Archive | June, 2010

Celebrating Our Edible Best and Two Edible Outings

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I love to read, particularly those books where you get lost in the story and lose track of time. When I picked up Edible: A Celebration of Foods, the book from Edible Communities co-founders Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian, I knew it would be that kind of engrossing read. After all, I can spend hours reading a new edition of Edible Austin, so imagine what an entire Edible book would be like.

Organized by region, the book guides you through the local and sustainable food scene from coast to coast.   I felt like I was taking a fabulous road trip as I read each story and met the local food heroes around the country.
I was excited to read the history of Shelburne Farms in Vermont where the Slow Money movement just held their conference.  I was intrigued by the story of the Massachusetts Avenue Project working to bring community gardens to Buffalo, NY.
I felt like I was back in Chicago when I read the Chicago Green City Market story, and I might have drooled on my book when I read the story about Joe Sausage and East Bay Charcuterie with their handcrafted meats.
Of course, Austin was well represented in the book as well with profiles of Boggy Creek, Thunder Heart Bison and the Sustainable Food Center’s Supporting Healthy Kids program.  It also includes a half dozen recipes from Austinites.

I appreciated that the recipe section is organized by season with a separate index showing the region of origin.  I cannot wait to try the Bay-Scented Chicken with Figs, Kohlrabi with Bacon and Squash, Mushroom & Sage Strata.

If you need a good foodie vacation without leaving the house, I highly recommend Edible for your mental road trip.  You can purchase the book at Book People or you can get a signed copy from Edible Austin’s website.

Speaking of Edible Austin, they are hosting two different events on Saturday, June 19 to help you explore Austin’s local food. From noon – 4:00 pm at Breed & Co. on 29th Street, Chef Zack Northcutt will be grilling up grassfed beef sliders (Green Grass Meats) with brioche buns (Walton’s Fancy & Staple) and grilled Hill Country peaches from Engel Farm with Hail Merry Rawnola toppings.  Zack is one of my favorite chefs in town and I’m sure he’ll be turning out some terrific food from the Weber grills.

Once you’ve grabbed a slider, you can prepare for your fall garden at gardening and permaculture teacher Dick Pierce’s presentation:”Feed Your Garden, Feed Yourself” – An Introduction to Nature’s Recycling (Compost), Re-use (Gardening), and Reduce (Local Food).   Dick’s presentation, from  2 pm at the Austin Museum of Art at 9th and Congress, shows how to create compost from your kitchen waste to nourish your vegetable garden.

Note: While I am a contributor for Edible Austin, I was not asked or paid to endorse or promote the Edible Communities book or events on this blog.
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Making Homemade Baby Food & Edible Austin

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One of the more exciting things that has happened for me this year was to be asked by Edible Austin, one of my favorite magazines, to write an article for their summer edition.  Honestly, I would have written about worms if they had wanted, but luckily they asked me to write about making your own baby food – a subject near and dear to my heart.

You might be wondering what a single, childless woman knows about baby food.  When my niece Ali was a baby, I wanted to do something special for my sister, but didn’t have a lot of money.  I decided I could help by making baby food for Ali from my farmers market produce.  It ended up being one of the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever given and I had so much fun doing it.

Each week, I made Ali’s food while I was cooking our family Sunday night dinner.  We froze the purees in ice cube trays and my sister could thaw it as she needed it.  It was so much fun to try new things and discover what Ali liked.  To this day, I’m convinced that Ali loves vegetables so much because we made her food.  (Even if it’s not true, just let me think that.)

This article was a fantastic way to share that special experience with the parents I interviewed and know that I could help demystify something that sounds like a lot of work, but is actually quite easy to do.

If you have a baby in your world that is nearing the age for solid food, I hope you’ll consider helping make some of their food.  It’s easy and so rewarding.

If you don’t have time to make your own food or are looking for a great gift for a friend, Little Vittles Organic, an Austin company, delivers hand-made baby food to your doorstep.  I haven’t tried their service yet, but it looks like a great service.

I’d love to hear your baby food stories if you have some to share.  With several of my friends pregnant, I’m going to need to refresh my baby food making skills.

Home Plate: Feeding Baby by Kristi Willis, Edible Austin 2010 Summer Edition

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Fun summer day trips and event update

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We may have started the lazy days of summer, but June is packed with fun food events and festivals.  Personally, I’m hopeful that I finally make it to the Luling Watermelon Thump. See you at a festival!

