Farm Fresh and Local Produce – 1/26/08

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, Farmer's Market, Produce

I ventured out early and actually made it to the Worthington Winter Farmer’s Market this morning, my first one of the season. I haven’t been able to catch the other ones because of either the weather, or being busy or out of the area when they were going on.  

Now, while it was nice, from other people’s descriptions, I was expecting it to be a bit bigger. I think there were a dozen vendors, tops. Still better than nothing. :) One of those vendors was Andelain Farms, the poultry farm owned by one of my husband’s coworkers. If you get a chance to try their chickens, do so. We’ve had one before and they’re especially flavorful. Ed’s wife said they’ll be at the next market as well.

We picked up a few things here and there. We gazed at the sweets at Mead Acres, but due to the recent surgery, it was the last thing that we either needed or wanted.

Sweets from Mead Acres

Ditto with these apples from HW Organic Farms, which looked oh so good but would make me feel oh so bad if I indulged in them right now.

Apples from HW Organic Farms

I did, though, pick up some spinach at HW Organic, which will be used in a dish later this week. Don’t these veggies look lovely? I can’t wait until spring.

Veggies from HW Organic Farms

Sweet Thing was there with her jams, unfortunately (or fortunately) I’m stocked to the gills at the moment with jam I made in the summer, so I passed on this as well.

Jams and Preserves from Sweet Thing

I didn’t get any more pics, but I did get a few other things – some pulled pork from Curly Tail, some cheese from Meadow Maid, and some eggs and an emu egg from 2Silos. I made dinner with the egg tonight, which I’ll be blogging about later.

Luckily, it wasn’t too crowded today, as I’ve heard it was previously. We made it in and out in a relatively short amount of time with no real pushy people to deal with, unlike what others experienced. Good thing, too – since I’m in that still protective healing mode, I’ve been putting a bit more personal space between me and others so they don’t accidentally bump into my midsection. All in all, it was a nice outing, and really made me feel connected to the area again by seeing some familiar faces. But I hope that the interest in the market this year will prompt more vendors to participate next year. FYI, the next market is 2 weeks from now on February 9th, from 10am to 2pm at the Griswold Senior Center on the northwest corner of Rte 23 (High St) and 161. See you there!

Kissing the Ground

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Life, Travel, Weight Loss Surgery

Well, I’ve clicked my heels three times (figuratively, of course), and I’m back in the grand ‘ole USA. It was a tough trip (with all the flight delays, other issues, and the joy of being randomly selected for secondary inspection by the TSA’s – how farking violating!), but I made it back in one piece and it seems to have been exactly the medicine I needed to start on the road to a full recovery.

Much of my capacity is back (yay – I’m still down to about a third of what I used to eat, but at least it’s more than one or two bites), and the familiar flavors of Ohio food sit so comfortably in my stomach, that I went out today to sate some cravings.

I went to the North Market, where I visited with friends/vendors and picked up some deviled eggs from Heil’s, some cassoulet and meatloaf from NMPG, some pho from Lac Viet, and some cheese from Curds and Whey – all high protein meals/snacks that should help do the trick for the next couple of days foodwise.

And then a trip to Thurn’s, where they haven’t seen me since before the Dispatch article and were wondering what I was up to. We stocked up on lots of meaty goodness (since, of course, it’s protein first from now on).

I’m so glad to be home, and I never realized how dear Columbus is to my heart until I had to be separated from it for three weeks. Now that I’m back in familiar surroundings (and my own kitchen), I have no doubt that things will go back to normal with this blog as well. Stay tuned in the next couple of days for some leftover posts about Brazil, and what I’m eating now. And again, a heartfelt thank you to anyone who emailed or left comments during my absence. I’ve got tons of emails to catch up on, and will be getting back to you soon.

When All Else Fails…

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin, Life, Oma, Travel, Weight Loss Surgery

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As I’ve suffered through the worst of the last week, some words of wisdom from my Oma, tucked away years and years ago, echoed in my head. “There will come a time in your life, Rebecca, when you’ll try to eat and be unable to tolerate any food at all. When that time comes, the only thing you can eat and tolerate will be saltines.”

