Posted: April 11, 2013
Ok, so maybe the title is a pretty lame pun, but this time of year always gets me craving one of most underrated meats in this country…lamb. It doesn’t hurt that I’m also betrothed to an Aussie who considers lamb it’s own food group and will eat it any chance she gets.
I read an interesting statistic that I haven’t been able to confirm, but according to this one article, about 70% of people in this country have never tried lamb. Even if the actual percentage is half that amount, it’s ridiculously low.
At one time in the US, lamb was raised mainly for Passover and Easter. Even though lamb is now being raised for year round consumption, the average person usually only thinks about eating it during the spring. In my opinion, there’s no reason it couldn’t and shouldn’t be eaten year round.
But There is hope!
Even though consumption is much lower than other meats, US consumption of lamb is actually on the rise. There are a few reasons:
- Open-minded chefs who have trained in or visited lamb-loving countries have been including lamb (and mutton for that matter) on their menus
- People who are migrating from the Middle East and parts of Europe and Australia into the United States are demanding their favorite meat
And There is Supply!
The quality of lamb raised in this country is better than people believe. Most of the local farms are raising grass-fed lamb that creates meat that has a more refined taste and texture. States such as Colorado and Washington are known for raising lamb, but there are many other states that have small farmers raising some great lamb, including Virginia, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Texas and California. Even in Utah, we have producers of some fine lamb, including Snowy Mountain Sheep Creamery and Morgan Valley Lamb.
There is Variety!
Aside from the perception that lamb tastes gamey, part of the resistance to eating lamb is the mystery behind how to cook it correctly. Since it’s versatile and flavorful there are many ways it can be prepared. And if you buy grass-fed lamb and pair it with complementary flavors, you won’t think there is any of that barnyard funkiness.
- Roasted and stuffed leg
- Stewed shoulder with vegetables
- Grilled loin chops
- Broiled rack of lamb
- Braised lamb shanks
However, recently dishes such as braised lamb ribs and slow-roasted lamb belly are appearing on menus across the country along with other rediscovered cuts. Sign me up, please.
There is Flavor!
Now, there are a lot of classic flavor combinations with lamb, such as mint, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and lemon. These are stronger flavors that can stand up to the taste of lamb and you can’t go wrong with them. However, there are a number of other flavors you may not have thought about pairing with lamb. Here are a few suggestions:
almonds, anchovies, blue cheese, cherries, eggplant, lavender, oranges, pistachios, prunes, tamarind, vermouth, zucchini
OK, so I’ve probably said enough about lamb. After you’ve read this post, I hope you think differently about it. The next time you’re at the butcher or grocery store, consider buying lamb – and if you’re feeling adventurous, buy something other than lamb chops.
Thanks for your time and happy eating!
Posted: March 21, 2013
Every year I catch the fever that is called March Madness. I watch the selection show, scour the Internet and eaves drop on conversations around the water cooler, all to inform my NCAA tourney brackets.
Every year I sit back and watch as somebody else surpasses me in braketology and ask myself where it all went wrong. Maybe I’m just not suited for predicting college basketball games in March.
Every year I hear that the person who won the pool picked their brackets based on team mascot or team colors or some other extraneous criteria. Then I feel even worse. How could somebody who knows nothing about the sport beat me?
I have an Idea!
This year will be different. I’ve decided to use a unique selection process to choose my brackets. I thought long and hard about it and came to the conclusion –
Why not choose the teams based on their food pedigree. That sounds so ridiculous it just may work.
So here’s the criteria I used:
Teams that are in regions that have a strong food culture supersede a team from an area that is a culinary wasteland.
- Is there a strong farming community that thrives on sustainable, artisan foods?
- Do they make all natural, handmade foods in the region?
- Is there a strong restaurant scene near the school?
- Is the area known for a specific food that is unique and delicious?
By using these new criteria, I worked through my bracket and came to the following final four teams:
Midwest – From a food standpoint, probably the weakest collection of schools. However, there are a few standouts, including St. Louis, Oregon, Memphis and Duke. Based on their BBQ and whiskey, I’m giving this region to Memphis (6), though Oregon is a close second.
West – This is a tough region. You have Southern University, Wisconsin and Gonzaga from parts of the country that feature great food. These three are all legitimate choices, but because cheese is one of my favorite foods, I’m going to have to choose Wisconsin (5).
