Mid-Winter Blues (Time to Escape!)

February 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

So… listen, I love meat and potatoes as much the next red blooded American. But I am so getting pretty bored with my food lately.  I had an EcoFriendly Foods pork blade steak and sweet potatoes for dinner, and as tasty as it was… my tastebuds are going to go on strike soon if they don’t get something fresh and juicy.  This is right about the time it happens every year, late February- the dead middle of winter.  No, I haven’t quite gotten sick of kale yet (especially since we’ve put my favorite Crispy Kale on the new Market menu at Sweetgreen Logan), but I am wanting something new soon. 

So, being the clever girl I am and knowing this would happen, I planned a trip months ago to ease my projected mid-winter blues. Somewhere it’s warm… with beaches… and has a fantastic growing climate… somewhere it’s summer in February… somewhere like… New Zealand!!

Yes friends, on Thursday I’ll be leaving for New Zealand for 2 and half weeks. While it’s not a great time to be leaving Sweetgreen, I planned the trip months ago while I was still at DCCK (and had loads of vacation time built up).  With all the changes that have been happening in my life lately though (new job, recently single…), I really need this vacation.  This is going to be very, very good for me.

I have absolutely no plans once I get there. I literally have a plane ticket and a passport and that’s about it. I’m just going to get a car (probably should reserve that soon?) and drive around looking for food… and farms… and vineyards.  New Zealand is pretty much the most sustainable country in the world (probably by virtue of necessity- they are 2000 miles from the nearest land mass, making them the most remote country on earth).  I cannot wait!!

Yes, eating local and in season is important, and delicious, and the right way to live.  But that doesn’t mean that for 1 month out of the year you won’t get bored. You will. So just prepare yourself- freeze summer tomatoes, strawberries, peaches… and plan a vacation in February.  With 2 weeks in New Zealand summer ahead of me, DC spring seems closer than ever.

Bev’s Pork Chop with Mustard Cream with Roasted Potatoes and Kale

February 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

Not to be a total bragasaurus, but I made the BEST dinner on Monday night.  At the Dupont Market on Sunday I bought one single, thick pork chop from my darling Bev for $3.50. For the price his high end cuts go for, this may be the best deal at the market.  I decided to make it Monday night because I just really needed a good meal.  I’ve been making a lot of very blah meals the past week or so, and needed that reassurance that I can, in fact, cook.  Well, this was just what the doctor ordered. I’m now getting an inflated ego over this meal, but if I’m going to be honest… the pig really did all the work here. This meal would have been just alright with a chop from any other animal- but with one from Bev’s pig… it was practically a religious experience. 

Oh how I WISH I had taken a picture of the pork chop raw. It had this gorgeous 3/4 inch layer of pure white fat along one side, and a frenched bone. It was truly artistic. When seared in the hot pan, the fat got crispy on the outside and meltingly tender in the center.  Oooh… it gives me delicious chills even thinking about it now. 

This is also a perfectly seasonal meal, and nearly everything in it is locally and sustainably produced.  The kale is from Sunnyside Farm at Dupont, and the potatoes are from my Star Hollow CSA. The exceptions are the usuals- Maille mustard (it is the best, there is no substitute), chardonnay (from CA), kosher salt. I did get a little fancy and use local crushed red pepper- last month I got a dried cayenne pepper from my CSA and crushed it myself. I feel like I get double points for that one 🙂 

Mustard Coated Pork Chop in a Dijon Cream Sauce, with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Kale

1 EcoFriendly Foods Pork Chop

2 tbsp Maille Mustard (or other good Dijon), separated

1 tbsp pork fat (bacon grease, preferably from EcoFriendly bacon- I have seriously loyalties)

Handful of fingerling potatoes (like 6-8 maybe? Depends on how hungry you are)

1 cup kale, chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

1/4 cup milk or cream

1/4 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay, dry Riesling would work well too)

salt 

red pepper flakes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. 

Melt bacon fat in a hot cast iron/heavy bottom, oven proof skillet. Slice potatoes in half and put them cut side down into the skillet. Leave them alone while you prep the pork. Pat pork chop dry, then rub down all over with 1 tbsp mustard, and salt liberally (for real, don’t get stingy here). Check potatoes, the underside should be crispy and browned. Flip the potatoes, push the to the outside of the pan and lay the the chop in the center. Cook it until well browned on each side (about 2-3 minutes on high heat),add the kale the the pan, then throw the skillet in the oven for about 4-5 minutes.  Mince shallots while you wait. Pull the skillet out and transfer the chop, the kale and potatoes to plate. 

