Farm Intern Day 98: The French Connection
[August 11] Harvest day number eleven–the official halfway point of the twenty-two week CSA program–has arrived. I worked on some random items in the early morning and then helped examine and sort tomatoes before pack out.
The tomato job is a fun one. Dozens of crates of different sized varieties show up and must be checked for flaws (tears, holes, etc.) and then organized by color, variety, and size. In our shares, we try to typically give out one large heirloom tomato variety (the types with unique looks and great tastes) and a combination of small or medium yellows and reds.
The star performer of the last couple of weeks has been the Taxi variety. This determinate plant in our hoophouse has cranked out its yellow, low-acid fruit like nobody’s business, and is barely showing signs of slowing. The determinate tomato plant doesn’t produce ad infinitum, so the Taxi tornado will unfortunately die down in the next week or two.
Also in the hoophouse and Section Two of the North Field are cherry tomatoes. We’ve been able to supply a pint container of them for the last couple weeks filled with Sun Gold, White, and Black varieties. The cherry is so versatile, as it is a perfect snack-size and can also be thrown into salads, pasta dishes, or roasted. And I can assure you that we definitely do in-field quality assurance checks for taste and texture as we pick them.
It was my turn to do deliveries in the afternoon, so I dropped off our shares at Sunseed Natural Foods in West Bend and made a stop at Café Soeurette to deliver produce to Chef Jodi for her preparation of dishes for Friday night’s Dr. Bronner’s All-One Ark Event at Wellspring.* My plan was to work on the bat house when I got back to the farm, but there were some additional deliveries that kept me away a bit longer.
I cleaned myfarmself up and jumped in the car to head to an evening of Eat Local Milwaukee activities. The Challenge is quickly approaching, and as a build up to the event, Eat Local Milwaukee is featuring each week one restaurant which strives to use local ingredients in their dishes. After a quick stop at the Urban Ecology Center to say hello at the Friends of Real Food potluck, I jetted out to New Berlin for the first “Restaurant of the Week” dinner.
Lagniappe Brasserie (17001 W Greenfield Ave, New Berlin) is the creation of Chef Andy Tenaglia, former executive chef for Miller Park. Pronounced LON-yap BRAHZ-ree, the restaurant features modern dishes inspired by French cuisine and local ingredients. Chef Andy was kind enough to cross-promote the Eat Local Challenge with his own “Eat Local Wisconsin” menu for the evening.
Starting with an appetizer, I had a choice of a chopped salad (House made blue cheese with tomatoes, cucumbers, walnuts, and Wisconsin buttermilk cream) or cheese and sausage platter (Cherokee bison and Highland beef summer sausage, three-year Chula Vista cheddar, Cedar Grove organic gouda, Kiel two-year cheddar, and nine-year aged cheese crackers). If you’ve read my blog previously, you’ll have no trouble guessing which option I picked.
Coupled with the table’s breads, butter, and olive oil, the selection was great. The summer sausages went well with either cheddar, and were especially tasty on the cracker. Aged nine years is a concept I have a hard time imagining, but the soft, cheesy cracker held up nicely on its own. The gouda was creamy and went well with the grapes. I’ll admit that I blew through this plate pretty quickly, both because I was starving and also since I was highly anticipating the main entrée.
For the main course, Chef Andy offered scaloppini of veal (free-range raised by the Priekse family), Palmyra rainbow trout, Fennimore emu filet, or roasted loin of Berkshire and White Pig (Fountain Prairie Farms raised). I had my mind set on the veal before I arrived, but the originally unlisted emu threw me for a bout of indecisiveness. In the end, I decided to go with my first instinct and ordered the veal.
What’s the word to describe this plate? Sublime comes to mind. I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of veal on the plate when it arrived, and I proceeded to settle into a zone as I went to work on the tender cutlets covered in creamy glaze. The thinner pieces were cooked just a bit past my ideal doneness, but the two thicker ones were perfect. Chef Andy included beets, potatoes, and onions on the side.
As if these two dishes weren’t enough, there was dessert to follow. An Elkhart Lake pecan pie made with Rolling Meadows sorghum, Wüthrich butter, and a little bourbon (from Kentucky, sorry) rounded out the evening’s selections.
The pecan pie is a nice robust flavor that normally lacks sweetness, but Chef Andy’s version with the sorghum easily compensated for that trait. The crust was delicate to the fork but provided the perfect support platform for the pecan topping. Several fruits and dollops of cream were included as sides, which gave a nice light accompaniment to the hearty pie flavors. The strawberries were a bit crunchy, but this was the least of my worries while polishing this plate.
In conclusion, the Eat Local Wisconsin dinner was excellent. Chef Andy had a very busy night at the restaurant, but was kind enough to give me a quick tour of the garden and his kitchen. Rows of beautiful tomatoes and classic herbs were growing heartily behind the building, waiting to be picked and promptly tossed into a signature dish.
It was great to see this embracing of the locally-grown concept both steps outside the back door and, ultimately, on the plate.
* For details on this crazy fun, check back for my upcoming post about Day 100.
- LC Day 244: Hello, Eat Local Challenge
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- Packers vs. Taste of Wellspring: The Eat Local Challenge (Day 12)
- Lard, Chicken Slaughter, & The Local Yokel: The Eat Local Challenge (Day 11)
- Farm Intern Day 119: The Eat Local Challenge (Day 10)
- Farm Intern Day 118: The Eat Local Challenge (Day 9)
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- Farm Intern Day 116: The Eat Local Challenge (Day 7)