Friday, February 29, 2008

Finding an alternative to a 'Local Foods Pledge'

I've been asked by a group of folks who are putting together a local foods directory for Greater Cincinnati to write a 'Local Foods Pledge' to include in the directory. In general, I disagree with the concept, but I do want to help this group. So I'm trying to come up with something.

I'm thinking along the lines of providing a list of steps folks might take in trying to eat more locally, putting them into some general order of easiest and least time-consuming to most challenging, and then inviting folks to choose a point on the local eating scale they're going to aim for this year.

For instance:

Choose local over non-local when offered
Learn what produce is in season when
Switch to local honey & maple syrup
Switch to pastured eggs
Switch to local wines
Visit a farmers' market once a week
Add seasonal recipes to my collection
Freeze a frequently-used item during the season (berries, applesauce, tomatoes, corn, onions, peppers)
Can a frequently-used item during the season (preserves, tomato sauce, tomato paste, enchilada sauce, chile sauce, pickles)
Join a CSA
Purchase a side of grass-fed beef (or half a pastured pig)
Join a herdshare

This is just off the top of my head, and I'm not sure I have them ordered correctly. For instance, is joining a CSA, which requires a weekly trip to pick up the CSA box, more onerous than purchasing half a beef which then must be fitted into the home freezer? Is canning more of a challenge for most people than where I've placed it? Is visiting a farmers' market weekly easier than switching to local wines? I put 'switch to local honey and syrup' ahead of 'switch to pastured eggs' because I figure people only buy honey/syrup every once in a while but many buy eggs weekly, but maybe eggs are easier?

What other steps could folks take? Where would they fit into the scale?

All suggestions and advice gratefully accepted!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The evolution of oats into non-food

These are oats, growing.

This is what oats look like unrefined. In this form, they are not edible by humans. (Which may be a strong clue that we shouldn't be eating them at all, but since we've been eating them for thousands of years and they're part of many traditional diets that have kept many people healthy for centuries, let's just pretend that for our purposes of defining real food, at least a few oats in our diet are okay.)

These are hulled oats or oat groats. These can be cooked and eaten by humans, and a porridge made from oat groats is probably the first way people ate oats 3000 years ago in eastern Europe. They take a long time to cook, though -- about 45 minutes -- so eventually people started refining them further. This is a food.

These are stone ground oats. Oat groats are roughly ground to allow them to cook more quickly, in about 20 minutes. From this, traditional diets make oatmeal (and if you haven't tried stone ground oats made into oatmeal, you don't really know what oats taste like.) There's one ingredient: oats. As far as I know there's no source of stone-ground oats in our area. This is a food.

Pinhead or steel-cut oats. Still only one ingredient, but these are a recent development after the industrial revolution made machine-processing possible. The hulled oats are put through a machine that cuts each groat into four pieces which allows them to cook more quickly than oat groats, in about 20 minutes. This is a food.

Rolled oats. The oat groats are steamed to soften them and then flattened. Because of the steaming, they're partially cooked and therefore cook more quickly than pinhead oats, in about five minutes. There's still only one ingredient: whole rolled oats. This is a food.

And of course Quaker discovered that this partial pre-cooking could be taken even further to make 'quick-cooking' oats which cook in one minute. Still one ingredient: whole rolled oats. This is a food, barely.

Instant Oatmeal. Here's where we cross into definite non-food. Notice the health claim -- banner reads 'Oatmeal Helps Reduce Cholesterol.' The ingredient list for Quaker Instant Oatmeal is whole grain rolled oats (with oat bran), calcium carbonate (a source of calcium), salt, guar gum, caramel color, reduced iron, niacinamide, Vitamin A palmitate, pyroxidoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, thiamin mononitrate, folic acid. This is not a food.

Oat cereal. General Mills has taken a healthy and very inexpensive food and turned it into a collection of expensive ingredients. Again note the health claims -- the banner says "Cheerios May Reduce Your Cholesterol."

