Bucktown’s 7th annual apple pie contest 10/16

22 Oct

Apple Pie and a beautiful Sunday afternoon, who could ask for anything more? So CameraMom (who will be making a cameo in an upcoming post) and I made the 22 mile drive to Holstein Park, in part because we missed last weeks Andersonville Dessert Crawl , and part because I don’t know where else to meet men* (see footnote), for the 7th Annual Bucktown Apple Pie Contest.

The best part about this was undoubtedly the weather. It was such a beautiful fall day, so many families came out to enjoy the event. There was no entrance fee, just $1 tickets for a slice of pie (3), Ice cream (2), cider or coffee (2), pony rides (2), mugs w/free refills (7)…A well organized, albeit logistically challenged space.

Besides navigating the pie balancing crowds through the narrow hallways of the field house, the most difficult decision was which pies to try.  With 165 entrants making 2 pies each, plus 15 professional chefs including Inspiration Kitchen’s Garfield Park Executive Chef David Rosenthall, who made FIVE ginger-apple pies, there was more pie than even I could have imagined.  Mom and I circled the tables boasting their round plump delicious offerings, getting a survey of the pies to be had. How could I possibly choose just two pies to try? A strategy must be implemented: Mom and I each took a room and agreed to chose two pies from our respective rooms and share them both. This way we could maximize our tastebuds without maxing out our budget or our guts. On the selection round round I spotted #104,  a candied pecan dressed pie  from Mike Sandoval, which sold me on the spot. Next I chose #35, The John Dough (an Anonymous Apple Pie) from the not so anonymous Laura Holtz. I stopped by the Bobtail Ice Cream booth for a scoop of ala mode, made several desperate phone calls to reunite with CameraMom, ran into my friend Bridget, (all the while balancing 2 generous pieces of pie in a paper plate) and then found Mom, and a seat under the tent to savor our spoils.  Mom and I enjoyed sporkfulls of four different pies, comparing the spices, crust, texture, and color of apples, while enjoying the music of Dan Whitaker & The Shinebenders. (dig the hats).

We relaxed for some time and enjoyed several cups of coffee while I again surveyed the scenery, this time for single guys.

*Footnote: It’s inadvisable to try to meet guys with your mom, let alone at a decidedly family oriented event complete with pony rides and face painting. Thought I admit the face painting artist was pretty cool.  I wanted to get mine done but I thought it would hinder my ability to pick up dudes. No Matter. I got to hang with the Mom, enjoy a lovely Sunday afternoon outside, listen to some live music and had a belly full of pie at a total cost for 2 : $18. And a benefit for Holstein Park? That.. is money well spent.

Pickled Green Tomatoes with Seneca Kern

5 Oct IMG_3654

When I saw Growing Home’s FB post for a FREE gleaning and canning workshop, I signed right up. Turns out, I was the only one. So I had the pleasure of getting a private canning demo from Seneca Kern, Growing Home’s Chicago community outreach extraordinaire. We met on a Thursday at the Wood Street Farm, 5814 S. Wood St, Chicago and Seneca took me to the hoop house to show me the tomatoes. We gleaned 4 lbs of lovely, firm, green Juliette tomatoes. There were so may green tomatoes that regrettably, will not ripen before the frost. But don’t despair Frugales, these greenies can be fried up, pickled, made into soup or jam. Growing Home chose Food Network’s Pickled Green Tomato recipe. I was intimidated as this recipe has far too many ingredients than I would dare attempt on my own. But with the capable Seneca at the helm….

The first step is to sterilize the jars, lids and tools in boiling water. While your jars are boiling, you make up your brine, which filled the room with the heady scent of autumn spices. Boil for 3 minutes & remove the chiles & bay.

this is steam folks, not some fancy fabic wash on his 'happy' T shirt.

Now we pack four quart jars with the lovely aforementioned Juliettes. Fill the jars .5″ from the top with the heady autumnal brine… Very important to follow proper canning directions. Be certain to wipe your rims, boil your lids, and remove air bubbles. Boil for 15 – 20 mins, rest for 10, then remove, our yourself a glass of wine, and listen for that satisfying “ting” as the lids cool and seal.  Your pickled green tomatoes will be at their prime  3 months from now. So Seneca, I’ll back on December 29th to reap my rewards, and I’ll bring the wine.