Apparently, when she came over on a big ship from Germany in the 1940′s, she got one hell of a case of seasickness, and had said the only thing she ate for 3 weeks (and would stay down) was saltines and water. How right she was.

Having an iron stomach, I never thought I would see the day where it would revolt on me, rejecting pretty much anything I gave it, even water. But apparently, one of the side effects of migraine medication was severe nausea, so in addition to feeling like I was hit by a baseball bat, I got sick as a dog whenever I tried to eat or drink anything.

I’m happy to say things are much better now. The headache (other than some minor ache behind the eyes that feels a bit like eye strain) has been gone for about 2 days now, and the nausea has been gone for about the same amount of time. I have been able to eat little things other than saltines now, like scrambled eggs, cream of wheat, soup, etc. with no problem.

I’ve had serious buyers remorse in the past week. After my first weight loss surgery (a RNY in 2001), I never had the level of restriction that was supposed to come with it. In the end, I was happy about that – even though I didn’t lose all my weight, I had kept off over 100 lbs. And was able to eat like a normal person who hadn’t had weight loss surgery. This surgery was supposed to be completely malabsorptive – he wasn’t touching my pouch at all, and it was supposed to be an easy recovery – I just had to let the intestines rest for a couple of weeks, and would be back up to eating to my previous capacity, just not absorbing it all.

I hadn’t bargained on the hernia repair and the mesh that comes with it bringing a level of restriction that I didn’t even have with the first surgery. Everything in my abdomen is so tight at the moment (and add to it the fact I’m pretty much corseted in a binder for the next 3 months), that my actual capacity is 2-4 oz. at a time. Think of a meal for me as ordering a cup (not bowl) of soup, and only being able to eat half of it before I’m uncomfortably full. I know this level of restriction won’t last forever, but for the time being, it sucks.

I’ve compared it to that episode of The Twighlight Zone where after a nuclear war, the person had all the time in the world to read, their passion in life, only to break their glasses and be unable to read at all. In a way, I had this surgery so I could live to enjoy food on a more healthy level for the rest of my life – at least at the moment, I feel as if I’ve broken my stomach. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate irony – finally getting to a healthy weight, but unable to ever enjoy food again? If it turns out that way, I think I would have rather been fat and happy.

But things are on an upswing. We’re leaving Brazil for home on Tuesday. I’m finally reading and enjoying food blogs again. I’ve been able to branch out a little bit food-wise (will be posting about the wonderful soup we got here soon), and I should be back to normal, at least blog-wise, in the next week or so. Thank you all for your well wishes, and for bearing with me during the hiatus where food was the last thing I wanted to think about.

Quick Admin Post

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin, Life, Uncategorized

Just a quick administrative post to let you all know that I’m still alive (barely), and that I’ve been having a few complications in my recovery – they punctured my dura layer during the epidural part of my anesthesia so I’ve been having to suffer with migraine headaches so severe all week (this coming from someone who never gets headaches ever) that I’ve been unable to do anything but lie prone trying to block out all light and sound.

Eating, at best, makes me nauseated at the moment. I’ve been starting at the same plate of salmon all day and night willing myself to take a bite. And considering this is food blog, I cannot write with excitement about food until I feel excitement about food again. Maybe when the headache goes away and I’m feeling better? Right now I’m having buyer’s regret. I’ll check back in, about a week and a half or so from now, back on US soil. In the meantime, I’m taking a tiny hiatus. See you all soon. :)

Brazilian Edition: Traditional Brazilian Fare

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Ethnic, Food Porn, Travel

Well, today is the big day for surgery! :) And I am prepared to go under the knife having one of the best meals I’ve had in ages. Here’s the story.

I’ve been bugging Gilberto, our driver/guide/translator/friend, to recommend a place that has good feijoada. I had found a frozen brand that I found quite delicious. Here’s a picture of it mixed with a LOT of rice (so we could stretch it to feed both of us):

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When we expressed a desire to find traditional Brazilian simple dishes in the restaurants, he was kind enough to invite us into his home, not once, but twice to feed us tradtional Brazilian food.