Add shallots to pan (and more fat if needed).  Deglaze the pan by pouring in wine and letting it bubble away. Once reduced, add rest of mustard and milk or cream. Stir together, let reduce a little more, then pour over your pork chop.  

This meal is only local, seasonal, delicious, fast, and easy… it also only uses 1 pan (I hate doing dishes). Plus if you use cast iron you just have to pour in a little water while its hot and wipe out with a paper towel. It doesn’t get easier than this. (BTW, if you wash your cast iron skillet with water and soap, please stop before you break my heart.)

Snow Days FAIL Confession

February 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

Ok. Eating local food with 5 feet of snow on the ground is HARD.  It’s hard even imagining that things grow out of the ground when you can’t SEE the ground.  That’s no real excuse, I know…  I should have planned better, I should have stocked up on more food when I knew the storm was coming. But I really just didn’t think there would be quite this MUCH snow, or that it would affect DC for so long (yeah, thanks DC, for not plowing anything.)

I did pretty well, but I’ve been feeling guilty all week about my non-local indulgences.  So, in the spirit of transparency (and absolution), here is everything I’ve eaten while tumbling off the wagon.  

Snowpocolypse 1, last weekend– I was trapped (though not unhappily) at a friend’s house in Glover Park from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.  There was zero local food in his house and naturally I forgot to bring anything, so over the course of the weekend I had some Barilla pasta and tomato sauce, toast, Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal, and lots of French Champagne (not apologizing for that one).

Being the gentleman he is, he went out into the storm to forage some food for me, and though Whole Foods was closed, he managed to find the only barbeque joint I’ve ever heard of that uses local and sustainable meat- Rocklands BBQ.  As it turns out, Rocklands is also repped by Sweetgreen’s fabulous PR maven, Dusty Lockheart, and she told me the owner, John Snedden, buys many of his animals from 4-H kids at the county fair… and, as a former, 4-H kid myself, that is about the best thing I’ve ever heard. And the bbq was really good (being from Texas, I’m a harsh critic).  Ok aside from the meat I did also have a heaping portion of decidedly NOT local mac and cheese. I may have detected a Velveeta sauce (so tasty, so close to being flavored plastic).

Then I went into my first week at Sweetgreen. For the most part it’s pretty easy to eat locally at Sweetgreen (though soon you will hardly be able to NOT eat locally there, muahaha!).  We already get lots of local fruit and veggies, and all the chicken and turkey is sustainably raised around Gettysburg, PA.  The salads are easy. It’s the Sweetflow that gets me.  Sweetgreen’s tart frozen yogurt is just SO GOOD, and I’m already addicted.  But right now I can’t claim it’s made with local ingredients. In the next couple of weeks we are switching over to a custom Stonyfield blend made with their plain organic yogurt. Stonyfield is an amazing company that has grown to massive success, and yet has managed to stay true to their mission of supporting sustainable family farms.  The vast majority of their milk comes from Vermont, and I’m telling you right now… Sweetflow is about to be added into the “exceptions” column with coffee and chocolate. It’s now non-negotiable. If you want to know why just come try some. 

Other times I fell off the wagon because I just couldn’t help it- 

UrbanDaddy.com DC launch party at the W Hotel- 1 bacon wrapped shrimp (Thailand wrapped in nitrates), 1 lobster roll (Maine lobster, sot so bad), 1 veggie roll (first time I’ve had rice in months), and again… lots of French Champagne.  Food aside, someone please tell companies that are coming in to assert themselves as an authority on the local art and culture scene to STOP importing art and culture from elsewhere for their parties.  This was the DC launch party, and they had a DJ, a rock violinist, and a music entertainment group ALL shipped in from NYC.  **Dear UrbanDaddy, I know it’s hard to believe, but we actually LIKE it here. If we wanted to live in New York, we would. Please stop treating us like Manhattan’s bastard step child. Love, DC.**

My friends Matt and Hillary’s engagement party- It was a great party but a rough night because of some relationship drama (nothing to do with the very happy couple. Just my own, naturally). I drank lots of single barrel whiskey and had a few nuts and shrimp to avoid getting piss drunk. 