Here is the ingredients list for Cheerios. As you can see, even before we get to the list of added vitamins and minerals, there are multiple ingredients, including some I can't identify. Not a food.

Honey Nut Cheerios Milk 'n' Cereal Bars. This one's even easier to recognize as not a food. They've even stopped making direct health claims and have moved to only implying health claims -- the small banner on the lower right, superimposed over a glass of milk, reads "The nutrients of cereal and the calcium of 6 oz. of milk."

Here's the ingredient list for Honey Nut Cheerios Milk 'n' Cereal Bars. Hard to believe, isn't it? I don't even want to count how many ingredients there are, much less eat them. Not a food.

Oats are somewhat of a challenge to find as a locally-grown product, but they are grown in Ohio. The issue is the processing -- removal of the hulls takes special machinery. However, up in Millersburg, Stutzman Family Farms grows organic oats, hulls them, rolls them into rolled oats and grinds them into flour themselves, and distributes them through Van Kampen Foods of Alliance in the form of groats, rolled oats, and oat flour. Van Kampen Foods' website isn't online yet, but their phone number is (330) 823-2007.

The Nation: Nutrition vs. Food

The Nation has a great short article from an interview with Michael Pollan. The article's writer, Jon Weiner, asks Pollan how he can more conveniently eat healthy because he needs to "eat in a hurry so I can rush back to checking my email. What I really need is a food I can eat WHILE I'm checking my email." The answer? Breakfast bars, which as Pollan points out make big money from cheap ingredients for their manufacturers. We pay for the convenience with both our wallets and our health.

"The problem is that every step of additional processing makes the food less nutritious," [Pollan] replied. "So they add lots of nutrients back in to the processing so they can make health claims. But they only add what they know is missing. There are other things in whole grains that the scientists don't know about. You'll be missing out on that. But you'll be up to date on your email."

"That's the cozy relationship between nutritional science as it's practiced in this country, and the processed food industry. The nutritional scientists are telling us every six months what the new good and new evil nutrients are. For the most part, these are well-intentioned efforts to understand the links between food and health. Then you have the food industry, which loves every change in the nutritional weather, because they can then reformulate the food. The net effect is that it makes all the processed foods in the middle of your supermarket look far more healthy and sophisticated than the genuinely healthy food in the produce section, which of course bear no health claims and sit there as silently as a stroke victim."

Pollan's advice? Eat food, real food. Our focus on convenience is making big corporations rich while destroying our health and our environment.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Big Ag tries to go local

This report from the Hartman Group, a 'Health and Wellness' industry research and consulting firm, explains that even big national brands can jump on the Eat Local bandwagon. From the report:

"In the industry, there is a belief that you can only be local if you are a small and authentic brand*. This isn't necessarily true; big brands can use the notion of local to their advantage as well. There are a lot of ways for a big brand to be local by having limited edition and/or seasonal products. A nutrition bar, for example, could have a nut in it that is grown in a certain area that gives it better taste perceptions."

Just what we need. A Carnation Breakfast Bar with Ohio Chestnuts!

* Be sure to also check out the authenticity link in the quote above, where they answer the question:
"What is it about authenticity that suddenly makes it okay to pursue more fully our luxury consumption habits and how is this authenticity operationalized?"

Food miles is not the issue

Or at least not the only issue, or the most crucial issue. It's one small part of the greater picture of eating locally and an even smaller part of the question of global climate change. As Michael Specter points out in this month's New Yorker, in an article on carbon footprinting entitled Big Foot:

"Food carries enormous symbolic power, so the concept of “food miles”—the distance a product travels from the farm to your home—is often used as a kind of shorthand to talk about climate change in general."
But that symbolic power doesn't automatically translate into importance in the big picture.
“People should stop talking about food miles,” Adrian Williams told [Specter]. “It’s a foolish concept: provincial, damaging, and simplistic.” Williams is an agricultural researcher in the Natural Resources Department of Cranfield University, in England. He has been commissioned by the British government to analyze the relative environmental impacts of a number of foods. “The idea that a product travels a certain distance and is therefore worse than one you raised nearby—well, it’s just idiotic,” he said. “It doesn’t take into consideration the land use, the type of transportation, the weather, or even the season. Potatoes you buy in winter, of course, have a far higher environmental ticket than if you were to buy them in August.”

