Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Good Scone is Hard to Find

I admit that sometimes I am judgmental.

Especially when it comes to baked goods.

I don’t think you have to be the world’s best baker or foodie to appreciate a fresh, made-from-scratch bakery item. The difference between a muffin made from a mix, or made by hand from fresh ingredients is palpable.

I’ve been disappointed many times going into a café that serves great coffee, but mediocre baked goods. Typically, the muffins and breads are a bit too sweet and cake-like, and the scones are either tough and doughy, or too dry and flavorless.

Good scones seem particularly hard to find. However, today I hit upon one of the best scones I have had in Madison, at a café that is arguably one of Madison’s hidden treasures.

Ironworks Café, in the Goodman Neighborhood Center, is a testament to excellent business practices and a successful community enrichment program. The café, which is tucked into a sunny corner of the building, serves up delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners. All of the food is cooked from scratch. The meals feature local and seasonal ingredients and are served up by students enrolled in East High School’s alternative education program. As a matter of fact, the students, under professional direction, are responsible for all of the café's operations.

And they serve incredible scones. The scones are buttery and crisp on the outside, yet flakey and tender, but not doughy, on the inside. A cup of dark roast Just Coffee with brown sugar cubes provided the perfect compliment to the dried cherry scone I devoured today. Judging by my plate of crumbs, I will be back!

Goodman Community Center

149 Waubesa Street
Madison, WI 53704
Phone 608.241.1574

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pinkoko Chocolates

What perfect timing. My husband and I celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary this weekend, and I wanted to bring something extra special along for our getaway. Got it! Two gleaming, delectable, mouth-watering Pinkoko Confection chocolates named 'Glitter Mint.'

Yeah, the name is kind of girly, but then again, that's the point. Pinkoko Confection owner and chocolatier, Kelly Kuran, wants to celebrate chocolate's flirty sexiness, along with its elegance.

And these are definitely fun and elegant chocolates with uncompromised taste and quality. Glitter Mint chocolates contain pure Valrhona chocolate, organic cream, subtle mint flavor and a touch of glitz (her other top-shelf chocolates include ‘Bare,’ which showcases unadulterated ganache, ‘Whiskey a Ko Ko,’ infused with Knob Creek whiskey, and ‘Little Black Dress’ decorated with edible pearls). I think my husband will get over it. In fact, I think he'll love them as much as I do. Here's to a year!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sassy Cow Creamery

Sometimes the best things are hard to find. Take Sassy Cow Creamery, for example. This new dairy opened just over a year ago, bringing farmstead milk and ice cream to very happy Southern Wisconsin residents.

Getting to there proves to be a worthwhile challenge. Google directions send you about 15 miles out of the way, or 20 if you are like me and turn the wrong way on Bristol Rd. Let’s just say that Bristol Road offers lots of options, starting, stopping and turning many times throughout the farmland. It reminded me of my favorite childhood book series, Choose Your Own Adventure. Except that only one option has a really fun outcome. That option is left.

Once you get to the dairy, prepare for a relaxing ice-cream eating experience. The view is beautiful, and the ice cream is delicious. Stop in for farm-fresh milk, or locally produced cheeses, jams and meats. Despite that fact that we live in dairy country, it is hard to find a dairy farm that still produces AND bottles milk on-site.

Not All Milk is Created On-farm

Unless you have a dairy farm, you probably don’t think about which particular cow or cows your milk comes from. In most cases it would be impossible; milk is usually shipped from dozens of dairies to a central processing facility before it ever reaches the grocery store. Luckily, a resurgence of farmstead milk and on-farm bottling gives us an opportunity to make fresh and healthy choices.

Sassy Cow Creamery, located in Columbus, WI, is one of a growing number of local dairies that are producing farmstead milk. James and Robert Baerwolf, the brothers who own and operate the creamery, offer both traditional and organic rBGH-free milk and milk products (a.k.a. ‘delicious ice cream’) from their two herds. By tagging each bottle of milk with the name and photo of the wide-eyed, fuzzy-nosed supplier, they have ensured a personal connection between their farm and your stomach. Thanks, Tessa, for this week’s milk!

Knowing where our food comes from, specifically the energy, chemicals and labor that go into producing and transporting it, allows us to make choices that support sustainable agriculture, healthy food and our local economy. Sassy Cow milk is one such product that deserves our support. The beauty of Sassy Cow milk is that you don’t have to go to the creamery to enjoy it, though I recommend it as a fun (and adventurous) family outing. Local and regional stores and restaurants have been quick to pick up their fresh milk and scrumptious ice cream. With flavors like Dark Cherry Chocolate and Caramel Brownie, it’s hard to go wrong.

