Stuff and More Stuff

Honors_market_tour_003

 

This
semester opened with a bang and I am already behind. Between classes (first exam already
tomorrow!), Bloom (met deadlines by
the skin of my teeth), Home Grown Indiana
(missed deadline, had to beg extension), and planning for KTR revisions (those deadlines stretch well into 2008) I haven’t
even paid the September 1 bills – at least those that aren’t on autopay. Note
to creditors: I am not broke (yet), just insanely busy. Please don’t sue.

But,
despite the hectic pace I’ve had some fabulous food experiences lately. Here are
some highlights.

Market Tour with Dave
Tallent

Yesterday
I took a group of seniors from the Honors College on a  “Market Tour
with Chef Dave.” The theme was “If You
Are What You Eat, Who Are You?” and we talked to farmers about alternative,
less-toxic ways to produce our food. As
we walked and talked and sampled cheese and yogurt and chocolate milk (!) we
planned a lunch menu with Dave based on what was fresh and delicious, shopped
for the ingredients and then headed back to Restaurant Tallent to cook a Slow
Food
lunch.

I
really think we had all 15 students in the kitchen at once, plus Dave and
Heidi, his sous chef, and Jason, the pastry chef. The Tallent crew made splendid teachers –
they had the kids making pasta from scratch, chopping vegetables, grating
cheese, making vinaigrette, stirring sauce, and producing a dynamite
lunch. We started with a salad of
arugula, apples, cherry tomatoes, and Traders Point Creamery Fleur de la Terre cheese. Then we had
two pasta dishes – a spicy one with Fielder Farms Italian sausage and a
vegetarian version with Capriole cheese, summer and winter squash, tomatoes,
eggplant, potatoes, onions and garlic, with lots and lots of basil. The pasta was tender and perfect, the sauces
exploded with all the flavors of this late summer/early fall weekend. For dessert we had picked up a cantaloupe that
turned out not to be sweet enough. Jason
to the rescue – he drizzled it with a bit of basil oil, balsamic reduction, and
honey and scattered it with sea salt and it was unexpectedly fabulous.

Then we scooted out of there and let the professionals have their kitchen back
so they could prep for a busy Saturday night. If I haven’t said it enough here
before, let me shout this from the rooftops: DAVE TALLENT IS MY HERO! Thanks, guys!

Chicago

 

Made
a quick trip to Chicago at the beginning of the month for our annual political science conference. Good dinner at Aigre Doux (though I ended up
with a 35 dollar water bill – I may be
swearing off bottled water as well as wine before too long), great dinner at
Coco Pazzo, and such a wonderful dinner at Salpicon that we went back for
brunch on Sunday before driving home. Had the best chilaquiles ever – rich and chewy tortillas, spicy and
complex sauce, and OUTSTANDING guacamole. After living here in the land of mediocre Mexican food, it was a total
indulgence.

Bloomington Food News: Truffles @ Tallent, the BLU Boys are Open; FARM is
Coming

Fortunately,
the non-Mexican food in this town just keeps getting better and better. Have had some excellent meals (what else?) at
Tallent lately – including a terrific steak frites with Fischer Farms beef and,
just Friday night, that baked ricotta that sent me over the moon a couple of
months back. The new fall menu starts
Wednesday. I had a peek and it all looks super but, get ready, Dave plans to
have white truffles on hand in late October for grating on pasta. Did I mention that that man is my hero?

Other
good local food news — the BLU Boy Chocolate Café and Cakery is up and running and oh
boy, oh boy, is it wonderful!!! I love
being able to pick up a great dessert without ordering it in advance – we
last-minute planners have desperately needed that in this town! I got a plum cake last weekend for a dinner
party that was superb! But all David
Fletcher’s stuff is lovely: the fat little cupcakes are sassy, the chocolates
are decadent, and the cookies are truly fabulous. And the iced tea, which is all Weight
Watchers wants me to have, is pretty darn good too.

And
it just keeps getting better. I am working
on a couple of stories about a new chef in town, Daniel Orr, who is going to be
opening FARM bloomington this fall in the Oddfellows Building next to the
Uptown Cafe. I’ve been dogging his
footsteps as he plans the business, overseas the renovation of the old building,
organizes the menu, the wines, the staff, etc. I’ve done these “behind the scenes” pieces on several restaurants now —
Tallent, when it opened as Flora, Du Soleil at the Indy Conrad (recently
reincarnated as the Capital Grille), and now FARM. I have a deep fascination with the details
behind restaurant-opening, and an enormous respect for those who take it on
(even though it always reinforces the chief lesson which is that I will never,
ever do it myself.)

FARM
will be a treat. Daniel has cooked
around the world, including some pretty serious stints in NY (La Grenouille,
Gustavinos) and Anguilla (CuisinArt), and now the Columbus  native is coming home to open a
casual restaurant that will bring his international flair to local ingredients. Very local — Daniel hasn’t named his place
FARM for nothing. He will even have a FARM
market in the front of the restaurant that will sell selected local delicacies
(and a window opening onto the alley that will sell crepes and thick, hot
waffles!)  The food in the back will be
eclectic – from small plates and wood oven pizzas to raw fish dishes and
heartier fare. I’ve gotten to try his cooking on a couple of occasions and it’s
damn good. Standouts have been
the marinated salmon belly with fresh herbs, coconut water and
white balsamic; paneer cheese in green coconut curry with basmati rice and
crispy shallots; a grilled sirloin salad with cucumbers and cilantro, spiced up
with one of Daniel’s own spice blends (also for sale in the market), and a cantaloupe
ice with candied grapefruit. Unexpected flavors, light, tantalizing and
fun. Stay tuned!

In My Kitchen

 

More_stuff_004

 

What else? I have promised a bacon posting and I am
still promising it. I made the bacon I
talked about – one with a wet cure, one with a dry and carted the pork bellies
over to Dave who smoked them for me. They were pretty salty and the one with the dry cure had enough sugar
around the edges that when I fry it up the edges caramelize and burn. But they are delicious, if intense, and I
made spaghetti carbonara with them last weekend and oh my! I used a variation of Sarah Leah Chases’s
recipe
which is not traditional, as it has lots of caramelized onions and mushrooms
in it but it’s really, really good. So
sautéed onions, and mushrooms, cooked down with some white wine, and tossed
with hot pasta, beaten eggs, cream and grated parmesan. Season with lots of pepper (due to the bacon,
mine didn’t need any added salt this time.) More on bacon to come, sometime
soon.

More_stuff_011

Got some of the last of the tomatoes at
market last week and made some yummy panzanella – an Italian bread salad full
of fresh vegetables. I am not sure how you are supposed to make it, but I make
mine by chopping up tomatoes and cucumbers and salting and peppering them and
letting them give up lots of their sweet juices. Add chopped onion and peppers and a bit of
garlic. I dress it with the best
possible vinegar and olive oil, and then toss in cubed stale bread. Some people sauté the bread in olive oil to
crisp it which is delicious, but rich; some soak it in water and squeeze it dry
first. I just dice it up and throw it in
there. When it has absorbed the juices
but it still toothsome, I add a good handful of chopped basil and adjust the
salt and pepper.

And the other day I got to craving
smoked salmon. Stopped at the Butcher’s
Block
and invested a small fortune is wild caught salmon, brined it (too much,
I think), coated it with brown sugar, dried it and stuck it in the smoker. It was pretty good but not great – I had to
use mostly hickory and the smell of that seems to strong for fish. Also it was a little too salty. Still, I think it will be great mixed into a
spread with some cream cheese. While I
was at it, I threw a block of Monterey Jack into the smoker too and I have been
sneaking surreptitious snacks of smoked cheese and Triscuits whenever I feel
the need of a delicious little something.

That’s all for now, folks (though I am
guessing that I am the only folk who has made it to the end of this post.) I’ll try not to be such a stranger….

Cheers.

 

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Ronnie says:

    I made it to the end of the post and loved reading about all of your culinary adventures. I especially liked hearing about your food and politics out of classroom experience. Would be a lot of fun to audit your class!

    Like

  2. Lydia says:

    Whew, you have been busy! September is always like that, whether you’re in school or not.

    Like

  3. Christie says:

    Christine, that new restaurant sounds divine, and the little alley-window sounds tres European. Love it. Please keep us informed on that. I had no idea a new restaurant was going in right there…
    FYI–I made panzanella yesterday, too. I use stale bread, so no need to soak in water or heat in the oven. It’s best just soaking up the olive oil, lemon juice, and tomatoes. Delicious way to end the summer.

    Like

  4. Cynthia says:

    No, you’re not the only one who made it to the end of this post 🙂 Thanks for the thorough round-up on what you’ve been doing.

    Like

  5. So how do I sign up for your next class? 🙂 Sounds great! And that panzanella looks delicious. I could eat it forever!

    Like

  6. David says:

    As much as I like Dan Orr and his restaurant, it’s important to remember that a bunch of poor people have been displaced from downtown Bloomington in order to create Uptown Plaza and Farm and etc.
    I love Bloom magazine, bu again, I feel like it’s a magazine for the part of Bloomington that is never poor, nor deals with poor people. That’s a serious issue, I think. A magazine that exists for the leisure class of Bloomington is not a magazine I want to hold up as representative of Bloomington culture.

    Like

  7. Meg Wolff says:

    Wow, fantastic picture of peppers!

    Like

  8. Susan says:

    Eat well – keep up your strength! Looking forward to your next post…whenever.

    Like

  9. Sarah A. says:

    I do my best to stay away from the Butcher Block — they charge criminal prices for their seafood ($25 a lb. for wild caught shrimp!). I don’t know if they still do, but Bloomingfoods on the West side had some beautiful wild caught Coho salmon for around $10 a lb.

    Like

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