TomatoFest Potluck Supper

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Posted: August 31, 2010 at 2:45 pm

A while back, I boasted of the Local Family’s Asparagus Challenge.  Eating asparagus is a seasonal treat, and it’s worth it to taut heavy aspara-use.  On the other hand, I’ve probably had a tomato a day for a while now.  I’m not calling that a challenge.  I mean the only thing I would find challenging would be to eat a tomato in January.  What better way to celebrate awesome tomato-ness than with Slow Food Chicago and their 3rd Annual TomatoFest Potluck.  Beyond the good food, the event will benefit preSERVE, a community garden in North Lawndale in partnership with the North Lawndale Greening Committee, NeighborSpace, the Chicago Honey Co-Op, and Slow Food Chicago.  It’s also your chance to show off your home grown tomatoes!   

Bring your favorite potluck dish to share– appetizer, main course or dessert. We encourage you to use tomatoes in your contribution, but if you don’t, that’s fine too! 

 Bring your chair! 

 Organically grown wine provided by Candid Wines

 Beer & soft drinks donated by Goose Island Brewery  

Chicago Honey Coop is an urban apiary dedicated to sustainable agricultural practices. This West Side bee farm houses about 100 chemical-free hives on the site of the original Sears headquarters.  Tours of the apiary and the preSERVE garden will be given, and we will harvest black eyed peas and crowder beans.  Bee Etiquette: Please wear light colored clothing and a hat. Don’t wear perfumes or colognes or scents.

Where & When
Thursday, September 9, 2010 5:30-8:30 pm
Chicago Honey Coop
3740 W. Fillmore
Cost: 
$10.00 for Slow Food members and Honey Coop members + side dish or dessert.
 
$15.00 for non-members + side dish or dessert.Children are free

Contact: 
Reservations required at Brown Paper Ticket

 

Volunteer at TomatoFest and get in free!

 

Buy a Sandwich, Build a Garden, our fundraiser for the preSERVE garden!

 

Rain Date:  

Friday, September 10th, 5:30-8:30 pm

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Next City Provisions Dinner – September 11 @ Heritage Prairie Market and Farm

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Posted: August 31, 2010 at 2:31 pm

If you think Cleetus and the City Provisions crew are pouring all the attention into the about to open deli, you’d be wrong.  They are still knee deep in farm dinners, and they have one forthcoming at Heritage Prairie Farm.

 

City Provisions Farm Dinner at Heritage Prairie Market & Farm

 

Here are the details…

 

September 11, 2010

Heritage Prairie Market & Farm, Elburn, IL

Great Lakes Brewery, Cleveland, OH

 Meet:

1 p.m. at City Provisions (returns to City Provisions about 11 p.m.)

1820 W. Wilson Ave

Chicago, IL 60640

773-293-2489

 City Provisions 2010 Farm Dinners

Tickets are $175 per person and include round trip transportation to the farm on a

biodiesel bus, snacks and beer on the bus, a tour of the farm, a five-course meal with beer

pairings on the farm, the evening closes with a bonfire and campfire treats!

 Visit www.cityprovisions.com for more information.

 Tax and tip are also included.

Call 773.293.2489 or

Email: supperclub@cityprovisions.com to make your reservation.


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Ravinia Farmers Market: 8/25/10 Update

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Posted: August 31, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Roger Williams Dr., East of Green Bay Road
Adjacent to Jens Jensen Park
Highland Park (Ravinia), IL 

Hours: 7:00 AM – 1:00 PM Wednesdays, June 16th through October 20th

This week’s Neighborhood Feature: Belle Fleur, 487 Roger Williams Dr., Ravinia

Belle Fleur is a charming and homey shop, across the street from Jens Jensen Park, which carries many reasonably-priced decorative items for the home.  The friendly and personable proprietess, Cheryl Richter, has been at this location for three years, and specializes in items of whimsy (metal flying pig sculptures, $109; metal high-button shoes, $24 each), as well as things with a French twist, reflecting her interest in European travel.  Ms. Richter also provides in-home decorating services, for the coordination-impaired.  Fun place, full of charming gift ideas.

Hours: Tues. – Sat. 10-5  Telephone:  847.780.4939 Email:  cherylrichter@yahoo.com

 August 25th Update – What was new and in season this week:

Several vendors MIA this week, including Gramp’s Gourmet Pickles and Necessity Baking Co.  Hoping for a full house on 9/1, as harvest season is suddenly upon us:

-          Klug Orchards, Berrien Center, MI:  Several varieties of plums; Klug is now displaying the orchard’s organic certification.  Kevin Klug will be delivering the first of the deliveries of dressed lamb, raised at his farm, this week; ½ and ¼ lambs, butchered into the typical cuts, and cryopaked for the freezer, are  $8.95 per lb. Deliveries will continue until the end of the market season.  Contact him at kevindklug@gmail.com for further information on availability.

-          Red Barn Farms, Woodstock, IL: Mirai sweet corn, dill weed and pickle cucumbers

-          K&K Farms, Coloma, MI:  Bartlett pears available – fall is upon us, alas

 

-          LeilaLove (PomOlive): new variety of pomegranate/olive spread available, incorporating caramelized garlic.  Very delicious and unique.


