Maplewood Farmers’ Market Finale

Don’t forget today is the last day of the Maplewood Farmers’ Market.  It’s been a great year, and while I know all the vendors are looking forward to next year, get out there and send them off with a bang by stocking up your larder. Maplewood Farmers Market

Blogs: Chefs > Food Ethics > Farmers

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Not that I want you scurrying away from my site, but I recently added a few blogs to my RSS feeds and thought a few were worth mentioning:

Line Cook was started recently by the obvious: a line cook. He lives in San Francisco and I find it pretty interesting. I especially like his Plate Up posts where he shows step by step photos of the changing foie gras torchon plate ups where he works

Shuna Fish Lydon, also from San Francisco has one of the most beautifully verbose chef run blogs around — Eggbeater. I’d read her posts on opening a restaurant a few months ago, but hadn’t virtually earmarked it at the time. I’ve corrected that mistake now.

Stepping away from San Fran, I somehow overlooked that former Philly underground restaurant chef Shola Olunloyo had started a blog under the same name, Studio Kitchen.

An American in Paris, Daniel Rose, detailed the opening of his restaurant Spring in Paris. It was incredibly interesting until the posts stopped in late August, but the backlog is recommended for sure. I suspect the reason for nothing new is his success.

Moving away from chef blogs…

Law For Food has been talking a lot about Foie Gras recently. I like Foie Gras as you’ve seen, so I’ve followed this story closely through each years twists and turns and wear my shirt with unabashed pride.

Chews Wise “aims to shine a light on the food system and discuss where our food comes from and what we really want to eat.”

Last, there’s a new favorite, The Ethicurean which aside from this great article about Alice Waters , of whom you may offensively find out I am not a fan, led me to another new blog Edible Nation and this post about young famers in which they say:

“With no offense intended to my spunky, fiftysomething parents and their baby boomer friends, U.S. farmers are getting old. The national average has climbed to 55.3 years as of the last agricultural census in 2002 (the 2007 census is currently underway), and the trend is ever upward.”

If you read that and think “who cares,” then you need to seriously consider where your food will be coming from if all the U.S. farmers are gone.

Local Food Through the Winter

I received the following email via the Tower Grover Farmers’ Market email list and thought I might not be the only one interested in this info:

Where to get your local food?

The Tower Grove Farmers’ Market will be closed for six months, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up eating local foods until then. There are several sources for local foods during the winter months, from monthly farmers’ markets to specialty stores. Here are a few:



Local Harvest Grocery
, located at 3148 Morgan Ford Road, specializes in locally raised and produced foods. Many of the products at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market and other area farmers’ markets can be found at the store plus hundreds of other local foods. In addition, the store also stocks a wide range of sustainably produced and organic dairy, grocery and baked goods and has a full service deli serving breakfast and lunch using local ingredients.The store sends out a weekly newsletter with specials and product news.
You can sign up for it here.

The Maplewood Farmers’ Market Winter Pantry

Held once a month on a Saturday at the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood at 7260 Southwest Avenue, this indoor market features a wide variety of local farmers and food producers.

Dates and times:

  • November 17, 9am – 1pm
  • December 22, 9am – 1pm
  • January 26, 9am – 1pm
  • February 23, 9am – 1pm
  • March 29, 9am – 1pm

St Louis Community Farmers’ Market

This market will be held the second Saturday of each month at St. John’s Episcopal Church at 3664 Arsenal St from 8:30am till Noon. This market will feature an assortment of local food producers and artisans.

Other Locations

Local foods are catching on and they are starting to show up in more and more stores and restaurants. Wherever you choose to shop and dine, we encourage you to choose local when possible. Making this choice helps the environment, our rural landscape and the local economy. It can also be healthier and it almost always tastes better.

New Roots Urban Farm

urban review stlWhile catching up on one of my favorite non-food local blogs tonight (Urban Review STL) I noticed Steve had scootered over to New Roots Urban Farm recently.  Along with his usual insightful commentary (whether you agree with him or not) he had taken some pictures of the current happenings

Check it out here .

Dinner Triumphant!

carrotI suppose because of my years cooking, I have a tendency to aim high when cooking dinner at home. While that in and of itself isn’t a problem, what is a problem, is that I’m rusty. Rustiness, coupled with my being particularly critical, means that I’m more than a little unenthused with most of the food I make.

Take last Friday for instance. On call at work and having to respond within fifteen minutes, I was forced to stay around the house for most of the weekend. Having known this well in advance I decided to do it up big for dinner after spotting some celeriac earlier that week at the Berger Bluff Farms tent at the Maplewood Farmers’ Market. I also still had the beautiful carrots I’d picked up in Kansas City at the Farmers Community Market at Brookside and not wanting them to go to waste, I knew they would make perfect sides to what Ellie and I had been craving all week: pot roast.