I agree. Food miles is not the issue. Other things being equal, it's better for food to travel less. But things are seldom truly equal. We can grow tomatoes here in Ohio in the dead of winter, but it takes energy to keep them warm and well-lit enough. So in February is a local hothouse tomato necessarily less impactful than one shipped in from California?

Of course, who wants to eat hothouse OR shippable tomatoes? I'll wait for August, thanks!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Downer scandal, no nightmares

For those of us who can't watch the actual videos but do have a twisted sense of humor, there's Doreen the Downer, an animated short. It really does have a serious message, but the images won't haunt your every unbusy moment until the end of time. Thanks to the great blog Ethicurean for the pointer.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, here's a link to an unemotional report of the scandal.

ACSH on locavorism

The American Council on Science and Health has an article today about locavorism. Once again the criticisms show a lack of understanding of the concept:

While eating locally may appeal to some palates -- mainly those who appreciate fresh produce -- going locavore could mean sacrificing favorite foods and important nutrients in the name of the environment...Personally, I think it's a great idea to want to help the environment and local economy. However, I don't think I could ever be a full-fledged locavore. A healthy -- and happy -- eater consumes a variety of foods, and as much as I want to help conserve fuel, I can't fathom a winter of eating just squash.
I don't know where the writer lives, but I'm guessing she has more variety available to her in winter than she thinks.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Scratch cooking: the new luxury dining?

From UCLA: this study of the time spent by Americans on basic household tasks.

The big surprise? Those relying heavily on convenience foods didn't save much time (they saved about 10 - 12 minutes per dinner, according to the researchers) over those using fewer convenience foods.

The non-surprise? Hardly anyone is actually cooking from scratch. Even those who were counted as doing 'home cooking' were mostly relying on preparing convenience foods rather than actually starting with a recipe.

"With almost all of the home-cooked meals, families served some sort of packaged convenience food. Frozen entrées (such as stir-fry mixes, potstickers, chicken dishes and barbecued ribs) were the most popular products, followed by vegetables (canned or frozen), specialty breads (ready-to-eat, parbaked or from mix), canned soup and commercial pasta sauce. [Researcher Margaret] Beck did not consider dried pasta and tortillas to be convenience foods, but she did count bagged salads and hot dogs."

Beck's study focused on 'working families,' which she defined as two-income families. I'd be interested in seeing if the same results would be found among families with at least one at-home spouse/partner. I can understand how families in which both spouses are returning home near dinner time would find it necessary to rely on convenience foods. Is a truly from-scratch meal now a luxury?

Why I farm: a new farmer explains

One of the more interesting aspects of the local eating movement is the number of new-to-farming farmers sprouting up all over -- folks who did not grow up farming and won't be inheriting a lifestyle or the necessary acreage. For most of them the barriers to entry -- purchasing land and equipment, developing new skills, adapting to an unfamiliar lifestyle -- are daunting. On Epilog, one new farmer explains why he decided to farm.

I believe there is no equal for a life spent growing up on a farm (at least for me and my family). The interaction with the seasons, the soil, the animals, the crops, and of course each other provide timeless lessons that will follow my children and myself no matter where we end up later in life. The work ethic and caring that it takes to be a farmer is something that can bring a family together in a special way.

On top of that, we, as a family, are able to help provide healthy food for ourselves, our friends, and our customers (who will eventually become friends). Of course there are struggles just as with any occupation, but we enjoy the possibilities of connecting people to their food and the land where it is raised. That in a very small nutshell is why we farm.

What's the goal here?

I've been reading a lot about taking some sort of 'local eating pledge.' People seem to ache to limit themselves in some way that is going to make them feel deprived. It's not good enough simply to view it as a work in progress -- it has to be all or nothing.

I disagree with the entire no-pain, no-gain concept.