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Locavore Dinner Recap

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Posted: August 31, 2010 at 2:11 pm

We recently told you about a locavore dinner at the StarGrazer Cafe  in Graylake.  Event organizer Jim Javenkoski provided us this recap to whet your whistle for more locavore dinners, whether organized by Jim or made yourself.

cornucopia at StarGrazer Cafe

Feasting with Farmers at StarGrazer Cafe

On August 20th, StarGrazer Cafe (Grayslake, IL) hosted its first-ever Locavore Dinner.  The dinner attracted 28 guests, including the farm families from Sandhill Organics, Dea Dia Organics and Wild Goose Farm, all of whom grow food crops (and raise chickens and pigs, in the case of Dea Dia Organics) on the fertile soil of Prairie Crossing, a conservation community of 359 homes located in Lake County about 35 miles north-northwest of downtown Chicago. StarGrazer Cafe, owned and operated by chef Tim Kuck, is a sustainability-focused restaurant which opened in October 2009.

While planning the event, Tim and I agreed that the menu should maximize the number of ingredients sourced from the on-site farms, all which are located about a mile from the restaurant. The proximity of farms and forks enabled us to offer a hyper-locavore dinner in terms of distance and food freshness. The vegetables, fruits and herbs were harvested within 24 hours of the meal and delivered directly to Tim, ensuring they retained all of their nutrients and sensory qualities prior to preparation. Additionally, each course was paired with craft beers from Mickey Finn’s Brewery in Libertyville, located just 4 miles from StarGrazer Cafe. Brewmaster Greg Browne joined us for the meal and offered insights about the ingredients and methods he uses to brew his beers, which were enthusiastically poured from growlers at each table during the meal.

Following my brief welcome to the guests, our dinner began with a family-style platter of three crostini featuring sweet and sour honey goat cheese, peach and scallion shredded pork and cucumber and heirloom tomato. The honey was sourced from the Prairie Crossing Learning Farm and the goat cheese was hand-made at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery (Champaign, IL). The scallions and pork were produced on-site by Dea Dia Organics and the cucumber and heirloom tomatoes were grown by Sandhill Organics. We paired the crostini with Gudenteit Hefeweiss (5.2% ABV, 12 IBU), a refreshingly effervescent wheat ale with subtle banana/clove notes.

The second course was a delicious gazpacho made from a selection of roasted summer vegetables. The tomatoes were grown on-site by Sandhill Organics, the zucchini and yellow squash were sourced from Natural Farm Stand (Richmond, IL) and the onions and herbs were grown on-site by Dea Dia Organics. We paired the gazpacho with Hopgarden Helles (5.5% ABV, 15 IBU), a robust lager with an appealing aroma of roasted malt and yeasty bread dough.

Prior to serving the entrees, StarGrazer Cafe’s staff presented two salad courses, both of which included seasonal fruit. The blueberry/blue cheese/beets salad featured blueberries grown on-site at the Prairie Crossing Learning Farm and a combination of red, orange and heirloom beets grown on-site by Sandhill Organics. On a hunch, Chef Tim smoked the beets over apple and cherry wood for 12 hours and the results were indescribably delicious! This successful culinary experiment has ensured that smoked beets will become a seasonal staple on StarGrazer Cafe’s menu. The grilled peach and mozzarella salad was equally delightful and a perfect companion for the beer pairing. Katarina Wit (5.7% ABV, 18 IBU) is a Belgian-inspired white ale brewed with coriander, orange peel and lemon peel (and a liquid homage to the famous German figure skater). The peaches were grown in Michigan and purchased from Natural Farm Stand.

When the entrees were served, all of the guests had been happily chatting and chowing for about 45 minutes. Just by chance, each of the three communal tables for the dinner included one of the farm families from Prairie Crossing, offering all of the guests a unique opportunity to share a meal with the people who provided the food. The first entree was blueberry-rum marinated pork shoulder, prepared with blueberries from the Prairie Crossing Learning Farm and pork raised on-site by Dea Dia Organics. The companion entree was grass-fed beef tenderloin with vanilla wine sauce, featuring beef from none other than Dietzler Farms (Elkhorn, WI) and vanilla extract from Nielsen-Massey Vanillas (Waukegan, IL). Both entrees were accompanied by succotash (Swiss chard, kale, corn and torpedo onions) and roasted Peruvian blue and huckleberry (pink) potatoes, the latter of which is an heirloom variety. We paired the entrees with Dog Days Summer Ale (4.2% ABV, 25 IBU), a pale and hoppy brew with subtle floral and citrus undertones that slightly amplified the fruit and vanilla notes of the pork and beef preparations, respectively.

The final course of our feast was an almond waffle topped with peach-pecan ice cream. The dual textures and temperature contrast between the ingredients made this a scrumptious conclusion to a deliciously satisfying meal. The characteristic malty flavor of the waffle was enhanced by Legspinner Barley Wine (9% ABV, 35 IBU), a strong ale with a robustly malty and slightly fruity flavor profile.

Buying locally-grown foods produces a positive, residual effect as those food dollars multiply while circulating through the community. An additional benefit of purchasing food from farmers is re-establishing a clear line-of-sight to the origin of our food.

Additional background and details can be found here.




The Local Family Is Not Just Me

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Posted: August 30, 2010 at 4:37 pm

The Local Family is not just me.  Rather, I should say, there is more to the Local Family.  I just represent us in bytes.  Really, from assessing the palatability of ground cherries (not very) to tracking down winter markets (not always easy), the Local Family has been a family enterprise. In fact, as I have oft mentioned, my younger daughter feels she started our eat local adventure when sh brokered the initial meeting between the Family and Farmer Vicki.  I have tried to share this pages with the rest of the Local Family. I outed my wife as to Cook Book Addict with the idea that she would share her passion with the Beet readers.  My older daughter took her first byline on the Oak Park River Forest Trapeze last semester.  I wonder if she thinks our audience not large enough.  Instead, today, we get a post by my younger daughter.

