Gift Guide 2012: Keep Calm and Carry On or in the Alternative KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly)

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Posted: December 24, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Port Jammers Baked in Mason Jar Bands

 

So you’ve waited and now you are getting up and surfing online trying to make it happen.  You don’t want to just give another gift card to Starbucks or even worse, an email gift certificate to itunes or amazon.com (not that there’s anything wrong with gift cards or these businesses).

You however, pride yourself on being awesome.  Most of those on your list have everything they need and during the rest of the year you have amazing conversations with them about what’s important.  Your “what’s important” conversation is never about things.

Here’s what we’ve been doing and we’ve gotten peals of delight and bright eyes whenever the recipient sees it.

It’s a cookie from Dorie Greenspan of Beurre & Sel called a Port Jammer.  She’s every bakers’ favorite holiday elf.   It has everything a heart could sing for, cherries, port (or NA wine as I chose), chocolate, seasonal cranberries, spices, and streusel.  My husband says it is one of his favorite things.  My husband doesn’t like sweets!

Now pick up a bottle of your favorite sparkler, grab a jar of fancy jam (yes, there’s still time to make one, but I’m trying to keep this stress-free) and your favorite coffee (if you roast your own, then place the coffee in a mason jar) and watch their eyes light up with joy.

So worse case scenario, you don’t run to the mall but maybe, just maybe you run to the grocer and grab the ingredients listed below, head home, turn up whatever music grooves you and bake this cookie!

Beurre & Sel’s Port Jammer (with a few changes)

Makes about 30 cookies in a muffin pan or 10 if using mason jar bands

 

For the cranberries and cookie base:5 black peppercorns

2 points star anise

One- 2-inch piece cinnamon

¼ cup Fonseca Bin 27 Port** ( I substituted NA Fre’s Merlot, if you aren’t going to use the Port make sure the wine is fruity, jammy, and has low-tannins )

2 T.  water

1 T honey

1 c dried cranberries

2 c all-purpose flour

2 ½ t. ground cinnamon

½ t. fine sea salt

¼ t. ground ginger

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

8 oz. unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ c. (packed) light brown sugar

¼ c.sugar

1 egg, at room temperature

2 t.   vanilla extract

 

For the streusel and jam: 

1 c all-purpose flour

1/3 c (packed) light brown sugar

¼ c cocoa powder, sifted

2 T sugar

¾ t. ground cinnamon

½ t. fine sea salt

6 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

½ c cherry jam ( I use black cherries)

1 T Fonseca Bin 27** (I substituted 2 T of NA Fre Merlot)

 

Equipment:  3 standard muffin tins, or use mason jar bands

For the cranberries: place spices in a cheesecloth bundle and put in a small saucepan.  Add honey, water and BIN 27**. Simmer for 1 min. Add cranberries and cook and stir until liquid evaporates. Throw spice bundle away. Cool cranberries.

To make the cookie: Mix flour, cinnamon, salt, ginger and black pepper together.

Cream the butter.  This will take about 3 minutes.  Beat in brown and white sugars. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.

Add spiced flour and blend just until it is incorporated.  This dough will be lumpy and sandy looking in parts.  Next, stir in the Port** plumped and spiced cranberries.

Divide dough in half.  Take one half of the dough and roll it until it is 6 inches long and about 1 ¾ inches in diameter.  Repeat with the remaining dough. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

For the streusel: Mix the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, sugar, cinnamon, salt and butter together in a large bowl. Rub everything together with your fingers until streusel forms moist crumbs.  This will be sandy, grainy, and a bit lumpy.   Cover and chill for at least 1 hr.

 

Baking Instructions:

Place oven rack in the center and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir the cherry jam and Fonseca BIN 27**( I used 2 T. of NA Merlot to give it a bit more of that boozy taste in Port) together.

For Muffin Tins: Cut your cookie dough at ¼ inch intervals.  Make certain you turn your dough log a ¼ turn with each cut.

For Mason Jar Bands:  If you are going to use mason jar bands, then cut the cookie dough at ½ inch intervals.  Make certain you turn your dough log a ¼ turn with each cut.

Spray muffin tins or mason jar bands with Baker’s Joy.

For Muffin Tins: Place 1 cut piece of cookie dough into each muffin tin.  Press the dough into the tin.  Place ½ t. of jam in the center of each cookie.  I take a smaller biscuit cutter and place it in the center of the cookie.  Then I spoon the jam in.  Leaving that small biscuit cutter in place I top the outside of the cookie with a few spoonfuls of streusel.

For Mason Jar Bands:  If you are using mason jar bands, place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Press the dough until it is touching all sides of the band.  These cookies are a bit larger than those that are made in the standard muffin tins (they are pictured above) Put about 1 t. of jam in the center of each cookie I take a smaller biscuit cutter and place it in the center of the cookie.  Then I spoon the jam in.  Leaving that small biscuit cutter in place I top the outside of the cookie with a few spoonfuls of streusel.

For Muffin Tins: Bake 14 to 15 mins, until streusel sets and jam bubbles.  At the half way mark, rotate the pan. Cool to room temperature before serving (about 15 minutes on a wire rack).  Take a plastic knife (I bet you have a non-stick muffin tin) or a chopstick, or I use a wooden bamboo skewer & run it around the cookie to release it from the pan.  Place on wire rack and continue to cool the cookies before packing them up as gifts.

For Mason Jar Bands: Bake for 22 minutes, until streusel sets and jam bubbles.  At the half way mark, rotate the pan.  Cool to room temperature before serving (about 15 minutes on a wire rack).  Squeeze each band. Take a sharp knife or I use a wooden bamboo skewer & run it around the cookie to release it from the band.  Squeeze the band again.  Gently cup the band in one hand and invert it , with the other hand gently push the bottom of the cookie out (a lot like removing a cake from a round pan)  Place streusel-side up on wire rack and continue to cool the cookies before packing them up as gifts.

** If you are going to substitute the Port, it is a fortified wine so it’s difficult to find a comparable substitute( especially if you are looking for a NA substitute) look for a red that’s full of fruit and has no smoke or oak.  If you decide to use a red wine this is the place for a fruity, jammy, low-tannin, but not off-dry number.

 




It’s Back! The Local Beet’s Last Minute, Quirky Gift Guide for 2012

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Posted: December 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm


From Letherbee’s facebook page

If you’re last minute and didn’t order the hottest gift two weeks ago before it sold out, or you’re not willing to believe the online retailers’ claims that they will get your gifts to you by Christmas, then check out our quirky, but definitively locavore-minded gift suggestions.

For The Learner

The Red Meat Market is offering a whole hog butcher breakdown class on January 26th, 2013. This three-hour class at Centered Chef in Chicago will feature Buedel Fine Meats and Provisions, who will teach you how to break down a whole hog carcass from Slagel Family Farm into special cuts not found at your grocery store. Then, the chef of The Loft at Centered Chef, Ryan Hutmacher, will teach you how to make several dishes with the meat you just butchered.

On Sunday, January 13, 2012, one of the best bakeries in Chicago, Floriole Cafe & Bakery, is offering its very first bread baking class. Space is limited. The price is $50 + tax per person, and includes the course, a take-home loaf, and dinner. (Drinks extra.) Call to reserve: 773-883-1313.

For The Food-Lover

How about delectable sweets from a butcher shop? You probably know all about the artisanal butcher shop, The Butcher and Larder, and its sustainably-raised, family-farmed meat. But the desserts made by Allie Levitt (wife of butcher Rob Levitt), have gained a cult following dating from their tenure at their former restaurant, Mado, in Bucktown, when Allie was the pastry chef. For the time being anyway, some of Allie’s sweets — like her shortbread, marcona almond nougat, migas bark and vanilla caramels — are being offered specially through Butcher & Larder.

If you’ve had Black Dog Gelato once, then you want to have it again. How about 2 pints, six times a year? Sign up by December 24, 2012 for the Black Dog Gelato-of-the-Month club, and you’ll get 2 pints of rotating Black Dog flavors delivered to your home once a month from January to June for $119 (roughly $9/pint). To order, go to artizone.com, or call the store at 773.235.3116 or email blackdoggelato@gmail.com.

For The Avid Restaurant-goer

Becoming a classic Chicago-centric gift, you can’t go wrong with a deck or two of restaurant discounts from A La Card. This well-curated, Beet-approved list of restaurants includes many that are focused on sustainable, local cuisine.

