Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The cost of eating local

I think a lot about where I shop, what I buy, and how it impacts my community and the farmers I try to support.  I also think a lot about the finances of it all. Sure, it may seem to cost a little more to buy some items, but I find that I savor them more, and eat less.   Tonight I made dinner for my wife and two kids using primarily items that I purchased locally. And when I added up the costs, I was pleasantly surprised.

Mulefoot hogs

2 pork chops from Lockhart Family Farm  ~ $6.00  ( heritage breed Mulefoot hog)
Green beans from  Amy's Garden   $4.00
Broccoli Raab from Tomten Farm $4.00
Pasta fritatta( used 4 eggs from Pair a Dice Farm and leftover pasta and grated Cheese)   $1.83
Garlic, onion, oil, butter, cheese, seasonings     ~2.00

Total:  ~ $17.83, less than most any meal out or even a simple pizza

That being said, it took some time. Time to shop at the market. Time to snap the beans. Time to cook. Some folks don't have time or desire or know-how to cook at home. Many can't get to a market or a store that sells local produce.

Food access is a complex issue that deserves more resources and understanding. I am proud to be a part of Slow Food RVA and work with other organizations across the community that take these issues seriously.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Food Frenzy

It's been a crazy week, packed with a wealth of food and friends and adventures. Last weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer for the VABF/Ellwood Thompson  Farm Tour. I spent a glorious afternoon at Broadfork Farm, greeting visitors and spending time with Janet Aardema and Dan Gagnon and their lovely children.

I came home with 30 lbs of tomatoes which I processed into a simple sauce to use during the winter months when local tomatoes are impossible to source

I spent the evening visiting Graffiato, one of Richmond's new dining destinations. Opened under the experienced hands of celebrated chef Mike Isabella, in partnership with the trailblazing Zagat- recognized restaurateur Travis Croxton and longtime serial restaurant entrepreneur Hilda Staples, it's Richmond's first celebrity import.

I usually wait a few months to let the dust settle around new restaurants, but with my mother-in-law as a special guest, i made an exception. Our dishes were uniformly well-executed, but there are some timing kinks to work through. None of our orders arrived together and we spent the evening waiting on each other, sharing a series of salads, pizza, and pasta dishes. The smoked burrata salad was lovely, juxtaposing smoky and sweet, crunchy and creamy, citrus and earth.  The wood fired pizzas are very good, with high quality toppings and a crust with a nice chew, but I think Pizza Tonight delivers a better product overall.  The carbonara and hand cut spaghetti were better than average, but the star of the evening was the Sweet Corn Agnolotti, an other worldly combination of fresh summer corn and the earthiness of pine nuts and chanterelles.

The Amish Chicken Thigh uses my favorite part of a chicken and elevates it with a tangy and sweet pepper sauce.

Desserts were passed around the table- salted caramel gelato seems all the rage these days and its pairing with chocolate cake helped salvage the dish. My highlight were the light and airy zeppole and  brought back memories of a street festival in Naples 20 years ago.

I look forward to a return trip to Graffiato in a few months after the initial excitement dies down.

Smoked Burrata Salad

Porky's Revenge, with sausage,pepperoni, and soppressata

Amish Chicken Thigh with spinach and pepperoni sauce

Zeppole with "grape lollipop" jelly

Slow Food RVA was the beneficiary of Ellwood Thompson's last Farm to Table dinner of the season. I was tasked with helping source the meal's protein, and was excited to work with fellow Slow Food board member Josiah Lockhart. Lockhart Family Farm is located north of Richmond in Ladysmith and raise the American Mulefoot Hog,  Cayuga ducks, Silver Laced Wyandotte and Ameraucana hens, and Bourbon Red turkey.  For the Ellwood Thompson dinner, Josiah provided 20 Cayuga ducks, a rare breed that  is listed on the Livestock Conservancy as "threatened" and is a Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste breed.

Butternut Squash Soup with nasturtium and radish oil

 Duck 4 ways: Duck chip, breast, confit leg, and duck and apple demi

Pear Clafoutis

After a weekend at a church retreat at Shrinemont, where we ate the home-cooking of the Moomaw's- meatloaf, fried chicken, yeast rolls, roast beef, mac and cheese, all served family style, I was looking forward to a quiet Sunday night at home. 

On the trip back a friend texted me with the offer of her ticket to  The Underground Kitchen dinner at the Visual Arts Center. We started with a fruit Sak-tail and a wonderful exhibit of Bob Trotman's latest work and proceeded to a beautiful dinner prepared by the talented Osaka team and paired with wine from The Barrel Thief.  It was a night to remember with course after course of innovative sushi dishes, a creative juxtaposition of flavors, textures, and colors. 

 JalapeƱo Nikuzume- shrimp, lump crab, garlic, scallion, forbidden black rice
 Ikura ( salmon roe), quail egg
Amaebi(sweet shrimp) with head
Squid habanero tobiko, cucumber
Traditional natto(fermented soybean) crabmeat, shrimp, red pepper, onion, black caviar

 Ankimo (monkfish liver), ponzu, cucumbers

Tuna tiramisu- ladyfingers, mascarpone, big-eye tuna