I'm all for goals. By all means set a goal! But if meeting that goal is going to make you miserable, you're letting the tail wag the dog. One of the most delightful aspects of eating locally is rediscovering the joy of traditional eating. Depriving yourself of something you enjoy will inevitably turn this process into one that has an end, like Lent. After which, one might suppose, you can go back to eating all your favorite convenience chemofoods with a new sense of accomplishment. After all, you met your goal, right? If your local eating pledge has you counting the days until you can have an orange or a piece of chocolate, you've set yourself up for failure.

The goal should be to change for the better over the course of our lives in ways we can live with and to enjoy the process. Rather than planning to eat zero commercially canned fruit, plan to put up more preserves than you did last summer, or put up more varieties. Rather than asking yourself to cook every meal from scratch using local ingredients, ask yourself to add a dozen more seasonably-oriented recipes to your collection. Vow to find a source for beans closer to home than last year's source. Vow to make a visit to one of the farms that provides your food. Vow to enjoy discovering just how many locally-produced sustainably-raised traditional whole foods are available to you. But don't vow to make yourself crazy with it.


Over at BuyCincy they've done a pre-opening review of Jean-Robert de Cavel's new Lavomatic, a wine bar and bistro 'with a local flare' in the Gateway Quarter.

In the same post, BuyCincy announces they'll now be covering local restaurants and bars regularly. Bravo!

Nutrientism: Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food

The author of the bestselling Omnivore's Dilemma (required reading for anyone interested in local foods) has a new offering: In Defense of Food. The central idea is that much of what we're eating is not food -- it's a collection of 'nutrients' made to look and taste like food but which is a sad imitation of real food.

Pollan refers to 'nutritionism' (I actually think a better term would be 'nutrientism') as the culprit behind the American movement from the real foods our grandparents ate to the focus on taking a bunch of processed ingredients, adding nutrients to those ingredients, and asserting that these new fake foods are superior to and healthier than the originals.

From the chapter Bad Science:

"People don't eat nutrients; they eat foods, and foods can behave very differently from the nutrients they contain. Based on epidemiological comparisons of different populations, researchers have long believed that a diet containing lots of fruits and vegetables confers some protection against cancer. So naturally they ask, What nutrient in those plant foods is responsible for that effect? One hypothesis is that the antioxidants in fresh produce -- compounds like beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamin E, and so on -- are the X factor. It makes good theoretical sense: These molecules (which plants produce to protect themselves from the highly reactive forms of oxygen they produce during photosynthesis) soak up the free radicals in our bodies, which can damage DNA and cause cancer. At least that's how it seems to work in a test tube. Yet as soon as you remove these crucial molecules from the context of the whole foods they're found in, as we've done in creating anxtioxidant supplements, they don't seem to work at all. Indeed, in the case of beta-carotene ingested as a supplement, one study has suggested that in some people it may actually increase the risk of certain cancers. Big oops."
Pollan's conclusion? Stop taking supplements and adding nutrients to fake food. Start eating real food. That's where the protection lies.

Pork chops, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, apple compote

Last time I was out at Red Sun farm I bought a couple of pork loin chops, and since the weather was sleet, snow, or rain all day long I decided it was a perfect day for a wintery meal. I didn't bother with a photo since it was basically beige-on-a-plate, but maybe I should have. Maybe I should find the beauty in the muted colors of a local winter meal.

I put some lacto-fermented sauerkraut purchased from Nourishing Provisions, a local cottage business that produces traditional foods, into my soaked Romertopf clay pot, topped it with the pork loin chops (thermometer inserted), and topped that with more sauerkraut. Then into a cold oven and set the oven to 450.

The mashed potatoes I thawed and set into the crockpot on low. The apple compote, onto the stove on the lowest setting.