For The Home Cooks

Look no further than the diverse list that Kim, our Cookbook Addict, provided here.

Co-op Hot Sauce, “Good Sauce For Good,” started out when Mike Bancroft, the founder of Co-Op Image, a youth arts program, saw making small-batch hot sauce as a good way to raise money for the program. The sauces, made from locally grown ingredients, garnered a following, and transformed Co-op Sauce into a full-time commercial enterprise (though it still donates half of its profits to Co-Op Image ). Try giving the “Rum Barrel Gift Box,” which includes “The Rum Barrel” sauce,  applewood smoked sea salt, jalapeno pork sticks from Jake’s Country Meats, and a Wild Mary Bloody Mary mix. Or buy a bottle or two as stocking stuffers: “The Barrel” combines two of my favorite things in a Louisiana-style sauce: bourbon & Dark Matter coffee (the hot sauce is aged in bourbon barrels that last held porter and is infused with coffee). There are also other creative, complex flavors such as Mole (a riff on the Mexican sauce), Batsauce (named for the musician/producer/DJ Batsauce, and which has a sweet-hot dichotomy of Michigan blueberries & ghost pepper) or their version of Asian Sriracha called “Chi-racha.”  You can order Co-Op hot sauce online or at Green Grocer in Chicago. (See here for more retailers.)

For The Local Drinker

The most gratifying local spirit to me this year is made by Ravenswood-based Letherbee Distillers.  Its “Gin for Wellness”  has been getting a fair amount of attention lately, and with good reason: Its smooth herbaceousness will turn a gin lover in anyone. I challenge anyone who doesn’t drink martinis to make one with Letherbee and see if they still feel that way. If you can find a bottle of this small batch gin to give as a gift, you’d make a cocktail lover very happy. Try any of the Lush Wine & Spirits locations or In Fine Spirits for a bottle.

I won’t make any claims as to its healthfulness, but who doesn’t love old-fashioned soda pop now and then? A local institution, Filbert’s, has been making their “draft-style” root beer since 1926 on Chicago’s South side. They now make 25 (!) different flavors in addition to root beer that is served in their wonderfully vintage-style glass bottles. Take a trip down to the factory in McKinley Park on 3430 S. Ashland, and you can make your own custom case  of soda for about $12.  You might even get to tour the bottling area, who knows? They’re open from 8-4 M-F and 9-1 Sat. They will be open from 9-3 on Christmas eve, so plan accordingly.

For The Outdoorsperson

For the year-round fisherman, how about a “certificate” for a day of fishing at Rushing Waters in Palmyra, Wisconsin (no license required)? Rushing Waters’ fish is served at many Chicago restaurants for a premium (with good reason), and catching them yourself costs only a fraction of the price. Otherwise, you can order fish from them directly. Rushing Waters promises that all orders are filled when placed – so your fish will be swimming at the time you order.

The Gift That Says You Should Eat Local

A CSA subscription! Our fully searchable, sortable list from 2012 is a great place to start. Or, check out a true year-long CSA with Tomato Mountain to continue getting vegetables in winter.

For The Preserver

Most grocery and hardware stores carry starter packs of Ball jars in assorted sizes (I recommend 1/2 pints for jam, pints for canning vegetables, and quarts for juice). But for the more ardent and experienced canner, check out the sleekly-designed Weck canning jars, produced in Crystal Lake.

If you need lessons along with those jars, check out the Glass Rooster.

For The Marketeer

If you know someone who is an avid U-picker, consider this vintage market and fruit basket from Kauffman’s Mercantile that straps onto your back.

For The Caffeine-Addicts

Not too long ago, coffee-lovers had only Metropolitan and Intelligentsia (not that there’s anything wrong with them), but over the past few years, small-batch, fair trade roasters have appeared on almost every other street corner in Chicago. Variety is the spice of life, and I’m happy that we now can choose from the diverse, delicious selections of Gaslight Coffee Roasters in Logan Square, Dark Matter Coffee Company (available at Star Lounge in Ukrainian Village), Bow Truss Coffee Roasters in Lakeview (available at Green Grocer) or Ipsento Coffee House & Roaster in Bucktown. For someone who savors coffee, a bag or two of beans from will always be appreciated.

 




Annual Appeal for Good Food: Six Organizations Worth Your Donation

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Posted: December 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Sunflower at The Talking Farm’s Howard Street Farm

It seems like all we see on restaurant menus lately is “farm-to-table” food. As much as we like to indulge in our local bounty, this love has not necessarily translated into donations to charitable community organizations that are trying to make this good food more accessible in Chicagoland. Every year, good food organizations in our area examine whether their limited funds justify continuing the fight. Even though times are tough, they need our help to continue moving forward. Why support locally-minded food organizations? Some would say that it’s because there’s a lot of worth in an alternative system of sustainably-grown food that has not traveled far (ideally less than 100 miles) before reaching our plates. (In the United States, on average our food travels 1,500 miles from farm to consumer, says Worldwatch Institute.) Others would say that it strengthens the community, and makes it easier for people to access healthy food. But how do you grow food locally, on a smaller scale, when few people aspire to be farmers anymore, or have the resources to do so even if they want to? How do you help people educate their children about the source of their food? This is where these organizations step in – and Chicagoland is very lucky to have them. The funding needs for these organizations is acute. Please give as generously as you can. (Links to each organization’s website are embedded in the paragraphs below, which you can click on to donate.)

The Talking Farm started in 2006 out of the efforts of the Evanston Food Policy Council to educate their community about healthy, fresh, locally grown food, agricultural policy, and organic growing practices. Since then, they’ve partnered with public schools, service clubs, religious groups and garden clubs to further their educational mission. On the heels of a successful project with Evanston Township High School called “the Edible Acre”, they established an urban farm in Skokie—the Howard Street Farm—on pristine land that once was farmland. With sheer grit and determination, in just over a year, they turned over the soil, planted crops, and composted according to sustainable agricultural practices. Their most exceptional project in 2012 was the creation of the Demonstration Garden, which includes ethnic heritage beds with 15 different types of plants that reflect the diverse food of the community, native Illinois perennials, a rain garden, an education tent, and a compost area. Now, they need an irrigation system and additional fencing.

Ten years ago, Growing Home created a job training program focused on organic agriculture by operating four certified organic farms that serve as work-sites and classrooms in Englewood, Back of the Yards and Marseilles, Illinois. Growing Home has supported almost 300 Chicagoans in finding them full time work in retail, landscaping and food service industries or placement in further training and educational programs.

Family Farmed works directly with local and national organizations to train farmers, provide a support network for entrepreneurs, financing, access to capital, and to create “food hubs” that stimulate local food systems. They also produce the marvelously educational and interactive Good Food Festival, which acts as an intensive learning incubator for hundreds of people on eating locally grown food and small, family farms. In addition, it publishes a Chicagoland CSA Guide (along with The Local Beet).

Founded by Beet contributor Melissa Graham, Purple Asparagus provides nutrition education to underserved communities in Chicago. In 2011-12, Melissa and Purple Asparagus provided regular monthly classes to 18 public schools about good, healthful foods. Combined with its community programs, they reached over 5,000 children last year alone. Purple Asparagus has now been approved as a food and fitness partner with the Chicago Public Schools’ new wellness policy.

If you have the energy and vision of Will Allen, founder of  Growing Power, you create a land trust dedicated to providing equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food to people of diverse backgrounds, which you grow to encompass over nine urban farms and projects in the Milwaukee and Chicago metropolitan areas. The Iron Street Urban Farm, located in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago, is making a significant impact on our local food system. It is only one of a handful that produces food with aquaponics. They also have bee hives, an urban orchard, ten hoop houses, and most remarkably, engage in vermicomposting, a nutrient-rich, worm-based compost that they sell. Growing Power also provides job training and education.

The Spence Farm Foundation’s mission is to teach new or young farmers how to build sustainable, small family farms by holding classes, workshops and seminars. Spence Farm works with universities and government organizations to arm people with the knowledge on how to make an impact on the good food system. In 2012, they operated a beekeeping workshop with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and a seed selection and produce marketing program with Spence Farm and the University of Illinois Extension that taught farmers on selecting the right seeds for successful crops, and about marketing strategies for CSAs, farmers’ markets, farm stands and wholesale distribution.




The Local Calendar 12/19/12 Get Your Winter On!

