Eating Like a Local at The Local

Both Adam and I work for small businesses, so we don’t have traditional 401K’s, matching or life insurance programs that larger corporations offer. We know these things are important so we have made a connection with an investment company out of Indianapolis and have started making plans for retirement.

We meet with the investor reps about once every six months in Indianapolis. These meetings are typically over two hours long and full of, what seems like, really big decisions.

By the end, we are both pretty brain fried and really ready for an adult beverage.

After our last meeting in early May we decided to have dinner at The Local Eatery and Pub on the north side in Westfield.

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We first went to The Local a couple months ago with Adam’s sisters and their friends and spouses. I was coming from a catering event so I was running late. That night the rest of the group waited for me to order entrees but did order a few of the many appetizers and drinks.

I was rushed and a bit frazzled as I arrived because I felt bad that everyone was waiting for me, but I was able to see The Local’s laid back, rustic and simple vibe as soon as I got the table.

Beers, sodas, and some cocktails were served in mason jars. And, the cheese board, complete with seasonal fruit, brie, prosciutto and crostini, was served on a large butcher block.

That night, Adam ordered the chicken on a wire, which was free range local chicken with a fried egg. Adam has become a huge fan of any thing topped with a fried egg. We have done them on burgers, salads and I would love to try it on pizza.

I had the pulled turkey sandwich. It was slightly spicy thanks to the chimichurri sauce, but well balanced with melted smoked Gouda cheese.

I loved the feel of the place and we all had a great time.

The fun crew!  And then a silly chick in the bottom corner...

The fun crew! And then a silly chick in the bottom corner…

This most recent visit, when it was just the two of us, I had more time to take it all in.

That is, after I ordered a glass of chardonnay… my mind was still thinking numbers, the dollars we need to save if we were to live until 95 and about what would happen if one of us were to become disabled, handicapped or worse.

… Chardonnay clears those things from the mind and makes it everything better.

I was able to notice and appreciate the large chalkboard displaying the local farms featured on the constantly changing specialties section of the menu.

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I was also able to learn more about the story of The Local. The restaurant opened in 2011 and is located near many of the popular suburbs of Indianapolis like Carmel, Westfield and Noblesville. The Local’s goal is to support and feature local farmers and artisans in order to build a strong local economy. They also love to be a part of the Farm to Table genre because it helps to reduce their environmental footprint.

Their website lists their farm and artisan partnerships and the menu explains their relationships and passion for Farm to Table.

In addition to my wine and Adam’s local Sunking beer, we ordered the baked goat cheese.

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(If you are new here… Hi! Welcome and thanks for reading! And, just so you know, I like cheese… a lot.)

It was great. The cheese was baked with roasted garlic cloves and olive oil and served with toasted bread to put the slightly melty cheese spread on.

Adam ordered the same sandwich. He loves it. It looked great and is always on The Local’s menu. He also loves their homemade buns.

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I ordered the seasonal specialty which was a white fish with beans, oyster mushrooms and a ramps sauce. I was sold on the entrée thanks to the ramps.

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My parents are part of a tiny CSA near their home in Michigan. I say “tiny CSA” because it’s just one farmer, but my mom has always loved natural food and local farmers. It’s only natural that she has developed connections with this grower. At Easter, Adam and I were up at my parent’s home on the coast of the lake and she had received her first CSA from him of the season.

Ramps were in this first CSA. I had never seen or tasted ramps, but they are really interesting.

Ramps are sort of a leek, onion, and garlic combo and can be found in the spring. They are technically a wild onion but they look similar to a green onion and have a garlic odor. In cooking, they are pretty versatile. They can be cooked in any recipe that calls for green onions or leeks. My mom even just tore some up and put it in a spring green salad at Easter.

The dish was wonderful so I asked the waitress where the ramps were from. She didn’t know, but said she would find out. However, the girl didn’t come back to our table with any answers.

And, that’s my only minor complaint about this very unique and influential restaurant. They list which farms they partner with, but don’t say what is local and what comes from one particular farm or another. If it was my place, I would make sure the staff was prepared for questions and knew about the food they were serving. Or, at least had points of reference in the back of the house if a question was asked so they could easily find the answer.

But, everything else was excellent on both our visits. The staff was friendly and accommodating. The atmosphere is a perfect combination of rustic and approachable for the everyday. The food was great.

The Local is a great place in Indy that is making a great effort to support the community and local farmers. I am proud and eager to support a restaurant that makes this kind of effort.

Be sure to do the same if you are in the area!

The Local Eatery and Pub
14655 N. Gray Road
Westfield, IN 46062

http://localeateryandpub.com/

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Dollars and Sense at the Farmer’s Market

Farmers Market Season is upon us!

And I love it.

I love the energy at a Farmer’s Market.

I love the people watching.

I love checking out the unique, artisanal products or heirloom produce that I could never find at a normal grocery store.

I love it all.

This morning Adam and I ventured out to our local Farmer’s Market.

It was a quick trip as we had some landscaping work to do back at the homestead. (… Work that made us realize we really are adults as our alma mater is celebrating its biggest spring event with the bars opening at 7AM.)

The Farmer’s Market didn’t have many produce vendors present thanks to the chilly, late spring we are experiencing. But, we did pick up some bratwurst from a local pork producer. They seemed like a great idea for dinner after a day of working in the yard.

As Adam paid the vendor $15.60 for the ten brats, I thought of the most common question and biggest complaint I always tend to hear in regards to local meat: Why is it so expensive?

Last year, after a trip to the Farmer’s Market, I came home with a free range whole chicken. I was excited about this bird. The vendor was full of information and clearly very passionate. And, I wasn’t sure that I had ever had a free range chicken. I kept reading the taste was amazingly different in comparison to a normal chicken breast at the store.

I also had never cooked a whole chicken. So, it seemed like a fun challenge and I couldn’t wait to see if I could taste a difference.

Adam was excited too… and then he asked how much it was.

I had not told him because in the back of my mind I knew how my [insert nice way to say “tight ass”] husband would react.

And, I was right.

The word “ridiculous” was used often and before I knew it he was researching how to raise meat chickens.

God love him and his “Why pay someone when I can do that” attitude…

Proof of this attitude?  His landscaping project of the day was creating this beautiful wall for our patio.  So happy to give it a little character.

Proof of this attitude? His landscaping project of the day was creating this beautiful wall for our patio. So happy to give it a little character.

So, in early September, we became the proud owners of fifty free range broilers.

The babies from last September.

The babies from last September.

Adam created a “chicken mobile” out of a large wagon. The top of the wagon had bedding, water and feed. Then a little ramp gave the chicken’s access to the ground so they could roam and snack on grass and bugs. We could move the wagon around the yard so the chickens wouldn’t eat one piece of land to entirety.

