Friday, June 22, 2012

Apple Valley is Changing for the Better

I am a suburb girl.  I grew up in Brooklyn Park, and Apple Valley has been my home the past seven years.  Slowly, ever so slowly, I have seen Apple Valley change these past few years.  Yes, we are still townhouse central, and full of chain restaurants, but there is some real change happening and I am loving and supporting it!

Last week marked the first Friday in a line-up all summer of free music at Kelly Park.  This has been going on for several years, but last Friday was amazing.  There had to have been over 300 people at the event.  Every parking spot was full, and people were parking in my development three blocks away and walking.  Food vendors are starting to make an appearance beyond the lame ice cream man in a van.  Enjoy Restaurant had brats and burgers, and Culver's had ice cream (yes a chain), and there were a few others.  I would love to sell homemade goodies at this and our farmer's market.  Maybe next year I will look into that. It was the people.  Families and singles out listening to music and chatting with one another.  Everyone out in support of the arts.  In addition, the Apple Valley Arts Foundation gave three Apple Valley arts teachers $1,500.  It gives me hope for the future, seeing my community supporting the arts.  I am proud to be an Apple Valley resident.  They host free music every Friday 6-9pm.  Interested in joining me for a picnic in the park?  Drop me a line and let's go!

We have an adorable farmer's market in the parking lot of the Galaxie Library every Saturday morning.  It is perfect. Charlie and I go to the farmer's market to buy what we can from our grocery list, then off to Target for the rest.  There are between 10-15 vendors.  Just enough for almost everything you need from bread to veggies and fruit.  Don't get me wrong, I love the giant Minneapolis Farmer's Market and the Downtown Saint Paul one, but this one is intimate and quiet.  You can touch and smell the food, chat with the vendors at length, and bump into neighbors.  Then visit the library! :)

This year we have a food truck!  Hazzah!  The Sassy Spoon will be joining the farmer's market every week! The bright pink truck beckons your order.  Last Saturday they only had two options, a sweet potato hash or a pork dish.  I of course went straight to the sweet potato hash.  The lovely ladies whipped up my order in a matter of minutes.  The Hungry Hungry Hash had a combination of sweet potatoes, onions, peppers, broccoli and a nice fried egg on top.  This definitely fits their tag line of "wholesome food with attitude."  It had heft, without being too heavy.  The vegetables were not in your standard cube, but delicate julienne strips that were lightly cooked in oil until all the edges began to caramelize.  Large enough to share, but why would you?  It was delicious from the first to the last bite.  I will be back to order this and others again soon.  I can't wait to try the Creamy Berry Crumble from Sweet Science ice cream, which they sometimes sell.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Minnesota Cheese Festival Favorites

I had no idea the Minnesota Cheese Festival would be such a hit on June 3.  I arrived a couple hours into the event with 3,000 other people.  I waited in line 45 minutes before getting my first sample; others were not so patient.  I used the time to catch up on Twitter, Scoop.It, and chatted with other friendly cheese lovers.  If you missed it on Twitter, here are my favs from the event:

  • Caves of Faribault's St. Pete's Gorgonzola- Creamy with one of the deepest and sharpest blues I have ever tasted, and was gone within a week!  I loved it in a salad with some pears or apples, or with some wonderful water crackers.
  •  Shepherds Way's Friesago- A wonderful semi-hard sheep's milk cheese with a nutty flavor.
  • Stickney Hills' Cranberry Cinnamon Feta Spread-  I can picture munching on this during our annual apple picking day.
  • Saxton's Chedar- By far my favorite cheddar of the day, very dense and not too sharp.
  • Nordic Creamery's- I wan't a fan of the cheese, but their garlic basil butter is amazing on grilled corn and garlic bread so far!
  • Harmony Specialty Dairy Foods' Nut Brown Ale Caerphilly- I hate beer, but these cheese with veins of beer soaked curds was delicious.

I had over 70 samples from the various providers and scribbled down notes in my cheese journal.  In addition to the cheese, there were a few other vendors that compliment cheese very well, such as wine, olive oil and my favorite ZZest Market with all their dried fruits and crackers.  If you have never been to ZZest in Rochester, MN, it is worth the drive for the specialty market and amazing dinner! I also learned the makers of 1919 root beer, which I love, also make fruit sodas.  Overall I hope it was a success for everyone involved, that the organizers learned for next year, and that it continues for years to come.  






Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Food-a-whirl, not Art

This year I headed out into the largest open artists studio celebration in the country, Art-a-Whirl, on my own.  However, it quickly turned into a food orientated trip with art.