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Posted: December 19, 2012 at 11:42 am

Winter is just about here! This weekend is the last farmers markets of 2012 so stock up because most of the farmers will be taking a break for a week or 2. As Chief Beet Robert Gardner wrote, he used the last of his peppers. So get out and scoop up what you can of fresh and local produce!

If you haven’t seen it, you can win up to $50 in gift cards to City Fresh Market which is located in West Rogers Park at 3201 West Devon as well as at The French Market in the West Loop. All you have to do to win, is comment and then guess what some of the tasty items from the market  are. If I do say myself, this is a darn good deal and you have until Friday!

We try to keep up on events but miss some, some sites to check out for further detail on sustainable food, urban ag, workshops/events are the Illinois Stewardship Alliance out of Springfield, their facebook page is here, we “like” them, and the other group is here in Chicago, Advocates for Urban Agriculture, we “like” them as well.

The LB calendar will take a break next week along with the farmers and will be back in 2013(assuming the Mayans were wrong and there is a 12/22)!!!  Thanks for supporting local food, the farmers markets and The Local Beet! Have a very happy holiday and continue to spread the local goodness and buy, cook, eat local!!!

Now on to the week ahead, tonight, last chance tonight to buy MsMint’s hard to find items at Uncommon Ground Clark and the farmers’ markets this weekend!!

WHERE TO FIND LOCAL FOODS

These stores specialize in local foods:

Artisanal Wilmette – 414 Linden Ave. Wilmette

Butcher and Larder 1026 North Milwaukee in Noble Square, Chicago

City Provisions Deli 1818 West Wilson in Ravenswood, Chicago

Dill Pickle Food Co-op – 3039 West Fullerton, Chicago

Edible Alchemy Foods Co-op - Located in the near-SW Pilsen neighborhood, the co-op has grown to five locations in, including Hyde Park, River North, Lakeview, and Logan Square

Green Grocer 1402 West Grand Ave in West Town, Chicago GG has weekly wine and beer tastings check their website or twitter for details. Be thankful for Green Grocer this time of year where local produce seems to be a bit hard to find!!!

Marion Street Cheese Market 100 South Marion St. Oak Park

Provenance Food & Wine - 2 locations Logan Square 2528 N. California Lincoln Square 2312 W. Leland Ave. Here is a link to their blog of “the best things our staff ate and drank in 2012“.

Publican Quality Meats – 835 W. Fulton, Chicago

Standard Market – 333 East Ogden Ave., Westmont

Ongoing – Jane Addams Hull House “Unfinished Business 21st Century Home Economics” Exhibit

December 19

Chicago - Wine Wednesdays at Province Restaurant - Seasonal farm to table tasting menu 161 N. Jefferson

Chicago - Ms. Mint returns for a mini-Bazaar at Uncommon Ground Clark 3800 North Clark St. – 5-9:30pm An opportunity to buy last minute gifts for your friends and family, all impeccably sourced by Kate Gross, Ms. Mint.

December 20

Chicago - C & D Family Farms Hyde Park 7am – 10am Three Pepper Burgers and Ground Pork 30% off  Harold Washington Park at 53rd & Hyde Park Blvd.

Chicago – Uptown Market Uptown Farmers’ Market is year round. Every Thursday from 7-1 inside Weiss Memorial Hospital or in the parking lot during the warmer months. 4646 N Marine Drive Spark of the Heart Soups will be there. I tried there vegan/gluten-free cuban style black beans and rice, really good and fool proof! They are a small family-run business that makes naturally vegan and gluten free dried mixes that come complete and are easy to prepare.

December 22

Chicago – Green City Market - It’s back at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum at Fullerton and Cannon Drive. Last  market of 2012, the next market will be Saturday January 13 so you had better stock up while you can!!!!

Chicago – 61st Market sponsored by Experimental Station –  6100 North Blackstone 9am – 2pm Connie Spreen of the market sends out a great weekly letter with some inspirational thoughts and excellent info as to what will be available. Go here to sign up for it. Say hello to Axel Erk of Penny Pastries!

Chicago –  C & D Family Farm 30% off Three Pepper Burgers and Ground Pork

Evanston – Winter Evanston Farmer and Artisan Market at the Ecology Center  9-1pm 2024 McCormick Blvd.  The market will be at this location for the next 5 months, today and every Saturday through April 27, 2013. Spark of the Heart Soups and Sides will be there.

La Fox – Heritage Prairie Saturday Farmer’s Market  9am – 1pm 2N308 Brundige Road

Woodstock – Woodstock Winter Farmers Market 9am – 12pm McHenry County Farm Bureau Building 1102 McConnell Road

December 23

Beverly - C & D Family Farm 30% off Three Pepper Burgers and Ground Pork 8:30am – 10:30am In the parking lot at 95th and Longwood

Chicago – Logan Square Winter Market – 10-2pm Congress Theater Lobby 2135 North Milwaukee

December 25

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!! Ho! Ho! Ho!

SAVE THE DATE

Happy New Year 2013!!!

January 12

Oak Park - The Sugar Beet Co-op Membership Kick-off Party & Winter’s Eve Market  7- 10 pm Unity Temple, 875 Lake Street in Oak Park They’re planning a magical, candle lit evening at historic Unity Temple and hope you’ll join them to learn more about the co-op, shop from local vendors, and celebrate the accomplishments of our growing organization. Enjoy wine & beer, snacks, and live jazz while we watch Sugar Beet Home Movies together. You might be in the film reel! They will be offering memberships, outlining plans for the next year, and are eager to learn more about YOUR vision for The Sugar Beet Co-op. $20 per person will cover 3 drink tickets (21 and over), seasonal snacks, and a cozy evening in a beautiful place, surrounded by your new friends at The Sugar Beet Co-op.

March 14-16 Good Food Festival 2013!!!! The festival bringing good food and farmers to Chicago!

Pinot Days - Saturday April 20th Navy Pier 2-5pm

Whiskyfest Friday April 26 - It sold out pretty darn quickly last year!! Better get your tickets now!


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Say Goodbye to My Little Friends

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Posted: December 18, 2012 at 10:38 am

And then there was one. There was guacamole the other night, too hot for my wife, whose stomach has taken a turn away from its previous cast-iron-ness, but loved by all. One went into a big salad, where it is also a vegetable, and one failed at it’s attempt to spice up a winter cabbage salad as it turned out to be too yucky within once I opened it. I watched my last two tomatoes perish of rot before I had a chance to eat them goodbye–it’s so hard trying to determine how to eat one’s last tomatoes. On one hand, you want that one last kiss of summer, on the other, those ending tomatoes, red only from weeks of rays coming through the windows really don’t amount to much. They are symbols only. My jalepenos can stay for me (for the most part as mentioned). Without being too greedy, I’ve made it this far. I think I will enjoy my last hot pepper of 2012 in the snow.

Fresh hot peppers truly pull hardest at my locavore principles. I like crappy hot peppers almost as much as good, and I could surely get by the many months using non-local if I cared. Yet, it is exactly because I care that I’m stopping soon. I want to have some hard lines. Lines so I can say yes, I try to eat local. A line that some how makes sense when I make guacamole, for next week I will not. I could offer up that I hold on to many alternatives to fresh peppers. I have a big jar of pickled, local banana peppers, quite hot. I have tons of dried peppers ready to use, and I have a fresh batch of harrisa just made with some of those. I have at least four versions of hot sauces made by local vendors. My food will not lack for heat. Yet, I will miss those peppers.

Man, I love jalepenos. Surely, they pump up everything they touch. But also, unlike a dab of Coop Hot Sauce, they add bite, crunch, and like I noted above, vegetation. Have I mentioned how much I love what it can do to a salad, and grilled or fried, they (or other hot peppers), make wonderful side dishes for grills and roasts. You just cannot duplicate the value of fresh peppers. Still, I move on. I want very much to believe that food should taste of the season, and the different ways of inducing heat are key ways of defining taste. I want very much to stay on path, to have meaning to how I eat. It may not seem like a lot, but giving up after that last jalepeno is the sacrifice I will make.

**On a seperate note, if you have not, you still have a chance to enter our Give-Away for $25 City Fresh Gift Cards.  One you might get just by saying “house-made”, and the other, just identify some of their made in-house items.  Very easy!  Easier than giving up on fresh peppers.**


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The Cookbook Addict: Favorites for 2012 Holiday Giving

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Posted: December 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Cookbooks are always welcome holiday gifts. 2012 opened up the culinary lens on local, sustainable food to take in a wider view of authentic food cultures across the globe.