I've been promising my make-ahead mashed potatoes recipe forever. Which is ridiculous, because it's so simple! Here it is:


5 # potatoes, cut into 2" chunks (peel first if you prefer -- I like to use skins and all.)
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 T salt
4 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz sour cream
4 oz butter

Soak potatoes overnight in water to cover. In the morning, drain, rinse until the water runs clear, and place along with the stock and salt into a large pan full of cold water to cover by 2". Bring to a boil and cook until falling apart, about 20 - 30 minutes. Drain and place into the bowl of a stand mixer along with cream cheese and sour cream. Beat until any lumps are gone, maybe five minutes. Turn into a foil-lined crockpot insert, cool, and freeze. Once frozen, you can remove the potatoes from the crockpot liner and rewrap for longer storage if you need your crockpot insert (or just to save space in your freezer.) This will keep in the freezer for at least a couple of months if wrapped well. I generally freeze then wrap in foil, then vaccuum seal in plastic, and it keeps for several months.

On serving day: Unwrap, insert into crockpot liner, and allow to thaw completely. Three hours before serving time, cover and set to low. The mixture may be very stiff, so as it gets close to being heated through you may need to mash in milk, cream, water or stock (your preference) to get the mixture to the right consistency. Just before serving, add the butter, allow to melt, and mash or stir in. Correct seasonings and serve. (For large crowds, I find setting the crockpot on low and serving from it keeps the potatoes from getting cold.)

We drank a very nice Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Franc 2005 which we bought at Dilly Deli, which carries a large number of local wines. Kinkead Ridge, whose wines are also available at The Wine Store, is an award-winning vineyard and winery in Ripley.

NYT: Raw milk popularity on the rise

And the New York Times is weighing in, too.

Boston Globe: More dairies go raw

An article yesterday in the Boston Globe reported on the trend toward dairy farmers shrinking their herds, putting the cows on pasture (instead of grain), and selling their milk to local families raw instead of sending it to large processing facilities to be pasteurized and homogenized.

From the article, a quote from real foods guru Marion Nestle:

"It's part of the real food movement that says, 'If it's whole and unprocessed, it's better for me,' " said Nestle, author of several books, including "What to Eat," a guide to good nutrition. "Personally, I prefer my milk pasteurized. But on the other hand, I don't see why raw milk can't be produced according to food safety standards and tested for pathogens and be safe. The whole thing seems to be blown out of proportion."
Thank you, Marion. It's all about having the freedom to make our own choices rather than allowing the government make them for us.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

So then...Twinkies aren't actually food?

This story from Epilog about a Twinkie that came to light after being hidden and forgotten ten years ago should convince even the most dedicated of chemovores that, no, Twinkies are indeed not food.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

MegaOrganics: the graphics

Thanks to Lucy at the always-worth-reading Boulder Belt Blog for finding this page with graphical representations of mergers and acquisitions within the mega-organics industry from a professor at Michigan State.

Meat processing scandal (minus the nightmare-inducing videos)

If like me you've been hearing about the animal abuses secretly filmed by a Humane Society employee at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. which resulted in the largest beef recall in US history but (also like me) don't have the stomach to actually watch the videos, this article from Salon which reports the story unemotionally and without requiring you to view photos may be helpful. (There is a link to the videos, but it's clearly labelled and you can simply not click on it.)

From the article:

Since the scandal broke, industry groups, such as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, have sought to assure the public the problems were an isolated incident. "This recall is happening out of an abundance of caution because the company did not follow regulations for handling non-ambulatory cattle," James O. Reagan, chairman of the Beef Industry Food Safety Council, said in a statement. "We support USDA's recall as a precautionary measure. At the same time, we can say with confidence that the beef supply is safe."

But Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, has his doubts. The Humane Society, he attests, had not been tipped off to abuses at the plant. "This plant was selected at random," he says. "There are 6,200 facilities across the country that USDA inspects. We chose this one and found egregious abuses. There is no way that these groups can say that everything is safe."

Raw milk and lactose intolerance

Finally there's some evidence to back up all the anecdotal reports that raw milk can be consumed by those with lactose intolerance.

