Tag Archives: local food

Sunday Farmers Market Trips and an Easy Cheesy Recipe

Since I moved to West London about a month ago, I’ve been trying to make it to my local farmers market at Queen’s Park almost every weekend.  It’s a different style of market for me  – my favorite markets back east were all about discovering and eating the incredible prepared food, from eating extravaganzas and grilled cheese happiness at Borough Market to wild mushroom risotto and salted caramel cupcakes at Broadway Market just behind my old flat.  In contrast, my new local market has some good snacks, but here it’s more about the grocery shopping  – you can buy everything from excellent free-range meat to fresh eggs to heritage cheeses to lots of local produce all grown within 100 miles of the M25.  I’ve been trying to maximize farmers market shopping and minimize supermarket shopping as much as possible, so each Sunday has been a big shopping spree to buy as much as we can for the week.

We’ve been obsessively experimenting with happy chickens – here you can see Old Hall Farm and Fosse Meadows Farm stands, both of which offer a perfect bird for a Sunday night roast with market vegetables. And pretty bunting.

Perry’s Farm and Ted’s Veg are great for stocking up on produce – I’ve been trying all sorts of fun and colorful things like green and red kale, red cabbage, Isle of Wight tomatoes, sorrel, cress, local apple and pear varieties, rhubarb stalks, and purple sprouting broccoli.

It’s all excellent quality, grown by small farmers and producers, and a great way to get involved in supporting the local community. Plus, it’s delicious.  Showing up at the market and buying whatever looks exciting is a great way to try out new vegetables and play around with different recipes.

I love broccoli, especially when it’s pretty and purple. I think it’s delicious on its own, but let’s be honest…isn’t everything a little bit extra awesome when you add cheese into the mix?

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Butternut Squash Polenta and Other Mayhems: Deadpan Restaurant’s Opening Nights

So much has happened in the last few weeks. Amin is now gallivanting in Dresden, and Judy has proven a valuable addition to our kitchen cohort. We at Deadpan Restaurant had our opening debut a few weeks ago, and then a repeat event this past weekend. It was, in a word, insane. Five dishes, 12 guests per event, hours upon hours in the kitchen, and I don’t think I’ll ever look a pot of polenta in the eye again.

Let’s talk about the menu. Since we’re new at this whole restaurant thing, we haven’t really figured out how to simultaneously serve a secret supper and photodocument it, so bear with us on the pictures!

We started with a red wine oxtail and beef tongue stew, served as chilled, jelly hemispheres, with a layer of homemade Momofuku pickles on a toasted baguette round.

Probably the most challenging dish of the evening, our tongue-and-tail amuse bouche was cast in a mold designed and cut by Amin. Pretty cool, huh? We value the use of all parts of the animals we eat, and wanted our guests to do the same. To our surprise and delight, nobody tried to escape the event while we described this dish, and everyone cleaned their plate! On a side note, those pickles are so addictive and delicious – definitely at the top of my these-are-so-easy-to-make-i’ll-never-buy-them-again list.

For our starter, we served the dish that has been our pride, joy, and near-undoing for the last several months: pork belly with butternut squash polenta. Cured for two days in a mix of brown sugar, sea salt, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and black pepper, and then braised for upwards of three hours in a pot of chicken stock and Delirium Tremens (famed as the best beer in the world), this local pork from Autumn’s Harvest Farm is tender, buttery, and melts in your mouth. The butternut squash polenta is cooked on the stovetop and then baked (or is it fried?) on cast iron with a lot of butter. We made our sauce out of a reduction of the braising liquid and some Cornell Orchards cider. This isn’t actually the pork belly we served, but an earlier incarnation that looks mostly alike:

We also served some cider mulled with the same spice mix that we cured the belly with. Still with us, even through the bad flash photography? Our other three dishes, after the jump…

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Adventures in Newcastle: Beautiful Views, Beautiful Tarts, and Beautiful Things Involving Goat Cheese

I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip up to Newcastle upon Tyne for The Go Game and there were so many beautiful things to see in the city.

Beautiful Thing #1: The view of the River Tyne, including the Tyne Bridge and the Millenium Bridge, from the Viewing Box of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

And the reverse view of the BALTIC, an old flour mill, from the Millenium Bridge. If you happen to be anywhere near Newcastle, go see Damien Hirst’s fascinating exhibition Pharmacy and marvel at the view.

Beautiful Thing #2: The plum tart from the charming and brand new six-week-old BUEE Cafe and Bistro at Side Cinema.  I actually didn’t eat it; we went for the pecan pie and the raspberry cheesecake baked by the chef-husband of the proprietor-wife instead – more on that in a bit – but it’s a thing of beauty all the same.

Beautiful Thing #3: The goat cheese and roasted vegetable pizzaiola from Cafe Royal, a gem of a cafe amidst the shops of the city centre featuring artisanal bread from their own bakery.

So much to see in Newcastle and so much to eat! Let’s take a closer look at our two exciting foodie finds…

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Growing Spaces in Unusual Places: London’s Urban Agriculture and a Super Mini Garden

Seems like everyone is talking about urban agriculture these days, with innovative new ideas ranging from tiny little crowd-funded SF city farms to fantasy skyscraper-high vertical farms.  From pundits to policymakers,  foodies to farmers to futurists, a lot of people are starting to think about urban food production for the sake of local economies, the environment, community resources, jobs creation, urban design, potential food security issues. and many more reasons.  I’ve been reading this really interesting report by the London Assembly called Cultivating the Capital: Food Growing and the Planning System in London (big PDF here) about working with city planners to increase the growing potential of the city.

Nerdy, I know.  In case you don’t want to read the 93 pages yourself (almost half of it is just appendices!), the report looks at the current situation of urban food producers, the barriers they face in growing and getting their products to market, and potential innovative solutions.  It also analyzes the city land that could be used for food production and encourages the use of  unconventional growing spaces, from rooftops to parks to housing developments.  And in terms of specific action, the report recommends that the Mayor of London promote and support policy and planning to increase Greater London’s food production and distribution channels.  They’ve got lots of important reasons to back up their suggestions:

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chicken coops, award-winning bread, and buffalo milk at the organic food festival

saturday was a pretty eventful day.  chris and i got up at 6am, hopped a train to sunny bristol, ran a Go Game at igfest, then jumped out of a plane and parachuted straight into the organic food festival. okay, that last part is entirely untrue. but we got asked about 20 times if we had skydived directly to bristol, clad as we were in our unbelievably attractive trademark orange jumpsuits while wandering around the largest organic showcase in europe.

entering the organic food festival

it was one of those magical instances where the forces of nature align at the precise moment to allow for our attendance at the festival.  not only did it happen to be in the right city at the exact time we were already traveling there for work, but the massive marketplace of food activities was situated about 20 feet from our game location. ridiculous. thanks to the organic foodie gods smiling upon us, we got to tour the many stalls of farmers, bakers, ice cream makers, olive oil producers, brewers, and so much more.  most importantly, we got to eat lot of stuff. delicious stuff. stuff like this clown smile of cheese from the bath soft cheese company.

the bath soft cheese company

i am going to make my way to Bath (pronounced bawwth) just to eat more of this cheese.  sadly i don’t remember the name, but i think it might just be the fantastically named Wyfe of Bath, described on their website as ‘succulent and bouncy.’  ahahaha. are they taking the piss? did chaucer write their copy?  hilarious.

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