Sunday, July 2, 2017

Local Foods

I get it.  It’s not always easy to find a diversity of local foods within the vastness of corporate agriculture.  Purchasing or gathering locally produced fruits, vegetables, grains, breads, cheese, eggs, seafoods, and meats is also an ethical decision for some of us.  Not all parts of the country can provide local goods and products for these food groups.  Not all local sources are tasty.  What options do we have beyond importation of food from faraway places?

I recently got a bunch of push back when I used the term local to define a locally acquired food product purchased while on a distant trip.  How can it be local when I live in the Midwest and this product is sold on along the coast in the Northwest?  The ensuing debate covered the traditional concepts of so many miles from one’s home to be called local.  I defended myself, but no convincing the traditionalist.  It should not be called local if acquired more than 50 to 100 miles from my house was the final ruling.

Local doesn’t have to be confined by geography, but confuses matters when used on food from far reaches.  Local to me can integrate a variety of means including family operated, organic, natural, fresh, raw, preserved, fair trade, seasonality, locavore, farm to fork, fisher to table, scratch, etcetera.  Local is such a simple term with broad emotions though.  I need to find a good term that allows me to describe this food acquired from a local merchant, farmer, or fisher anywhere, but then transported to my kitchen.  The transportation could be by me or by shipping.

My foodshed map can include more places thus more diversity then if I allow locally acquired and then transported to my home.  Recall, I am chasing flavor, want to support non-corporate farms, and not bound by the exceedance of some artificial diameter from my house.  To me, a family farm in Alaska that grows delicious cabbage without the use of synthetic pesticides can feel just as nice as from the farmer’s market in my home town.  I just need to have a way to get these foods to me since I cannot run around the country to only eat these items in the adjoining towns when they are ripe or ready.
    
Arguably, there needs to be some mitigation for shipping food over some distance.  Transportation has extra costs, delays can lead to spoilage of raw items, and there are environmental impacts.  Costs are relative.  Bottom line, high flavor typically costs more.  Spoilage is important.  Tasty cabbage that arrives unfit to eat has little value.  However, some local food products are preserved by smoking, pickling, or canning so time is not always critical.  The environmental impacts of the transportation system use more carbon fuels.  This environmental impact can be mitigated by using friends, family, or acquaintances to help transport the locally acquired foods. 

Hey, please pick me up a bunch of Gulf shrimp from the family boat in Cocodrie, Louisiana while you visit the south– as I tell my good friend.   This person is traveling back with or without my fresh shrimp.  Bam, no incremental increase in the use of carbon fuels for this transportation of locally acquired goods.  The social discourse from this transaction builds a network of likeminded individuals.

As you can see, I have a dilemma.  This can be confusing when I use the term local food to include other things.  What then do I call this food that I go out of my way to acquire from a family operated agriculture or aquaculture business and tastes great?   Perhaps inspired in the lyrics a song by Jimmy Buffett about being five o’clock somewhere: its local somewhere.

Please don’t get me started on all this craft fermented malt beverages and distilled spirits.  Up here in my mind, it’s all local.

All the best,
…Mike    

Saturday, May 27, 2017

State of Washington San Juan Islands


The family gathered on Lopez Island during the mid part in the of May.  This gathering was to celebrate the wedding between our oldest son, Nick, and our daughter-in-law, Nova.  Step one was to get onto Lopez Island from Iowa.  So the journey begins.



Lopez Island is part of the San Juan Islands group off of the coast of Seattle, Washington.  It is about 2,000 miles from our home in Iowa.  Road trip.  We loaded up four willing passengers, beverages, food, cameras, things for the family in Lopez, and headed to Anacortes, Washington to catch the ferry out to Lopez Island.  




Stop along the way out for a solid meal at Zombie Burger, Des Moines, Iowa.


Melody having some tomato soup in Anacortes, Washington before loading onto the ferry.



Here is Anacortes, Washington in the rear veiw mirror while winding our way through the San Juan Islands for the harbor landing at Lopez Island.


We passed another ferry going back to Anacortes full of cars and people.  The photograph below is approach Lopez Island from the ferry.


Did I mention that Nick and Nova also recently opened up a hyper local restaurant, Ursa Minor, in the Village of the Lopez Island?  Pretty cool, hey.  Lopez Island has a reputation of proud farmers growing produce and raising livestock.  Below: here we are filing into Ursa Minor after the drive down from the ferry.


Ursa Minor is an amazing eating establishment.  It has a lot going on with comfortable atmosphere, extremely fresh food, tasty menu, artisan fittings, fantastic people all in one of the most scenic places in North America.  You can't make this stuff up - do a reservation now.  Check out some photographs below from our tour of Ursa Minor.




It got more fun as more of the family showed up and as we mingled with Nova's family from northern Wisconsin.  They also drove out and gathered family members along the way.


Above: one of our other sons, Dane, showed up from Burbank, California.  He was welcomed by his cousin, Oscar.  Dane works for Walt Disney as a research imagineer.  We have some accomplished children - parent proud.  

We met all of the families as the restaurant was closed up to celebrate the wedding.  Below is a photograph of Nova's parents, David and Susan, enjoying the wedding reception meal at Ursa minor.  Nova's sisters (Laurel, Rebecca, Lily, and Kate) are around the table of four in the background and in the other photograph below as they got ready for the walk out to Iceberg Point for the wedding ceromony.  Beautiful family.  The first course of the reception meal included crab and a variety of oysters plus spreads for the bread from a local bakery. 

   




What a wedding.  The wedding was officiated by our middle daughter, Mariah, on a rocky point overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a gorgeous afternoon.  The wedding was attended by family and friends.  It was a very intimate experience.  