A perfect example is Japanese Farm Food, by Nancy Singleton Hachisu. Twenty years ago, Hachisu, a native Californian, fell in love with a handsome Japanese farmer, married him, and began a new life on an organic farm in Saitama Prefecture, located a few hours outside of Tokyo. Her book is an intimate look at the seasonal rhythms and traditional foodways of rural Japan, quite unlike anything we know, or think we know, about twenty-first century Japanese culture. Beautifully designed and photographed, the book is a lyrical portrait of farm life that is at once familiar and exotic. Hachisu’s accessible recipes bring Japanese home cooking to our kitchens, deftly combining simple whole foods with traditional ingredients and techniques—local, sustainable food the Japanese way.

Armchair travel is a favorite winter pastime and Naomi Duguid has long been my companion on snowy afternoons. She has authored, along with her (now ex-) husband Jeffrey Alford, five award-winning books on Asian food and culture. Through her vivid photography, astute cultural observation, and instinct for a great recipe, I’ve traveled to central Asia (Beyond the Great Wall), the Indian Subcontinent, (Mangoes and Curry Leaves) and Southeast Asia (Hot Sour Salty Sweet). These genre-busting cookbooks have been referred to as “culinary anthropology”. In Burma: Rivers of Flavor, her first solo effort, she introduces us to this long-isolated country’s history, people, and their fresh, vibrant cuisine.

In 2006, Phaidon, a British publisher know for its lavish visual-arts books, released the first in a series of equally lavish and comprehensive tomes on home cooking from around the globe. The Lebanese Kitchen, the newest in this series, is a 500-recipe compilation by Salma Hage, a 70-year-old self-taught Lebanese housewife who grew up on a farm in northern Lebanon near a town called Mazraat et Toufah, or “apple hamlet”. Learning to cook and garden from her family’s matriarchs, she refined her skills over a 30-year career as a catering chef in London. Her recipes are earthy, flavorful and satisfying—Arab soul food that is remarkable in its diversity and firmly rooted in Lebanon’s lush valleys, cool mountains, and warm coastlands.

Like the first three cookbooks, Magnus Nilsson’s Fäviken is rooted in a specific place. Unlike those books, it is not one I am likely to cook from (Anyone eager to try “A tiny slice of top blade from a retired dairy cow, dry aged for nine months, crispy reindeer lichen, fermented green gooseberries, fennel salt”?). It will, nevertheless, inspire and inform my cooking. Nilsson, a young Paris-trained chef with a restaurant situated on the grounds of a hunting estate in rural Sweden, has developed a hyper-local cuisine in a climate that could not be less hospitable. Although its short growing season and harsh winters make ours look Mediterranean by comparison, all of the restaurant’s food is sourced from the fields and forests in the immediate vicinity of the restaurant. Nilsson and his staff can, dry, salt, smoke, cellar, and otherwise preserve this food, developing in the process a style of cooking unique to their piece of ground. Many parts of the Chicago food shed were settled by Swedish immigrants, who found similarities to their homeland in the lush forests and farmland of Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. If Nilsson can cook and eat local through all four seasons, so can we.

Back at home, chef Paul Virant’s The Preservation Kitchen raises the bar on pickles and preserves, giving us sophisticated sweet and savory flavors and inventive seasonal menus to make the most of them. Virant also introduces aigre doux and mostarda to our repertoires—preserves with the nuance and complexity to grace a charcuterie plate and play nice with a glass of wine.

For the DIY nerd on my holiday list, I’ll give Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation, the essential reference on fermentation’s concepts and processes, a comprehensive source of detailed information on fermenting foods and beverages in the kitchen, and an inspiring and engaging account of how fermentation influenced human development.

          

Foraging is a trending topic Chicago’s food circles with several new books published in the last year. The nerd in me gravitates to Feast of Weeds, A Literary Guide to Foraging and Cooking Wild Edible Plants, by Luigi Ballerini. This scholarly introduction delves into one of humanity’s most primal activities through historical, scientific, and literary analysis, practical commentary, and simple recipes gleaned from the southern Italian kitchen. The cook in me makes a beeline for Foraged Flavor by Tama Matsuoka Wong and Eddy Leroux. The book is the happy result of the pairing of two unlikely soul mates—Tama is a Wall Street attorney with a passion for foraging and Eddy is the chef de cuisine at Manhattan’s celebrated Restaurant Daniel whose penchant for wild flavors drives his inventive cooking. Together they have curated a collection of delicious and easily identified plants that can be sustainably harvested, and then developed seasonal recipes the make the most of their unique flavors and textures.

Roots, by Diane Morgan, dives underground to explore the mysterious world of tubers, taproots, rhizomes, and corms and shows us that beyond carrots, beets and potatoes lies an exciting world of tastes and textures that promise to transform our winter tables into an exciting culinary adventure.

     

Two fascinating books focused on artisan and so-called “natural” wines will go to the wine lovers on my holiday gift list. Reading Between the Wines is esteemed wine importer Terry Thiese’s love letter to the beauty, mystery, and joy to be found in the glass. He makes an impassioned case that these qualities shine brightest in artisan produced wines. Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally, is wine writer Alice Feiring’s account of her own attempts to make a simple, unadulterated wine while making a compelling case against “the overripe, over-manipulated, and overblown” style of wine-making prevalent on the shelves of grocery shovels and big box stores.

     

Topping my list of most-coveted food books is The Penguin Great Food Series Box Set, a collection of the most incisive, witty, and delectable food writing from the last 400 years. From Alice B. Toklas’ Murder in the Kitchen, Alice Water’s A Delicious Cooking Revolution, MFK Fisher’s Love in a Dish, to Pelegrino Artusi’s Exciting Food for Southern Types, Eliza Acton’s The Elegant Economist and Samuel Pepys The Joys of Excess, the series includes 20 abridged volumes of each author’s collected works that open a fascinating window into the kitchens and cultures of our civilization. I’d covet the set for the beautifully designed covers alone.

And don’t forget about the Local Beet and City Fresh GIVEAWAY—three $25 gift cards for our readers. All you need to do is respond in our comments with the words, “house-made.”  Doing so, will enter you in a random drawing for a card.  But wait! There’s more!  We are also giving away one card to the first person who can identify some of the products made in house at City Fresh, and we want a good, reasonable name (spelling has to be close but your answers have to be written in English letters!)–in the event that no one names all the products, the person who names the most will win, and in the event there is a tie, the winner will be determined via a random draw.  Note, the person who wins the name the European food contest is still entered in the random drawing contest, so you have the chance to win two $25 gift cards. Happy holidays everyone!




This Week’s Local Harvest

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Posted: December 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Not a whole lot of eat local links we found worth harvesting.

MikeG shows that we’re all local.

Did you know Civil Eats re-vamped?

Can we feed the world?

When I cannot find anything else to read, I love to check in on restaurant sites that post daily or weekly menus like this or this.  Like so many things locavore, we can always look to Berkeley for inspiration.  Closer to home is a Midwestern Chez Panisse.  Finally, Chef Paul Virant’s published menus provide a map for always staying local.




What’s In A Name? Support Food Transparency! Join the GE Labeling Campaign In Chicago

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Posted: December 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm

What’s in a name? During this holiday season, you can be an “Iphone Advocate” and take action by signing this petition for GE Labeling in Chicago which is not a determination of the pros or cons of GE Foods but a call for food transparency!!!

Most of you who read The Local Beet are well informed in sustainable food issues and realize that the “GE” in the title refers to Genetically Engineered Foods. Wikipedia defines GE foods accordingly:

Genetically modified foods (GM foods, or biotech foods) are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), such as genetically modified crops. GMOs have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques.  Other techniques by which humans modify food organisms include selective breeding; plant breeding, and animal breeding. ” Food and Water Watch defines GE Foods as “ altered with inserted genetic material — to exhibit traits that repel pests or withstandthe application of herbicides.” Here is FWW’s overview piece on GE Foods.

I am not here to debate the pros and cons of GE Foods, Ellen Malloy and Grant Kessler of the 100MealProject have gone down that path the farthest and with the most transparency and open-mindedness of anyone I am aware of.  Ellen and Grant went to the extent of visiting Monsanto. If you go and read their commentaries you will find that the topic of the benefits and dangers of GE foods is complicated! FWW who has made sure to have impeccable research has these papers on 1) The Greenwashing of GE Crops 2) How GE Crops Hurt Farmers.

