Sunday, December 28, 2008

Food Tour of California: Farmers Markets and Sisterly Crepes

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I realize I hadn't posted this yet: allow me to quote the Des Moines Cityview Newspaper:

Best New Food Photographer: Ben Gordon (
This Grinnell College student and Phoenix Café line chef created a well-researched, photographically splendid Iowa food journal.
However, to say that I merely felt remiss when my last post- in which I regal my dear readers with tempting prose-based glimpses into the life of culinary opulence I have been leading- contained no pictures! Therefore, this post is dedicated to the writer of the article quoted above.

Anyway, on this wonderful Sunday morning before I head off to Barcelona and my sister heads off to camp, we decided to stop by the wonderful local farmers market, grab some fruits and make ourselves some delicious crepes!
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Above: My favorite salsa guy's selection. The one on the far right- the jalapeno and garlic- is particularly delicious.

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Above: My dad grabbed a tamale on the way out. We haven't indulged yet due to the crepes, but I am sure it will be delicious. (EDIT: Have now indulged. Was excellent.)

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Above: Gratuitous food porn to tease poor snow locked Iowans. And yes, all that food is as good as it looks.

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Above: Close up shot of the pomegranates and avocados. It was from this same vendor that we bought the apples and pears which would be swaddled in a delectable crepe.

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Above: Some more greenstuffs. I love swiss chard.MOD_4209 copy.jpg

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Above: Two shots from the sprouted salad stand. He has all sorts of seeds that have sprouted that are delicious mixed into salads. During the summer I buy ample quantities to mix into my lunch salads all week. However, during this break I have regressed into some of the WORST eating habits. No salads for me!

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This is a shot that I couldn't get in Iowa. After my family and I got back from the market, my sister and I whipped up some crepes.

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As you can see, I just sauteed some pears and apples with a little lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla. They didn't need any sugar: they were absolutely delectable without it. For those that love varietal names, I only ever buy Fuji apples and asian pears. In the back left is a simple blueberry syrup I made. The ingredients were similarly simple: 1 tablespoon maple syrup, the juice of a lemon and a pouch of frozen blueberries. I threw in a tiny bit of water and cooked the entire thing down until it was reduced to about 60% of the original volume.

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For my crepes, I just threw in some pears and blueberries. My sister and dad went for the apples. I apologize for the lack of pictures of the crepes: I was either too busy cooking or eating. Let me tell you right now, it took serious will power to whip out the camera to take the above shot rather than a fork.

Tomorrow I leave for Barcelona, so don't expect any updates for about 3 weeks. However, I want to take pictures of everything I eat. For those interested, here is my itinerary:

  • Barcelona
  • Zaragoza
  • San Sebastian
  • Bordeaux
  • Berlin
  • Copenhagen

Food tour of MY VACATION: Part I

Hey everyone--

I have been bad about posting- mostly because I have been so busy with family and friends I haven't had the time nor inclination to talk about what I have been up to. Here is a quick roundup of my culinary experiences so far:

  • Senor Fish: Delicious fish tacos and shrimp burritoes
  • Manna Korean BBQ: My friends Andy, Chris, Konrad, his 3 buddies consumed a tremendous amount of food between the 8 of us. It was ridiculous. Probably my favorite meal by company of the break
  • Dim Sum: Nuff said. I love Dim Sum so much. Probably my largest culinary regret of living in Iowa is the lack of good dim sum.
  • Cafe Bariloche: A South American restaurant near my beach house in Ventura. We had 3 outstandingly different dishes, which is a new one for me. The amount of times a restaurant serves me a truly original dish now is so rare. Cafe Bariloche was a breathe of fresh air
  • HC Seafood: a little hole in the wall fish market near my beach house. My friends and I ordered all sorts of fried delights: scallops, calamari, fish and chips. You watch them dunk the pieces into the batter and fry. Please note: this is a very japanese place, they bread everything with Panko bread crumbs. Those are the japanese super bread crumbs.
  • Sushi Midori: My friends Andy and Chris return. The refrain between the three of us on this trip is "Are you hungry!". It is part battle cry, part query about the availablity of them for lunch. Anyway, we packed away a ridiculous amount of all you can eat sushi. Notable highlights: delicious unagi (eel), hawaaian king mackerel, some of the most tender salmon I have had in a while, as well as a delightful selection of hand and cut rolls.
  • Dish in La Canada: had a delectable belgian waffle with strawberry compote: a tradition of mine.
  • Apple Crisp. I am sinfully fond of a great apple crisp, and will eat the entire thing if not watched. We made a really fun one, which my family and I decoured while watching old episodes of Julia Child.
  • Home-made oatmeal with an apple-cranberry compote. As soon as I woke up and came upstairs to find a pot of oats simmering away, I immediately lept into action (clad only in boxers and glasses) to make a cranberry apple compote.
  • Venison loin with a raspberry vinegar sauce. I made this to take to a friend (Kyle's) party upon his return fron Copenhagen. It was called a Hyggefest, which is apparently a type of Danish party in which everyone brings loads of food and you sit around and catch up. It was a great party, with some incredible food, and I want to recognize the entire culinary lineup:

    • Swedish Meatballs with gravy (delicious)
    • Asparagus and potato salad (a welcome spin on potato salad)
    • Cheddar and pecan bread (great)
    • Chocolate and marshmallow bundt cake (this sounds really plain, but was in fact INCREDIBLE)

I think that is everything- one more anecdote before I leave regarding probably the best family dinner I have had. Yesterday night, my sister and dad and I went to a movie (Valkyrie) and then out to dinner at Cafe Bariloche. I want to tell this story to illustrate how my family does business. We walk into the restaurant, having already combed the menu online. We sit down, and order our three dishes, my dad ordering for all of us. The waitress compliments us on our familial togetherness, to which I reply with something like, "We don't mess around with food". We share all three main dishes, with my sister, who I should mention is 15, tucking into the food like a champ and discussing it right a long with us. She is already a gourmet with more distinction and adventurous habits than many will be in their entire lives (at sushi over Fall break she ate octopus- quite the feat for a girl her age!)

After eating dinner, we spend the entire car ride home discussing the three foods with which we could not live without. If you are curious, they were something like: pizza, good green salads, great cheese (my sister's selection), pasta, noodle bowls (either pho or ramen) and candy lands. For desert, I whipped up some candy lands, which are essentially ice cream with all the toppings. Quite the great dinner.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Red Avocado, Iowa City

I am just posting away today, mostly because I am playing catch-up with reviews.

Anyway, this last Saturday my friend Tyrone and I took an excursion to the bustling metropolis of Iowa City, to get some lunch and chat. We stopped first at the New Pioneer Co-Op, the original. I have already profiled their Coralville branch, which I like much more- bigger and better equipped. However, this one had a lot of character.


It also had the advantage of being right across the street from our brunch spot- an all vegetarian restaurant called the Red Avocado, of which I had heard a lot.


The interior was very cool as well. We sat down, and the very attentive waitress (she really was very good) fetched us two Americano's, which were just the thing for a cold and wet morning. We waited for our food nursing our coffee, and I don't mind saying I was very happy when my sampler plate came.


On the top is the french toast, with some jam. Below that in the middle is a tofu scramble. Bottom right is a barley and black bean salad, and to the left is marinated tempeh.

Let me start by saying I wish I enjoyed this meal.

Don't get me wrong; it was perfectly decent, if a little expensive. It just wasn't very good, and at 10 dollars for the meal, I was expecting much better. For all the items on the plate, I got bored after a bite.It was just...flavorless. For all the items except the french toast, the seasoning seemed to consist of a mild level of curry, and then nothing. The french toast was good, but I mean, its fried bread: of course it was good!

Bottom line: if you are a vegan or vegetarian, you will enjoy the Red Avocado. If you eat meat, don't waste your time here.