Blanco Lavender Festival, Friday 6/11-Sunday 6/13: This weekend you can tour four lavender farms near Blanco and shop for lavender products at the marketplace at the Blanco Courthouse.  The courthouse festivities also include guest speakers and cooking demonstrations.

Movie Night at Montesino Farm, Sunday June 13th, 6:30 pm.   Join the folks at Montesino Ranch for dinner and a screening of Fresh the movie with an informal farm tour, delicious family style fixins brought to you by Chef Matthew Buchannan of The Leaning Pear at 7:30.  When the sun sets they will show Fresh, a film that focuses on the ever growing local food movement. Tickets are $30 and ALL proceeds will go to The Wimberley Crisis Bread Basket. You can purchase tickets at The Leaning Pear, 512-847-PEAR or from The Farm @ Montesino Ranch at either Wimberley Farmer’s Market or the SFC Market in Sunset Valley. Additional donations will be accepted at the door. B.Y.O.B.  Seats are provided for the dinner, but bring your own chair or blanket for watching the film. Please contact David if you have any questions, 512-393-4474.
Saving the Maize Dinner, Monday 6/14, 6:00 pm: If you’re considering attending the Saving the Maize dinner at  El Sol y La Luna Restaurant (600 E 6th St. 444-7770) featuring guest chef Pilar Cabrera from Oaxaca City, Claudia Alarcon has provided a peak at the menu:

1er tiempo/ First course
Esquites, servido con chile, limón, queso seco y mayonesa
Fresh corn kernels tossed with lime juice, chile, grated cheese and mayonnaise

2º. Tiempo/ Second course
Botanita maicera/ Corn appetizer sampler
quesadillas de flor de calabaza, molotes de papa con chorizo acompañados con guacamole
Squash blossom quesadillas, masa cakes filled with chorizo and potatoes, and guacamole

3er. Tiempo/ Third course
Ensalada Oaxaca
Mezcla de lechugas, tomate cherry, cebollitas asadas, tiritas de tortillas, queso Oaxaca servida con aderezo de tamarindo y chile
Mixed lettuce, cherry tomatoes, grilled onions, tortilla strips and Oaxaca cheese with a tamarind-chile dressing

4º. Tiempo/ Fourth course
Mole amarillo con pollo, chochoyotes y verduras, sazonado con hierbasanta
Chicken in yellow mole with masa dumplings, vegetables and hierbasanta
Quesillo en salsa verde con nopalitos
Oaxaca cheese in green salsa with cactus pad strips

5º. Tiempo/ fifth course
Pastel de elote, servido con helado de vainilla
Corn pudding, served with vanilla ice cream

Tickets are $35 with proceeds benefiting MAMAZ outreach programs. You can buy tickets in advance at El Sol y La Luna.
Market in the Country, Saturday, June 19th, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.  Rhew Orchard House, a vendor at the New Braunfels and Pearl farmers markets, and two other farms in Wilson County are hosting a day of country markets on Saturday June 19.  You can pick your own blackberries, enjoy homemade ice cream and farm fresh tomatoes.  If you are looking for a fun day trip, this one promises some tasty treats.
Luling Watermelon Thump, Thursday 6/24-Sunday 6/27.  For four days, you celebrate all things watermelon with the folks of Luling.  Festivities include watermelon eating contests, seed spitting competitions, live music and all the watermelon you can stomach.

Slow Food Austin Texas Artisan Showcase, Saturday, June 26th, 4:00 – 8:00pm, Space 12
Take part in this delicious revolution while sampling palate pleasing artisan foods that are all “good, clean and fair.” Enjoy what makes our state taste great: from beers and breads, cheese and charcuterie, to coffee and tea! This family-friendly event will feature live music, a marketplace, silent auction, educational producer demos and a live auction finale by Dai Due Butcher Shop’s Jesse Griffiths you won’t want to miss!
For $60 ($55 for Slow Food members), you’ll get a total of 18 punches on your ticket: use them however you wish, but we suggest a visit to all 12 tasting stations, plus 6 more chances to revisit your favorites! Each station will serve a small “flight” of samples.
Budget-conscious Slow Foodies have the option of a 12-punch ticket for $40 ($35 for Slow Food members). You can buy tickets on the Slow Food Austin website.
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Road Trip: Eating Local in Chicago

