Archive | October, 2012

the Root Note: La Crosse, WI

31 Oct
by Deanne

the Root Note:  La Crosse, WI

Photo of Fall TravelAs the sun settled behind the bluffs and foliage of the Mississippi river on our way to Fermentation Fest, we savored the scenery.  Being connected with nature, our bellies craved wholesome organic food. A Google search led us to a coffeehouse in downtown La Crosse.

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 3

 Here is a blurb from their website that drew us in and explains their approach to localness:

the Root Note is an organic cafe that follows the rhythms of the harvest to create delicious crêpes (sweet and savory), salads, and soup.  We serve handcrafted coffees from Kickapoo Coffee, a fair trade artisan roastery in Viroqua, WI.  We also have a carefully chosen selection of craft beer, wine and cider.

Flavour: 3

We each ordered salads that were fresh with a simple vinaigrette dressing.  We were able to pick three veggies to add to the lettuce and because we didn’t select cheese, we had blue corn chips on the side.  They make crepes with various toppings which looked interesting and might have provided a better sampling in terms of flavour.  Even though we could have made salads like this kind of flavour at home, we were not at home, and it is difficult to get fresh food on the road, so we appreciated our simple salads. Photo of the Root Note MenuWe were filled up without being weighed down by over processed food so often found when traveling.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

The multitasking barista, who was taking our order and making coffee at the same time, suggested a Ginger Brew from a local company in a Viroqua, Wisconsin.  The company is called Wisco Pop and the drink was a refreshing Ginger Ale that had a crisp bite and no preservatives.  We were delighted to be introduced to a small food/beverage company.Logo for wiscopop

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 4

The service was chill (as our twenty something kids might say).  In fact that was the overall vibe of the place.  We loved settling in among the locals who were half our age.  There were no bad attitudes radiating from this place.  The decor was as laid back as it’s customers and staff.  Gotta love coffeehouses  for their slightly gritty sense of comfort.  It’s real – where dishes pile up and newspapers are left hanging around.  No wonder people grab a latte and park themselves for half a day. 

Photo of the Root Note

Overall Rating: 10+

Visiting the Root Note on our way to Reedsburg, added a sense of adventure to our quick overnight get away.

Do you even find unique places to eat when you are on the road? 

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If so, please share, we love hearing about them.

 

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Fermentation Fest: Reedsburg Wisconsin

23 Oct
by Deanne

Many health enthusiasts and foodies claim that fermented foods are easier to digest.Fermentation Logo 

Thinking it would be interesting to learn more, we found a seminar weekend in Reedsburg, Wisconsin.  In fact, there was a whole festival dedicated to the concept. After reading the blurb, we were intrigued enough to jump in our car on Saturday afternoon after our cooking class and drive to Reedsburg:

Farmers, chefs, artists, poets and cheese makers converge in the beautiful working lands of Sauk County with a series of tastings, demonstrations, cooking classes, art events, brewing seminars, farm tours and more.  

We signed up for two workshops:  Fermentation Biochemistry and The Chemistry of Fermentation Flavors

Both were led by John D E Jeffrey who is the head distiller at Death’s Door Spirits in Middleton, Wisconsin. 

By attending the classes, we were reminded that the aging of cheese, wine, whiskey, sourdough bread, balsamic vinegar, and other foods that develop complex flavor compounds such as esters can not be duplicated in the laboratory.  Think of the old world, and how processes that added flavor to foods were woven into people’s lives. Except for a few professionals employed at artisan food or drink companies and hobbyists who care, we have mostly lost the art of fermentation, and along with it those remarkable flavors.  We learned that many larger companies do laboratory tricks to attempt the old world flavors and save time and money in the production cycle of food.  Sadly we have forgotten, or in some cases, never knew what traditional fermented and developed cheese or wine taste like.

Tasting fermented foods or learning more about the health benefits didn’t work with our schedule this year.  We arrived on the last day of the conference, but in our opinion it would be worth a trip next year to spend a little more time.

After our two classes we traveled around the countryside on what they call a Farm/Art DTour.  At the first stop we had some fun with sunflowers.  The farmer on this stop owns two grocery stores and grows sunflower birdseed, sweet corn and pumpkins for the stores.  It was definitely a place kids would enjoy but with no kids along we had to have fun anyway. Here is a picture of Francine’s silly mom.

Photo of silly mom

How about you….have you ever intentionally left food on the counter to ferment?

Kraut anyone?

Birchwood Cafe: Minneapolis, MN

16 Oct
by Deanne

Birchwood Cafe: Minneapolis, MN

On Sunday Luke was filming one of his food videos at Eastside Food Cooperative and Steve and I went along for the ride.  On the shelves we spied granola made by the Birchwood Cafe which reminded me that it was a place I wanted to review. After a bit of a drive we arrived in the Seward neighborhood and parked around the corner from the Birchwood Cafe, amid big trees and visually interesting homes.Photo: Walking to the Cafe

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 3

Yes, Birchwood Cafe does source their items locally and adapt the menu seasonally. They are fairly understated about this aspect of their business.  For example, I didn’t notice the names of any specific farms on the menu. However, after I looking around the Web a bit, I saw their page on localharvest and it lists at least eleven farms from which they source ingredients.

