March Went Out Like a Lion

March 31, 2014 § Leave a comment

This line from the musical “Carousel” has been running through my head all day. As I was trying to decide between several topics for today’s post, it occurred to me that March has been a packed month, food-wise! From the arrival of spring fruits and vegetables in the markets, to local (and not-so-local) field trips, to educational and inspiring panel discussions on food issues, it’s been quite a whirlwind. So I thought I’d pull out a few highlights from this month before we give March a big, wet kiss goodbye and head into April.

Spring Did Its Thing
Spring arrived as expected in the Bay Area, and with it the splendor of spring produce. December through February are some of what I’d call “unfun” months for fresh produce — especially fruits and lettuces. I was running out of inspiration for using cold-storage apples and a seemingly endless supply of oranges in all sizes. You can only eat so many kale salads. Even my standby broccoli started to look a little sad. And then came spring!

Colorful assortment of spring vegetables

Spring produce at the San Mateo Farmer’s Market

Berries are back in my cereal bowl (yay!). Little Gems and spring-mix lettuces are the foundation for my daily salads: snip in a few fresh herbs, toss in some pepitas or sunflower seeds for crunch, top with a little protein (tuna, soft-boiled eggs — if there’s time to make ’em), drizzle some good olive oil over everything, finish with a squeeze of fresh Eureka lemon juice, et voilà — a quick, healthy lunch. Dinner might be grilled fish with roasted Nantes carrots and fresh herbs or sautéed beet greens with caramelized onions. Inspiration and creativity is coming from whatever looks good and tastes fresh.

And Now for Something Completely Different
Mid-March, just as gorgeous 80-degree weather arrived here in the 650, I packed up my wool sweaters, pulled out what I hoped would pass for a winter coat, and took myself off to Chicago for the annual conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). That’s right, I voluntarily went to the city of “worst winter ever” as spring was busting out here — and it was totally worth it.

If you’re in the food industry (a cook, writer, photographer, nutritionist, food scientist, recipe developer) this conference is for you. Sessions focus on practical aspects of business for industry professionals and career changers: such as managing your life as a freelance writer or what to expect as a cooking school instructor. But food issues, such as building local food systems and managing food waste get equal coverage.

I had an opportunity to hear Ferran Adrià, head chef of El Bulli, speak about creativity in a way that challenged everyone present to reconsider how they think about food and cooking. Douglas Gayeton, Bay Area artist/writer/activist (from Petaluma!) talked about his efforts to raise awareness about food issues and climate change through a “Lexicon of Sustainability.” Worth checking out are the Know Your Food short films via PBS. They’re 2 – 4 minute films on food and food issues.

I also met John Reynolds, Sonoma chef/writer, and Leslie Lindell, Marin-based photographer, who won IACP’s Cookbook of the Year award for The Stone Edge Farm Cookbook. It’s a beautiful piece of work that is part cookbook and part love story about land and food.

Stone Edge Farm Cookbook: 2014 IACP Cookbook of the Year

Stone Edge Farm Cookbook: 2014 IACP Cookbook of the Year

The business of food is broad and the interests and issues diverse, but the passion for good food and community is universal. I was lucky to be able to participate in an engaging curriculum with an interesting, fun group of people. I came home inspired — and well fed.

Eat Local: Chicago
Chicago is a food town, and I was looking forward to sampling whatever bites I could in between conference sessions. Unfortunately I missed the food tours that were offered as pre-conference events, but I think I made up for it with a few field trips of my own.

Lunch at the Purple Pig
Arrived to a loud, packed restaurant for a late lunch, after getting up at the crack-of-oh-my-god for my flight. Small plates (great for sharing), craft cocktails, and a friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Tramonto cocktail: Tequila Blanco, Aperol, Limoncello, Sambuca Rinse

Tramonto cocktail: tequila blanco, Aperol, limoncello, sambuca rinse

Roasted Butternut Squash, Pumpkin Seeds, Crispy Sage Leaves, Ricotta Salata

Roasted butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, crispy sage leaves, ricotta salata

Oil-Poached Tuna, Green Beens, Roasted Red Pepper, Egg, Vinagrette

Oil-Poached tuna, green beans, roasted red pepper, potatoes, egg, vinaigrette

Dinner at mk
Stellar dinner with long-time friends Brian and Marie at mk. Indulgent? Yes, but oh-so-worth-it, both for the food and the lovely company.

Point Reyes Oysters, served with salumi picante (upper left)

Point Reyes Oysters, served with salumi picante (gotta love getting Bay Area oysters in Chicago!)

Grilled baby octopus, celery root puree, peanuts

Grilled baby octopus, celery root puree, peanuts

Fluke with lobster

Fluke with lobster, roasted cauliflower (upper left)

Cake and shake: chocolate layer cake, chocolate fudge sauce, and vanilla malted shake

Cake and shake: chocolate layer cake, chocolate fudge sauce, and vanilla malted shake

Lunch at Beatrix
I was looking for a farm-to-table-style restaurant near my hotel for lunch on the last day of the conference, and Beatrix was the perfect choice. Quick lunch at the bar with a glass of Oregon Pinot Gris. The beet salad is something I might try at home.

Golden Beet Carpaccio: beets, Granny Smith apple matchsticks, arugula, toasted pistachios, toasted quinoa, Meyer lemon vinagrette

Golden Beet Carpaccio: beets, Granny Smith apple match sticks, arugula, toasted pistachios, toasted quinoa, Meyer lemon vinaigrette

Tuna Crudo: thinly sliced tuna, crispy brown rice noodles, radish matchsticks, sprouts, spicy peppers, black sesame seeds, baby green onions

Tuna Crudo: thinly sliced tuna, crispy brown rice noodles, radish match sticks, sprouts, spicy peppers, black sesame seeds, baby green onions

Food Waste at Home and Away
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I’m working on creative ways to reduce food waste in my own kitchen. I’m cooking more and pushing myself to use as much as possible of the food I buy. Food waste was also covered in several of the talks I attended at the IACP conference in Chicago. Chefs and farmers talked about the idea of cooking “root to stalk” — the veggie version of “nose to tail.”

A week after the Chicago trip, I attended a panel discussion in San Francisco co-hosted by CUESA, the organization that puts on the Ferry Building Farmers’ market, titled “Beyond the Green Bin.” While the Bay Area has been a leader in composting and recycling, there’s more we can be doing on the front end to reduce food waste. I’ll be posting a summary of the talk later this week — including the panel’s summary of suggestions for making changes at home and in our communities.

So that’s March all wrapped up nicely. April should bring the first round of stone fruit (cherries and apricots, if we’re lucky), not to mention Easter, Passover, and a plethora of national food “holidays.” What are you looking forward to cooking or eating in April?

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