I found this piece open on my computer last night.  It was the first draft of her first paper for her first high school honors English class.  She was asked to write on something meaningful to her.  She gave me permission to share with you all.  Except for a bit of punctuation clean-up, this is what she said.

 
Road Trips

I love to travel, but I’ve never been out of North America. In fact, I haven’t even been out of the continental US. My claim to fame is that I’ve been to each state in the Midwest. That’s to mean Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Moreover, I drove to each one. For me, holiday after holiday is spent driving the countryside, looking for the tiny farm stand or local brewery. Taking road trips is a staple in the life of my family. Road trips aid in my families attempt to eat local, make great memories, and bring my family closer. When I think of important to me, I think traveling, and when I think travelling, I think road trip!
I am a localvore. For those of you who don’t know the word, it means a person who eats primarily local food. Different people define local as different things, but when my family says we eat local, it means we eat 90-95% of our diet from the states listed above, excluding Ohio and Minnesota. And pretty much our whole lives revolve around local food. This includes our trips. When we visit Wisconsin (on just about a bi-monthly basis), it’s not about which area we’re going to, or what fun places we should go to but instead where we should eat. Every trip is accompanied by at least one farmers market.

One year, we drove to Kentucky for Thanksgiving. That year/trip sticks out in my mind because it was the first Thanksgiving not spent at a relative’s house. I’m a person very stuck on tradition, and I wanted a classic meal, turkey and stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce. Well, my dad found a restaurant in Louisville that specialized in local food and was convinced we needed to go there on Thanksgiving night. When he told us the menu, something extravagant and fancy, I got very mad. I wanted cranberry sauce and this fancy restaurant had none. My dad went on to explain that instead they were serving cranberry mostarda and that I would like it. I was in fourth grade so the word mostarda sounded gross to me. I pouted and that was the year I spent lunch on Thanksgiving in a barn having my local classic Thanksgiving meal served on the farm it was grown. And to this day, my parents threaten cranberry chutney every November. I will always think fondly, however much I may complain, about the local places I’m dragged on my road trips.

My first day of kindergarten; the day I learned I wouldn’t have to wear my brace anymore; the 7th grade Springfield trip; my bat mitzvah; all of these are memories that will forever stick out in my mind. However, so will the trips I’ve taken. They year I was in 2nd grade we went on two trips. The first was to California. All I have are vague memories of what we did and where we went. We also drove to Springfield. We drove on Route 66 and while apparently that’s some fun further down the road, it’s a complete snore when you’re going from Chicago to Springfield. Nevertheless, I remember that trip a lot better. I remember the old gas station we found on the side of a country road. I remember the horseshoes and the museums. Road trips create such memories for me. When we drive somewhere, it’s not just, where we go, or what we do when we’re there, it’s the memories of all we do on our way there.

I like to think my family is closer than most. We do a lot together, and I can tell anyone of them (sister, mom, or dad) anything I need help with. Road trips are part of the reason we’re so close. Last summer, we drove to Pittsburgh. About a month before our fancy GPS had been stolen, so my grandparents lent us theirs. They have an older GPS that didn’t really work in Pittsburgh. Therefore, when we tried to use it to find a restaurant in the South Side of Pittsburgh, it gave us the wackiest directions. It took us to the top of a high cliff, in a bunch of circle, so on and so forth. At one point, it told us to turn right and before we’d moved two feet, it was “recalculating”. We ended up asking directions from an old guy with no teeth and an monitoring anklet. But, my family is the ones who joke around about this stuff. We’re the one’s who sing along to Alice’s Restaurant after they played it nonstop in Kentucky. And, this makes us extra-close, something very important to me.

Really, the important thing to me is my family, the time we spend together and the food we eat together. But, road trips are important because they’re the abnormal way we stay so close. Road trips define my family. They assist in out quest to eat local, create memories, and reinforce my family bond. Road trips are important because road trips are a huge part of my life.




Filling Locavore Voids with Cleetus Friedman And The Now Open City Provisions Deli

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Posted: August 29, 2010 at 10:53 pm

When Michael Morowitz and I began the Local Beet, we agreed that we would always act like a real publication.  This has meant maudlin Thanksgiving posts, holiday time gift issues, and of course, the year-in-review specials.  It’s taken until today, however, to do something required of all major players.  Declare someone a wunderkind.  With his wide eyes and dangling earrings, Jew-hop background and manic energy, we can safely call Cleetus Friedman the wunderkind of local food, right?

We met up with Cleetus about a week ago.  Cleetus is about to open City Provisions Deli, a local and organic-focused neighborhood deli, butcher shop, and grocer. It was me and Local Beet local wine advocate, Wendy Aeschlimann, as well as my  daughter about to take up a beat on her high school paper.  After about an hour poking around the forthcoming store, and asking Cleetus a bunch of locavore questions, we let Cleetus get back to work starting up his deli (his staff was in the midst of busily filling a catering order when we were there).  I asked my daughter if we could declare him our first Local Beet wunderkind.  The aspiring journalist told me that she would have probed a lot deeper into Cleetus’s motivations.  What made the man who was making this deli possible.  She made good points, but for Wendy and I, we just liked seeing all the voids City Provisions Deli seemed to be filling.

city provisions pickles

I mean Cleetus told us about filling a big void that we did not even think about him filling when we went into the preview.  Noodge about any Chicago foodie about gaping voids in Chicago food, and they’ll kvetch about a the lack of good Jewish deli.  However, despite its name, we did not discover that City Provisions will sell ten-inch sandwiches, nor are they hiring any of those classic waiters as sour as the pickles.  He’s not making that kind of deli.  He is, however, filling a void for great deli food.  Like the the already haled Mile End in Brooklyn or Internet sensation Kenny and Zukes in Portland, City Provisions promises to re-invent the deli with our kind of sensibilities.  Like he uses Dietzler Farms for his briskets.  The pastrami gets treated in-house from a smoker that Barry Sorkin at Smoque outgrew.  He makes his own pickles.  From cucumbers harvested by local farmers.  I expected Cleetus to fill a void when packing local lunches.  I’m really stoked to see this other void he seems to be filling.