What the GE Labeling campaign focuses on is transparency. We, the consumer, deserve the right to know how our foods are grown. In order to force better transparency, it is up to us, the consumer to push for that at a grassroots level. Most consumers support GE Labeling. History will show the results of GE foods, while the pros and cons are debated and studied, the consumer at least deserves a right to be aware of GE foods in the food supply and on the grocery store shelves and be able to make their own choice. One of the benefits of shopping at a farmers market like The Green City Market is that they have done the vetting of the farmers and the food for you. The labeling campaign is to make food transparency available on a larger scale when it comes to GE crops.

Food and Water Watch Chicago is spearheading a campaign for  a non-binding resolution before the Chicago City Council to support GE Labeling. If you are in favor of this, you can show your support by signing the Food and Water Watch petition here. If you represent an organization and want to show your organization’s support, you can email Jessica Fujan of Chicago FWW at jfujan@fwwatch.org.

Chicago has long been a national leader in promoting, producing, and consuming local, sustainable foods.  The campaign asks that the Chicago City Council takes the next logical step in food leadership by representing the consumer and urging the state legislature to make GE Labeling the Law.

Where does this legislation currently stand? On a state level, in Illinois over 3,000 people have signed the petition calling for GE Labeling and 750 of those are from Chicago. Rep. Deb Mell and Senator Dave Koehler will both introduce legislation that would make GE labeling the law.

In Chicago, we have the opportunity to send a strong message to all our local representatives by passing a resolution through City Council. Aldermen Walter Burnett, Bob Fioretti, Joe Moreno, John Arenas, Joe Moore, James Cappleman, James Balcer, and Rey Colon have all committed to supporting this resolution.  If your alderman isn’t on this list, get their attention by signing this petition. Currently, Alderman Bob Fioretti is introducing it to the Committee on Licensing and Consumer Protection.

If you want to get further informed on the Chicago Labeling Campaign, there will be a meeting this Monday, the 17th at 6:30pm at Sandwich Me In - 3037 North Clark Street. You’ll get updated about the campaign and talk about what you can specifically do to secure the win.

For further information on the effects of GE foods, Genna Reed of FWW wrote a blog post on the first long term GE Food study results are in and they are not pretty. One of the most cited studies on the effects of GE Foods is a feeding study on rats by Eric Seralini, called “The Seralini Study” which Tim Schwab of FWW covered here. It’s complicated!!

 




GIVEAWAY! – We Have Something for You Because We Respect the Craft

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Posted: December 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm

What does everyone want this time of year?  How about a little extra spending power.  How about a $25 gift card to get some special foods.  We’re excited to announce your chance to win such a card, and we’re excited to announce you also have the chance to win a bonus $25 card.  Before we get to this, want to digress slightly.  Our friend Mike Gebert over at Grub Street Chicago asked the questions we were thinking when we heard about a new Chicago restaurant called Local.  Besides getting at the central question of getting away with calling yourself local when your menu focuses on “lobster quesadillas, lump crabcakes, Cabo Shrimp Chili, and dead of winter “local greens” including tomatoes,” it gets to a question more important to us, do we just care about distance.  Really, no.  We value many things higher, including artisanship.  That’s why we like City Fresh, a Chicago area grocer with branches on the North side and at the French Market.  The family that owns City Fresh came to Chicago from Serbia, and since they’ve opened, they have been bringing their customers the tastes of home.  They also make products familiar that whole Balkan/Greek/Slavic region no matter the religious and cultural differences.  After all, we all like to eat well.

At the Local Beet, we believe strongly in the idea of “eating local,” but if you’ve heard us explain, we say that it’s all about getting the foods we value. Foods made or grown the right ways. Local is a means not an end. In our world, we still drink coffee, eat citrus and bananas in the winter, and look for people who make things with care. For instance, we’ve been shopping for the house made bureks at City Fresh for years. In fact, we love them so much that we served them at one of our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah party. We also like and appreciate so much of the other things City Fresh is doing in house including:

  • Yogurt
  • Sarma or stuffed cabbage (City Fresh pickles its own cabbage in-house)
  • Cakes and pastries (Keks, Puslica, Boem, strudels, breads, cookies, Rafaelos, Baklava & Kataifi, etc.  A huge list of traditional Eastern European and Mediterranean pastries made in-house)
  • Meats (Cevapi, Cvarci, Pljeskavica, etc; i.e., sausages and burgers)

In addition, City Fresh makes special orders for instance many vegan options to meet the needs of the Orthodox fasting periods.  Want to see for yourself?  Well, the Local Beet and City Fresh are offering three $25 gift cards to our readers.  All you need to do is respond in our comments with the words, “house-made.”  Doing so, will enter you in a random drawing for a card.  Wait, there’s more.  We are also giving away one card to the first person who can identify some of the products made in house at City Fresh, and we want a good, reasonable name (spelling has to be close but your answers have to be written in English letters!)–in the event that no one names all the products, the person who names the most will win, and in the event there is a tie, the winner will be determined via a random draw.  Note, the person who wins the name the European food contest is still entered in the random drawing contest, so you have the chance to win two $25 gift cards.





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Environmental Fair at Wagner Farm, Thursday, Dec. 13th

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Posted: December 12, 2012 at 4:56 pm

This coming Thursday, December 13th, State Senator-elect, Daniel Biss  will host an Environmental Fair, the theme of which is “Quick Tips on Reducing Your Footprint.” It will feature several local and governmental sustainability experts and authorities, including Mary Allen, the Recycling and Education Director at Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County, and Debra Shore, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner. Local, environmentally-minded organizations will also be available to talk about composting, where to dispose of electronics and light bulbs that cannot go into landfills, transportation, and solar panels for your home. The Talking Farm, which operates the Howard Street Farm in Skokie, will also attend to talk about maintaining winter herb and vegetable windowsill gardens and to give out cool weather seeds.

The Fair will take place at 7:00 p.m. at Wagner Farm, 1510 Wagner Road, Glenview.

Participants:
Active Transportation Alliance
Citizens Utility Board
Energy Impact Illinois
Evanston ReBuilding Warehouse
Illinois Solar Energy Association
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County
Sustainable Places, Inc.
The Talking Farm
Wagner Farm

See here for more information, or contact Daniel Biss’ office directly at 847.568.1250 if you have any questions.




Local Calendar 12/12/12 An Auspicious Day! The Holidays Are Here, Make Time To Get To The Markets!

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Posted: December 12, 2012 at 9:51 am

 

The holidays are upon us. If you are having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit, try going to The Lincoln Park Zoo, Zoolights, they will put the holiday cheer into anyone and don’t forget to get to the farmers’ markets as well! All sorts of new things in the air, for Peapod customers who have placed at least 3 orders, they have access to an exclusive Best of Green City Market box. If you have a hard time getting to the Green City Market, the market comes to you. If you aren’t a Peapod customer you can still have local delivered to your door step by ordering a Green City brunch box or a bloody mary box, but you have to order them today! Here is a link to the Brunch box and Bloody Mary box, delivery dates are Friday 12/21, Saturday 12/22, and Friday 12/28, Saturday 12/29.

We try to keep up on events but miss some, some sites to check out for further detail on sustainable food, urban ag, workshops/events are the Illinois Stewardship Alliance out of Springfield, their facebook page is here, we “like” them, and the other group is here in Chicago, Advocates for Urban Agriculture, we “like” them as well. Now on to the week ahead, Bizarre food tales from Graze magazine, Hideout holiday saleand the farmers’ markets!!

WHERE TO FIND LOCAL FOODS

These stores specialize in local foods:

Artisanal Wilmette – 414 Linden Ave. Wilmette

Butcher and Larder 1026 North Milwaukee in Noble Square, Chicago

City Provisions Deli 1818 West Wilson in Ravenswood, Chicago

Dill Pickle Food Co-op – 3039 West Fullerton, Chicago

Edible Alchemy Foods Co-op - Located in the near-SW Pilsen neighborhood, the co-op has grown to five locations in, including Hyde Park, River North, Lakeview, and Logan Square

Green Grocer 1402 West Grand Ave in West Town, Chicago GG has weekly wine and beer tastings check their website or twitter for details. You can order your holiday ham from Gunthorp Farms cured and smoked!

