‘Foster’-ing Community

I was recently invited to enjoy a dinner courtesy of Foster Farms, a chicken company.

I am not much of a chicken eater. When I was sent the information before the event, including the history of the farm it came from and the farmer, I was reminded of this skit from Portlandia:

I was apprehensive of the dinner beforehand, as I am of most any sponsored meal. The idea was to promote how local they are, but as a friend pointed out, McDonald’s also has a campaign about being local.

Still, I arrived at the dinner with an open mind, ready to have my mind blown by chicken–whatever that could involve.

Instead, my mind was blown by the community a chicken company had brought together. In 2008, I wrote in my Thoughts on Eating Locally:

When I say I eat locally, I want it to mean I support my community. Whether this means that my greens are grown in Carnation or it means that I’m supporting the immigrant couple that run the Ethiopian store down the street, I know that my money is staying here in Seattle. Maybe my lentils aren’t grown nearby, but the money I’m paying for them is paying for my neighborhood to remain diverse. Perhaps my bok choy comes from California, but the money I pay for it is going to pay to raise children here in Seattle. I may not know where my mango comes from, but I know that by eating locally that no company in Minnesota or Boston is hording my milk money.

Susan Neel and Which Came FirstFor me, this dinner was full of my community. A community of food lovers, starting with this woman, Susan Neel of McCrea Cellars, who hosted the dinner. A cheerier, friendlier face you rarely did see. She cooked us five courses of chicken–the dessert is shown here: “Which came first?” These are pavlovas with lemon curd, a little trump l’oeil, made to look like an egg. She play the consummate dinner party chef, rushing into the kitchen, making sure everyone was happy and well fed, while her husband kept wine glasses filled.

The meal ended (many hours and glasses of wine later) with a discussion of food, recipes, why we cook. Susan shared with us a treasured recipe from a Vietnamese shopkeeper, which had been scrawled on the back of a piece of a Pall Mall cigarette box. Recipe on Pall Mall box
So at the end of this dinner, where I sat at a table with friends I had spoken to only online, a woman who made me cry the first time I spoke with her, and complete strangers who had invited me in their home, I knew that I wanted to support a company that supported this community.

Yes, I do want to know more about their farms before I tell anyone to rush out and buy their chicken. Yes, I’d like to do a farm tour a la the one Shepherd’s Grain took me on before I say too much in favor of their company and its practices. Yes, I’d rather I know my chicken was named Colin and he had nice friends (watch the clip above if you don’t get this). But they’ve started the process of getting me on board.

Save the Cheese! Help Estrella Family Creamery

There are very few brands I am passionate enough about to devote a blog post to, and even fewer that, upon receiving an email about saving, I will hop out of bed and compose a blog post about at 6:45 in the morning. The cheese from Estrella Family, however, does inspire such things. Estrella Family Creamery makes my favorite cheese(s) in the world.

As many of you know, the FDA is working hard to shut Estrella Family Creamery down and they have been unable to sell their cheese for quite some time. This is tragic, not only because I have to live without the incomparable Caldwell Crik Chevrette, but because it is indicative of what government agencies are attempting to do to great cheese-makers around the country. Washington has already lost too many great cheeses to ridiculous regulations, and I refuse to let the best cheese I’ve ever had go down to government regulations to. So people, I implore you, please help me and help Estrella to SAVE THE CHEESE!

How? Well, funny you should ask. First and most, attend their Small Farms: Saving our National Treasures event on February 26th, from 11-4, in Woodinville. For more info, click here. This is a free event, with raffles and auctions to support the farm, as well as speakers leading a discussion in the hopes to solve the issues plaguing Estrella and so many other farms.

If you aren’t local, I still hope that at some point you’ve been able to taste Estrella’s magical cheese, and if so (or not) and you’d like to help, Donations to aid the Estrella family can be made at Pledgie.com. Donations are not tax-deductible for federal or state tax purposes.

If you’d like more information about Estrella and what has happened with them, see this blog, set up by a friend of theirs.

 

Carlos eats the Quadstrocity

Last night I met Carlos. He was a very cool guy and had recently (six hours prior) completed a task both ridiculous and amazing.

–Side note: Guys, this is gross. Grandma, stop reading. I’ll get you a nice post on a Guatemalan restaurant soon–

He ate a doubled up double down. What is that? You may have read about the Double Down–a sandwich where the bread is replaced by fried chicken, enveloping bacon and cheese. So Carlos, my new buddy over here put two together, called it the Quadstrocity and ate it.

