Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Eat Local Challenge - Anniversary Mark's

So Monday the 6th was my husband and I's First Anniversary! I can't believe that a year has already gone by...a new house, a hurricane, a challenge :). I thought my husband had to work that evening so I had already cozied up to my new favorite food...the homemade chocolate pudding I posted about earlier...when the doorbell rang, and there he was! SURPRISE! I put down my pudding, and we were off to dinner at Mark's American Cuisine. We have been celebrating relationship milestones at Mark's for a few years, and we definitely consider it a special place. Over the years we have seen Mark's grow, but the high quality of the service and the food has not changed. I had the Eat Local Challenge in the back of my mind as I perused the menu, but I had already given myself a freebee for the WAS my first anniversary, and we WERE at my favorite restaurant. Alas, Mark's prides itself on its seasonal fresh cuisine and the chefs seek out the freshest produce throughout the country when creating their menu. They typically list the source of all of their menu items; including the state and farm where it came from. The nights specials included Texas Kobe beef served as boneless ribs and sliced flank steak...LOCAL! I was in, if only to stay true to the challenge :) We toyed with ordering an Inwood Estates Tempernillo to keep the local Texas theme going, but at $75 a bottle, we were not feeling that glued to the challenge...I have my limits. We were a bit annoyed at the wine list in general. When we first started going to Mark's we were truly impressed with their wine list. It offered a range of wines from the high 20's up to the reserve/cult wine category, with attention to quality and variety at each level. With their new sommelier, that is no longer the case. I think it is ridiculous that a restaurant would not be able to find a decent red wine that they could offer for under $50. Off the soap box. The dinner was amazing, and we finished if off with some delicious French Press Coffee and a trio of desserts featuring American Whiskeys as a common ingredient...kind of local. The desserts included a chocolate brownie, pecan pie with mint mojito ice cream, and an amazing creme brulee. Yum!! So despite the ever increasing prices at Mark's we will continue coming back for the beautiful food, local flavor, and romantic atmosphere...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Eat Local Challenge: Weekend's Eating

Saturday night was St. Arnold's Pub Crawl...can't get much more local than that! 5 local bars took part in the ramble: McGonigels Mucky Duck, The Hobbit Cafe, Mezzanine Lounge, and finished off at Stag's Head. St. Arnold's Oktoberfest was the featured beer. Great beer and a well run event. St. Arnold's does a great job supporting Houston events, and is dedicated to giving
back to the community.
Inspired I guess, St. Arnold's seemed to be the theme for Sunday's cooking.
Hatterman's eggs for breakfast, then I went to work baking some Beer Bread with St. Arnold's Divine Reserve #7, a Weizenbock beer. I grabbed the recipe from another blogger...quick and easy.
1 Cup All Purpose Flour (I used half Stone Ground Wheat (from Texas!) and half St. Arthur's Organic Unbleached Flour)
1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
1 Tsp Salt
12oz. Beer
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
Egg Glaze:1 egg & 2 tsp (10 ml) water, beaten

Heat oven to 375F. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in beer and mix just until combined. Batter will be thick. Spread in a greased 8-inch loaf pan, brush with egg glaze if desired, and bake until golden brown and a tooth
pick stuck in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool 10 more minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Will keep for 1 to 2 days stored in a plastic bag or airtight container. May be frozen.

A St. Arnold's Inspired Dinner:
Chicken Burger with Sauteed Greens
The Ground Chicken came from Fran's Fryers. My husband mixed
in some local Texas-Texas Salsa and onion to keep the meat moist, since chicken is so lean.
We topped the burgers with our local Cheddar made with....St. Arnold's Divine Reserve 5, a Russian Imperial Stout. The flavors came together well. We topped the burgers with some Texas Mustard and Salsa. The Beer bread made for an excellent bun. The malty meizenbock added a wonderful richness to the bread...I can't wait to try some variations on this recipe.

Eat Local Challenge - The Weekend Farmer's Markets

This weekend was dedicated to scoping out the local farmer's markets.
My employer offers a Friday farmer's market in the main lobby of their building. They bring produce in from Froberg's Farm in Alvin, Texas. I was able to pick up some red potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and some frozen cream peas and black-eyed peas.
With this I was able to pull together a Shepherd's Pie using the chicken from last night's dinner. Following the letter of the law, I was not able to use any carrots, garlic, onions... My husband loved the dish, but I am not sure we will make it a month without garlic and onions.
Saturday we headed downtown to the farmer's markets:
Bayou City Farmer's Market had some great items to offer including a wide array of summer squash (globe, pattypan...), Hatterman's Free Range Eggs, Bok Choy, Jams to name a few. Airline Farmer's Market off of 610. This market mainly has supermarket fare at reduced prices, but I was able to pick up some local items: 5lb bag of Pecans (they are in season and delicious!) and stone ground flour and cornmeal from Brazos Bottom Mills in Angleton, TX. I am on a quest to determine whether the wheat is actually from Texas or just milled here...all I can find on-line is the Texas Wheat Farm Association. Anyone know the answer?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Day Two: Eat Local Challenge