Marion Street Cheese Market 100 South Marion St. Oak Park

Provenance Food & Wine - 2 locations Logan Square 2528 N. California Lincoln Square 2312 W. Leland Ave. Here is a link to their blog of “the best things our staff ate and drank in 2012“.

Publican Quality Meats – 835 W. Fulton, Chicago

Standard Market – 333 East Ogden Ave., Westmont

Ongoing – Jane Addams Hull House “Unfinished Business 21st Century Home Economics” Exhibit

December 12

Chicago - Wine Wednesdays at Province Restaurant - Seasonal farm to table tasting menu $49 161 N. Jefferson

December 13

Chicago - C & D Family Farms Hyde Park 7am – 10am Three Pepper Burgers and Ground Pork 30% off  Harold Washington Park at 53rd & Hyde Park Blvd.

Chicago – Uptown Market Uptown Farmers’ Market is year round. Every Thursday from 7-1 inside Weiss Memorial Hospital or in the parking lot during the warmer months. 4646 N Marine Drive Spark of the Heart Soups will be there. I tried there vegan/gluten-free cuban style black beans and rice, really good and fool proof! They are a small family-run business that makes naturally vegan and gluten free dried mixes that come complete and are easy to prepare.

Glenview - Wagner Farm Environmental Fair – 1510 Wagner Road – 7pm Read Assistant Beet Editor Wendy Aeschlimann’s coverage of it here.

December 14

Chicago – Faith In Place Open House – 4pm-6:30pm 70 East Lake St. Ste. 920

December 15

Chicago – Green City Market - No market back next week!

Chicago – 61st Market sponsored by Experimental Station –  6100 North Blackstone 9am – 2pm Connie Spreen of the market sends out a great weekly letter with some inspirational thoughts and excellent info as to what will be available. Go here to sign up for it. Say hello to Axel Erk of Penny Pastries! At 10:30am, join in the cookie decorating, brought to you by Urban Village Church! At 11:30am, join in the live holiday music and caroling, brought to you by friends of the Market! All singers and singer wannabees are welcome to participate!

New!! Chicago – Faith In Place Indoor Market – Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church 9am – 1pm 2010 E. 79th St.

Chicago - Please join The Experimental Station between 6-10pm for the release of the graphic novel Chinatown, the first book published by the Sun Bros. In addition to offering Chinatown for sale, the event will feature a reception with hors d’œuvres from Chicago’s Chinatown, a gallery preview of future Sun Bros artwork and projects, “crazy good” Chinese pop music, and a chance to meet the authors/artists behind the book.

Chicago –  C & D Family Farm 30% off Three Pepper Burgers and Ground Pork

Chicago -Logan Square - Holiday Bizarre: A Story Slam Featuring Festive Food Fiascoes 8pm – 11pm 2385 N. Milwaukee Gaslight Coffee Roasters Join Graze magazine for a free, BYOB story slam! Five-minute tales of kitchen woes will be shared; Letherbee, Gaslight, and Paper Moon Pastry will provide food and drinks.

Chicago – Pastoral Artisan Holiday Wine Gala – 53 East Lake St. 6:30pm – 8pm $5 at the door and goes to your purchase.

Elgin - Elgin Farmers’ Market @ Habitat for Humanity ReStore 800 North State Street, 9Am-3PM-Every Saturday Open All Year Long

Evanston – Winter Evanston Farmer and Artisan Market at the Ecology Center  9-1pm 2024 McCormick Blvd.  The market will be at this location for the next 5 months, today and every Saturday through April 27, 2013. Spark of the Heart Soups and Sides will be there.

Geneva – Geneva Winter Market 9am – 1pm 27 N. Bennett (Geneva Place)

Glenview – Faith in Place Indoor Market- 9 am – 1 pm Glenview New Church 74 Park Dr.

La Fox – Heritage Prairie Saturday Farmer’s Market  9am – 1pm 2N308 Brundige Road

Woodstock – Woodstock Winter Farmers Market 9am – 12pm McHenry County Farm Bureau Building 1102 McConnell Road

December 16

Beverly - C & D Family Farm 30% off Three Pepper Burgers and Ground Pork 8:30am – 10:30am In the parking lot at 95th and Longwood

Chicago - Glenwood Winter Market 9am -2pm The Glenwood Bar 6962 N. Glenwood

Chicago – Logan Square Winter Market – 10-2pm Congress Theater Lobby 2135 North Milwaukee

Chicago – Portage Park Indoor Winter Farmers’ Market – 10am – 2pm Portage Park Theater 4050 N. Milwaukee

New!! Chicago – Andersonville Indoor Market – First Free Church 11:30am – 2pm 5255 N. Ashland at Berwyn

New!! Chicago – WeFarm Shindig at The Rib Cage – Peace, Goodwill, Good Food and How to Change a Bike Tire! 3036 North Lincoln 3B 6-10pm $15 bringing a dish to share $25 bringing yourself

Glencoe – Chicago Botanic Gardens Winter Farmers Market – 10am – 1pm 1000 Lake Cook Road 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month.

December 17

Chicago - Cafe des Architectes Holiday Rock & Roll 6-8pm 20 E. Chestnut - Indulge in modern interpretations of the classic French holiday dessert, the Bûche de Noël. Enjoy tasting each pastry chef’s creation and cast your vote for the best Yuletide dessert. Benefits Share Our Strength Tickets $35

Chicago – JustLabelIt – Food and Water Watch Campaign and informational meeting – 6:30pm SandwichMeIn – 3037 North Clark St.

December 18

Chicago – Re-Thinking Soup Jane Addams Hull House 12pm – 1pm 800 S. Halsted

Chicago - The Hideout Annual Holiday Sale - 6pm-9pm  1354 West Wabansia Each year The Hideout invites a number of talented Chicago artists to display their wares for the holiday season. The quality of work shown is fantastic. The sale will be held in the backroom of The Hideout. Crowds are expected as they have had at least 100 patrons come through on each night in past years.

SAVE THE DATE

December 19

Chicago – Ms. Mint returns for a mini-Bazaar at Uncommon Ground Clark 3800 North Clark St. – 5-9:30pm An opportunity to buy last minute gifts for your friends and family, all impeccably sourced by Kate Gross, Ms. Mint.

Happy New Year 2013!!!

January 12

Oak Park – The Sugar Beet Co-op Membership Kick-off Party & Winter’s Eve Market  7- 10 pm Unity Temple, 875 Lake Street in Oak Park They’re planning a magical, candle lit evening at historic Unity Temple and hope you’ll join them to learn more about the co-op, shop from local vendors, and celebrate the accomplishments of our growing organization. Enjoy wine & beer, snacks, and live jazz while we watch Sugar Beet Home Movies together. You might be in the film reel! They will be offering memberships, outlining plans for the next year, and are eager to learn more about YOUR vision for The Sugar Beet Co-op. $20 per person will cover 3 drink tickets (21 and over), seasonal snacks, and a cozy evening in a beautiful place, surrounded by your new friends at The Sugar Beet Co-op.

March 14-16 Good Food Festival 2013!!!! The festival bringing good food and farmers to Chicago!

Pinot Days - Saturday April 20th Navy Pier 2-5pm

Whiskyfest Friday April 26 – It sold out pretty darn quickly last year!! Better get your tickets now!


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The Weekly Harvest Returns

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Posted: December 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm

If you missed your weekly harvest of eat local links, we apologize, but we were in Florida last week foraging coconuts off the sidewalk and reaping backyard starfruit.*  Back, here’s what we found around here.

The WH does not link to other Beetniks, but this tour of Uplands Cheese should be the next thing you read after our post here.

There can never be too much attention to restaurants doing things the right way.

Is local washing a problem around here?

We tend to be dismissive of various complaints over the concept of eating local, but we do buy having to cook as an associated issue.  Thus, we’re always looking for good advice like these ten tips.

And here’s some advice for dealing with local beef.

Eat stinky local cheese.

