

Well that’s it for now.

Have a safe trip, say hi to Mrs. Claus, and tell Rudolph we’ve got some terrific carrots from Farmer Vicki.

Melissa




The Year in Local Food – Your Input Needed!

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Posted: December 22, 2009 at 10:34 am

The Local Beet staff are all hard at work wrapping up our year end issue.  We would love to hear from you too.  Please give us your comments and feedback on a wonderful year of locavore living.  If you need some ideas to get your comments a-goin’, look at the suggestions below.

  • Have you committed yourself more to local eating, why
  • What did you do differently this year to eat locally
  • What did you do this year to prepare for winter eating
  • Who were your favorite eat local Chefs
  • What farmer’s market did you shop
  • Where else did you find local food
  • What are you looking for in local food in 2010
  • What’d you like best at the Local Beet
  • What would you like to see on the Local Beet in 2010
  • What other suggestions do you have for us

Thanks!




MG Farmer’s Market Meeting

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Posted: December 20, 2009 at 12:56 pm

In the first meeting as a new member of the Morton Grove Chamber of Commerce the Farmer’s Market Committee finalized its vendor application form and sought to establish links with farmers who want to sell at the Saturday morning market on Waukegan Road a few blocks north of Dempster. Commitee chair Kristina found help from Morton Grove’s Emergency Management Agency, who will direct traffic on market days, as well as an angel who donated a generator to power amplifiers and microphones for musicians who will play for visitors.




Eat Local Pastured Pork – C & D Sales Locations

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Posted: December 18, 2009 at 9:01 am

Our friend Crystal Nellis  trucks in from her Indiana farm to sell her pastured park several times a week.  You can find her around town, several days, her schedule is below.  C&D has some terrific stuff, especially the whole hams, which Crystal often samples.  Go see her.

Tuesday 7-1 Lincoln Square In Brown Line parking lot on Leland between Lincoln and Western
Tuesday 4-6 Andersonville On Berwyn between Clark and Ashland
Thursday 7-1 Hyde Park In Harper’s Court at 53rd St
Saturday 7-1 Lincoln Park In the Lincoln Park High School parking lot
Sunday 7-12 Beverly In parking lot at 95th and Longwood

2 Comments



Winter Market Like a Rock Star with this Local Calendar – UPDATED

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Posted: December 17, 2009 at 11:38 am

This summer, someone mentioned on LTHForum that they arrived at the Logan Square Farmer’s Market too early.  Seems the scene there does not get going until 10 AM.  Now, if you are really living the rock and roll lifestyle, we have a market for you this weekend.  Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western, Chicago) hosts a market from 11 AM until 5 PM.  You cannot sleep away this one.  They have also lined up a strong group of vendors, with produce, meat and wools.  A full list of the vendors can be found here.

UPDATE: We’ve been meaning to add information on C&D Pastured Pork’s sales around town.  We finally did.  We’ve also added info on some great apple prices at Cassie’s Green Grocer.  See also the comments where Damien’s added info on the last market of the season at 61st Street.  Let us know what else is needed.

Your Local Calendar is below.

WHAT TO BUY NOW

Do not let the darkest days of the year convince you that there is no local foods to be had.  Our market spotters tell us that the sunchokes (yes sunchokes) look especially nice at Green City Market.  Stock up on your chokes.  They keep very well with a little refrigeration.  Melissa tells us we can make chips from them, and chips are not the only potato-like thing you can do with sunchokes.  Try roasting or mashing them.  Unlike potatoes, however, you can use them raw.  Ideas for other winter foods can be found in our cold weather recipe file.

Oriana has the last of her Asian pears for sale at Green City.  These store well, so buy what you can.  That other grand fruit of the cellar, apples, remain in abundant supplies around town.  Look for speciality apples, including organic apples at the farmer’s markets, and conventional Michigan apples at stores like Caputo’s (or even Costco!).   UPDATE: We’ve told you in the past about good apple prices around town.  Here’s one that cannot be beat.  Cassie is selling Seedlings apples at her Green Grocer fro 29 cents/lb!  Get ‘em while they last!

