Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lettuce Begin

We've been getting wonderful little handfuls of local greens and lettuce this past month. It's certainly not nearly enough for the needs of our customers at Rock River Lunch Bag and Rock River Cafe'. It's been brought to the Lunch Bag by Vicki from the local community hoop house and by Shelter Bay Tomatoes.

I love starting out the summer marveling at the wonderfulness of the fresh local produce. There's always a stark contrast between the fresh and local and the stuff I get to fill the void in the winter. I wish it was always fresh and local. But it's not.

It's an imperfect process, requiring creativity, energy, patience, and acceptance of the limitations of supply. One of our locations closes in the winter for lack of demand and lack of supply. We found that the menu had to shift so far from our intentions, that it just needs to stop.

We are ecstatic that the customers and the produce are coming back. I look forward to summer, and seeing the joy on visitors' faces as they also marvel at the fresh and local on their plates.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Scrambling Eggs~Scrambling Menus

This time of year is always a bit of a juggle in Rock River Restaurants. We're ramping up for the summer tourist season, testing new ideas, juggling fresh ingredients, training new staff and have not quite enough customers yet.

This year, we're beating a lot of eggs. Trenary Ducks & More got certified some months ago so we now have a great source of local eggs. We're feeling better about eggs than we have since we opened our first restaurant two years ago. I'd gotten to a point last summer where I was ready to let go of cooking breakfast, quite frankly, until we could find happy chickens. The prayer (demand) has been answered, finally. And it's been answered with not only happy chickens, but with another signature ingredient the Rock River Fresh & Local brand is excited to put in the menu: duck eggs.

And there's more to come... in July we plan to be offering Light of Day Organics tea, Mitten Munch, and Just Good Chocolate. Local is so fantastically wonderful!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Ducks Know

This spring has been fraught with all too much snow and not enough warmth to get any fresh food growing that's not protected by hoop houses and greenhouses. This has caused me to lean heavily on eggs as I conjure this and that.

Our egg supplier says the ducks have been laying like crazy. They know it's spring, even if the weather has been slow to emulate the calendar. Today I'm sharing a recipe for Pannukakku which is Finnish Pancake sometimes also referred to as Kropsua.  We live amongst a significant Finnish population that's been here a few generations now. Many of them are fairly certain about such things as Kropsua and Pannukakku, and some of those are certain in slightly different ways, if you get my meaning. The following is close to the recipe we've chosen for the Rock River Cafe' for its authenticity and its speed of preparation. There is another school of thought which requires a whole bunch more milk and a whole lot more time. I would guess that it's much more custardy and worth the wait.

The following recipe is great when made in an iron skillet in the oven, fairly quickly. In fact, here's a video I often refer to that shows the completed project just out of the oven, as it deflates.  The video even has some wonderfully celebratory music that accompanies it!


4 Free Range Chicken or Duck Eggs
2 C Whole (Preferably Cream~line) Milk
1/2 C Fair Trade Organic Sugar
1 t Sea Salt
1 t Pure Organic Fair Trade Vanilla
1 1/4 C Organic Unbleached Wheat Flour
3 T Butter (cut into two pieces)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, placing a 12" lightly oiled (seasoned, not greasy) iron skillet inside immediately. Make ready all of your ingredients. Begin by beating the eggs in a mixing bowl with a fork until well blended. Beat in the milk, sugar, salt, vanilla and lastly, gradually add in the flour, continually stirring. Allow for lumps, but only small ones.
Throw the butter into the hot skillet, allowing it to quickly melt, and then follow it with all of the batter and close the oven door.

Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes. It is done when a knife comes out clean. Allow it to rest a few minutes before serving.

Toppings?  Powdered Sugar, Maple Syrup, Berry Coulis, or Raspberry Jam


Monday, April 1, 2013

Meat & Potatoes

Winter is great for celebrating those items that sustain us from the cellar and the freezer and the bakery down the road. The chickens and ducks are still laying as well.

At the Rock River Cafe', we design the menu around local availability of products during the seasons. The customer favorite this year has certainly been the Farm Burger. When David from Trenary Ducks and More sent me a message in December to tell me he'd become certified to sell his eggs to businesses, I thought about how I might use his product in a showcase kind of way. Then I remembered a customer and my own son ordering the addition of an egg atop their burgers. It brought back the memory of sitting in a Paris restaurant as an eleven year old, ordering a hamburger, and seeing it arrive with an egg on top. That was the answer.

Carmen, our winter chef, my son Daniel, my husband John and I all collaborated on creating the best Farm Burger we could with a duck egg gracing the top of our creation. We grilled a buttered (Jilbert Dairy butter) Trenary Bakery bun, in a Lodge Logic Cast Iron Skillet, painted some of our rich, garlicky pub sauce on the bottom, threw down some sauteed sweet onions, a slab of fresh tomato, Bahrman Potato Farm lean ground beef, nice warm melty sharp Wisconsin cheddar cheese, and topped the burger with an over-medium duck egg.

Our neighbor, Aaron Peterson stopped in one day soon afterward and ordered our Farm Burger. Being a man who sees life through a camera lens, he looked at his burger in this way. A little notoriety quickly followed, and so did the orders...

Thanks to all of our wonderful neighbors who produce the food, eat the food, and capture the essence of the rich quality of life in abundance in our neighborhood. You all bring unmeasurable joy to our world.