A chick on the top of the chicken mobile.

A chick on the top of the chicken mobile.

And relaxing in the grass under the chicken mobile.

And relaxing in the grass under the chicken mobile.

We thought it was going to be great. Easy, too. We would have little, happy, free range birds and, in a couple months, a freezer full of organic, natural roasters for far less then we could purchase.

Right?

Wrong.

Okay, not totally.

In the end, the chickens came out great. They taste wonderful. We have enjoyed sharing them with family and friends and love how one bird can make us a couple meals.

However, they were a lot of work.

They required our attention twice a day, everyday.

They ate a ton. They drank a ton. (Note: Getting water to chickens on a cold, dark late November morning? Not exactly fun.)

There was quite a bit of cost to get started and the butchering at two bucks a pop added up fast. (… Although, that was worth every penny, in my book.)

When it was all said and done, Adam and I sat down and went over all our expenses. There was the chicken mobile, the feed, the equipment like heating lamps and water dispensers, the bedding, the butchering, and our labor.

We realized, using basic economics, if we were going to sell them at a market, $20.00 per chicken really isn’t that “ridiculous.”

As consumers, we have not just a choice, but also a voice.

And for the last sixty years or so, American consumers have voiced that meat should not only be available for every meal, it should also be cheap.

It started with fast food. We want a cheese burger for a buck. Five chicken nuggets for 99 cents.

And, it’s now what we see in the grocery store and that is why a $20.00 chicken has such a sticker shock.

We are lucky, in a sense, that in America meat is so widely available and isn’t going to break the bank. In fact, out of all the countries in the world, American’s spend the least percentage of their income on food.

However, farmers feel the backlash of the availability of the cheap food, even though our society demanded it, and some farming practices are coming under fire.

Farmers are smart, resilient and able to adapt. That is what they did and they will do it again, if that is what the market demands.

However, thanks to my food service role in K-12 education I know the reality is that the cheap, widely available meat is likely here to stay. And, I could never completely go over to the one side of this agriculture fence and say “Organic or BUST” because there is not just a huge market, but a need.

I know that I am incredibly fortunate that I am able to make a choice when I purchase food for Adam and me. And my choice in purchases is reflected in my belief to support local growers.

I am also fortunate to have a voice.

A voice that wants to ask, if we really are spending so much less of our income on food in comparison to our peers around the world, couldn’t we ditch the amped up cable package and reallocate that cash to receive a product that supports the earth, local farmers, the local community and provides great nutrition?

I swung by the grocery store this afternoon and couldn’t help but check the prices on bratwurst. A package of five was for sale for just under six dollars.

I spent a whopping four more dollars for my ten brats.

Four dollars that might go back and help that farmer raise more pigs. Or pay his rent. Or send his kid to college.

Or perhaps its four dollars that will stay in my community supporting other small business like my husbands. Or the cute lady who owns this fun accessory boutique that sucks me in when I drop off my dry cleaning. Or the new bakery on the square that I haven’t been to yet, but sounds delicious.

Four bucks.

Four bucks is less than a fast food meal.

… less than my drink at Starbs!

Money well spent.

Say “Kim-chi!”

This weekend Adam and I went to the Indiana Artisans Marketplace in Indianapolis.

We got tickets through one of Adam’s best friends, Andy. Andy designs and makes beautiful custom furniture. Andy is in business with his dad and they have been a part of Indiana Artisan for a couple years. Their work is often used by designers at show home events and he even has been featured in some log cabin magazines.

You can learn more about their company, Cole and Sons, Inc, and see their work at their website. Like their Facebook page, too!

Adam and I had fun checking out his featured pieces and seeing Andy drumming up new business.

We also had fun seeing all the other artisans creations. There was jewelry, paintings, pottery, wood working and more. Everyone was incredibly talented.

However, one group of artisans really stuck out to Adam and me… the Foodists!

There were wine makers and craft beer brew masters. Lots of honey and candy makers. BBQ sauces and rubs.

And…

And it gets even better…!

THERE WERE SAMPLES.

We had a ball.

And ended up buying quite a bit. I blame the wine samples…

Adam took this picture of our artisan damage.

Ignore the Lowe's receipts in the background.  We are testing back splash ideas...

Ignore the Lowe’s receipts in the background. We are testing back splash ideas…

I am pretty sure that we now have enough barbecue sauce to get us through the summer.

One thing I was particularly excited about was the jar of Kim-chi from Fermenti Artisan. Kim-chi is traditionally a Korean side dish that is made up of different vegetables and seasonings that ferment together in a jar for some time.

I read a lot about Kim-chi last summer when I read Michael Pollen’s Cooked. In Cooked, Michael studies cooking through the four classis elements of the world: Fire, water, air and earth. In the “Earth” chapter he dives into fermentation with sauerkraut and Kim-chi.

Much of it was super scientific and well over my head. And, in the spirit of being honest, to me, that chapter dragged. However, it did make me realize that I needed to try Kim-chi.

My opportunity arrived a few weeks ago when out to eat with girl friends and I spotted it on a menu. It was served with tuna and I was surprised how spicy and tasty it was.

I knew Adam would love it as he is a big fan of all things spicy. I had been looking up recipes to try to make my own, but then I saw it at the artisan marketplace. I knew we had to get some.

We also got some curtido, which the reps at the marketplace said works great in Mexican dishes.

We also got some curtido, which the reps at the marketplace said works great in Mexican dishes.

We used it on Monday night for a take on fried rice using quinoa and shrimp.

Adam and I both had big bites of the Kim-chi right out of the jar before we began cooking. It was spicy just like the Kim-chi I had a few weeks ago, but it didn’t have the typical “pepper” spiciness. It was a fresher spicy… which is ironic considering it is literally rotting vegetables.

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What might be even more ironic is that these rotting vegetables are actually good for you.

Really good for you.

In fact, Kim-chi is considered a “Super Food.” It’s full of vitamins like many other super foods such as kale, but what makes it different is it has a healthy bacteria culture that helps with digestion and, some studies show, prevents the growth of cancer.

And, as if Kim-chi could get any cooler, Korean’s actually say “Kim-chi!” like American’s say “Cheese!” for a picture!

Kim-chi and Shrimp Fried Quinoa

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1 cup quinoa, uncooked
2 tablespoons oil (I used Olive… vegetable works.)
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (We had large ones in the freezer. I should have cut them into pieces; it was a big bite!)
1 cup heaping Kim-chi
1 tablespoon Chili Garlic Sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ lime, squeezed
Salt and Pepper
Minced green onions and lime wedge for garnish

Cook cup of quinoa according to package. Set aside.

Add oil to a large skillet or wok pan. Add shrimp to skillet once oil is hot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until pink, about three minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.

