Saturday, August 18, 2012

CHEESE Dinner at Local 127 Sunday Night

Chef Steven Geddes hasn’t changed his focus on local food, although he has changed up the schedule at Local 127 (now located in the former Jean-Ro’s Bistro space at 413 Vine St., across from the Westin). The restaurant is now open only one Sunday night a month, for a prix-fixe dinner shining a special spotlight on artisanal foods and nearby food producers. This Sunday’s dinner will feature Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheeses: Here's the four course menu for $45 (wine pairings available for an additional $20):

1st course: Potato Skins, Reserve White Cheddar Cheese Whiz, Crispy Pork Belly

2nd course: Havarti Soup, Heirloom Tomato, Pistachio Pesto

3rd course:
Chicken Saltimbocca, Smoked Gouda, Prosciutto and Sage Jus

Short Ribs, Kentucky Rose Fondue, Red Onion Jam

Potatoes Au Gratin, Tomme de Nena, Preserved Lemon Gremolata

Roasted Corn, Norwood, Lime Juice, Herbs

4th course: Barren County Blue Cheesecake, Apricot Mostarda, Whipped Cream

The seeds of the new Sunday schedule grew from a June event co-sponsored by Local 127 and Slow Food Cincinnati. In the afternoon, Chef Geddes and the ubiquitous Justin Dean did a pig-butchering demo in the restaurant’s dining room. (Yes, dining room.) It drew a substantial crowd of local foods enthusiasts, as well as Cincinnati chefs including Jose Salazar of The Palace, Julie Frances of Nectar, and Brendan Haren of Orchids. It took a couple of hours for Justin and Chef Steve to break down the heritage pig provided by Napoleon Ridge Farm. (Anyone who wanted to stick around could also watch them dispatch a pig’s head into its useful components.) At 6:00 the doors reopened for a sold-out pork-centric dinner, at which Slow Food Cincinnati presented Local 127 with its first “Snail of Approval” award.presented Local 127 with its first “Snail of Approval” award.

Chef Geddes was on the advisory board for this year’s “Made in America” American Treasures Awards. Although the website spells our city’s name with too many n’s and t’s, Geddes is getting the word out about some of our region’s best food producers – and, he says, taking his own stuffed local pig faces wherever he travels as a food ambassador. Two of his nominees, Carriage House Farm, in Northbend, Ohio, and Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, in Austin, Kentucky, received awards this year. That's such a big honor that Richard Stewart of Carriage House Farm traveled to D.C. to accept his on the 4th of July.

Chef Geddes is committed to working with local and regional food producers in everything he puts on a plate at Local 127. But the format of these Sunday dinners gives him a unique opportunity to share his passion, acknowledge local food folks, and just plain have fun. On these Sunday nights, diners are seated at communal tables and food is served family style (in dishes to be shared by everyone, not individually composed “restaurant” plates). You never know who you’ll meet, or who you’ll want to meet again.

Before dinner Geddes speaks to the group about how and why he came to be in Cincinnati. In his booming voice, he is happy to share the story of his early days in the flatlands of Colorado, where his grandparents farmed. After spending much of his life in arid Las Vegas, he found what he’d been seeking when he discovered the bounty of the Ohio River Valley foodshed (which includes both sides of the Ohio River). He introduces the evening’s menu, then opens the floor for the featured guest to talk about what they do, like Richard Stewart of Carriage House Farm at the second dinner in this series.

And then you eat. Oh, my, do you eat! Many of the “courses” at the previous two dinners have included multiple, generous offerings, like these from the Carriage House Farm dinner last month.

Chef Steve always likes to start with a sampling of pickled and cured items. And I always dive right into them without taking notes about the culinary details.
Smoked trout

Pork terrine with potato salad

Chicken wings

This appetizer, featuring pickled nasturtium seed pods from Carriage House Farm
 that taste like capers, was one of my favorites of the night.

Those four dishes were just the first course. Here's the second.

Potato soup with salsa verde and nasturtiums. Velvety and delicious.

The fourth, or entree, course was another bounty of dishes featuring Carriage House Farm offerings and other local goodness.

Confit chicken with Sheltowee mushrooms and thyme jus

Roasted pork from the "Porkopolis" plate, 
a constant but always changing feature on Local 127's regular dinner menu 
featuring Chef Steve's love of heritage pork and pork preparations

Sides included a risotto made of Carriage House Farm wheatberries, a collaborative dish of wilted greens, and an amazing cheese-filled Johnny Cake that was another of my personal favorites. 

And then there's dessert.There's always dessert.
Buttermilk panna cotta over spiced bush berry brumble.
That’s Carriage House Farm’s bee pollen on top.

I'm a cheese lover who isn't going to pass up the opportunity to taste what Local 127 will do with Kenny's Farmhouse cheeses this Sunday night. I discovered Kenny's Farmhouse Cheeses a couple of years ago at Kentucky Crafted, and am delighted to find they are now available at many Greater Cincinnati farmers markets (including Bellevue Farmers Market in front of the Party Source) plus Picnic + Pantry in Northside and on restaurant menus at Bouquet and Virgil's.