Pancake Dinner

Hey Everyone-

This wasn't so much a food visit as a study break at college. But there was food. And it was awesome. I will let the pictures speak for themselves on this one honestly, because basically all it entailed were firefighters making us some delicious pancakes!

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Above: Some of Grinnell's finest at the helm of one of the two tremendous griddles they ported in to cook pancakes with.

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Above: The toppings! Although this doesn't do it justice, we had:

Chocolate Chips


Chocolate Sauce

Syrups of all sorts

Three types of milk and two types of juice

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The Grinnell humance society brought in therapy dogs for us to pet! One such adorable example, above.

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They also gave us tons of games- the event was in the auditorium. Above, hungry hungry hippos

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An example of a incredibly crafted pancake. Strawberries and whipped cream

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Behind the scenes: Another fire(wo)man mixes up some delicious pancake batter, with the aid of a drill.

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The dead soldiers that gave their contents to fill our tummies!

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Cooking up some blueberry pancakes.

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You can see their dispenser on the far right, which rolled on tracks and dispensed batter from a reservoir. Very cool.

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Houston Dougherty dispenses whipped cream

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My friend Collin brought in Nutella with which to slather his chocolate chip pancakes. This was the best idea ever.

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Lyle Bauman, who is also the head supervisor of student employees in the Grinnell Dining Hall. He is an incredibly nice man.

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A student (my friend Stephanie) enjoying her pancake and games.

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Neo Morake, our Student Government President loves her some pancakes!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gateway Market and Cafe


The Gateway market and café in Des Moines is a visit to which I always look forward. There is nothing more pleasant than browsing their interesting and diversely stocked shelves, enjoying the ample samples with which they thoughtfully provide their patrons along the way, and then settling down by the fire in the attached café with a big bowl of their delicious ramen.


Gateway Market was started by George Fomaro, the same genius behind Django, one of my Des Moines faves, and South Union Bakery. His talent and business acumen extend to the stores; the bakery is delicious, and the selection of food manages to mix practicality with diversity. It is the kind of place where you can do everyday shopping for your bread, butter and produce, but still find new and exciting things with which to spice up dinner. I do not know who looks for their products, but he or she should be given a metal.

The café is similarly good. I have had the opportunity to sample most of their selection, but in the winter I cannot resist the appeal of their ramen. The broth is rich and hearty, although I had one unpleasant experience (at their West Des Moines store, which I would not recommend) in which the broth was much too salty from soy sauce- something that has yet to happen to me in their downtown location. Their slider sampler is similarly excellent, containing 3 different sandwiches in small portions, and their breakfast options all are sure to please.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Reichert's Dairy Air


Above: The real reason people read my blog. Pictures of goats (see below for more!)

I knew Lois Reichert and I would get a long when I first emailed her about visiting. In her response, she was sorry to say that she would be in Roccaverano, Italy, as a delegate to the Slow Foods convention. She would then be working with a small Italian goat cheese dairy nearby to learn the secrets to making Italian robbiola cheese. She could not squeeze a visit in before her Italy trip either, because she was going to be at the National Goat Cheese Competition, in Sonoma.

As I read that (rather meaty) first correspondence, I reconsidered my career choices in international business. Being a goat cheese maker sounded pretty good! However, much to the relief of my parents, the jet setting life Lois leads was not enough to tempt me away from my course of study in economics.

However, now that Lois is back in the states, I went to visit her. Well, let me rephrase that: I had scheduled a time to visit with her, but bumped into her one week early at the New Pioneer Co-Ops sample fair- what a small state (see my previous post)! After tasting her cheeses in the in the busy atmosphere, we vowed to talk more during my visit the upcoming Thursday.

