ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

Back to Wisconsin, my cheesehead friends


This Week in Breakfast

To continue on our quest for Breakfast (previously) this morning we headed down the hill to The Fort at Exit 18, a truckstop diner just off exit 18 of Interstate 89.

Previous reviews have spoken highly of the hash and the muffins. I also have a fondness for biscuits and gravy, so we tried those too. The muffin was a “morning glory” with carrots, raisins and apples. It had frosting on top… hmm.

We had to wait in line for about 15 minutes for a table. And by “wait in line” I mean stand around in a truckstop convenience mart that is attached to The Fort while chatting with the grey-haired locals who have been eating here regularly since they were our age. I didn’t see many truckers. We bought a copy of the New York Times and browsed the front pages while waiting.

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The best part of breakfast was that we had a waitress with ESP. Her timing was PERFECT on all items. We closed our menus and put them on the table and she apparrated out of thin air to take our order at the precise second the menus touched the table. The instant I had an anxious thought, “When will our breakfast arrive?” she appeared with a muffin. I took the last sip of my coffee and as the cup was about to be placed on the table, she was there! – with a coffee pot to refill my empty mug. I thought to myself, “Did we get the check yet?” and VOILA it appeared on our table. Maybe this was Hogwart’s Truckstop of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It became eerie. But made breakfast really pleasant. Her timing was perfect and we didn’t feel rushed at all, which is important on Sundays.

The food, on the other hand – not as perfect. The muffin, as predicted, was great, but the frosting (yes frosting) was unnecessary. The hash was definitely homemade, and more brisket than potato. I like my hash pretty crispy, so this needed a bit more cooking, and a shake of salt made it more balanced. The biscuits and gravy was weird. First, the sausage came from slices of links, which left little rounds  in the gravy. Second, the biscuits tasted sweet. Seriously. The gravy had separated a little and had lots of visible pepper, but no actual pepper taste. It was also made from chicken stock and milk, not all milk.

So overall, the hash is good, but needs salt. Knock the frosting off your muffin. The service is amazing. The overall breakfast was worth the 15 minute wait.

Other breakfasts have been:


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This week in putting things by.

Update: Due to technical difficulties, this post was originally scheduled to go live on Thursday, but I accidentally scheduled it to be posted on Sept 27, 2013. A little late, but here you go. -A

Sam did some home electric work and got an outlet in our pantry so we could start cooling the chest freezer. After a little room reorganization, we have a functioning pantry. I have no excuse to delay filling it with the summer’s bounty.

Chopped peppers on a cookie sheet lined with plastic wrap. They’re ready to go into the freezer.

Green Bell Peppers. Cost was $2/lb at the Norwich Farmers’ Market from Crossroad Farm in Fairlee, VT. I bought 4 lbs (Pre-processed weight, PPW). Bell peppers I prefer frozen, but some people like to pickle them. Steps: Wash. Chop. Lay on cookie sheets lined with plastic wrap. Freeze for 48 hours. Transfer to pint freezer bags.

Broccoli. $2.75/lb at NFM from Your Farm in Fairlee, VT. 4 lbs PPW. Into the freezer. Steps: Separate stalks from florets. Peel stems. Chop stems. Blanch for 2 min in boiling water. Transfer to sink of ice water. Drain well (Get out the salad spinner!). Portion 2 cups into pint-sized freezer bags. Suck out the air. Stack in the freezer.

One of our favorite PFB tools is a heavy polyester mesh bag. Originally it came with our vacuum cleaner and was intended to hold the attachments. However, it fits really nicely in our enamel water bath canner and we use it as a strainer when blanching vegetables. Ideally, we would have a metal strainer for our water bath canner, but alas, I got the WBC years ago at a garage sale and it didn’t come with a strainer. In my next life…

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There’s a lot of pumpkin beer out here…

Pumpkin beer is a beer fad out here, it seems. All of the local breweries are making one. We saw these six at the COOP.

According to the “history” that was on these websites, pumpkins were more plentiful than barley, so brewers historically turned to pumpkins to get more sugar for their mash. Most of the beers use pumpkin or pumpkin puree, but some of the other breweries just add a pumpkin flavoring. Most of the beers also add cinnamon or clove flavoring.

Sam and I tasted the Pumpkinhead from Smuttynose, supposedly the best-selling of the pumpkin beers. It was an OK ale. That’s as articulate as I get when reviewing beer.

