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Omnivore Food Blog By Suzanne Podhaizer

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April 2008

April 29, 2008

Suckered By Marketing

Light_salt Since I've been so busy recently I've been buying a lot of food from the Cheese Outlet/Fresh Market on Pine Street. I'm usually a pretty good little localvore, but the other day I noticed a bag of Tyrrells Lightly Sea Salted Potato Chips from Herefordshire, England.

They came from far away, but I saw all kinds of enticing language on the package. Like, "We are the only small chip maker in the UK to grow our own potatoes...It's not unusual for a potato to be dug in the morning and made into chips by lunchtime." How could a foodie resist?

By the time I busted open the 1.24 ounce bag, which cost me a ludicrous $1.99, I was convinced that these would be potato chips worthy of being served to the gods. And they proved to be a tasty snack: crisp, golden, properly salted, not too greasy. But "flown across the Atlantic using massive quantities of jet fuel and still seemingly worth it good?" Not even remotely. Tyrrells crisps may be "an artisan delicacy," but they tasted like, well, potato chips.

Although I strive to make ethical food choices, I also allow myself to indulge in some of the fruits of globalization: Avocados, bananas, balsamic vinegar and European cheeses are some of the faraway items I'll spring for. But if I'm going to get something from outside my local "food shed," it better taste like nothing else on earth.

Which products from afar are your guilty pleasures?

* The picture comes from the Tyrrell's website

April 24, 2008

If You Can't Take The Heat, Get A "HotHolder!"

Img_1761You may already have seen these in Patrick Mullikin's article called Kitchen Kitsch, but just in case you missed it, I wanted to call attention to these fun potholders by Vermont artist Sarah Green.

If you're tired of the standard options for keeping your hands burn free, you can head over to Etsy.com and put your mitts all over Oscar, Lars, Chad, Tommy or Steve. 

Seeing this potholder inspired me to search for other fun kitchen items, specifically aprons with similarly fun patterns or with sexy style, but I didn't really find much that worked for me. What did I find? Aprons with naughty slogans (Master Baster, and so on), lots of French maid costumes and "naked aprons." Ick. I did find a fun company called Carolyn's Kitchen that sells cute, vintage inspired aprons, but they weren't exactly what I was looking for. Finally, I headed back to Etsy where I found just the thing: the Tijuana Mama apron. That's hot!

It makes me want to bust out my sewing machine.

April 23, 2008

I'm In Love with Pete's Greens (This Week's Farm Share)

It may have been 80-degrees today, but it's still April, and usually, that means the only local vegetables available to Vermonters are baby spinach, sprouts and perhaps some tiny mesclun greens. But not if you have a Pete's Greens CSA share. This week we got:

Baby "salad turnips" and their greens
A nice big head of Napa cabbage
Overwintered parsnips
Potatoes
A mixture of green and purple choi
A bag of mixed braising greens
Organic oats
Mixed, cracked grains
Buttermilk
A baguette
Smoked cheddar from VT. Milk Company

Tonight my dinner was 100% local: Polenta with braising greens, shiitake mushrooms and smoked cheddar with pork chops from Jericho Settlers' Farm (cooked in local sunflower oil, no less). Mmm.

April 22, 2008

It's Over...Thank Goodness!

Regular and even irregular readers of this blog may have noticed that I, um, haven't been around much lately. In an earlier excu..post, I mentioned that I've been working on a major project and had started a new exercise regimen. Recently, I even added house-cleaning to my roster of daily activities, much to my s.o's relief. All of these activities have caused my blogging to come to a screeching halt, save for a few yogurt-related posts.

Anyway, I'm writing today to say that the four-month project which involved the creation of the 2008 7 Nights Guide to Restaurants and Bars ended last Friday, and as of today, I'm back to my rigorous blogging schedule.

But before I start talking about new kinds of yogurt or weird food news, I want to put in a plug for the forthcoming "Dining Guide."  7 Nights is two different things: It's an online site that encourages diners to comment on their eating and drinking experiences and it's a magazine-style publication that we release each May.