When I first stepped into the dairy, I was overwhelmed. It was very different, to say the least: more like a kitchen than a barn. It was all aluminum counters, pyrex beakers and thermometers. In a corner, a rack held bulging vari-colored sacks of something dripping into a bucket. A sink contained slotted containers with a cheese-like substance. Perhaps Mario Batali’s adventures on the Food Network had made me believe that cheese is made in ancient, underground rooms, where aged artisans turn blooming rind cheeses amidst the shrieks of the French mistral.


Above: The chevre may not look too appealing while it is hung to separate the whey from the butter cream, it turns into a delicious product.


Above: Lois first run of robiola. While she in Turin, Italy for the Slow Food convention she worked with a small robiola producer. I will report back on how hers turns out!

That may sound like criticism; believe me, I mean no such thing. Lois represents, to me, the epitome of what I would like to term the “new” food artisan: clinical and clean, trying new things that are informed, but build upon, the wisdom of the ages, but with a passion for excellence and a perfectionism that comes from having a clear vision of what you want. Both Lois and Herb, of La Quercia Prosciuterria (whom I featured previously), have this vision, and it characterizes these new artisans that are reshaping the culinary landscape of Iowa.

Anyway, enough about that. Let me tell you about Reichert’s Dairy Air!

Lois’ dairy is the first micro-dairy in Iowa. From her herd of approximately 15 Nubian and La Mancha goats, she gets 10 gallons a day-barely enough to satisfy customer demand. However, she is more focused on creating the perfect cheese rather than making large amounts of a mediocre product. Her philosophy of quality over quantity expresses itself in every detail of her operation, and it springs from her passion for her goats and cheese. For example, her goats, produce very little milk, but what little they do produce is of the best quality, with plenty of the delicious butter cream that makes good chevre- the main product of Lois’ dairy. Lois milks them one at a time in a very tidy and clean milking parlor- a necessity in the cold Iowa winters! The small yield of high quality milk provides her with the optimal starting point to produce some of the finest chevre I have ever tasted. She is also a perfectionist and adventurer: while we talked, I was amazed by the amount of uses and things she had tried, from new chevre flavorings to whole different cheeses (such as blooming rind, brie style cheeses) and yogurts.


Above: The two goats on the right (brown, without big ears) are Nubians. The one on the left, with the larger ears, is a La Mancha. Now you can impress people at parties with your knowledge of goats!

While I was there, I tasted her plain, cranberry walnut and roasted red pepper chevre’s, as well as a feta. They were all delicious, and dare I say it, the prime exemplars of what chevre should taste like. They had the creamy texture and taste, with a pronounced mineral flavor that lacked the “goaty” taste that drives many away from chevre. The flavored chevre’s show insight into Lois’ impeccable sense of taste as a chef, not just as a cheesemaker. The cranberry walnut tasted, first and foremost of the cheese, and then the chevre taste is complemented, not overpowered, by the taste of walnuts and cranberries. The roasted red pepper, again, serves as an enhancement to the natural purity and deliciousness of the cheese. Her feta though, really was a showstopper. It was salty, with that delectable mineral finish that I always can detect store bought cheeses striving to imitate and then failing at. Alice Waters, a shared idol of Lois and myself, would be completely unsurprised by Lois’ results: Lois’ “secret”, if you can call it that, is simple, old fashioned trial and error, combined with the freshest and highest quality ingredients. All this is motivated by one thing: love of her goats, their milk, and the cheese. I realized this vividly when we stepped outside into the chilly breath of a Iowa winter in the barn.

Her love of goats was instantly obvious: they were more like dogs in their personality than farm animals. The Nubians pushed their heads up to be patted, and they flocked to Lois with obvious affection. I could tell immediately that was why she makes her cheeses.

And her love of chevre and her goats have not gone un-rewarded or un-recognized. At the extremely competitive National Goat Cheese competition in Sonoma, Lois took home 2nd in the unflavored feta category, 2nd in the unflavored chevre category, and first in the flavored chevre category. After tasting the cheeses, I am unsurprised by her results, simply happy that the rest of the world recognizes the superb work Lois is doing.