Our first meal with his family was on Sunday, when they invited us to a traditional Brazilian churasco, a feast of grilled meat, what seemed like American style potato salad, seasoned manioc (which they called “flavor”), veggies, and a couple of desserts they called “nut stroganoff” – everything was so very delicious, and even though there was a significant language barrier, with my tiny grasp of Portugese (it surprises me just how much I’ve picked up in 4 days, though) and their tiny grasp of English, we still found a way to bridge the communication gap and had quite a nice conversation. Of course, being foreigners, we were quite concerned about following Brazilian dining etiquette, and figured that it would have been rude on my part to either take pictures or ask to take pictures, even though I would have loved to share the spread with you through my eyes.

Yesterday afternoon, Gilberto picked us up at the hotel, and after stopping at the grocery to get flan (it is customary in Brazil to bring something when you are invited to someone’s home), we went over to the family house. We could smell it as we were driving up, the smell of the stew and bacon filling the hot summer air as we pulled into the driveway. After being greeted warmly again by the extended family, we sat down for a fabulous meal.

We had a traditional pink bean stew with meat, similar to feijoada over white rice, served with fried eggs (I wish I knew how they got them so crispy and flavorful), and spring greens with bacon. From what I understand, this is the Brazilian equivalent of “soul food”, and is usually served on Saturdays and sometimes Wednesdays. This means that they went out of their way to make this for us, and it was so very appreciated.

Is it sad that I use Tony Bourdain as my benchmark on how to act in an unfamiliar dining situation? I’ve always found him to be so humble and gracious in the way that he approaches other cultures that I try to be the same way when put in the same position. Gilberto’s family is a bit less formal than most, and we all had a good laugh on Brazilian vs. US dining etiquette.

I am so appreciative of and honored by the way his family has taken us under their wing while we’ve been here. It somehow makes this whole country seem a lot less foreign, and a lot more like home. I couldn’t have asked for a better “last ” meal.

Brazilian Edition: Caffe Milano Express

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn, Restaurant Review, Travel

On our first night here, we were out and out exhausted. I took a nap in the afternoon that brought me from delirious and darn near hallucinating from sleep deprivation to a somewhat more sane state, and we decided to go to the hotel restaurant downstairs rather than wander out to eat that evening.

The restaurant that is attached to our hotel is an “express” spot for the restaurant Caffe Milano. Italian food is VERY popular here (as Curitiba is a mix of many other different cultures), but it is quite unlike the Italian food we’re used to in the US – it’s VERY heavy, full of sauces and cheeses. The Express restaurant next to the hotel doesn’t even carry a fraction of what the main restaurant does, so our choices were a bit limited.

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My husband went for the filet mignon with mushrooms over cheese risotto (25,00R, approx. $14.25US), which was quite delicious. There’s something special about beef here in Brazil, it tastes like grass fed beef does in the US, a bit more “beefy” than farm raised meat. The cheese risotto had nice balance, and the sauce they used wasn’t overpowering at all.

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I, on the other hand, went with a pasta sampler, that had three kinds of different pasta (one meat filled, one filled with ham and cheese, the other just filled with cheese, covered with more cheese, and bechamel sauce) (21,00 real, or approx $12US). I ate it, but didn’t really care for it, both because of the flavor of the cheese was odd to my American palate, and because it was far, far, far too rich. This coming from someone who likes rich foods. I could feel my arteries clogging as I ate it.

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For dessert, Paul and I shared an order of Brazilian Milk Pudding (5,00 real, or $2.85US), which for all the world, is flan or creme caramel. Delicious!

For convenience, you can’t beat this restaurant – especially since they bill it directly to our hotel bill. They have a pretty nice buffet for breakfast that is included in our room rate. However, like most hotel food, it suffers the same fate – it ends up being good, but overall, pretty uninspired. Don’t look for cutting edge gastronomy here, you won’t find it. But for filling you up when you’re fresh off the plane and near starving, there’s not much better.

