Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Babette's Great Food Events, 2010

So this week is often the week of lists all around the world, right? As we say good-bye to one year, welcome another, we get to look back on the highs and lows of the past 365 days...which brought me to thinking about the good things in the food world I've done--or discovered--this year. So here, in no particular order,

1. Backyard beekeepers. I met someone who has been keeping hives in his back yard for decades (first his father, then this guy), which led me to pitch a story to Edible Piedmont about the back yard beekeepers in Charlotte, NC, my new hometown. I got to taste some great honey, but more important, I got to talk to people who have incredible passion for what they are doing. In almost all cases, they are doing this as a hobby. They sell some, but mostly they lay out money so they can coax bees into filling the hives with honey. I spent a lot of hours learning about bees, even attending a "bee school" field day. I got closer to bees than I ever thought I'd get. I was looking at every space thinking, "I could put a hive there." That was a fun story.

2. Another local story that put me into the heart of the food scene in Charlotte was also for Edible Piedmont. I got to meet and interview Cassie Parsons and Natalie Veres, who own Grateful Growers Farm in Denver, NC. They've started one of the few food trucks in Charlotte (this town being a little slow, due to INCREDIBLE red tape surrounding opening such a truck), Harvest Moon Grille, which sells lunch meals made with truly local ingredients--60 miles or less (I think unless they are talking about flour, for example). While talking to Cassie at the truck, I got to meet Peter Reinhardt, whose books I own. I visited the farm. I spent an evening at the farm when they hosted a fund raiser and we dined under the stars, where we met new friends, with whom we've done a few things since. I've made mozzarella twice for the restaurant they've opened, Harvest Moon Grille in the Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte...AND I may teach a kids cooking class at the restaurant in January. I've said before I love food people and this is just one example of that.

3. I got to cook for Guy Fieri at the Super Bowl in Miami in February. A call came out of the blue in late January: was I interested in food styling for a Guy Fieri/Ritz Cracker segment on Super Bowl Sunday? Oh, yes. After a week of TV segments for Laura's Lean Beef, I spent three days doing some nonstop cooking and prep work under...hmm,  let's say not great conditions. My knives got stolen. I was on my feet for HOURS (oh, how I'd forgotten those restaurant days). I cooked Guy's recipes for Boomer Esiason, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher (go Steelers!)--and more. Can't even recall. Got a fun photo with the team (that's me, "Kleetus" and Guy). Oh, and bragging rights. [GuyBKCrop.jpg]

4. Here's a sad one: Florida Table folded. And since they changed web hosts, they DELETED the entire Florida Table website and archives. I still can't quite believe that, but there you go. It was bad enough they folded and I lost the food editor job I loved so much for the past three years, but then to delete all those beautiful photos, stories, etc...sigh. They tried hard, but for whatever reason, the magazine just couldn't keep going. I loved the people I met and the work I did.

5. I learned to make mozzarella cheese! (Inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver) I got the needed rennet and citric acid (from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company) and cheese curded my way to fabulous, warm mozzarella. Actually, I committed to TEACHING A CLASS in cheese making (at our apartment building) before I'd even made batch one. (Have I ever told you my motto: how hard can it be?...and that's why I said, Sure! I'll teach a class!)...which meant in the two weeks after I got back from the Late July vacation to California (San Luis Obispo area: loved loved loved it), I made about eight batches of mozzarella and only really ruined ONE...I taught the class, it was a huge success (sent everyone home with about a pound of mozzarella) and have made mozzarella fairly frequently since then. (And for Harvest Moon Grille at the Dunhill: see above.)
Teaching a class of 10 to make fresh mozzarella

6. I successfully completed the Blogathon. I was worried. Very worried. Daily posts for the entire month. But blogging is like so many things: the more you do it, the easier it gets. It became a habit, one I need to recommit to (is that a resolution in the making? Or just a good idea???)--I enjoyed doing it, I read new blogs, I got new readers. No down sides whatsoever.

7. I made Marcella Hazan's lasagne. This was SUCH a big hit. In fact, it may have pushed lasagne into one of my favorite meals. THIS lasagne to be exact. And then, after I'd blogged the whole event? I got a comment from Marcella. That just made my day. And I've made the lasagne again. Worth it. In fact, her book, Essentials of Italian Cooking is one I reach for more and more frequently these days.

There were, of course other highs--Alton Brown's pumpkin pie from real pumpkin was an absolute runaway favorite (we voted) at Thanksgiving.  I had the most incredible solo dinner at Blue Hill NYC.
I read A Homemade Life and the recipe for creamed cabbage changed our veggie-eating habits forever. I wrote about rules you should break in the kitchen. I returned to canning and made the BEST peach jam EVER. I bragged about my garlic bread domination.

It was a good year in food. I'll try to make 2011 even better.


My Chutney Garden said...

Great post Barb. You've had a great year! I want to learn how to make mozzarella. Wah. You've got to come to Trinidad to teach me.
Happy happy New Year to you.

Jen said...

I too have wanted to make homemade cheese since reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle! But you're way ahead of me because you've actually done it. Also, I can't believe someone stole your knives at the Super Bowl - otherwise, it sounds like a great experience. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Your tales of cheesemaking were inspirational ... many moons ago, I bought the same kit, though I haven't yet had the courage to make cheese. 2011 may be a good year for that! :)

Anonymous said...

What an interesting 2010 you had! Look forward to reading about your adventures in 2011! :)

So sorry to hear about Florida Table, but hopefully something else is just around the corner.

Happy New Year, Barb! xx