Saturday, February 28, 2009

Be vewy quiet... We're hunting wabbits... and Wecipes!

My, what a month February has been. I've continued on my crusade to eat (mostly) at locally owned restaurants and what fun it has been! I've tried out some new places (well, new to me anyway) and found some gems at some of my old favorites. I popped into Finch's on my lunch break a couple of weeks ago, and at the encouragement of my stellar server and foodie partner in crime, Sarah (blogmistress at IU Eats), I ordered the rabbit pasta to go with a glass of my favorite Cote du Rhone wine. It was a surprising lunch. I say surprising because as a general rule, I don't like rabbit. The rabbit that I've had before was gamey, stringy, and unappetizing, and it was prepared by one of the best chefs in Bloomington! So I figured if I didn't like it under those circumstances, rabbit and I were just never going to be friends. But I was so deliciously wrong about this pasta. The big, wide noodles were amusingly difficult to keep on my fork but provided an excellent base for the vibrantly colored carrots and spinach, the velvety mushrooms, and the tender, delicately flavored, wonderfully delicious chunks of rabbit, all complimented by a rich but unobtrusive wine sauce. YUM. Thanks to Sarah and Chef Jeff for changing my mind about this particular critter, and for providing a fabulously French lunch (all too appropriate since I was celebrating my mastery of the French object pronoun that day).

While at Finch's, I also had the opportunity to sample a beer that's been getting a lot of buzz in the local food world lately. It's Brugge Beer of Terre Haute's Tripel de Ripple. Now, I know nothing about beer so I won't even pretend, I'll just provide this link if you'd like to know more. I enjoyed the beer; it was slightly bitter but in the good way that beer should be bitter, and not offputtingly so, either. And that's about all I can say, because as I mentioned, I know nothing about beer. But go to Finch's on a Wednesday ($2.50 pints and buy one get one half off flatbread pizzas), and try it yourself.

I've also had some kitchen adventures of my own lately. As those of you who are friends with me know (and let's face it, no one but my friends reads this blog), I have a petite obsession with the Vegan Decadence Cookies at Soma. I've been on the hunt for a recipe that would allow me to make them at home and probably save me a whole lot of money since I wouldn't have to stop at Soma at least once a day to buy one. So I found a vegan, gluten-free recipe online that looked like it would yield a similar chocolatey goodness to what I was seeking. The problem: it called for several expensive, hard to find ingredients in order to make the recipe vegan and GF. At this point I thought to myself, "Sara, you are neither vegan nor allergic to gluten, surely you can find a nonvegan recipe that will produce an equally, if not more delicious cookie." And I did! I used the Triple Chocolate Esspresso Bean cookies recipe from 101 Cookbooks as a jumping-off point, and made a few substitutions to create the best cookies. Ever. You can pretty much follow Heidi's recipe, but I left out the espresso beans and added a pinch more espresso powder, used dark chocolate cocoa, and chopped up a 65% cacao chocolate bar and threw it in in place of the semisweet chips. I also only ended up baking them for about 8 mins, and at 350, not 375, because my oven runs a little hot. You've got to watch and smell them closely, because the dark batter makes it hard to tell if they're burning. Also, make sure to store them in an air-tight container, because they dry out very quickly. But trust me, these cookies are SO GOOD.

Alright, that's all from me for now... it's almost 2pm on this lovely Saturday afternoon... time to get out of bed :).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Slow Food Potluck!

Slow Food IU had its first potluck of the new year this evening, and it was stellar! We had a record turnout of about 25 people, many of whom were neither friends nor roommates of either Sarah or I, which I thought was pretty impressive. All of the food was wonderful, but my personal favorites were the braised heritage turkey that Sarah made and the baked oatmeal that my friend Emma made, a throwback to our days as campers and eventually counselors at good ol' Camp T. I made some vegan cookies that I am calling "Too Good to be True Cookies," because they do not contain flour, sugar, butter, or any of the other ingredients that make traditional cookies so delicious (and so bad for you), yet they are fabulous! I snagged the recipe (for "Nikki's Healthy Cookies") from 101 Cookbooks, my favorite recipe blog of late. I also made black rice with curried sweet potatoes, a rough recipe for which can be found below.

I have also just learned of the creation of Super Natural Recipe Search, a search engine for recipes featuring minimally-processed, sustainable, "real" ingredients. It's courtesy of Heidi Swanson, Recipe Diva Extraordinaire at 101 Cookbooks, author of Super Natural Cooking, and my current personal culinary hero. Go check it out!

Since I spent the afternoon in the kitchen, however, I am now long overdue on some homework, so I'm off to put my nose to the proverbial grindstone.

