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UMF #9: Chocolaterian

Saturday, March 10th we had an urban market forage to the Chocolaterian on Madison’s east side.

Chocolaterian is the newly established home base of Leanne Cordisco, the creator of Christine’s Toffee and Caramels. The café lives in the historic Schenk-Huegel building on 2004 Atwood Avenue, which was remodeled from its retail origins into a café and candy-making haven. Chocolaterian features decadent desserts like macaroons, crème puffs, ugly cookies (cocoa, pistachios, and toffee) and a rich Parisian hot chocolate, but the showcase pieces are the toffee and caramel. A large glass window gives visitors a view into the kitchen where they can see the shop’s treats being made. For most of the day, Leanne and co-owner Kimberly Vrubley are in there working on making their candy.

Leanne brought us behind the glass to give us a toffee-making demonstration, taking us from the initial heating of the large vat all the way to the cooling, cutting, and chocolate coating. Whether it was the infrared gun at her hip or a simple dangling stick above the pot, she kept a thermometer nearby throughout the process. Making the candy is all about precision—the main difference between toffee and caramel is temperature—and Leanne tells us that being off by even just a few degrees is the difference between candy and garbage. Leanne and Kimberly are comfortable with the science however: both spent most of their life at a company that worked with medical devices. The transition from corporate to chocolate has been a dream fulfilled for both women.

After snacking on bits of toffee and chocolate, many of us reached for the bacon toffee next. The famous concoction, which has starred in Emmy Awards goodie bags, has been a hit for Christine’s. The flavors trigger all five of your taste buds, producing an experience that is both overwhelming and immensely pleasing. It’s the secret, she tells us, to making an irresistible piece of candy.

CSA Time

This coming Sunday is the CSA Open House at the Monona Terrace.

Attend free workshops and learn how to best use your share and choose the right farm for your family. Children’s activities, a raffle to benefit Partner Shares, which helps low-income families to join farms, and recipe samples!

Approximately 1,000 people typically attend this annual event. It’s free and open to all.

There’s a new CSA that we’re particularly interested in. The Spring Rose Growers Co-op has started a CSA this year. Spring Rose is comprised of Latino and Hmong farmers.  Here’s a blurb from their site:

We have grown beyond the Farley Center to six farm members, both Hmong and Latino. Since November 2010 we have been working under a USDA Small Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant to design and implement technical assistance programming targetd specifically at farmers like ourselves.

If you’re not familiar with the CSA model, the CSA Coalition has some great information on their site.

UMF #8: The Oriental Shop

On Sunday, February 10th, a small, by necessity, group went to the tiny and delightful Oriental Shop on South Park Street. Though in operation since 1979, the little white house with red trim is easy to miss.

Our visit was off to a good start as we were all greeted with a cup of hot tea that was a combination of green tea and toasted brown rice.

Despite the name, the shop is primarily geared towards Japanese foods given that its lovely owner, Tamaki, is from Japan. Her husband is Taiwanese, so some Chinese items dot the shelves and a few Korean canned and frozen foods are available too.

Fresh baked goods are delivered every Wednesday. There are many products in the coolers and freezer. There is no real room for produce, so that is limited to a couple of types of fruit and a couple of vegetables varieties in small bins.

One of the greatest draws, however, is sushi grade fish, which is delivered every other Saturday. Their loyal clientele often order in advance because it is highly coveted. The next delivery will be on March 30th.

We ended our visit with a type of mochi (glutinous rice cake) called Sakura Mochi. It is filled with sweet red bean paste and wrapped in a lightly salt-pickled cherry blossom leaf. These are traditional eaten for Girls’ Day, March 3rd. They sell various types of mochi including Sasa Dango, which is wrapped in bamboo leaves and tied in bunches.

Go to Park Street, meet Tamaki, and marvel at how many intriguing and delicious things you can find in the little white house with red trim.

 

Chez Nanou French Cooking Class: Winter Session

We kicked off our seasonal French Cooking Class series at Chez Nanou on Monday, January 21st, 2013.  Students arrived at 5 pm and after introductions and an orientation to the restaurant, class began promptly.  An apron, hand towel, and packet of the recipes for the evening were provided to each student.  In keeping with our small class size, each student had their own work station in the kitchen.

Dee & Nanou were so perfectly organized in their preparations, class went smoothly and everyone was able to enjoy their time in a relaxed and fun fashion.  We started things off by putting together the Salmon & Leek Pie, our main course.  Students helped mix together the pastry dough, clean and prep leeks, skin and dice fresh salmon, and make a Béchamel sauce.  After the pie was in the oven we got started on the French Onion Soup.  Nanou shared her secret for slicing onions without tears!  Students sliced onions and got them sautéing.  While the soup simmered, we moved on to dessert…Crêpe Suzette!  Everyone got to take a turn making crepes.  There is definitely a technique to getting it right and the correct pan is a must!  Finally, Nanou demonstrated making the Suzette sauce which was then set aside until assembly time.

 

Now that the work was done, it was time for dinner.  The soup bowls were assembled with herbed croutons made at the beginning of class, topped with the delicious onion soup, and finally with grated Swiss cheese.  The bowls were place under the broiler to melt the cheese until slightly golden.  Wine was poured and it was time to eat!  The students, guests, and chefs sat around a convivial table to enjoy the home cooked food and engage in conversation.  The way a Slow Food meal is meant to be. The soup was delicious.  Savory and warm with some sweetness from the onions.  Thick and hearty from the croutons and cheese.  I think I could eat this all winter long!