I got pleasantly surprised that there’d be more deli than I thought in the Deli.  I got another nice surprise when I saw that the City Provisions would also try to fill a huge void for good butchers.  We locavores really struggle with the fact that nearly all meats comes to the market frozen.  It’s not the freezing that bothers us.  It’s the fact that it’s too often frozen when we need it.  We also know that the quality of butchering for local meat can at times be suspect–although this has improved much in recent times.  We want to see a case of meat broken down from an in-house side.  City Provisions plans to buy sides of animals that will be butchered in-house, and sold fresh.  Moreover, Cleetus promised us that they would practice whole animal meatery, using the less popular parts in their kitchen for pates, headcheese, terrines, etc.  An active butcher of locally-raised, sustainable meat, in a neighborhood store — hopefully, the first of many to come.

 

city provisions butter

Even though you can find quality local goods at several stores and farmer’s markets around town (my vivacious wife will sell you Tomato Mountain items at many a-farmer’s market), City Provisions looks to join other lead local food sellers, such as Cassie’s Green Grocer and Southport Deli, in selling artisan, local, shelf-stable products.  When we visited, his shelves were starting to fill with staples from our friend Lee Greene’s Scrumptious Pantry, and City Provisions’ house-labeled honey made from hives at Heritage Prairie farm.  And as much as good local cheeses can be found at places like Pastoral or Marion Street Cheese, we’d like to see more of our favorites from Wisconsin.  City Provisions will sell hard-to-find cheese such as Willi Lehner’s Bleu Mont Dairy’s bandaged cheddar.  Nordic Hill Creamery butters, Nicole’s Crackers, Rod Marcus’s Rare Tea Cellar’s teas and Crop-to-Cup Coffee are more treats, making the void for local specialities appear that much smaller.

In the same vein, City Provisions will focusing on stocking local booze made by North Shore Distillery (IL) and Death’s Door (WI), as well as Chicago beer.  For wine he offered up a mantra of organic, sustainable, biodynamic.  On the other hand, the void for local wines remains, and Wendy, especially, hopes that Cleetus can fill that one.

city provisions display

Cleetus carries over City Provisions’ environmental concerns to the store itself, which is wrapped in ceilings made from recycled materials and carbon-neutral flooring, and features shelving and eating space made with reclaimed wood from a local barn, as well as a re-purposed the farmhouse table that provides display space.  Cleetus proudly mentioned a pending “GRA” certification for the deli.  (Sure, it looked nice, but my thoughts kept on drifting to the house-made pastrami.)

City Provisions opens its doors on September 3, 2010.  With so many needs being met, we look forward to tasting what’s there to make sure.

City Provisions Deli is located at 1818 West Wilson Avenue in Chicago.  They can be reached at 773.293.CITY (2489).  We do not yet know the Deli’s hours.




Buy Local Eggs to Support Purple Asparagus – Today at Uncommon Ground

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Posted: August 29, 2010 at 9:02 am

It’s here, the Corks and Crayons benefit for Purple Asparagus.  In addition to the party, there’s a farmer’s market.  You do not need to attend the benefit to shop the market.  One of the things you can buy from some little locavores is farm eggs.  The Chicago Tribune reminded us  yet again that the economies of industrial food do not produce the food we want (or need).  Instead, get local eggs.  And today, when you go for your local eggs, go get them at the Corks and Crayon Market.  Your good eggs will support some good eggs.

Uncommon Ground

1401 W Devon Ave, Chicago

4-7pm




Local Beet Little Locavores Let You Buy Farm Fresh Food for Good Cause

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Posted: August 28, 2010 at 11:25 am

As we have let you know, Sunday August 29 is the Corks and Crayons benefit for Purple Asparagus.  We have yet to tell you that the party Sunday also features a farmer’s market manned by some Little Locavore friends of ours, including some actually not so little Local Family teens.  They want you to come by and buy farm fresh, organic produce from them.  In fact, you do not otherwise need a ticket to the Corks and Crayons event to dig into their market.  They’ll have assorted heirloom tomatoes, seasonal peppers, speciality melons, sweet corn to eat soon and a bunch of other great stuff.  You can fill up your larder while supporting a very important cause.

Uncommon Ground

1401 W Devon Ave, Chicago

4-7pm




Chicago’s Afterthought Brewpubs

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Posted: August 28, 2010 at 10:34 am

I call them afterthought brewpubs. Unlike most brewpubs, which brew from the start, these were restaurants first, then added brewing facilities later.

“We have customers – regulars – who come in one or two times a month, who still have no idea we’ve expanded into brewing.” That’s Brandon Wright, co-owner and brewmaster at Hamburger Mary’s, 5400 N. Clark St in Chicago. “They say ‘Wow! You brew your own beer here? When did that happen?’”

Wright: “We’ve been brewing our own beers for over a year now.”

Moonshine (1824 West Division in Chicago) is another afterthought brewpub, brewing on its 10 barrel (310 gallon) system for a little over two years now. (Another possible example would be Lunar Brewing, although that’s much more a bar than a restaurant/brewpub. Local Beet reported on it here.)