We believe you should still be able to find root crops (including turnips, beets, celery root and assorted radishes), cabbages and hard squash in markets. We have not spotted much lettuces, but there is chard and collards to keep your tables green.  In a pinch, there’s sprouts and microgreens. There will be mushrooms all winter.

There remains supplies of the storage staples garlic, onions, shallots and potatoes.

WHERE TO FIND LOCAL FOODS

Various farmer’s market operate in December and into 2010. See our listings below.

These stores specialize in local foods:

Local apples and potatoes are widely available in the Chicago area. Look for the local where ever you shop. 

The new French Market at Metra Market offers local food.

WHAT TO DO

Saturday – December 19

Farmer’s Market at Empty Bottle – 10 AM – 1035 N. Western, Chicago

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – Paul Fehribach of Big Jones gives a demonstration at 1030.  Special this week, Pasta Puttana made pasta from local chestnuts. 

61st Street Market – 6100 S. Blackstone, Chicago – 10 AM – 1 PM 

Grayslake Winter Market – Downtown Grayslake – 10 AM – 2 PM

Geneva Community Market – Inglenook Pantry – 11 N. 5th Street, Geneva – 9 AM – 1 PM

Tour Half Acre Brewery with ChicaGourmets – 230 and 330 PM, $25 – 4257 N. Lincoln, Chicago

C&D Pastured Pork for sale in the Lincoln Park High School Parking Lot, 7 AM – 1 PM

Sunday – December 20

Logan Square Farmers Market – 2135 N. Milwaukee – 10 – 2 PM

C&D Pastured Pork for sale in Beverly, 95th and Longwood – 7 AM – 12 PM

Tuesday - December 22

C&D Pastured Pork for sale, Lincoln  Square – Brown Line Parking Lot on Leland between Lincoln and Western – 7 AM – 1 PM

C&D Pastured Pork for sale, Andersonville - On Berwyn between Clark and Ashland - 4 - 6 PM

Wednesday – December 23

The FINAL “Regular” Green City Market of the season at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – Luca Corazzina of 312 Chicago gives the demonstration at 1030.  Green City Market continues during the winter in a more condensed location at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Shop local year-round!  See below for dates and information.

MARKETS COMING

Saturday – Janurary 3

Chicago Botanic Garden – 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe – 10 AM – 2 PM

Sunday – January 10

Winter Market, Deerfield – North Shore Unitarian Church – 2100 Half Day Rd. (Rt. 22), Deerfield – 10 AM – 2PM

Saturday – January 16

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is “Are You Game”

Sunday – January 24

Winter Market, Chicago – Irving Park Luthern Church – 3938 W. Belle Plaine, Chicago – 12 – 3PM

Saturday – February 13

Winter Market, Oak Park – Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church – 405 S. Euclid, Oak Park – 9 AM – 1PM

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is “Meat and Potatoes”

Saturday – February 20

Winter Market, United Church of Rogers Park – 1545 W. Morse – 9 AM – 1 PM

Saturday – February 27

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is “Meat and Potatoes”

Sunday – March 7

Winter Market, St. Giles Church – 1025 Colombian, Oak Park – Times not posted

Saturday – March 13

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is “Greens, Eggs and Ham”

Sunday – March 14

Winter Market, Park Ridge Community Church, 100 Courtland, Park Ridge – 930 AM - 130 PM

Saturday – March 27

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is still Greens, Eggs, and Ham (we think).

Saturday - April 10

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is Cheese

Saturday – April 24

Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m (Directions) – The theme is Cheese.

No Dates Announced

Portage Park

SAVE THE DATE

Family Farmed Expo and Chicago Food Policy Summit – March 11-13 2010.

Keep you eye on Local Beet as we have all your winter needs covered.


