Category: locavore

Locally sourced and produced drinking vinegar now available in Madison

Last month André Darlington of Isthmus wrote about a mini-boom in alternative beverages here in the Madison, Wisconsin area. His piece mentions Wisco Pop‘s successful Kickstarter campaign to begin bottling their all-natural sodas (which I posted about when the campaign was still ongoing). He also notes NessAlla Kombucha‘s continued expansion, including into the Chicago market.

But as a lover of all things tart, tangy, and sour, what most intrigued me was the arrival of a locally made drinking vinegar. As Darlington describes,

Mad Maiden Shrub is the newest beverage to hit the Madison market. Janet Chen started making a “shrub,” or drinking vinegar, focusing on its health aspects. Chen sources apples for her base vinegar from Turkey Ridge Organic Orchard in Gays Mills and buys honey from Gentle Breeze in Mount Horeb.

Shrubs have been linked to the national cocktail boom. A syrupy mixture of macerated fruit and vinegar, shrubs were a kind of precursor to modern-day sodas and were popular in colonial times. Just add spirits and carbonated water, and you had a fine cocktail….

The most famous drinking vinegar in the U.S. is Som, produced by chef Andy Ricker of Portland’s Pok Pok restaurant, who was inspired by these Asian digestives. [Check out my earlier post when I tried ginger Som in Portland.]

Chen currently makes a potent honey ginger version.

Yum! I can’t wait to give it a try. For details on where to purchase this delicious sounding treat, check out the full post here. And for a few recipes, head to Mad Maiden Shrub’s website.

Home-cooked meals, CSA style

One of the two dishes on last week’s menu: grilled pizza with roasted potato, kale, leek & 3 cheeses. Photo and description via the website of 608 Community Supported Kitchen.

Linda Falkenstein recently profiled an interesting business operating here in the Madison area. As she describes,

Let’s say you’re coming home from work and you’re frazzled — it’s late and although you have plenty of food in the fridge, you have no energy to cook. So you pop a frozen pizza in the oven or stop at the local take-out joint, and your vows to eat more vegetables and whole grains, and to support local farmers, are down the drain for the day. Sound familiar?

Enter 608 Community Supported Kitchen, a meal-delivery service. Subscribers have two freshly-made meals a week delivered to their door with instructions for re-heating. Food is sourced from local farms and markets; meat primarily from Black Earth Meats.

Chef Benjamin Lubchansky and his wife Kate run the business out of their home in Mazomanie, which includes a certified kitchen. For the full story, including links, head here.

Sustaining local agriculture: Nathanael Johnson interviews Tom Willey

CSA Box - Week of  April 30 - May 6

Photo by Suzie’s Farm via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Nathanael Johnson of Grist recently interviewed farmer Tom Willey—the T in T & D Willey Farms—about ways to sustain local agriculture. Here’s a small taste of the lengthy exchange:

Q. So basically I’m calling because I read in the New York Times that you are making money, and I want to know why we don’t just see a wholesale conversion of agriculture to look like T & D Willey Farms?

A. There are certainly many other people like myself that are operating profitable organic farms of modest scale. But why is there not more proliferation of the modest-sized farms that are financially successful?

I think there’s a conundrum with the legions of young people being attracted to local and organic agriculture. They seem to be a bit hesitant about getting involved in what I call production agriculture, which is feeding a hell of a lot of people besides yourself. And they seem to be more strongly attracted to the Jeffersonian concept of having your little piece, your couple of acres, and farming mainly for self-sufficiency and some very small-scale marketing in their community.

One of the reports I’m getting from young people who have been through some renowned organic farm schools or internships is that they are not learning much about farm economics. I think that’s a real disservice. If they came to my school — if I had one — they’d learn a hell of a lot about that, particularly from my wife.

It’s a fascinating read, whether or not you have dreams of working the land, so check out the full interview here. For more on T & D Willey Farms, check out this Sunday NYT Magazine piece by Mark Bittman, which I blogged about awhile back. Tom Willey is also briefly quoted in this recent NYT article by Carol Pogash, titled “The Elders of Organic Farming,” that takes readers to a recent retreat attended by some organic pioneers.

Food trends to expect in the year ahead

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The end of one year and the start of another is a popular time for prognosticating about what trends will catch fire in the coming months. As reported at HuffPost Canada in a piece from AFP/Relaxnews, “consultants at the New York-based Baum + Whiteman have curated a list of buzzwords and foods they predict will shape the culinary landscape in 2014.” These include more nose-to-tail dining in the form of boneless lamb neck (?) and sweetbreads (!) along with eco-friendly trends like “crackdown on food waste.” Head here for the full piece.

As Lois Abraham reports in another piece posted at HuffPost Canada,

Cauliflower is the new kale, salt is the new pepper and doughnuts and burgers are going gangbusters.

Food trend watchers are bidding adieu to sliders, those small sandwiches made of beef, chicken, pulled pork or fish, cupcakes are waning while quinoa, now that everyone has learned to pronounce it, has gone mainstream.

There are oodles of noodles, from ramen to pho, while salted caramels, flavoured waters and roast chicken are taking off.

