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Entries in locavore (6)


Original Content

Yep, another blog post.  Hold onto yer hats!  This one is even all original content; GASP!


I haven't yet blogged about our csa, or how amazing it is... but I promise you I will, and that it is indeed amazing.  We went with Riverbend Farms this year and they are simply wonderful, if not simply for the unique things we've gotten so far: corn meal AND turtle beans from last year's harvest (!!!)  I really meant to keep some of the turtle beans for us to plant our own beans next year... but then I forgot to save a few and they all got soaked along with the edibles.  Oh well.  This meal was incredible, not just because I used an entire tub of mascarpone cheese in the polenta, or because I cooked the beans in my favorite Italian fashion, but because aside from the salt, mascarpone cheese and oil, every ingredient came from within 80 miles of our house.  Locavore-ism at its very best (and most delicious).

I made the beans in the same fashion Kyle and I learned five years ago (has it really been that long?) while living in the hills of Italy:


Rince your beans well, and pick through them to sort out broken beans and pesky stones.  Soak your beans in cool water with about an inch of water covering them (add more water as the beans will absorb some).  Cook them in their soaking water with a few cloves of garlic, add salt and stir every once in a while until the beans are the right consistency for you.  I like them just past al dente so they still have a tiny bite to them. When they're done, drizze really good olive oil and serve with crusty bread  Holy cow it's sinful, not to mention incredibly healthy.  You can use them at every meal (they were quite lovely with CSA eggs fried and their yolks oozing onto the beans) and they keep in the fridge until they mold or smell funny, but I can pretty much guarantee they won't be around long enough for you to get to that point, so just keep using them until they're gone. 


This polenta was absolutely fluffy, perfect, sinful and divine.  I was literally in love.  If you can get your hands on homegrown corn meal, do it now and do it fast.  Little chunks of whole squeaky corn REALLY brought the dish together.  For one cup of corn meal, I used 4 1/2 cups of 1% milk with a 1/2 cup of half and half (this is what we call improvising when you don't have whole or 2% milk on hand). 


1C cornmeal

4 cups whole or 2% milk

1 tub mascarpone cheese (12oz ?)

Salt to taste

Two cloves of Garlic (or five garlic scapes) minced


Bring the milk and garlic to a simmer and slowly add the cornmeal over medium heat, whisking constantly until well incorporated.  Stir once every 5 minutes until it reaches the consistencey of apple sauce, about 30 minutes.  Serve immediately. 



Winner and SGT Dinner

So I took some time off. 

Fine, I'm lying.   I didn't take ANY time off. 


I've been plenty busy with food and photography, but none of which really inspired me to sit down and blog about it. Granted, I easially could have written about dinner at Everest on Grand with Rae and Eric, but I didn't take any pictures and honestly I wasn't inspired to (until I got our delicious food.  Holy shit. I love Indian food).  You can read about our dining experience at Sen Yai Sen Lek over on Erin and Ben' blog.  I had TWO client meetings on Sunday (following up the advertorial posted on Off Beat Bride last week, I've been spending a lot of time responding to inquiries) and generally ate out a ton the past few days. Since this is so unlike me I will recap for you.  Monday Lunch: Buon Giorno. Dinner: Red Stag  Tuesday Lunch: 3 Squares, Dinner: Brasa  Wednesday Breakfast: Bryant Lake Bowl, Dinner: Northeast Social Thursday Dinner: Sushi at Seven.


What am I,  some kind of socilite? 


The worst part is, I have no inclination to cook this week.


At all.


I'm not sure I can even muster up the desire to fry myself an egg this morning.  Anyway to provide at least ONE piece of original content this week (so I don't feel like a complete failure) here is a picture at the Simple Good and Tasty Dinner at Brasa, St Paul. 

Meeting Alex Roberts was probably the highlight of my dining week.  He was very kind and friendly, his food is delicious, his mindset so focused on good quality and local ingredients... and he's damn cute too (have I started liking guys with beards? Damn you bearded husband.  You're changing my ideals!).


Oh and the winner: Emily Tritabaugh was the lucky number 17 to be selected by!  You have an email from me in your inbox about collecting the goods.  Way to comment!  I love the concept behind her blog too.  Mottainai is a Japanese term that refers to when something valuable, such as food, is wasted. Her blog and lifestyle are dedicated to make Mottainai a little less frequent in the world... and we should probably be friends. 


Pressing the reset button

Everyone once in a while it's really good to sit back and take a good look at the way your life works. Reflection (as some cheesier than me might call it) is really important when major life changes happen. Like you get a new job and your husband starts school full time. WHAT A GREAT TIME TO REFLECT. Clearly things have been different in my life since I started my new job.

