Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

May 31, 2008

CSA not CIA

herbs from my CSA box

I am finally on board with the CSA, it is my first year, and 2nd week doing it. I am thrilled to be a part of Hungry Gnome Farm's 1st year at CSA. It is a 1st for both of us. Alicia is willing to deliver the food to my door, and Matt and I are going to figure out how to make this work every week. We both work close to home, so at lunch break, one of us can run home and take in our food. So far, we have had a lovely assortment of baby lettuce, braising greens, a few root veggies, and a lovely baggie of herbs and edible flowers. We even got a coveted head of garlic that was cured from last year. I ran out of local garlic mid-winter, so I have been eating conventional garlic since. It is so nice to be back on the path to local organic flavors. Hungry Gnome grows a variety of foods, and are definitely interesting. I am waiting for kolhrabi, a veggie I like from my younger days, and seems to grow well in mid-TN climate, and Hungry Gnome grows it. I am also waiting to see if they might slip me a dozen free range, organic eggs this summer. As a hint, in my empty basket that awaits a trade for a full basket, I put 2 empty egg cartons in there. Hint Hint. This system with Hungry Gnome has freed up so much time for me. I used to get up and go drive to a farmer's market every Saturday morning (and only open on Saturday mornings), and sacrifice my morning jog in the cool morning air just to get wholesome food on my table. I was up and out the door this morning for a jog, knowing that I have a well stock fridge for the week. Thank you for giving me back my Saturday morning jog! This system with Hungry Gnome is as stress free and easy as I could ever hope for. I am loving it so far!

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an appealing way to get fresh local organic veggies to the table. It cuts out the middle man packer, transporter, distributor and sales venue. I think it saves money and the fresh veggies last for a long time. The gig with CSAs is this: pre-pay for a number of weeks for a volume of food (usually 1/2 or whole bushel) from a certain farm or collective, then every week at the same time, go to a meeting spot and pick up your food. So, a lot of CSAs in the area run from 10-15 weeks during the spring, summer and fall growing seasons, and they set up a pick-up day at a set location (usually a church parking lot, farmers market, park, or other common space).

I wanted to do a CSA for years now, but there were a few issues that I had to deal with 1st. 1st, I travel a lot for my work midweek, so most meeting days I am out of town. And Matt too, when he is working with clients, he just cannot drop everything to pick up a box of food. 2nd, some of the CSA I saw grow boring conventional food because they say that is what their clients want. I say, let them try something new, have fun with a new flavor and veggie! I just don't want to be beaten down by having to make yet another squash and green pepper casserole. 3rd the meeting times and places are unreasonable for a working person like me. Many have locations in Green Hills (aka a traffic parking lot) and only have pick up times from noon-5 pm or 3-6 pm, and I often don't get out of work until 5 or 6 pm, and the last thing I want to do is fight Green Hills traffic during rush-hour and stress out, and find that I missed the drop spot time. No thanks.

Hungry Gnome CSA is the solutin to all my CSA issues, and has made my veggie plate just stress free. For those who want Hungry Gnome's food, you can see them on Saturday, 9-11 am at Earthman's General Store on Whites Creek Pike near Old Hickory Blvd, and across the street from Ri'chards and the Whites Creek Post Office. Thank you Hungry Gnome for making local organic foods possible for a working household like mine. I am grateful.

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May 26, 2008

Cafe du Pont


the sign

From what I can tell, Pommard France has only 2 places to eat lunch. We picked the place where there were a lot of work trucks and vineyard workers eating. In the USA, if you eat where most of the workers eat, it most likely you will have a decent meal at a reasonable price. Here at the Cafe du Pont, that general assumption held too. We had a good 3-course meal for lunch at a reasonable price.

starter plate country pate

I started with a rustic country pate. I have no idea what was in it, but it was hardy, flavorful, and perfect on pieces of bread.

main course steak and fries

The 2 main courses offered during this lunch time were steak and fries, and ham in lentil stew. There was only one ham and lentil serving left, and someone else really wanted it, so I opted for the steak and fries. As simple as this was, it was really good too.

cheese course

This lunch, the 3rd course was a cheese plate or an eclair. It was my mission in France to take the cheese plate if offered as one of the courses in meal, so I opted for the cheese plate. Rich, creamy, and delicious.