Coconut, too, is exploding this year, prepared sweet and savoury. Look for it in sugar, flour and vinegar.

Vegetables continue to be centre of the plate, edging out meat.

Find her article here.

Finally, the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot” trend forecast, which is based on a survey of nearly 1,300 professional chefs, includes in its list of Top 20 Trends of 2014 [PDF] many of the issues we regularly touch on here at the blog. For example, locally sourced meats and seafood tops the list, followed by locally grown produce at #2, environmental sustainability at #3, healthful kids’ meals at #4, hyper-local sourcing (like restaurant gardens) at #6, sustainable seafood at #9, and nose-to-tail and root-to-stalk cooking at #11. Ancient grains even make the list, coming in at #15.

Any food-trend predictions of your own for 2014? Any trends you hope take off? Maybe some trends you hope fade away (like puff pieces in the media about trends)?

Help Wisco Pop start bottling (and get some swag!)

Screen capture from the Wisco Pop Kickstarter page.

Screen capture from the Wisco Pop Kickstarter page.

Just last week I mentioned efforts to raise money for an aquaponics farm that will employ persons on the autism spectrum. This followed my post earlier this fall about the Civil Eats campaign. Although I don’t intend to make a habit of posting about fundraisers like these, I couldn’t resist promoting one more, this time from a small business in southern Wisconsin.

The folks at Wisco Pop produce no-artificial junk, sweet-but-not-cloying sodas in delicious flavors like Ginger Brew and Cherry Bomb. You can currently find their pop being poured at a range of places in Madison, La Crosse, and Viroqua. (See this list on their Facebook page.)

Now, they are hoping to take the next step and begin bottling their bubbly brews. If you’d like to help out, you can contribute via Kickstarter. As they describe,

We are Wisco Pop: Austin, Hallie and Zac. We have a love for our community, small family farms, children, and wholesome food.  We started brewing soda commercially in 2012 as a way to express our beverage obsession.  Currently, our delicious sodas are available in 5 gallon kegs or 2.5  gallon dispensers.  Many people crave our healthful refreshments to enjoy at home… and that’s where you come in…

To check out the details, including a video and the rewards for contributing, head here.

For more on Wisco Pop, check out coverage in the local press from Lindsay Christians for 77 Square and from Amy Verhey for Isthmus.

Vote @EdibleMadison for the Local Hero Awards

Until 11:59pm on December 20, you can vote for the Local Hero Awards at Edible Madison. As their website describes,

Here’s your opportunity to recognize the hard work your favorite food and farming organizations and businesses have put into championing farm fresh, locally-produced food in our southern Wisconsin region. Edible Madison’s annual Local Hero Awards are “people’s choice” awards, nominated and voted on by you, our readers, which makes this award all the more meaningful to the recipients….

Awards are granted in five categories: Farm/Farmer, Chef/Restaurant, Food Shop, Food/Beverage Artisan, Non-Profit

Head here for more info and to cast your vote!

The Judy Rodgers legacy

rediscovering zuni cafe cookbook

Photo by Flickr userTimothy Vollmer [tvol], used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

I’m not in the habit of linking to obituaries (though I just did so in a post last week), nor am I generally one to focus on white-tablecloth restaurants. But, I think the recently deceased Judy Rodgers and her San Francisco restaurant, Zuni Cafe, are worth some attention. As Eric Asimov writes in The New York Times, Rodgers

helped transform the way Americans think of food through its devotion to local, seasonal ingredients meticulously prepared…. Ms. Rodgers’s cooking was noteworthy for its refined simplicity, hewed and tempered by an ardent perfectionism and a finely tuned palate. Not for her the sauce-painted plates and tweezer-bits of microgreens of the modern, high-end kitchen. Instead, at Zuni, a quirky, airy space on a triangular corner of Market Street, she presented dishes that were simultaneously rustic and urbane.

As Russ Parsons describes for The Los Angeles Times,

In an era when most chefs pride themselves on re-inventing their menus on a whim, Rodgers hewed to a strong central core of well-loved dishes. Perhaps the best loved of these is a simple roast chicken, cooked in a wood-fired oven. On the menu for decades, more than 350 a week are sold at Zuni.

This approach struck a chord in tradition-worshiping San Francisco. Though the Bay Area is full of restaurants to explore, Zuni Cafe was the place people called home, a place people went not to be amused, but to be comforted….

“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “Serve dishes that weren’t just playful and amusing but were keepers. I like keepers.”

The NYT has a similarly emblematic quote from Rodgers: “the food you eat every day is the most important food. This is what we do at Zuni.”

Rodgers published an award-winning cookbook that featured her thoughtful, meticulous approach. (I’ve given it as a gift before; its best audience is folks who are really passionate about cooking and/or food.) For a consideration of the cookbook, check out this post from Eater National, which includes reflections of chefs from around the country, among them Madison’s own Jonny Hunter of the Underground Food Collective:

I spent hours reading the essays in the Zuni Café Cookbook. It so influenced how I think about food. How when you work with simple ingredients, it takes incredible effort and thoughtfulness to fully realize the ingredients and processes. Her roast chicken recipe is something I think about every time I work with poultry….

For more, check out the links above.