This year's print edition will have more than 700 places to chow down in the Green Mountains, and includes listings from two regions of Vermont we've not included in past editions -- the Northeast Kingdom and the Upper Valley. Each restaurant listing includes the days that a restaurant is open and which meals are served, phone number, price range, a brief description, and more.

So, if you haven't already, sign-up for our online dining guide, become a member of the 7 Nights "Bite Club," and look for our '08 guide in mid-May.

And look for my next blog post tomorrow!

April 14, 2008

An Orgy of Oysters

I love raw oysters as much as the next gal, and probably more. In fact, not long after sucking down a bunch with James-Beard-Nominated author Rowan Jacobsen, I realized that cooked oysters, which lack the subtlety and nuanced flavors of the glistening, opalescent raw shellfish, no longer do it for me.

But I still have limits. I can imagine eating a couple dozen at one sitting, but 35 dozen? (For the non-mathematically inclined, that's 420 slippery beasts). That's how many the slim, punky-looking Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti, 22, ate in order to win the Acme World Oyster Eating championship belt. And he did it in eight minutes. Eight! I like to eat, a lot, but I can't even imagine...

You can read more about the contest here.

April 11, 2008

The Yogurt Project: Old Chatham Sheep's Milk Maple

Yogurt_plain_and_maple This is my fifth yogurt trial so far...if you've read any of the others, you can skip right down to the "taste test" portion. If not, I've reprinted my intro below:

What's the deal with little cups of yogurt? Just a few years ago, fermented-dairy eaters had a choice between Dannon and Columbo. Remember Columbo? I didn't...I had to ask my coworker to help me come up with the name of "that other major yogurt company when we were growing up."

Now, I see customers standing dumbstruck before the yogurt shelf, not knowing whether to reach for full-fat sheeps' milk, low-fat cows' milk or even a soy.  So, I figure, it's time for a massive yogurt taste test. You ready?

If I were a purist I would taste only plain yogurt, but this is my game, and I don't wanna. So I'm going to do the best I can comparing different brands by eating their most enticing flavors.

Old Chatham Sheepherding Company: Maple

Cost:
More than $2

Packaging: Pretty simple. The background is mainly green, and there's a, well, maple colored stripe around the bottom. There's also a simple drawing of a black sheep, which is cute and slightly creepy at the same time. Why creepy? The sheep's eyes kind of look like they're glowing, which gives it the appearance of an evil zombie sheep.
    On the back there's a good amount of information about the farm's yogurt-making practices. They use all-natural ingredients and manage the farm organically, for example. There's also a note about the fact that sheep's milk is easier to digest than cow's milk.

Nutrition Info: 6 oz. serving. 160 calories. 12% fat (DV). 0 g. fiber (DV). 11 g. sugar. 8 g. protein. 6% vitamin A (DV). 3% vitamin C (DV). 29% calcium (DV). 3% iron (DV).

Active Cultures: L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, L. acidophilus, Bifidus.

Appearance: Pretty white, with some whey off (that means there's liquid hanging around atop the yogurt). Around the edge there are some bubbly markings.

Aroma:
A pleasant "ferment-y" smell.

Mouthfeel: Of the non, non-fat yogurts I've tried, this is the lightest. It has a lovely (yet fleeting) silky mouthfeel. At the bottom of the container the texture became inconsistent. I stirred it up, but there were a few small blobs.

Taste: It may sound strange, but the first word that comes to mind is "effervescent." Yes, I know that's a touch descriptor, but what I mean is that it is tangy in the same way that carbonated beverages are tangy. It's slightly sour without being at all pucker-y. The maple flavor isn't very strong.

Notes: I appreciate the nutritional profile of this yogurt: It's neither super-decadent nor non- or low-fat. And it doesn't have a lot of sugar. And for those who can't tolerate cow's milk, this could be a great option. Overall,
I like it, I'd buy it again, but I won't lust after it.