South – I wouldn’t say this region features the obvious areas one would associate with a thriving food scene, but there are a few to note. North Carolina, UCLA, San Diego State and Georgetown are the best. I’ll have to pick Georgetown (2) because DC has such a great restaurant scene, it’s close to Maryland which has some of the best seafood on the east coast and not far from the pig farms in Virginia. Hard to argue with that one.
East – There are a number of contenders in this region. You have Cal in northern California, Marquette in Milwaukee, University of Miami, and Pacific (offering northern Oregon produce, hops for beer and wine grapes). So my heart says Pacific, but Cal is also a major consideration being close to farms, cheese makers and of course, Napa. This is too close to call and any of these teams could be a legitimate choice, but I have to go with Marquette (3) since it is in Milwaukee, which stands for brats, beer and cheese – some of my favorite food vices.
Of those 4 teams, I’ll have to award the NCAA Championship to…Georgetown (2). It offers great restaurants, fresh seafood and reasonable proximity to a great agriculture scene.
So there you have it. A few expected picks and a few surprises. Maybe I wouldn’t be that far off from these selections by choosing based on basketball ability, but I certainly had more fun in the process.
Have any opinions about my selections, please kindly respond below and let me know what you think.
Posted: November 21, 2012
OK, maybe these aren’t demands…and we all know this time of year the bird gets it in the end (usually to a delicious outcome)…so all subterfuge aside, here are my suggestions for making this Thanksgiving a gastronomic delight this year.
- You must have the bird. Yes, it was unlikely that turkey was served at the first Thanksgiving, but it eventually became a tradition and the end result is so delicious. There’s a lot of talk this year about serving other meats, but I personally couldn’t live without turkey’s versatile leftovers to make sandwiches, soups and so much more. You are only limited by your imagination. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
- This is probably the only day of the year that you shouldn’t substitute all of those rich ingredients in recipes. If it calls for cream, use it. If it calls for butter, use it. If it calls for bacon, enthusiastically cook up some porky goodness and serve it with a smile. If you’re that concerned about your health than do a few extra hours next week on the elliptical or with your Jazzercise video. (ignore this point if you have medical issues, I’m not a doctor, I only play one on TV)
- Side dishes and desserts are a fantastic way to be creative and try something new. Either take a traditional ingredient and turn it on it’s head or try an ingredient that isn’t typically associated with the holiday and add a Thanksgiving twist.
- Try to source as much of your ingredients from local producers. This time of year there’s so much great autumn produce and meat, you really don’t have an excuse…and your guests will notice and thank you. Maybe even write up little place cards for each dish and include the local source of the ingredients.
- Make sure you don’t forget the gravy. Pan gravy is the most sublime creation by humankind so be sure to make the extra effort to make it the best damn gravy ever (and lots of it for that matter).
- Lastly, have fun and get family and friends involved in the cooking. Everyone will enjoy the experience and it will bring the whole group closer together during one of the best holidays of the year.
If you have any suggestions of your own, please don’t hesitate to share with us.
Thanks for your time and Happy Thanksgiving!
Posted: November 6, 2012
All I had to do was poke around my kitchen a little to figure out the topic for my next post. It was right there staring at me. As I picked through my cupboard and refrigerator I compiled the list – pumpkin bread, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin beer, pumpkin puree, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin spices.
I guess it’s that time of year so one expects to eat more pumpkin related foods, but it made me realize how versatile and delicious the pumpkin really is – something I’ve taken for granted since I was a child. It’s time is due.
A little pumpkin fashion history
As I’m sure you all know, the pumpkin is indigenous to North America. Native Americans and the early settlers used it for sustenance (especially during the cold winters) as well as for medicinal purposes. No surprises there.
But did you know that the pumpkin also had an influence on fashion in the early colonies? According to one source, pumpkin shells were used as templates for cutting men’s hair. That’s why New Englanders were at one time called Pumpkin Heads. I guess this also explains Tom Brady’s hairdo.
Pumpkin: the versatile fruit
There aren’t many foods that can be used in almost it’s entirety. The pumpkin is one of them. Whether it’s the shell, seeds, blossoms or leaves, all can be used in culinary ways. And pumpkin can be used to create a diverse range of dishes, including soups, stews, sauces, pies, cakes, cookies, libations and so much more.