Afterthought brewpubs have a couple of commonalities. Most brewpubs show off by giving patrons a clear view of their fermenting tanks and other equipment. That’s easy to do if you’re designing the brewpub from the start. But if you’re adding brewing facilities to an existing restaurant, it’s not always easy to put the brewing facilities in full view. Moonshine’s are in a small (but well-equipped) room just past the kitchen; Hamburger Mary’s are in a sports-bar-atmosphere space separate from the main space (Mary’s Rec Room), which they opened after an adjoining restaurant closed.

So how are the beers? Both places are not without issues.

At Moonshine, six beers were listed on the blackboard; only three were available on the day I visited. “We ran out of some last night. We’re still working on the brewing” said our server. Still, the three from brewmaster and Goose Island veteran Bob Kittrell’s brews were worth sampling, in their trademark jelly jar glasses – reminiscent of true Appalachian moonshine.

Like all brewpubs, they had to have a blonde – a beer for those who buy into Miller’s fallacious claim that its Lite Beer has “true Pilsner taste.” To its credit, its Dizzy Blonde has a bit more body and hops than that popular watery abomination, so it might be able to serve as a gateway beer, showing fans of light megabrews that even beers with real flavor can be tasty.

The Saints N’ Sinners stout had a rich roasty taste, balanced with just a bit of hops, and relatively light body. It’s a beer you could drink all night, despite the dark character.

But the standout of the three was the Able Danger IPA. At 7.5% ABV, it’s a big beer; it’s also very rich, with body and a depth of hops character that I’ve rarely encountered.

Hamburger Mary’s was a bit different. Wright, with homebrewing experience but no formal brewing training, puts out beers with a familial similarity – at least for the draft offerings. They’re all big-bodied, mouthfilling beers, relatively light on hop flavor and aroma. The Blonde Bombshell (an homage to the place’s outlandish fictional character, Mary) was the beer for Bud Light drinkers, but with a lot more of Mary’s body to it. Mary Hoppins Pale Ale, and the Gangsster “Hopped-Up” Amber Ale, were both nice quaffing beers, fairly similar other than a slight difference in color. The Peach Wheat beer, while a valiant attempt, lacked much peach flavor. It was refreshing, though.

l to r, Blonde Bombshell, Mary Hoppins, Gangster, Peach Wheat

l to r, Blonde Bombshell, Mary Hoppins, Gangster, Peach Wheat

To be fair, I didn’t try any of the reserve beers, which are typically hoppier, but not available on draft. They’re produced in limited quantities on a 21 gallon system, and bottle-conditioned. “Most of our customers don’t go for the real hoppy stuff” explained Wright.

Bottom line – if you want great beer at a brewpub, an afterthought brewery shouldn’t be your first choice. But if you find yourself somewhere and discover they make their own beers – try some. Someone has poured his or her heart and soul into your glass. These are all local beers … you gotta love ‘em. Or not.

These are the only two afterthought brewpubs in Chicago. Anyone know of other afterthought brewpubs in the area that The Local Beet should check out?


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I Try Not to Spend Money Eating Local and You Can Too

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Posted: August 27, 2010 at 9:08 am

More than a few times, when myself and my family entered the locavore realm, I justified the costs by calling it my hobby.  I told reporters that some people ski, I bought heirloom tomatoes.  Because of the tanked economy, my (business) practice has left me less flush.  I no longer feel like I do this as a pastime.  Still, I never just threw money at farmers.  When we first laid down our rules for being a Local Family, we said we’d eat everything local ‘cept the meat.  We just could not find a place in our budget for the meat on sale at the farmer’s markets (at least not as often as we wanted).  We rather solved our meat issues by buying sides of animals.  We’ve always tried to make this work by being practical and frugal when necessary.  Since the cost of eating local seems to be at the head of various frustrations represented by JoeC and others, I thought I’d cull the many ways the Local Family manages to eat local without spending too much money.  Most of these items have been on the site in the past, and a few have been featured recently in our market shopping guide.

Before telling you some of the ways I save money, let me tell you a few ways I will always spend money.  For one thing, nearly every day this summer I have not written a post, the post I would have written would have been about how good is local fruit.  No where is it more clear, the advantages of local food than with local fruit.  And no where do you, almost always, have to pay the price.  I just do.  The other thing, eggs.  Man, can the price differences between farm eggs and factory eggs stagger you.  Yet, before our latest mass egg recall occurred, I realized the various imperatives that keep me buying the right kinds of eggs.  Besides, as I’ll note below, expensive farm eggs still provide an inexpensive source of protein, all things considered.  That out of the way, here’s ways to save.