Melody and the girls, Claire, Mariah, and Alex, all ready for the wedding.


Take a left for the Coffey - Askue wedding.


Here comes the bride...




True North...

The wedding cake at the reception was from the local bakery, Holly B's Bakery, across the street - a fitting closure as one cannot get more local than across the street.  We are unable to show you a photograph of the cake before hand, because Charlie got to the last piece.  That's okay, because it was good too.


We got to spend some extra time on the Island visiting and site seeting before and after the wedding.   Check it out.  


Living room of our vacation rental home on the Island.  Left to right: Dane, Charlie, Chad, Oscar.


View from master bedroom skylight window of the Village on Lopez Island.


Susan and Melody visiting on Ursa Minor patio -
open now for seating as the weather has turned nice.


Nick, Dane, and Oscar conversing over the stove at Ursa Minor.


Mike's brother Chad, son Charlie, and girl friend Alex
with new cool hat from the ferry gift shop.


Great lunch restaurant on the Island - The Galley.


We got to enjoy the first Farmer's Market on Lopez for 2017.


Must stop juice bar among other things - Vortex


Hidden bay along the coastline of Lopez Island.


Photograph by Dane.

A great time was had by all.  We headed back home with the fondest of memories.  Nick and Nova have good visions and know what they are doing when it comes to oepning up a restaurant, getting married, and hosting a reception.  Love yas.




  

Dropping off Alex and offloading the car.


In our home driveway with Melody practicing the wave.
Waving to each other is a common practice on the Island.


...Happy Trails

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Fun in Ames and Des Moines, Iowa -

We spent a fun day in Des Moines and Ames, Iowa with a couple of the kids on a bright cold January day.  We will not mention the names of the children to protect the innocent.  The trip started with quick lunch at Fighting Burrito in Ames - one of our mainstays.  

Then off to Mars Cafe in Des Moines for the afternoon coffee and tea.  Nice cafe with good choices for single orgin whole coffee beans, although we did not get all of our espresso machine questions fully answered so we will be back to experiment with their drinks.  We toured the antiques and repurposed junk at West End Architectural Salvage on 9th Street in Des Moines.  Lots of cool found objects.   




One of many floors of stuff at West End Architectural Salvage.


Look at all of that old wood from historic buildings.

We visited the chain store Natural Grocers in Clive, Iowa, because we are getting one of these stores in our town now.  Nice place with some alternative choices in food items.  

Now here is where the trip gets to be even more fun.  One of the kids knew of a Britsh style pub just south of Ames, Mucky Duck Pub.  It felt like we were in London.  Let's see, we order haggis and mash, fish and chips, Cornish pasty, and steak pie with beans.  We started our meal with a Scotch egg and finished it off with spotted dick.  We encourage you to check out the menu at the link above for more on these authentic English dishes.  The Pub also sold food and non-food items from Great Britian and lots of different kinds of beers and much to our pleasure, lots of teas.  Our next date is for hot tea and sconces or crumpets.  This place is a must stop. 


Hot tea complete with an hour glass timer for duration of seeping period.


Scotch egg.


Our dates for the day trip.


Happy Trials...      




Monday, December 26, 2016

Quad City Style Pizza -

Four family members from the Quad City community gathered the day after Xmas 2016 to evaluate the adherence of Wise Guys Pizza and Harris Pizza to Wikipedia’s Quad City Style Pizza standards.  We ordered a half sausage and half cheese pizza from both establishments for our evening meal and rated the attributes.  We developed a rubric in advance of tasting based on the information from the article that included the following items.
  • One fourth inch crust with a raised lip for the edge
  • Nuttiness of the crust
  • Spiciness seasoning of the sauce
  • Sausage taste and texture related to fennel richness and double grind
  • All toppings under cheese
  • Cut into strips
  • Overall impression
The results indicated that Harris Pizza did a slightly better job of adhering to the Quad City Style Pizza standards as outlined in the Wikipedia article.  Harris Pizza received a score of 81 out of 92 and Wise Guys Pizza received a score of 75 out of 92.  If 100 percent equals the perfect Quad City Style Pizza then according to our results, Harris Pizza was 88 percent toward achieving the perfect score and Wise Guys Pizza was 81 percent.  The data for each attribute are in the table below. 

Attribute
Taster #1
Taster #2
Taster #3
Taster #4
Results
Harris
Wise
Guys
Harris
Wise
Guys
Harris
Wise
Guys
Harris
Wise
Guys
1/4-inch crust raised lip
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
8
Crust nuttiness
5
4
5
4
3
3
3
4
31
Spicy sauce
5
5
4
3
4
4
5
3
33
Double grind fennel flavored sausage
5
5
5
5
4
5
5
5
39
Cheese on top
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
8
Cut into strips
1
0
1
0
1
0
1
0
4
Overall impression
5
5
4
4
3
4
5
4
34
Subtotals
23
21
20
18
17
18
21
18
89
Harris Pizza total
81
Wise Guys Pizza total
75

Italicized attributes rated on a scale of one to five.
Normal font attributes yes for one point and no of zero points.

There was much debate among the tasters after tallying the data and reviewing the results.  Much of the debate centered around one taster’s views that a Quad City Style Pizza should not be penalized for cutting into triangles versus strips while another taster felt that this was a critical attribute.

Other comments included that the driver of the Wise Guys Pizza was very courteous.  The Harris Pizza came in a waxed paper bag with a twisted peak, not commonly seen.  Both pizzas were hot and timely. 


Large 16-inch Harris Pizza


Large 16-inch Wise Guys Pizza

Thank you Quad Cities...