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One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to go to Fulton or Kingfield farmers’ markets (depending on the day) with Jack and Lizzie, and to make our leisurely way around the stalls and wind up at Chef Shack, one of the yummier food trucks in Minneapolis. Sometimes their mini-donuts are Indian-spiced, and go especially well with a latte. Jack’s favorite food is “purple tacos,” (his impatient pronunciation of “pulled pork” giving the dish a pretty cool moniker). My favorite items are the pickled toppings, which range from cabbage to peppers to cukes. 

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Tilian farro

Speaking of farro… 

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One of the best preparations of that happening ancient grain that I’ve recently experienced was Tilia‘s warm farro salad. I think it’s moved off the menu as the weather has warmed, but the memory stays with me: the bite of gorgonzola softened by sweet beets. Let me try to reconstruct it… A bed of warm farro, creamy as risotto and dressed through with melted gorgonzola, topped with a perfectly tangy salad of frisee, sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts. And then there are the chunks of yellow and magenta beets, caramelized and sweetened with roasting. I may have to try this at home.

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What a week of cooking it’s been.  At this point, all I have energy for is posting a few pictures.

Two days before Thanksgiving, our friends Charles and Monika and their puppy Djuna (after Djuna Barnes) stopped on their way to Atlanta for the night.  Earlier in the afternoon, Jack and I made egg noodles to go along with the cabbage-wrapped meatballs.

I toasted coriander seeds in my cute little skillet.

For dessert, I made a chocolate-espresso-Irish whiskey bundt cake that was so rich and moist it came out almost black and was a heady thing to eat.  I made it again the next day, to bring to Thanksgiving at the McKelly’s.  (But failed, both times, to take a picture.)

Thanksgiving was a meal Sharyn and I had been planning for awhile, and everything came out beautifully.

I cooked these sprouts up with pancetta and walnuts.  I made a cranberry tart, and Jack helped me—gleefully—mix up the crumble topping.

Here—later—is Jim carving the ras-al-hanout-rubbed turkey.

And here’s Mimi almost beside herself with party-anticipation.

Sharyn, with her usual elegance, had set two tables with simple, seasonal, but always tasteful decoration.

And the kids had fun at the kid table while the adults’ conversation wound its unpredictable way from raising llamas to running to the love of chocolate to Turkish coffee.

Sharyn, Jim, and Mimi: we’re thankful to have such good friends as you!

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Don’t worry, friends, I haven’t decided to rescind the promise of my subtitle.  I was in Alabama, I was in Rome, and now I’m back. We moved in to a new house a few weeks ago, and life has been a whirl of discombobulation since then.  Finally, things are settling down.  Or at least flowing in somewhat predictable currents.

Here’s part of our new kitchen, shot by Jack:

Foodwise, we’ve been eating well thanks to the introduction into Auburn of Earthfare, the small grocery chain with Whole-Foods style and selection.  The only problem with it is that I enjoy shopping there so much that I haven’t yet been to the farmers’ market. (There’s also the fact that the FM happens after my last class on Thursday, and at that point I just want to go home and flop.)

My locavore behavior will improve, however, with the beginning of the Red Root Farm CSA season.

In other news….

Here’s something interesting.  While we were gone, two of our friend-couples went veg.  Seeing Food Inc. had something to do with it in both cases.

I’ve managed to maintain a semblance of my coffee-drinking habits from Rome with the help of my Bialetti Brikka—a glass-topped version with a pressure-trapping valve that makes a crema almost as good as one from a cafe espresso maker.  I bought the Brikka in a fancy little kitchen shop just off of Piazza Venezia and secretly shipped it home to give to Peter for his birthday in July. He was not impressed.  “You got me a coffee maker?”  I felt silly.  Our anniversary was coming up—another gift occasion—so I bought him Roberto Calasso’s new book, Tiepolo Pink. Score!  Now I can’t wait to take over that gift too.

Oh yeah, in past locavore news from the summer, when I was on Nantucket with Jack, my parents, my sister and her son, Jeremiah, the kids went crabbing, and Jeremiah caught a good-sized blue crab. It gave everyone else the willies, so I got to eat it all.

The course I’m teaching, with a group of other professors from different disciplines, is a year-long sustainability symposium.  This semester, we’re focusing on food and water systems. It’s a pretty great teaching opportunity.  Next week we’re going to shock our innocent freshmen with Food Inc.

As I write, Jack is practicing his violin.  Every time I make a little suggestion, he says, “Mommy! Just don’t say anything.”  Ooh!

Now he’s ready to go out and ride his bike, so I’ve got to run.  The streets are deserted because everyone in town is tailgating before the first big game.

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egg decorating

It was a beautiful spring day, perfect for spending the afternoon in the garden, soaking up the sunshine and decorating eggs.

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This one, led again by Pina Pasquantonio, the administrator here at the Academy and a sommelier, took us up several levels from the last one.  We got to taste what I’ve only ever read about, and never expected to taste: “Super Tuscans.”

We began, again, with a spumante: Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Anna Maria Clementi, 2002, named by the current owner for his mother, who founded Ca’ del Bosco, and containing a blend of chardonnay, pinot blanc and pinot noir.  Having spent about six years in the bottle, it was zingy with minerals, fresh and chewy at once, and mouth-cleansing with its vibrant little bubbles.

After a bit of bread with Pina’s homemade olive oil, we moved onto a dense white: Gravner Ribolla Anfora 2004.  Pina led into this wine with its story—which is also the story of its winemaker Francesco Gravner.  He had a successful high-production winery, and was making a nice income, but was dissatisfied.  He went on a research trip to Georgia, where he tasted the local wine made in clay amphorae, the way the Greeks and Romans used to do it.  He came back to his winery in the northeastern Italian Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, and began making wine in small batches, with only the best grapes, with the amphora method.  The grapes are gently pressed with an ancient press, and the juice drips through a screen into the amphorae which are lined with beeswax and buried up to their necks in earth.  The juice ferments for seven months underground, and is then decanted into large oak casks and aged for 36 months.  Gravner only decants the wine into bottles during a waning moon, when the planets are properly aligned.  This biodynamism comes through in the bouquet and flavor of this wine, which are vegetal, leathery, and earthy in the most interesting way.  The color of the wine was a gold verging on amber, like a dessert wine, but it was bone dry.

five stunning wines

The next wine, which Leonard exclaimed was “a legendary, rare wine!” was my favorite, but I’ll never be able to buy a bottle because of what is referred to as a prohibitive pricetag: €120.  This was the “Super Tuscan” L’Apparita 2004 by Castello di Ama, made from 100% merlot.  This is a wine that has me bowing down in worship before this much-used, much-maligned grape.  Its color was like a ruby, its bouquet full of leather, dark chocolate, earth, bread baking, sweat, spice, and wood—“sandalwood,” said Pina.  The taste created different sensations all over the mouth, but what made me close my eyes was the anise that lingered in a long, delicate line.

While we sipped and swirled in awed silence, Gianni, Pina’s partner in life and wine, poured out little sips of the two final wines: Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia 2005 and 2006, Bordeaux-blend Super Tuscans.  They were both completely their own wines.  The 2005 was nuttier, both were complex, but Pina seemed most inspired by the 2006, in which she smelled pine and salty sea spray.

Wow, what a night.

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pre-party

Wow.  There are so many potluck festivities ahead.  Top (and all over, really): dairy essentials for the next few days of children’s snacks.  Middle: chilled essentials for the next few days of parents’ drinks. Bottom: six local, hormone- and antibiotic-free chickens ready for roasting.

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