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Add Kim-chi and chili garlic paste to skillet. Stir-fry until they are combined and fragrant. Add in cooked quinoa, fish sauce, and soy sauce. Stir constantly about three minutes.

Push the quinoa mixture to one side of the skillet. Add the eggs and cook, stirring occasionally with a spatula about two minutes.

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Remove from heat and fold eggs into quinoa mixture. Add the shrimp, lime juice and rice vinegar. Stir to combine.
Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Garnish and serve right away.

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Spring Has Sprung.

Well okay, not in Indiana.

There were snow flurries today.

But, we spent the weekend in Atlanta celebrating a good friend and sorority sister’s wedding.

And, in Atlanta spring had arrived.

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It was gorgeous day for a wedding. Saturday was sunny and temperatures were in the seventies. Trees had come in bloom and the wedding was held at Atlanta’s Botanical Gardens where large tulips made the perfect background for the outdoor ceremony.

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Like any wedding, I really look forward to spending time with my college friends who are now located in new homes across the nation. This weekend was a lot of fun because we had so much time to spend together and were able to really catch up.

Everyone got in on Friday and Ashley, whose boyfriend is currently assigned to a project in Atlanta, lined up a dinner at Einstein. Einstein was located right in the heart of Midtown in an area that is similar to Chicago’s Boystown.

Einstein is a restaurant and bar that has a great menu. They have a good amount of small plates and a few entrees, many sandwiches, and amazing selection of sides. They also have received plenty of accolades about their brunch.

With so many great choices, I struggled deciding on something for dinner. I ended up making a meal out of the Crab and Shrimp Cake small plate that sat on a bed of edamame succotash and sides of beets and fried green tomatoes.

Fried green tomatoes are a huge staple in the south and we actually saw them at every meal we ate this weekend in Atlanta… even at the wedding!

Out at an Irish pub after dinner!

Out at an Irish pub after dinner!

The next morning I made brunch reservations at South City Kitchen. Based on some research I had done before the weekend, South City Kitchen sources meat and produce from local growers and bread from a local bakery. It also happened to be right around the corner from our hotel.

South City Kitchen is a bright and cheery restaurant in the Midtown area. There was a patio in the front of the restaurant just off the street and seating inside on both the first and second floors. The waiter led our group upstairs where we were seated at a large table.

We ordered cocktails, because…

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I had a Bellini and Adam had a bloody Mary.

Corn bread and biscuits with apple butter were brought to the table. The corn bread was great and got me inspired to make my own with all the corn in the freezer. Stay tuned for that one…!

Yummy, mini corn bread muffins.

Yummy, mini corn bread muffins.

The South City Kitchen’s menu was a good balance of brunch and lunch options. There were salads and sandwiches, and then your typical brunch fair like eggs and pancakes.

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Adam had been excited all morning to try chicken and waffles. He had never had it, but as an avid Diners, Drive In’s and Dives viewer he had to see what it was all about.

When it arrived his excitement was at an all time high. He even took a picture of it and texted it to a couple friends.

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He dug into the fluffy waffle and decided it was well worth all the excitement.

“It’s like sex in my mouth,” he exclaimed between bites.

“God, your classy,” I replied as I reached over to get a bite.

I am a big fan of a sweet and salty combo. I mix in M&M’s with popcorn. Chocolate chips with nuts. And, Chicken and Waffles is basically the epitome of sweet and salty combinations.

There’s the juicy, salty fried chicken and then the sweet maple syrup and soft waffle. It was good.

I had barbecue pulled pork egg Benedict with pork and coleslaw with, in true southern fashion, grits on the side. The eggs were perfectly poached and the sweet barbecue worked so well with this brunch classic.

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Other entrees that graced our table were the smoke roasted beef eggs Benedict, a BLT with fried green tomatoes as the “T,” salmon, chicken livers and two more plates of chicken and waffles.

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After brunch the boys headed to a bar to catch up on March Madness and some craft beers. My friends, Kelsey and Katie, joined me for the walk to Piedmont Park. Piedmont Park is a park in Midtown, but what we didn’t realize just how huge this park is.

Girls at the park.  Loved the views of the city!

Girls at the park. Loved the views of the city!

It’s massive and, on the nice Saturday afternoon, it was booming with life. We saw soccer games, baseball games, kickball games, runners, bikers, boot camp classes, families picnicking, and lots and lots of puppies!

At the edge of the park, there was a large farmers market that was just winding down for the day. Many of the vendors were selling early spring produce such lettuce, kale and green onions. We weren’t really looking to buy anything because we had long drives back to our homes.

Although, if we had seen asparagus I would have found a way to make that work.

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As we were approaching the end of the vendor tents, a table of pretty glass bottles caught my eye. The sign said it was a USDA organic ginger farm named Verdant Kitchen. The couple that ran the table offered us a sample of their ginger syrup.

It was zingy, sweet and interesting!

I looked down at the other items on the table, as the woman told us about all the different things you could make with the syrup, ranging from desserts to cocktails. You could even make your own ginger ale. In addition to the syrup, they also were selling ground ginger, dehydrated ginger and chocolate covered ginger candies.

She went on and told us that their farm is located in Savannah. This got me wondering, “Where is ginger typically grown?”

I like ginger and love to use it in Asian inspired meals, like stir-fry. I had even considered it when trying to come up with the name of this blog because my first name is Virginia. Something like, “Ginger’s Roots.” It didn’t paint the whole picture though.

Despite a bit of a crush on ginger, we had never even thought of growing it in our own garden.

So, I asked.

The man asked if I wanted to know where ginger is grown domestically or internationally.

Unsure of what I was even looking for, I just said domestically. He said normally it’s in Hawaii and a little bit in California and that it was pretty unique to be grown in America, let alone Georgia.

Thanks to Google, I learned that it typically comes from India, Africa, or the Caribbean. (And, that it needs a pretty warm climate to survive. So, ginger won’t be gracing our garden anytime soon…)

I thought this was very interesting. I had never thought about where ginger grows or even how it is grown.

And, thanks to the woman who was still sharing recipes that you could create with the ginger syrup, Katie and I each bought a bottle.

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She said that we could find all the recipes on their website.

I asked the man what his favorite ginger syrup recipe is. He kind of laughed, saying that he enjoys them all. But, he really just likes it over vanilla ice cream and that it is also great in rum.

Something that I will have to try soon!

But, not tonight.

It’s a whopping 18 degrees tonight, making ice cream very unappealing. And, after all the fun at the wedding, it’s time for a little detox.

Sorority girls with the B&G!

Sorority girls with the B&G!

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Ohio Is For Lovers.

Last week I was in Ohio for work and it turned out being for a little fun too.

On Tuesday, I was at Miami University for the first time in almost ten years. I grew up in Columbus and spent countless weekends in Goggin Arena at ice skating competitions or summer camps. I was even a second away from going there for undergrad.