I’m sure you have your favorite pumpkin foods. Here are mine. (be sure to read this list in Bubba’s voice from Forrest Gump, the way he was listing all the ways to prepare shrimp.)
pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin marshmallows, pumpkin iced cream, pumpkin beer, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin vodka, pumpkin bread, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin waffles, roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin cider, pumpkin enchiladas, roasted curried pumpkin, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin butter, pumpkin fudge, pumpkin cinnamon rolls, pumpkin gratin, pumpkin lasagna, pumpkin scones, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin french toast, roasted pumpkin seed brittle, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bread pudding, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin margherita, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin panna cotta…
Ok, so maybe a little overkill, but you get the point.
Pumpkin is the new bacon with restaurant demand up 38% this year so expect to see it in places you wouldn’t expect, such as your local diner, food truck or favorite speakeasy. Knowing all of this, I’ve made some predictions for the next year regarding pumpkins. Remember, you heard it here first.
- Expect to see pumpkin blossoms (especially stuffed and deep fried) on the menus of some of the top restaurants in the country – replacing squash blossoms.
- Pumpkins will make a great impact on mixology, with many bartenders combining not only pumpkin spices, but also pumpkin purees with classic cocktail recipes.
- Someone will try to market a “pumpkin diet” extolling the nutritional value of pumpkins.
- Pumpkin mac and cheese will attain a cult following in foodie homes across America and will be served at many a Thanksgiving table this year.
- Lastly, Punkin Chunkin will be the number one show on primetime by 2014 (maybe not, but it’s a fun show). If you haven’t seen it yet, look for it on the Science Channel.
By now, you are hopefully inspired to at least puree fresh pumpkin for your Thanksgiving pie. Please be responsible and buy a local pumpkin from a farmers market or grocery store. Give some love back to our local farmers. They would do the same for you.
Thanks for your time.
Posted: October 17, 2012
Who knew that there’s such a vibrant local food scene in Boise? I didn’t know it. And I don’t mean Russet potatoes (though they are delicious)- it’s much, much more.
During our trip to Boise last weekend, we were pleasantly surprised at how much attention there is to eating locally. We were going to see a Boise State football game without any local foodie intentions. However, we were much surprised. I would like to share how we unexpectedly experienced the local food scene in Boise last weekend.
A late night snack
We arrived in Boise around 9pm after a 5 ½ hour drive. All we wanted was a good drink and a light meal before we went to bed. Located in downtown Boise, FORK was a delightful surprise.
We ordered a cheese plate with a number of locally produced cheeses, hand cut fries and what they called a tomato fondue with grilled cheese. The later is a unique twist on fondue where cubes of grilled cheese sandwich (made with local cheddar of course) were dipped into a creamy tomato-based soup. Try to tell me that’s not a comfort food-lovers delight.
It was during this meal that we learned about a farmers market from our server, so guess what we did the next morning before we hit Broncos Stadium…
Though it’s late in the season, farmers markets are still going strong in Boise with tables overflowing with various produce, grass fed beef (both fresh and jerky-d), local goat cheeses, wine from local vineyards and a cornucopia of pumpkins and squash.
We found Rollingstone, one of the Idaho cheese producers we tried the night before. They make a number of different goat cheese styles, but we bought their aged Chevre with ash strewn through the middle, along with a small log of their unbelievably soft, fresh goat cheese. Aged goat cheese is rare to this area, but they’re doing it right. I’d say it’s close to Vermont Creamery for those of you on the East Coast.
After catching a spirited game at Bronco Stadium where Boise State dominated Fresno State at the Smurf, we went to Bittercreek Alehouse for a few celebratory pints of local Idaho brew and an overflowing bowl of poutine (oh, what a hot mess). Yes, poutine is a Canadian invention, but when made with local Idaho potatoes, local cheese curds (Ballard Family Dairy) and gravy from locally raised turkeys, it raises the dish to a new locavorian high (yes, I just shamefully made up that word).
Dedicated to the local food movement, this alehouse lists the sources of all the local foods they serve. It gets updated everyday. Pretty impressive.
A pre-dinner cocktail
Even for an aperitif that evening, we acted as locavore. Can you say martinis made from locally produced vodka (specifically Blue Ice Vodka)? I guess it makes a ton of sense that Idaho would make vodka (and a good one at that). The Polish have been distilling potato vodka for centuries, why shouldn’t it be done in one of the most prolific potato growing areas in the world.
