Babies, and Art, and Food, Oh My!

Art of Food LogoWhew! After nine months (the final few weeks of which were filled with anxiety revolving around questions like, “What the hell am I going to do with a baby?), I now have a daughter, Quinn Reese Burge.  Definitely meaning to brag, Ellie did it 100% natural for both her health physically and mentally and the babies.  It was amazing, but more than that, they are amazing.

Bragging about my wife and daughter out of the way, in the few moments of spare time I’ve had this week, I’ve been tracking down chefs to belatedly nail down this year’s Slow Food St. Louis Art of Food menu.  It’s not quite assembled 100% (come on guys!), but I just wanted to let you know one thing:

If you’re in town this Saturday, and you haven’t got anything planned, and you care a lick about local food, you need to get your butt down there. It’s Slow Food St. Louis’s biggest fundraiser of the year and it’s the reason we’ve been able to give over $12,000 to ten small farms over the last two years to increase the biodiversity of what’s available to us locally.

And if that’s not reason enough for you to go, know this: whatever excuse you have can’t possibly top the fact that I’ll be there and I’ll have a 7 day old daughter, and Josh Galliano will be there and he will have a 13 day old daughter.  (we are of course hoping this means stellar birthday parties!)

Here’s the menu thus far if you’re wavering, and I hope to see you there…

Annie Gunn’s – Lou Rook III

Roasted Viking Village Sea Scallop with Annie Gunn’s Bacon and Ratatouille.

Companion – Josh Allen

1. Panzanella “Bread Salad”  – Companion Roasted Garlic Fougasse w/ local heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers (working to identify farmer this week)

2. Grilled Bread Station with assorted pestos & tapenades

Five – Anthony Devoti

Benne’s Farm Pork confit, sesame cracker, tomato jam and pickled Claverach Farm baby carrots.

Harvest – Stephen Gontram

Harvest Bread Pudding

Kakao Chocolate – Brian Pelletier

1:Bacon Caramels Made with bacon from Hinkebein Hills Farms and local honey.

2: Chocolate Dipped Double-Layer Pates de Fruits

Local Harvest Café – Clara Moore

Horseradish Pickled Heirloom Tomato Relish on a Prairie Breeze Cheese Biscuit

Monarch – Josh Galliano

Prairie Grass Farms Goat Terrine, eggplant tapenade, Greek yogurt, fennel mostarda

Niche – Gerard Craft

white gazpacho, smoked grape sorbet

Sidney Street Café

Rabbit bratwurst with Companion brioche and house made sauerkraut

Winslow’s Home

Winslow’s Farm Cucumbers and Heirloom Tomatoes with pulled Prairie Grass Farm Lamb

and dishes still to come from…

Bailey’s Chocolate Bar, Farmhaus, Franco

St. Louis Beard-related News

James Beard Awards

Unfortunately over the weekend Julia Usher did not win the Food-Related Columns James Beard Award she was nominated for–meaning St. Louis will have to once again live vicariously through a Danny Meyer win. We can, however, rest a little easier with the knowledge that some of our own, in the form of Joshua Galliano and a few of his An American Place crew, were cooking at the gala and serving up genuine Hinkebein Hills Farm pork belly.

And don’t forget you can read Julia’s nominated Prep School articles in the Sauce Magazine archives.

Last Week at the Market – Tons of Stuff!!!

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Wednesday

This week at Maplewood Farmers’ Market I made it in time to be one of those people that swept the Our Garden strawberries out from everyone. As I approached the booth there were ten pints and by the time I left the booth there was one. Two were mine! They were rather small and a bit tart but still better than any others I’d had to this point.

A bunch of new lettuces cropped up this week from Centennial Farms including magenta, butter crunch, and Nevada summer crisp.

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Claverach added turnips, spring onions and cucumbers.