The campus looked great and I had to laugh… parking was so easy. You know you travel to a lot of college campuses when it makes your day to park right in front of the building your meeting is in, with no meters, no weird permits, no time restrictions, etc, etc!

That night I drove onto Columbus and was able to spend the night with my mom. We split a bottle of wine and stayed up too late catching up. She’s super crafty (… like early Martha inspired crafty) and made Adam and I a cute Valentine. She also got me a perfect glass chicken container.

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I think she’s learning to embrace the chickens.

Wednesday morning I had some meetings in the Union of Ohio State.

I spend a lot of time in different Unions around the Midwest, and Ohio State’s might be one of my favorites. It’s brand spanking new, so that helps its cause, but the people who designed it really nailed it. It is such a spirited building. From the “OH” “IO” door knobs to the tremendously scarlet and grey tiled bathrooms; it’s a lot of fun.

So fun!

So fun!

Ohio Union restroom

After my meetings, my good friend Laura met me for a quick lunch. Laura and I grew up together giggling on the neighborhood swim team and talking on the phone for hours about middle school crushes. She now lives near Columbus with her husband Jay while she finishes up Optometry school at the University.

We still spend a lot of time chatting on the phone, but it was really nice to see her in person.

Our conversation turned to Valentine’s Day plans. We both like to cook at home and have husbands who enjoy cooking as well, so we are often sharing recipes and “what we made.” It sounded like we both were going to have pretty low key nights.

As I was about to hit the road that afternoon, I remembered a great boutique bakery, Pistacia Vera, where my mom used to get treats for special occasions. I could swing in there and pick up something to make our Valentine’s Day home date a little more special.

I looked up their address on my phone and saw that they had two locations. Their stand alone shop, that I remembered visiting, and then a location in North Market, which is just down High Street from the University.

North Market is Columbus’ only true public market and is home to over thirty merchants. The products offered are mainly local, organic or artisan created. You can find anything from specialty coffees, grass fed meats, baked goods, flowers, and much more.

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I had not been to North Market in a while and had forgotten what a neat place it really is. I love the eclectic, yet down to earth energy it has. There were some people clearly doing their shopping and others just stopping in for lunch with their coworkers.

I walked in with the plan to get a unique dessert, and walked out with a full, Ohio produced meal.

Here is what I got for our Valentine’s Day Meal:

A great wedge of Gouda at Curds and Whey.

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Curds and Whey had a huge selection of cheeses, caviar, and other little bites. I asked the cheese monger for the cheeses made in Ohio and he rattled off a few that were in the window, but mentioned that he had a wheel of local Gouda in the back.

Now, just to be clear, I don’t play favorites with cheese… but, if I did, Gouda would be a contender.

He asked if I wanted to try it.

Umm, yes please!

It was slightly soft, but still had a little bite with a salty, creamy taste. Winner.

It was a great little appetizer for Valentine’s Day.

How cool is Curds and Whey's card?! It's like Swiss cheese!

How cool is Curds and Whey’s card?! It’s like Swiss cheese!

Next up was wine.

At The Barrel and Bottle I asked for Ohio wines. The selection of wine was small, but the sales clerk, who was in the midst of a sampling with a distributor, said they are all great and drinkable. She pointed out the bottles that were dry.

There was a cabernet and a traminette that caught my eye. One of our favorite wineries in Indiana has a great treminette, so I gave it a go.

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Adam and I both loved how it complimented the Gouda and enjoyed it as we cooked our meal.

Next, were some grass fed filets from Bluescreek Farms. Bluescreek Farms raises their meat in the Columbus area and does not add growth hormones or antibiotics. They carry beef, lamb, pork, goat and veal. They are also involved in some local CSA’s.

Adam and I are both big fans of filet mignon so I went for the tenderloin filets. Adam prepared them with a little salt and pepper before we cooked them. They were tender and incredibly tasty.

For a side, I picked up some beets from The Greener Grocer. The beets were from the county just south of where Columbus is located. They added the perfect shade of pink to our Valentine’s Day… not to mention, beets are rumored to be an aphrodisiac… it just seemed appropriate for Valentine’s Day.

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And, finally, the whole purpose of the trip… dessert!

At Pistacia Vera I picked up four macarons, their signature treat, and a mini chocolate bombe. The bombe is a decadent mix of cake and mousse. My family has a regular (See also: large) one every Christmas… in fact, it’s so rich that one year it broke one of my parent’s Waterford cake knives in half!

Unfortunately, the bombe had issues on the four hour drive back to our house in Indiana… it was more like chocolate soup.

Gosh Dang-it!

Gosh Dang-it!

But, don’t worry, it still tasted great!

These are so fun and colorful.

These are so fun and colorful.

I can’t wait to take Adam back to North Market. Maybe during the summer when they are host to a huge, outdoor Farmer’s Market.

North Market
59 Spruce St.
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 463-9664

Parking
On-site parking: $0.25 per quarter hour up to two hours*
* with a validation stamp from a North Market Merchant… So, buy something! You’ll love it!

Taste of Summer in December

Last week, Adam looked out at the very snowy backyard and said, “I wish it was summer. I miss the garden. I wish we could go out there and work in it.”

He has been saying things like this for the last two months just about every other day. He has mentioned that he misses having variety fresh vegetables to eat. He even has been looking into green houses so we could have produce growing throughout the year.

… I think the root of this particular instance was that he didn’t want to go to spinning.

But, we did.

And, thank goodness we did because we had a feast waiting for us.

It was Adam’s Birthday!

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Inspired by his desire for summer and fresh garden produce, I dug deep into our freezer and prepared a meal entirely using produce that came from our garden.

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… With the exception of steaks. It was his birthday after all.

Our freezer is still pretty well stocked thanks to the time and effort we made to preserve vegetables from this summer’s garden. For Adam’s birthday meal I was able to use snap beans, cherry tomatoes, grated zucchini, sweet corn and poblano peppers. And a couple of the backyard eggs!

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Here is what I made:

Balsamic Peas and Tomatoes with Feta

In the summer, I do this as a raw salad. It’s light and has great crunch with the vibrant flavors. But, because the vegetables were frozen, I sautéed them. Warm, this combination of flavors is excellent because the feta melts just a little for a touch of creaminess.

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1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup snap peas
1 cup cherry tomato
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Feta Cheese crumbles

Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and begins to golden.

Add frozen peas and tomatoes, stir to coat with garlic and oil. Lower heat to medium and cook for three minutes. Add balsamic, salt and pepper, and cook for three more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Plate and top with crumbled feta cheese.

Spicy Skillet Corn

In case you are new here… Adam likes spicy food. And, this corn dish packs some heat!