International Wine and Food Festival- Nic and I did a really fun live stage demo at the Fest of our new Winter Market Quinoa (coming soon to Sweetgreen), and I think we did pretty fantastic- even though we were right after Jose Andres, and no one can compete with than man onstage! Our quinoa salad included Firefly Farms Allegheny Chevre (MD), Mr. McGregor’s Mushrooms (NJ), sweet potatoes from Lois’ produce (VA), and micro beet greens from Lakeville Produce (DE, I think?)… but quinoa is definitely from South America (though organic), and I’ll bet the raw beets and red onions we used are from California or something.  But it was so good I ate like 5 lbs of it (and then some again for lunch today…).  I’d say it’s about 75% local… but I’m going for 95% at the low end.  I’m going to tweak that recipe so that the only thing not totally local is the quinoa, which will be organic sustainable. And then sometimes I might switch it out for some local wheatberries. Just for kicks 🙂

I feel like there have been a few others here and there also.  I guess it hasn’t been so bad overall… but I haven’t felt as in touch with my food as usual this week, and my body has noticed.  It’s been a fast and furious first week at Sweetgreen, and with the snow and it being the middle of February and everything… I just felt a little out of control.  I’m vowing to get back on track this week.  I bought a bunch of meat and poultry from Bev at EcoFriendly today at the market, so that will have to make up for the lack of vegetables coming out of the ground.  Veal cutlets, young chicken, and pork loin, oh my!

Not that this week is going to slow down or be any easier! We are opening our 4th outpost, Sweetgreen Logan this Friday… and we are adding 2 soups and 3 sides (which we are calling The Market).  It’s going to be AWESOME.  But I’ll likely be at work way past dinner time for several days. 

So far, life as the Sourceress is pretty freaking fantastic. Now I just have to remember to get myself some local food as well as the restaurants! On to week two..

Fantastic First Day at Sweetgreen

February 9, 2010 § 3 Comments

It seems as though a lot of people wanted a little green freshness in their life in the midst of this blizzard, because my new Sourceress job picked up quite a bit of buzz today! 

Washington Business Journal- “Sweetgreen Takes Locavore to a New Level”

Tasting Table- “From The Source” (including my favorite things at the market!)

Amanda over at Metrocurean gave Sweetgreen some Twitter love, and we got several calls at the office from excited people who read the article and were thrilled we are moving to an all-sustainable menu.

I am a very lucky girl to be working at such a fantastic, socially responsible company.  I felt like I’d already been there for months when it was just my first day!

We are pressing forward at full speed to have as much local food as humanely possible ready to go for the Sweetgreen Local Circle opening on February 16th!! Get excited- we are!!  I am in talks with Firefly Farms, EcoFriendly Foods, Tuscarora Co-op, Atwater’s Bakery and many more wonderful local food producers to make sure we are serving the most delicious, community inclusive, sustainably grown food around.   

And the Sweetgreen salads are soooo good. Check out the all-local salad I made for lunch today.

Mache, beets, butternut squash, roasted mushrooms, watermelon radishes, turkey and goat cheese, plus roasted purple potatoes and onions from last night’s roast chicken (with bread from Bakery de France and an Honest Tea).

SO. GOOD.

The Sweet(green) Life

February 8, 2010 § 3 Comments

Well, the secret is out!

Friday was my last day at DC Central Kitchen, and Monday I will start work at Sweetgreen, a young start-up fast-casual restaurant concept with unlimited possibilities. After learning about what I was doing at DC Central Kitchen with local food sourcing, the 3 vibrant young founders courted me into their company as their first Sourcing and Sustainability Manager (or, as I have been jokingly calling myself- The Sourceress.  It caught on with the SG team and has kind of stuck! It makes me smile. hehe.)