It seems many of the East Coast microbreweries are making a Pumpkin Ale, while Midwest microbreweries are making Oktoberfest. I suspect it stems from the German brewing tradition in the Midwest while Eastern breweries may have a stronger English tradition. Beer Advocate lists 354 different pumpkin ales and 791 Oktoberfest lagers. Unfortunately, I have no quick-and-dirty way to categorize the breweries by geography, or else I’d back up my claims of more pumpkin ale on the east coast with some statistics. I can do that, you know…


I ate doughnuts for breakfast

Sam and I have to find a new place for breakfast. This is not an easy task.

Ever since I was young, I have went out for breakfast on Sunday mornings. While living with my parents, we would drive to the Sand Burr in Broadhead, WI, or to Lakeside Lounge in Durand, IL. Mom and I would split an order of gravy and biscuits. The Sand Burr had terrible gravy. In college, we got to have luxurious and long breakfasts in the Commons where we could have hot items, eggs to order, waffles and pancakes, cereal and fruit. After a brief hiatus due to poverty, I started going to Hubbard Ave Diner about the time Sam and I were engaged. Every Sunday since Summer 2006, Sam and I have been at the counter around 9 am. We order the same thing every week because our brains aren’t awake enough to make decisions. He has the quiche or the scrambler special. I have veggies benedict with no hollandaise sauce (100 cal PER TABLESPOON!)

So, moving to Hanover, we had a big problem to deal with: Where are we going to eat breakfast on Sundays?

For the first couple of Sundays we were staying at a hotel that had a free hot breakfast every morning, so our breakfast was pre-paid. But, now that we’re in our apartment we suddenly have to ask ourselves on Sunday mornings, “Where are we going?” and, also importantly, “What are we going to eat?”

This Sunday we went to Lou’s, the “breakfast institution” in downtown Hanover. It’s a standard pancake-eggs-potatoes type place, but they emphasize the use of local produce and meats. They have about 15 tables and a counter with first-come-first-served seating. The queue was about 15 people deep, but everyone in line was congenial and talkative. They must have gotten a cup of coffee somehow. Our wait was maybe 10 minutes. The line moved fast.

Their menu was varied and interesting. I typically order of breakfast specials when I’m somewhere I’ve never eaten before, so I got the apple fritters french toast with applesauce. All local apples! Sam ordered an omelet with pears, gorgonzola cheese and leeks that came with potatoes and toast.

So “fritters” apparently means “doughnuts.” I was expecting something like the apple fritters from Greenbush Bakery but instead I got basic fried doughnuts. The “French toast” part was that the doughnuts were cut in halves, dipped in sweet egg, and fried on the griddle. There were THREE of them. Plus some really excellent chunky applesauce that was tart and not too sweet. I don’t know what I was expecting, but whatever this was, it was really good. Pidi and I did a two-hour hike on those calories later in the afternoon.

Next week, I think we’re going to try Lou’s nouveau next-door-neighbor, Market Table or the truckstop down the road, The Fort. Look for a post next Sunday.

Note: this post was composed Saturday, Sept 29, 2012 and backposted to Sept 23, 2012.

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Boloco Tiki Masala Burrito. Not local but v. good

By accident Sam and I ended up in downtown Hanover with a serious need for calories and no functional kitchen with which to conjure them up ourselves. (Abracadabra! A Sandwich!)

Boloco is a burrito/wrap company with locations in New England. They make standard Ameri-Mex fare, plus some other v innovative foodstuffs. Burritos come in Regular, Small and Mini. I ordered a spattering of mini burritos, Ameri-Mex, BBQ pork and slaw, teriyaki. And a Tiki Masala Burrito.

I have found a tiny slice of food heaven. Tiki Masala Burrito. Chicken (or tofu. silly vegans), with brown rice and masala sauce. According to their ingredients list, Masala Sauce is, “Butter, Garlic, Jalapeno, Coriander, Cumin, Paprika, Garam Masala, Kosher Salt, Tomato Sauce, Heavy Cream.” It ain’t healthy, but it’s pretty darn good.

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Smells like Tomato Sauce.

This morning at the Norwich Farmers’ Market, we picked up ingredients to make tomato sauce. 8 lbs (ppw) of tomatoes from Ray Williams at Back Beyond Farm of Chelsea, VT, 2 onions from Luna Bleu Farm, and 2 heads of garlic from Craig at Echo Hill. I can’t can anything, since I don’t have any jars nor the extra capital to invest in jars, so we’re relying more on the freezer this fall than normal.

