A Local Dinner from Angelo Caputo’s

December 16, 2010 at 9:45 am

Rob Gardner

We freely admit there are many hurdles involved in eating local.  Even at the height of farmer’s market season, it can be difficult to acquire items needed to make full meals.  One needs to bop around, order online or get to a friendly farmer for basics like beans or meat.  We get to the cold and it is that much harder.  The amount of farmer’s markets dwindle to a number easily categorized in a Local Calendar.  And those markets do not carry enough food to sustain regular meals.  Instead, Chicago area locavores like us are forced to preserve and store their own foods to ensure a steady supply of daily sustenance.  Or we can look to our local grocery store. 

We cannot and should not expect our local grocery store to keep us in good stock unless our local grocery store was one of the few eat local specialists like Cassie’s Green Grocer or Cleetus’s City Provisions.  Still, we can selectively shop.  Just find the local.  It’s there.  If we say one thing around here, we say this.  The reasons to eat local are the reasons to eat local.  It does not matter what time of year, nor does it matter where you shop.  Eating local does not just apply to shopping at a bountiful farmer’s market.  So, look around and do your best.  Try.  Look how this Local Family did it.  We found two local the other night at the nearby Angelo Caputo’s in Elmwood Park.  Local good enough for a comforting winter dinner. 

The Cook Book Addict made stew from Strauss veal.  Sure there was a time when the Cook Book Addict would have never made veal, local or not.  Too many scary pictures of crated babies in the pages of the Nation scared her away from veal.  Now that she knows she can make veal from pastured babies, from local babies.  She does not shy away from veal.  It helps that Angelo Caputo’s now sells Strauss products.  She served the veal stew over locally produced Cipriani egg noodles.   Why did we use Cipriani noodles.  We used them because they are produced not too far away in Chicago Heights.  It is a commercial product.  We do not deny that.  It just tastes a little better to us because it is a local product.  It tastes a little better because we know it does not require a lot of energy and effort to bring Cipriani products from Chicago Heights to Elmwood Park.  We know it tastes a little better because there is still a small company, in the Heights, making this stuff with a bit more care than rice-aroni.  And of course, the Strauss veal tastes better.  Look for products like Strauss and Cipriani where you shop, and we bet your meals will taste better too.

Not all of our recent meals have come from the shelves of Angelo Caputo’s.  We have one more week of our Tomato Mountain CSA.  Dinner on Wednesday night featured beet greens from our box.  During Hanukkah, we made latkes from Wisconsin potatoes picked up cheaply at the restaurant supply house.  We seem, already, to be eating a lot of mushrooms.  We have a pretty good store of food, and I will do an inventory soon.  We continue to address the hurdles of eating local because we believe in eating local.

Seasonal eating is not just about gouging on asparagus in May.  It means adjusting your expectations for the time of year.  It means that part of the year live off of market salads and another time live off of grocery store meat.  It can be done, and it can be done in a way that stays true to all we care about.  We have no problem turning to Angelo Caputo’s to eat local.