So as previously mentioned, at lunch last Friday I headed off for Whole Foods to pick up an American Grass Fed roast. But alas, it was one of the cuts that were no longer available. I instead picked up a larger rib eye for us to share.

That proved to be my downfall as I overcooked the beef a little in my frenzy to finish passing the celeriac puree through a sieve and get everything onto the plate hot. I was clearly trying to do too much at once, and I was doubly irritated because it had been such a fine cut of meat.

steak
American Grass Fed Beef Rib-Eye, Berger Bluff Farms Celeriac and Bellews Creek Farm potato puree, Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture carrots, Claverach Farms chioggia beet greens, Our Garden butter


salumi But thankfully, while my story does technically end there, it began with one of my greatest home-kitchen culinary triumphs — my appetizer.You see, my other reason for going to Whole Foods was because I’d thought they were going to have the Bell’s Best Brown Ale. They however did not, and knowing The Wine & Cheese Place did, I knew I’d be making the quick trip around the corner to yield that delicious brew. It was then that I also remembered that they now have salumi from Mario Batali’s father’s shop in Seattle, and that I could finally buy some of that as well.When I did work in kitchens, I was always what I referred to as a “flavor wheel cook.” While there are some chefs that truly can think outside the box and create flavors that are new and challenging, I didn’t possess that sort of raw talent. Just as I make up for my lack of natural athletic ability in my running now with sheer mileage, I made up for my lack of talent in the kitchen by literally reading the hundreds of cookbooks I have. When you do this, you start to see patterns. There are foods that clearly go together, and a spin of the flavor wheel of pork for instance, will yield things like rosemary, sage, thyme, cranberries, apples, honey, mustard, onions, juniper berries, and walnuts.

With that knowledge in hand, while you won’t be breaking new ground, it is possible to make phenomenally good food rooted in solid techniques and classic flavor combinations.

So before leaving Whole Foods I grabbed a 12 month aged manchego because the flavor wheel of most any cheese includes cured meats. Because of the strong flavors Salumi’s salumi has, I gave the next spin to the cheese. Manchego, a Spanish cheese, would go with things like sausage, garlic, mustard, sherry vinegar, onions, thyme and olives. It was at this point that the hand of brilliance reached out and touched me.

bodinoManchego is a sheep’s milk cheese with a similar texture and fat content to Pecorino — I could make the budino substituting manchego for the pecorino. With an additional helping of good fortune, The Wine & Cheese place had Salumi’s mole salami. With a nice touch of heat, a dash of cinnamon, and the richness from the added chocolate, it would go perfect with my plan.

Not to pat myself on the back, but it really did turn out beautifully, and we devoured every bit. The richness of the budino cut beautifully through the heat of the salami and the slight addition of some fresh lemon juice in my vinaigrette gave the whole thing a zippy freshness that really worked, and for a change, I was completely pleased with something I’d made.

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12 month Aged manchego budino, Claverach Farms mesclun, Salumi mole salumi, Bellews Creek Red Onion, with a sherry vinaigrette

Knowing Your Meat

happy pigI’ve inquired recently with a few farmers about whether I could see their slaughtering facilities and specifically the slaughtering itself. Generally, when I discuss this with most people (non-farmers), it is met with looks of horror, and is quickly followed by a question along the lines of “why would you want to see that?”

I guess I want to see it because I feel, at least on some moral level, that if I can’t watch say — a pig being slaughtered, then I don’t really have the right to eat it in the first place.

While catching up on my Next Iron Chef reading tonight after finally watching episode three this afternoon (go Cosentino!) Michael Ruhlman had also posted about this sentiment saying:

“…one of five things you should eat before you die is the meat of a freshly slaughtered animal, preferably having witnessed the slaughter.”

He then linked to this great essay at the New York Times about raising pigs for slaughter.

Barbara Kingsolver made what I consider to be a phenomenally great point in her book about people using different names for the commonly eaten meats than they use for the actual animal. (e.g. beef is cow, pork is pig)

What do you think? Is it important to understand where your meat comes from?

Mario Batali Blogs

I don’t think anybody has really spotted this yet, but Mario Batali started a blog recently. I ran across it initially when there wasn’t a single post, but figured I’d slap it in the RSS feeds to see what might turn up. September 30th one post did show, and then nothing again until today when three posts popped up in succession.

They are completely stream of consciousness ramblings. I can’t say I saw that one coming even if I did read Heat — which by the way you should read because it’s one of the best culinary memoirs ever.

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Chefs Are People Too

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I’ll definitely admit it was a jaw dropping shock when I awoke this morning to see that Michael Chiarello commented on my budino post, and while Mike thinks it’s hilarious, his comment is a great segue into a point I’ve been meaning to make.

