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Archive for February 2007

Indy Food Fantasy #1

Originally published on indyrats.com, February 26, 2007

The Conrad was Indy foodies and food-bloggers hope.

Finally we had white-tablecloth dining that would put us on the culinary map. Jonathan Wright was supposed to ride in on a white horse, save the day and salvage our reputation, not to mention our cuisine.

Alas, the dream was short-lived. Chef Wright fled early in the game. Food bloggers such as FeedMeDrinkMe (http://www.feedmedrinkme.com) didn’t buy into the hype and reported that the two restaurants were duds. The Hilton recently announced that the restaurants are joining the Bermuda Triangle of steakhouses that dominates the sports-centric downtown restaurant scene.

Some of us, though, are still Indy dreamin. Failure puts us one step closer to success.

Here’s the fantasy, here’s the hope. Think of the Conrad as our Pittsburgh game. If the Colts can win a football championship after that disaster, there’s no reason why the 12th largest city can’t have a fancy/smantzy restaurant with drop-dead delicious food and great atmosphere.

My food fantasy?

The Columbia Club.

Last month, Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana (http://advanceindiana.blogspot.com/) entertained us with his commentary on the IBJ’s reporting of the club’s financial troubles. Like its counterpart, the Athletic Club, the Columbia Club is a relic of the past. It’s just a matter of time before progress marches on and remakes this landmark into a business open to the public.

One tradition dies, another takes its place, and what a perfect place for a great restaurant. The Harrison Room and Bar and Grille on the first floor have built-in ambiance. There’s no need to hire a restaurant decorator/couturier to create a faux atmosphere, CC has the real deal.

It has the other gold key to success—location, location, location. It’s close enough to cultural, sports, political and business events, but just far enough from the beef-obsessed, manfood-environment surrounding Circle Center Mall.

The Columbia Club has culinary staff currently in place who could step up to the plate. As we know, though, that’s not how corporate America works. So when the Columbia Club goes public, what chef should be in charge?

Let the dreams begin…

What about Susan Goss and her husband Drew? Maybe Indy could get down on its collective knees and beg them to come back. I know you foodies have fond memories of their restaurant Something Different. Maybe we could call the new one Something Republican? Or, Something WASP?

We don’t have to go to Chicago to find talented chefs. They’re right here in our backyard. Let’s lure Lisa Williams away from Joseph Decuis in Roanoke. What about the Tallents of Bloomington?

Indianapolis made sports history this year when Tony Dungy was the first Afro-American coach to win the championship. Jacque Pepin has voiced concern that the U.S. has produced no breakout Afro-Americans chefs. What’s to keep Indy from having the first Afro-American superstar chef? Maybe we could lure Chef Sam Brown away from Fairbanks to take over? I know he’d get that Cordon Bleu mojo going and create a spectacular restaurant. Or, maybe there’s some other home talent that moved to LA, New York or New Orleans who’d like to come back and make us proud? Any nominations?

Alas, news in the Star last week, dashed out hopes for a new Columbia Club. John Ketzenberger reports that they’re searching for a new General Manager and trying to soldier on.

We know better. It’s only a matter of time, and then the Columbia Club is ours. Storm the Bastille, down with the Ancien Regime. This mighty clique will be overrun by outsiders, arrivistes and wannabes. And good food.

You bloggers are much smarter and more knowledgeable than I am. The day is coming when we will have an Indy-based superstar restaurant worthy of our home talents, produce and traditions. Who would you nominate for chef de cuisine? Hungry Hoosier (http://www.hungryhoosier.com/) Indy Food (http://indyfoodie.blogspot.com/) Vintage Kitchen (http://myvintagekitchen.typepad.com/), what are your ideas? What name should we give our restaurant? What food will we serve? Share your wishes, hopes and keep dreamin’

Written by Susan Gillie

February 26, 2007 at 12:51 am

Sustainable Earth Information Sheet

Originally published on indyrats.com.

Website
http://www.sustainableearth.net

Purpose
“Sustainable Earth is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit membership organization committed to the development of sustainable family farming systems and community food systems involving family farms.

We are committed to developing a parallel food system that can supply nutrient dense foods that are free of toxic chemicals…Consumers receive much beneficial information on nutrition and about how their food is grown, processed, transported and marketed.”
Indiana Directory of Organic and Natural Food Sources, 2006-2007 Edition

Annual Membership Categories
•Sustaining $250
•Supporting $100/$20 conference discount
•Small Business $70/$15 conference discount/1 business card ad in newsletter
•Family $50/$15 conference discount
•Individual $30/$10 conference discount
•Student $15/$10 conference discount

Membership
•Quarterly newsletter, Sustainable Food and Farming News
•Discounts to the annual Midwest Small Farm Conference and Trade Show
•Networked to farmers and consumers with similar goals

Sample Newsletter
Email sustainableearth.steve@verizon.net

Membership Application

Fill out the form below and mail with your check. Donations are tax deductible.