Isn’t the buzz about this stupid sandwich over? You might wonder. Probably. So why am I posting this? I think this video actually demonstrates just how awful KFC and the like can be for you. As B said, after watching this “Really, that is kind of how all fast food makes you feel”

“My kidneys really hurt” was his biggest complaint when we asked him how he felt afterwards. Of course, by the time we saw him, he seemed to have recovered nicely and moving on to higher quality beer than the PBR he consumes in the video. If you don’t fee like watching, you can see below where I outline some highlights. In actuality it took him about 17 minutes to eat the sandwich, luckily the video is only around ten minutes, because I’m not sure it’s healthy to watch much longer than that.

Highlights:

-Early on he gets some chicken in his beard. I like that his fiance waits until 7:12 to inform him that it’s there
-00:52 His fiance can be heard in the background talking about looking for a bucket for him to throw up in
-Carlos quote “I think at least 3 of the 11 spices are salt!”
-2:52 Hiccups begin. These will plague him well into the 7th minute, making everything much more difficult
-3:45 Less than 4 minutes of eating it and he begins to shiver
-At the 5 minute mark he starts to pull the sandwich apart, ostensibly to show you the inside. I think it was a stalling technique. He looks to be in pain
-5:46 He declares that bacon is now a PROBLEM when he runs into it. This is an overturning of all food philosophy. I think it is because the ‘bacon’ in question has no semblance to actual salted pork product.
-6:05 His burps begin to seem scarily like there is food coming up with the air
-7:48 Starts to look more likely he’ll throw up
-8:00 His fiance points out “You don’t technically have to consume it” His articulate response: “eraugh” in a pained voice
-9:40 Carlos quote”I think I have some in my lungs”

He also mentioned at one point his jaw popped out of place.

You can find Carlos on the interwebs via his Twitter account to congratulate, chastise or just generally harass him. Thanks to Carlos for agreeing to let me repost his video!

Great Finds at Goodwill

For people looking to outfit a kitchen on the cheap or lovers of vintage cookbooks (yes, I’m in both those categories), Goodwill offers the opportunity to look for needles in the haystack of crap. For every 10 shelves full of “How to cook low-fat meals for in the microwave” there is one little book on the shelf that is everything you have ever wanted in a cookbook.

Yesterday, aside from a pizza wheel, a bamboo picnic mat and an amazing tapas tray, I found some great books, the best of which is from 1977 and called “Dining in Seattle”

“Dining in Seattle” is a collection of recipes from the finest restaurants in the city at that time. It starts with that still present classic, Canlis. Each restaurant gives a full dinner worth of recipes, from starter to dessert, about 5 recipes each, along with wine reccomendations. El Gaucho is in there as well and the forward is by Emett Watson (he of the oyster bar). But the segment I was most excited about? The Surrogate Hostess.

For those of you whose Grandmothers did not live up the street, let me explain first of all that you could smell the place from about a 5 block radius, not even exaggerated. To this day, I glare at the Tully’s Coffee that sits at the intersection of 17th and Aloha on Capitol Hill, remembering the walk down there on chilly autumn days, not unlike today. The smell of baked goods wafting, mingling with that woodsy autmun scent. Sigh.

I’d love to give you more details, but to be honest, I’m fairly certain that the Hostess closed down when I was about five, so I can’t even give you details about what I loved there (were there cinnamon rolls? I think there were…), but I honestly don’t remember too many specifics about the inside, about the food, what sticks with me are the smells. I can still smell the walk from my grandmothers house, the coffee and baking mingling as you waited for breakfast inside.

So now I have Dining in Seattle and while I haven’t heard of all the restaurants in there–it was, after all, published 6 years before I was born–I know I’m going to use it, if for nothing else, for the chance that my house might smell just like the Surrogate Hostess of my long half-forgotten memories.

Don’t Cheat!

I was (shamefully hanging head) watching The Next Food Network Star. They harp continually on the contestants for not having a culinary point of view. I don’t understand the need for one, though I suppose for a show it is important. So I got to thinking about what mine would be. I thought back on my recent culinary adventures: Baguettes from scratch (which are finally good enough to post about, soon), soup dumplings fully by hand. And I realized what mine is: Don’t Cheat! From the most basic recipe–I can make a mean papardelle pasta with shaved parmesan that tastes like freaking heaven in ten minutes from scratch–to the most complicated, do it all. Don’t use premade sauces, don’t use short cuts (unless they are good ones, where you still get everything done–freezing your homemade stock in ice cube trays, for example). I guess you could say it is the anti-Rachel/Sandra tactic, though I think Anthony already holds that title. But seriously, my basic idea is that you have to choose a recipe that fits your time period, not try to fit the recipe into your given time period.