In retrospect, I guess the lesson here is that anyone can discover local food just about anywhere if you get out there and explore – there are plenty of new and stimulating experiences waiting for you so don’t miss out.
Please don’t hesitate to share with me any of your local food experiences, be it in Boise or any other part of this country.
Thanks and happy local eating.
Posted: September 17, 2012
I’m not sure about you, but I usually associate savory ingredients with breakfast – crispy, thick cut bacon paired with eggs over easy, medium rare steak and Eggs Benedict (or any other Benedict for that matter), sausage and biscuits with creamy Sawmill gravy – essentially anything pig and egg related is a good start.
An Autumn Starter
I personally consider it a power breakfast during those cool autumn weekend mornings – and I’m not alone. This combination is gaining popularity, so much so that chefs and home cooks alike are actually combining the two to make apple cider doughnuts. All I can say is yes please (in a child’s voice), and please, go on…(in my serious psychiatrist’s voice).
If your interest isn’t piqued yet, you might as well stop reading right now, pack your bags and leave this country. I mean that. You don’t belong here (or there or anywhere for that matter).
Maybe that’s a little harsh, but I feel that this breakfast combination represents all that is great about this country: apples (a fruit that is forever baked into the fabric of Americana) and doughnuts (the certain cause of the ever-expanding waistlines and smiles of our collective country). It is the fruity sweetness combined with a luscious yeastiness that makes for an intriguing combination – dare I say an updated version of the heralded apple pie?
It Gets Complicated
Now, let’s be clear, you can’t just drink any plain old apple cider and don’t even think about store-bought apple juice. That would be like replacing lobster with monkfish (which by the way is known as the poor man’s lobster).
That being said, here are two important pieces of advice when attempting this combination:
- It is vital to buy fresh, locally made cider from a producer as close as possible to your home. This time of year, farmers markets are a great place to source high quality apple cider.
- Always eat raised, yeast doughnuts (think Krispy Kreme, no endorsement intended, though they make a good doughnut). Cake doughnuts are fine with coffee, but if you really want to experience the richness of the combination, yeast doughnuts it is.
I leave you with this one last question…
Ok, so before I sign off, I’ll be the one to ask this question, and it’s a predictable one if you know me: Is there any way to work pork into the equation?
And the answer is simple. Yes. Why, yes you can. Have you ever heard of a maple-bacon doughnut? This takes it to a new level, because now we’re adding one of America’s great culinary contributions to the world – bacon (and I don’t mean the Canadian variety, sorry Canada), and maple syrup, which is almost as American as apples (sorry again Canada, but Vermont maple syrup is better).
Hopefully I’ve inspired you to try cider and donuts for breakfast this weekend. If you’ve never had this combination and you do try it, let me know what you think. If you like it, please don’t hesitate to send me a finder’s fee of some slab bacon or other delicious pork product. Just send it to Park City, Utah. They’ll know to deliver it to the guy with the pig tattoo. No COD please.
Thanks for listening.
Posted: July 2, 2012
Hands down, two of my most favorite foods are beer and cheese. I will be so bold as to say that my very existence relies upon a perpetual supply of both. If I didn’t have either, I expect I would shrivel up and blow away into the crisp Rocky Mountain wind.
It’s not by accident that I love these two foods. They are actually perfect bedfellows…and I personally believe an even better pairing than wine and cheese. (I can almost hear the wine enthusiasts shouting, Blasphemer!)
At least listen to my reasoning behind this outrageous claim.
Firstly, both foods rely upon microbial activity and when made well, can reflect the terroir (sorry for using that word again) of the area in which it is made.
Secondly, cheese is earthy, pungent and intense, usually with a creamy finish that can overwhelm the flavor of other libations. Beer has similar flavor profiles as that of many cheeses, but also has carbonation, bitterness and roasted flavors that can handle the richness and creaminess of most cheeses.
I probably haven’t convinced you yet, but I’ve always felt the best way to persuade somebody is to have them experience it for themselves. Therefore, I will list for you some of the best pairings of cheese and beer and you can decide for yourself if I’m accurate in my statement above.
On a final note, here are some fundamentals behind pairing beer and cheese so you can try your own combinations (from the brain and experience of Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and famed author). There aren’t any hard fast rules, so try, try and try again until you find what you prefer.