Root Cellar also had arugula which I don’t recall seeing last week. It was amazingly clean too. Generally Claverach takes the prize for cleanest vegetables which is a huge bonus when buying from them. They are outright obsessive about cleaning their lettuces especially which I’m sure goes a long way towards restaurants fighting over them.

Ken Muno (Goatsbeard) had his Camembert wheels which I can never remember what he calls after the fact. (Prairie Bloom maybe?)

Saturday

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Last Week at the Market

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As expected the Farmers’ Markets last week were meat and plant heavy and vegetable light.

At the Maplewood Farmers’ Market (thankfully under the patio tent because of the rain) it was the relatively slim pickings you would expect on opening day. The Root Cellar from Columbia had the most produce including a bit of asparagus that went really quick. Mostly, however, they had various herbs and greens including what I can only assume is the weed of leafy greens: chard. Someone with a better green thumb than I can chime in but it seems like chard is available pretty much the entire growing season.

Also at Maplewood

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Benne’s Best Meat

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I’ve mentioned this farm before, but I thawed out a sirloin tip roast I’ve had in my freezer over the past couple days, and I just wanted to comment about them again because the meat is a bit cheaper than many of the other spots people are buying “happy meat” from locally

The cost reduction is partly because the Benne’s family does grain-finish their beef as the Benne family themselves prefer the taste, but their animals are pastured.

They sell at the St. Charles Lions Club Farmers’ Market every other week during the growing season, and you can buy from their farm during limited hours Monday-Saturday year round.

It’s really interesting when you visit their farm because you are literally driving down Highway 94 in St. Charles before making a turn onto what is basically a sub-division entrance. You then drive off that road onto a dirt road, cruise past their lake surrounded by wading cows, and up to their home where the chickens scramble out of the way as you park your car..

When you stand outside their door, with all its billboards you can literally see highway 94 less than a mile away and to me it’s a bit surreal to know that right in the middle of St. Charles their is a farm tucked away holding onto what all that land once was.

Here’s a brief cost breakdown for a Sirloin Tip Roast for comparison:

Benne’s (grain finished $4.99lb
Hinkebein Hills Farm (grain finished)
$4.50lb (website price)
American Grass Fed Beef $6.66 + Shipping

And of course here’s the finished roast…

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Benne’s Best Sirloin Tip Roast, Berger Bluff Farms Celeriac, Carrots, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Vegetable Gravy

10 St. Louis Food(ie) Holiday Gifts

presents3Did you know St. Louis food bloggers have love for you. Well we do, and today we’re all posting our lists of 10 local food gifts.

Here you can find the other participants lists. There’s sure to be some overlap, and it will be fun to see where it occurs:

Find out what to get me after the jump…

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Ruhlman: Signing, Demo

ruhlmanSorry for the delay…

When I went to Borders to meet Michael Ruhlman a couple weeks ago I was incredibly early. But as a book fan I love Borders, and so with time to kill I began looking around. At one point, out of the corner of my eye, I realized Ruhlman was standing beside me looking at a few cookbooks of his own, and maybe this is dumb, but as excited as I was I wasn’t sure if I should bother him and say hello or just let him be. I opted for the the latter as I knew I’d be meeting him soon enough at the semi-official book signing.

And semi describes it accurately. It amounted to Ian arriving and introducing himself to Ruhlman, the other two of us there at the time doing the same, and then our just standing around talking for about 30 minutes in the middle of the store. In the end I felt silly even having him sign my book as the most rewarding part of the evening was the conversation. We talked about blogging, Ian’s reviews, the St. Louis dining scene, and of course pork and the two pounds of Hinkebein cheeks in my freezer before anyone else had even arrived. As others trickled it became obvious that just like my chefs are people too comment, Ruhlman is a great guy. He seemed genuinely interested in what each of us had to say and has a real passion for talking about the pleasures of food. In fact, the conversation with everyone was so lively we almost got kicked out of Borders. Oh, and apparently the ladies swoon for Mr. Ruhlman as well — who knew.