  • Let’s start with I called the important piece of advice in the market guide: Farmer’s rarely want to bring anything home.  He or she that can make that offer for the rest of this, the remaining that, will get the best deal.  In almost all cases, the more you buy, the more you save.  It’s not the Casablanca souk.  You do not bargain down a bag of lettuce from 100 dollars to 50 cents, but as soon as you start buying more than a few of anything you can start wheelin’ and dealin’.
  • And this too from the guide: Another way to get a bargain.  Take their yucky stuff off their hands.  If you plan on baking or something, do you need pristine fruit.  Many farmers already label “seconds”.  If you don’t see such, ask.
  • Now, let’s put those add those two and you get this key bit of advice: at the end of the day, farmer’s are dumping what’s left.  It may be dinged and dented from a day’s worth of showing or it may just be more than the farmer wants to keep.  Swoop in for some excellent deals.
  • We can move away from the farmer’s market for this oft neglected bit of advice: Not all local food comes from the farmer’s market.  Of course there are important reasons to buy at the farmer’s markets, but often the local food at the grocery stores is nearly as good, and can often be had at really good prices.  Here especially, it pays to buy at the seasonal peak.  At stores like Angelo Caputo’s, high quality, local produce can be had, in season for well under a $1/lb.  Once the summer is over, there are always good deals on Wisconsin potatoes, same for Michigan apples.
  • Once you find those good deals, stock up.  I mean why do not the people who direct their ire over local food prices direct their ire over the prices for out of season prices.  How much are oranges are asparagus now?  Pack up all that good local food and you will not have to spend a lot on your food the rest of the year.
  • Are you a flexitarian.  Beet Founder Michael Morowitz promises, sometime, a post on his flexitarian lifestyle.  Let’s all embrace it before then.  Being a flexitarian just means, well I’m not sure if there’s an official meaning, but I think it just means don’t eat meat every day.  It’s funny that a lot of the anti-locavore crappers will say things like, “well there’s way more enviromental damage caused by eating meat…”  Like locavores are extreme carnivores.  It’s good for the earth to eat less meat.  It’s also good for your wallet.  This way, when you do eat meat, it can be something like a Dietzler Farm steak, right?  Really!!
  • Being a flexitarian does not mean you have to be a vegan.  You can get your local proteins from eggs and cheese easily.  As I noted above, local eggs cost a lot more than factory eggs, yet making your family an egg dish can be a cheaper way to fill up your family.  You can spend a lot on certain local cheeses, but you can find high quality local cheeses for much less.  Fill your family up with dairy.
  • As I also mentioned above, you can save on meat, really save, by buying sides of meat.  You need tremendous freezer space to get a half a cow, but a half a hog or half a lamb take much less room.  You can also usually buy a quarter side of beef.  You can start looking for sides of meat from the farmers who sell at markets, and we will have a piece up soon on the Local Beet on other options for whole animal buying.
  • Consider a meat CSA.  This one reminds that all price issues are relative.  When things were a little easier last year, we enrolled in Mint Creek’s CSA.  We loved the quality (and butchering) of the stuff.  The CSA gave us a big discount over normal Mint Creek prices, yet others (like us now) could still find it out of their price range.

I’m sure I’ll come back to this post with new ideas and suggestions, and I very much want to hear your ideas for savings.  I want to end, however, with something else I have said often to justify the costs.  You still spend less, way less when you buy and prepare your own local food than when you eat out or when you spend money on packaged foods.  How much do you think it costs us for the satisfying meal we had the other night of pasta with summer squash and red peppers, a green salad on the side.  I do not think we could feed our family at Gene n’ Judes for that much.  The real costs of local food are often paid in time.  Resist convenience food, fast food.  Instead you can eat real food.


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Traverse City Wine & Art Festival Showcases The Best In Local Wine

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Posted: August 26, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Last weekend, the second annual Traverse City Wine & Art Festival was held at Grand Traverse Commons, a bucolic complex featuring yellow Italianate brick buildings set amid rolling hills. The Wine and Arts Festival draws together mostly all of the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsula winemakers in one place to offer tastings of their wine. (Incidentally, the Wine Fest followed a Mario Batali event at the same venue the prior weekend — Batali is a part-time Traverse City area resident and local food and wine supporter.) The fest also featured food from prominent Traverse City restaurants — and the food at this festival should be more of a draw. Most festival food is bland, overly salty, fried and tired, but many of these restaurants prepared food on-site, and offered fresh, vibrant selections of sophisticated (and mostly local) food for a reasonable price, such as grilled Middle Eastern food, grilled beef tenderloin, and Indian-inspired vegetarian meals with fresh, local vegetables. (As an aside, this is partly due to Traverse City’s stellar dining scene — the bar for food is set high, and the festival’s food reflects that.)

Although the fest is clearly in its infancy, it’s off to a good start. First, some minor kvetches: The music and entertainment could be better-suited to the event. The art portion could be larger, but again, I think it’s clear that wine is the focus, and the relatively small art section might be a by-product of that strategy. Finally, I wish the Festival organizers would have a clearer idea as to who comprises their target audience. This is reflected most prominently in the bland generic logo for the event, which is plastered on posters and merchandise advertising the event. Given the arts angle, it seems like this could be re-worked to better reflect the creativity of the participating artists as well as the forward-thinking winemakers. (Not to mention that, ostensibly, an enticing logo can be used to help sell merchandise to underwrite the Festival.)

Those nitpicks aside (and they are nitpicks), there is virtually nothing comparable to the Traverse City Wine & Arts Festival from a local wine perspective in which to try the best locally-produced wine, and interact with the winemakers under one tent. Judging by the crowds, and the emphasis on wine (as opposed to other aspects of the festival), there is clearly interest in local wine. White wine in particular — Northern Michigan’s specialty — was poured in abundance. Even those winemakers that focus on reds (such as 2 Lads) poured strictly whites and rosés, no doubt a nod to the summer weather.

My favorites were:

Chateau Grand Traverse ’08 Dry Riesling with its floral nose and sweet, muted honey notes that is balanced by zesty lime and green apple — it is elegant, and finishes clean on the palate.

Left Foot Charley’s Murmur ‘09: Bryan Ulbrich, LFC’s winemaker, writes “The art of blending . . . Is underappreciated.” And you what? He’s right! “Murmur” is an Alsatian “Edelzwicker”-style white blend. This semi-dry wine blends primarily Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Grigio with a little Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and Traminette. I think this would be great with seafood, or any food you’d normally serve with an Alsatian white blend.

2 Lads’ lovely fruit-forward ‘09 Rosé of Cabernet Franc with its rich pink color that tastes like raspberry and the tangy “green” of rhubarb. Any easy summer drinker.