– lighter beers with younger or fresh cheeses
– malty beers with nutty, aged cheeses
– hoppy beers with tart, sharp cheeses
– strong, sweet beers with blue cheeses
The beauty of pairing beer and cheese is you can taste away until you find the perfect pairing. If you have any favorites of your own, please don’t hesitate to include them below.
- 5@5 – Cheeses that pair well with beer (eatocracy.cnn.com)
Posted: June 15, 2012
Believe it or not, my fiancé Kylie and I went to three farmers markets over the last week. I know, a little extreme, but these were the first of the year here in the Park City area and we couldn’t help but indulge our food obsession and see what the new season has to offer. We started off at the Park City Farmers Market at the Canyons on Wednesday, then went to the Downtown Salt Lake City Farmers Market (which is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary) on Saturday and finished with the Park Silly Sunday Market.
These are the three main farmers in our area, but we aren’t the only ones in the US who are lucky enough to have a number of markets nearby. According to the USDA, in 2011 there were 7,175 farmers markets in the US. That’s almost 4 times more than in 1994 when there were 1,755.
So there seems to be much interest in farmers markets today, so why do people go to them? Well, some people believe there is an environmental and economic benefit. All of this is important, but also debatable, with many scientists and economists debating for and against it.
I personally feel there are more practical and cultural (and maybe selfish) reasons to attend a farmers market. So here are the reasons why I go to farmers markets. They aren’t going to disprove any stuffy economist or scientist, but I personally feel they are hard to argue against.
- Variety – For those who know me, variety is the most important aspect to life. Living in NY, I used to go to three different pizzerias on a Friday night because one made the best grandma slice, another the best white slice and the last one a killer Sicilian vodka slice. Good farmers markets will offer a variety of vendors and producers who may introduce you to something new. Maybe the ramps are in season or its the garlic shoots. Did you know there’s saffron being grown in Utah? I didn’t until last Saturday. And guess what, we bought a bunch of bulbs so we can try to grow our own.
- Sampling- OK, so this is the frugalness in me coming out, but vendors at farmers markets typically offer the chance to try it before you buy it. Maybe it’s unusual, all natural preserves or a unique pickle. You don’t need to buy a whole jar to find out that you don’t like it.
- Food knowledge- The farmers market is the perfect opportunity to talk to the growers and producers to learn how single source honey is harvested or a sheeps milk bloomy rind cheese is aged or all natural preserves are canned. Having this knowledge connects us closer to our food and creates a deeper appreciation for how its made.
- Taste – All I’m going to say is that I prefer the taste of a tomato that is grown nearby and ripened on the vine than one that is grown 2,000 miles away and ripened in the back of a trailer. If I have a little extra money in my pocket, I’ll choose the farmers market tomato every time.
- Community – If you don’t want to face potentially large crowds or be exposed to blaring music than don’t bother coming to most farmers markets. They are created to draw people together, help them forget about their everyday lives and sell them some locally produced food. You may make a new friend…you may not. It is healthy for a community to interact with each other in a positive way. If you’re a psychopath and don’t see value in this, enjoy the rest of your lonely existence.
- Innovation – Markets are also starting to inspire collaboration among the producers. At the farmers market in Salt Lake, Squatters Brewery created a brew called Bumper Crop that is a honey ale made with locally harvested honey and locally grown lavender. It has a floral head and an effervescent finish. The best part is that $1 from each large bottle of beer goes back to the farmers market. Without the farmers market, we wouldn’t have experienced such a tasty brew.
These are my reasons, though I’m curious to hear why you do or don’t go to farmers markets. Y0u can respond in the box below. We won’t judge you. I promise.
Thanks again for your time.
Posted: May 30, 2012
I’ve always felt there was a seductive nature to honey. Think about the words associated with it: luscious, soothing, comforting, oozing, dripping – even the simple word “honeypot” can have a lascivious connotation. Do you know what the worker bees secrete to feed the queen bee? Another double entendre: royal jelly. They secrete royal jelly. I couldn’t make this stuff up.
Honey in History
OK, so now that I have your attention (and perversions aside), honey has to be one of the most diverse foods ever enjoyed by man or woman. It dates back thousands of years. In my research, I’ve seen dates going back as far as 8,000 BC or as recent as 2,000 BC. According to Louis Grivetti from UC Davis, there were references to honey 10,000 years ago shown on petroglyphs in Spain and India.