Black Rice with Curried Sweet Potatoes

2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup Chinese black rice1 large sweet potato
1 T. fresh ginger
1 bunch scallions
salt and assorted spices to taste (I used some pink Himalayan salt that I picked up in Italy, as well as cardamom, sweet curry, and a little nutmeg)

In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable stock and rice to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer; let cook for 30-40 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Meanwhile, peel and dice the sweet potato, peel and mince the ginger, and chop the scallions. Drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan (the deeper the better) on medium-high heat and add the potato, ginger, and 2/3 of the scallions. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender (the amount of time this takes will vary depending on how big or small you dice the potatoes). When the potatoes are almost done, salt/spice to taste. When both the potatoes and rice are done, combine them, make any last-minute salt/spice adjustments, and serve. Make someone else do the dishes :-p.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Confessions of a Blog Slacker

Whenever I return from a long hiatus from the Blogosphere, I am always filled with a renewed zest and vigor for blogging, spouting promises about how this time, this time I will update regularly. Truth be told, I am a college student, and an over-committed one at that, and sometimes my life just gets in the way of regular blog updates. And then the events I intend to blog about keep accumulating, and then I procrastinate more, simply because the size of the blog I now need to write seems to be too daunting of an undertaking for my current energy level or amount of free time. It's a vicious cycle, one that I may or may not break this time around, but I will certainly put forth a valiant effort and try. At the very least, Rachel will have something to read at work tomorrow.

All of that being said, I have, of course, had a very eventful food life over the last few months. At the end of October, I had the good fortune to be able to attend Terra Madre, a "gathering of world food communities," which took place in Torino, Italy. What. An. Experience. There were 7,000+ farmers, chefs, restaurant owners, growers, producers, vendors, students, gardeners, and other foodies from literally all over the world (I even befriended some fishermen from Iceland), gathered in one place to talk about one thing we all had in common: a passion for good, clean, and fair food. We used the facilities built for the 2006 winter Olympics that were held in Torino, so I think the conference was very appropriately referred to by some as "the Olympics of food." I could easily dedicate several hours worth of blogging to this trip alone, and hopefully I will write more about it later, but suffice it to say this was an eye-opening, life-changing experience for me. I met so many amazing people and made some incredible connections to use in the future. This trip really solidified my desire to spend the rest of my life working to improve the food system.

Slow Food IU has been making slow but steady progress this year. Last semester we didn't get much done in the way of chartering with Slow Food USA, but we did begin having regular potluck meal gatherings which have been a lot of fun. This semester we are going to continue with the potlucks (our next one is Feb 8th), and are hoping to get all of our loose ends tied up so we can get chartered before semester's end. We are also hoping to host an eat-in (think 60's style sit-in plus food) later in the semester when the weather gets nicer so we can stage it in one of IU's many wonderful green spaces (I've got my eye on Dunn Meadow right now...). In addition to that, I am hoping we can also get involved with either the Real Food Challenge or the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, two organizations I learned about at Terra Madre. The Real Food Challenge is an initiative to get 20% of the food served on college campuses to be "real" food by the year 2020, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is an organization of migrant farm workers based in Florida that fights for better treatment of migrant workers, especially those who pick produce that is sold to giant fast food chains, who are often basically slaves to these corporations. I'm really looking forward to taking Slow Food IU in a direction that is a bit more social justice-oriented, lest we acquire the elitist reputation many Slow Food convivia have (deservingly or not) received.

Much to my chagrin, I haven't been cooking much lately. I find it hard to justify cooking anything elaborate for just one person, and I am notoriously bad at eating leftovers, so I have found myself mostly either eating at work, dining out with friends, or eating cereal at my house. It hasn't been an incredibly glamorous existence, but I have eaten pretty well. I've had a lot of free time to experiment with the menu offerings at Jiffy Treet (the local ice cream store where I work, which also has a pretty extensive food menu), and recently had a great discussion with my boss about sourcing more of his products locally. I'm hoping to get grass-fed beef on the menu and perhaps a homemade, hand-pattied veggie burger made by yours truly. I'm also going to try to convince him to source his produce locally when it's in season. I'm really excited about the possibilities here, especially because he has such an open mind about it. When I haven't been eating at work, I've had some great meals out this semester. I've been frequenting Finch's Brasserie as often as I have been able to afford it (which is not as often as I'd like on an ice cream scooper's salary), and have thus far loved everything I've had there, including a Cote du Rhone wine that I am head over heels for. I've been trying to eat at locally owned establishments as much as possible (though Jimmy John's still gets a few late night calls from me), so I've also been making regular appearances at Blu Boy Cafe & Cakery for cupcakes that are a meal in and of themselves, Soma for chai lattes, vegan decadence cookies (YUM), and the cute girl that works at the counter, The Runcible Spoon for Sunday brunch (Eggs Benedict to die for), and the West side Bloomingfoods (just two blocks from my house) for the hot bar, the salad bar, the only good sushi in Bloomington, and the best chicken salad. Ever.