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1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
½ red onions
1 ½ cup frozen corn
½ cup frozen poblano pepper, diced
½ tablespoon cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add red onion and stir to coat with oil. Add corn, peppers and cayenne pepper, stir to combine with oil and onions. Cook until vegetables are tender.

Serve immediately.

Zucchini Cake

Zucchini Cake is essentially just chocolate cake, but the grated zucchini makes the cake super moist. Plus, you are getting some veggies while eating cake… life doesn’t get much better than that!

I have seen recipes for Zucchini Cake with lots of different seasonings added to the cake batter, such as cinnamon or ground cloves. It gives the cake good flavor, but for this occasion I kept it simple because I made Bourbon Butter cream Frosting. I did this wanting to give it a little “manly” touch (Adam’s a big fan of bourbon, if he is drinking a cocktail) and thought plain old chocolate cake would be best with the flavors of the spririt.

This recipe is based on the recipe Adam grew up with thanks to his mom. (… And, it probably was made for her by her mom!) Her recipe also calls for cinnamon, nuts and chocolate frosting and is fantastic.

Love/Romance Tip: Find out favorites from your man’s childhood and cook them. Often.

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3/4 cups oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 T baking cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated zucchini (I froze grated garden zucchini’s in ½ cup portions. Made this SUPER easy.)

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Combine oil and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, and milk. Mix well. Mix in dry ingredients. Stir in zucchini.

Bake in a greased pan (I used two cake pans) at 350 for 1 hour.

Once cool top with this:

Bourbon Butter Cream Icing

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3 egg whites
2/3 cups sugar
Two sticks of butter, room temperature
1 (… or two) tablespoon bourbon, room temperature

Mix egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl. Heat mixture to combine, stirring occassionally. (I placed my Kitchenaid bowl over a simmering pot of water. The steam heated the sugary mixture.)

Once combined, remove from heat and hook up to mixer. Mix on medium speed, add butter, one tablespoon at a time until combined and fluffy. Add bourbon, mix throughout.

We also had some champagne from our August trip to Oliver Winery to complete our "Summer" Celebration!

We also had some champagne from our August trip to Oliver Winery to complete our “Summer” Celebration!

Homemade Winter Brews

The weekend after Thanksgiving, Adam and I went to my parent’s new home. They moved to Saugatuck, a small beach town in Michigan this summer. They moved in this summer and I was there quickly in September, but have grown up spending summer’s in Saugatuck. It was Adam’s first time to the house and to the town.

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My dad had lined up an afternoon of craft beer making with a brew master at a local brewery. He wanted to create a beer brand for their new home (he is an ex-marketer, for those of you who might be thinking that’s weird…) so, he befriended the Brew Master at Saugatuck Brewing Company, Dexter.

Saugatuck Brewing Company is similar to any other brew pub: Big wooden bar, traditional pub food, only serving good home brews, so on and so on. One major difference is that Saugatuck Brewing Company shakes up the traditional feel with an area for creating your own unique microbrew, literally from start to finish. Or, from milling grains and barley to bottling.

My Dad’s new pal and our Brew Master had prior conversations about what we would be creating so we started our afternoon with a few samples of similar brews. My dad wanted to make winter beers, so we opted for a stout and IPA, but he also wanted to incorporate flavors that have a connection to the new house and our family’s journey to the west coast of Michigan.

The new house is named “Blue Water Lodge” (Yes. The house has a name… And this was done well before the branding extraordinaire knew it even existed, so he can’t take total credit for it.) It sits on the wooded east end of a long property that sprawls westward to the sand dune cliffs that drop into Lake Michigan. Because of all the trees around the home, we added hints of Pine to the IPA.

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The view to the west is the main focus of the exterior, but on the interior the hearth is the focal point.

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The whole home is very open thanks to a large living and dining area that connects to the kitchen. The hearth is large and made of stone, warming the whole space. We added a light smoky flavor to the stout, in addition to Quaker Oats. My parents worked together at Quaker in Chicago during the eighties. There, they met great friends that took them over to Saugatuck for long weekends and they fell in love with the area.

Dexter lead us to the back where we pulled our grains and barley needed to create each beer.

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His knowledge and passion for beer was impressive. He had precise measurements based on his recipes for each.

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Then we ran the grains and barley through a mill that made them fine, catching them in a long, mesh colander, and headed out to the main room to get brewing.

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We used the kettles the brewing company used years ago before they expanded production. This was very cool because we were using the same tools they started with.

It was here that I realized making beer is kind of like making tea, at least that’s how it seemed to me.

We put the mesh collander full of dry grains into hot water where we let it basically “steep” for an hour. To help spread the flavor we twisted and mashed the grains, discovering muscles in our forearms we never even knew existed.

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After the first hour, honey, molasses, Irish moss and hops were added to the kettle at different times throughout the next hour. Hops bring in a bitter, tangy flavor and help balance the sweetness. We learned here that hops are actually flowers related to cannabis flowers. In the dry state, it looked like green little pellets we used to feed my sister’s hamster, but it did have a definite smell similar to marijuana… Or, so I have been told.

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So, hot water. A sieve of dry ingredients put into the hot water adding flavor. Then adding sugar. It’s just like a cup of tea! (Okay, so minus the hops thing…)

But, what is happening in the next thirty days is what makes it beer: The sugars in the liquid mixture (now called wert) will turn into alcohol.

Each batch of beer will make about seventy two bottles and my dad will come back to bottle our brews around the New Year. He also has been working with my younger sister, who is a graphic designer in Chicago, to create a logo for the Blue Water Brews.

While at Saugatuck Brewing Company I tried two of the beers they create in house. I had the Oval Beach Blonde Ale, which was perfect for me. I am not too daring when it comes to beer and this was light and drinkable. I also tried the Michigan Wheat which was 100% made from Michigan grains, barley and hops.

But, the weekend didn’t end with just local Michigan beers. We also visited Fennville Winery, which is maybe seven minutes from my parent’s new house. Um, amazing?

The wine was great. They make them at the estate and use only Michigan grapes, 80% of which are directly from their vineyards.

Fennville Winery Vinyards

Fennville Winery Vinyards

We enjoyed a free tasting of six different award winning wines of our choice and even got to try some warm, mulled cherry wine that seriously tasted like Christmas in a glass.

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Based on the event calendar, there is often something unique going on at Fennville Winery. Adam and I were particularly interested in a chili cook off in January. Wine and Chili? Can you say heaven?!

But, even if there isn’t an event the next time we visit the Michigan coast we will be sure to visit Fennville Winery again. There is a great tasting room and they offer a big discount when you purchase wine in bulk. Their prices per bottle are incredibly reasonable and they are really tasty!

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And with all this booze, we of course needed a little sustenance. My mom took Adam and me to the Farmer’s Market in Holland. The market runs year round and my mom loves it.