Above: Lois proudly shows her three ribbons (two second place, one first place!) from the highly competitive Sonoma goat cheese competition.

Artisan chefs like Lois are reshaping how the world should think about Iowa. They are tapping into Iowa rich natural resources to make products that are truly world class, and they are doing so with a modesty and perfectionism that is unmistakably Midwestern. I don’t exaggerate when I say that Lois should be a model to anyone considering making any product, culinary or otherwise.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Food Tour of Iowa: Iowa Farm Families

Food Tour of Iowa: C and C Farms (of Iowa Farm Families)MOD_3765.jpg

If La Quercia’s prosciutto was the food product I most wanted to see, the pork industry is the one that I most wanted to write and educate people about when I started this blog.

In my opinion, factory farmed pigs, pumped full of hormones, antibiotics and steroids, are one of the worst travesties in the modern food landscape, and epitomize the change in the food landscape of foods into “products”. The flavorless, tough and fatty cuts of meat the Hormel’s of the world turn out don’t deserve to be called food, and have unnecessarily soured many people to the delicious and healthy meat that is pork. The same can be said of so many things: of picture perfect tomatoes that are flavorless, of honeydew melons that are a gorgeous green, but taste of nothing. It’s an epidemic.

Thank goodness, Iowa Farm Families are trying to change that perception, at least with pork. They popped up on my radar screen about a week ago, when my delightful neighborhood grocery store started carrying their delicious looking cuts, from chops to ham to bacon. They all looked great, with good marbling and very little fat. Their pork also appealed to me because it was in small packages. For a student, being able to buy a pork chop that weights a quarter of a pound means that I will actually be able to eat it without freezing it: a godsend. However, I know how labeling and packaging can be misleading, and I didn’t want to be fooled. Perhaps anticipating this, IFF thoughtfully provides a pamphlet of who they are, and why their pork is superior, and worth the (very minor, in my opinion) price premium. This of course piqued my curiosity, and made me want to find out more. To find out the difference in person, I visited one of the “farm families” down the road, about 20 miles away (how’s that for local?).

C&C farms is owned by Craig and Corey Daumann. However, they had to be absent, so I was led around by Steve McNeal, director of marketing for IFF. The first difference between commodity pork and IFF pork, Steve explained, is the breed. All IFF pigs are Duroc hogs, which have a good, marbled flesh but overall lower fat content. This makes for healthier food. In addition, IFF hogs are never given antibiotics, hormones or synthetic growth chemicals. Instead, they are allowed to stay with their mothers longer to grow up large enough to weather the harsh Iowa climate. This means that the final product is not artificially enhanced, as it usually is in larger factory farm setups. You can even feel this difference in IFF pork: the flesh is much firmer, less watery and more tender than a comparable Hormel chop.

In addition, they are not “confinement farmed”- contained in a cage that leaves them unable to do more than scarcely turn around, if that. Instead, they are raised in “hoop” barns, in which they can frolic and walk around. This makes for a happier pig, as well as flesh that has had some exercise. From my experience on the farm, I could definitely see friskiness and running around- those pigs were having a good time! Steve assured me that the lack of hormones and synthetic growth additives, presence of the ability to exercise and unique breed combined to create some of the best pork in Iowa.

But does this pay off? I did the work to find out.

Having sampled a variety of their chops, bacons and other cuts, I have to say that IFF makes some of the most delicious pork products in the market. While cooking with their meat, I used fewer spices and marinades, as the tender and delicious flavor of the pork was front and center with their product, in a way that I had rarely tasted before. For their pork chops, I like to just chop them up and stir-fry then with a little soy sauce; they need nothing more. They impart their own unique and delicious flavor to whatever they are cooked with.

What Iowa Farm Families is doing is extremely laudable, and gourmets everywhere should celebrate their efforts. Their commitment to a return to local, real foods that, first and foremost taste good, is something that is lost all too often in today’s world. I tip my hat to them, and look forward to a delicious culinary relationship with their pork.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Food Tour of Iowa: New Pioner Cooperative

Food Tour of Iowa: New Pioneer Cooperative and the Local Foods Festival


I love the Iowan attitude towards giving food to strangers: Please! Take some!