Black Star Farms Arcturos Pinot Noir, which exhibits a fruity flavor redolent of ripe red berries, it’s a classic, easy-drinking Michigan Pinot Noir.

Any of L. Mawby’s méthode champenoise sparkling wines, most notably the demi-sec J’Adore, a blend of locally grown pinot noir, vignoles, pinot gris and chardonnay. I love the complexity and color of Mawby’s wines — just watching the fine bubbles traversing up and down the glass are a testament to Mawby’s mastery of sparkling wines.

Of the wineries that I had not tried before last weekend‘s event, I enjoyed Chateau Fontaine’s “Woodland White”, made with 100% Auxerrois.

Some pictures from the event:

Grand Traverse Commons

Grand Traverse Commons

Tasting Tent

Tasting Tent

Larry Mawby

Larry Mawby

The added benefit of going up to Traverse City for the weekend is that you can take a day or two and visit your favorites wineries. Stay tuned. . .




Local Week at Angelo Caputo’s and Other Local Food at the Supermarket

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Posted: August 26, 2010 at 9:08 am

For the most part, this summer, Angelo Caputo’s has not played the local card in their weekly ads.  I’ve been a bit surprised as I know they sell about as much local produce as they can.  They rectify that this week, putting “Michigan Grown” in the center, front of their weekly flyer.  Jewel continues to strongly feature local produce and Dominick’s makes a locavore comeback this week.  The other stores who advertise in my Chicago Trib, Food4Less, and Ultra and Aldi show no local. 

One second before we get to what’s on offer.  Let’s discuss price.  The costs of local foods seems to be on everyone’s minds right now (and we have a piece in process of saving money while eating local), but the prices on display in the ads are quite illustrative.  On one hand, Angelo Caputo’s has all their local foods priced at less that $1/lb.  Dominicks, on the other hand, charges $2/lb for local lettuce and $2/lb for freakin’ hot house (not local) tomatoes.  In other words one can find bargains and high prices wherever they shop.

Angelo Caputo’s

  • Michigan extra large tomatoes
  • Michigan green peppers
  • Michigan pickles
  • Michigan jalepenos
  • Michigan peaches
  • Michigan melrose peppers
  • Michigan poblano peppers
  • Illinois sweet corn

Jewel

  • Michigan green beans
  • Michigan cucumbers
  • Illinois sweet corn
  • Illinois mushrooms
  • Watermelon? – It’s in the locally grown column, but no State is given making me wonder

Dominicks

  • Locally grown Athena cantaloupe
  • Locally grown green peppers
  • Locally grown romaine, red and green leaf lettuce

Last week’s grocery store report is here.




Family Fun Fest in Morton Grove

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Posted: August 26, 2010 at 5:01 am

This Saturday is the Morton Grove Farmers’ Market’s First Annual Family Fun Fest.
Free inflatable castle for jumping (8am-12pm), free balloon artist (8-12), free family photo area where you can get a photo taken and pick up the print the next week, Radio Flyer wagon drawing, free face painting, live music that will make you dance, Tommy’s on Waukegan hot dogs and brats (10-12), ice cream from DQ (10-12), Guitar Hero/Wii, storytimes and more from the MG Public Library, MG Historical Museum making corn husk dolls with the kids, plus the usual amazing vendors we have each week at the Market!
See you at the Market!  (8930 Waukegan, behind the bank building beside Illinois Bone and Joint Institute) www.mgfarmersmarket.com




Did You Pack Your Kids a Local Lunch?

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Posted: August 25, 2010 at 10:01 am

I did.  I packed two local lunches today.  Truth is, no one bares the brunt of our local life more than the two teens.  Sure, over the course of the year they will get bananas and olives and maybe something trans-fatty occasionally, but pretty much all the time I pack local.  After all, these are kids who have taken to showing off their psychedelic watermelon radish slices and can stand endless apples.  There’s blue cheese ala Hannah and the Sheila Special.  Here’s some suggestions and ideas to keep your kids eating local come mid-day.

Make that a local peanut butter and jelly sandwich?  You can’t.  I’m pretty sure there are no peanuts showing in Chicago area farmer’s markets.  But one of the best peanut butters you can buy, gets made locally.  Cream-Nut peanut butter created in Grand Rapids, Michigan tastes like peanut butter should.  When you cannot find local peanut butter it makes sense; when you cannot find local jams and jellies, well you are not trying one bit.  I’d be partial to Tomato Mountain’s products without my wife’s employment, I did see them win a jam-off at Hull House once, but I now have extra special, biased reasons to mention them.  Still, Tomato Mountain is just one of many great local jams.  Rare Bird, made near me in Oak Park can be found in stores and farmer’s markets.  Seedlings, I love too.  OK, I love about them all.  C’mon, eat local jelly.

Do you need to force your kids from eating peanut butter daily?  One of my local kids would go to school with peanut butter daily if she could.  I believe, however, that she needs some variety in her diet.  She is one of those Jews who eat ham.  In Oak Park, I can find her Wisconsin Nueske ham for tasty if pricey sammys.  I wish we had a few other ways to get her local cold.  Those in Chicago, especially the North side, will get many more ways to fill up their kid’s lunches when Cleetus gets his deli opened on September 3.  He plans on making his own hams, briskets, pastrami’s and corned beefs in house from local meat.  He will also source a local turkey cold cut.  Hell, that’s probably worth a schlep from Oak Park.