I was a little skeptical because I couldn’t imagine there being much there the first week of December, but I was way wrong.

There were huge bunches of kale. Lots of apples. Baked goods. Christmas décor including wreaths made from blueberry branches, which turn red after blueberries are harvested. And this one particular vendor that caught my eye… at this booth you could fill up a department store bag with any and as many root vegetables that you wanted.

I told Adam this was a deal so we got busy selecting carrots, onions, beets, potatoes, yams, celery root and loaded up our bag so much that Adam had to carry it in his arms versus using the handles.

Some of out root  veggie loot... Spuds!

Some of out root veggie loot… Spuds!

More on this and what we did with these veggies next time… 🙂

Adam and I had a ball in snowy Michgan. And we are so looking forward to a lot fun and local food on future visits!

A chilly, winter sunset our last night on the lake.

A chilly, winter sunset our last night on the lake.

Mile High Eats and “Experiences”

It’s been a bit of a crazy week in North Central Indiana. The National Weather Service confirmed that EF-2 tornadoes came through our county last Sunday, one less than two miles away from our home. Here was the cover of our city’s paper on Monday morning.

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I tried to buy a copy but they were sold out across town by the afternoon.

All week long we have heard stories of damage. Driving through town I have seen damage that I really had only seen in photos or on the news.

Fortunately, patio furniture strewn across the lawn was all the “damage” to our home and property.

We also heard stories of where people were during the storm.

Fortunately, we were not in town. (This is major good fortune for my sanity… I would have been freaked out.)

We had just arrived back to Indy from a long weekend in Denver when we heard on the radio that a tornado was on the ground and headed to our little town.

The trip was a bit of a celebration for the end of harvest for Adam, my new job (started this past Monday!), and just for fun!

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We chose Denver because it always seems like the spring board to the next place, be it the mountains, California, where ever. We had never really been to the city, so we decided to take a little time to enjoy it.

With nothing on the agenda to do but to be together and relax, we had a great time. In fact, my dear darling “country boy” said that he could live in the city of Denver multiple times throughout the long weekend.

We stayed at a hotel on 16th Street, a major business district downtown that had virtually every major restaurant and store you could think of. We also didn’t rent a car, but it worked out great. Denver has public transportation down. A free bus system runs up and down 16th Street for about two miles making it easy to get to different areas.

We also took the bus from the airport saving us an expensive cab ride. The timing was great and the trip to and from the city wasn’t too long. (We took the AF Bus that had a stop right at the ground transportation area of the airport. Round trip was $20 per person. A cab ride would have been a cool $50 each way.)

Denver gets a bad reputation for having killer winters because we all imagine the snow from the mountains. I was prepared for cold temps, but it turns out we were warm. We walked a lot and did not need a jacket until the evenings. Not bad for November.

Denver is actually similar to a micro climate, protected by the mountains, and boasts over three hundred days of sunshine each year.

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(… this alone is something to make a Midwesterner consider a cross county move. Case and point? Tornadoes in November.)

One big thing I really wanted to do while there was seek out a restaurant or two that is locally sourced. I have done enough research on the Farm to Table movement and knew that Denver was a town that values local growers and has proximity to ranches producing fabulous cuts of traditional and unique meats. Plus, I wanted something to write about…

What I didn’t realize was that nearly any restaurant in the city was onboard with the movement. Granted we weren’t going to big chains and did hop off the beaten path, but each restaurant we visited had a blurb on their menu sharing where they source local produce, eggs, poultry, beef, game, whatever, from.

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Here are a few of our favorite meals from the trip:

We began with lunch at Wynkoop Brewing Company, Denver’s first craft brewery, after checking into our hotel. Craft beers are now pretty much the heart beat of Denver, but in the eighties it all began here.

We started with a flight of the home brews as we couldn’t decide between all the IPA’s, lagers, and ale’s. My favorites were the Rail Yard Ale, one of the brewery’s best sellers and a seasonal peach wheat.

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Starving, as our stomachs were still on east coast time, we also ordered lunch. Adam had the Pork Bahn Mi, an Asian twist pulled pork. I know he choose it because sriracha was listed as a topping. The kid has a hard time saying “no” to anything with sriracha. I had a BLT with thick slices of Denver Bacon, juicy heirloom tomatoes and baby lettuces.

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Before going out west, I asked for some Facebook input on must see restaurants in Denver. The resounding recommendation was for a brunch spot called Snooze.

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Snooze really came into popularity thanks to MTV’s Real World Denver as the cast always ate there. All the recommendations included a warning that anytime of day you show up, there will be a wait.

And there was. A forty minute wait… for brunch… on a Friday morning. I could sense Adam’s patience, or lack there of, so I assured him that everyone said this would happen but it would be worth it.

… A bloody mary also helped my cause.

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The bloodys were made with house made bloody mary mix and different hot pepper infused vodkas. I ordered a gazpacho bloody mary and it was fabulous. Adam had a spicy one, of course.

We were made aware our table was nearly ready via text message and headed into the diner.

I think this is the best idea ever!

I think this is the best idea ever!

Looking around the restaurant I knew we were in for some good food. There were huge pancakes, egg plates and french toast that looked more like dessert. Adam and I both opted for savory options versus the sweets.

Chiciquilles for him.

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Italian style eggs Benedict for me complete with prosciutto, cheesy hollandaise topped with balsamic and peppery arugula.

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Phenomenal.

And totally worth the wait.

Our final night we had reservations at Buckhorn Exchange, per recommendation from my aunt claiming it is “an experience.” She also recommended the Brown Hotel as a great place for a cocktail so we decided to have a drink there before heading to dinner.

The Brown Palace is a one hundred and thirty year old hotel, rich with Denver history as it was one of the first buildings in the city. We took a seat in the lobby as a pianist serenaded the many couples cozied up with martini’s.

After a weekend full of beer, I was ready for a glass of champagne. Adam had a Manhattan.

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We had a great conversation about friendships and our good fortune with friends as we admired the exquisite architecture.

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As we left, the Brown’s driver insisted he take us to dinner as he was free. We didn’t object to the free ride. On the way he also mentioned that Buckhorn Exchange is “an experience.”

I got a little nervous… What did everyone mean by this?

“It’s just a little guy,” Adam announced as we pulled up to a maybe thirty foot wide building.

The driver agreed but said it was deep and that tables went way back into the restaurant.

This was true. As we followed a waitress back through the narrow restaurant, I began to understand why it was always described as “an experience.”

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It was like going back in time into the wild, wild west. The building was warm, tables had red checked table cloths, old framed black and white photos covered the walls… in addition to hundreds upon hundreds of mounted game heads and furs.

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A little crazy, yes. But, clearly part of “the experience.”

Our menu’s were designed like a newspaper, explaining the history of the restaurant.