Moving on to our second course, the pie was golden and gorgeous with perfectly flaky crust.  Filled with creamy salmon and leeks, it was the definition of comfort food!  The fresh salmon had been mixed with smoked salmon to give the pie some depth of flavor.  Nanou taught the students how to make an emulsified mustard vinaigrette from scratch.  With this dressing, an arugula salad accompanied each slice of pie.  It made a beautiful plate.

 

 

Last but not least was dessert.  We went brief  back to the kitchen where each student was able to create their own authentic Crêpe Suzette, complete with flambéed Grand Marnier.  There was a lot of excitement in the kitchen!  The crêpes were light and tangy.  The perfect end to a lovely meal.

 

Everyone had a nice time cooking, learning, and eating together.  We are so excited to offer this series of classes and are working on an April date for the Spring session!  We look forward to having you join us.  Bon Apetit!

UMF #7: Vom Fass

Urban Market Forage started the New Year with a visit to Vom Fass on University Avenue. Vom Fass, which is German for From the Cask, first opened in 1994 in Regensburg, Germany. In 2008, the first American Vom Fass opened right here in Madison. There are now about a dozen shops in the U.S. and about another 250 across the globe.

All the products come from small producers, many practicing organic agriculture and working exclusively with Vom Fass. The exact location/farm of every item in the store is noted on the product tag. Many items also have cooking and pairing suggestions.

For anyone who has more salads on their list of resolutions for 2013, you couldn’t ask for a better destination. We were treated to tastings of many, many delightful oils, ranging from olive to argan, pistachio to avocado, hazelnut to grapeseed.

The vinegars were also stellar. From brightly acidic wine vinegars to syrupy balsamic-style fruit vinegars that would be more at home on a dessert plate or in a cocktail. Shane, our staff guide was very knowledgeable about cooking and enjoyed the Slow Food gang’s eagerness to try as many different flavors as possible.

After all that oil and vinegar, we transitioned to the stronger stuff. First some red wines, both mellow and fruity. We tasted liqueurs, grappas, scotches, whiskies and brandies. We also got a lesson in the history of absinthe. Vom Fass stocks a very tasty version and sells a variety of pretty spoons for your sugar cube.

Go, taste, create.

Introducing the Sweet Potato Project

One of the latest projects Slow Food Madison is sponsoring and actively involved with is the Madison Sweet Potato Project.

The basics of this project are to help people around the Madison area grow sweet potatoes in their backyards, community plots, or farm fields.  Then in the fall, those growers will donate half of all those sweet potatoes to a local food pantry of their choice.

The Sweet Potato Project (SPP) has ordered 7,500 sweet potato slips and is now in the process of having people sign up to plant them when they arrive in late spring – usually around the beginning of June.  The SPP is also providing workshops on how to grow sweet potatoes in our growing zone.

Depending on the weather mother nature brings us in 2013, the SPP expects to have 10,000 lbs of sweet potatoes donated to Madison area food pantries.

Visit the SPP site for more information or to sign up to grow sweet potatoes.

UMF #6: A Visit to Fromagination

On December 2nd, 2012, UMF moved from ethnic market to specialty shop and visited the charming and very delicious Fromagination. Owner Ken Monteleone and our guide, cheese lover and Slow Food board member Alyssa Henry, treated us to a wonderful time honoring Wisconsin’s dairy industry.

Ken left the corporate world several years ago to follow his dream of providing full flavored, traditional, artisan foods to Madison. Despite opening in a recession, he created a store that Madison has enthusiastically embraced. Ecologically minded building materials, from slate floor tiles salvaged from a Chicago roof, to reclaimed timber beams, give the shop a warm, friendly glow.

Fromagination’s cheeses and their “perfect companions” showcase Wisconsin’s bounty, but also include the small, artisan traditions of other states and nations.

Ken offered the Slow Food participants several tastes, including a warm, runny, divine Rush Creek Reserve, the autumnal treat from Uplands Cheese Company. On top of this generosity, participants were also given a discount on their purchases. A happy and tasty and memorable outing.

Ideas for Locally Produced Holiday Gifts

Here are some ideas of locally produced foods.  Many of these you can order online as well – visit the link for more information.  If you have any other ideas, please post in the comments.

Thanks and Happy Holidays!

Porchlight – Jams, Jellies, Salsa, Curtido, Scone Mixes, more
http://www.porchlightinc.org/porchlightproducts/pricing.html 

Hawkwind Mustards and Relish
http://www.hawkwindllc.com/descriptions-flavors-and-recipes/

Quince & Apple Small Batch Preserves
http://www.quinceandapple.com/

Gentle Breeze Honey
http://www.gentlebreezehoney.com/index2.htm

Read more

A Tuscan Dinner

On November 14th, 2012, 48 people were treated to a wonderful Tuscan dinner at Osteria Papavero. Slow Food Madison hosted the dinner for special guest Sarah Fioroni, author of A Family Farm in Tuscany. Dinner included a copy of Sarah’s book, which people were able to have signed at the end of the meal.

Some of the dinner guests had already visited Sarah’s family farm, Poggio Alloro, near San Gimingnano and were thrilled to have an opportunity to reconnect. Many others have now put a visit to this gorgeous spot on their dream vacation list!

Chef Francesco Mangano made a wonderful 3-course autumnal meal inspired by Sarah’s book.

Below are some pictures of this fun event.