I can’t really convey how cool it was to meet someone I have such respect for and for whom I’d been so eager to meet. Unlike most people, my nervous tick is that I actually speak more than normal. If you know me, it’s hard to imagine my talking more than I do, and for once it worked out beautifully because instead of sounding like a goober mustering up something stupid like “you guys were great” the way I would at the end of a concert, I was able to take part in an articulate exchange that I am grateful to Ian for having arranged.

And of course I did have him sign my book, and as silly as it might seem to me, I certainly didn’t regret doing so when I read the inscription:

“To Bill, Good luck with the bloging and the pork cheeks”

Pretty awesome I have to say, and it’s definitely one of my favorite autographs ever. An interesting side note: my all time favorite is from a chef in Chicago, Paul Kahan, who coincidentally wrote one of the back cover blurbs on Ruhlman’s new book.

As for the steeply priced Viking demo…

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Slow Food Feast

feast

Over the weekend at the Slow Food Kitchen Clutter Pot-Luck in Kirkwood Park I had the pleasure to unexpectedly meet Alanna. It was only two weeks prior that we had introduced ourselves online having exchanged a couple emails regarding her trip to the Niman pig farm in Iowa. If you’ve ever read her blog, A Veggie Venture , it’s obvious she is a great cook, so I was excited to try one of her creations. She brought mac ‘n’ cheese and challenged us to guess it’s secret ingredient.

I was puzzled. It had a sweetness not typical to mac ‘n’ cheese that I wasn’t able to place. I tasted nutmeg, and I couldn’t shake the thought of what other mysterious spices I might be tasting. Kimberly on the other hand was sporting her super palette, guessing right that it was butternut squash. High five — butternut squash indeed! It wasn’t grated cheese on top, it was grated butternut, and it was spectacular.

Had I not forgotten my camera I would show you a picture of the event. There was plenty of great food on hand, including a Hinkebein pork butt and hamburger graciously donated by American Grass Fed Beef , and although it was small, it was a great evening spent in the company of people who have all had their souls touched by food.

People need food not just for the nutritional content, but for the pleasures and companionship sharing a meal brings. It’s no fluke that a holiday celebration’s climax is centered around a meal, just as it’s no wonder Slow Food adopted the Latin word convivium, meaning feast, to refer to their chapters.

Eating is something you do to survive. Feasting on the other hand: it’s eating with joy and companionship — eating to touch your soul.

Happy Pigs

Paul Willis Pigs[Source: Simply Recipes]

My friends fiancé puts meat into two categories. One is “happy meat”, and the other is simply meat she won’t eat. It struck me as funny the first time she said it to me, but really, is there a better description to give you a quick indication of exactly where a person is coming from?

This post today from Simply Recipes is one of the best I’ve read on pork farming. They were invited to Willis Farm, in Iowa, and after eight months of longing, they finally went. I think it does a good job stating the facts without getting overly biased one way or the other, and they took some amazing photos.

If you want to try and do the right thing by pigs, I know of three choices in our area: Benne’s Best Meat, Greenwood Farms, and Hinkebein Hills Farms.I’m sure there are more that I’m not aware of. If you know of any other sources for happy pigs or any other meat for that matter, please let us know in the comments.

edit: I was jealous to read the comments and see that St. Louis’ own, Alanna Kellogg of A Veggie Venture and Kitchen Parade, was also on hand. You can read her account right here.

A Summer at the Market

 

Schlafly Market

Over the last year I’ve read a lot about sustainable agriculture . While I’m not completely sold on the locavore/localvore movements in their entirety (which I’ll touch on another day), I do like the idea of supporting my regional farmers, and I especially like it in a year when their crops were anything but bumper crops do to the April frost. Although I think I know more about seasonality then the average person from my years cooking, even on my best days, I was still a step removed because even the finest restaurant produce still often comes in boxes. So this year, when I started a new job at the beginning of summer which made it more convenient for me to finally hit the Maplewood Farmers Market, I went out of my way to do so each week.