Getting There/Events

By the way, the better way to get to the dairy, in terms of time and gas mileage, is Highway N, straight off of 151. Follow it until you see the bright red dairy store. You can’t -- and don’t want -- to miss it!

Visit Sept. 20th at Sassy Cow Creamery for South Central WI's Home Grown Food Festival – hay rides to the dairy farm as well as a market, and of course ice cream. Also SSC will be at the Food For Thought Festival Sept 26 on Capitol Square.

W4192 Bristol Rd.

Columbus, WI 53925

608-837-7766 / 608-445-2010

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Eat Your Way Through September

September Southern Wisconsin Food Event Round-up

It’s all about storing up for winter. Storing up good times, fun events and good food. Here are a few options for food-loving Wisconsinites for the month of September. Get out while you can!

Saturday, Sept 12, 2009

1. Hold your horses, or at least your bike. MACSAC’s (Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition) Bike the Barns tour promises to be a wonderful and fulfilling event. Fully filling! This fundraiser/bike ride covers 52 miles of beautiful Wisconsin countryside with the aim of…eating for a cause. All proceeds, including pledges collected by bike riders, will support MACSAC's Partner Shares Program, which aims to increase low-income households’ access to fresh, local vegetables in southern Wisconsin. This is one bike ride that is not only worth taking, it will earn you serious karma credits.

Registration may be full, but you can enjoy the benefits of this event even if you can’t make this year’s ride. Enjoy Café Soleil’s amazing pastries and breakfasts all year on Capitol Square in Madison, WI. Or enjoy catering by Underground Food Collective at your next event. If farm-fresh food is your thing, check out the large selection of CSA options on MACSAC’s website. Remember, CSAs are not just for vegetables; enjoy egg, milk, flower and meat shares, too!

2. If you’d rather bike, or drive, to a single destination, head to Vermont Valley Community Farm for the Pesto Fest. Vermont Valley Community Farm, located not too far west of Madison in Blue Mounds, is a Wisconsin organic farm mainstay. The Pesto Fest is a great opportunity to try your hand at farming, meet some other foodie friends and eat pesto. Yum! The farm supplies basil, parsley (U-pick) and garlic, and you bring anything else you might need. Enjoy it over some fresh boiled pasta (VV provides the pasta), or with other picnic items that you bring, before you leave. Arrive between 12-3 p.m. and start picking!

Vermont Valley Community Farm
4628 County Hwy FF, Blue Mounds, WI 53517
(608) 767-3860

3. Truly the heartland of the heartland, Stoughton, WI offers a hearty sampling of local food during Local-motion: An Eat Local Crawl. This Saturday’s event features ten locally owned food spots that will be serving everything from snacks to meals, made with locally grown ingredients.

The walkable (though aptly named “Crawl” might hint at other modes of locomotion) includes the following stops:
*Cheesers (cheese) at 186 E. Main
*Montage (ice cream) 217 S. 4th St.
*Page Street Pizza (pizza) 971 N. Page St.
*The Yahara River Grocery Co-op
* Main Street Kitchen, 334 E. Main St.
* Sonny's Bar & Grill, 151 E. Main St.
* All Through the House, a cooking specialties store at 160 E. Main St.,
* Bella Roma Italian Bistro
*Fosdal Home Bakery
*Main Street Pour House

All crawl spots are within a three-block area on Main Street.

The crawl takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on September 12. Each restaurant will charge $2 to $5 for its menu items. Detailed information at the Daily Page.

Monday, Sept. 14, 2009

If the weekend left you in a food coma, then you are in perfect shape for sitting back and enjoying Slow Food UW’s first Family Dinner Night of the fall semester.
This week’s dinner will feature Moroccan/Israeli dish called shakshuka. Shakshuka is a rustic tomato-based dish eaten directly out of the pan using bread as the main utensil. Leading the dinner will be Dani Rozman, a new member of Slow Food UW and world traveler.

Cooking workshop begins at 4 p.m. (for the first 12 people to volunteer). Dinner is served family style around 6:30. Dinner is served in the kitchen at The Crossing (in the basement). The dinner costs $5 for members or $7 for non-members. A home-cooked meal deal!

The Crossing
1127 University Ave. at Charter St.
Madison, WI

Saturday, September 20, 2009

Knowing the name of the cow that gave you milk puts a new twist on the concept of knowing where your food comes from. That is exactly what Sassy Cow Creamery wants its customers to know. This small dairy, which opened just a year ago in Columbus, WI, produces both organic and conventional milk which it bottles and sells. Head out to Sept 20 from 1-4 p.m. for South Central WI's Home Grown Food Festival for a farmer's market, local food tasting, ice cream social, cooking demonstration, creamery tour, education programs on growing and preserving produce, and more. Meet Maisy and Clover while you’re at it. Fun for the whole family!

