03 May, 2010

Local Flavor

I've done some pretty awesome food-related things in the past couple weeks. (And some non-food related ones, like going to see Yo La Tengo with Sic Alps, Thunderbleed, Camera Obscura, and the Matthew Sweet musical at Berkeley Rep, watching my friend Myles compete in the Comedy Sportz Left Coast Tournament, getting dolled up to watch the Kentucky Derby and drink mint juleps, cooking dinner with friends, antiquing...) I went to an incredible dinner at Camino which was to promote the chickens and eggs from Soul Food Farm. As usual, Russ worked his culinary magic, and it was really fun getting to know the other folks we were seated with. The only bad thing about the evening was that, as a result of the copious amounts of wine being poured I forgot to take any pictures after we started eating! The picture above is of the lovely flat bread and pickles that were on the table when we were seated; I wish I'd been able to document the rest of the meal as well.

(homemade ricotta!)

Then I finally (two years after buying my first cheesemaking equipment) took a cheesemaking class!! It was just a beginning class, but we learned how to make ricotta, feta, and our own yogurt. I am so excited to move on to some slightly more advanced soft cheeses (creme fraiche, mozzarella, chevre) now that I have seen how everything works. I took the class through the Institute for Urban Homesteading here in Oakland. They also offer courses in everything from beekeeping to butchering, seed saving to homebrewing, greywater collecting to animal husbandry to making your own makeup and bread!

I also had the pleasure of attending Samin Nosrat and Christopher Lee's Pop Up General Store at Grace Street Catering, where I bought a bounty of locally produced foods. You can see all my purchases above: Amarena cherries and bronze-cut bucatini from Samin, empanadas from Fig and Miel, strawberry ice cream from Little Bee Bakery, salted chocolate cookies and sea salt caramels from East Bay Cookie Baker, pizza dough, a gorgeous potato gratin, and rose geranium panna cottas from Jojo's Goodies, English muffins from Goulash, and organic dog biscuits made by Siew-Chinn Chin.

I must say, as much as I support the homesteading and DIY movement, I feel really good about buying small-batch products made by professionally trained cooks- so far everything I've tried from this group (of mostly Chez Panisse people) has been fantastic. I think it's wonderful that so many home cooks are finding a market for their goods, but I would rather spend my money on beautifully crafted foods like these... if I want homemade preserves (or cheese!), I think it's more fun to make them myself!

And speaking of homemade preserves... Last week I also went to the Jam It Salon at 18 Reasons, hosted by Karen Solomon of Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It. I thought this was the perfect forum for homesteaders- a place to share our products and swap tips, without making it into a business transaction. A pretty good group of people showed up to share their homemade foods. I brought some lemon curd, a jar of kumquat-key lime marmalade, and some cranberry sauce, and I got to taste all sorts of pickles, cheeses, baked goods and jams. I also managed to forget to take pictures at this event, so the above one is from the last time I made lemon curd.

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