That seemed to be the motto of the many different vendors who were present at the Coralville branch of the New Pioneer Cooperative Grocery Store. First, I’m going to talk about the fabulous vendors and local food producers who were present, and then discuss why the New Pioneer Co-op is such a representative Iowan store.

When I walked into NP this beautiful Sunday morning, I was immediately faced with two types of home made applesauce, from apples grown not 20 miles away. With a shameless greed that I have developed since starting the blog, I devoured both samples and squirreled away the business card. This would typify my visit.

The festival was lively, with music from local bands The Beggerman and Gilded Bats, which set a lively mood that definitely perked me up. Local restaurants, such as the Red Avocado and Falafel Oasis were represented, as were growers of apples and chestnuts, and food producers, such as Sutliff Cider and Reicherts Goat Dairy.

I will just run down a bulleted list of the independent producers who were there, and then I will discuss the samples that the store (which houses its own bake house and delightful dairy) was offering.

-The Red Avocado: A local (and very popular) vegetarian and vegan restaurant was giving out samples of it delicious veggie burger, as well as its delicious vegan-cheeses, which were served on top of crackers with a smidge of Red Pepper Jelly. Both were delectable. The Veggie burger didn’t strive to re-create beef flavor- instead, it tried for its own vegetable heartiness, an endeavor in which it succeeded. The cheese spreads lacked the consistency, but not the unami flavor, of real brie and mozzarella- a delicious (and healthy!) alternative for cheese, if it is ever needed. Link:


Above: The Red Avocado's table. On the right are some of their dairy-free cheeses.

-Cocina Del Mundo: A local spice blender, she had a particularly delicious spread of home-made samples, ranging from delicious quiches to a hearty veggie stew. See picture below


Above: Cocina Del Mundo's delicious quiches (on the left)

-Annes Gluten Free bread: A vendor of ready-made gluten free bread mixes. They showcased four different types, the mixes for which were all available: herb, pumpkin, banana and wheat. Their gluten free nature, atleast to me, was not readily distinguishable: they tasted simply like delicious breads. The highlight of the booth? Their banana bread. Link:

-Sutliff Cider: A local cider maker of both hard and soft varieties. I much preferred the soft; I felt the hard sacrificed apple flavor. Link:

-Reichert’s Dairy Air: A local Goat Cheese dairy in Knoxville. I am actually going to visit her this Thursday, so stay tuned for more news about her and her dedication to Slow Food and Goat Cheese! At the fair, she had samples of her plain, chipotle, cranberry-walnut and herb chevre’s. They were all delicious. Link:

-Grass Run Farms: Definitely the best smelling booth; they were grilling up beautiful hamburger sliders, which enclosed some of the most tender and flavorful beef I have had in a long time. I look forward to trying to visit them in the future. Link:

-Falafel Oasis: Another local restaurant, they had samples of their pita, both in the fried and un-fried variety, along with some delicious Hummus. Based on the quality of their pita (thick and flavorful) I look forward to getting a Falafel from them when I am next in Iowa City.

There was also a booth from Kalona Organics. For notes about them, I direct my dear readers to an earlier post in which I visit them.

In addition, the NP was showcasing many of its delicious products. Their bakery was giving out liberal samples of their delicious pecan and pumpkin pies. The deli had huge slabs of a delectable onion tart for the taking. Their ready-made lunch section had samples of their California rolls. All of their products gave me the utmost faith that any product made at or retailed by NP will be of the utmost quality and taste.

However, they did not just have fantastic foods that were made on site. They also were showcasing their impressive selection of bulk foods, such as nuts and cereals, as well as their jams. Overall, I was extremely impressed with the entire NP operation- from their on site bake house, to their dedication to only stocking high quality and local products. If you are ever in Iowa City, I cannot recommend a stop at the New Pioneer Co-Op Enough- either to dine on one of their delicious sandwiches or ready made lunches, or to stock up on high quality produce, meat or dry goods.