It is so important and common throughout our history that it is mentioned in just about all creation myths, religious texts, ancient and modern literature, medical journals and even pop culture – where it exists in many forms, including song lyrics (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch), hairdos (have you seen Marge Simpson), tattoos (check this one out) and our lexicon (how about the word honeymoon).
But before I get off the historical and cultural significance of honey, I thought I’d retell one of the most interesting myths I found that related to honey and bees. It was an old Thai myth that told the story of the creation of the elephant’s trunk.
One day a long, long, long time ago – even before elephants had trunks – there was a raging forest fire that swept over all the land. With nowhere to go to escape the smoke and flames, all the bees hid in the mouths of elephants for safety. Obviously, this was a major inconvenience for the elephants, so to get the buzzing bees out, the elephants blew so hard their mouths stretched out to form what is now known as a trunk. They breathed in the smoke through their trunks and chased out the bees.
Is it a coincidence that after all that time, bees still build honeycombs in hollow trees, the TRUNKS of trees? Could one say that it reminds them of an elephant’s trunk? You be the judge.
Culinary Value of Honey
This is all great and interesting, but what about honey in culinary terms. Believe it or not, there are over 300 varieties of honey in the United States, with the mild clover honey being the most popular. Just about every major region in this country produces its own honey.
Did you think I’d ever use the term “terroir” when discussing honey? Well, I’m going to. There are many factors that affect the taste and color of honey. Think of it in the same terms as a fine wine. Since honey is made from bees pollinating flowers, factors such as soil conditions, water and sunlight (among others) from the area where the flowers grow will have an impact on flavor and consistency.
There are two main categories or sources of honey:
- Honeys produced by a range of flowers – typically called wildflower honey
- Honeys from a single source, or single variety – they are named after the actual source e.g. Orange Blossom, Lavender
Many people think that the source flower of the honey will influence the flavor; meaning honey from blueberry flower pollen will taste like blueberries. This is not true. Color may be dictated by the source of the honey, but not specific flavor. Consistency can range from light and runny to thick and opaque depending on many factors including filtration. I personally enjoy the more complex, thicker, deeper hued honeys.
Tasting Honey, Or Is It A Honey Tasting
So, now you’ve convinced me to buy all this honey. What do I do with it? Why not invite over your food enthusiast friends and have a honey tasting. Yeah, I just said honey tasting. We’ve all heard of wine tastings and cheese tastings and beer tastings, but why not honey. It’s simple – just buy a range of different honeys from light to dark in color and from thin to thick in consistency and serve them with complementary foods such as toasted nuts, figs, apples, peaches and various cheeses. You can also think about serving sweets made with the honeys being served – for example, make a gooey and crunchy baklava. Being a porkavore, I’d also add bacon, ribs and ham to that list (or really anything pig related), but that’s optional.
Common And Not-So-Common Pairings
There certainly are many common honey and food pairings. Try figs and hard cheese or peaches and fresh goat cheese with honey. However, I urge you to try honey with other not-so-common pairings. A few others to inspire you are honey with: coffee, duck, pistachios, whiskey, lavender, dark chocolate, ginger, cognac and thyme.
To inspire you even further, Michael Laiskonis from LeBernardin in NYC said (in a book titled The Flavor Bible, written by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg) that he has scorched honey to create a new flavor, specifically for a dish of burnt honey caramelized pistachio ice cream. Not sure about you, but I’m sold.
I could go on forever, but one last suggestion: honey butter. Last June at the farmers market in Salt Lake City at Pioneer Park, there was a honey producer who made his own honey butter. I almost became a religious man that day, dropping to my knees and thanking God that such a food could exist.
It’s actually very simple to make and it all relies on the quality of ingredients – combine a complex, small batch honey with local farm fresh butter. Stir the two together until smooth, add a pinch of salt and then spread on anything from toast to a damp sponge. I mean that. This concoction can make anything scrumptious.
The Final Plea
As a parting thought, it’s important to know that many grocery store honeys are typically sourced from other countries that have the pollen removed in an attempt to also remove contaminants. It shouldn’t technically be called honey by FDA standards and doesn’t have the health benefits typically associated with honey. Therefore, I recommend when buying honey make sure you buy it from local sources, and look for organic because it is subject to higher standards. In Utah we have a number of great sources of local honey. I personally prefer Slide Ridge Honey (they also make a tart honey vinegar).