the dog

The one tradition I love in France is that businesses have dogs. This hotel and cafe had a dog. When we 1st got to Cafe du Pont, there were many workers there eating. Apparently, some workers gave the dog a bit or 2 of their steaks, and the dog kept walking around them smiling. When the table of workers got leave, the dog perked up. As the workers walked out the door, the dog ran after them to the door, but the door shut. The dog ran to the windows watching them walk away, and then get into their cars and drive away. The dog looked longingly out the window. As I finished up my steak, I kept a little piece aside for the dog and then fed the dog. Now, I was the dog's favorite. While Matt was paying for our lunch, I walked outside. Matt was laughing when exiting the cafe, and said that after I left, the dog ran to the door after me, but I shut the door. Then the dog kept on going from window to window looking at me while I strolled outside. I turned around, and wouldn't you know it, there the dog was in the window closest to me looking to see if I would have any little bit of steak left for her.

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May 18, 2008

Site Seeing in Bourgogne

seeing a rainbow after the rains

driving down Bourgogne road, a typical view

some vineyards in Bourgogne

a windmill in Bourgogne

2.5 Km to Paris l'Hopital

a pet horse

a castle and its village

a door leading into the clos of Montrachet Domaine Thenard

a vineyard worker's hut, to rest, and get out of the weather

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May 11, 2008

Tennessee Onion Soup

I have been waiting for the spring onions to come up so I can make French Onion Soup like the soup we had in France. I got 5 giant spring onions from the Franklin Farmers Market, and drove home. I had not one clue about how to make this soup, so Matt found a great recipe from Fine Cooking #47. I used it as a guide, but I had to improvise. I used mostly local ingredients for my soup, so I could call it Tennessee Onion Soup, not French Onion Soup.

my Tennessee Onion Soup

The recipe I used went kind of like this:
4 oz Amish Butter (OMG Delicious!)
5 locally grown giant thinly sliced spring onions
2 locally grown cloves garlic minced
organic thyme and oregano from my garden
bay leaf
salt and pepper
1 cup of unoaked Macon, Burgundy, France Chard
4 cups chicken broth (better if you make it!)
French bread toast rounds
local Kenny's Cheese gouda shredded

1. in a dutch oven melt butter
2. add sliced onions and garlic to carmelize over med-low heat (45 min)
3. add a little salt, pepper, thyme, oregano and bay leaf
4. raise to med heat, add cup of wine until rapid boil, and scrape brown bits off bottom
5. add chicken stock until boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 20 min
6. ladle soup into a bowl
7. on the table have a plate of toast rounds and a bowl of shredded cheese
8. top soup to taste with toast and cheese

French Onion Soup in Burgundy France

As you might recall, while in France, we got French Onion Soup. I think I made a soup that rivals the fabulous soup we had in France. It is quite a bit more work to make the soup from scratch, but is it oh so worth it. It was umami! I had two bowls of it for dinner tonight. It was so good, I could eat 3 or 4 bowls if I wasn't full. This soup is nothing like the soup mix stuff, this soup rocks! I think the reason why this soup rocks is because of my base ingredients. All my ingredients were really quite flavorful and delicious. The Amish butter tastes so close to the French Butter. The fresh organic herbs are really powerful and umami. The Macon Burgundy Chardonnay was perfectly dry and unoaked, and lent the perfect gentle acidity to the soup. The onions were sweet and milder than regular USA yellow onions, and the spring onions lent almost a shallot like flavor.

I have to wait to make this soup again. I did not see any spring onions at the Farmers Market this week. Mamushi Farm, where I get my local organic chicken, won't have chickens ready to slaughter for another 4 weeks. Until next time, Bon Apetit!

May 10, 2008

Toasted

We were so lucky to be able to visit Claude Gillet and his wine barrel making facility that is located in Saint Romain, France. Claude Gillet has a really nice French Oak Barrel Making operation that is really small. It was amazing how most of the steps in making barrels were hand crafted, and not automated.