*Picture from the Old Chatham website

  

Vermont's First Annual Jr. Iron Chef!

Jr_iron_chef_vt_08_logo_cropTomorrow, at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex, 30 teams of Vermont youth will go head to head to find out "whose cuisine will reign supreme."  Although there's no "secret ingredient," the youngsters were tasked with creating localvore dishes that can easily be replicated in a school cafeteria. Given that it's barely spring and the growing season is just beginning, this isn't as easy as it sounds.

The middle school competition will happen Saturday morning, while the high schoolers will compete in the early afternoon (I'm the head judge for the high school competition). Attending is really inexpensive, $2.50 for individuals and $5 for a family, and the money raised benefits the Burlington School Food Project and VT FEED. There's also gonna be a few food vendors, maple sugar on snow and live music.

You won't find Molto Mario or Cat Cora there, but there are going to be a few local celebs, such as Kathy O'Brien (of Survivor fame), Mark Bove, Anson Tebbetts (Deputy Secretary of Agriculture) and farmer/legislator Will Stevens. The M.C. will be Chairman Sean Buchanan, executive chef for Stowe Mountain Lodge.

It's for a good cause and it should be fun. Hope to see you there!

April 02, 2008

The Yogurt Project: Cabot Nonfat Black Cherry

Yogurt This is my fourth yogurt trial so far...if you've read any of the others, you can skip right down to the "taste test" portion. If not, I've reprinted my intro below:

What's the deal with little cups of yogurt? Just a few years ago, fermented-dairy eaters had a choice between Dannon and Columbo. Remember Columbo? I didn't...I had to ask my coworker to help me come up with the name of "that other major yogurt company when we were growing up."

Now, I see customers standing dumbstruck before the yogurt shelf, not knowing whether to reach for full-fat sheeps' milk, low-fat cows' milk or even a soy.  So, I figure, it's time for a massive yogurt taste test. You ready?

If I were a purist I would taste only plain yogurt, but this is my game, and I don't wanna. So I'm going to do the best I can comparing different brands by eating their most enticing flavors.

Cabot Nonfat: Black Cherry

Cost: Around a buck

Packaging: Your standard, super-busy, kid-friendly, colorful yogurt container. The background is purple, the cherries are red, the wording is white and yellow, the Cabot logo is red, green and white. You get the idea. I don't find it that appealing, but my eyes gravitate towards it nonetheless. Like TV.

Nutrition Info: 8 oz. serving. 150 calories. 0% fat (DV). 0% fiber (DV).  21 g. sugar. 9 g. protein.  25% each: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E (DV).

Active Cultures: Acidophilus and Bifidus.

Appearance: Kind of blobby. The black cherries are mixed into the yogurt, so the product is pale purple with cherry chunks, and being non-fat, is thin enough that it was clearly squishing around in the package and climbing the sides of the container before I got around to opening it.

Aroma: Pleasant, but smells less like yogurt than it does like black cherry soda, which I admit that I'm partial to. Really, that's about all I can smell.

Mouthfeel: Thinner than the full-fat stuff or the skyr, but not watery. It's the consistency of all the yogurt I grew up eating. After swallowing, the yogurt seemed to leave a bit of a gritty feeling.

Taste: A little tangier than some of the other yogurts, this one gave me the slightest hint of shivers. There's a very slight bitter note, and less sweetness and fruitiness than I expected. The black cherry aroma seems to be stronger than the cherry flavor.

Notes: If you buy into the low-fat thing, which I emphatically don't, this could be considered one of the healthier products out there: It's low in calories and fat-free, with some added vitamins to pump up the nutritional profile. The mouthfeel is fine, although I wonder if the grittiness I noticed came from the modified cornstarch on the ingredient list. The flavor is o.k., too. But I'm not wild about it. I wouldn't choose to eat this for enjoyment. However, it is local.

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