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The Buckhorn Exchange opened in the late 1800’s and was a favorite of Teddy Rossevelt. There was even a story about a night in the year 1900 when a masked bad guy held everyone in the restaurant hostage, robbing them of any cash or valuables and injuring barmaids. It really was part of the Wild West!

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Entrees included beef and buffalo, like many other restaurants in Denver, but it also included all sorts of wild game including elk, quail, game hens, lamb and duck.

Adam and I both had the night’s special, buffalo with garlic butter and elk with a spiced cranberry sauce. Our meals were also served with a garden salad and starch. I chose smashed potatoes and Adam had a baked potato, two things we never do at home so it was a big treat.

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The meal was delish, but what was even better was that it was just a piece of a great night that capped off a memorable weekend together.

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Below are links to all the restaurants we tried. Loved everything, but couldn’t write about them all. Check them out on your visit to the Mile High City!

http://www.wynkoop.com/
http://www.lodosbarandgrill.com/ — Located right in the LoDo neighborhood. Great place for a game.
http://www.snoozeeatery.com/
http://www.breckbrew.com/ — Great Buffalo Burgers and Brews by Coors Field.
http://viewhouse.com/ — Awesome patio on top floor with great views of the city. Bottomless mimosas and Bloody Mary’s on Saturdays in addition to a brunch menu.
http://bravapizza.com/ — Similar to a food truck; Mobil stone pizza oven with a two tap kegerator. Great, quick flatbread pizza’s right on a patio on 16th Stree.
http://www.buckhorn.com/

Hotels:

http://www.brownpalace.com/
http://www.sheratondenverdowntown.com/

Transportation:

http://www.rtd-denver.com/

… when we go back I am DYING to try The Kitchen and Squeaky Bean! Have you been there?!

Local Food in the City.

This weekend I left my provincial life in the country for champagne, yachts, stilettos and… um… drag queens.

It was my “Little Sister” from the sorority, Lauren’s, bachelorette party in Chicago. It was a fabulous time. A few of us took Friday off and spent the day on a boat on Lake Michigan. It was so relaxing and the view of the city from the water was outstanding. We spent Saturday shopping, catching up and then hit the town in the evening. Dinner was at a delicious Tequila Bar and followed by a very entertaining drag show.

Babes on a boat for the Bachelorette!

Babes on a boat for the Bachelorette!

It’s always fun to spend a couple days laughing with the girls. (Cocktails at breakfast doesn’t hurt either…)

I started my weekend even earlier and came into the city on Thursday evening to take a cooking class at The Chopping Block, a recreational cooking school that I had been dying to try for a while. I found it while researching culinary school last winter.

For a hot minute I thought culinary school might be my next step. Based on the course catalogs listed for different schools and programs I looked into I decided to pass because it was so similar to the curriculum I had in college. Not to mention I would be a in a WORLD of debt.

I then started looking up cooking workshops and classes to just fine tune my skills and learn more. This is how I came across The Chopping Block’s class calendar. They offer classes every day of the week and each has a specific theme or skill, such as pasta or dessert classes to grilling or knife skills. Throughout the summer a Farmer’s Market Tour was listed for every Thursday.

The description said the class would tour the Lincoln Square Farmer’s Market and purchase items to make an improvisational meal back at the classroom.

It sounded right up my alley. My friend, Stephanie, even eagerly agreed to join me so we made plans to meet at the class. The class was a demonstration class versus a hands on course. (They offer both.) Despite this, I still learned A LOT. You will see this with my “take-away” notes.

On Thursday, the traffic getting into Chicago was horrendous. Like, worse than it has ever been any time I have ever tried to get into the city. So, I arrived thirty minutes after the start of the class (even after giving myself an hour extra).

As I was basically running to the class I was able to notice that Lincoln Square is awesome. It is a neighborhood that further north of the city than I had ever been in my visits to the city. There were plenty of cute coffee shops, restaurants and boutique-y shops. People, with their children and dogs, were out enjoying the night at the farmers market or listening to a couple bands playing on side streets. I really wished I had that hour I had planned for. This place looked like my kind of heaven. I need to go back.

I got to The Chopping Block just as the class was getting back from the market. I was a tad disappointed, but looking at the produce the chef was pulling from their shopping bags I knew it would still be great.

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They found little golden plums, black raspberries, sweet corn, beets, gypsy peppers, knob onions, oyster mushrooms and carrots. The chef reached out to us for ideas for our meal based on the produce from the market and the pork tenderloin that would serve as our protein.

The meal was started with a little “amuse-bouche” of baked polenta with caprese salsa.

Take Away: Amuse-bouche translates to “Mouth Pleaser” and is a small plate before a meal, even an appetizer. You might see them in French restaurants. They are not ordered, but are offered by the chef without a charge to prepare the guest for the meal.

The class decided on ceviche for an appetizer using the mushrooms from the market. We topped the ceviche with fried tortilla strips for a little crunch.

Take Away: Ceviche means to cook, or make soft, with acid. You can actually “cook” things, like shrimp, with citrus, to make a ceviche.

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The mushrooms were perfect. They had just the right amount of tang and the crunch of the tortillas worked great.

Next it was onto the salad. We roasted the whole beets in the oven without any seasoning or marinade.

Take Away: This helps to concentrate the flavor of the beet. They were seasoned once they had cooked.

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The cooked beets were topped with thinly julienned carrots as well as the greens from the carrots and beets. These greens are slightly bitter and full of nutrients. The colors in this salad were spectacular and all the flavors went well together. I need to try cooking beets at home sometime soon.

The main dish was made up of the pork tenderloin and a succotash made of the corn and onions. The pork was marinated in achiote paste, giving it a bit of a Mexican flare. Achiote paste can be found in Latin grocery stores and has an earthy, spice flavor. The succotash was made by caramelizing the onions and corn in a skillet on the stove top.

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Take away: Whenever I cook something in a skillet, I move the food items around with a spatula a lot. To get the veggies, like the corn and the onions for the succotash, to caramelize and to maximize their sweet flavors you should push the vegetables out in the skillet and leave them. Make sure the skillet is warm but won’t burn the vegetables.

Another take away from this step: Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a low smoke point, meaning it should not be used with cooking something. It should just be used for finishing or vinaigrettes. Your mind blown yet? Just wait… When the EVOO gets above 350 degrees, or its smoke point, it loses all the nutrients and creates a carcinogen. Grape seed oil is a better alternative when cooking, grilling or baking over 350 degrees. (Grape seed oil is fortunately not that much more expensive.)

Finally, for dessert we had slightly sweet biscuits with whipped cream and macerated plums and berries. This was phenomenal. I am (weirdly…) not a huge fan of fruit, especially berries, but I finished and loved every bite.

Prepping the sweet biscuits.

Prepping the sweet biscuits.