2 Comments



Empty Bottle Farmer’s Market Vendors

By
Posted: December 17, 2009 at 10:50 am

Checking out the Empty Bottle Farmer’s Market on Saturday, here’s a list of the vendors. 1035 N. Western – 11 AM – 5 PM

VIDENOVICH FARMS-  http://www.videnovichfarms.com/, vegetables, herbs and seasonal fruits and flowers, handspun natural yarn

 

TOMATO MOUNTAIN-  http://www.tomatomountain.com/, organic berry preserves, salsa, bloody mary mix, tomato soup, pasta sauce and seasonal vegetables and fruit

 

ANTIQUITY OAKS- http://www.antiquityoaks.com, farm grown chicken, lamb, pork and turkey products, goat milk soap and Shetland sheep wool

 

ONE SISTER-  http://www.localharvest.org/member/M25701, seasonal vegetables, baked goods, cider, dried fruits, pasta, soups, preserves, sprouts, plants and seeds

 

NICE CREAM-  http://www.nicecreamchicago.com, seasonal hand crafted ice cream

 

HASSELMAN FARMS- http://www.hasselmannfamilyfarm.com, free range eggs, pork, lamb, beef

 

WHIMSICLE ACRES-  http://www.alpacasofwhimsicalacres.com, alpaca wool, goat milk soap

 

EARTH FIRST FARMS- http://www.earthfirstfarms.com/, apples, cider, seasonal vegetables, pies

 

HARDINS FAMILY FARM-  http://www.hardinfarm.com, seasonal fruits, vegetables and pecans

 

AQUARANCH FARMS-  http://www.aquaranch.com/, tilapia, seasonal vegetables and herbs, dressings

 

GRINDERMAN COFFEE-  http://grindermancoffee.blogspot.com/, independent coffee roasting collaborative

 

FARMACY FOODS-  http://www.farmacyfoods.com/, organic vegetarian and vegan foods




A Glimpse Into the Local Home

By
Posted: December 15, 2009 at 11:21 am

A messy disarray, says the LocalKid.  The Cookbook Addict remains silent, but her obsessions can be found in every room.  Find local food in almost as many areas of the home.  We work to live the local life.  If we are not driving the 100+ miles to the year-round South Bend Farmer’s Market for value price heirloom squash, we are Sunday schlepping to Logan Square to pick up our monthly bag of meat from Mint Creek Farm.  The hardest part of being a locavore, walking the house.  I mean how many of your meals starts with a trip to the attic to find the bag of russet potatoes and then a trip the other way, to the basement for onions.  It is not just latkes.  It is exrcise.  So, to give you more of a flavor of locavore living, I thought today, I’d walk you through the Bungalow.

A bungalow makes for a fine local home.  It is filled with hidden storage caches.  The basement runs the full length of the house (a house that is much longer than it is wider).   A part of that basement extends beyond the heating elements.  With bare walls and shelves, we got ourselves a canning room before we committed to eat-loca-ism.  Since then, we have put on its shelves many a jar, jam and pickle picked up from our travels, and since my wife started canning, the room has also house peach chutney, spiced peaches, peach jam, and many variations of tomatoes.  The temperature there makes it good for bags of local grains.  This room stays nicely cool year round, giving us a place to hold extra onions and potatoes, but we found it failed as a root cellar.  So once we get into serious storage mode, we move the potatoes up to the attic.   Onions and garlic stay.

The standard Chicago bungalow mostly were constructed with a second floor for show.  Ours like many, though, got partially built out over the years.  Luckily for us, when we priced out finishing the rest, we could not afford it.  This left us with about 1/3rd of the top as raw space.  And yes that space even has some cookbooks.  It has many pieces of luggage splayed–the result often of the Cookbook Addict needing one more bag to return home her newly found books.  How cold does the attic get?  Cold enough that last night I could see my breath in it.  It holds several bags of apples; potatoes, and as of last week, turnips, beets and carrots.  It works well once it gets cold.

Back to the basement.  Not only did the Bungalow come pre-equipped with a canning room, it came with an extra fridge.  At the height of the season it is full with the contents of our CSA box and market visits.  Now, it contains a lot of cabbage, which I do not trust to the attic.  There are also roots that pre-date the arctic cold that makes attic storage possible.  Next to the spare fridge is our spare freezer, our essential eat local purchase.  We freeze some vegetables and a little more fruit.  Mostly, we use the freezer to stock our supplies of local meat.  We need to schlep to the freezer not for dinner tonight, but for what we will have for dinner in a few nights.