On Vegetarians

I wrote this a while ago, when Taylor Clark’s Slate Article first ran, but delayed putting it up because I had just done ranting on people who don’t like food. So I waited, but in light of Herbivoracious’ comments from the vegetarian standpoint, I decided I should put up my omnivorous ramblings.

 

I read this article about vegetarians. I mostly, from an omnivores point of view, agree with what he is saying. I think living in Seattle, I run into far less of the rampant demands upon vegetarians to convert than he describes. In fact, I think most of my vegetarian friends only hear from ME that they should convert. And I’m only kidding (really, guys, I swear).

I hold a beef (Ha!) with the article in two places. Ok, three, because I want to reserve my right to always give shit to my veggie loving friends. I personally love tofu, and shock of shocks, eat a decent amount of vegetarian food when at home alone. Which brings me to my two issues: the part about eating at someone else’s house for a barbacue and the part about eating out.

When I invite someone to my house for dinner, for grilling, for anything, I’m volunteering to be the hostess. I’m signing an imaginary contract saying I will provide them with food. Thus, if I knowingly invite a vegetarian to my house, I know full well I’m obligating myself to supplying a vegetarian option, which, in my book, should be at least as interesting and exciting as the omnivorous options. This means two things–1) if you are vegetarian you might miss out on my best dinner parties, because I simply don’t have interest in preparing an amazing pork belly stew with duck stock braised greens for someone who will not eat it and 2) Don’t tell me “you shouldn’t have” after I make you something amazing and vegetarian because the fact is that I should have. And beyond that I probably enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a vegetarian option and enjoyed preparing it. You are my friend, my job, as hostess is to feed you food which will please you. So please enjoy.

My other issue with the Slate article was with his complaint about restaurants. This is not a problem I see just with vegetarians, but with picky eaters everywhere. To them, I say, if you don’t like the food, then don’t eat out. Yes, I know it sucks to sit at home with your microwave instant brown rice (oops, threw up a bit in my mouth remembering both that this exists and that someone I know said she eats this), but why come out and torture a restaurant with your endless requests for sauce on the side and none of this, that and the other thing. What a restaurant serves is how the chef intended it to be. If there is nothing on the menu you like, eat elsewhere. If you are lactose intolerant, don’t eat at a pizza restaurant and expect them to remove the cheese. If you are vegetarian, don’t eat at Momofuku and wonder why you can’t get a pork bun sans meat. This is, from working in the restaurant industry, my biggest pet peeve. Customers think they are always right, but you know what? They’re not. Chefs work day in and day out to make the best thing they can from a variety of perspectives: taste, flavor, price. That means you know why there are no tomatoes on your smoked salmon in May? Because the dish would go up in price. So when you request those, you give the chef this decision: cater to you and add it to your bill, thus recouping the money he would lose, or, because he wants to keep customers, cater to you and lose money on the dish, or thirdly, don’t cater to you at all, and risk your table leaving. Not a good choice. Why make other people’s lives difficult? We don’t walk into your office and try to switch up your filing system!

–End of previously written part

I got a little ranty at the end. Sorry. I really did like most of what he says in the article. I have no issue, fundamentally with vegetarians. Though I do wish people who eat fish or meat and still claim to be vegetarian would just admit “I don’t like meat” rather than pretend that it is in some way verboten. Oy, I can’t stop ranting! Ok, but my point was that Jonathan Kauffman has an article in today’s Seattle Weekly describing the various tofu factories in town. It was timely, as one is down the street from my house, and as I left it on Monday, I thought how sad it is that people think of tofu as a replacement food, for meat or for health value, instead of as its own wonderful food, irregardless of the way it is used. I think a lot of people say they dislike tofu because they are used to it as plain, cold in a tasteless wrap. That said, I think a lot of people who dislike meat would feel differently if they closed their eyes and were not told what a spoonful of raw chopped beef was–I’m fairly certain they would love it. People are strange about food, I guess is the moral of my story. I just hope that I can open eyes and encourage people to try new things that they otherwise thought they hated, be them animal, vegetable or soy bean cake.