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After everything was done, we were given the opportunity to shop around a bit. I picked up a bottle of grape seed oil after I learned that I might be giving Adam and me cancer… every day. Stephanie got some fun beer and cocktail items. As the other class participants were leaving, Steph and I got an opportunity to chat with the Chef and the Sous Chef a bit. I asked about the farmers market since I missed that part of the trip. He said that most of the produce in the market is from Illinois, but there are some vendors from Indiana. I also asked about their culinary education because it, in a way, inspired my trip. Both chefs never went to culinary school, but rather, worked in restaurants since they were young and picked up skills along the way.

I had a blast the whole evening. I learned so much, had a fantastic meal and got to catch up over a bottle of wine with a great friend.

With Stephanie and her sister, Jackie, before we dug into our local entrees.

With Stephanie and her sister, Jackie, before we dug into our local entrees.

The Chopping Block Quick Facts:

There are two locations:

Lincoln Square: 4747 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago
Merchandise Mart: The Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 107, Chicago

http://www.thechoppingblock.net/

You can register for classes online. It’s a simple process and they charge you then. You cannot cancel once your class is less than a week out, but you can send a friend in your place.

You can purchase wine or beer at the classes or you can bring your own bottles. They are subject to a corking fee.

There are numerous “Boot Camps” that last up to five days. The topics for this cooking boot camps range from cooking basics to cupcakes or even sushi. Other classes last a few hours.

If you are in Chicago but cannot make a class, you can shop in the retail stores at each location. They are great and full of fun cooking tools. It’s really worth checking out.

My First Local “Foode” Review

Written June 4, 2013

The first week of June, my work took me to Fredericksburg, Virginia for training.  Like any good foodie, the first thing I do is look up good local restaurants.  (Before hotel and flights, obvi.)  I added “locally sourced” to my searches and quickly came across Foode, right in downtown Fredericksburg.  It has a menu that changes every week with food comes from the Virginia region.  In fact, the website stated that 85-95% of the food served is from local farms or merchants.  The website also had a simple, rustic look that was beautiful.

And, let’s be honest, the name couldn’t be more perfect.  Foode for the foodie?  Sold.

I made plans with a sorority sister who recently moved to Washington, DC and she made the hour long drive south to meet me for dinner with her boyfriend, Mike.  (Thanks, Katie!)

My cab driver had never heard of the restaurant so we slowly crept up the main street in quaint, historic part of town.  We pulled up and the entrance looked like an alley.  Thank goodness, a simple green sign marked the restaurant, or we would have missed it.  Katie and Mike were already there and she texted to tell me she had already gotten a table.

I walked through the threshold to find it was, in fact, an alley.  A really neat alley.  An alley of exposed brick, lined with live edge wooden tables and an open ceiling decorated with colorful, open umbrellas.  I joined Katie and Mike and they told me that there were tables on the inside, but they like this area better.  I didn’t fight it.  The space was so fun and it was a really nice night.

Colorful umbrella's made for fun, unique décor at Foode in Fredericksburg.

Colorful umbrella’s made for fun, unique décor at Foode in Fredericksburg.

Katie passed me a menu.  It was one page front and back.  The front was all the food options and the back showcased all the beverage choices.  Katie and Mike were already enjoying bottled IPA’s and the waitress was quick to see what I would like to drink.  I was still taking in the atmosphere and greeting Katie and Mike that I didn’t even have a chance to look, so I just asked for a glass of white wine.  She quickly returned with DMZ Chardonnay in a mason jar.  The mason jar matched the one already on the table which held a bouquet of basil, in place of the traditional floral centerpiece.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Making an entrée decision was impossible.  Everything sounded excellent.  I was drawn to shrimp and grits, but it seemed too heavy for the warm evening.  Same with the spring risotto, even though it sounded amazing with spring veggies like peas and asparagus.  Mike decided on the whole free range chicken, while Katie and I both opted for the grass fed beef burger.

Mike went inside to place our order, as food orders were not taken through the waitresses, while Katie and I caught up about her new job and life in the District.

Soon our food arrived.  My towering burger was complete with a zingy, seasoned aioli, pub chips for a crunch and homemade pickles was paired with thick cut fries.  The burgers came to us in small cast iron skillets lined with parchment paper, continuing with the rustic look.  I laughed at the lack of actual vegetable on my “plate.”  Here I was at a local restaurant, that receives products from local growers everyday (in fact, they even thank these local farmers and artisans at the end of their menu) and I wasn’t even eating one green item.  Oops.  Oh, well.  You only live once, right?!

As we ate I looked around the alley at the other full tables.  A couple, with their dog in tow, next to us who was splitting a few delicious looking appetizers, including the warm pimento cheese toast, over a bottle wine from Charlottesville, the home of University of Virginia. (Side note: UVA is my namesake.  My parents met there while in business school.  Not to mention, it was where my grandparents spent many years of their retirement.  So, good old C-Ville has a special place in my heart.)

On the other side of us was a family with young children.  I glanced at the menu and it looked like they had a great kids menu complete with traditional kid favorites like natural grilled cheese or hot dog.  This family was done with dinner and had moved on warm, homemade cookies complete with a tall glass of organic milk.

The inner kid in me thought that sounded like an amazing way to finish off the meal, but before I could make my ten-year-old request, Mike asked if we wanted check out the Capitol Ale House.  He said they are known for having a great selection of beers.  I learned that my dear friend Katie, who I used to go to with all my questions about wine, is now my girl to go to about beer too.  (In my opinion, everyone needs a friend like this.)

There, Mike and Katie helped me pick out a great wheat beer from Virginia as my beer palate has not gone much beyond Blue Moon.  They told me that there are a lot of brewery’s developing in the area and they were having a blast trying all the new and different beers.  Katie even had an app on her phone called “Untapped” to track all the different brews she has tried.

We finished our beers and decided to call it a night, even though it was still a little early.  I had to be ready for meetings beginning at five the next morning and Katie and Mike had an hour drive back to DC.  I headed back to my hotel satisfied, happy to have been able to catch up with a good friend, and with half of my wonderful burger left over to be lunch the following day.

Foode Quick Facts:

1006 C/D Caroline Street

Fredericksburg, VA 22401

foodeonline.com

No need to tip.  The staff asks that you just have a good time.

In addition to dinner, Foode also serves lunch and brunch.  The brunch on Saturday and Sunday sounds amazing.  Lots of free range egg options.  They are closed on Monday’s.

Many of the shops and Civil War tourist destinations in historic Fredericksburg close around five or six on week nights, so plan your visit accordingly.  So, get there early and work up an appetite while you shop.

If you would like to see what local producers Foode has vendor relationships with they are listed on their website.

Enjoy!  This is a great place with an awesome atmosphere and magnificent food.