Like the fact that I have a social life. I honestly can't remember the last time this was really true. Fall of 2005? That sounds about right. Since then I was inundated with overcommitment (not that I'm not overly committed now, because trust me, I am!) a brief stint at returning to school, working 2 jobs, starting a business, planning a wedding, getting married, buying a really old house and preventing the fixer-upper work that surrounds me everyday. But now I actually work normal hours (for the most part) and have more time to do things like edit during the week so that I can see people on the weekend.

Additionally, I have a normal sleeping and eating schedule. This has actually been the most difficult transition I've had to make. I have to plan my meals, and I actually have time to cook. When I was working at Trader Joe's, sometimes I would just eat one meal during the day, and stuff my face with sliced mango and candy cane Joe-joe's during my work hours. I would sometimes go to sleep hungry because I was just too tired to eat. I often had things people would consider dinner foods for breakfast because I had my lunch break at 9am.

Ultimately I think this has made my cooking extravaganzas less interesting, which is probably why this blog is suffering. I also work for a prepackaged food company so for product knowledge sake (and the 25% discount helps too) I was eating a lot of frozen foods.

Then something just switched in me and realized I felt like crap. My clothes didn't fit the right way anymore. I didn't like ANYTHING I owned. I KNEW I had gained weight, and even though training for a 10 mile run this fall, I really wasn't in very good shape. At Trader Joe's I was on my feel 10 hours a day and lifting 40 pound boxes fairly frequently. Now, the heaviest thing I lift is my messenger bag. Pathetic.

So I re-upped at the gym (I took off the summer months because I don't like to lie to myself and pretend I would go) and I'm purging my body of my sugar cravings. I know that I am very sensitive to sugar and it's nearly impossible to control unless I start from scratch. One of my least favorite words in the English language is "carbs" but yes, I am for all intents and purposes denying myself of SIMPLE carbohydrates for two weeks. That doesn't sound so bad, but then when you realize wine, all forms of bread, pasta and cookies fall into that category, well shit.

It's actually been remarkably easy this time around. I did have a bit of a "holiday" from my cleanse (as I like to call it) last Saturday. I also cheated last night because I attended the March of Dimes Signature Chef Auction last night thanks to the lovely Crystal of Café Cyan, and you just can't attend those things without a glass of wine and a bite of potato. But otherwise it's been great. I have more energy, I'm happier and I'm way more productive. Weird how eating healthy has more than just physical side affects. Now, to get back to my pre-married weight... hmm

For lunch today I thought I'd share. I pretty much ate entire bunch of rainbow chard. No, not JUST chard, but chard with butter and leeks, salt and pepper. Unlike spinach which can sometimes get chalky when sauteed, chard retains its crunch and is SO good for you not to mention delicious and gorgeous. According to the iPhone locavore app we have two more MONTHS of chard season in Minnesota (I'm pretty sure mine came from California... what's the deal Wedge? Where is my local chard supply when I want it?). I'm not sure where these leafy greens are going to be coming from in the middle of January, but I do know the Kale hanging out in my garden has survived quite a few frosts up until this point.


That's about all I have for today. I'll keep you posted on my healthy goals and think I just poured about a months worth of words into this post, so I'll conclude it by saying "Hi" to my newest connection, Summer from Summer Harsh Botanical Artistry. Check out the centerpieces she donated to the March of Dimes Dinner last night


I just love the whisk!

And make sure you check out Crystal's blog over at Café Cyan. She's always coming up with great ideas in her kitchen. And she's also very awesome... even if she lives in the suburbs.


Outstanding in the Field: MN Edition

On Friday as I drove my parents and Kyle farther West into the Minnesota heartland than I had ever been, my mother and I discussed how we had heard about Outstanding in the Field. She was certain that I, being "in-tune" with food culture, had told her about it. I, on the other hand, believed that she told me about it last year when her Houston goat cheese supplier (Blue Heron Farm) had their cajeta featured at the 2008 Outstanding in the Field in Texas.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Regardless of how we had heard about the meal, the four of us we were headed to Riverbend Farm in Delano, MN to experience our 1st farm dinner. The mission of Outstanding in the Field is simple: "To re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it."

Outstanding in the Field- MN

If that doesn't line up with my philosophy I don't know what does. The chefs, Scott Pampuch (owner and Executive Chef at The Corner Table) and Mike Phillips (Executive Chef at Craftsman Restaurant) teamed up with Greg Reynolds and his wife, the proprietors of Riverbend Farm. Both Pampuch and Phillips are well known in the Twin Cities for their commitment to fresh, local and organic ingredients, and Riverbend Farms are one of their go-to suppliers. In addition to supplying restaurants, Riverbend products can be found at local Twin Cities co-ops and they offer a CSA to a lucky 80 participants that signed up in March of this year.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

But enough with the small talk, onto the food!

