Sunday, March 21, 2010

Locovore finds LocaBeer

That crazy pumpkin head stops me in my tracks every time!  It's as though that dark night creature is some kind of sorcerer.  The big carved head seduces me to  swallow his golden-amber potion. (!)  And I am transformed. This beer, this brew is sour and delicious, bitter and hoppy, new and unusual and transports me back to the cobblestone streets of Europe, when rowdy bloats scrambled arm in arm in the wee hours, struggling to remain upright on the slow and painfree journey home after a night of frenzied beer drinking.  

Ron Jeffries, the brewmeister at Jolly Pumpkin is a bonafide artisan brewmaster.   His specially wild yeast fermented  beers are gaining rapid national recognition.   The beers are aged in wine barrels which contain naturally occurring microbiological cultures that produce complex flavors.  As of now, he is the ONLY brewmaster in the United States that is willing to …"take the time (and risk) to let natural bacteria take its course…" reported the LA Times in July 2009. Some people describe these complex flavors as though they are speaking about a fine wine…"The nose is gorgeous: notes of citrus rind, dried stone fruit (think apricot and mango), coriander and a prominent aroma of stable."- noted the Wine Enthusiast.  Other less genteel beer drinkers characterize the flavors  as "leathery, earthy,musky, funky and even sweaty horse hair character". I love that the common theme derives from a "stable-like" experience. That to me means barns, red barns, like the ones that dot the mission peninsula filled with happy, full bellied farm creatures. Special  and unique to our locale.   This is how beer used to taste and look, before the advent of pasteurization and industrialization.

I would be leaving something out if I didn't also comment on the restaurant and bar that the Jolly Pumpkin Tavern is… it is quintessential.  It is a blend of northern Michigan with a roaring good fire in the wood burning fireplace and Old Europe with the rough-hewn beams that grace the ceiling.  The food is wonderful too.  The Rocket Arugala  salad with fried parsnips (whoever heard of that?) is a perfect blend of delicate flavors and I can never get enough of it. The wood fired pizzas are unusual and perfectly prepared.   I am transported.  I am in a genuinely great pub.  Goodbye Bud - Light.  Hello Bam Biere. 

Check out their website and menu at

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tapas with Folgarelli's

If you've ever thought that a local, one evening cooking class would be "too academic" for your taste(buds), let me remind you that a single cooking class is usually a fun, experiential  way to broaden your skills and enjoy a deliciously, lovely meal with a group of like minded foodavores.
I was looking forward to learning more about Chef Ron's (Folgarelli's Market) interpretation of Spanish Tapas, since he does such a marvelously good job with fresh pizza dough and tortellini's  (oh no, my secret is out) that I can find anytime in the freezer section at Folgarelli's. I shop there pretty regularly, since the food is fresh and top notch.  Where else can you find fresh Italian Asiago cheese and olives in vats, capicolla that melts in your mouth?, even a bottle of wine (I've never been dissatisfied)-ah, but i digress…
 What a treat to learn that the class would be held at Donna Folgarelli's house!  How intimately warm and inviting, and in true Italian fashion, with a kitchen large enough to entertain her entire family. And for this one special night as she kept our wine glasses full, we felt like her family- encouraged to enjoy the preparation of the food as well as  the enormously satisfying consumption of our many "little dishes" .

"Fresh" was the theme for the night, and I was so impressed with Donna's insistence that only the finest, freshest ingredients were used for our dinner.  Local fresh farmed chicken breasts, fresh red peppers, onions, fresh basil  and flat leaf parsley… I could go on and on, but i'm sure you can squeeze your own mustard! 
Chef Ron walked us through the steps necessary to make an appetizer of Shrimp and fresh vegetable Cevichi (pictured above), a fresh Gazpacho soup, an Artichoke and White Bean with Fresh Parsley and Garlic Vinaigrette Salad,  a main entree of Spanish Serrano Ham and Chicken Rolatta with an amazing red pepper and manchego cheese stuffing and to top that all off, the grand pooba dessert was a light and delicious Sponge cake with pears and Cabrales Bleu Cheese Sweet Cream Sauce (main course and dessert pictured above above). He was terrific and fun!  And by the way, three beautiful Spanish wines were served throughout the evening. I really did feel "weightless, precise and impressively persistent, with a filigree quality that is alluring"! ( that was one of the lines from the description of the Martinsancho verdejo- Rueda Spain 2008 )  And oh yes, that special wine is available at the store. 
  Oh my gosh, i really can't think of a better way to spend a thursday evening. Everyone had soo much fun!
 By the way, does anyone know what happened on Survivor ?  :)

Monday, March 8, 2010

"Let them eat... Bread!"

If you could see Jen Welty of 9 Bean Rows form and shape 20 loaves of artisan bread, pop them into a wood-fired oven,  and then stick around for the baking, you too would quickly fall under the spell of our local bread savant.  Her recipe is simple, but the ingredients go beyond the flour, water, salt and an especially fresh and living yeast mixture that resembles sour dough starter.  It's one part love of the craft combined with one part authentic ingredients  infused  with her girl scout ability to  perfectly prepare a wood-fired oven. Her loaves are delicious. Crusty, nutty brown, cooked to heavenly perfection. 

Artisan bread is a wonder. Made as it was along time ago. Loved by all, but eaten by just a few- Fortunately,we can here in Traverse City, because of skillful artisan bakers like Jen Welty. Her bread is available through 9 Bean Rows CSA or you can find her or her husband Nic on Saturday mornings at the Village Farmers Market. If you get there early enough, be sure to try one of her famous  croissants.  The almond is my favorite, but she has chocolate and plain ones too. They all are a piece of heavenly, orgasmic delight!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Microgreens and Me

Have you seen  microgreens at the Farmer's Market? Have you tried them? They are usually found hiding under or around the more familiar lettuces and greens. Farmers and chefs know them well. They are delicately beautiful and they pack a punch of flavor or color when added to a salad or a sandwich.   Microgreens are cut early, usually when the plant is only a inch or so high and just a few weeks old.  They're even smaller than baby greens and their flavor is robust and full. The bull's blood microgreens are actually a baby beet plant and their flavor is that of an earthy, sweet beet.  The Bull's blood beet plant is an heirloom plant that dates from about 1840.

You can order them on-line from Marx Foods and including shipping and handling they retail for $64.50 for 4 ounces.  Let's see, that's $16.00 per ounce.  Luckily for me, I found  them at the Farmer's Market for $4.00 per ounce. I washed them in sparkling, clear water, dried them, then dressed them with my fresh green salad.  Talk about a rainbow of colors.  Green lettuce, orange carrots, creamy white pinenuts, red tomatoes and purple microgreens, wow! What a delicious and healthy salad! 
And if you haven't tried microgreens in a while, experiment with some that you find at the Farmer's Market.