Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Mom Was My Weird Food Dealer

I've always loved to eat the heart and gizzard of the turkey. It is my mom's fault, really. She would always eat them when I was growing up - saying they were a special treat for her. My sisters heard the words "heart" and "gizzard" and looked sick. I immediately wanted to try them. So, mom gave me a small taste of each - and that was it. I was hooked. Since then, we shared them whenever there was turkey.

Mom is also to blame for my love of bone marrow. Again, this was one of "her treats", and so I felt that I must have some of this wondrous treat. She gave me my first bite - and again - I was hooked. My Mom - she dealt in weird food - and got her daughter hooked on it.

I will be honest in saying that I refused to eat tongue for a long time. I had this thing about eating something that could taste me back. However, I tried tongue at Meritage in St. Paul last year - and it was fabulous! It was so tender and delicate - I loved it.

So, I've been more determined to try some of those weird things that most people hear about and either start to gag or make the Mr. Yuck face. Ironically, that is the same reaction my brother makes to onions.

I have eaten sweetbreads - the glands of an animal to include the thymus and the pancreas. They are sweet - and very tender. I wasn't blown away by them, but they seem to be an economical use of an animal.

Blood sausage is another favorite. I tried it for the first time last year. Lorentz Meats in Cannon Falls makes their own and sells it in the local grocery and food stores. On a whim, I bought one. I heated it through and served it with homemade spaetzle. It was really good - a creamy texture that was more pudding than sausage. My husband isn't crazy about it, but it seems that I must have some in stock at all times.

When we bought a whole lamb a couple of years ago, we got the lamb liver, kidneys and heart. I made up the lamb kidneys and heart in a similar way to coq au vin - ending up with a red wine sauce with onion, garlic, mushrooms. The meal was awesome - the kidneys were very tender and had a liver taste to them - just not quite as strong.

I haven't tried brain yet, but will try it when I get a chance. We're getting a whole hog for our fall festival and have asked for pretty much everything except the stomach, intestines, and oink. I'm really looking forward to seeing what we do with the offal.

What about you all out there? Are you an adventurous food eater? What is the craziest thing you have eaten?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Busters on 28th: Beer and Food

Last night, after a long afternoon of digging a 105-foot trench, my husband and I went up to the Cities for some food and beer. We settled on Busters on 28th. We'd heard some good things about it - particularly its wide craft beer selection.

We walked into Busters and immediately got that neighborhood bar feel. There were are great mix of folk - families with kids, twenty-something hipsters, couples of all ages. It had that true "pub" feel - it wasn't just a bar people went to in order to get drunk and party, but rather a place people went to for a good time with family and friends.

It was pretty packed, but we got a table right away in this "seat yourself" establishment. We had very nice service throughout, even though it was very full.

Their fairly extensive draft beer menu had several I had tried and liked and a few that I had not. So I ordered the mixed (American and Import) beer flight. It is nice that Busters allows you to pick any 5 beers on their draft menu for the beer flight.I like beer flights - and not every place does them. I like trying new beers, but obviously can't do full glasses of more than a couple at one sitting. I ordered the Uinbroue Maudite, Lift Bridge's Farm Girl Saison, Blvd Tank #7, Magic Hat #9 and Kwak. As you can tell, I like Belgians. I'd already tried the Maudite, Farm Girl and Kwak, but Blvd Tank #7 and Magic Hat #9 were new to me.

The Husband and I both really liked Blvd Tank #7 - it was a very nice, easy drinking summer beer. It had a lot of aromatic hops, but didn't have too much bitterness. Very complex and fruity. Magic Hat #9 was quite different. It was dry but had almost no aroma (that we could smell). Malty and nutty. Interesting, but not something I could really drink a lot of. But, it was definitely leaning more "autumn" beer.

One thing I must talk about is the house-made potato chips. The menu calls them Sea Salt and Vinegar Chips. They are very nice, thin chips with the skins on. We didn't notice a lot of sea salt or vinegar on these chips (I had a few that had some good sea salt). But they were very snackable. We plowed through these babies - with the help of their french onion dip - in no time.