When we arrived at the farm there were two options of beverages being served: 45h Parallel Spirits and Il Follo Prosecco.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

The lemonade vodka's being served by distiller Scott Davis were refreshing and smooth, but the prosecco was the best accompaniment for the Charcuterie being served up: headcheese (which is really becoming one of my favorite parts of charcuterie) coppa salame, MN cured prosciutto, Pork Rillette with spicy mustard and rhubarb compote, and house made mortadella. I've been a sucker for mortadella since I lived in Italy, and this provided me with a good fix.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

After we socialized a bit in the field, we heard from Jim Denevan, the founder of the nationwide dinners and Katy Oursler, Events Director. They gave us a brief background of how Outstanding in the Field was formed, their mission, and their travels. You can read more about much of what we learned here.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

From there we split into two groups and toured the farm. My group toured alongside Greg Reynolds, as he explained to us the theory behind his crop rotation while we got to enjoy the gorgeous July air.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Finally it was time for dinner. Just the anticipation of walking up to the gorgeous table set for 150 people made the price tag alone worth every dime. I immediately headed to the cooking tent where dinners were encouraged to watch the makings of the upcoming feast.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Our 1st course was a Farmer's Salad, composed of carrots, beets, potatoes, sheep's milk ricotta, pheasant eggs, salad greens, and a fresh shallot vinaigrette. There was a delicious blue cheese included too, but sadly it wasn't listed on our menu. The entire dinner was paired with Miner Family Vineyards Wines, which was a great flashback to California Wine Country. With the salad we were served a perfectly balanced Napa Valley Chardonnay. We got to hear from Pat Ebnet from Wild Acres talk about his poultry production as well as from Joe and Lou Jones from Idle Hands Farms, potato growers extraordinaire.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

It was around this time that Kyle noticed darkening clouds in the distance. I was skeptical they would ever reach us (have we had ANY rain in Minnesota this year, after all?) but it definitely made us wonder where 150 people would eat if a storm came our way.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Up next was cured Star Prairie Trout with cucumber, breakfast radish and cabbage coleslaw.
The fish was incredibly tender and mild, while the slaw provided a nice refreshing and light course, well paired with the Miner Viognier: clean, bright and citrus-y.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

My wonderful parents who get to enjoy Outstanding in the Field in Houston this September
Outstanding in the Field- MN

On to true Minnesota Fare (and who in Minnesota doesn't love sausage?). Next was Fischer Farm Fennel Sausage, served with a kohlrabi puree and braised greens tied together with a Honey Gastrique. Given the opportunity, I could eat this for dinner on a daily basis. The sausage was a coarsely ground pork and the fennel was brightened by the licorice flavor from the fennel. The kohlrabi was as smooth as the best mashed potatoes with a slight sweetness brought by the gastrique to tie it all together. The Miner Merlot was oaky, dry and full bodied with blackberry undertones.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

It was around this time we realized those ominous clouds were definitely coming towards us.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Never you mind, the next course was served without any hesitation. Large portions of Mark Simon veal served with a Riverbend swiss chard and a cornmeal "tamale" served on a bed of sweet corn, black turtle bean, succotash, veal demiglaze and herb butter. The tamale was a beautiful and delicious creation, with fresh sweet and creamy Minnesota corn. The veal was beautifully smokey, though I have to admit it was pretty hard to cut with my butter knife. Being the driver of the evening I only had a drop of the sangiovese, but recall a dark, earthy and dry wine. A clear cousin of a good Tuscan sangiovese, with the twist of American terroir.

Outstanding in the Field- MN

At this point the storm was upon us. The wind picked up and it was announced that dessert would be served in the greenhouses. The whole lot of us made the trek with the lightning flashing behind us. Many of us lingered outside of the greenhouses until the 1st drops of rain started to fall. The food, wine and weather combined made some of us a little loopy.

The storm approaching

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Getting my toes dirty

Outstanding in the Field- MN

All messed up on good food and great company
Outstanding in the Field- MN

Encountering friends

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Outstanding in the Field- MN

Lighting strikes in the distance

Outstanding in the Field- MN
Dessert was the most unique of all courses: Riverbend cornmeal and Start Thrower farm sheep's milk cheesecake with sour cherry sauce, raspberries, black cap berry sauce, ricotta and honey ice cream. I didn't taste the ice cream, but at that point I was too infatuated with the storm to care.