It’s hard to believe my incredible luck at finding the one company in DC (and maybe in the country) that is so committed to local and sustainable food that they have created a position solely dedicated to sourcing it.  Eeeee!! How FUN is this going to be?? I love that I will be really supporting my local farmers (with 3 restaurants and 3 on the way in DC, I’ll have a lot of purchasing power), and I’ll be bringing healthy, sustainable food to an even wider swath of Washingtonians.  I was successful in bringing fresh, local produce to homeless shelters and low-income areas.  And it’s great that high-end expensive restaurants are buying local food, and even better (for me!) when mid-price places like Saint Ex and Commonwealth do it…. but to have a fast-casual restaurant with several locations buy all local food is pretty impressive- if I do say so myself 😉  They are way ahead of the curve in most areas of corporate responsibility and sustainability, but I want to help Sweetgreen really emerge as a leader in the local food movement and show that not only is it the responsible thing to do, but also a profitable way to do business.  

I am beyond excited at the possibilities with Sweetgreen, but leaving the Kitchen was difficult for me.  It was my first real work family.  I’ll always be grateful for the support of Robert Egger and Mike Curtin- they are the reason I was even able to discover this path for my life.  Both of them have been incredible mentors, and I intend on keeping them, and the DCCK family and mission, a big part of my life. 

I’ll be posting on the Sweetgreen blog about once a week as well, and probably cross-posting here.  Follow what we are doing over at SG at www.sweetgreen.com.  

xoxo erin

January- A Local Food Month in Review

February 4, 2010 § 7 Comments

I can’t believe my first month of local eating has already passed.  I had great success, and a few failures. 

One of the biggest rookie mistakes was my primal fear that I would starve to death.  This caused me to buy an inordinate amount of food that I did not need.  Did I eat well? Absolutely. Did I need that much food in my fridge? Probably not.  I’ll be keeping a much closer eye on my spending this month, and tracking my total weekly food costs. 

It’s not that what I was buying was terribly expensive on its own, it’s just that everytime I saw anything anywhere that was made in the Chesapeake Bay watershed I bought it…. regardless of whether or not I actually needed it.  This may have also been because it was the first month though.  Stocking my pantry is a necessity, and nothing makes me happier than a full refrigerator and a bowl of fruit on my table.  I did to well with not wasting food though.  Working at DC Central Kitchen as made me hyper aware of wasting anything, and it physically pains me to have to throw away food I’ve let spoil.  I saved tiny bits of everything and made soups or pizzas with it; I even used the chicken bones left on my plate after a meal for stock (Oh stop with your germaphobia, I’m the only one eating it!). 

Overall, I feel healthier and have much more energy.  The best thing though, is that I have a greater connection to my body, and am in tune with what it craves and needs.  I can acutely tell when I’ve eaten too much meat, or dairy, or need to add more fiber to my diet, or green leafy vegetables.  Meal by meal, I assess how I feel, and it helps me consider what I’ll eat next.  I’m sure this is something most health-conscious people do, but for me, it’s pretty new.  Before this experiment, my menu choices were based solely on taste and what sounded good.  Now I go for what feels good.  I listen to my body.  What it craves changes based on the weather, and I fully expect that as certain foods come into season, I will suddenly start to crave them.  I don’t crave strawberries or asparagus right now, all I want is dark, nutrient rich kale, and warm, filling meals.  Come May, I imagine I won’t even be thinking about kale, but instead trying to figure out how to include as much asparagus as humanely possible into my diet.  That’s the good thing about eating seasonally, you stuff yourself with what it’s seasons to the point where, once it’s gone, you don’t even want to look at it for another year.  I don’t think I could ever feel that way about kale… but ask me again in April.

Here is where I went right (and wrong):

Eating More Fat, Losing Weight– No low fat anything here, what’s the point? I have been deliciously subsisting on butter, creamline whole milk, bacon, cheese, crispy roasted chicken, hamburgers and even pasta.  Obviously, I’ve also been eating lots of winter fruit and veg (kale, potatoes, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, apples, and the occasional hothouse yellow tomato), but I certainly haven’t been trying to limit my calorie intake.  And yet, from January 1st to February 1st, I have lost exactly 10 lbs.  Frankly, I had it to lose, but it’s not like I was drinking soda and eating fast food right up until Dec 31st, 2009.  My eating habits haven’t changed all that drastically, but I do know I am eating more fat, and because of that, smaller amounts of food fill me up.  Also, I haven’t seen the inside of a gym since August and it being January and rather frigid, I definitely wasn’t outside romping around, so truly the only thing I have done is focus on the food.  It’s quite remarkable really.  A traditional diet really is the healthiest!

