Category Archives: local farms

Raw milk in CT

You remember that guest post I promised from James on cheese making? Well, he added a bit too much salt to his raw milk camembert (though it is otherwise gorgeous)… Cheese is tough to make, because you learn from your mistakes 6 weeks later.  But it’s rather satisfying when things go right. I mean, seriously, how many people can say they make cheese? Aside from people who really make cheese. Or grad students who need a hobby to keep sane. But I digress…

The real issue I wanted to bring to your attention today is that he may not be able to make cheese for much longer. At least, not raw milk cheese.

CT is considering imposing new restrictions on raw milk producers.  You can read all about it here.  The bill, which proposes to enhance raw milk labeling requirements, limits sales to farms, and increases testing requirements, is a response to an e coli outbreak that was linked to a farm in Simsbury.  As I understand it, the outbreak was contained to 14 people, as the farm had stopped distributing milk as soon as their tests indicated they had a problem.   Yes, this is serious, but somehow, I’m guessing peanut butter won’t require farm sales or warning labels only anytime soon.

There are actually excellent raw milk and raw milk cheese producers in CT that  would experience a serious hardship if this proposed legislation were to pass (more details here, if you’re interested).  If you have any interest in this, and you live in CT, consider writing a letter. If you don’t have time to write one, I can send you the draft James put together. Just post a comment.

UPDATE: The proposed restrictions died at the committee level.

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Filed under local farms, milk

New York in January

It’s 3 weeks until the thesis is due, and let’s face it, if you’re in the US, you’re more interested in superbowl recaps or hangover potions after a long night in front of the telly. So I’ll get to the point: we just spent two days in New York (overnight! for cheap!) and, oh, if you’ve never been, you need to go. Just for the food, of course.

No, this isn’t quite breaking news. But New York, more than anywhere else, inspires gluttonous food tours filled with Balthazar rye bread, Sullivan Street semi di sesamo, Murray’s cheese (and salami, now, too!), and of course, restaurants.  We were there for Restaurant week, which is actually two weeks and happens twice a year, but try not to think about that too much.  We tend to try to get to the city during Restaurant Week because it is the only chance for poor grad students to sample some of those places we’ve been reading about for ages, and haven’t quite managed to visit.  This time, we went to db Bistro moderne.

It’s the first of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants I’ve visited, and is one of his most casual.  Casual does not mean the food is sloppy. Not at all.  Like the vibrant red decor, which has clearly been impeccably styled, every dish we tried seemed like a perfectionist chef’s attempt at making contact with the masses.  Not that this was a bad thing.

The Alsatian tarte flambee was a square of almost cracker-like, crisp bread, topped with a mix of fromage blanc, bacon, and white and green onions that balanced the smokiness of the bacon and the subtle sweetness of the onions just so.  The pot au feu was a basic beef broth decorated with tiny, uniform squares of beef and root vegetables, and as a whole, reminded us both of some of the best roast dinners we’ve managed in our own home.  But the mains were the most memorable.  The winter squash risotto was a vibrant green, decorated with arugula, perfect little cubes (once again!) of butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds, and perhaps a bit of pumpkin seed oil.  It was sweet and spring-like: winter vegetables transformed into a hint of the spring to come.  And the matelotte de poisson?  It was the sea, which is perhaps the highest compliment I could pay a seafood dish.  The spaetzle accompanying the various little pieces of seafood was lightly coated in a sauce that tasted of some of the better rieslings I’ve had in my lifetime, and the brussels sprouts and carrots were actually as enjoyable as the fish.  Dessert, the final act, was a work of art, and yes, I will make that coconut custard someday. (Or maybe I’ll just go back for another serving?)

Atmosphere-wise, the place was buzzing, the service was as calculated as the food, and it was abundantly clear that Boulud’s specialty is fine dining.  This is, essentially, a fancy restaurant that you can wear jeans to, which is exactly what James and I look for when we head into the city.  Having our napkins straightened like naughty children whenever one of us looks the other way just makes us nervous.  I think the only odd thing about the place is that the reception desk is halfway through the dining room, requiring some awkward coat-check moves and causing a bit of confusion when you enter the first place for the first time, but it is New York, after all, and space is at a premium.

The rest of the trip was no less delicious, though lunch at db Bistro was probably the highlight.  We made it to the farmer’s market for a bunch of different varieties of potatoes, some delicious pear cider (so warm in my freezing fingers), and an apple pie for my friend K.  We also made it out to Artichoke Basille’s for slices, because what’s a trip to NY without a slice or two? The picture on NYmag’s site makes the place look roomy, which is certainly not the case, but it’s cozy and friendly and they had good taste in music, so make friends with your pie-eating neighbors.  Their spinach and artichoke slice is worth walking all the way across Manhattan for (and you probably need to, just to work all that bechamel off).  The crust is thick, bready, and flavorful, but not so much so that thin crust devotees would be turned off by it.  If you don’t eat your crust, you really haven’t had good pizza, so go have a try.  The sicilian slice wasn’t bad, either, but eh, I’ve had better.

