Ideas Worth Sharing

You may have noticed the growing number of “Blogs I Follow” on the right-hand side of the this website.  One that I cannot list due to incompatibility between US and European blog feed systems is the remarkable Nordic Food Lab.  This is among the very best of thinking, exploring, and writing about food. The exploration of history and biochemistry in concert evokes many of the same ideas we aim to explore in this space, for our geography. The Nordic influences on the cuisine of the Great Lakes can also not be overlooked and this site allows a unique view into those Nordic traditions.

They describe their efforts this way:

“We explore the raw materials of our region, the flavours that say something about us and imbue the foods we eat with a connection to this place and this time. Diversity is our starting point and our goal. It forms a loop of feedback mediated by ecology, necessity, and appetite. There is no single food that can nourish us on its own. The pursuit of good food is in itself also the pursuit of biocultural diversity, the pursuit of a future where everyone can not only eat but eat well.”

“Yet infinite choice can be paralysing. By acknowledging geography as the foundation of gastronomy we give ourselves limitation, constraints through which we gain freedom. Exploration of our edible surroundings offers a possibility to create foods that speak truly of their birthplace and their future.”

The recent post on beer sings to my very soul. It also adds depth to the cultural underpinnings of Great Lakes Cuisine in the exploration of cultural and geographic influence on cuisine choices.

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Maple-Glazed Pheasant

Using the same technique as our Smoked Pheasant, we brined our bird then oven-roasted it to completion while glazing frequently with unreduced maple syrup.  The breasts were left to chill overnight then sliced across the grain. Placed on whole grain crackers, topped with Cardona Goat Milk Cheese from our heroes at Carr Valley, then topped with a malt vinegar gastrique made from a half and half mixture of Wisconsin farmstead buckwheat honey and a home fermented malt vinegar made from Hinterland Maple Bock Beer, simmered to reduce by half along with a few sprigs of lemon thyme.

pheasant with malt vinegar glaze

New Purveyors Added

We’re happy to announce that we have added three new sources to our Purveyors page, two processed meat sources and one for smoked fish.

In Port Washington, WI there is a small, white storefront tucked back off the main street, where you can find a variety of Great Lakes area fish that have been brined and smoked at Ewig Brothers Fish Company.  The company is descended from the fishing operations started by brothers Herman and August Ewig in 1882 in Milwaukee, WI. In 1894 they moved their business to Port Washington and operated a highly successful fishing venture until the late 1960’s, when a decline in the fishing industry forced the Ewig’s to sell their boats after four generations of Ewig’s had worked the lake as active fisherman. But they still source much of their fish in the Great Lakes region or a number of Canadian sources further north.  They offer smoked Canadian whitefish; the variety of fish that was the centerpiece of the once thriving Lake Michigan fishing industry.The smokehouses and retail market are across the street from the location of the original market.

Our two other additions are from Traverse City, MI, which claims the title of Cherry Capitol of the US and is home to National Cherry Festival, so it is no surprise that both vendors offer a combination of Michigan cherries with their signature products. My most recent adventure with Michigan cherries has been to soak them in a combination of sugar, vanilla, and George Stagg bourbon to create a unique addition to a Manhattan.  With a bit of diligent sourcing, I think I could create a “Michigan” – maybe Grand Traverse Distillery Rye as a base and then search out a fortified wine and some bitters from the area, with my cherries to finish it off.  Perhaps when I’m in Grand Rapids later this month I can do a bit of hunting and gathering, but I digress.

Traverse City is developing a bit of reputation as a “modern gastro-paradise”, so claims none other than Mario Batali in Bon Apetit, who likes to summer there with his family to get away from the bustle of his ever-growing culinary empire.  He actually posted a bit of write-up about Michigan in general, and Traverse City in particular. And when Mario talks, the culinary universe listens.  A nice article about Traverse City appeared in the Summer/Fall 2013 edition of Touring and Tasting magazine, where they mention dishes such as slow-cooked and pulled duck, smoked rabbit salad, whitefish roast in grape leaves and Northern walleye pike in roasted tomato cream sauce. Unfortunately, they fail to mention the restaurants or chefs that feature these dishes…more hunting and gathering for me, I guess.

The first Traverse City vendor we are adding to our Purveyor page is Deering’s Market, home of many varieties of jerky including venison, elk, and buffalo along with the more traditional beef.  Of course they offer both a beef and turkey version infused with the Michigan cherry flavor. The second vendor, Pleva’s Meats, doesn’t simply use the cherry juice, but actually adds ground ground cherries to their meat products including their signature burger and fresh sausage.  We have featured the Door County Cherry Landjaeger in these pages before, and the tart, yet rich, flavors of cherry are a natural pairing with meats. Worth noting, Pleva’s also offers a number of specialty sausages such as Blood Sausage and Head Cheese along with Pierogis filled with cabbage, or potato with cheese or mushroom – classic ethnic offerings. A combination of local ingredients, ethnic specialties, and a bit of innovation, tastes like a bit of Great Lakes Cuisine cooking up in Mario’s backyard.