And that's as much of an update as I have the time and energy for right now. Hopefully you'll hear from me again soon, but for now, it's off to bed.


PS: The pic is from a street market I found while exploring Torino...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not Food Related, but Important Nonetheless

Ok, so I know this is a FOOD blog, but I read an email today that I feel should be broadcast from the rooftops in every city of this country right now, before we do something eternally stupid.

A little political comparison between Obama and Palin/McCain (let's face it, her name might as well be first on the ticket)...

We're a little confused. Let's see if we have this straight.....

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic,

* If you grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, it's a quintessential
American story.

* If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.
* If you name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

* If you graduate from Harvard law School you are unstable.
* If you attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're
well grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the
first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter
registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as
a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator
representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the
state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the
United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while
sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and
Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real
leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city
council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people,
20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then
you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising
2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real

* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your
disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a
Christian. (That'd be McCain, a real creep, reminiscent of Newt Gingrich
serving divorce papers to his wife while she was in the hospital with

* If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the
proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

* If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no
other option in sex education in your state's school system while your
unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you¹re very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a
prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city
community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values
don't represent America¹s.

* If you're husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DWI
conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until
age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of
Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.

PLEASE choose wisely this November.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

HFLF Conference, Another Trip to the BRC, Slow Food IU

My, it has been a busy couple of weeks.

Way back on September 6th, I attended the Healthy Food, Local Farms conference in Louisville, Kentucky, sponsored by the local Sierra Club and Slow Food chapters there. The theme was "Politics of Food," which is right up my alley, of course, and I really enjoyed the conference. Most of the talk was about how to promote sustainability and Slow ideals within the Louisville area, but I think a lot of the ideas are transferable to any locale. Guest speakers included Daniel Imhoff, author of Food Fight, about the Farm Bill, and Judy Wicks, owner of the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I found Judy Wicks to be particularly inspirational. During her talk, she said this fabulous quote which I would love to turn into my life's work: "I use good food to lure innocent customers into social action." If you don't know about the White Dog Cafe, I highly suggest you check out their website and see what they are all about.

The lunch served to us at the conference was absolutely delicious. It was all from local producers and included such wonderful dishes as cheesy grits, chicken salad, artisan bread, honey cake, local ginger ale, and some incredible sausage gumbo featuring chorizo from my dear friends at Fiedler Family Farms.

On the way home, Mom and I stopped for dinner at the Blue River Cafe. I had to have some more of that coleslaw! Of course they didn't disappoint, and my coleslaw was just as wonderful as I remembered. My pork tenderloin was excellent as well. I was surprised at it's thickness... it more closely resembled a pork chop than the pounded thin, mostly breading tenderloins one usually finds in Indiana. It was really delicious, though. Very juicy and tender, and the homeade breading was crispy and in perfect proportion to the meat. Yum!

Slow Food IU held its first meeting on September 9th, and I was pleasantly surprised to see people that weren't my friends or roomates attend. It was a small turnout, but I look forward to our first potluck tomorrow, and to growing the group a bit more once people know what we're about.

That's all from me for now, folks. As Paula Deen says, "Best dishes from my kitchen to yours!"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Southern Indiana Eating (Near and Far)

First, allow me to apologize for the poor quality of these pics (anyone want to buy me a new phone with a better camera?) Great, now that that's out of the way, allow me to talk about how much I enjoyed eating the food in these pics.

I took a weekend trip to Southern Indiana this weekend with my father, and on our way home on Sunday I suggested we stop for lunch at the Blue River Cafe. You could literally blink and miss Main St. in Milltown, Indiana, but if you do manage to find and follow it as it winds through the tiny town, you will certainly be rewarded.

I first read about the Blue River Cafe in Home Grown Indiana, the book I mentioned in my last post. Since it is a bit of a drive from Bloomington, I hadn't really ever thought about dining there until I was looking through a tourism guide on Southern Indiana that happened to mention the cafe as a great place to eat. Dad and I were in nearby New Albany, so we decided to make the jaunt over to Milltown for lunch. We arrived just as they were opening for the day and were seated and presented with not one, not two, but three menus of food and a "spirits" menu. As it was eleven on a Sunday morning and, in my opinion, a little early for alcohol, we concentrated on trying to decide if we wanted brunch, dinner, or a sandwich (hence, the three menus). I chose the "Avocado Burger," and got the basket, which came with steak fries and coleslaw. Now, as a general rule, I HATE coleslaw. Maybe it's all the time I spent making Steak N Shake's particularly disgusting version of the side dish, I don't know, but I hate it. So when the waitress brought the heaping scoop of slaw nestled on a bed of lettuce to our table, I immediately pushed it over to Dad (who will eat anything) and crinkled my nose like a seven-year-old presented with a plate full of broccoli. Seeing this, the waitress asked if I liked coleslaw. When I replied with an emphatic "NO" she told me that she hated it too... with the exception of the coleslaw she served at the restaurant. She insisted I try it, but I was majorly skeptical, so I took the tiniest of forkfuls, slowly brought it to my lips, and promptly fell in love. This was like no coleslaw I have ever tasted. The dressing was sweet and light, and the cabbage was fresh and crunchy. I couldn't believe my taste buds! And that was only the beginning. The avocado on my burger was perfectly ripe, and an amazingly unexpected taste with the cheddar cheese and ground beef. The fries were very obviously (in a good way) hand cut from a whole potato and expertly fried so that they had a great crunch on the outside but were nice and potato-y on the inside. The whole meal was just excellent, but the coleslaw was really the star. I wish I had some right now.

