Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Time Flies!

It was an all day rain today, persistently reminding us the time is nigh for autumn colors, sweaters, rosy cheeks. Winter reached long again this year, making summer negligible and the notice of the "early trees" in August even less welcome than ever.

We also closed our summer location in Munising early this year. We frankly picked a convenient time, as Andrew (the manager) headed out the door for his last semester on his math degree.

Sitting in the cafe' this dark evening with the furnace warming the scent of freshly roasted Sumatran coffee, listening to "Summertime" wilting out of our old radio, I can't believe the first day of autumn is not even upon us.

Produce still opens our front door and makes its way to the cooler and the plates.  I've decided to stock pile mint syrup made with Backyard Mint from down the road.  It's the heaven that has carried me through the season. I can go years without ice cream, but this summer the pool of fresh mint syrup surrounding my vanilla ice cream while sitting in my bed looking out at miraculous sunsets over the new hoop house just up the road will never leave my memory.

Here's a recipe:

Backyard Mint Syrup

You'll need a large pot of simmering water, a large pot of ice water, a small saucepan, a blender, and a fine mesh sieve.

1 Dozen Mint Stalks (1 foot long)
2 Cups Organic Sugar
2 Cups Water

Put the washed mint stalks into the pot of simmering water. Turn the burner on HIGH. Allow them to boil briefly... 30 seconds or so, until they become bright green. Remove them from the water and place them immediately into the ice water.

Bring the sugar and water to boil in a small saucepan and cook until all of the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.  This is "Simple Syrup".

Remove the mint from the ice water and pat the excess water from them with paper towel. Cut the mint into 2-4" lengths.  Empty both of your water pots.  Wash them both and have them handy.

Place a handful of the mint into the blender and add about 1/2 Cup of the simple syrup. Pulse until well blended. Add more mint and add more syrup. Repeat. Continue this way until all of the mint and all of the syrup are now well blended (pureed) in the blender.  

Pour through a fine mesh sieve into one of your now empty pots. Empty and rinse and sanitize the sieve.  Pour the Mint Syrup one more time through the sieve into another pot. You're done!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Missed the Strawberries

Our family visited the Gulf Coast in L.A. (lower Alabama) last week. We were hoping to get some fresh local strawberries while we were there at BJ Farm. They told us that strawberries are 45 days late this year at their farm because of the cold temperatures experienced in that area the winter of 2014.

Where we live, 45 days late would be catastrophic. "45 days late" in lower Alabama is the difference between March and May. Here, "45 days late" really can't happen.

Thinking about that, really makes me grateful for the natural rhythm of things we often enjoy. Those abnormalities in the weather and the seasons keep us in check and keep us grateful for when things go well.

I just checked the UP Food Exchange website to see if any local food is available to purchase for our restaurants yet.  Potatoes, eggs and hay are available, as well as ground beef we purchase from Bahrman Farm and maple syrup from Paul Whitmarsh.  There's always something that can be purchased locally here. We're fortunate to live here, even if the growing season is short.

I can't wait for Upper Michigan strawberries. Here's hoping they're not "45 days late".

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Something Has Sprouted

Looking out at the falling snow, dreaming of white sandy beaches, my mind has been called back to the earth, the sun, the possibility of miracles sprouting from seeds.

It's been a long winter. It matters not about ones experience, ones delicious detailed stories they carry in worn places of the mind to tell anyone who'll listen about that most memorable snow storm, that most memorable winter. Today, that's filed in the region of the brain called 'garbage'. We've had enough. There's no glory here under the heavy gray sky that's threatening another inch of constraint, another inch of hesitation, another inch of frustration.

But my salad. My salad fills my mind with miraculous reminder of exponential growth not found in any bar graph. A local farmer has sprouted seeds, apparently against the will of the atmosphere. And here I am, having placed that local grace on the very top of my salad, remembering the deliciousness of spring. It is here, somewhere.

It's Spring Somewhere Salad

Organic Mixed Greens
Organic Baby Kale
Tons of Bleu Cheese
Fresh Blueberries
Orange Cardamom Vinaigrette
Tons of Fresh, Local, Pea and Popcorn Shoots Right on Top

Rock River Restaurants Orange Cardamom Vinaigrette

3 T Local Maple Syrup
1 T Freshly Grated Orange Peel
4 T Orange Juice (don't worry, just grate and squeeze an orange)
1/2 t Ground Cardamom
1/2 C Apple Cider Vinegar
1-1/2 C Olive Oil
Throw everything except the olive oil into a bowl. Either whisk briskly or use a mixer while drizzling in the olive oil ever so slowly to emulsify the dressing. Taste and add sea salt or more cardamom as you'd like.