They say that too many cooks spoil the broth, but you certainly can't prove it by the Chefs of Bloomington Dinner coming up on May 23 at the Encore Café. Perhaps ten cooks would be too many, or even nine or eight, but seven seems to be an excellent number.
That's seven, as in seven chefs, cooking seven courses, paired with seven wines, all of it celebrating the fresh, delicious ingredients we grow in our own backyard here in southern Indiana. And there is more cause for celebration: This dining experience extraordinaire signals the arrival — finally — of Slow Food Bloomington.
Slow Food Bloomington is the freshly chartered local chapter of the international Slow Food movement — a movement designed to promote eating the old fashioned way: locally, seasonally, sustainably, companionably and leisurely. Its mission is symbolized by its logo: a stylized sketch of that humble, unhurried, gastronomic delicacy, the snail.
As I have written in this column before, the Slow Food movement began in 1986 when Italian Carlo Petrini, appalled by the opening of a McDonald's near the Spanish Steps in Rome, conceived it as an antidote to the fast food culture that he saw storming across the Atlantic, demolishing local eating habits and food traditions in its wake.
Slow Food works to preserve those local traditions, throwing the mantle of its protection around endangered products and methods of food preparation, helping small farmers find a way to keep going in a global economy, supporting artisan producers, and emphasizing that eating is an intensely pleasurable, sociable activity that should not be done on the run.
Slow Food chapters (called "convivia") exist in more than 45 countries, and in all 50 of the United States, where there are 150 of them. Indiana itself has three convivia (Slow Food Michiana, Kentuckiana and Indy) but the movement has come to Bloomington more, well, slowly.
I myself have been a member of Slow Food for several years, hooked by this culinary philosophy that does as much for my soul and my heart as it does for my stomach. Being a slowfoodie in Bloomington seemed to be a lonely business, however, until a year ago, when I met Dave Tallent (now chef of Restaurant Tallent.)
Dave is Slow Food personified. His brilliant cooking and seasonally changing menu showcase the incredible bounty of southern Indiana — he buys from local producers whenever he can — meats (pork, beef, venison, lamb and rabbit), as well as fruits, herbs, vegetables and other good things including honey, shagbark hickory syrup, polenta and cheese. (I asked Dave to design a menu around local ingredients to accompany today's column. These are restaurant recipes with a lot of steps, but they are not difficult. Take it slowly and enjoy.)
So, when I talked about starting a Slow Food convivium right here, Dave was with me instantly. And it seemed to be contagious — maybe karma, maybe just the right idea at the right time — but we both began to meet so many other enthusiasts that it seemed that excitement about supporting the local food-producing economy and making great food available all year long was practically fizzing in the Bloomington air.
Nearly a year later we have an initial project (the Chefs of Bloomington Dinner) well under way and Slow Food Bloomington has just been officially chartered. A large group of us met formally for the first time at a potluck on Sunday. The group's agenda is already full and exciting. Participants discussed plans for a community fall harvest festival, a regular biweekly winter farmers' market, networking between local farmers and local chefs, field trips to visit nearby farms and food producers, an effort to bring Slow Food principles and practices to the K-12 programs, and a "Snail of Approval" designation to help the public recognize and patronize restaurants using local products.
And then there is the Chefs of Bloomington Dinner.
Planned to showcase just how phenomenally well one can eat off the local economy (and as a fundraiser to get some much needed cash into the kitty!) the dinner was the inspiration of Linda Ripperger, co-owner of the Limestone Grille.
It has been a fun ride for such amateur food fanciers as myself, but the fact that it is coming together so beautifully is due primarily to the extraordinary efforts of Linda herself, as well as other professionals in the local restaurant and food community — Dave Tallent, Zak Kell, Tad DeLay, Martin Frannea, Chris Spear, Cathy Crosson and the generous and wonderful folks at Bloomingfoods and the Encore Café. Thanks to all of them, the dinner will be a mouthwatering extravaganza of local flavors and style.
The menu for the dinner is still a work in progress, but as of now it begins with champagne and hors d'oeuvre, followed by puff pastry with spring vegetables and local cheese (Matt O'Neill, Runciple Spoon), puree of spring greens soup (Marina Ballor, Le Petit Café), smoked Indiana trout on a bed of local greens (Chris Harpel, Divinos), roasted chicken on fava bean ragout (Chris Spear, Scholars Inn), stuffed saddle of rabbit w/morel and asparagus ravioli (Dave Tallent, Restaurant Tallent), grilled pork tenderloin medallions in a shagbark hickory enriched demi glace with a salsa of spring vegetables (Tad DeLay, Limestone Grille), a cheese course of Capriole Farms goat cheese, and finally a Hoosier tuille with Italian meringue and early summer berries (Martin Frannea, Truffles). Tickets for the Dinner are $100 per person and went on sale Monday at Bloomingfoods East.
