Day 3: On to Devil’s Lake!

Given our failure to make drinkable coffee, our first stop after packing up camp was Kavarna Coffeehouse in Green Bay – yet another example of the sort of place I wish existed in Ann Arbor.

Photo by paul goyette

Good coffee, a delicious-looking menu, and ample seating on two levels for those wanting to put in a couple of hours of work, catch up with a friend, or catch the occasional local band. We just needed a quick caffeine and internet fix, and Kavarna did just the trick.

From there, we made a quick stop by Lambeau Field, literally jumping out to snap a picture, then jumping back in the car. I’d show you the pictures, but they’re basically what you’d expect given the circumstances. Neither of us have any particular love for the Packers anyway.

Vince Lombardi Statue

Photo by jimmywayne

Let’s not talk about our side-trip to Oshkosh. A consistent theme of our days in Wisconsin was driving on ripped up, formerly paved roads, and Oshkosh had many of them. It also has a totally nondescript, exceptionally boring Brooklyn/gangster-themed restaurant, and a coffee shop with almost adequate sandwiches. We couldn’t get out of town fast enough.

Fortunately, our next stop was our destination: Devil’s Lake State Park. I’d been to Devil’s Lake a handful of times in high school and college, and had very idyllic memories of hiking, the lake, and failed attempts at rock climbing. I was concerned that it wouldn’t live up to my memories, but we loved it right away – that is, once we stopped to imagine ice age glaciers.

Shane Imagines Ice Age Glaciers

Oh, and once we popped open a few Wisconsin beers:

Campsite Beer

Unfortunately the beers didn’t help with the tasks ahead of us. In addition to all the other things we forgot, we didn’t have a mallet with which to drive in the stakes for our tent – or any sort of fire-starting device beyond our trusty, running low on fuel aim-n-flame. No matter: a helpful campground neighbor took pity and loaned us his axe; he also came back with the axe and some very dry wood to help us get a fire started. In the meantime, I made dinner: mushrooms, onions, and ham in a cream sauce – yes, a cream sauce in a cast iron skillet – served with a salad and English muffins. I would’ve made pasta but, well, you’ve seen what I was working with.

First Camping Dinner

We happily sat by the fire until it burned down – and even more happily turned in early.

1028 Fancied Up Sandwiches

Another half-homemade dinner.   While Shane worked out in our basement gym, I zipped up to Plum to do the week’s grocery shopping – Shane will be in Cleveland with the car all weekend – including the components of a grilled cheese and tomato soup dinner.

Tomato Soup
Photo by Arnold Goodway

I used the last of the basil from the garden to make a wee batch of pesto, which I spread, along with a thin layer of cream cheese on two slices of French bread, which were then topped with a few slices of deli ham. Not traditional grilled cheese fare – more like a panini? – but packed with flavor and a great complement to the store-bought tomato soup. I make a mean tomato bisque, which, thanks to the archives, I realize I haven’t made all year, but tonight I was more interested in making a good sandwich.  Given Shane’s grumbles of pleasure, I think I succeeded.  And I also think I need to make tomato bisque soon.

0926 “Ham” and Cornbread, y’all

To some extent, we didn’t realize what we were getting into when we decided to buy half of a pig.  We didn’t get some of the cuts that we wanted – we got the meat, but not processed the way we requested.  We opted not to get specific cuts smoked because we’d planned on processing them ourselves – except that we can’t really do that because we didn’t get the cuts we requested.  The net result of this is that we have a lot of fresh ham, and no idea what to do with it.

This was my first attempt at doing something with one of the larger ham cuts.  I’d done some internet research, and hit on this recipe, which called for fresh ham but didn’t require special equipment.  Shane worried that there might not be enough acid, but I was confident in the acidity of the soda – it breaks down teeth! – and so let the crockpot full of ham and sugar do its thing all day.  Sure enough, by dinnertime the acidity and the liquid had done their jobs, and the ham was completely falling apart.  No pink glazed goodness for us, oh no.  More like a very sweet pulled pork.

Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t good – it was – but it certainly didn’t look like this:

Post Glazing and Roasting
Photo by su-lin

Better luck next time, eh? This time, though, we had the ham with a roasted radish salad, polenta cornbread, and a big rye beer. For dessert, a rough pear crumble and a bit of Matt and Shannon’s pawpaw ice cream.  For a dinner comprised entirely of recipe experiments, I think it was a success!

Recipes:
Coca-Cola Braised Ham from CD Kitchen
Polenta Cornbread from Yum Recipes
Pear Crumble from Eating Well

0201 Homemade Pizza II

We had other plans for dinner, but the ham from Sunday night called to me all day. “Make me into something delicious!” it said. Halfway through the day, I scrapped the intended dinner plans and IMed Shane to tell him we’d be having pizza for dinner again.

Arugula + ham pizza

While we were quite happy with Saturday’s pizza, the crust never really crisped up, so tonight I cranked the heat on our totally unreliable oven up to 450 (according to the thermostat), rolled the dough out thin, rubbed it with olive oil and rosemary, and set the kitchen timer for 7 minutes. After 10 minutes total, the edges were beginning to go golden, and the dough had puffed up in a couple of places. I popped those lovely air bubbles, spooned on the tomato paste, and topped it with mozzarella and leftover bits of ham. Back into the oven for 7-10 more minutes, then whisked to the table and topped with a few handfuls of arugula. It was still missing something, so we drizzled the amazing balsamic crema (thanks again, Janet!) over the top. Shane suggested more tomato paste next time, or perhaps making a tomato-balsamic reduction for the sauce. Either way, I was totally pleased with tonight’s pie.

0131 A Celebration of Ham

Now here’s a beautiful subject line:

“let’s eat a ham & celebrate”

We shared a beautiful meal with a number of friends from FM@SELMA at the invitation of Shana and in celebration of the beautiful ham cured by Susie, Garin, and Matt. The ham, brined for 8 days, dried in the fridge for a day, then smoked all day long at Susie’s, arrived with great fanfare and many oohs and aahs at the crispy skin and the pink pink color of the interior. We piled our plates with the ham, a lovely potato au gratin, a crispy fennel and apple salad, and piles of roasted veg. Jeff and Lisa brought yogurt cheese topped with fig jam and hazelnuts for pre-meal snacks, and Olivia blew us all away with trays of maple macarons, Earl Grey madeleines, and little pig-shaped cookies. Our contributions to the feast were a loaf of bread (that took forEVER to rise), two jars of my marmalade (excellent on both the bread and the ham), and a bunch of bottles of Shane’s most recent (and delicious) beer, an agave wheat.

While we both occasionally feel overwhelmed by the locavore/brocavore culture in Ann Arbor, it was really nice to be reminded of the reasons we care about local food, and of the resources available to us to make the best food choices we can for our bodies, our budget, our community, and our planet.

Eating and growing locally: week six

No photos from our OLS week 2 menu due to the fact that our Internet at home is total crap currently.  Also, I realized that the OLS challenge started on June 1 rather than June 1 being the first reporting date, so maybe we’ll just call last week’s meal a wash.  Meal #2 menu:

Salt-cured ham from Cibola Farms (74 mi.), baked with herbs from our garden (O mi.) and a viognier from Rappahannock Cellars (67 mi.).

Beets from a farmers’ market vendor (<125 mi.), roasted with the viognier and herbs from our garden.

The ham was overcooked because I didn’t time things quite right, but both were delicious, and the ham bones are in the freezer waiting to enrich a soup later in the year.

Week 6: growing

  • The beans are growing like wildfire.
  • Lettuce looking a little down-trodden thanks to storms and 100 degree heat.
  • One flower on the chili!

Week 6: eating

  • froze 3 batches asparagus, 1 batch sliced zucchini
  • bought beets, peas (in and out of the shell), zucchini, white cherries, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, garlic scapes, salad greens, and raisin-walnut bread
  • also pork cutlets and buffalo burgers
  • we’re eating more vegetables than I can recall ever regularly eating in my life