Call Local 127 to make a reservation at (513) 721-1345. I'd love to share a table with you.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Pig Roast Report + Sunday Market Preview: Ohio Valley Greenmarket

Ohio Valley Greenmarket, one of multiple events this year replacing Farmers Fair, began Friday night with a pig roast at Winton Woods. Growers of all stripes, chefs, sponsors, and just plain interested folks like me filled four long tables like this. The Daly Shelter at Winton Woods was a great setting for the kick-off of the three-day event, billed as "a celebration of community and sustainability." It had been years since I'd been to Winton Woods, but it reminded me how lucky I am to live in an area that offers so many urban oases within the I-275 beltway, thanks to our fabulous Hamilton County Park system.

As the crowd arrived, we had an opportunity to do a tasting from Middle West Spirits, a micro-distillery based in Columbus that uses Ohio-raised grains and fruits in its vodkas and whiskey. Josh Daly shared lots of information about the company's products, and the realities faced by small local food/beverage businesses. He also offered up cocktails made from the distillery's OYO Stone Fruit Vodka with lemonade and pomegranate juice (in that elegant glass container in front of the Ford Fusion, which was available for test drives, courtesy of sponsor Ford Motor Company). A refreshing beverage indeed. Here it is with a wedge of lemon, next to some of the gorgeous table flowers provided by Adopt-a-Plant.

I'm not going to attempt to cite all the sponsors of Ohio Valley Greenmarket for fear of leaving someone out. I wasn't an organizer, although I am looking forward to volunteering a couple hours of my time Sunday morning to help Market vendors load in. I tip my hat to what clearly is a large group of dedicated individuals who pulled together resources and sponsors to make this first-ever event happen.

The team from Edible Ohio Valley magazine was among the key players and publicizers. While we were waiting for our pig to finish cooking, EOV's Julie Kramer and food writer Bryn Mooth gave us the opportunity to hear from Iowa farmer Paul Willis about the road he's traveled to become part of the Niman Ranch "brand" of humanely and sustainably raised animals, a darling of many chef's menus.

Starting out by accepting an offer to "buy one sow and receive five pigs for free," Willis later visited a lamb farmer friend in the San Francisco Bay area. Which led to meeting Bill Niman, and opportunities for Willis's pork to be tasted at the likes of Chez Panisse and Zuni Cafe. With thumbs up from those restaurants (Willis says he thought he had a good product, but didn't know it was THAT good at the time), Niman asked for more. In 1995, Willis shipped his first 30 pigs to Niman. But he knew he couldn't supply the quantity Niman was looking for, especially year-round. So he turned to neighboring small farmers who shared his commitment to raising their pigs in pastures or bedded pens, not the confinement bins and gestation stalls used by Big Ag producers. There were lots of logistics to figure out. Willis has now assembled a consortium of some 500 like-minded farms in 12 states, and together they've reduced their shipping rates to California to 10 cents/pound (less than the cost of shipping conventional feed there from the Midwest to feed CA animals). As someone who was born in Nebraska, I am astonished to learn raising pigs outdoors is a rarity. A lot has changed in the last 50 years. Between Paul Willis's talk and his Q+A with the audience, I learned more as well. But I'll spare you the gory details (for now).

Because you might be here for some pig roast food pics. So I'll move along.

Where there's Q, there's sauce . . . And I went with Carolina mustard . . .

Continuing to move along, Sunday's market for the Ohio Valley Greenmarket will be held at Glenwood Gardens (another urban oasis) and runs from 11:00 to 5:00, featuring more than 50 vendors. Here are just a few: Carriage House Farm, Napoleon Ridge Farm, Marksbury Farm, Green BEAN Delivery, Fab Ferments, Mt. Kofinas Olive Oil, One Small Garden, and Ohio Farm Direct.

I'm also really eager to try out a couple of new food trucks: Cooper’s Crepes and Robinson’s Roaming Pig (featuring Bill Dean Family Farms chicken).

Sunday's schedule also includes speakers I'm looking forward to checking out:

12:00p: Todd Shock + Amber Gallihar: Chipotle – Cultivating a Better World

12:30p Steven Geddes: Heritage Breed Pigs

1:00p Braden Trauth of This Land: Permaculture: The Path into the Next Millennium

1:30p Kathy Charvat of The Greater Cincinnati Master Gardeners: Achieving a Big Harvest from Little Plants in Pots

2:00p Brad Rogers of Urban Harvest: High-Yield Urban Aquaponics

2:30p Juliann Gardner of One Small Garden: Growing Four Seasons of Veggies in One Small Garden

3:00p Heather Curliss of Greener Stock: Holistic Approach to Green Design and Building

3:30p Jennifer Bartley of American Potager: Sizzle! Cooking Fresh from the Summer Garden

4:00p Matthew Kennedy of Sustain Brands: Local and Sustainable: Working within the Current Business Structure

As much as many of our local farmers could benefit from rain, let's hope the weather cooperates for this event. I'm looking forward to seeing familiar faces, meeting new friends, and learning more, as I always do when I back away from the computer, get out of the house, and discover more from the great people in my food community!