A patron silhouetted by the outside barn light with rain battering the outside of the greenhouse

Outstanding in the Field- MN

The Greenhouse, lit only by lightning

Outstanding in the Field- MN

A man lit just by the light of his cell phone
Outstanding in the Field- MN


Simple, Good and Tasty: A Meal

A month or two ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to a meetup with other local food bloggers, hosted by Jim Norton of The Heavy Table. It's always fun to meet others in the blogosphere (especially when it comes to food) and get their advice on where to eat, what to order, who to talk to, what's in the works, who is closing shop. One of the individuals I met was Lee Zukor, "Instigator" for Simple, Good, and Tasty. Lee is diving into the world of local, organic, and responsible eating and wants you to come with him. In addition to his garden, CSA and farmer's market extravaganzas, he's started organizing meals at restaurants that focus on using local ingredients.


I was a little late in the game on finding out about his first meal (I read too many blogs and therefore often end up skimming even my favorites) but made sure to get my name on the list to his second, scheduled to take place at Heartland Restaurant in St Paul.


Lee invited me to come a bit early to tour the kitchen, which I gladly obliged. I enjoyed a nice glass of Cremant Rose in the bar while discussing what it takes to quit your job and become an organic farmer with one of Lee's previous co-workers. Then we were whisked off the the dinning room which was reserved solely for Simple Good and Tasty dinner participants.




While I didn't cook anything "new" this week, I did experience a first. It was a challenge to pass up the vegetarian menu that was featuring duck-egg pasta ravioli with local sheep's milk ricotta (oh god my mouth is watering just typing that) but I had to dive into the house made headcheese, which I had never officially previously consumed (I am certain I had one version or another during my time in Italy, but never knowingly called it headcheese).

head⋅cheese [hed-cheez]

a seasoned loaf made of the head meat, sometimes including the tongue or brains, of a calf or pig and molded in the natural aspic of the head.

Hey, I'm always up for a challenge

I was dining solo (shocking, right?! Kyle started Grad School two weeks ago, so the occasional dinner without him is inevitable) and had a great time getting to know my dining neighbors, Steve and Ben, a couple of dads from Lee's neighborhood and Joan and her sister, from A Backyard Farm. Fortunately, Joan ordered the Flora option, so I was able to take pictures for both meal options.

Before the meal Lee talked a little bit about his mantra, announced that Simple, Good and Tasty is officially a business according to the State of MN, and thanked everyone involved for being a part of the evening.


Next up was Chef Lenny Russo who also talked about his local food mantra, explained a bit about his business practices (like the fact that they purchase and utilize a whole pig, hence the headcheese portion of the evening)



This led to an amuse bouche (I'm not sure there are any other two words in the world that I love more... especially when I'm not expecting to hear them... or maybe foie gras) of Walleye Mousse on Kohlrabi slaw with a chervil aioli. Yums.


For us omnivores the 1st course was the much awaited headcheese. If you like ham, you'd love headcheese. It's creamy and rich, and the idea of internal organs being in there is the farthest thing from your mind when it hits your tongue. I was immediately brought back to the time Kyle and I spent on the pig farm in Italy. There is an undeniable earthy character to properly raised pork. I have to admit I kind of missed the concept of the chrysanthemum salad while eating it but the dish was delicious.


The vegetarian eaters got a very brightly colored fruit soup that looked incredibly refreshing (a good thing on any 90 degree day).


Next up was the Poussin (which may or may not just be a young chicken)
It was incredibly tender, rich, and in sum, delicious. Additionally, I could eat about 20 of those wild rice-pumpkin seed cakes and ANYTHING that has been drizzled with bit of Glace de Viande (fancy pants description for boiled down meat juice) gets two thumbs up from this girl. Well done Chef!





I already talked about how great the vegetarian option sounded. This picture makes me seriously hungry.


The dessert was delicious, and I love love love pepper with my chocolate. It's my new obsession. Last winter I was making chipotle hot chocolate for my crew in the cold blustery mornings. Sadly since this is Minnesota only a few appreciated the heat in their belly's from the spicy pepper addition. I'm not always a chocolate and cherry fan, but the cherries were mild, and are definitely in season so it works in my book.


I would have really liked to try the veg option, but probably didn't need a 2nd dessert. Damn it looks good though.


All in all, I highly recommend you go to one of Lee's up and coming dinners. Next month is at (my all time favorite, and impeccably close to me) Red Stag Supper Club. The price is right, the company is light hearted and good natured, and hey, it's local! Email Lee if you're interested in learning about future events!