The Husband had the mock duck pizza and I ordered the oddly named "Elian Gonzalez". The pizza had a lot of spices going on - which was probably necessary or you would have had a very dull pizza. The crust - more that cracker-style. It certainly wasn't soggy, but it wasn't very exciting or flavorful.

The Elian Gonzalez shredded pork with sliced ham sandwich had a really nice ciabatta bread (from the bakery next door - A Baker's Wife). It had a good chewy crust and a nice soft texture inside that didn't disintegrate with the sandwich ingredients. I'm a sucker for good bread. I love bread. Unfortunately, the sandwich was overwhelmed by the pickle aioli. This seems to be their signature sauce (it was listed on several of their sandwiches and burgers). The problem was that the pickle aioli mixed with the gruyere and shredded pork in a way that reminded me of a tuna melt. It wasn't bad - it just didn't seem to achieve the flavor palette that I think they were trying to achieve.

I have to give a shout out for their fries. They weren't really crispy, but they brought me back to my childhood. They really reminded me of the fries my dad would make up at the potato warehouse during potato harvest. Again, that homemade/house-made fry - a bit soggy and greasy. But, I was immediately transported back to a small, cramped, poorly-lit room off the side of a huge, cavernous potato warehouse with a black deep fryer and thick, just-sliced potatoes browning away - and several dirty farmers snatching a few off a grease-soaked paper towel.

In the end, the beer selection was very good, the ambiance nice (although a bit loud), and the food ranged from ok to pretty good. I think it would be worth a return visit with some friends.

Do you have a favorite beer hall?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Food Resolutions

My husband and I really started to get into the "grow your own" movement this year. Not only do we have chickens that supply us with organic eggs, but we have a lot of fruits and vegetables growing on the property as well. We've had a lot of them in the past, but I must admit that I was overwhelmed with "what do you do with this". A lot of vegetables rotted on our kitchen table, drawing flies and oozing liquids. You can only make so much zuccini bread before you go insane. I felt so bad that so much food went to waste.

I resolved that this would not happen this year. I'm happy to say that aside from some zuccini and cucumbers (which we fed to our chickens - go "free" chicken feed!), we've done a lot with our food this year. We've made several batches of tomato sauce, plum sauce, jams, pickles, relish. I'm proud to say that we processed every single plum we could harvest. I'm particularly proud of the plum-raspberry jam.

It is a bit runny - but the taste is outstanding. The bits of plum skin got really gelatin-y and are completely infused with this wonderful sweet/sour/floral flavor. I have to say it is my favorite jam thus far.

We're continually adding to our edible plants - we added hazelnut bushes, High Bush cranberry bushes, and currants. We hope to add elderflower bushes as well.

Every year, I am resolved to do more with the food that we grow/produce. I am getting much more comfortable with the whole pickling/canning/jam process. I must say, I was quite squeamish about it - having heard all the scary death stories of entire counties being wiped out with a batch of bad peas. But still, I continue forward looking at new ways to process and preserve our food for later months.

What are you doing with food this year? Are you gardening? Are you processing/preserving? Do you have a favorite? Do you have suggestions? I'm all ears!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Here Goes

After much prodding from my husband to start a blog - here it is. My blog. It was sort of difficult to come up with "what my blog should be about". It seems that everyone has a blog these days. Heck, even animals and non-living creatures have blogs. I felt like I was a "Johnny-come-lately" - arriving so late the party was over. But, I decided, Why not!

Going over things, I realized that I am really passionate about a few things - food, drink, and music. I don't claim to be all-knowing or a master of any of these things. I just really enjoy them. What I have to say probably won't blow anyone's mind, but that's ok.

I say in my profile that I have been told that I "eat with gusto". My mom is the one who coined that phrase about me. When I was young, I ate so much all the time. When we went out to a restaurant, I would clean my plate and eat whatever everyone else couldn't finish. I had no concern about using the proper utensil or getting in there with my hands. I just went for it. My sister called me the "human garbage disposal".

I guess the point I'd like to make with this, my first post, is that I hope that I'm able to approach life in general like I've approached eating - with gusto. Looking back, I can find points in my life where I didn't "just go for it" - moments that I wonder what would have happened if I had. But, instead of dwelling on those past "what ifs", I plan on looking forward and hopefully live my life "with gusto". In keeping with that spirit - I hereby christen this my first blog post.