CSA, yogurt and two reviews

I’ve gotta start posting here more than once a month! OK, I’ve got several things on my mind this time:

At the Farm Expo a few weeks ago, I had a goal of finding a local CSA to join. I’ve tried in the past, but they were all full or cutting back or too far away for pickup or some other problem. This time, I wanted to find The Right CSA for us.

The KC Farm Circle published a list of CSAs that I glommed onto, and I quickly sorted through the possibilities. Some were already full, but one open farm that sounded good was on site as an exhibitor. I visited with them for a while, and decided they were exactly the kind of small funky farm I wanted to support.

From the list, here’s the lowdown on The Organic Way:
The Organic Way Farm
Dan & Denise May
Route 1, Box 104 Milo, Missouri 64767
417-944-2818
danddmay (@) aicon.net — http://www.theorganicwayfarm.com (under renovation)
Pick up: 102 E Gregory Blvd, ( Waldo) KCMO –5pm-7pm Wednesdays, mid-May thru mid-October
Family share: $475 (“too much food” according to many). Deposit of $235 due at time of signup. $20 Payment for package is due weekly for first nine weeks, final weeks are covered by deposit. Payment plan is negotiable to fit personal budgetary schedules.
Exclusive organic practices- not certified; Farming for eleven years, seventh year of CSA.
Other than area veggies: Eggs, berries, pears and apples in the fall, organic oranges in the winter (trading tomatoes/money for citrus) dozens of special hybrid varieties of vegetables. Open volunteer days, kids welcome, call ahead to arrange, annual dinner. Apprenticeships offered, but full for 2007.
Communication: Weekly newsletter with share includes recipes, crop and farm news, etc.
Features: Delivery truck & tractor converting to burn vegetable oil, 6 greenhouses, refractometer used for sucrose- and brix-level analysis, food-grade peroxide demos.

It starts mid-May. I can’t WAIT to dig into my new box!

My sons’ Japanese teacher offered to teach me how to make my own homemade yogurt. It couldn’t be easier! She gave me some starter, we mixed it with about a quart of whole milk in a clean jar, covered it with a paper towel and rubber band, and let it sit overnight. That was, of course, one of the freezing nights last week… it didn’t set up really solid. The second batch is a little firmer. But it tastes great, and I’m a convert!

I love it when I figure out that I can make my own whatever-it-is. My sweetie whips up things that I never even thought could come from my kitchen (English muffins, crumpets, croissants, Napoleons), and I’m really impressed. But I really just am so tickled to learn how to make my own yogurt, mayonnaise, garam masala, curry powder, salad dressing… those things you think only come from a jar from the store.

I remember way back, when I first started to make things like cakes, muffins, macaroni-and-cheese, all from scratch. It was exhiliarating… When did it become so scary to do this stuff on your own? Why are we so dependent on boxes, mixes and companies?

My childless sister came in for a visit last week. The “childless” part is important, because she has “disposible income” … a concept completely foreign to me. However, I am not so dense that I miss out on the wonderful opportunities she offers us. Last time she was in KC, she took us out to bluestem. This time, she heard that both bluestem’s chef/owner Colby Garralts and The American Restaurant’s Celina Tio were each recently nominated for a James Beard award, so she decided to treat us to Tio’s work as well.

Our bluestem outing was truly fantastic (unfortunately, I see that I neglected to post about that meal here), and so I was really looking forward to a visit to the American.

The evening was very quiet… I don’t think more than six tables were in use at the height of the evening. This might have been because it was Easter weekend, and folks were saving their dining dollars for a nice Sunday brunch. We arrived just before sunset, and were ushered to a table with a gorgeous view of the KC skyline. Our waiter, Michael, did a superb job of anticipating our needs and attending to them in a timely manner all evening.

We started with an amuse bouche of a mussel in a fennel broth with lime toast. What can I say: it’s a mussel. Either you love them or you don’t, and I sadly am in the second category. Beautifully presented, though.

The baked-in-house pain de campagne and white rosemary bread with salt, both hearty and crusty and fresh, were served with a really wonderful butter, rich and slightly tangy. I wondered if it was some of the cultured European butter I remember Dorie Greenspan raving about; later the waiter mentioned it was indeed flown in from England, but was goat butter. Terrific stuff!

I took care of a half-bot of Grgrich Chardonnay, 2005 if I remember right. The rest of the table had a fantastic Pinot Noir, but danged if I can remember what it was (Oregon, maybe?).