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When I visit Chicago, I always look forward to sampling the amazing food.  Even simple fare like the hot dogs and pizza tastes better in Chicago.  During a recent visit, I had the pleasure of visiting Xoco, Chef Rick Bayless’ casual Mexican restaurant, and Blackbird, the flagship restaurant of Chef Paul Kahan.  Not too shabby when you get to dine from two James Beard winning chefs in one weekend.
Friday night, we picked up food from Xoco, which offers tasty Mexican street food.  From the moment we walked in, you could see the precise care that was given to every dish. 
The air was filled with the aroma of the stock simmering on the back burner and the hot chocolate being brewed at the bar.  The scent was mouth watering.
We ordered posole, two sandwiches (a cubana and the Friday special – shrimp and bacalao) and a hot chocolate.  It was the perfect amount of food for three and yet we could have eaten one of everything.  
The posole had a rich broth and a gentle spiciness that snuck up on you. 

The Cubana had all the deep rich flavors of Cuba.  The pork, black beans and avocado melted together in every savory bite.

But the Shrimp and Bacalao was my favorite.  It was like eating bouillabaise on a sandwich.  The shrimp and the salt cod blended together with the tomato sauce to make a truly addictive torta.
I would wait in line for these sandwiches any day of the week.
Saturday night, we headed to Blackbird.  I had been eagerly anticipating this dinner since Beverly and I visited Avec, Blackbird’s more casual sibling restaurant next door, the year before.   I’m going to start by telling you that the meal was incredible – everything I could have imagined and then some.  The atmosphere is inviting, the food was delectable and the service was perfect.  I would go back in a heartbeat.
Blackbird serves New American cuisine with a number of expertly selected locally-sourced items.  I chose to order the locally-sourced fare; Beverly & David chose to play a bit. 

For my starter, I chose a salad of endives with crispy potatoes, basil, dijon, pancetta and poached egg; all locally-sourced.  It was possibly the most delicious salad, I’ve ever eaten.  The crunchy potatoes with the fresh salad greens and the poached egg were truly magnificent.

Bev chose the crispy maryland soft shell crab with honey custard, edamame, yuba and soy caramel.  The crab was perfect – crispy and fresh, not soggy at all.

While David had the blue hill bay bouchot mussel soup with whitefish, saffron, garlic and basil.  I almost caught him trying to lick the bowl, but he grabbed a piece of bread to soak up the broth instead.

Honestly, we could have all stopped there, but there was more. David ordered the slow-cooked halibut with uni, black trumpet mushrooms, spring radishes, baby parsnips and ramps.  As they delivered his dish to him, the aroma of the ramps and the mushrooms wafted across the table.

Bev ordered the aged pekin duck breast with porcinis, fava beans and brown butter worcestershire sauce.  Did you catch that?  Brown Butter Worcestershire Sauce.  Oh my.  The duck was locally sourced and it was ever so tender.

As fantastic as their dishes were though, Bev and David were filled with order envy when my entree was brought to the table. First of all, you could smell the Slagel Family Farm pork belly grilling in the kitchen. But then, they brought it to the table. And they poured chorizo broth over the belly, royal trumpet mushrooms, melted leeks and pickled turmeric. And just a whiff of the broth made you salivate. I swear I saw David drool on his napkin.

The pork belly was perfectly cooked, grilled just so that the fat melted in your mouth but the meat still had a bit of firmness to it. And it was in chorizo broth. Yummmmmmmmm. I shared exactly the amount I had to in order to be polite and not one bit more.

As if we hadn’t indulged enough, we decided dessert was in order. David opted for the jivara chocolate ganache with ovaltine, sesame and banana bread ice cream.  It was actually a pretty fun collection and the chocolate ganache with ovaltine was surprisingly my favorite.

Bev and I ordered the chef’s collection of cheeses.  The Ewe’s Bloom from Prairie Fruit Farms, a sheep’s milk cheese from Champaign, Illinois was probably my favorite.  We had sampled it a the Green City Market that morning and I was excited to have it on the plate again.  Of course, the Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery was a terrific runner up.

Our meal was divine and we took a long walk to earn our dinner.  With so many outstanding places to try out in Chicago, I don’t know when I’ll get back to Blackbird again, but I hope it’s soon because it was soooo good.

If you’re visiting Chicago, here’s a list of other restaurants and chefs that support the Green City Market and source locally: Eat Local Chicago.

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