The other delicious meal pictured is the "Duck Confit" salad I had at Finch's Brasserie this afternoon, here in Bloomington. As many of you know, Finch's used to be Trulli Flatbread, which I was a big fan of, but I hadn't been in since the big change over to Finch's. The salad I had was a French lentil salad, frisee, crispy pommes, and mustard vinaigrette, as described by the menu. I describe it as tasty, although impossible to eat gracefully, thanks to the frisee. The lentil salad was stellar, with lentils, red onion, carrots, and celery, and what's not to love about crispy potatoes? The real tongue-tempter though, was the duck. It was tender and practically melted in my mouth. Duck is not a meat that I always enjoy, because it is so oily, but this duck was perfectly and simply prepared, and a pleasure to eat.

I was also fortunate enough to be dining near a friend who ordered the watermelon sorbet for dessert. He was kind enough to share a scoop with me, and my, am I glad he did. I am not a big watermelon eater, I never have been, but I'm furious at myself for not eating this sorbet all summer. It was full of watermelon flavor, but it was a very delicate watermelon flavor, and it was absolutely delicious.

I want to say more about my lunch at Finch's at some point, but alas, the classroom calls. Perhaps I will add more to this later. Until then, eat well!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Good Eats, New Reads, SFIU, etc.

As Summer draws to a close I actually find myself pretty happy about it. For once I am really looking forward to Fall classes and all that the semester brings. I'll be taking an Anthro class centered on foodways, as well as a Caribbean Lit class in which the professor has graciously allowed me to write my papers about food themes in the books we read. I will also hopefully be working more hours at Jiffy Treet (the locally owned ice cream store that employs me), which is great because I really love working there.

Slow Food IU is *finally* an official organization at Indiana University, however we still have to charter with Slow Food USA. Plans are in the works to do that during the second week of classes. I'm thrilled that we are getting this off the ground after almost a year of planning and more than a little ball-dropping on the part of many people (myself included).

Yesterday I picked up Home Grown Indiana, the latest from my all-time favorite professor and author of the blog at My Plate or Yours, Christine Barbour. She wrote this guide to good eating in Indiana along with Scott Hutcheson, blogger at The Hungry Hoosier. The book is subtitled "A Food Lover's Guide to Good Eating in the Hoosier State," and profiles local farmers, restaurants, CSAs, and Co-ops in every region of Indiana. I've not started it yet, but I look forward to using it as a resource as I have recently made the decision to eat only at locally-owned and small or independent places for a while. I'm also going to try to do as much of my shopping as possible at non-corporate businesses. This should be an interesting experience as I am also taking an Anthro class this semester called "Corporations in Culture, Culture in Corporations." I'm not sure yet if the professor will take the class in a pro-corporation or anti-corporation direction, but nonetheless it should provide plenty of food for thought.

Recently I had the opportunity to dine at Boi Na Braza, a Churrascaria, or Brazilian steak house, in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am not sure if it is a chain or not (it only has two locations, one in Dallas and one in Cincy), but it was one of the higher-end restaurants I have ever gotten to experience, so the restaurant critic in me absolutely loved it. I'll spare you my full review and just note that while the atmosphere was very classy and fun for a pizza-eating college student to experience, I have eaten much better from some local restaurants here in Bloomington.

On September 6th I will be attending the "Healthy Food, Local Farms" conference in Louisville Kentucky. I think it is mostly for local farmers and producers in Kentucky, but the theme is "Politics of Food," which I have a great deal of interest in, and there will be some notable speakers, including Daniel Imhoff and Wendell Berry. A farmer friend suggested I attend, and since I am trying to soak up as much food culture as possible these days, it sounded like a good idea. My mom is going to attend the conference as well, which I am really excited about because she is starting to get into some Slow Food stuff and I am hoping she can maybe help spread the Slow word around her part of Indiana, where there isn't much knowledge of the movement or its ideals.

I guess that's about all I have to say for this installment of my adventures in food. I think I am going to make bagels this afternoon (which is quite a labor-intensive undertaking), so I need to head to Bloomingfoods and pick up my ingredients.

Best wishes of good food and fellowship to you all until the next adventure.