Thanks for your time and patience during this lengthy dissertation on the humble ingredient, honey. If you have any suggestions for a great source of local honey or interesting flavor combinations, please tell me about it in the comments box below.
Posted: May 3, 2012
I would hardly call myself a degenerate gambler (can someone say denial), but I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures in life is playing the ponies during the Kentucky Derby each year. Even though I enjoy gambling, for me, the Derby means more than betting a sawbuck on people riding horses in circles. It also means unique food and drink…and lots of it.
During the Derby, the local population in Kentucky holds Derby parties that feature traditional foods, stiff drinks and flamboyant hats. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? It’s less common around the rest of the country so here is your excuse to throw a party during the void that fills the first weekend in May.
Now, I know you’re going to say, What about Cinco de Mayo? I agree that it’s certainly a great occasion to celebrate (and falls on the same day this year), but a Derby party is a more interesting event and less common…and you do have the rest of the summer to drink margaritas. How often will you have the occasion to drink mint juleps?
So, now you have this irresistible idea to be the envy of your friends and throw your own Derby party, but what do you serve? Well, there certainly are traditional Southern dishes such as ham and biscuits with sawmill gravy. However, why not opt for more traditional Derby faire. Here’s a short list of those dishes and a quick description:
- Hot Brown – The dish that sounds like the title of a 70s porno may be a little more PG rated, but is just as oozing and seductive. Originally made in The Brown Hotel in Kentucky in the 1920s, it is an open-faced sandwich including turkey and bacon, covered in Mornay sauce and baked or broiled until the bread gets crispy and the sauce becomes golden brown. I don’t think I need to say anything more about this one. If you’re not tantalized yet, you can’t be my friend.
- Burgoo- The beauty of this dish is that there is no real recipe so you can make it however you want. Please don’t ask about the origins of the name because there is no definitive answer. There are only a few basic considerations when making this stew:
- Since it’s a community-inspired dish where people would visit neighbors and bring whatever they had available, you can use a variety of meats, including mutton, beef, chicken, even rabbit.
- Add an assortment of corn, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, and okra. Be generous since these will probably be the only veggies you serve at the party.
- Now add various spices and Worcestershire sauce according to your taste.
- Cook it low and slow until its think enough to hold a spoon upright in the middle and most ingredients are unrecognizable.
- Derby Pie® – Another food that is a double entendre, being gooey and nutty resulting in much moaning and groaning. It was first created over 50 years ago at the Melrose Inn in Kentucky and the name has actually been trademarked. It includes a light and flaky crust with a walnut and chocolate filling. On top is a heaping pile of whipped cream. It is cloyingly sweet, so be prepared for a trip to the dentist post consumption. It can be ordered online here if you want the original. http://www.derbypie.com/buypie.html
If I haven’t offended you and you’re still reading, now it’s onto something that holds a special place in my heart (yes, brown liquor). It may not be your thing, but I personally believe that the mint julep is the most underrated cocktail if made correctly.
Ok, so what’s so great about this cocktail? In short, it is simplicity in a glass. All you need is some bourbon, simple syrup and fresh mint. Stuff some crushed ice into a glass (or more traditionally a pewter cup) on top of a heaping bunch of mint. Drizzle on simple syrup, pour a generous shot of bourbon atop and there you have it. Some like to muddle the mint, but I prefer a clean drink and just place the mint on the bottom of the glass.
I will admit that you need to know the right technique when making this drink, such as letting the ice dilute the mixture a bit since it is very strong, and if you’re using a pewter cup, ensuring the drink gets so frigid that a perma-frost forms on the outside of the cup. If your fingers freeze to the cup, you’ve achieved mint julep perfection.
I hope you agree that the Kentucky Derby is a special time – and maybe you have become inspired to hold your own Derby party. I mean, who wouldn’t want an excuse to wear a Derby hat. Though it may not be as flashy as the typical Derby hat, here is the one I’ll be wearing this year (yes, a real derby). This weekend look for me in Park City at the High West Distillery clutching onto a worthless ticket in one hand, a mint julep in the other, and sobbing like a baby.
If you have any interesting ideas for your Derby party, please share them below.
Good luck and happy eating.