Flavour: 3

I have to explain, when it comes to flavor, we’re a bit discriminating.  Steve and Luke have each attended classes at the Culinary Institute of America, and they both teach cooking professionally.  When we eat out, we want our food to have complex flavors and crave it the next day unfortunately that rarely happens.

Photo of Sandwich and SoupWe ordered three items.  Luke and Steve had vegetable sandwiches with curry mayonnaise.  This provided some complexity of flavor. The vegetables were delightfully fresh.  The radishes, micro greens and carrots had the desired crunch but the dark bread was dry and lacked flavor.

We all had the Vegetable Quinoa soup.  It was a nice and hearty soup.  Its broth had the distinct taste of chicken stock which wouldn’t quite work if someone was vegetarian. 

On the side, I ordered a Maple Mustard Quinoa salad; it was yummy and filled me up. Quinoa Salad

Even though I rate the flavour as a three, to match our criteria, I would come back again to try other items.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

In the world of copycats and chain restaurants, it’s always a pleasant surprise to find a thriving independent restaurant, especially when the place is tucked away in a local neighborhood that non-locals have to discover or hear about.  It was also nice to see several gluten-free options on the menu.Families eating at Birchwood

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 5

All three of us were charmed by the Birchwood Cafe.  We ordered first and then found a table amongst families of various ages who were enjoying a Sunday evening together.  The tables were those chrome and laminate mix from the mid-twentieth century with colorful and funky chairs. The coziness came from the laid back approach to ordering and the art work on the walls. We each ordered a coffee drink that was nicely prepared by kind baristas; this also added to the sense of the comfort we felt.  Photo of coffee drink

Overall Rating: 11+

While walking to the cafe, I noticed that each house in the neighborhood expressed its political views with yard signs and a sense of design with unique landscaping and paint. As we walked closer, I saw bikes everywhere. I like bikes because their owners are saying, it is ok to venture forth into the world without the protective bubble of a car. This information told me something about the people who visit the place. 

I love adventure and visiting a restaurant in a new neighborhood is like a mini-vacation with new sights and experiences free for the taking.We arrived with excitement and left with full bellies, yet light and not bogged down by heavy food or harsh service. 

If Birchwood was located in my neck of the woods, I’d grab my bike and head over there whenever I could.

Photo of Birchwood Cafe

 

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Quick Garden Tour: Early October

8 Oct
by Deanne

Photo of October Garden Tour

In the spirit of our summer-long monthly garden tours, I took a picture the other morning that says a lot about the state of our garden.

Photo Seven Sheets of Tomatoes

Today, Steve decided to bring all the tomatoes inside. Now we have seven baking sheets of tomatoes spread out in various stages of ripeness.

Last year green tomato time didn’t happen until the end of the month. 

Hmm…I wonder if I should make Rescue Me Pie again this year?

Or how about muffins with green tomatoes?

Hmmm….I think I remember Francine mentioning that she made a Green Tomato Soup.

How is your garden doing? Do you have any green tomatoes?

Our Pick Your Own Adventure

6 Oct
by Francine

I’m familiar with pick your own strawberries and pick your own apples, but pick your own kohlrabi and broccoli (!!?) sign me up!  Two weekends ago, we spent an entire afternoon at Garson’s PYO Farm, with 30+ crops you have to drive around to the different fields, but once we found the fields we got lost in rows of sweetcorn, jumped over pumpkins and spent a very long time in the raspberry bushes (there were SO many!!). 

Here’s some photos of what we discovered.  We plan to visit again this weekend to get some more apples and, of course, some pumpkins.  Hopefully next growing season we can rely only on pick your own for all of our produce needs.

A photo of kohlrabiMassive kohlrabi just waiting to be turning into some fresh Kohlslaw.

a photo of the applesSo many tasty English apples.

a photo of pumpkins

A patchwork of pumpkins.

a photo of cabbageThe purple cabbage was very tender.  I made some tasty slaws.  There was also broccoli for picking.  I picked a few bouquets and turned it into an American favourite…broccoli slaw!!

a photo of squashLook what I found…an ambercup squash. I wrote about this squash last fall in my series on squash.

a photo of runner beansI discovered a new bean…the runner bean.  As you can see runner beans are very long, you can eat the same way you standard green beans, cut up, steamed and tossed in butter.  But I decided to cut ours thinly and add to coleslaw for more crunch.

a photo of raspberriesI’d probably still be in the raspberry patch stuffing my face if it was up to me.

A photo of a sunflowerCute bees.

Have you picked your own everything?  Are you still harvesting from your own garden? I’d love to hear.