In keeping with the style of the Bungalow, we decorated our dining room a bit in the Mission style, highlighted by a solidly solid, oak buffet.  In the style of locavore, we have also decorated this room with winter squash and pumpkins.  As I type this, I see around me two pie pumpkins, five carnival squash, one delicata and one acorn squash.  (Some of the squash, bigger ones, are hidden away in the basement.)  There is also a big plate of black walnuts that will require much effort to crack. 

It takes some work to live local.  You cannot usually go to the corner store for your stuff unless you happen to find Michigan sugar at the dollar store like I did the other night.  You have to cook and compost your food scraps.  And you have to maintain a local house.  I’ve given you a glimpse inside the Bungalow, mostly avoiding the messy parts and other things the Cookbook Addict does not want me to talk about.  What does your local home look like?




The Sustainable Cook’s Holiday Gift Guide PLUS BLOG GIVEAWAY!!

By
Posted: December 14, 2009 at 6:53 pm

I was recently quoted by Crain’s Chicago Busines as saying that December is the caterer’s best friend and worst nightmare. Without holiday parties, my business may be sustainable in its practices, but not in its existence. Even this year with its down economy, the days of November and December are a marathon forcing a slow start to my own holiday preparations.

The house is only half decorated, we haven’t yet made our visit to Santa, and I’ll be lucky if the holiday cards hit the mail box before New Year’s Eve. However, things are looking up. With our biggest event of the year behind me, I can now turn my attention to gift giving. Fortunately, I’ve already taken care of my client gifts, who receive a recycled berry box full of house made preserves – these were made months ago. It’s time to shop for the rest of our motley crew of friends, family, and neighbors. I took a little time last night and put together my gift list. Keeping in the spirit of the holidays, I thought it would be fun to give you readers a gift: our list chock full of products, which are, unsurprisingly, locally available.

Also, in the spirit of giving, I’m having my first holiday blog giveaway. My little locavore has pulled a number between 1 and 30 from his winter hat. The poster whose post corresponds with that number shall win a berry basket filled with local preserves made by me, The Sustainable Cook, including Tomato Marmalade, Golden Raspberry Jam, and Strawberry Jam. Rules include 1 post per person and no editor of The Local Beet can win the item (sorry Rob). Let the reindeer games begin!

The Literary Locavore

Henry's Farm

There has been a whole slew of new books on sustainable and local eating this year. One of my favorites is The Seasons on Henry’s Farm by friend, Terra Brockman. Terra is the founder of The Land Connection, a non-profit dedicated to supporting, developing, and training local farmers. She is also the sister of the Evanston farmers’ market stalwart, Henry Brockman of Henry’s Farm. Terra’s beautifully-written book is about a year on the farm, giving us city folk the insight to the rhythm of a Midwestern farm life. The literary locavore would also appreciate a subscription to Edible Chicago, a quarterly magazine dedicated to the exploration of our local food culture.

The Lushy Locavore

Green Grocer

Throughout the winter, many locavores like to drink and eat their potatoes. Fortunately, neither locally grown potatoes nor locally distilled vodkas are in short supply. My husband and I are a big fan of North Shore vodka especially when partnered with Tomato Mountain‘s tomato juice and Mike’s secret blend of spices (which I am forbidden to reveal). Tomato Mountain also makes a Bloody Mary mix for those of you who prefer not to practice mixology on Sunday mornings. I think that the pairing of Tomato Mountain’s mix and the North Shore vodka would be a lovely gift for the lushy locavore. Cassie Green carries both of these at Green Grocer. For another great source of local liquor, try Lush Wine and Spirits. Be sure to say hi to the Lush girls for me. We’re big fans.