Last night we received our order from Fran's Fryers (located North of Houston just outside of Dallas)!! Whole Chicken, Steaks, Chicken Breast, Ground Chicken, Turkey Breakfast Sausage and Link Sausage. All free range, antibiotic free, natural meat and poultry. I think we are set on protein for the challenge! I find that is one thing Texas has an ample supply of...local meats, poultry, fish and dairy products, and at a reasonable price.
Today's Local Menu:
Kefir, Figs, drizzled with Texas Honey and some Texas roasted Katz's Espresso
Went out with Friends to Neptune's Subs. Sadly no Texas items, so I just had a small salad and some Ozarka Texas water (they weren't serving tap water). Neptunes is located in area hit hard by Ike. Though not eating local food (not really any restaurants in Clear Lake that serve local food), I supported the local community, and the few restaurants that have been able to open back up.
Homemade Central Market Wheat Tortillas (one of the best parts of living in Houston...widely available homemade tortillas...I can't remember the last time I had the prepackaged version) and some Houston Dairy Maid's Redneck Cheddar.
Fran's Freyer's Whole Roasted Chicken
Delicata Squash
Some leftover Purple Fingerling Potatoes (not local, but leftover from pre-ELC...we didn't want to waste the few pre-ELC items we still have left in our fridge)
My new favorite thing!!! Homemade Chocolate Pudding
I grabbed this recipe from another blogger "Eggs on Sunday" she has more great recipes I'd love to try. I made this with 1% milk (from CM/Organic from regional cows), Sugar from Sugarland, Texas, and my exception...Ghirardelli Cocoa Powder (San Francisco..not SO bad). I leave out the chopped chocolate, though I will start experimenting with other add-ins. I promised my husband peanut butter chips.
Double-Chocolate Pudding
Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 1996
Ingredients (for 2 servings)
2 tbsp sugar (note: the original recipe had 1/3 cup, but I found that a bit too much for my taste)
2 tbsp good-quality cocoa powder
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch1 cup milk (I’ve made the recipe with all kinds - whole, 2%, skim - all work just fine.)
1 ounce chopped chocolate (I like dark, but use whatever you prefer)
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and cornstarch. Whisk in the milk. Heat over medium heat, whisking continually, until the milk comes to a simmer (don’t let it come to a hard boil.) Once it comes to a simmer and is gently bubbling, keep whisking it for 1 minute longer. The pudding should be quite thick at this point.
Take it off the heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate and vanilla extract. Divide among two cups and cover with plastic wrap before placing in the fridge to chill (if you don’t like skin on your pudding, place the plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding.)
Serves 2.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Go Texan! Restaurant Round-up!

Well...tonight is Go Texan! Restaurant Round-Up. Local restaurants are serving Texas based menus and a portion of the proceeds go to the Texas Food Bank. I am bummed I missed it! Some of the local restaurants have events going on throughout the month of October since it is Texas Wine month!
Would have been a great way to kick-off the eat local month....

Day 1: Eat Local Challenge

As I mentioned in my previous post, with Ike hitting the Houston coast pretty hard, our CSA has been knocked out of business for the near-term. No longer do I have the luxury of beautiful seasonal fresh fruits and veggies landing on my doorstep every Tuesday morning. Alas...we decided to continue on with the challenge and venture out to the markets to stock the fridge with the starts of our local cuisine for the next month. We headed to the Houston Farmer's Market behind Rice University. Living in Clear Lake, the 36mile drive for local fare has its obvious drawbacks, but we figure we go downtown at least twice a week that is how we justify it.
Nothing against the Houston Farmer's Market, but I have always preferred the Bayou City Farmer's Market for selection. The Houston Farmer's Market seems to cater more towards prepared foods and has a smaller fruit and veggie selection. That being said, we did find some great items including:
  • Katz's Coffee (locally roasted)
  • Blue Heron Farm (Goat Cheese) -located north of Houston
  • Houston Dairy Maid's - Redneck Cheddar (made with St. Arnold's Device reserve!) and Bosque Blue (They always offer a WONDERFUL selection of Texas cheeses)
  • Figs!!! Grown by a Houston woman in her back yard(best find every year...great to be a Houstonian)
  • Plum Easy Lavender Pizzettes
  • Pecans

Next stop: Central Market. They label the source of all of their products, so it makes it super easy to find local items:

Locally Produced and found at CM:

  • Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil!!
  • Lucky Layla Farms Natural Plain Yogurt (Garland, Texas) I plan to use it as a starter for making my own yogurt with local milk
  • Kimchee from Houston (Banyan Foods) (they also supply soy milk, egg roles, wrappers the local community with a mission to stay local)....I have been eating their Kimchee for I have tasted
  • Texmati Rice (primarily grown in Texas!)
  • Texas Texas Salsa (my favorite, all natural and SO tasty!)
  • Austin Slow Burn - Southwest Pasta Sauce. (yes, we should be making our own from all the great tomatoes, but we thought we'd try it)
  • Fresh Wheat Pasta - made in Dallas (though I'd like to try and make it myself)

Local Veggies at CM:

  • Delicata Squash (had to check to see if it was is! We'll see how it tastes)
  • Yellow, Orange, and Red Tomatoes (Hydroponically grown, but very tasty)
  • OKRA (I think it grows like a weed in Texas)
  • Texas Baby Portobello Mushrooms (they also carry shitake, cremini...good range) from Gonzales, Texas...within 100miles. Apparently the company also sells Mushroom Compost as well...

My only concern so far....lettuce...leafy greens...I am not sure I can live without them...I'll keep up the search....