If I cannot find local cold cuts, what else can I do.  I love the things you can do with local goat cheese from Prairie Fruit Farms.  You can go sweet with some of those jams mentioned above.  You can go savory, mixing with some garden pesto or just some dressed local rocket.  You also can split the difference using my wife’s Tomato Mountain sun gold tomato jam for something not quite sweet not quite savory.  My wife being next to Jane, of Maggie’s Gourmet at the Northfield farmer’s market, has made me well aware of their delicious compound butters.  With school starting, I’m filled with sandwich ideas using their stuff.  How ’bout thinly sliced radishes with their chive-parsley butter (on a good wheat bread).

Do your kids have to limit their lunches to sandwiches.  This is the time of year, for sure, for the “blue cheese ala Hananh.”  Take one of those red peppers finally now in season.  Split.  Seed.  Find a good local blue cheese.  We’re partial to the products from Wisconsin’s Hook’s if you can track down.  Let it come to room temperature (to soften).  Then fill the red pepper cavity.  [ed. great also for adults on low carb diets!]

Would you not like to give your kids healthy crap.  The local kids always get a piece of seasonal fruit.  Today’s lunch included tiny “bubble gum” plums.  They usually also get some seasonal veg.  Today’s lunch included multi-colored cherry tomatoes.  And some days I throw in a treat.  They prefer ultra-glutamate heavy, un-naturally dyed items like flammin’ hot cheetos but settle happily for some local dried fruit.  A lot of farmer’s at area markets sell dried fruits.  Stovers, who are at Daley Plaza and many other markets has a huge cache of  healthy crap.

Would you like to spoil them now and then.  Another of my favorite vendors at Daley Plaza is Katherine Ann Confections.  They cannot source all their ingredients locally but they can also source some of their ingredients locally.  Each week they have some kind of new, seasonal truffle.  A few weeks they sold carrot cake truffles from local carrots.  I might put locally made salt caramels from Floriole in their lunches but I tend to eat them before I have a chance to lunch ‘em.

When the local supplies run thin, what can I do?  Sprouts!  You can always find local sprouts and micro-greens.  My kids will happily take a bag of Growing Power sunflower sprouts to school.  And they eat the “Sheila Special”.  The dead of winter locavore creation my wife cooked up: Wisconsin cranberry cheese, local jelly and a good handful of sprouts.

See, there’s all sorts of ways to pack your kids local lunches.  I’d love to hear some of the ways you pack your kids local lunches too.  And if you have any other questions on how to keep your kids eating local at school, let me know.




Egg recall proves to us that food producers are ‘too big to fail’

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Posted: August 24, 2010 at 7:28 am

Over 500 million eggs recalled. One major company with a long history of bad behavior. Over 1,300 sick.

We’ve heard the term “too big to fail” apply to banks and financial companies. We even passed financial reform in the hopes (hopefully) that we won’t hear that phrase again.

But in the food spectrum, “too big to fail” has been going on for some time. And this egg recall is just the latest straw.

The FDA came out and said it needs more power for a “preventive approach.”

It’s extremely easy to say, “Know where your food is grown.” Unfortunately, that option isn’t viable to most Americans, and they need to be protected, too.

For more on this saga, check out my column on this topic from my blog, BalanceofFood.com.




‘Farm Fresh to You’ brings the local farmer to your TV set Monday, August 23rd, 2010
Staying On Beet Monday, August 23rd, 2010
Big Cheese In the City Sunday, August 22nd, 2010
Cocktail! Sunday, August 22nd, 2010
You Say Tomato, I Say Yum: Tomato Soup from the Garden Sunday, August 22nd, 2010
Purple Asparagus Benefit This Sunday Sunday, August 22nd, 2010
Skokie Farmers Market – 8/15/2010 Update Friday, August 20th, 2010
Get Your Local Celery at Jewel and Other Local Foods Around Town Thursday, August 19th, 2010
Tomatofest 2010 – Has Your Chef Taken the BLT Pledge Thursday, August 19th, 2010
Iron Creek CSA, Weeks 7 and 8 Thursday, August 19th, 2010
What’s Missing From Eat Local Later Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
From Our Beet Reporters – CSA Report – Heritage Prairie Market Tuesday, August 17th, 2010
Go To Traverse City’s Wine & Art Festival, Try Local Wine (this Sat. 8/21) Monday, August 16th, 2010
Market Finds Saturday, August 14th, 2010
If It’s Good Enough for Cassie – Academy for Global Citizenship Fundraiser 8/20 Friday, August 13th, 2010
When the Market’s Over, the Party Starts – Farmer’s Market Cocktail Party 8/18 Friday, August 13th, 2010
Ravinia Farmers Market – August 11th, 2010 Update Thursday, August 12th, 2010
[RECYCLED] A Pictorial: Onesixtyblue’s Farm Dinner With Dietzler Farms Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
Locavore Dinner at StarGrazer Cafe, Prairie Crossing – 8/20 Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
Farm Dinner at Faith’s Farm 8/21 Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
Garden Fresh Gazpacho Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
Eat Local Later, Now – Mid-Season Preservation Guide – Updated Monday, August 9th, 2010
Another Gala Locavore BBQ – Green Grocer Chicago, 8.15 Monday, August 9th, 2010
Ravinia Farmers Market – August 4th Update Saturday, August 7th, 2010
Locally-Made Bathtub Gin Makes A Comeback For A Good Cause At SPEAKEASY THROWBACK Friday, August 6th, 2010
Local Food All Over – We Read the Flyers Friday, August 6th, 2010
Iron Creek CSA, Weeks 5 and 6 Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010
Iron Chef, Farmer’s Market Style – Country Chef Challenge Thur @ Daley Plaza Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010
Spatulatta Site Redesign Sunday, August 1st, 2010