After all that, K took us to a vegetarian place called Red Bamboo in Brooklyn, which had the most convincing fake meat I’ve ever had.  Even James was smitten.  I had a  montego sandwich, which had a sweet vidalia onion spread that I could see myself getting addicted to if I ever lived in the neighborhood.

Finally, we took a quick trip to East Village Cheese for some Balthazar rye bread (sour and hearty, and oh, how it reminds me of Poilaine!) and to Murray’s for some heavenly stinky cheese from Cato Corner Farm (which is in CT, but unfortunately doesn’t sell cheese anywhere near me … Unless you go to the farm and buy a whole wheel, which we may just do for the wedding!).  By that point, we were cold and exhausted, and looked forward to the long ride home.

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Filed under cheese, local farms, New York City, pizza, restaurant review, travel

A bit of crunch

Jicama Salad

I wasn’t even going to post today. It’s been one of those weeks, yet again, where we have no bread in the house, a random assortment of groceries we’re unlikely to get to, and a few too many takeout bills. But the lure of blog-related procrastination is a bit too much for me, it seems. Especially when I have a research proposal to write (due tomorrow!) for an experiment I’m not sure I’ll have time to do.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this isn’t a real post. It’s just a place to share a few thoughts, and a recipe I wasn’t really sure I was going to share (notice the lack of prep photos?).  If you only have time to read one thing, check out Nathaniel Johnson’s article on raw milk in Harper’s Magazine (which I found via Bitten). It touches upon the history of pasteurization, what kind of farmers pasteurization regulations are actually trying to protect us from, and all in all, presents a pretty scary picture of the industrial dairy industry in this country. For the record, I’ll take my grass-fed raw milk from the friendly local farmer at the farmer’s market, thanks. Luckily, I have that choice here in Connecticut.

Otherwise, today was one of those days where it rains and rains until you think it’s never going to stop, and then transforms itself into a glorious, crisp evening, with streaming sunlight, chirping birds, and all sorts of other gorgeous signs of spring. The tulips even opened up, after a two-day hiatus. So what did I do? I went for a run, in my new, very funny looking shoes. I think they’re kind of hilarious, and I’m certain I look like a bit of a circus act running in them, but normal shoes seem to cause me trouble, so I thought I’d give them a try. They’re comfortable, and kind of awesome — provided you don’t spend too much time on concrete.

All this faux-barefoot running takes me back to about 18 years ago now, when I’d run around my grandmother’s neighborhood like a hoodlum, without shoes or fear of anything but the boy down the street that I sort of had a crush on (but only because I’d kissed his cheek when we were playing house one day, and it seemed appropriate somehow).  I’d run and run, playing pirates or princesses or some other nonsense, until it was time to go home for dinner, and I had to be coaxed into the car for the trip home. If I had been cooking back then, I think this jicama salad would have been the perfect antidote to a long day of playing pretend in the burning San Joaquin valley sun.

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Filed under cilantro, limes, local farms, milk, quick meals, running, stories, vegan, vegetarian

Pasta for a long night

Pasta!

James always works late on days when I have overnight shifts. I hear him come in quietly, grab some food — something simple, usually involving cheese on toast — and slip out into the twilight, back to work, just as I’m settling into bed for a nap. When I wake up, the house is quiet, and sunlight no longer peeps around the curtains, taunting me with its brightness. On nights like these, I wake up in time to make something light but filling — something to get me through until morning.

Spinach
Usually, this breakfast / dinner / midnight snack involves pasta. It’s funny, because it kind of feels like I’m reverting to when I lived by myself. I think I ate pasta almost every day, tossed with a few vegetables and a bit of spice. Since James and I moved in together, pasta’s taken a backseat to protein; typically, there’s some sort of meat involved. Yah, me, the ex-vegetarian for who knows how many years. I’ve become a serious omnivore.

Not that I’m complaining, of course.

prep

But on nights like these, pasta’s all I want. Especially when I have gorgeous farmer’s market spinach and eggs on hand.

This recipe is really simple, and can be prepared in the same amount of time it takes to boil the pasta. I didn’t want to mess with the spinach much, since it tasted lovely and fresh as is, and I wanted creaminess without the cream. That’s where the eggs came in. Beyond that, I did the usual — tried a little of this and that, until I had a dish worth blogging about.

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Filed under anchovies, eggs, lemon, local farms, main, pasta, quick meals, raisins, spinach

Moo

For those of you who haven’t seen Marian Burros’s article on small dairies in today’s  NY Times Dining & Wine section, be sure to have a read.  Yes, it’s about milk, which most people probably don’t consider much when they’re grabbing a gallon or two from their local supermarket shelf.  But the article’s right: artisan dairy products taste nothing like their mass-produced cousins.  We recently started buying raw milk from Deerfield Farm in Durham, CT, mostly because James started trying to make cheese in our home kitchen, and once we tasted the real stuff, we couldn’t go back — even at twice the price.

But really, even if milk isn’t exactly a titillating subject for everyone, check the article out anyway, if only to read about Nancy Nipples the Milkmaid of the Pike Place Market Creamery. (Yes, Burros assures us — that is her legal name).

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