Current Events

Time to celebrate spring greens and spring lamb

By CURTIS VREELAND

Slow Food Harrisburg is hosting its Meet the Producers Slow Supper, Spring Tonic, celebrating the birth of the year. This dinner will be a cuisine du marché — market cooking — selecting the freshest local greens available the day of the dinner and pairing with locally raised natural lamb.

This Slow Supper will feature products from Creekside Nursery (Marysville), Lancaster Farm Fresh Organic Cooperative (Lancaster County) and Blue Rooster Farm (East Waterford), and give you a chance to talk to the farmers involved.

The dinner is a collaboration of guest chef Drew Wandishin, the PA Preferred Best Chef of Pennsylvania, and two chef educators from the culinary program at HACC, Michael Finch and Jim Switzenberg.

It is scheduled for … Continue reading

Chefs who blog

Michael Ruhlman did a great post on chefs who blog, with a bunch of links and a link to more.

I’ve wanted to put a list of chef blogs in the right column of this page for ages but a number of posts and articles about chefs who write have forced me off the couch. Mario and other chefs have decried blogs, viewed them with scorn at best (mainly chefs who own restaurants maligned by bloggers or commenters, often anonymously, a practice I find pathetic and regrettable and I hope short-lived). It’s an understandable response to this new anarchy. But what about chefs themselves who’ve embraced this new medium, whether by blogging or by reading and responding to blogs? It’s exciting.

Indeed. Especially because Ruhlman links to Andrew Little, a Hanover chef who writes Fresh Inspirations From Central Pennsylvania.

Blur

Today I did so much in the first hour that the rest of the day is a blur.

After two months in the kitchen, I know my way around a lot of the equipment and have done some basic stuff. What I have is not exactly confidence, it’s more a lack of fear. I don’t worry about what Chef Joe or Banquet Chef will have me do next, because by now I know they’ll tell me exactly what they want; they won’t jam me up to make a point. Because I don’t give a shit about being the smartest guy in the room, I know I’ll speak up if I don’t get the concept. Both of these are fairly new work experiences.

As soon as I walked in the kitchen today, Banquet Chef handed me a box of frozen breaded okra and said “fry these off.” Yeah, everything is offed in the kitchen — cooked off, steamed off, grilled off, fried off. It is, I think, the Romance language part of us looking to complement the short Saxonisms. French and English rock together.

I did the okra in the deep fryer to a golden brown, getting in Terrance’s way on the line a little, but he knows I have to be there. Put ’em in a small hotel pan and went back to the banquet area.

Banquet Chef was putting some pans of rice out and told me to rough chop some cilantro quickly. I went back to the produce bin and Brian helped me find some, quickly, and I ripped leaves off stems and chopped like a really intense person. I brought the cilantro over to him and he told me to put it on the pans of rice, wrap it and stick it in the hot box. This is where it clicked that I had gone from Visitor to Rookie to Assistant.

Chef had me pull a Lexan of mixed veg from the walk-in and season it with olive oil, salt, pepper, dried basil and dried thyme and spread it out on sheet pans. Then he had me pull sheet pans of portioned salmon that were defrosting, spread them onto more sheet pans to let them defrost faster, then add butter, salt, pepper and … he looked around at the possibilities … cumin. I’d never have thought of putting cumin on salmon and I hope to get to taste it tomorrow.

Then I pulled four cases of sole from the freezer, dumped them into two Lexans, and we took them back to Dish and put the Lexans in a sink and ran cold water to defrost them. Then we plated for 35, chicken stuffed with vegetarian risotto.

That was the first hour.

Professional cheese tasting

The Pennsylvania Farmstead and Artisan Cheese Alliance is offering a cheese tasting at 5:30 on Thursday, April 3, to chefs and restaurant owners.

If you’ve never tasted Dragon’s Breath or Ewe’s Dream or the other artisan cheeses made around here, it’s worth the trip to Carlisle. The event is not open to the public, only to people in the business.

Call Sandy Miller at 423-5663 or email her here for details.

Pastured beef

We got a happy surprise at the Carlisle Market on Saturday. Jonas Stoltzfus of Jujo Acres Beef Farm had set up next to Sandy Miller of Painted Hand Farm and the Fishers of Otterbein Acres Farm.

So within ten steps there was all the free-range grass-fed organic beef, lamb, pigs, goats and chickens — and eggs — imaginable.

I asked Jonas if he was going to be at Carlisle regularly; he said he was thinking about it. Then he gave us some of his wife’s beef vegetable soup and we talked about their beef. They raise heirloom Limousin cattle at the northern end of Perry County, up past Loysville, and distribute it at dropoff points in the Harrisburg area.

Christian Ruzich emailed me a month ago about their beef and he said he also gets eggs from them.

You can ask for a price list from the Stoltzfuses here.

Farm restaurants and brewpubs

This was a comment by Pubcrawler that I thought I’d steal:

In response to the Good Life Cafe being “the one and only local farm restaurant” and, “It may be the only one in Pennsylvania,” let me tell you about Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks in Millheim, PA and Emma’s Food for Life in Selinsgrove, PA.

I really love the Good Life, and when I first visited, it reminded me so much of a “Happy Valley” brewpub with the same focus. At Elk Creek, award-winning brewer Tim Yarrington is brewing fresh, local beer (although I doubt the ingredients are all local), the decor highlights local artists, they invite local musicians to perform, the bar stools were created by local artisans, but most importantly, Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks is supporting sustainable small local farms and businesses.

Two of the suppliers are Tait Farm Foods and Gemelli Bakery (in State College). Meat and fish come from many sources, one of which is Over the Moon Farm; I’m pretty certain they use Cow-a-Hen Farm in Mifflinburg and the Elk Creek Fish Hatchery. And I’m sure the cheese is local – I just don’t know where it comes from.

Apparently Elk Creek is so dedicated to the environment that they’ve installed waterless urinals (I wouldn’t know for a fact – I just read about it.)

In terms of brewepubs, three others to check out that also focus HEAVILY on local and/or organic foods are Selin’s Grove Brewing Company (Selinsgrove), Bullfrog Brewery (Williamsport) and Otto’s Brewpub (State College.)

In Selinsgrove, Emma’s Food for Life features Whitefrost Farms (Washingtonville) and other community supported agriculture.

The Harrisburg area could certainly use more restaurants focusing on fresh, local ingredients. The BLUE Bistro & Wine Bar stated in a recent newsletter that, under chef Pippa Calland, it is leaning that way; “We are interested in bringing in fresh products from small producers. We are interested in sustainable products that not only support the environment but also support us as beings.”