According to a study underwritten by the Weston Price Foundation,

"Some 2,217 Michigan consumers of “fresh unprocessed milk” (the Michigan study's term for raw milk) were surveyed, of whom 155, or 6%, said they had been “told by a healthcare professional they had lactose intolerance.” Of those 155, some 127 have no symptoms of lactose intolerance when drinking the fresh unprocessed milk—which is 82% of those with the lactose intolerance diagnosis."

Friday, February 22, 2008

In case you needed another reason to avoid supermarket chicken

In a recent study, Consumer Reports found that 83% of chicken from the big chicken-processing companies is contaminated with campylobacter or salmonella. This is an increase over 2003, when 49% of chicken tested was found to be contaminated. Chicken tested was from Tyson, Perdue, Pilgrim's Pride, and Foster Farms and was purchased from supermarkets, mass merchandisers, gourmet shops, and ­natural-food stores in 23 states last spring.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Woodstone Creek Vodka

As soon as I found out we had an actual microdistillery here in Cincinnati -- the only one in Ohio! -- making boutique liquors, of course I had to track down their product. It turned out to be easier than I anticipated: after reading Woodstone Creek's website, I discovered their very first batch of vodka had been released. I called my local wine-shop-cum-liquor-store this morning to inquire and by gosh, they were already carrying it! Snow day be damned, I ran out and bought a bottle and stuck it in my freezer.

I am not really a vodka fan. When I drink liquor, I drink gin (straight up and very very cold) or single-malt whiskey (neat). I'm not a mixers person, and as a sipping liquor vodka is not many folks' first choice. The flavor doesn't generally support lingering. It's often referred to as tasteless, but it isn't really -- it's often just blah, with more liquor burn than actual flavor when drunk straight. There's a reason college kids pour it into tubs of Kool-Aid and Dixie Cups of Jello: the taste is easily hidden. There's a reason few people bother to order top-shelf vodka in a mixed drink: when added to even mildly-flavored mixers, the taste of one vodka is difficult to distinguish from any other. And there's a reason some vodka producers offer it in ten different flavors: the flavor of the vodka doesn't interfere.

However. I am sitting here sipping a glass of very very cold Woodstone Creek vodka, and I have to say it's the best vodka I can ever remember sipping. It's just clean tasting. I can imagine myself doing this again. This is definitely my new brand of vodka.

Gyro burgers with tzatziki on home-baked buns

At the Oxford Winter Market this past Saturday we found that Morning Sun Farms had ground lamb. We are not lamb eaters at my house. Neither my husband nor I grew up eating it, and in general I find it lamb dishes gamey and not to my taste. But I do like gyros, so I decided to give lamb another try. I'm glad I did! I adapted a gyroburger recipe I found online, made some tzatziki sauce, and gave homemade hamburger buns a whirl. What a great sandwich! We decided this recipe would also be good formed into flattened meatballs and stuffed into pita with tzatziki and chopped lettuce.

Serves 8

1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, grated
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 c panko bread crumbs
1 t dried savory
1 t allspice
1 t ground coriander
1 t salt
1 t ground pepper
1/2 t ground cumin

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir gently until ingredients are well-mixed. Shape into 8 patties. Heat a large oven-proof skillet on high and coat lightly with olive oil. Set burgers into skillet and cook 2 minutes per side, then place skillet into oven for 10 minutes. Place cooked patties into sandwich buns, top patty with tzatziki, and serve.


1 c greek-style yogurt (or drain 1 1/2 c regular plain yogurt overnight)
2 cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 c fresh dill, minced
1 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and chill. Makes 1 1/2 cups of sauce for dipping vegetables or topping sandwiches. And, no, the cukes weren't local -- don't I wish!


This recipe is delicious and though it's labor-intensive, it's easy, even for inexperienced bakers. Definitely worth making your own if you have any inclination at all! This recipe makes 16 buns, but it doesn't take any more time to make 16 than to make 8 so I make a full recipe and freeze the extras.

