May 18, 2013

Miami and More

Up until two weeks ago, I had never pondered the possibility of living in Miami but that's exactly where Chris and I are moving this summer.  As you can imagine it put a kibosh on our Vermont road trip, so instead of blogging about Niagara Falls and King Arthur, I'm going to catch up on the past month.

April 20 - Madison Farmers Market and Lunch at Merchant

Chris and I attended opening day of the Dane County farmers market.  I'm biased because I lived in Madison from 1985-2006 but it's a fantastic farmers market in a great city.  Due to a cold, wet spring the capitol square was only half-filled with vendors yet people still packed the market!

We browsed while chatting with my former co-worker and his family.  Mark and I both left Famous Footwear in 2006, and I'm sad to be leaving Wisconsin just as he has returned.  Typically the tulips are up for opening day, but I still love the photo below.

After two trips around the square, I headed to Merchant to have brunch with my best friend Tracy.  It was our first time and I will definitely dine there again!  Just off the square, it's the perfect location for brunch after the farmers market...and if Merchant is too busy, I recommend heading across the street to Marigold Kitchen, which is my previous favorite.

At Merchant, I enjoyed a mimosa made with fresh orange juice, champagne, Death's Door gin and Bittercube Jamaican Bitters #2, along with a homemade donut.  Their brunch menu is unique each week and I selected the market omelet with red peppers, chevre and spinach served with potatoes and greens.
April 28 - Asparagus!

As soon as asparagus became available, I went a little crazy ensuring that I always had at least a pound in the fridge.  Over the course of a week, I made soup, pizza and risotto with asparagus.

My favorite was a shaved asparagus pizza I made with a pesto base which is a recipe adapted from Kitchen Konfidence and inspired by the homemade pizza demo I attended at Sur La Table.

Please ignore the large air bubbles in my dough, apparently I didn't dock the dough enough, which was just one of the lessons in the pizza demo.  We also covered par-baking (not necessary) and pizza stone tips, such as never using detergent and washing with hot water only.

Also placing the stone in a cold oven, so the stone and oven heat together, and using parchment paper to move pizza dough to the hot stone.  I really liked the demo and the $5 cost can't be beat, especially compared to the cost of typical Sur La Table classes!

April 30 - The Ruby Tap and Firefly in Wauwatosa

We celebrated two blogger birthdays at the end of April with both Alysha and Molly turning 27.  You can't go wrong by starting a night out at The Ruby Tap.  I was the only one who had been there before, but the ladies quickly grew to love it as much as me.  

From there we moved onto Firefly for dinner, where we were shown to a private room which was perfect for the occasion!

May 2 - Braise Cooking Demo with Chef Dave Swanson

Have you been to Braise restaurant in Walker's Point yet?  If not, you're missing out.  I really enjoyed the Sunday Supper I attended there last fall and a pastry cooking class this spring.

Chef Dave Swanson recently came to work for a cooking demonstration during Wellness Week.  He made risotto with pickled rutabaga and mint oil, giving several tips on cooking risotto. 
  • Vegetable stock is used because it's more of a neutral base, chicken stock would overwhelm the risotto. 
  • Italian grandmothers would slap him for adding cream.
  • Add salt throughout for seasoned rice.  If you add it at the end, you'll just have salt on top.
  • Toast the arborio rice to set the starch, less for a spring risotto, more for an autumn risotto.

I was inspired to make risotto and of course had asparagus on hand, so I opted for spring risotto made with asparagus, edamame, spinach and green onions.  I love risotto, I love asparagus and the combination can't be beat.

May 4 - Organic Food Expo in Oshkosh

When I heard the lineup of speakers for the Natural Product & Organic Food Expo I knew I needed to attend.  I was particularly interested to hear Joel Salatin, Will Allen and Aaron Woolf who were all great.  Below is a photo of the entire panel of speakers, moderated by Kyle Cherek of Wisconsin Foodie.

It was a well-run expo and one that I would attend again.  I loved hearing the speakers and the food was fantastic but the product booths were just ok. 

Between Chris and I, we tried nearly every food vendor and were impressed with everything we got.  If you happen to see the Kangaroostaurant truck or the Chubby Cheese Truck at an event you should definitely buy something!

Also cooking up delicious food was Dan Fox, who I met last year at The Madison Club as part of a Wisconsin Cheese Tour.  Chef Fox has since left The Madison Club and now runs Fox Heritage Farms Catering and will open Heritage Tavern mid-June in Madison.

May 5 - Cinco de Mayo

Cliché as it is, we enjoyed margaritas on Cinco de Mayo along with lentil tacos, which is a meatless meal that even Chris the carnivore enjoys.  Tacos are one of Chris' favorite meals, so I'm happy to have found a vegetarian version that I can enjoy. 

Since May 5, when we were faced with the possibility of moving, my life has pretty much been chaos.  We leave for Florida in two weeks and there's still so much to do.
Chris will be driving a moving truck, while I get the pleasure of driving 1,500 miles with two cats.  Wish me luck!  If anyone has any tips on living in Miami or traveling with pets, please let me know.

May 08, 2013

Spring Gardening Update

Wisconsin weather has been beautiful recently.  I had planned to wait on my container garden until Memorial Day weekend after the threat of frost has passed, but full sun and 75 degrees can be very persuasive.

I'm trying a new spot behind our garage this year, which required digging up the remnants of Chris' wildflower garden.  The wildflowers were quite beautiful but that sunny location is prime real estate for my containers.

After removing all the weeds and raking it over, I added three bags of cedar mulch.  I've heard that a two to three inch layer of mulch is necessary to smother weeds.

Part of the reason I planted today is because my local farmers market is open on Wednesdays.  I was surprised to only see five vendors when I arrived, but it's understandable since early spring was too wet for planting here.

I had hoped to buy less plants this year since I started seeds a couple weeks ago, however I'm not seeing much progress.  As you can see for yourself with the chard on the left and the lettuce on the right.  

I added the lettuce I bought today to the photo as a comparision because I was shocked when the farmer told me she planted the seeds 3 weeks ago!  Yeah, somehow I don't think my lettuce is going to look like that in just a few days.

Today I purchased herbs and lettuce, as it's still a bit early for tomatoes and peppers.  I bought home chives, parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme and buttercrunch lettuce.

I enjoyed getting a chance to chat with the two farmers I purchased plants from and was excited to learn that Dutch Acres Farm has eggs available every day in a self-serve fridge near my house.  They also sell beef and pork, which I've encouraged Chris to buy.

I shudder to think of the source of the meat that Chris currently eats and was reminded today by a speaker at work of the importance of not buying meat that comes from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

Fedele Bauccio is the CEO and co-founder of Bon Appétit Management Company, which provides our food at work.  Clients for Bon Appétit include corporations, universities and museums.  Mr. Bauccio spoke passionately about America's food system and his presentation left me wishing that I was personally doing more to help.

He told the story of tomato growers in Immokalee, Florida being treated like slaves which led his company to boycott buying tomatoes for 5 months until changes had been made.  You can hear more information in the TEDx talk below.

"America's cheap and abundant food system is the envy of the world, but it cannot continue to rely on an invisible underclass of exploited laborers."
"The persistence of inhumane conditions and poverty wages for farm works has long been a tragic chapter in the story of American agriculture."