Saturday, July 10, 2010

FINDLAY MARKET NEWS, LOCAL GETS SOME TOP CHEF LOVE (?), AND A $10K BOURDAIN CONTEST

Some interesting encounters of the blogospheric kind have cropped up lately. Let's start with Findlay Market.
Findlay Market has finally launched SNAP Plus, a program designed to "help families receiving food stamps afford more fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy food typically found in farmers markets." I've been following news of this program since I heard about a similar one in Florida via blogger friend La Diva Cucina, in her April post about the opening of a brand new urban farmers market in a neighborhood that reminded me of Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine, where Findlay Market is located. A big difference is that Miami's Overtown/Roots in the City market is brand new, while Findlay is the oldest continually operating farmers market in Ohio.

I was first introduced to Findlay Market by my dad when I was in third grade. For a school assignment, I was supposed to put together a notebook about Cincinnati. Although my family had just moved here from Texas (one of many childhood moves), my dad seemed to know all about this place. He led me on a tour of downtown and its many fine examples of architectural and urban planning traditions, letting me snap away with my little Brownie camera. Although I've forgotten far more than he showed me, three memories persist:

Cincinnati's iconic Tyler Davidson Fountain (back then, it sat in the middle of Fifth Street)
The Rookwood Pottery detail on the facade of the Gidding-Jenny Building (now, alas, sitting vacant next to a TJ Maxx)
 And Findlay Market
We had a great father-daughter day. After I got my snapshots developed, and already feeling more comfortable in my new hometown, I eagerly snugged the corners of my black-and-whites into the corner mounts that were all we had to work with back in those pre-digital, pre-"scrapbooking-as-big-business" days.

Flash forward 45 years (gulp). Findlay Market has been significantly expanded and renovated, farmers markets have become trendy, and I've somehow become a food blogger.

I was so inspired by La Diva's post that I contacted Findlay Market, asking if they were aware of the Wholesome Wave Charitable Venture, a potential source of funding. I received a quick response informing me Findlay was already working to launch a similar foodstamp-doubling program in June, which I mentioned in a comment on La Diva's blog.

What happened next surprised me. I received an email a month or so later from someone looking for further info about the Findlay program. Although my correspondent was local, she managed to find me via Diva's Florida blog, and tracked down my email address. Explaining that a friend's husband had lost his job and unemployment benefits were about to run out, she was hoping Findlay's program might be a big help. 
This economy has swelled the numbers of people trying to feed their families on very limited means. Organizations like Cincinnati's Freestore Foodbank are experiencing greater demand than ever, as people who would not previously have looked to them for help are in dire need of assistance. I applaud Findlay and its sponsors for this program, which helps bring fresh, healthy produce within affordable reach to people in difficult economic circumstances, and also benefits the farmers who sell to them. For full details about SNAP Plus at Findlay Market, click here.

On a lighter note, this week I stumbled upon a local connection to Top Chef. Some of you know I'm happily obsessed with this show (in fact, that is how I came to know a few of you) and that I keep an eye out for TC tidbits when surfing the web. Any self-respecting Top Chef fan bemoans Bravo's persistent product placement exploitation, but when I happened upon this eater.com item investigating one of those TC sponsor microsites ("so fans don't have to"), of course I was curious. I clicked through to the read the report, with a fictional byline from "Brandistan," where the writer says: "Some guy named Todd Kelly is staring at me. He's wearing a toque but he doesn't look familiar. A banner says he's a Hilton Signature Chef. What are the other chefs at Hilton then? Meh chefs? Kelly, I read, works at Orchid [sic], The Grill & The Bar [sic] in the Hilton in Cincinnati, Ohio."

Ding, ding, ding! The writer was talking about our Chef Todd Kelly, who helms Orchids, arguably the current best restaurant in town - named top restaurant in the city by Cincinnati Magazine for the last two years and awarded 5 stars by the Cincinnati Enquirer. As I checked out the other Hilton "Signature Chefs" featured on the Hilton/TC microsite, I saw that, with the exception of one from Chicago, they're all at restaurants on the East and West Coasts. I'm annoyed with the eater.com writer for the implied dissing of my Midwestern city.

After watching this week's episode of Top Chef and reading viewer comments about it sundry places, I also have a different perspective on the put-downs of "hotel food." In the case of Chef Kelly and Orchid's, hello, we're not talking about a complimentary make-your-own breakfast bar at a suburban box hotel kind of place. Orchids is located in a gem of an Art Deco building that is still, thankfully, standing. And Chef Todd Kelly's food is celebrated, even if he's not a media hound. For a lovely little profile of him by the multi-talented blogger behind Epi-Ventures, click here.

Speaking of media hounds, there is Anthony Bourdain.

Tony just wrapped his recent promo tour for the hardcover edition of Medium Raw (my recap of his Cincy gig here - thanks to all who commented). In what was no doubt a carefully timed PR campaign, the new season of No Reservations debuted last week. The previews for this Monday's episode, about the Midwest, include Michael Ruhlman saying something to the effect of: "For starters, you asked if we had indoor plumbing," so I'm guessing more dissing of the land where I live is on the horizon.

But Bourdain recently got some come-uppance. Have you seen the ads appearing on many food blogs lately encouraging you to take the "Medium Raw Challenge"? The idea is to submit a 500-word essay on "why cook well" or "what it means to cook well," with Tony's favorite entry winning publication in the upcoming paperback edition. After being called out on the notion he would publish but not pay the winner, Tony says he's personally ponying up $10,000 for the winner. Now that's a contest! Any of you fellow bloggers tempted to sharpen your pencils, er, boot up your laptops?

Reminder: Deadline for the far humbler and less lucrative Culinary Smackdown is July 24. Details here.
Hope you're enjoying your weekend and eating well!

eggy

5 comments:

buffalodick said...

Midwest cooking runs towards good solid food..we don't have many great restaurants, but plenty of really good ones!

Making Space said...

Wow Eggy!!!!!!! The part of your post where someone got in touch with you to help get fresh produce from the Findleay market brought tears to my eyes!!!

I'm glad you love your city so much. My dad is from Ohio and I lived there for a bit (also moved almost constantly) as a child. Cold, the winters. Brrr... LOL No one took me to fancy restaurants either, but then I thought McDonalds was the shizz back then...

Awesome recap of your childhood and your city.

moi said...

I'm amazed at the number of private non profits throughout the country working to bring healthy food to families in need. Very heartening.

And, thanks for the head's up on the contest. Looks interesting.

Big Shamu said...

Pondering 500 words. none of which will include Tony's favorite, the f-word.

intuitive eggplant said...

B.D., we've got an interesting assortment of restaurants in Cincy. Eclectic and innovative ones keep opening, in addition to more tried-and-true fare.

MS, et tu, being moved around as a kid?

Moi and Shamy, I'll bet you'd both come up with interesting entries. It's just such a broad, open-ended subject, though . . .