By the way, a quick cultural note – here in Brazil, a 10% tip is automatically added to the bill – and from what local sources tell me, you aren’t expected to tip additionally. Somehow, even though this is local custom, my American sensibilities make me feel as if I’m shortchanging the waitstaff a bit. Perhaps this is just a cultural difference?

If you’d like to go: Caffe Milano Express (attached to the Mercure Sete de Setembre), Av. Sete de Setembro, 5.368, Batel, Curitiba. 41.3343.4344

Brazilian Edition: TAM Airlines

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn, Travel

Well, we made it to Curitiba, Brazil in one piece, and have been here for a few days now. We love the area and the people here, and would probably move here in a heartbeat if it weren’t for the language barrier. We’ve made a few foodie discoveries (which I’ll go into more detail in later posts): we’re not all that crazy about Brazilian cheese (the flavor is a little too processed/sour for our palates), Brazilian beef rocks and is dirt cheap here, and my new favorite dish in the world is feijoada. We’ll be lucky enough to try a home cooked version in a couple of days due to the hospitality of our driver/guide/translator/friend Gilberto and his wife, and we can’t wait! :)

Well, let’s start at the beginning. The flight down here was kind of uncomfortable (we ended up sitting on the tarmac at Columbus for two hours, missed our connecting flight, got upgraded to first class for the next flight to Miami, and still made it there with time to spare for our international flight.) We decided to go with a Brazilian airline, TAM, rather than with one of the domestics (AA, Delta, and Continental all offer flights to Brazil), and I’m so glad we did so. Because of the long flight (total travel time for us was 27 hours with layovers, 13 of that spent in the air), we decided to splurge for business class for the long international leg – we had 90″ of pitch was really nice, and one of the benefits of flying business class is that you get fed – a lot. Not only did we get champagne both before and after takeoff, but we got warmed nuts as a snack, a lovely five course dinner, a later snack, and then breafkast in the morning a couple of hours before we landed. And yes, you’re right – foodie me took pics of our airplane food. ;)

Our first and second course is pictured above – a salad that had some mango, coconut, a chicken brochette, and a balsamic dressing, which was edible but not great. I nibbled on the yummy parts, and the protein hit the spot. The rolls (second course bread service) was served with some delicious cultured butter (butter here in Brazil is not like the type we’re used to in the US – it actually has a depth of flavor to it like European butter).

The third course was a cream of zucchini soup, which for all the world reminded me of Campbell’s Cream of Celery. Still, it was nice to have an actual soup course on a plane – it’s something you don’t see everyday for obvious reasons.

For my entree, I chose the grouper over rice with veggies. I usually prefer my fish grilled, but this hit the spot for me, definitely. While it definitely wasn’t gourmet cuisine or presentation, it filled me up and tasted great.

My husband chose the chicken breast with Israeli couscous. The chicken was very moist, but the overall dish was bland. He said I made the better choice of the two entrees.

Next, we were presented with a cheese course. This was my favorite, as evidenced by the fact that I started in on it before remembering to take a pic. Oops. ;)

Finally, there was dessert. I chose fresh fruit, as I was in no mood for anything sweet. It was perfectly ripe and delicious and just what I needed to clean my palate.

I think I could get used to this business class/first class thing. The food definitely beats what you can get in coach.

More about my trip soon, as I am able. I’m set to go under the knife Tuesday, and you can keep up with the medical part of my trip here if you’d like. Until then, as they say here in Brazil, “Tschau!”

Welcome to 2008!

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Admin, Life, Uncategorized

Here it is the new year, and the next time you hear from me I should be coming to you from Brazil, feasting on churrascaria, struggling to speak Brazilian Portugese, and resting up in preparation of the big day! I won’t be posting here as much as usual (since I’ll be recovering, and for the most part won’t have much interest in food), but I’ve got a few entries saved up, and plan on doing some restaurant reviews and other things (coverage of what farmers markets are like down there, etc).

You won’t hear me talking about the nitty gritty of my surgery though; if you’re interested in that, I’ll be posting on my surgery journal the full details of that aspect of my trip, and updates of how I am post-op.

Happy New Year to everyone! I wish the best for all of you in the coming year!