Enclosed is my membership for 12 months.
(Indicate membership category)

Also enclosed is a donation of $____________

Name: __________________________________

Address _________________________________

City ________________________ST___________

Zip ____________Phone ( ) ______________

Email _____________________________________

Mail to Sustainable Earth, 100 Georgton Ct, West Lafayette, IN 47906

Written by Susan Gillie

February 15, 2007 at 12:48 am

Farmers Talking To Farmers

Originally published on indyrats.com.

Cold, biting cold. In the still, winter cold that settles just before a blizzard, farmers from all over Indiana gathered at the Montgomery Co. 4-H Fairgrounds. Farmers talking to farmers.

The 2007 Midwest Small Farm Conference was held in Crawfordsville last Saturday. Sustainable Earth, a “not-for-profit membership organization committed to the development of sustainable family farming systems and community food systems involving family farms” hosted the event.

Farmers talking to farmers.

This year’s conference featured experts from Purdue University and St. Mary’s of the Woods. Jerry Nelson and Jim Lazar, Purdue Cooperative Extension demystified business plans. Rick Foster, a Purdue entomologist, explained insect management. Mark Trela of White Violet Center, St. Mary of the Woods, talked about correcting deficiencies in market gardens.

Small farmers shared their experiences, successes/ failures, and solutions. Andy Hamilton talked about transitioning Musgrave Orchard in Bloomington into an organic orchard. Moe Parr, a Lafayette farmer, shared his success in converting cooking oil into biodiesel fuel. Kerry Estes of Fountaintown told how he manages grazing systems for dairy cows.

Steve Bonney, farmer and founder of Sustainable Earth, explored the nutritional value of foods and how small farmers can position it to command fair prices. Greg Gunthorp, LaGrange shared his family’s experiences processing livestock, selling across state lines and niche-marketing to high-end, white tablecloth restaurants.

The advice was sensible and practical. To a city slicker like me, the challenges farmers face are beyond my ability to imagine (let alone manage). Experts gave their audience valuable information, but exchanges among and between farmers were just as important.

As information-packed as this conference was, the highlight was what else? Lunch. Tables covered with red-checkered cloths and arranged community-style allowed us to mingle and get to know each other. Lali Hess, owner of the Juniper Spoon, catered: seasonal soups, fresh bread, a winter salad and a cobbler of mixed berries topped with Trader’s Point Creamery yogurt. I can’t help it, I’m a cook and the purpose of this day’s discussion is to produce, distribute and cook good food. Lali’s food is clean, clear and crisp.

The conference was farmers talking to farmers, but in the spirit fostered by Sustainable Earth, the farmers reached out to the rest of us. They know that they need to us to remain in business and continue the traditions and lifestyles they cherish. Members of the Weston Price Foundation had an information table. I Farm took applications from farmers.

Conspicuously absent from the conference was Director Miller or any member of the staff of Indiana Department of Agriculture. Miller has repeatedly turned up his nose at small farmers; he prefers the corporate life. Too bad, he could have learned, he could have shared. He could have had a lunch that Governor Daniels and State Health Commissioner, Judy Monroe, are trying to trying to get Indiana citizens to eat.

Most important, Director Miller could have learned this: Greg Gunthorp, a small farmer and conference presenter, has turned away from CAFO and commodity farming that ISDA promotes. He couldn’t make a living; he couldn’t continue his family’s tradition. Instead, he turned to Chicago chefs. Each week Greg delivers fresh hogs, chickens and ducks to Chicago’s best restaurants. He sells to an upscale Mexican restaurant, as in Frontera Grill, as in Chef Rick Bayless. And Greg’s first customer? Charlie Trotter, the chef who put Chicago on the culinary map.

If he had attended the conference, he would have learned that Charlie Trotter wants the hogs Greg Gunthorp raises and is willing to pay for them. He would have learned that Charlie Trotter doesn’t want the hogs Director Miller is trying to bully rural Indiana into producing.

Written by Susan Gillie

February 15, 2007 at 12:19 am

Parsley

Originally published on indyrats.com, February 6, 2007

Long before Bill Clinton’s behavior made certain sexual practices a part of our vernacular, there was a joke circulating in the early eighties. I first heard it at a yuppie/happy hour in the bar/lounge of the Cork and Cleaver in Bloomington.

The joke goes like this:
Question: What’s the difference between p____ and parsley?
Response: Nobody eats parsley anymore.”