Since the market opened, I’ve been there every Wednesday except for two instances, and it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience to watch summer’s bounty roll through the market each week. I’ve gotten to be a familiar face with some of the farmers and, not to get all sappy, but it’s heart warming to receive a smile of familiarity from the actual person that picked your food that morning. I’m the product of a pretty conservative upbringing, and though Ellie and her family have shown me another side of life, it’s a spirit of community that I’d never really felt a part of until this summer.

This year, we had some crops, like peaches, that weren’t what they should have been and many farmers suffered. But with that suffering, for myself anyway, came the purchase of things I might have otherwise overlooked. So, in my quest to eat a little more locally this year, one of the bonuses of going to the market each week, has been discovery of some things I never knew how much I liked until now.

Maplewood Famer’s MarketI’d never had local cherries, but there they were one week. Local bing cherries. I think Ellie and I ate the whole bag in about a day the first time I got them, and they were the sweetest cherries I’ve ever had. Cooking even one of them seemed waistful because all they needed was to be raised to your mouth. Eating these cherries, you couldn’t help but think it doesn’t get much better then this. For a few weeks we went through several pounds until one week Ellie told me to bring some cherries home, and they were gone. We were devastated. Even now, however, I get excited thinking about next years crop, and how I’ll be smart enough to freeze some the next time around for some midwinter Clafouti.

Then there were the melons from Centenial Farms . The first week I bought a melon from them, I took it home, cut it, and within minutes I found that I’d eaten the whole thing. They had so many varieties, only the galia of which I’d ever had before. The ambrosia was the sweetest most succulent melon I’ve ever tasted. I’m not sure if any of you have bought a melon recently in the store, but they’re just terrible. They pick them so far in advance, that you’ve no idea what you’re going to end up with, and by the time it does gets to you, and you cut it open, you might as well be eating wet cardboard. These melons though, they were heavenly, and I found myself buying two each Wednesday in Maplewood, and then arranging my weekend running in such a way that I could find time to scurry downtown Saturday to Tower Grove where once again I could get my fix.

And the walla walla onions from Claverach Farm in Eureka. I’d heard of but never knowingly had these sweet onions. I wish I’d had the forethought to take pictures of them because they were beautiful tied together in little bunches with the stems still attached. Several times I’d slice them into rings and caramelize them a little before whipping them into scrambled eggs with thyme and some Goatsbeard chevre. Add to that some bacon and toast covered with strawberry rhubarb jam from Centennial and it was the start to a great day. Delicious!

KarliosSpeaking of bacon, right here in Missouri we have a guy, Karlios Hinkebein , raising pigs easily on par with some of the best in the country. The strips are often so wide they’re like slices of meaty ham, and for only a few dollars you can have a pound to have friends covet in your own home. Only Momofuku , a restaurant praised nationwide for the quality of their pork products, has served me pork of possbily better quality. Make a BLT and you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life. Render it down slowly and have the greatest baked potato ever.

There were so many wonderful things like local blackberries, raspberries, eggplants, paddy pan, fennel and swiss chard that I wish I had time to go into them all. It was a great summer of eating, and as we move into the last weeks of summer, you can see people in the stores grasping onto their packages of berries and summer fruits because they believe these things are still in season (because it is summer after all). We at the markets no better, however, as we are invaded by the stock for our winter cellars. We’re seeing potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, and winter squashes like butternut, pumpkin, buttercup and about half a dozen varieties from Bellews Creek . Half of those I assumed were butternut, only as we learned from Paul, they are not. We shed tears as those last tomato vines give up their last fruit of the season, and we curse the zucchini still hanging on for dear life.

Winter Squashes

But now the apples are coming, so there’s still time to get down to the markets for one last gift of the harvest before we shed a tear, knowing we’ll have to wait until next year, to do it all over again.