Beverly Farmers Market

4 Oct

A perfect Sunday morning necessitates a trip to the 95th & Longwood Farmer’s Market. I look forward to seeing what bounty the vendors brought this week. I like saying hi to new neighbors, seeing what is up in my neighborhood. I feel healthier just being here. Well this week was as pleasant as could be. Beautiful weather and even prettier produce made for a productive Sunday morning trek. My prize this week was giant red bell peppers from Blankenship farms. Look at these beauties!

Blankenship Farms Red Peppers

Perfect for stuffing

For $.50 a pepper, how could you resist? Particularly when each one weighs nearly a pound. I’m going to get some meatball mix from S&T Provisions, cook up some rice, and invite my brother over for dinner.  Blankenship also had a beautiful selection of hot and sweet peppers. The hot ones on the left are fated also to be stuffed, but with chihuahua cheese and wrapped in a tortilla. A quick and delicious dinner.

But it does not end here. I head on over to Twin Garden Farms where I find Golden Beets as big as this guy’s head. (well almost!)I see a roasted beet salad in my near future.

And finally, I spy some nuts and prickly balls. Thank goodness there’s a sign, telling me what they are: chestnuts. Not to be confused with the similarly looking, but toxic buckeyes. I’ve never actually had a chestnut roasted by an open fire. But I am gonna wait a few weeks till it gets cooler to try this one out. For now I am going to buy the best apples ever: Honeycrisp apples, available only for a few weeks.  (Readers: Buy them while you can!) We’re going to be using Hillside Orchard’s honeycrisps for EllisView Community Garden’s Harvest Festival on Saturday. We’re dipping our own caramel apples. MMMMmmmmm. So readers, NOW is the time to take advantage of the wonderful fruits and vegetables that the autumn season has to offer. Buy locally and direct from farmers. Support our local food system. There’s just a few weeks left to shop your local farmer’s market. ‘Cause it’s gonna be a long wait until May rolls round.

WBEZ’s 2011 Chef Battle 9/25/11

30 Sep

Don’t get me wrong WBEZ, I had a good time. Where else can Frugal Food Gal taste five beer and food pairings from five exceptional chefs including Heather Terhune of Sable, Jill Barron of Mana and Chris Curren of Blue 13, for only $10? (Frugal Food gal is a 34 year old student, otherwise $12 members, $15 GA). The problem is, I didn’t get to. Long lines and short supplies meant I only got to taste two of the five featured dishes. How could this happen!?

Frugal food gal took her time savoring the flavor of Carlos Ysaguirre’s Matilda braised berkshire pork belly tacos with pickled peppers, napa cabbage, daikon, carrots and hoisin. Evaluating the melt in your mouth texture of the pork belly contrasted by the crunch of the cabbage. I got a Harvest Ale to cleanse my palette and then moved on to try Leonard Hollander’s Harvest ale brined goat, fall squash cider puree with pickled apples and smoked pecans. FFG enjoyed the combination of seasonal ingredients, perfect for the cool Sunday afternoon autumn weather.

But by 5:30, all of the food had run out. I didn’t get to try Chris Curren’s seafood steampot with spicy tomato Pere Jacues broth. I can’t believe I missed the seafood steampot! Nor did I get to try Heather Terhune’s 312 and cider braised pork shoulder sliders with celery root apple slaw. This is where WBEZ’s Chicago Chef Battle left a bad taste in my mouth. Better planning/communication could have prevented this disappointment. The event sold out days before, so organizers knew they were at 500 capacity. I am assuming (hoping) that it was a lack of communication to Chefs. Even still, with a sold out audience, they could have controlled consumption ( food & beer) EASILY, by issuing 5 tasting tickets at check in. That way we all would have been able to try Jill Barron’s Sofie cheese tamale with mole poblano & pickled radishes. the only vegetarian offeringIf this were a weekendnight , FFG would have gotten her $’s worth in complimentary Goose Island beers, but I had to work in 15 hours and didn’t want to overindulge on a yearning stomach.

So I went over to the Intelligentsia booth and waited in yet another, but friendly, line (who compared the process to a Japanese tea ceremony), had a cuppa tasty coffee and cast my vote for Ysaguirre’s pork belly taco.

I watched the bubble blowers while results were tallied, and cheered along as Marion Street Cheese Market’s Hollander was awarded the best of WBEZ’s battle.

But on my way out, I saw the only recycling bin on premi. Overstuffed and under represented, I recognized a missed opportunity to make WBEZ’s 2011 Chef battle everything that I expected  it would be. But for $10, I got to try two new tastes, as much beer as I cared to drink, and the fine company of WBEZ members, I’m glad I went.

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28 Sep

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