I headed to the famous Northrup-King Building, which when you combine all the floors is on par with the Mall of America in square footage (no wonder my feet hurt at the end of the day).  The refreshing water and snacks in various artists' studios were welcomed.  However, it all looked the same.  I saw a few new artists, but overall it was the same as last year.  I did stop in a few favorites to see their new pieces, and grabbed a print for the MLA Conference silent auction.

On my way via trolley to the Grain Belt Studios to see the performance artists, I stopped by Anchor Fish & Chips.  Clearly one of the hot stops that day.  Being solo waiting 40 minutes for the fish and chips was a bit lonely at times, but I was grateful for the live music and fellow foodie company.  Oh boy was it worth it!  I have tried to visit their restaurant before, but gave up with the long lines.  Not today.  It was by far the best  fish and chips ever!  The fish has the perfect ratio of a crunchy crust to a flaky interior.  The fish is perfectly salted and so fresh, I would have thought I was on a cod boat in the Atlantic.  I have dreamt about this place ever since, and can't wait to go back.  Their fries are delicious as well, but let's face it- the fish is the star.


Next on the list was visiting the wonderful Chowgirls Catering space and viewing some excellent bike posters.  I missed the bike party the previous night (note to self to go next year).  In their space they had 10,000 Licks Popsicles for sale.  I am loving the food trends these days.  All my childhood favorites are coming into vogue: cupcakes, popsicles, homemade ice cream, soda fountains, etc. I don't remember how hot it was that day, but it was warm, and since most studios are not air conditioned a popsicle was a welcomed treat.  I can only imagine how many more they would sell if they were outside of the larger artist studios.  The Strawberry Lemongrass popsicle was sweet and refreshing.  Perfectly frozen to not have large ice crystals, which is a fail point of many others.  I am so glad 10,000 Licks was successful through Kickstart, and can't wait to see them at the farmers markets this summer.

Art is more enjoyable when you can banter back and forth with a friend, so expect an invitation next year!  I also will skip the buildings I have been to before and venture out to the smaller and individual artist studios next year.




Friday, June 8, 2012

Outdoor Foodie Films @ SPPL

Save every Friday for Outdoor Foodie Films at the Saint Paul Public Library at 9:30pm.  Don't forget the bug spray and a picnic as they are shown in the Kellogg Blvd courtyard!
  • July 6 Mostly Martha
  • July 13 Chocolat
  • July 20 Eat Drink Man Woman
  • July 27 Big Night

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Romesco Sauce

Last week, I picked up a few salads from D'Amico and Sons, along with a roast chicken, for a dear friend who needed a break.  We had a lovely meal, visiting over dinner and chatting on a beautiful spring walk.  One of the dishes had a roasted tomato sauce, which neither of us could identify.  I called the next day and it turned out to be Romesco Sauce.  A new favorite.  Here is my adaption, based on Simply Recipes:

Romesco Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1  slice of crusty bread, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 8-ounce jar of roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2-3 Tbsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:

 Preheat over to 375 degrees.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When hot, saute bread and almonds, stirring frequently until toasted.  Add the garlic and saute 1-2 minutes. Remove bread mixture to a food processor.  Add the rest of the ingredients and puree until smooth.  Spread the sauce onto a baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes, until the edges begin to caramelize.  Cool on the pan, then move to a storage container. 

Serve over grilled vegetables, potatoes, or on crusty bread or pasta. 

 



Friday, June 1, 2012

Marmalade and Bandaids

Every spring we visit the Mastel home in Phoenix.  Springtime to me is the smell of orange blossoms and a wake-up call by mourning doves.  My in-laws have three orange trees, two lemon trees and a grapefruit tree.  We never can eat all the fruit, and since this year we did a road trip, I did my best to not let any go to waste.  We brought two large boxes home.. What to do with all this fruit?  Start jamming! 

 Want a jar of my Creamsicle Jelly? Post a comment or subscribe to this blog and be entered to win a jar.  I will draw a random name on June 10, 2012. 



Here are the three recipes I used to make 30+ jars of delicious marmalade, jam, and curd:



Kumquats soaking overnight in preparation for canning. 

Endless peeling of rind for marmalade.  I need a new peeler!  I also spent hours chopping and cutting supremes.  To which, my pointer finger was a casualty, as I cut myself.  Not fun, when you are dealing with acidic citrus all day!  Bandaids stat!

Orange cardamom curd success!  I used the curd in a summer fruit tart for my mother-in-law's birthday last weekend! 
Citrus marmalade waiting to be labeled. 










So what did I do with all these?  I gave them as Mother's Day gifts, along with homemade bread!