Archive for February, 2009

A few posts ago, Maria wrote a glowing review of Diner for a Day, a breakfast/fundraiser hosted by Lisa Gottleib and Jeff McCabe, featuring local foods and supporting local farmers and purveyors. As I’m sure you gleaned from Maria’s post, it was a successful and delicious event, one that is inspiring some repeat performances–and, we hope, will become a regular occurrence.

It turns out that one breakfast/fundraising event featuring locally-grown food was such a hit that they held another breakfast last Friday, dubbing it “Selma Café”–a local foods breakfast salon with the goal of helping to “co-create the next wave of our local food community. “

As you might imagine, I’m pretty excited about this, and I’m one of several volunteers who are working to make this a regular event. I’d like to invite you to our March 6 Selma Café, which will take place from 6:30-10:00am at 722 Soule Blvd. Local chef Scott MacInnis will be manning the stove, and Rob Harper of Edible WOW and I will be the kitchen/service crew, on toast, coffee, clean-up and whatever-else-we-need-to-do-duty.

I really hope you can make it! Feel free to leave comments or e-mail me with questions. We’re also actively seeking volunteers to sign up to help keep this informal local food salon running, so please let us know how you can help.

Updates about Selma Cafe and other related events will be posted here.

More about Selma Cafe, in Jeff’s words:

Please join us every Friday morning from 6:30 to 10:00 at our casual breakfast gathering spot on the west side of Ann Arbor. Hosts Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe welcome you to pull up a chair and enjoy a meal from our guest chef. Come share, with your neighbors and friends, a little bit about what you feel is worth building in our community.

Selma Cafe is:

  • a hub, a center, a heart of the many ongoing efforts to improve our lives through community building and free access to affordable, healthy foods and efforts to foster right-livelihood in vocations with meaning and purpose
  • open 6:30 – 10:00 am every Friday as long as is viable
  • located at 722 Soule Blvd. Ann Arbor, MI The home of Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe
  • hosted each week by a chef who works with seasonal, local ingredients
  • a weekly podcast, with on-site host Jeff McCabe and guests, discussing subjects related to the re-localization of food economies.
  • for you!! Please come see us, pull up a chair, tell us what you would like to drink, to eat, what is on your mind. Pass through when you are able, or stick around and make it happen.
  • all-volunteer. Suggested donation is $10-$15 for breakfast. $3 for a cup of coffee or tea with biscotti. All proceeds go directly to the local farmers and producers that supply the ingredients and to non-profit groups working to expand access to healthy, sustainable food resources.
  • founded on the principals of openness, inclusiveness and transparency. We seek your help in building the tools and organizational structure to maintain these organizing principles.

Why do I care so much about Selma Cafe? Why am I considering waking up super early to help serve breakfast to strangers? I’ve been thinking for some time (and posted a comment to this effect on Jeff’s blog) that, while there are many efforts afoot in A2 that support local food, something has been missing — a center, a hub. There are the local producers and consumers of local foods who might meet up at the Farmer’s Market or at the farm for their CSA distribution. There was a local food summit meeting recently that generated good discussion about some future directions for local food community, policy, and projects. There is chatter on various blogs and e-mail listservs about eating and cooking in more sustainable and locally-supported ways, and a number of restaurants in the area are sourcing local ingredients. (Not to mention the many other efforts under way that I’m unaware of!)

All of these are right and good, and I’m glad we have this energy and vision and activity around local food here in Ann Arbor. But I’ve been longing for the social element—the real, in-person, hand-shaking, bread-breaking (and waffle-eating!), hanging-out time that a community needs to grow, to cohere, to be nourished, to sustain itself. I want to cook with Scott and make toast with Rob and drink coffee roasted by John Roos, with John Roos. I want to talk to Jeff McCabe about how he bakes bread and how to garden. I want to meet readers of this blog; please join us!

In short, whatever I’ve felt was missing from a sense of local food community was abundantly supplied at Diner for Day, and I’m hopeful that Selma Cafe might be able to feed this hunger.

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Something simple for supper

I enjoy using this blog for my musing on food and life and the spaces in between and for connecting with my food communities — the friends and comrades within walking distance and those in far flung places. I hope people enjoy reading it for all those reasons too.

But sometimes, dammit, it should just be about what to eat for supper. And this is what I ate the other night. Because I opened my March Gourmet magazine and said “ooh, that looks good and I have all the ingredients in the fridge.” And it was good, with a simple grilled steak and some roast potatoes. It would be really good with a roast chicken, as Gourmet recommends. The leftovers were good the next day, with a poached egg on top. The kicker? The leftover oil is lightly flavored and de-vine in salad dressing.

Carrot and Fennel Confit. It’s what’s for dinner

  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 small fennel bulb, stalks discarded
  • 1 1/4 cups olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 (3-by 1-inch) strips lemon zest, very thinly sliced

Shave carrots with a vegetable peeler into very thin, wide ribbons. Quarter fennel bulb lengthwise, then very thinly slice lengthwise, or do as I did and slice the bulb on a mandoline slicer (watch the fingers!)

Heat oil with cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over low heat until warm.

Add carrots, fennel, and zest and cook gently, without simmering, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just tender. The original recipe recommends 15 to 20 minutes, but I found it took closer to half an hour. Drain oil into a bowl and transfer vegetables to another bowl to cool to room temperature.