Chefs, even those with multiple daytime Emmy’s like Michael Chiarello, love food just like you and I. They just happen to cook it better because they have a job that offers more time for preparation, the ability to practice often, and more importantly dishwashers!

When I worked at the Racquet Club we were trying to make these dried banana rings from the Charlie Trotter’s Desserts cookbook. If you’ve ever tried to cook from one of those high end cookbooks, a lot of times, the recipes are not as exacting as you might like them to be. I guess the assumption is that few will do more than browse through the lovely pictures. We, however, were determined to make those banana rings for a Christmas dinner dessert, and try as we might, they would not crisp up.

So I decided, if we couldn’t figure it out, I’d contact the source of the recipe: Charlie Trotter’s pastry chef and co-author Michelle Gayer.

While I’d love to say this story ended in my getting some advice from her as it would be so much cooler, I instead have to tell you that she wasn’t in. But that’s the point. When I called, they transferred me to the kitchen fully intending to let me speak with her. They explained they were renovating at the time, and that I could leave a message.

So don’t be afraid to contact a restaurant for a recipe, a tip, or a suggestion on sourcing a hard to find ingredient. At best you’ll have your answer and a great story. At worst you’ll have exactly what you had before — chewy banana rings.

How Much Beef is in a Cow?

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I received an email from local chef Joshua Galliano today and in part of a much larger thought he asked wondered the following:

“How many of your readers or food friends would consider buying a half of cow?”

My response to that portion of our exchange was something I felt was worth sharing:

I have spoken to a few people that would be willing to go in on large purchases of other items with me, but most home cooks aren’t interested in getting large amounts of lesser cuts. It’s sad to think about really, because it’s hard to show the average consumer that the filet migon they absolutely had to have was part of the 6ish pounds of tenderloin that was attached to a 1000 plus pound cow. I suppose part of that is a lack of education on how to actually cook those other cuts of meat. Another part I’m sure, is that for someone like me, I have no place to really put it (though I’m looking into the chest freezer now).

Wondering how accurate my guesses were, a quick googling resulted in my finding a great website called Ask The Meatman. There’s a lot of awesome information on the site, but specific to what I was interested in, there was a whole breakdown of yield from a beef carcass.

“With an average market (live or on hoof) weight of 1,150 lbs and the average yield of 62.2%, the typical steer will produce a 715 lb. (dressed weight) carcass.

The dressed beef (or carcass) will yield approximately 569 lbs. (further details below) of red meat and trim (take home meat – which includes the average weight of 27 lbs of variety meat: liver, heart, tongue, tripe, sweetbreads and brains) and 146 lbs of fat, bone and loss. This is roughly a yield of 80% from the dressed or hanging weight – this is for a VERY LEAN Beef. A High Quality, USDA Choice Beef will yield approximately 70% of the Hanging or Dressed Weight. The yield on the take home meat weight from the live weight of the (VERY LEAN) steer is approximately 50%.”

And further down the page are complete details on each primal cut and its subsequent individual cuts including my close guess that a tenderloin yields about 6.8lbs

I think this is important information. Using myself as the example, as much as I enjoy lean cuts like pork tenderloin or chicken breasts in my midweek meals, for all the breasts I might want to buy, there’s a lot of wings and drumsticks and thighs that are simply hard for local farmers to sell by comparison.

I’m not so hardcore as to say you shouldn’t buy what you like, but I do think it’s imporant for people to at least think about that while they’re eating 8oz of a much, much larger animal that gave its life for you.

I Love You Budino

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As previously mentioned Ellie and I honeymooned in Napa Valley. We made the decision to go there and also San Francisco mostly for the following reasons:

First was the organic Robert Sinskey Vineyards. Situated along the lesser-known Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, Robert Sinskey Vineyards is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Their wines are some of the best I’ve had, and their pinot noir specifically is an all time favorite of mine.

A few years later we had the pleasure of dining with Robert Sinskey and Maria Helm Sinskey at a wine dinner at Harvest, and while that’s not the point of this post, I will say that it was refreshing to find out first hand that their philosophy is to make the wines they like: wines best enjoyed with food rather than alone. It was obvious when we’d visited their vineyard.

Second was of course the bigger reason: food.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to dine in Napa Valley, the thing I remember most from our experiences, was how relaxed everything seemed to be. While you certainly have the French Laundry and all their pomp and circumstance, the places we went were incredibly relaxed considering the level of quality. Unlike any city we’ve ever dined in, there we’d be, sitting at the bar in a beautiful restaurant in which someone had lovingly spent a great deal of time an energy on every minute detail, and in would waltz some guy in shorts or a t-shirt. The most striking thing: nobody seemed to really care. Everyone was just there to eat the finest food they could find.