Mr. Moody started with the Crispy Veal Sweet Breads. I’m not a big fan of the organ meats, but I did try the foie gras sausage that came with it… rich and savory, just a touch of liverish flavor.

My sister had the Red Oak Lettuces, which she loved, and I decided to try the Sonoma Mushroom Stack… the “fried” egg was very runny and messy, but the whole thing was delicious.

Mr. Moody went on to the Pan Seared Kobe Beef (no complaints from his direction at all). My sister dug into the Jamison Farm Lamb Loin with smoky marble potato and morel mushroom ragout, moaning with joy through the whole thing. I’m afraid I wasn’t quite as thrilled with my Butter Poached Maine Lobster with free-form oxtail ravioli and hedgehog mushrooms. I guess it was just sooo much lobster, and I hadn’t had the claws before… they were spongy and very plain. I loved the oxtail, and wished there were more of it to go with the lobster, which just overwhelmed the dish. It just felt unbalanced to me.

We shared a splendid cheese plate that featured Port Salud with blood orange marmalade, Hook’s Ten-year Cheddar with a peach (or apricot?) jam, and Point Reyes Blue with a bit of preserved cherry.

There was another little goodie from the kitchen at this point, a delicate little crepe with ricotta and honey (both my salad’s herb-filled ricotta and the crepe’s sweet cheese were house-made, too). Not too sweet, and a pleasant way to segue from the cheese to dessert.

My sister had the Double Malted Euphoria, a fun little cup of sweet layered treats, topped with some almond brittle. Mr. Moody had the Apple Tarte Tatin with some powerful blackstrap molasses ice cream. But I won the dessert sweepstakes by selecting the Sticky Caramel Crunch Torte, a round little cake that wasn’t particularly sticky or crunchy but full of hazelnut flavor, which was accompanied by a fleur-de-sel ice cream. That sounds iffy, but it was incredibly good on the tongue! The sweet and salt entwined and were lifted with the cream to a spectacular height. It was funny, though… you didn’t need much of it at all to fill your senses. I shared half of it with my sister, and still felt I gorged on it.

There was a final morsel of chocolate-and-cherry candy to send us on our way. I was a tiny bit disappointed that Chef Tio hadn’t been able to come out and visit with us, especially since it was such a quiet evening, but in general the meal had been a memorable event indeed.

Two days later, my sister was due to head back to New York. I wanted to share something special with her, seeing as she had so kindly hosted our fabulous meal the Friday before. Since I’m not as flush as her, though, I decided to treat her to lunch at Starkers Reserve.

I didn’t take notes, but once again Starkers delivered a magnificent meal. This really has to be one of KC’s best deals… the creativity and resources of Chef John McClure, and his establishment’s dependable service, all at lunch prices. If you used your Diner Club card, which I did, it was even better!

My sister had the field greens with candied walnuts and Granny Smith apples, and I decided to ward off the chill with a bowl of the lobster bisque (you’d think I’d’ve had enough lobster after the other night!). It was rich and buttery, warm and nutty… almost pure comfort food! Both of us cleaned those plates pretty well…

She had the Shrimp Po’ Boy, and I tried a pasta dish whose name eludes me: the pasta was a thick spaghetti-type noodle (bucatini?), and topped with a tomato-based sauce packed with a pancetta-like meat (could it have been Guanciale?) and red pepper flakes, and some shaved pecorino. It was a perfect savory winter dish that I ate as slowly as I could to make it last.

We finished by sharing the homey cookie plate, ice cream sampler (Tahitian vanilla, Mexican chocolate, and espresso), and Starkers’ superb French-pressed Roastarie coffee.

Chef John came out and visited with us for a bit (sadly, he was busy today and couldn’t sit down and tell me more stories from the trenches… er, kitchen), enticed us with ideas he’s trying on his dinner menu, and told us that Starkers is getting a new paint job and carpet in the next few weeks.

Oh, and I couldn’t help but notice: The American Restaurant didn’t have Hangar One vodka, but Starkers Reserve did.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “CSA, yogurt and two reviews

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  2. Sounds like a couple of delightful meals. I really should get off my ass and make my own yogurt. I keep reading about how easy it is…

    • Well, follow the instructions I gave you up there, and you should be good to go! I looked on the web a bit, and it all started getting crazy with heating pads and boiled milk and whatnot. Just go for it, and enjoy!

      • It might not be obvious, but you want to use something like Nancy’s plain yogurt for your first starter… nothing sweetened, nothing with gelatin or other garbage. Good luck!

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