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A couple of weeks back, there was an email in my inbox from my friend Scott inviting the G3 and any and all friends to Diner for A Day, a fundraiser breakfast to support local farmers and producers and the completion of Chris Bedford’s latest film “Coming Home”, as well as providing seed money for a future edible schoolyard program (to be announced). Now, I’m always happy to attend an event where Scott cooks, so I rallied the troops and signed up the lot of us  (three bloggers, three partners, one three year old). Only later, when I began to see posters for the event around town and realized that it was to be held in a not-overly-large house not too far from my west side neighborhood did I begin to think “how will they pull this off?” And though I would not want Scott and his good compatriots such as Eve Arnoff and John Roos, and, most notably, the intrepid hosts, Jeff McCabe and Lisa Gottlieb, to think that I doubted them . . . well, I sort of expected to arrive and find a sign on the door that said “never mind, go home, get yourself some Lucky Charms.”

How did they pull it off? With both efficiency and style. The house was packed with people, many eating, many cooking, many serving, and all were in a great mood. We lingered long and could have lingered longer except for some sense of guilt at holding on to our seats when there were hungry masses to be fed. Scott told me they served 160 meals out of Jeff and Lisa’s kitchen that day.  All-American breakfasts, big waffles and fruit, elegant smoked salmon strata (Scott had smoked the salmon, Eve had assembled the strata) and wholesome AND delicious granola. And lots of John Roos coffee (and apple cider and tea for those of us who wimped on the prospect of more than one cup of that particular joe).

The food was great — well prepared, hot, efficiently served. And there was granola, milk, bacon and eggs to take home if you wished, as well as some very stylish t-shirts and dish towels to commemorate the event. But even greater was the good fellowship and the sense of being connected to my community and the way in which the room buzzed around the shared love of food and place (at least, I think that was it, not the coffee. Ok, the coffee probably helped).

Jeff and Lisa and friends are doing great work (and seem to be having great fun) with the SELMA co-op, reaching out to neighbors and organizing around sharing resources and skills, from lawn mowers to loaves of bread. I’m delighted to hear they’ll be  continuing the good work and fellowship (and food!) in a regularly offered Selma Cafe, a place for friends, neighbors and those of us interested in our connections to the land and to each other to gather to trade talk and toast.

And their biggest fan? Young Nick, who after 5, count ’em 5, pieces of bacon, two whole waffles and a heap of raspberries said “Mama, I don’t want to stop eating!” Later that day when I asked him what was his favorite part, he declared “all of it!” And for me too.

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mushroom bourginon

Upon ordering roasted marrow bones and toast at an Ann Arbor restaurant recently, the waiter asked me if I was from France, or had lived in France. When I told him that I had studied there years ago, he said, “Well that explains it. Only people who have spent time in France ever order marrow bones.” “Ah, but I was a vegetarian when I lived in France!” I thus confounded his theory. (The story of how I went from eating no meat to loving marrow bones is perhaps for another day. Let’s say that bacon played a key role.)

Since I learned my way around the kitchen during the years when I was not eating meat, vegetarian cooking is my foundation. I don’t really feel like anything is “missing” from a dish if it lacks meat. That said, I had been on quite a tear lately with the heavy, meat-laden dishes: in the space of about two weeks, I had made braised short ribs, cassoulet, roast chicken, coq au vin, and a meaty lasagne. I think this is my way of battling the brutal Michigan winter: spend hours in the kitchen, tending to something steamy and comforting in the oven or on the stovetop. This has the lovely effect of filling the house with awesome smells and the belly with hearty fare. It also has the unlovely effect of fattening up both me and E.

Something had to give.

The dish I want to share with you is the best of both words: a traditional French dish, sans beef. It’s great for when you want something that will sustain you on a cold February night, but don’t have the time or will to go to the gym twice a day to pay for it.


Mushroom Bourguignon
[Modified version of the recipe from Smitten Kitchen]

2 T or more olive oil
2 T or more butter
2 pounds mushrooms (I used some portobello and button, but crimini would be nice as well)
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
2 cups broth (veg, chicken, or beef – whatever you have on hand)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)

Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in two batches. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.

Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Add carrots, onions, thyme, salt and pepper into the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn up the heat until the liquid reduces by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes. Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir in. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, continue to boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.

Spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles and sprinkle with chives or parsley; add some sour cream if you like, though I don’t think it’s all that necessary.

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Just a quick note to pass on a bit of local food celebrity news that I gleaned this morning at Diner for a Day: local cake artist Heather Anne Leavitt will be on the Food Network Challenge this evening at 8pm, along with Courtney Clark of Cake Nouveau. Check it out!

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. . . and I’m back.

Both from several very full days in New York for work–where I attended a great, geeky, publishing conference and where I of course managed to find lots of good things to eat–and back to the blog as well. I won’t bore you with my tales of winter woe that has kept me from feeling inspired to do a lot of things, especially blogging. Suffice it to say that spending a good chunk of time in the city revived me, and hanging out talking about social media got me itchy to get back to G3.

Since I spent a few days thinking about new modes of writing and reading for the web, I thought I’d try a different composing tactic with this post and write up my food highlights in a Google Map. (So 2006, right?) Just drag the map around and click on the blue pins to find my little blurbs, or just go directly to the larger map view.

I’d love to know where you like to eat when you’re in New York! Feel free to add them to my map, or mention some places in the comments.

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