*Coconut-cranberry chess pie




Our Next Sponsor Offers a Year Round CSA

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Posted: December 10, 2012 at 11:47 am

If there is one thing we like to say often, it’s join Green Grocer Chicago as a sponsor of the Local Beet, but if there’s something else we like to say even more, that is: the reasons to eat local don’t matter some of the time.  We believe in the value and worth of eating local; for the taste, for the environment, for the economy, and for the sense of place and seasonality.  This means we do our best to eat local all the time.  We aim to eat local in the winter as well as the summer.  This means we are especially pleased to announce our second Beet sponsor, Tomato Mountain Farm, because Tomato Mountain enables year-round local eating.  For years, Tomato Mountain provided high quality preserved goods at Chicago area winter markets, helping us fight the tyranny of the fresh.  Now, Tomato Mountain also offers a CSA box all year.

For about six or so years, various parties, especially faith based groups like Faith in Place, have hosted and promoted winter markets.  The advent of these markets nicely coincided with our desire to eat local. Thus, we became market-heads.  The way some people chased the Grateful Dead [ed. don’t you mean Phish?], we chased winter markets.  One week we’d be shopping in the St. Ben’s neighborhood, the next we’d be in Beverly.  Luckily, the markets often sprang very close to our Oak Park home.  It was an odd mix back then curated by a woman named Robin Schirmer.  Robin took it upon herself to make these markets, not just by identifying vendors but by chasing them down.  We joined once.  A day that began in a motel room, no joke, to pick up indoor raised fish and vegetables, proceeded West for grains ground on a kitchen machine and then jogged north for organic mushrooms and organic tomato products.  Tomato Mountain goods have been mainstays of these winter markets forever.  Besides the fish guy drop, my other endearing memory of this era of winter markets was filling up on Tomato Mountain salsa samples.

These days I still really like Tomato Mountain salsas.  Produced on the farm, they really speak of the field.  Still, I’m not quite as salsa-needy.  See, my wife now works for Tomato Mountain, and I can sample almost any day.  And where I used to look to Tomato Mountain for products that made it possible to eat local, like canned tomatoes, when I could not get real tomatoes, I now look to Tomato Mountain for a lot more of our diet.  For two years, we have been getting our CSA from Tomato Mountain.  Last year the CSA ended in December.  This year it continues.

I can safely say that I would be ecstatic about the news of Tomato Mountain’s winter CSA if my wife did not work for Tomato Mountain.  I would say I would be ecstatic about the news of Tomato Mountain’s winter CSA if they were not a Beet sponsor.  It is exactly what our community needs.  It is exactly the thing to make it possible to abide by the creed that the reasons to eat local means we should always strive to eat local.  Just when it becomes hardest to leave by those words, there will be a CSA box.  The box will mix storage crops like onions with hoop-house grown produce, especially frost-kissed spinach, and then supplement those items with their classic jarred items.  Moreover, the winter box is hardly one dimensional.  For instance, Tomato Mountain offers a few kinds of radishes and a few kinds of turnips.  It really will allow you to eat more local.

The Local Beet is proud to announce our second sponsor, Tomato Mountain Farm, and we are proud to tell you about their year round CSA.

 


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RECYCLED – Resist the Tyranny of the Fresh

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Posted: December 10, 2012 at 11:25 am

Editor’s Note:  It’s that time of year when are locavore eating habits move towards the canned, the stored and the otherwise preserved.  We do this, of course, to continue to eat local, but we also do it because we know that high quality, good foods, put-away with care, are just as tasty and delicious as “fresh” foods.  In fact, we strongly believe that at this time of year, much of our preserved foods are better than the fresh foods available at the supermarket.  We continue to want you to fight the urge towards having to have “fresh” food.  Resist the tyranny.  Of course this year, we have extra ammunition because one of the premier ways to battle the fresh comes from our latest sponsor, Tomato Mountain Farm.

Several years ago, when I was a lone-wolf eat local blogger, I urged people to resist the tyranny of the fresh.  Fight the appeal of seemingly fresh food over preserved foods.  We are still at a time of year when there is abundant fresh local foods.  There are many cold weather crops around now.  Still, it is time to start adjusting our eating habits.  As we move to colder and colder times, we need to squelch our desires for “fresh” foods because so much of what we find masquerading as fresh is not the good foods we are buying now.  What I wrote then, stands as key fighting points today.  Don’t necessarily look for the fresh food.

I knew one person who liked canned peas, my grandfather. He was, though, no culinary hero of mine. He went years on the same three meals: poached egg on toast for breakfast; (American) cheese sandwich on toast for lunch; and plain hamburger, baked potato and canned peas for dinner. His condiment, his sole condiment for all this food, salt. Pale mushy peas and their evil cousin pale mushy green beans are the foods that leap to most people’s mind when you say canned. Begin an Eat Local Challenge in any month, and a segment of foodies will declare, “well only if my farmer’s market was open” or “we are down to a few things in our market.” Even in California there are fallow periods (there are, aren’t there?). That’s because we are trained to expect fresh. How can we eat local if there is no fresh fruits and vegetables? The inventories of our stores convince us that we should have a fresh product. We have fallen victim to the tyranny of the fresh.

People are scarred of canned. Andy Warhol may have famously painted soup cans, but where in the museum do you see a still life with canned peaches? Consumers want their supermarkets to sell fresh, a year round supply of fresh tomatoes, fresh berries, fresh heads of lettuce, and fresh bell peppers in assorted colors. This is supposed to be real food. Never mind the environmental impact of a grape hauled into town from Chile, a tomato that has to be gassed to look red, let’s just talk about flavor.

What do we get as fresh. Whole Foods labels told me in the winter, their pretty bell peppers, their vivid red tomatoes with tight green “vines”, came from Canadian food labs. What does that mean. It means hydroponic. It means all of the flavor, all of what a vegetable should taste like is gone. On the other hand, take something out of the freezer. Food scientist Harold McGee notes that food picked at its peaked, properly frozen, is of higher quality than food picked off-ripe to survive long shipping. Besides, the places that can supply you with off-season products are not the optimum places for the products. Is Florida really the area where blueberries prosper? Yet, the market demands blueberries in March, and farmer’s can coax something round and blue out of the ground in March down there. We get March blueberries.  Because most of the supermarket inventory comes from California, we get the impression that the best vegetables grow in California. Yes, great vegetables grow in California. These great California vegetables, however, are rarely what you find in your supermarket. How many people realize that Green Giant is based in Minnesota, Birdseye started in Massachusetts. This is not to say that our food conglomerates do not harvest around the world, it’s just, I think, it points out that the stuff worth preserving, often does not come from California. Extrapolate that back to fresh vs. frozen. Does this convince you that fresh is not always the best product?

Going back in time, I can think of vividly delicious canned strawberries preserved in syrup served at Vie; I know of the frittatas enjoyed with frozen red peppers, and I marveled at candied preserved pear used to make local ice cream. Three different ways of putting things away, by can, by freeze, by drying/candying that tasted as good, if not better, than the equivalent of those products in the winter. The strawberries, well they had that real, that true strawberry flavor so unfamiliar to most eaters. The peppers tasted of sun, of summer. The pears made every cliché of “explodes with flavor” and “burst in your mouth” go through my head. Sure, there were textural issues. The strawberries were soft, seeds more noticeable; the peppers flaccid, the pear gummy, but why do we need all of our foods to have the dry, static texture of fresh. You could not dip canned strawberries in brown sugar or make a salad of the red peppers. So. Find dishes that match the food.

If we remove ourselves from the tyranny of the fresh, we can eat local without the farmer’s market being open. We do not need to rely on someone else, on weather, on seasons. Obviously, one cannot march into this battle wily-nily. But this is not a “how-to” post. There’s plenty of time for that. Before taking the time, the effort, the capital to start preserving your food, you have to enlist. You have to become a conscript against the tyranny. Wallow in preserved foods. Realize you can eat a peach in February, just not a fresh peach. Maybe you will even develop a taste for canned peas.




The Local Calendar 12/5/12 The Weather Outside Is ??? The Tables Are Still Full of Produce

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Posted: December 5, 2012 at 11:08 am

It looks like the weather will remain consistent at least for the next week in the low 40′s high 30′s, hard to say sometimes whether it is delightful or frightful. Either way, winter is coming and the market tables are still full of produce. If you can’t get to the markets, places like Foodlife  in Water Tower Place are using local product like Nichols Farms in their salads. Now, more local options continue, if you want to stay in but still dine local, the Green City Market(go to the link then click on boxes) is offering a brunch box, full of eggs, bacon, sausage, butter, onions, mushrooms, cheese all sourced from the market and delivered to your doorstep. They even have an additional “bloody mary” option, that includes Tomato Mountain Bloody Mary mix, pork rinds and elk sticks to make bloodie maries for 12. The boxes are of limited release and need to be ordered by Wednesday December 12. Don’t delay and give a gift of a “local” brunch for the holidays or gift yourself!