2 T sugar
2 T active dry yeast
1/2 c warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 c warm milk (about 110 degrees)
2 T vegetable oil
2 t salt
1 c rye flour
1 c whole wheat flour
4 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (divided)
egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 T cold water
coarse salt for topping buns before baking

In a large bowl (starting out in the bowl of your stand mixer will make this easier), dissolve the sugar and then the yeast in the warm water. Add the milk, oil, salt, the rye flour, the whole wheat flour, and 1 c of the all-purpose flour to the yeast mixture. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

Gradually add more all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. I find I can add about 2 more cups before setting the bowl into my stand mixer and using the dough hook, still adding in small increments and stopping often to scrape down the sides.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead until you have a smooth, elastic dough, about 5 minutes, dusting the table and the top of the dough as necessary. Or, leave in the stand mixer and let your dough hook do the kneading.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, turning once to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly-woven dampened towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Divide into 16 equal pieces. (Cut in half, then cut the halves in half until you have 16 equal pieces.) Shape each piece into a ball and flatten into a disk. Place on a heavily-oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes, while you preheat oven to 400.

Just before baking, lightly brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Remove buns immediately from the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack to prevent the bottom crust from becoming soggy. Before serving, slice crosswise.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Local microdistillery: Woodstone Creek

A new microdistilling movement, spearheaded by the good folks at American Distillers Institute, is producing artisan distilled liquors like those made here in Cincinnati by Woodstone Creek, Ohio's first licensed microdistillery.

Woodstone Creek's planned products include blended, single-malt, and bourbon whiskeys, rum, and vodka. Their vodka (which was rated as the top vodka tasted by a CityBeat panel) has been released and is now available at local liquor stores. I just found Woodstone Creek Vodka at my local wine shop, The Wine Store in Montgomery, a great little store which makes a point of carrying items from local producers.

Woodstone Creek, like many small family-owned businesses, can only survive with help from local consumers. Ask for Woodstone Creek vodka at your local liquor store. If they don't have it, ask them to get it. If you like it, go back and tell the shopowner.

Johns Hopkins: And working in an industrial poultry-processing facility can be bad for everyone

A December 2007 study by Johns Hopkins reports that workers in US poultry processing facilities bring antibiotic-resistant bacteria home with them, and that this may be one of the primary ways in which these bacterial strains are spread into the local communities and beyond.

Their results and conclusions:

"Poultry workers had 32 times the odds of carrying gentamicin-resistant E. coli compared with community referents. The poultry workers were also at significantly increased risk of carrying multidrug-resistant E. coli. Occupational exposure to antimicrobial-resistant E. coli from live-animal contact in the broiler chicken industry may be an important route of entry for antimicrobial-resistant E. coli into the community."

Consumer Reports: Grass-fed beef really is better for you

According to a March 2008 report from Consumer Reports, grass-fed beef really is better for you. From their website (on a page which you may be able to access only if you subscribe):

"This grass fed beef could have benefits. The limited research completed to date suggests that steak and hamburger from grass-fed cattle may contain less total fat per serving, according to a review by the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists. Grass-fed steak can also have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce heart-disease risk. Grass-fed ground beef usually has more conjugated linoleic acid, which might improve the immune system and help fight cancer, atherosclerosis, and type 2 diabetes, lab and animal studies show. And raising cattle on well-managed pastures can lessen erosion and boost soil fertility, the scientists' group found."

Ohio wine tasting at Krohn Conservatory

Thanks to Wine Girl for bringing to our attention the Krohn Conservatory Ohio Wine Tasting event scheduled for Friday March 21st. To make a reservation, call 421-5707.

Area wineries that will be represented include my own local favorite Kinkead Ridge plus Burnett Ridge, Harmony Hill, Henke Winery, Meranda-Nixon, Valley Vineyards, Vinoklet, and Woodstone Creek.

I've already made my reservation, so see you there!

Symphony Hotel Bed & Breakfast

Over at Veggie Option there's a review for The Symphony Hotel Bed & Breakfast, another local restaurant that tries to source ingredients locally whenever possible.

Symphony Hotel, which is across the street from Music Hall, bills itself as

"the place to dine before the Symphony, Ballet, May Festival and Opera."