Small barrel makers were slowly going extinct because there was a time when aging wine in oak was not fashionable. These days, probably thanks partly to Robert Parker who likes highly oaked wines, many California wineries are making oaked wines. We had a discussion about oak supply, and is it possible that there will be a day that we will not be able to get oak to age wine in. The truth is that the world still has Sudden Oak Death fungus (a relative of the potato famine fungus) and parts of European and American oak forests have collapsed from this disease. Talking with Maurice and Henrietta about the state of the Netherlands oak forests, and they replied that they are having a problem now Sudden Oak Death. Because the cause is a fungus, it is difficult to treat because we (all in the world) do not have the technology to get rid of most fungus. As an example, when humans have fungal infections in their lungs, there is no medicine that can be taken to rid the lungs of fungus, and in general, the only alternative is to cut out the infected part of the lungs. If there is anyone out there who knows how to rid the world of Sudden Oak Death fungus, and can come up with a medication that can rid the body of inhaled fungal diseases, you can be a world hero.

cute little wine keg

From what I understand, there are 2 oak forests in France used for oak barrels. French oak is quite special, and is considered the best for aging wine. Other areas may produce oak for barrels like Hungary, Bulgaria, America, but many good wine makers choose French oak, or a combination of French and other oak to age their wines. On this day, they were making barrels for a Carano, a well respected wine making family in N. Califronia. Someone from Carano had to know what they were doing when they decided on partnering with Claude Gillet.

individually cut barrel staves

It was amazing to me how much was done by hand at the Claude Gillet barrel making plant. Oak planks that looked like 2x4s (but not 2x4s as they are sized specifically for barrel needs), are delivered to the plant. There is one guy who is in charge of cutting each barrel plank to the right height. There is another guy who is in charge of shaping each plank into its slightly curved trapezoid (trapezium), so that once they are placed end to end, they will fit into a circle.

hand made beginnings

Each oak stave circle is hand made, and are quite heavy. Oak is really dense and the iron metal bands around the barrel are also heavy. At Claude Gillet's facility, we saw a woman working here lifting and moving the barrel circles because this is all done by hand, not by fork lift that might damage the word or barrels. This job is usually done by men, only because it is such heavy work. It was amazing to me how much care went into creating each barrel. I suppose it would be really expensive to ruin a barrel, and that is lost profit. Plus, I just think that this facility appreciates working in the traditional ways.

firing the barrels

After the oak staves are pressed into a barrel shape, the open barrel is fired to light, medium or heavy toast, as per the client wants. There are only 3 barrels toasted at time. One employee takes the barrel and lifts it onto the fire source. The fuel is the scraps of oak that were cut and shaved off of the planks when making the staves. The employee watches over each barrel with care, and "eyeballs" the level of toasting. This is definitely an art form and something that cannot be automated because of weather and atmospheric conditions. It might take 10 minutes on a hot dry summer day, or 1 hour on a cold rainy winter day to toast a barrel to the right level.

finished barrels

There is one stop in the barrel making that is truly automated now, and that is the laser burning of the words on top of the barrel. This one has Claude Gillet's logo, and Heavy Toast etched on to the top. This all used to be burned in by hand, but was quite time consuming. Since laser etching does not impact the barrel quality, and saves so much time, I think it is a good idea.

video
one part of the process

This time lapse video shows the machine that can apply enough pressure to the oak staves to press them into the barrel. I believe this is the one and only machine like this in the facility. The facility uses this machine because it is just as good as if they were to press the wood by hand. If it was not just as good, they would not use it. There are 2 work zones where this is done by hand with temporary heavy iron rings pressed on the outside to gradually press the staves inward to make the barrel. A gradient of smaller and smaller rings are pressed on the outside until the oak staves curve into a barrel, and then then they apply the permanent iron rings on the barrel to hold all the wood in place.

How barrels are made at Claude Gillet's is truly an art form. I appreciate the gracious hospitality everyone showed us, and I hope this blog post honors their hard work and artistry.

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May 4, 2008

Paris to Nice

We went to see the Paris-Nice Leg 2 in Belleville France. The Paris-Nice is the 1st French pro bike race of the season, and it was fun to see what teams represented, and how the riders are doing.