My typical routine is to buy boxes of tomato “seconds” – perfectly fine tomatoes that may be a little too “ugly” for the other picky clientele at the farmers’ market – and convert ugly tomatoes into quarts of shelf-stable canned tomato sauce. We have a food processor attachment for our stand mixer that can turn 8 lbs of tomatoes into puree in 10 minutes. The puree cooks in the oven over night to reduce by half. I make sauce on day 1, and can it on day 2.

This is not my typical routine. First, I’m only making sauce from 8 lbs of tomatoes. In a typical year, I would process 50 lbs. Second, I can’t can, as I said above, so I’m stuck freezing sauce. It comes out OK, but I don’t like putting the sauce into freezer bags. Either I have to handle really hot sauce in thin plastic bags, or I have to take the risk of letting the sauce cool (BACTERIA!!!) and filling the bags with cooled sauce (CONTAMINATION!).

So, the house apartment smells like cooking tomatoes. Sam points out that I’m still wearing an apron. Psah!


Beans and greens in the rice cooker

We’re a bit short on cooking utensils while staying at the hotel waiting to move into our new apartment. I figured I should try out some new things with our rice cooker. Sam noticed lots of local collard greens at the Norwich farmers’ market, and suggested we eat beans and greens one night for dinner.

Beans and greens is good old-fashioned comfort food. Typically we cook it all day in the crock pot, but the rice cooker can act like a glorified crock pot, boiling the beans, then holding warm until its time to eat.

I soaked 1 cup of black navy beans from the COOP overnight in water. In the morning before Pidi and I went on a long hike, I assembled the following in the rice cooker:

  • Soaked beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large bunch (8 stalks?) of tuscan kale, stemmed and chopped
  • salt
  • 3 cups of water

I put the rice cooker on the setting for cooking brown rice and hit the start button. When we got back from our hike in Boston Lot Bluffs (just across the street!), we had made the whole hotel smell great. I gave the pot a stir and left it to stay warm.

When it came time for dinner, we served the beans and greens with elbow macaroni. It was a little plain and we added sriracha for some more flavor. I would have loved some ham or bacon grease to give it a little more flavor. Or, I could have cooked with stock or beer.


Norwich Farmers’ Market

Today we made it over to the Norwich, VT Farmers’ Market located on Rt 5 and runs Saturday Mornings from 9a-1p. We spent an hour and about $60. We came home with:

  • One braid of Shallots $13 (My indulgence)
  • 1/4 lb Welsh-style cheddar cow’s milk cheese. Cobb Hill. $4.50 (Sam’s indulgence)
  • Ingredients to make a pot of potatoes and beans for dinner tonight: green beans, potatoes, onion, garlic, carrots and corn. I’d love to have a ham hock or bit of ham to put in the pot. We’ll see what the COOP can do.
  • Ingredients to make beans and greens in the rice cooker for dinner tomorrow night. I’ll post details on that later.Read more here…
  • Ingredients to make an italian dinner one evening including tomatoes, garlic, bell peppers.
  • Some fruit: Apples and a cantelope.
  • Edamame
  • cucumber, celeriac and hakurei salad turnips

The Norwich farmers’ market is more diverse than many of the small Madison markets. There were plenty of vegetable farms, but few fruit farms. I saw lots of bakeries and jammeries (I just made that word up), plenty of good pastries. There were more herbs for sale here than at any other farmers’ market I have attended, and, in fact, there was an entire herbalist booth. It seems some of the booths are semi-permanent wooden shelters, and other booths are temporary pop-up tents. The market center is a wooden gazebo and today, since the market was celebrating its 35th year, there was a band and a raffle. 35 years is pretty impressive.

Cheese from Cobb Hill Farm, cut to order and wrapped by hand.

I’ll make better measures later, but it seems the average prices are on par with Madison’s markets. Some things, notably sweet corn, were priced a LOT higher. Sweet corn was $0.60/year or $7 for a baker’s dozen. I almost choked. Typically, I buy sweet corn at $2.50/dozen or not at all… We got two good tips on CSA availability. Suzanne at Luna Bleu Farm has chicken/egg shares and Your Farm still has fall and winter CSA shares available.

Note the sturdy wooden structures in the background.