Eating Meat– I have decreased the amount of meat in my meals, mostly because of the expense of sustainably raised animals.  One roasted chicken can last me for a very long time.  The breasts are generally so big that I can easily get two or three meals out of each one, as long as I use the meat as a component of the meal and not the centerpiece (which makes more sense anyway).  I will usually have one or two meals per week that focus on the meat as the center of the meal (like Friday roast chicken- leg and thigh, and a grass-fed hamburger at Cafe Saint Ex), but everything else will focus on vegetables and grains, or other protein sources like cheese and eggs.  Bacon has become a great source of meaty flavor for my meals, and gives you the impression of eating lots of meat when really it’s just a few tablespoons scattered in pasta or in an omelet.

Cutting out refined ingredients and preservatives– I believe this may have had the biggest impact on my overall health.  Nothing I eat has artifical preservatives, and I now eat very little refined sugar or flour.  I have about 1/2 tsp of raw, organic sugar in my coffee each morning, but I use honey and maple syrup to sweeten anything else.  Most of the bread and pasta I eat is whole wheat, and I’ve included new grains such as wheatberries and buckwheat (which is actually not a wheat at all, and therefore gluten-free!).  I don’t ever have rice anymore, but I do eat a fair amount of polenta/grits. 

Star Hollow CSA– I think everything went right with this one. I spent about $45 every 2 weeks on local, and often organic, fruit, vegetables (including mushrooms- a great meat substitute), cheese, butter, eggs, and a stew hen that I used for stock.  The fruits and veg I buy are usually used up within the 2 weeks, but the butter/cheese etc always last me longer.  Read about my first order here.

Stocks– Making a weekly batch of chicken stock has been essential for my success.  For the chicken bones, I’ll get a little stewing hen from my CSA ($5), or some cheap/free chicken backs from EcoFriendly, and always save the carcass from a roast chicken.  Then I throw in saved vegetable scraps, a few of the cheap “juice” carrots and onions from my CSA, and whatever herbs I have (dried or fresh).  Then just fill the pot with water, bring to simmer, and leave it all day (or overnight like I often do).  I freeze the stock in 2 or 4 cup containers, and just throw it in the microwave to defrost. Good chicken stock with random bits of veggies, meats, or noodles makes an easy, healthy dinner (and lunch the next day!).

Whole Foods Market– Surprisingly, WF proved to be a great source for certain items, but also a trap for overspending.  They carry Homestead Creamery milk in glass bottles, but you have to remember to bring the glass bottles back or you won’t get your $2 back! (just take them to the Customer Service counter).  The half gallons are about $3.50, which is about the same as the Organic milks (many of which are ultra pasteurized- yuck, owned by multi-national corporations, and not nearly as “organic” as one might think.) They also carry some local produce (for CSA-off-week emergencies), cheeses, beer, and my newest favorite find- bread from small local bakeries.  They also carry Bell & Evans chicken, which is a local, large-scale chicken processing company. As far as bigb meat operations go, they are one of the best… and they are located in central PA, so it’s local for DC and NYC.  When I want a chicken and can’t get one from EcoFriendly, I’ll get a Bell & Evans. It’s not the MOST ideal (the chickens are barn raised, not pastured), but it is a good company and, since it’s a big company, it’s less expensive than other sustainably raised meats.  I usually get 1 whole bird per week (or every 2 weeks) and can make it stretch a long time.

Bread– I came to the decision that it just wasn’t feasible for me to be baking all my own bread (though I do buy only local flours from Wade’s Mill for other baking) so I’ve decided to compromise and buy my weekly bread from local bakeries.  There are rules though- no obviously exotic ingredients (like kalamata olive bread or something), and no weird modified corn or soy based ingredients (like soybean oil, which is usually genetically modified, or HF corn syrup).  I try to buy from Atwater’s Bakery at the Dupont market, but sometimes I just don’t make it on Sundays.  Whole Foods has been great alternative source- I buy organic whole wheat pitas and barbary bread from local bakeries right in their bread aisle.  Barbary bread is a fantastic pizza crust, and a flatbread pizza with whatever I have in the fridge makes for a delicious and quick supper.

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