We are proud of this event and it will be great fun, but of course, there is so much more to Slow Food than pricey fundraisers and fancy meals. The heart of Slow Food is about conviviality, community and culinary discovery, and there is a place for everyone at our table. We invite you join us there in the coming months as we embark on this Slow Food adventure here in Bloomington.
Swiss Connection Short Ribs with Mashed potatoes and Meadowlark Farms Swiss
1 pound carrots
1 pound celery root
1 1/2 pound onions
1 bottle dry red wine
1 large can beef broth
6 parsley stems
6 thyme stems
1 bay leaf
1 head garlic, split
10 pounds short ribs from the Yegerlehners' Swiss Connection Farm Oil.
1 tablespoon of tomato paste.
1/2 stick of butter.
Salt and pepper.
Mashed potatoes, made from your favorite recipe, to serve four
1 pound Swiss chard, from Meadowlark Farms, blanched, and braised in 1/4 cup chicken stock and 1 tablespoon butter until liquid is evaporated. Salt and pepper to taste.
For the ribs:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
In a medium, non reactive pot, heat the wine, broth, herbs, and garlic.
Cut half the carrots, celery root and onions into large dice ( 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch.) Cut the other half into large chunks or batons, and reserve.
Pour the warm marinade over the diced vegetables and refrigerate until cool.
Add short ribs to the marinade and marinate overnight.
The next day, remove ribs and vegetables from marinade and dry them thoroughly on paper towel. Salt and pepper to taste.
Warm some oil in a large skillet or roasting pan and brown the ribs.
Remove ribs and brown vegetables in pan. Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and cook until rust colored.
Add ribs and marinade back into pan and cover.
Cook, covered, in oven at 250 degrees for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
Remove the meat to a separate dish. Strain the liquid into a medium saucepan, add reserved vegetables and cook over medium high heat until reduced by 1/4. Whisk in about 1/2 stick of butter.
Serve short ribs over mashed potatoes, spooning sauce and vegetables around the side. Accompany with chard on top or on the side.
Farms Arugula Salad with Capriole Farms Goat Cheese and Spiced Pecans
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 egg white
1 cup fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Hunter's Honey, to taste
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 shallot, minced
1/2 pound Capriole Farms goat cheese
1 pound arugula from Meadowlark Farms, washed and dried thoroughly
1/2 red onion, shaved into thin slices
For the pecans:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Beat egg white until frothy. Combine five-spice powder, cayenne, cumin and brown sugar.
Toss chopped nuts with egg white, then coat with mixed spices.
Spread nuts out on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for 10-12 minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning. When nuts are done they will still be soft, but they will crisp as they cool.
For the basil oil:
Blanch basil in boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Remove to ice water. Drain and squeeze out excess water.
Puree basil with 1/4 cup olive oil in food processor for 2 minutes.
Strain through fine mesh strainer.
For the dressing:
Mix vinegar and shallots with a pinch of salt and pepper. Let sit five minutes.
Slowly whisk in the canola oil. Once oil is added and dressing is emulsified, add honey to taste.
For the goat cheese:
Bring cheese to room temperature.
Stir in about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil till smooth, add slat and pepper to taste.
Toss arugula and shaved onions with enough dressing to moisten.
Pile greens on four salad plates
Surround each salad with 2-3 small scoops of goat cheese, shaped with a spoon into quenelles or elongated ovals.
Sprinkle a tablespoon of chopped pecans over each salad.
Drizzle basil oil around the edge of the plate.
Point Yogurt Tart with Apricot and Cranberry Compote
9 inch tart ring
2 cups granola
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
2 cups Traders Point yogurt
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried apricots
1/2 bottle dry white wine
1 stick cinnamon
1 star anise
1/2 vanilla bean
For tart shell:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grind granola in food processor until almost fine.
Melt butter and mix with granola and brown sugar.
Spray the tart pan with nonstick spray and press the crust into the pan.
Pre-bake shell for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
For the filling:
Beat the eggs and 3/4 cup sugar until pale and thick.
With a rubber spatula, fold yogurt, vanilla extract, and flour until just mixed.
Poor mixture into cooled shell and bake 35-40 minutes.
For the compote:
In a nonreactive pan, combine the dried fruit, white wine, 1/2 cup sugar, and whole spices. Cook until the fruit is well plumped up.
Remove fruit and cook liquid down until is reaches a syrupy consistency.
Cut tart into wedges. Spoon compote over tart and drizzle syrup around or on top.
Serves six to eight.
More on Slow Food
The next meeting of Slow Food Bloomington will be Sunday, May 2, at a place yet to be determined. If you would like more details on the meeting, or would like to be on our mailing list, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read more about the movement at the following Web sites: