Eat Local Challenge, Week 4 recap

What a week, what a week. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

We were on vacation during the first couple of days, in the land o’ meat, the Windy City (it really is windy there, seriously), Chicago.

I’ve been to the city many times previously but this was the first time with the kids. Accordingly, the trip was all about kid-friendly activities and kid-friendly food.

But I still tried to sneak in some local Chicago food specialties when I could.

SUN 8/22
Spent the afternoon at Navy Pier, center of the kid-friendly universe in Chicago.



After a busy afternoon, we couldn’t muster the energy to take the kids out for dinner someplace, so instead we ordered in at our hotel. Chicago-style deep dish pizza from Gino’s East, a local institution.

When we called to place the order for our pepperoni and sausage deep dish pizza, the guy asked us if we wanted the sausage crumbled or patty. Huh? Patty, I guess.

When the pizza arrived, we swooped in like vultures to devour it – we were greeted with a crumbly, buttery crust and thick layers of cheese, sausage and sauce, with pepperonis hidden within.
Aaahhhh, yummmmm. So much easier than going out, plus we got to watch the Vikings pre-season game while we ate.

MON 8/23
The sightseeing continued on Monday.
My husband standing suspended 103 stories above the street at Willis Tower Skydeck (formerly Sears Tower)
Me trying to figure out how to get to Shedd Aquarium via CTA

A skyline view from the Museum Campus
Look, we found Nemo!

Grabbing a quick bite to eat before the Shedd Aquarium shows, we sat outside and ate our Chicago-style hot dogs – Vienna Beef hot dog, poppy seed bun, chopped onions, tomatoes, relish, pickled hot peppers and a dill pickle spear, all sprinkled with celery salt.

Except, what’s wrong with this picture?

I didn’t find out until I returned to Minnesota that it’s considered a defilement to put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog. Absolute idiotic. I might as well have pee-ed on Oprah.

Next time, I’ll have to hire a local food ambassador to show me the ropes.

TUES 8/24
Made the long journey back to MSP via I-94 eating god knows what. Well, Amy knows what, but I’m not going to tell you.

Upon arriving home that evening, we were horrified to discover that we’d left the oven on while we were gone on vacation; it had kicked out heat for 4 1/2 days straight. Yikes!

The kitchen was hot as Hades, the kid’s Gummy Vites had melted into a thick gummy sludge, the chocolate chips on the top shelf of the cupboard had liquefied, and the jars in the cabinets were warm to the touch.

Thanking my lucky stars that the house hadn’t burned to the ground, I resolved to never again bake brioche right before leaving on a trip.

WEDS 8/25
Back to the grind! A perfect storm consisting of a house in disarray with little time to unpack or grocery shop; an avalanche of work deadlines and meetings cascading down on my head; and the realization that school was starting next week and there were a million details to attend to; meant that little time was devoted to cooking real food on Weds-Thurs-Fri.

Here’s the pantry meal we had on Wednesday night – Chicken tamales with green sauce

Local: Tamales (La Loma, Minneapolis, MN); tortilla chips (Whole Grain Milling Co., Welcome, MN); salsa (my home canned salsa, with tomatoes from my colleague’s garden and peppers, onions, chiles and cilantro from Audubon farmer’s market). Non-local: Amy’s refried beans.

THURS 8/26 & FRI 8/27
I had an overload of work due, so after picking up the kids at the end of the day and bringing them home, I headed back in to the office. Dinners consisted of a PB& J sandwich on Thursday (with local PB & my homemade raspberry jam) and Brasa leftovers on Friday.

SAT 8/28
I tried to make up for this week’s local food cooking shortfall by cooking meals at both lunch and dinner.

Lunch – Farfalle pasta with hot Italian sausage, peppers and onions

Local: Farfalle pasta (Dakota Growers, Carrington, ND), pasta sauce (Wee Willy’s, Afton, MN), hot Italian sausage (Mississippi Market deli-made from Grass Run Farms pork, Dorchester, IA), green pepper and onion (Audubon Farmer’s Market). Non-local: red pepper (Canada).

Dinner – Beef fajitas with chips and salsa

Local: Beef marinated fajita strips (Thousand Hills Cattle Company, Cannon Falls, MN); corn tortillas (La Perla, Minneapolis); green peppers, hot peppers and onions (Audubon Farmer’s Market); salsa (my homemade salsa). Non-local: red bell pepper, tomatillo salsa.

***

With the month of August ending and the Eat Local Challenge drawing to a close (my husband is probably quietly murmuring, hip hip hooray!), I feel in a rush to share with you many more local food experiences that I’ve had this month, but haven’t had time to tell you. I can’t fit them all in during the next two days so there will likely be several posts in September relating to this crazy whirlwind Eat Local quest of mine.

Plus, the canning chronicles continue this week too; so, please stand by….

Meditations on meatheads

I just got back from the Windy City last night, land of the meatheads. I don’t mean this as a derogatory term, but seriously, when I think of Chicago, I think meat, just like when I think Wisconsin, I think cheese. You’ve got the Chicago hot dog, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, and the list goes on.

When I was there, my friends and I got into a debate about the origins of the term “meathead”. I contended it came from Chicago with its storied turn of the century slaughterhouses and meat processing plants (The Jungle, anyone?)

I set out to prove my hypothesis by turning to my favorite online source of truthiness, Wikipedia, but got nowhere. Can anyone out there shed some light on the origins of this term?

I did try to do the right thing and made plans to eat some local, seasonal food there. We made reservations at North Pond, a restaurant situated near the lakefront, adjacent to the Lincoln Park Zoo. The write-ups and pictures I had seen made it sound like a Chez-Panisse type of place, and its chef was a James Beard award nominee.

Well, the crazy part was, we were not able to get there. First it took 45 minutes to drive there from the Irving Park area in the north part of the city, then we spent another 45 minutes circling around the park, trying to find parking. It turns out the restaurant doesn’t have a parking lot, and in fact, I don’t think you can even drive up to it at all, you have to walk across the park to get to it. Half of the street was signposted no parking. I’ve never seen so many parking tickets in my life.

We finally gave up and admitted defeat. This is the first time I’ve had to cancel a reservation because we couldn’t find a parking spot. Unbelievable.

Instead, we headed back the way we came and went to Kuma’s Corner. A 180 degree different vibe then the genteel North Pond. From Kuma’s website:

Welcome to Kuma’s Corner.com! We will assume you are here because you heard of us through some form of media outlets, and you want to see if we are “safe enough” for you and your sheltered existence.

We aren’t.

Best stay away. Yup. There is nothing here besides lots of hate, loud music, tattooed freaks with piercings as big as your fingers, and the best burgers that will ever come across your worthless palette of taste, you sack of uncooked flesh you.

If you are still tempted to drag yourself through our front doors to see what makes us better than you and the other establishments you have been to, then hurry. Drive from the suburbs. Wait in line. And EAT OUR FOOD.

What did I end up eating at Kuma’s? In addition to their fabulous mac and cheese with bacon and red peppers mixed in (could win an award for best mac and cheese, I’m sure), I also had a big slab o’meat in the form of a massive, juicy burger named the Lair of the Minotaur.

Served on a pretzel bun, the burger was topped by caramelized onions, pancetta, brie, and bourbon-soaked pears, an intriguing and delectable flavor combination. All washed down with craft beers from their amazing selection.

So I was driven to eat meat. It must be destiny in Chicago.

Now back home, it’s time to repent, must start eating the veggies again…

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