We try to keep up on events but miss some, some sites to check out for further detail on sustainable food, urban ag, workshops/events are the Illinois Stewardship Alliance out of Springfield, their facebook page is here, we “like” them, and the other group is here in Chicago, Advocates for Urban Agriculture, we “like” them as well.

Now on to the week ahead at the markets!!

WHERE TO FIND LOCAL FOODS

These stores specialize in local foods:

Artisanal Wilmette – 414 Linden Ave. Wilmette

Butcher and Larder 1026 North Milwaukee in Noble Square, Chicago

City Provisions Deli 1818 West Wilson in Ravenswood, Chicago

Dill Pickle Food Co-op – 3039 West Fullerton, Chicago

Edible Alchemy Foods Co-op - Located in the near-SW Pilsen neighborhood, the co-op has grown to five locations in, including Hyde Park, River North, Lakeview, and Logan Square

Green Grocer 1402 West Grand Ave in West Town, Chicago GG has weekly wine and beer tastings check their website or twitter for details. You can order your holiday ham from Gunthorp Farms cured and smoked!

Marion Street Cheese Market 100 South Marion St. Oak Park

Provenance Food & Wine - 2 locations Logan Square 2528 N. California Lincoln Square 2312 W. Leland Ave. Drop by their Logan Square location on Sat 12/8 to taste d’Avo Extra Virgin Avocado Oil that has a high smoke point and lots of antioxidant qualities from 3-6pm.

Publican Quality Meats – 835 W. Fulton, Chicago

Standard Market – 333 East Ogden Ave., Westmont

Sugar Beet Co-op - a new kind of co-op that works to provide access to and programming on local, sustainable food for the Oak Park and Austin Communities.

December 5

Chicago - Wine Wednesdays at Province Restaurant - Seasonal tasting menu $49 161 N. Jefferson

December 6

Chicago - C & D Family Farms Hyde Park 7am – 10am Three Pepper Burgers and Ground Pork 30% off  Harold Washington Park at 53rd & Hyde Park Blvd.

Chicago – Uptown Market Uptown Farmers’ Market is year round. Every Thursday from 7-1 inside Weiss Memorial Hospital or in the parking lot during the warmer months. 4646 N Marine Drive Spark of the Heart Soups will be there. I tried there vegan/gluten-free cuban style black beans and rice, really good and fool proof! They are a small family-run business that makes naturally vegan and gluten free dried mixes that come complete and are easy to prepare.

Chicago – Fete Chicago - Room 1520 1520 W. Fulton St. (Enter at Justine St.) 312-952-1520 She is at it again, organized by Heather Sperling of Tasting Table, formerly of Dose Market, this holiday shopping event includes amazing food, fashion, music, a mix of everything and entry is only $5. The best thing ever though is that all gate proceeds and a percentage of sales goes to Fresh Moves, the bus that brings fresh fruits and vegetables to food desert areas in the city.

December 7

Glenview – Screening of “FRESH The Movie”, Glenview New Church 74 Park Drive 7:30pm Sponsored by Faith In Place and The Glenview League of Women Voters.

December 8

Chicago – Green City Market - Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum 8am – 1pm 2430 N. Cannon Drive The chef demonstration is going to be Janet Kirker from Foodease Market. !!! There will be markets 12/8, 12/22. No market 12/15

Chicago – 61st Market sponsored by Experimental Station –  6100 North Blackstone 9am – 2pm Connie Spreen of the market sends out a great weekly letter with some inspirational thoughts and excellent info as to what will be available. Go here to sign up for it. Say hello to Axel Erk of Penny Pastries! Chef Katie Jackson will be offering a tasting of Parmesan Cups with Honey/Balsamic Roasted Beets, Cauliflower, Rainbow Carrots and Kale. Sounds like a veggie feast!

Chicago – Logan Square Holidays On the Square – Participating businesses will be celebrating the season with sweets, treats, tastings, delicious pop up shops, trunk shows, cupcake food truck, Santa, a tree lighting and more! Provenance Food and Wine will be participating, check it out!

Chicago –  C & D Family Farm 30% off Three Pepper Burgers and Ground Pork Evanston The Evanston Winter Market 9am – 1pm

Elgin - Elgin Farmers’ Market @ Habitat for Humanity ReStore 800 North State Street, 9Am-3PM-Every Saturday Open All Year Long

Evanston – Winter Evanston Farmer and Artisan Market at the Ecology Center  9-1pm 2024 McCormick Blvd.  The market will be at this location for the next 5 months, today and every Saturday through April 27, 2013. Spark of the Heart Soups and Sides will be there.

Geneva – Geneva Winter Market 9am – 1pm 27 N. Bennett (Geneva Place)

Glenview – Faith in Place Indoor Market- 9 am – 1 pm Glenview New Church 74 Park Dr.

 La Fox – Heritage Prairie Saturday Farmer’s Market  9am – 1pm 2N308 Brundige Road

Woodstock – Woodstock Winter Farmers Market 9am – 12pm McHenry County Farm Bureau Building 1102 McConnell Road

December 9

Beverly - C & D Family Farm 30% off Three Pepper Burgers and Ground Pork 8:30am – 10:30am In the parking lot at 95th and Longwood

Chicago - Glenwood Winter Market 9am -2pm The Glenwood Bar 6962 N. Glenwood

Chicago – Logan Square Winter Market – 10-2pm Congress Theater Lobby 2135 North Milwaukee

Glencoe – Chicago Botanic Gardens Winter Farmers Market – 10am – 1pm 1000 Lake Cook Road 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month.

December 10

Chicago – The Stew Supper Club  - “Breakfast for Supper” 6338-40 North Clark 7:30pm $45 and you can purchase tickets here.

Chicago – Jane Addams Hull House Opening “Unfinished Business 21st Century Home Economics” 4-6:30pm

Chicago – WeFarmAmerica C’mon and get Cultured! Learn how to make great fermented treats like Kombucha, Water Kefir at home. Join us  530p at the Green Exchange (2545 W. Diversey). Get your tickets now! http://wegrowbetter.eventbrite.com/

 Springfield – Illinois Stewardship Alliance – Annual Meeting 10:00am – 4pm Southwind Park ISA is the group that is trying to support, promote, facilitate, create all things local in the food system in Illinois.

December 11

Chicago – Re-Thinking Soup Jane Addams Hull House 12pm – 1pm 800 S. Halsted  Featured Presenters Abraham Epton and Irina Zadov from Open Feast, a global storytelling series, will lead a conversation about their traveling communal meals project. Soup of the Day Belarusian Soup

Chicago - The Hideout Annual Holiday Sale - 6pm-9pm  1354 West Wabansia Each year The Hideout invites a number of talented Chicago artists to display their wares for the holiday season. The quality of work shown is fantastic. The sale will be held in the backroom of The Hideout. Crowds are expected as they have had at least 100 patrons come through on each night in past years.

SAVE THE DATE

December 14

Chicago – Faith In Place Open House – 4pm-6:30pm 70 East Lake St. Ste. 920

December 15

Logan Square - Holiday Bizarre: A Story Slam Featuring Festive Food Fiascoes 8pm – 11pm 2385 N. Milwaukee Gaslight Coffee Roasters Join Graze magazine for a free, BYOB story slam! Five-minute tales of kitchen woes will be shared; Letherbee, Gaslight, and Paper Moon Pastry will provide food and drinks.

December 16

Chicago – Portage Park Indoor Winter Farmers’ Market – 10am – 2pm Portage Park Theater 4050 N. Milwaukee

December 17

Chicago - Cafe des Architectes Holiday Rock & Roll 6-8pm 20 E. Chestnut - Indulge in modern interpretations of the classic French holiday dessert, the Bûche de Noël. Enjoy tasting each pastry chef’s creation and cast your vote for the best Yuletide dessert. Benefits Share Our Strength Tickets $35

December 18

Chicago - The Hideout Annual Holiday Sale - 6pm-9pm  1354 West Wabansia Each year The Hideout invites a number of talented Chicago artists to display their wares for the holiday season. The quality of work shown is fantastic. The sale will be held in the backroom of The Hideout. Crowds are expected as they have had at least 100 patrons come through on each night in past years.