Sassy Cow Creamery
W4192 Bristol Rd.
Columbus, WI 53925
608-837-7766 / 608-445-2010

Saturday, Sept 26 2009

It's time again for the annual Food for Thought Festival, with keynote speaker Michael Pollan. This event explores and celebrates our many opportunities to eat more pleasurably, healthfully and sustainably. Enjoy thought-provoking activities including kids activities, food sampling, music, food sampling, cooking demonstrations, food sampling, and more (food sampling). Just to whet your appetit, check out demonstrations by local chefs from Weary Traveler and Crema Cafe. Sample milk from Organic Valley and chocolates from Pinkoko confections. I'll welcome samples at the kid's activity tent in the morning.

Festival runs from 8 am-1:30 p.m.
Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (off Capitol Square Madison, WI).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

End-of-Summer Habanero-Pineapple Salsa

My favorite way to enjoy tomatoes as a kid was simple. Sliced, on bread with mayonnaise. I still enjoy the taste of sliced, fresh tomatoes, but tend to dress them up a bit more. Tomato-cucumber salad, or insalata caprese are two of my favorite summer tomato dishes.

When the tomatoes start coming on in full force, as they are now, I start figuring ways to preserve them for the months ahead. The instinct to store food for the long, bleak winter appears to be engrained in my DNA. As I rummage around in the tomato bed grabbing whatever is ripe or near ripe, I find myself wondering how closely related to those nut-grabbing squirrels we are, or rather “I am.”

Not only are tomatoes in full force in my garden, but I also noticed that the leaves are dying on the plants. Blight, or possibly end-of-summer decay, has left me wondering how many more of the tomatoes will ripen before the frost hits.

In my state of morose expectation, I had to do something radical. I decided to make a fruit salsa. I combined perfectly ripe pineapple, roasted red peppers and an assortment of tomatoes and hot peppers. No small mammal could come up with something this good. This cheery, sweet and hot salsa should keep me remembering the good ol’ days of summer well into fall--if it lasts that long.

End-of-Summer Habanero-Pineapple Salsa

1 red bell pepper, roasted

1 serrano, roasted

1/2 poblano, roasted

1-2 habanero peppers, not roasted (though you could try it)

1/4 pineapple, de-cored and skinned, roasted

2 large red tomatoes

1 handful of sweet cherry tomatoes (Sungold are my favorites)

1 Green Zebra tomato

1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro

1 tsp salt

3 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tbsp lime juice

1 large clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped

1. Preheat grill to about 350 or 400 to roast peppers and pineapple. I would like to say you can also do this under a broiler or on a stovetop, but it never works for me. Inevitably I burn them, or they don’t blacken evenly. Anyway, grill the peppers except habanero (or feel free to experiment) until skin is evenly blackened and blistered. Immediately put them in a plastic bag and close. Let the peppers “sweat” for 15 minutes or so. The skin should peel right off. Slit peppers, remove seeds.

2. Stick roasted Serrano and poblano in a blender. Don’t blend yet!

3. Add half of roasted red pepper to blender. Chop other half into small pieces and put in bowl.

4. Cut pineapple by cutting off the top and bottom. Stand pineapple up and slice off outer green “skin.” Cut lengthwise down middle and then cut out core in a triangular shape. Eat the core. Do this to both sides. You should have 4 lengths of pineapple. To get my exact measurements, you have to eat 2 chunks of pineapple. Stick the rest on the grill and grill about 5 minutes on each side until just browned.

5. Slice three large chunks (about 1 cup?) from 1 piece and set in blender. Chop another 2 chunks or so into small pieces and place in bowl with red pepper pieces. I have about 1 and a half pieces left for breakfast!

6. Place 1 large tomato, roughly cut, 1 Zebra or other smallish yellow tomato, and a handful of sweet cherry tomatoes in blender.

7. Blend away. Set aside.

8. Put gloves or plastic bags over hands. Cut habanero in half and remove seeds. Finely chop pepper and put into bowl. Discard pepper pieces and gloves. Wash hands. This stuff can hurt!

9. Chop 1 red tomato and cilantro and put into bowl.

10. Add the blended mixture to bowl of chunky pieces and stir.

11. Now comes the fun part. Add a touch of salt, a squeeze of lemon and lime, crushed or chopped garlic, vinegar, and anything else you think I missed.

12. Enjoy with chips, on fish, or any other way you deem delicious. Photo shows Trader Joe's plantain chips.Yum!

P.S. Since this is not canned, it need to be refrigerated and used within a week or so, or can be frozen, though it will lose texture. You could blend it before or after freezing to avoid mushiness or freeze parboiled tomatoes and diced peppers and get other ingredients as needed. Let me know how it works for you!