And it was so easy to find.

At Bouchon we had a warm rabbit rillette topped with a fig compote. It was preserved in a flip top mason jar. Heated intact it was only opened once arriving at our table allowing us the first pleasures of its perfume. If unfamiliar, rillette is a method of cooking submerged in fat for preservation similar to confit. Each bite was spread on crisp crostini before dazzling your palette as the sweetness of the fig cut through the soft fattiness of the rabbit.

Another item we recall from Bouchon was a lemon tart. Such a simple dessert, it was made spectacular by the use of meyer lemons and the portion size — literally one fourth of a full tart.

But the real reason we went for the food was that at the time we were addicted to the pre-lame Michael Chiarello PBS program Season By Season. We wanted desperately to eat at Tra Vigne, and what better excuse to go than a honeymoon?

While you’d be hard pressed to find a location in Napa Valley that isn’t beautiful, Tra Vigne delivered in full as you were transported to Italy the second you walked through their outer gates. It was a massive restaurant filled with the sounds of busy servers and happy diners echoing throughout.

Ellie had a roasted pear and gorgonzola risotto that is probably the best we’ve ever had. Cooked perfectly, it was neither to stodgy or to wet the way it so often is in restaurants. I recall I had a rabbit pappardelle that I wish I could remember more vividly, but the point of this post is not that the pasta sealed our love for Tra Vigne. What sealed it, was the Warm Pecorino Budino we’d had as one of our appetizers.

Budino is Italian for pudding, and cheese pudding was certainly nothing we’d ever had before. It was like a taste of heaven as the acidity of the grape tomatoes they served it with cut through the creaminess of the peppery sheep’s milk pecorino pudding. We loved it so much we were lured back two days later for lunch to have it again, and it was just as good.

After returning to our regular lives in St. Louis we couldn’t stop thinking about budino. It was one of those perfect food memories I’ve spoken of previously. Each time we thought of it, craving for more, we could almost taste it.

So, I called the restaurant to see if I could find out, at the very least, what kind of cheese they used. To my surprise, they graciously sent me the entire recipe in its entirety along with some back story on how it came to be. It seemed they loved it just as much as we did. I made it that very weekend, and while the missing ambiance of the restaurant kept it from being everything we’d hoped for, it was still touching to be able to relive the experience in some small way.

In the years since, with a move and a lot of life lived, I sadly lost the recipe, but I was delighted to find it last week while cleaning my office along with my note regarding how I obtained it in the first place.

It is amazingly simple to make, and is sure to be a crowd pleaser at any holiday gathering you might attend. But please don’t serve Asparagus until the Spring.

Warm Pecorino “Budino” with Grilled Asparagus
serves 6-8

1 c. milk
1 c. cream
1 c. fresh, white bread crumbs (no crust) from baguette or Italian bread
1 c. grated Fulvi Pecorino cheese + a little to sprinkle on the unmolded budino
3 egg yolks
pinch of pepper
18 spears ofsmall-medium asparagus tough ends trimmed and stalks peeled
1 lemon
2 T chopped Gaeta olives

Heat milk, cream and Pecorino until it just simmers. Remove and strain through a chinois. Discard the cheese solids and save the strained cream. Add the fresh bread crumbs to the warm cream. Set aside to allow the crumbs to soften in the cream for 30 minutes.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Discard the whites. Pour the cream mixture and a pinch of salt and pepper in the yolks and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.

Pour four ounces of the budino custard into well buttered ramekins and bake in a water bath for 1-1 1/2 hours at a temperature of 300 degrees or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean.

Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. The resting is not imperative but is good for unmolding the budino.

Blanch the asparagus briefly in boiling water. Remove and place asparagus in a bowl. Toss with a little olive oil and grey salt. Grill over hot coals for 2 minutes just to singe the asparagus on one side.

Place three spears onto a Warm plate. Run a toothpick or thin knife around the outside of the custard to loosen from the sides of the ramekin. Unmold it onto a plate and finish with a great extra virgin olive oil chopped Gaeta olives and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Note: I e-mailed Tra Vigne Restaurant in St. Helena, CA wondering if they could point me in a direction on even the type of cheese for this pudding. Ellie and I had eaten it on our honeymoon, and I wanted to make it for her again. I had thought to get a menu before leaving so I would not forget, but I lost it somewhere between CA and MO. Not only did they fax me a complete recipe portioned out for home use, but I got this info regarding the recipe:

“Chef Carmen Quagliata created the dish. It is the Pecorino pudding. Carmen now owns a restauant in Boston named The Vault. If you have a fax, I can fax you the recipe. It is very tasty!!!”

Carmen Quagliata was more or less a prodigy of Michael Chiarello. He was sous chef under Chiarello for many years before becoming Executive Chef of Tra Vigne.