Although the joke is now an old, overused chestnut, it was risqué and hysterically funny at the time. Lately, though, I’ve been wondering, why doesn’t anyone eat parsley anymore?

Or do they?

If people aren’t eating parsley, they’re buying it. Major Indy grocery chains, Kroger, Marsh, Meijers, sell fresh parsley. Parsley isn’t stuck away in a corner, shoved into little plastic packages and sold $2.49 for eight sad-looking leaves, No siree, curly-leaf parsley is front and center in the produce section. Vivid, bright-green, healthy-looking leaves, usually priced less than buck for a large bunch.

I buy parsley and use it. It’s great as a breath freshener. Toothpastes have artificial sweeteners; parsley is “chlorophylly” and removes that tannic aftertaste. Parsley is practical as a decoration. Instead of buying grocery-store bouquets with dyed flowers imported from Brazil, I’ll buy one or two flowers and pair them with sprigs of parsley. Combats cabin fever this time of year.

I buy parsley and eat it too. Tabbouleh wouldn’t be tabbouleh without parsley. It’s essential for bouquet garni. Without persillade scattered over the tops, cream soups are positively anemic. Add some lemon zest, and voila! persillade becomes gremolata.

I’m not the only one thinking about parsley, lately. Last Thursday, Barbara Damrosch wrote this article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/31/AR200701…)
entitled The Herb That Stands Up to Winter.

In it she says:
“There aren’t many green plants you can pick generous bunches of in January, but parsley holds its own with spinach, leeks and kale. Also, there aren’t many culinary herbs whose flavor is mild enough to eat in large quantities. Recently I pureed a big bunch of it with some cream, then simmered the mixture to reduce and thicken it, melting in some Parmesan cheese and pouring the sauce over ravioli. It drew raves, as did a quiche in which parsley was the key player.
Eager to explore more uses, I consulted some of my favorite cooks. Fergus Henderson’s “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating” contains a great recipe for parsley salad, a simple affair in which it is chopped, mixed with capers and shallots, then sprinkled with coarse salt, dressed with a lemon vinaigrette and spread on toast along with the marrow from roasted veal bones. I should think tuna, salmon, tongue, liverwurst, paté and other meats or fish could substitute for marrow if you had none at hand.
Chef Odessa Piper, a wizard with vegetables, makes parsley salads that stand alone, with a chewy Parmesan added or with slices of prosciutto. She also combines parsley with endive (a classic winter salad staple) to take the edge off the endive’s bitterness. Piper puts bright green swirls of parsley puree on top of soups. She’ll drop a bunch of it briefly in a pot of boiling pasta water, just to blunt the rawness, and then serve it mixed with the cooked pasta, oil and crumbled goat cheese. She ranks parsley high among the herbs that are delicious when fried to a crisp in hot oil or in the bubbling, flavorful fat at the bottom of a pan in which a chicken has been roasted.”

So what chefs in Indy are starring parsley front and center? As you know, I don’t get out much, so I checked.websites. I surfed the net and found menus for Elements, L’explorateur, Oakleys Bistro, Dunaways, Oceanaire and St. Elmos. Menus mentioned all kinds of herbs, spices, flavorings and seasonings: garlic, fennel, sage, miso, saffron, cracked black pepper, kosher salt, thyme, rosemary, basil (really? in the middle of the winter? I thought seasonality was the buzzword), ginger, pickled ginger, capers, cilantro, horseradish, sorrel, salsify, daikon. I’m sure they’re using parsley in some of those recipes, but little parsley is like Cinderella, left in the attic because she’s too unimportant to attend the ball.

Perhaps you’ve had a delicious dish made with parsley at a local restaurant. We’d loved to know about it. Or maybe you have a special dish, recipe or use for parsley that you’d like to share with us. Feel free to post.

You can appreciate parsley in its glory and splendor at Bloomingfoods Market and Deli. Create your own salad from their delicious salad bar and top it with Tao dressing. Better yet, ask them to bottle some up for you and take it home. Parsley, along with spinach and other herbs serve as the backdrop for this creamy dressing.

What I like about parsley in Indianapolis is that it’s egalitarian. Cronyism, so rampant and destructive to our city, hasn’t corrupted our little soldier parsley. You can find it anywhere—Greenwood, Speedway, Irvington—you don’t have to drive all the way to Carmel or 96th Street to buy it. Even ghetto Lo-Bills and Kroger have parsley. Price is stable, no gouging urban poor for this product.