I have only seen one bike road race about 20 years ago in PA when young friend of mine with giant biking thighs, kind of like the character from the Triplets of Belleville, was thinking he had a chance at an Olympics Velodrome team. Of course I would go watch him ride. The problem is that they bikers whiz by so quick, I am sure I saw him, but really all bikers look a like. I mean, they all have gaunt long faces, helmets, spandex outfits, on a bike, they all look alike. After that race, my friend found out he had 2 nerve bundles in charge of exercise heart rate, instead of the normal one bundle leading to his heart. So when he exercised hard like a bike race, his heart would be twice as fast. While bike racing, his heart rate was closing in on 400 bpm. He had heart surgery to fix this problem, and with any heart surgery patient, he ended up on blood thinners. His doctors ordered him not be bike race because if he fell, he could bleed out from the blood thinners, and die. SO, that was the last time I saw a live bike road race until now.

one archy to the end of leg 2 of the Paris Nice

We drove that morning from the North of Bourgogne to the South to Belleville on the side roads to see what we could see. Since most of these old roads are old, they were curvy and hilly and not necessarily the best for someone with a bit of an upset stomach. I was feeling a bit green by the time we got to lunch in Macon. It was a lovely simple lunch of pasta and a little bit of coke for me to help settle my stomach, and it seemed to work ok. The road we took from Macon to Belleville was the same road the bike racers were going to take as they approached the 2nd leg finish line. This is what the bike racers saw on the road into Belleville. The conditions for this race were hard.

the finish line

We got into Belleville, it was mix of very cold drizzle to downpour rain. It was about 4 pm, and the riders were due in at about 4 pm, but due to the weather, they were all riding slower and they were about 1 hour behind the original estimated time. I was rather miserable standing in the rain waiting (10 minutes) and I suggested we hole up in a tavern if we could find one.

where we waited

Luckily there was a little pension with a tavern coffee shop on the 1st floor. This is where we were going to wait for the riders to come through town. It was dry, warm, and they had all the beverages from beer, coffee, soft drinks to wine. Ah. We sat at a table with a drink and watched the flat screen TV with the lastest of the news of the Paris-Nice. I actually thought it was funny that the 1st pro bike race of the season was passing right by this little tavern, and there was a "no bike" sign right outside of the door.

we waited in the tavern

While we waited and waited, the room slowly filled. First it was a collection of old retirement aged men all meeting at "their table" for their daily afternoon cafe au lait. Then, there was another set of old friends that collected at the bar to sip on their cafes. Then slowly the room started to fill with race team support crew and other people who wanted to watch the finish of the bike race, but got tired of the rain, like me. We all were sipping on some sort of beverage, all sharing the view of the Paris-Nice race on the TV. About 45 min. before the bikers were estimated to finish, there was a really slick, freezing rain covered curve that nearly all the Peloton wiped out. The room, including me gasped as we viewed the TV. It was one of those moments when I just felt quite connected with humanity and we all were sharing in on a shared experience, even as there were multiple languages being spoken.

the room waiting for the Paris-Nice finish

We went outside with another 5 to 10 minutes before the bikers were to cross the finish line. The streets were packed. The riders came in and they were gaunt, drawn, and beaten down by the harsh cold rainy weather conditions. There were riders with road rashed sides from the big crash, with their blood contrasting with their gray complexion. It was a hard day to ride over 100 miles, and not finish first, not win a jersy, and not win any money.

a resident looking at what is going on outside

When the bike race was over, I briefly talked to one of the Team Slipstream's support crew. He was a former bike racer in the USA, but lives in Italy now to support Slipstream. Slipstream is mostly privately sponsored by a rich USA dude and Chipotle Chain restaurant, and is the only USA pro-biking team around now that Lance (and before him Greg) are not racing anymore. For such little support for Slipstream, they have 2 race teams that are kicking some butt. I will say this, as 1 of 2 USA spectators there, I had to cheer for Slipstream. I would have cheered for Rabobank (sounds like Rob A Bank) or LiquiGas (sounds like Leaky Gas) because I like how the names sound. FYI, no one from Slipstream won a shirt that day, so they will have to earn their keep on another day.

video
the video after the Peloton crossed the line

In the end, most riders made it across the finish line. Here is where their support team are telling them were their warm and dry team bus is, and where they can get some relief from the day. The only people who did not get to go into their team bus were the jersey winners and the random rider picked for doping checks. There was a gray trailer, guarded by a temporary chain linked fence, where medical officials were ushering in wet, cold, gray and exhausted riders to get their blood drawn and tested for doping. The way the riders looked, I am wondering how much they had left to give.

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