Above: New Pioneer Co-Op's staggering collection of bulk goods- they had everything from nuts, to flours to cereals.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

La Quercia Prosciutteria

Food Tour of Iowa: La Quercia


This was a notable visit for me. You see, La Quercia was the place that inspired me to travel around Iowa and look for local foods and local producers. To me, it is an exemplar of how I think food should be produced: Herb Eckhouse, the owner and lead prosciutto maker at La Quercia, describes what he does as making food, not making a product. I could not agree more fully. Both he and his wife, Kathy, are prime examples of people who live and preach the idea of “real” foods.

Herb’s commitment to quality is evident in every part of the prosciutto production process at La Quercia. From the rigorous standards with which he selects his pork, to the scientific precision with which he controls the curing process, everything in La Quercia speaks volumes about Herb’s unstinting commitment to creating the best prosciutto he can.

It all starts with local, organically raised ham, which he gets from a handful of local purveyors, depending on what the final product will be. All the pork is from local, sustainably raised animals. The reason for this is obvious: only three ingredients are ever in his products: pork, sea salt and spices. The essence of great prosciutto, he told me, is the rich concentrated flavor of the pork after it has been cured. This is only possible when you start with best pork.


Above: The fresh hams start with a chilling period, which emulates the fall and winter.

After the pork has been sourced, it is brought by truck to the state-of-the-art prosciuterria at La Quercia. There, a variety of climate and humidity controlled room’s mimic the four seasons, in order to produce prosciutto that is not too dry or salty. At the most basic level, prosciutto is very easy to make. Italian peasants originally made it, in order to preserve the meat so that it could be eaten in the winter. However, there is nothing simple in the process Herb employs today, although the product speaks volumes to its correctness. Essentially, the entire process simply involves rubbing the ham with sea salt, and perhaps spices, and then curing it over a long time. However, Herb has perfected his technique with a state of the art curing process. His involves a set of rooms that cool and warm the prosciutto slowly, so that the salt has the optimal conditions to extract the water from the ham and concentrate the innate flavor of the organic Iowa pork. All of Herb’s equipment is imported from Italy, and a computer controls the humidity and temperate of each room individually.


Above: The central computer the ensures that La Quercia is cured in the optimal conditions

As we walked through the rooms, I saw the results of the process at each step. The hams were slowly condensing and becoming smaller, as the salt leached the water out. Herb is currently expanding his operation, so as to be able to approximately double his weekly output in response to strong consumer demand.



Above: As you can see, the hams become more and more condensed and finished. The second photo is of an experimental batch, where Herb cured the entire leg. Usually, the ham is separated. Note the yellowing of the salt cure.


Above: The coppa; a lightly smoked and delicious product.

But the real question is, what are the results like? I am happy to report that Herb’s perfectionism yields some of the best pork I have ever tasted. Considering the complexity of the process, the result, when seen on a plate, is deceptively simple: a gorgeous ruby-red slice of prosciutto, with some snow-white fat on the bottom. To taste it is to know the essence of pork and ham. It had a pronounced flavor, which is very simple and very strong. Even minutes later, I could still distinctly taste the prosciutto’s unctuous flavor. It was incredible. You don’t have to take my word for it; no less prestigious foodies than Robert Parker and Mark Bittman have given the prosciutto of La Quercia their highest regards. The list of chefs who use La Querica Prosciutto is no less impressive; Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck both are users.


Above: Boxes ready to be shipped out to eager gourmands and restaranteurs

Afterwards, we chatted about matters of importance to the slow foods movement. Herb, like myself, is a fervent believer in the necessity of creating food, not a product, and doing so in the best way one can. I can honestly say that if every food producer approached their work with the honesty, integrity and pride with which Herb approaches his, the world would be a good deal closer to perfection.