So what happened in the late 70’s/early 80’s to put parsley into such a long exile? Was parsley our mother’s (or are father’s) herb and therefore too uncool for us to take seriously? Was parsley lumped with Buicks, Cadillac’s, girdles, Old Spice, iceberg lettuce and Wonder Bread? Was it too WASP and not exotic enough for our tastes? Was it the bottles of desiccated parsley sold on spice racks that sealed its fate? Did basil and balsamic vinegar run rampant, leaving poor little parsley behind as roadkill?

Whatever the reason, it’s time to bring parsley back, because it never went away.

O

Written by Susan Gillie

February 6, 2007 at 12:06 am

The UnFood Food Column

Originally published on indyrats.com,  February 2, 2007

The local food press is active and alert as any in the nation and a pleasure to read”
Jeffrey Steengarten’s article In Search of a Cuisine

Does Indy have a food scene? Or are we hapless, ignorant, overfed hicks who settle for Applebee and Chili’s chain/franchises? Are we like Las Vegas, so barren of agricultural bounty and cultural heritage that we have to import Puck to run our art museum’s restaurant?

When Ruth Holladay wrote about the 86th and Haverstick Road lawsuit, a local food pundit errupted in anger.
“If Whole Foods doesn’t come to Indy, it won’t be Judith Conley’s fault, or Tom Kite’s, or the City-County Council’s. Nor will it be because the supposedly community friendly store is put off by our contentious wrangling (Whole Foods grocery happily located its Upper West Side location in the bottom floor the NYC’s Columbus Circle Time Warner building amid much gnashing of teeth.)

It will be because we just may not yet be big or affluent enough yet for the high-end. organic grocery” (FeedmeDrinkMe, August 19, 2006)

Gee whiz, we’re not only dumb hicks, we’re po’ trash! Even if we did know what foie gras is, we sho’ nuf couldn’t afford it.

I see Indianapolis as a work-in-progress, a glass half full, not half empty. And the food scene is a pot simmering, about to come to a full boil. Not only are we big enough and rich enough for a Whole Foods store, we’re getting one twice as big as their normal store. (Does that makes us twice as affluent?) Trader’s Point Creamery was started just a few years ago, and is gaining momentum. We have two culinary schools, each with different approaches, but turning out talented cooks. There are two Slow Food conviviums in the state. Even though our agricultural policy is draconian, sustainable farming is alive and well.

We may not be San Francisco or Seattle when it comes to restaurants and farmers markets, but guess what? San Francisco wasn’t San Francisco 30 years ago when Alice Watters started Chez Panisse. And Seattle, ditto twenty years ago. Good “terroir,” talented chefs and an active, creative press buillt the foundation for dynamic food scenes.

It’s for that reason, I’ve decided to write a weekly food column for indyrats. Once a week for the next year, you can read The Unfood Food Column on this blog. It’s going to be quirky, a little Laurie Colwin, a little Jeffrey Steingarten.

It won’t have restaurant reviews or recipes. Passion, not money fuels this writing. There’s no expense account, and since I’m a professional cook, the budget doesn’t allow for much dining out. Besides, Terry Kirts of Nuvo magazine does such an admirable, informative job, why bother?

You won’t find tuna casserole recipes or five-in-a-fix in this column. You’ll have to go to Gannett for that.

Don’t expect conniseurship, chef worship or food porn. Renee Wilmeth of FeedMeDrinkMe does the wine/restaurant/chef scene with elan and irritation. Sweet, gentle Christine Barbour is tops in food photography (and writing) at her My Plate Or Yours blog. And of course, there’s Indianapolis Monthly and the new Indianapolis Dine magazines to provide you with all the salivating you need.

This column is about things we enjoy and think you will too, like Fromage Blanc and Lodge cookware. It’s an insider/back of the house view of the food industry. We’ll visit talented farmers and purveyor’s.

We’ll discuss the economics and politics of food in Indianapolis and Indiana. The first Unfood Food Column was about the disconnect between Governor Daniels efforts to curb Indiana runaway appetite while the ag department ramps up meat and processed food production. Expect to revisit that issue again.

This weekend the Colts go to the Super Bowl and here’s hoping they win. Even if they don’t, the Indianapolis food scene will score a championship.

“Chef Greg Hardesty, co-owner of the Indianapolis restaurant Elements, is going to be representing the Indianapolis Colts in this years Taste of the NFL. Hardesty will be preparing beef carpaccio for 3,000 people. The dish will feature local food, including beef from Fischer’s Farm in Jasper, IN and Fleur de la Terre from Traders Point Creamery. The event hosts more than 30 chefs from around the country who create special recipes for the Super Bowl.” (Trader’s Point Creamery Newsletter, February 2, 2007)

Go Colts, go Chef Hardesty–put those chi-chi chefs from Chicago and San Francisco and Seattle to shame.

Written by Susan Gillie

February 2, 2007 at 11:55 pm