The Globalvore

Provenance logo

We all know them. The folks that refuse to buy into the eat local movement. The folks who find it downright silly. Some don’t care much about food (they’re the eat to live ones), but there are others who just don’t get the philosophy. For the truly recalcitrant, ask Tracy Kellner of Provenance Food and Wine to pull together a gift basket of global delicacies, like Spanish chorizo, exotic honeys, delicious chocolates, and assorted olives. For the converted, she’s got a great array of local delicacies on hand.

The Hostess with the Localness

Chicago Downtown Farmstand

The Downtown Farmstand has a ton of a baskets awaiting your selections that they will then fill with and package decoratively. A lovely gift for your holiday host.

Your Little Locavores Kid

The Kids' Table logo

All of the aforementioned food shops carry a great variety of locally produced treats that would satisfy your child’s sweet tooth. For something both healthier and longer lasting, check out the selection of cooking tools at The Kids’ Table, which they can use to make the many family-friendly recipes found on this blog. If you become a member of Purple Asparagus, a non-profit dedicated to bringing families back to the table, you’ll receive a 10% discount on classes and parties at The Kids’ Table.

The Locavore Who Has it All

greencityLogo

For the locavore who wants for nothing, consider a charitably minded gift such as a membership to Green City Market. Not only will you be supporting a pioneer in the eat local movement, but membership affords some experiential benefits available no where else, like advance access to Green City Market barbecue tickets, one of the city’s hottest events – a sell-out two years in a row.

The Budding Locavore

Real Food Rehab

For the friend or family member who really wants to eat locally, but doesn’t know how, treat them to a sustainable cooking class. Not to toot my own horn (honk, honk), but I have a whole series of cooking classes appropriate for a variety of circumstances, including Sustainable Cooking 101, To Market, To Market and Sustaining Family Traditions. To sign up, email me at melissa@monogrammeevents.com. You could also purchase Dana Altman’s terrific Real Food Rehab’s Pantry Essentials Guide, which recommends many wonderful local products to add to your larder, helping you reintroduce real food into your diet.

The Loquatious Locavore

Across the Table

The chatty cathy among your friends would enjoy Across the Table, a non-profit dedicated to uniting Chicago one meal at a time. Founder Lauren Grossman seeks out restaurant and caterers who source locally to host the events at which participants discuss hot topics, such as food justice, friendship, and race. To give a friend the gift of delicious food and dynamic conversation, visit Across the Table.org.


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Last Minute Locavore Gift Suggestions Monday, December 14th, 2009
Beery Gifts Monday, December 14th, 2009
What’s Local, Dill Pickle Coop Monday, December 14th, 2009
A Gift for Gardeners Sunday, December 13th, 2009
Happy Hanukkah! Friday, December 11th, 2009
50 Quintessential Local Dishes to Celebrate Terra Madre Day Thursday, December 10th, 2009
Witty Beers. And Bud Light??? Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
Local Calendar Updated – Terre Madre Tomorrow and Slow Food Beyond Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
Beware the Killer Spuds Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
The Market Report with Robin Schirmer Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
Did You Go to a Winter Market over the Weekend? – Do Share! Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
This Week’s Harvest of Links Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
Work in Local Food! – College of Lake County Needs Local Food Coordinator Monday, December 7th, 2009
Questioning Compost Monday, December 7th, 2009
The Week at the Local Beet Sunday, December 6th, 2009
Real Food Rehab with Dana Altman – 2 Simple Steps To Healthy & Delicious Meals Sunday, December 6th, 2009
Western Canada’s Most Popular Beers are Local Friday, December 4th, 2009
MG Farmers Market Gets an Umbrella Friday, December 4th, 2009
What’s Local, Chicago French Market Friday, December 4th, 2009
Eat Local Winter – New Local Calendar Thursday, December 3rd, 2009
Just Call Me Sunny Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
Travels of the Heart Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
The Permanent Market We Get Opens Dec 3 Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
Eat Your Vegetables! Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
It’s Not to Late for a Winter CSA Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
How Fared My Thanksgiving Side Dish Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
Comfort Me with Persimmons Tuesday, December 1st, 2009