As Brad and his crew approach the opening of the restaurant, his hours are getting longer. Since it was built from scratch, the construction is still underway. Last week the equipment was delivered and the crew spent the better part of the week cleaning and unpacking and it still looks like a construction site! Jodie, who worked with Brad in Sacramento and was our neighbor, has brought her pastry talent to Cleveland last Tuesday and will be the pastry chef at Urban Farmer! Brad, Reggie and I are very happy and comforted to have her and her dog Bernie just around the corner. The restaurant opening was originally slotted to open on May 1 but has been pushed back to May 5th. Pushing the opening back is a blessing and a curse: Brad is ready for the beast to be open and running and I want that for him so badly as well.
Spring has sprung and spring in the northern parallels means ramps, and people who harvest ramps are in heaven. Enter: Rebecca Traxler, Brad’s PM sous chef at Urban Farmer. She grew up on a blueberry farm outside of Cleveland and has the salt of the earth coursing through her veins. Her resume includes (but is certainly not limited to): making her own mead, vinegar, kombucha, and harvesting ramps; this year she is trying to beat her own 48-pound ramp record. Ramps are a perennial, wild, vegetable in the onion family, which grow in the northeast of the United States and parts of Canada and Oregon. The forest floor is covered with their green leaves and as the wind blows the smell of garlic and salt wafts through the air. Their growth window is four to five weeks at most; so harvesting more than 48-pounds while working alone or in a small group is a feat. Rebecca and her sister showed Jodie, Brad and I a ramp wonderland; we got down and dirty in the forest for a few hours. To harvest, you dig the soil up underneath the ramps, allow the dirt crumbles to fall off and pull the sheath around the base of the ramp off. The sheath was a bit bigger than the bulb since the ramps haven’t reached their prime, but Rebecca promises by next week, they will have reached their prime. We also learned about trout lilies and skunk cabbage; which grow alongside the ramps and add a bit of color to the mix. Trout lilies have a beautiful yellow flower and skunk cabbage is an umbrella of leaves that grow to be a couple of feet high. We are looking forward to harvesting in the coming weeks.
Above: Brad, Jodie and Rebecca
We ordered a couch two months ago and it finally arrived yesterday. After the two months of sitting on an air mattress to watch TV, it was a welcome arrival, until it wasn’t. The couch wouldn’t fit up our stairs and around the corner into our living room so we had to get creative (meanwhile, Brad is at work). Luckily, Peter, our seventy-five year old landlord had pulled up and casually told the delivery men to leave the couch and he would get a couple of his buddies to lift the couch up onto the balcony with ladders (which is on the second story of the house) and into the living room. A few hours later I heard Peter holler my name, so I headed to the front door; no one was there. I hear my name again and realize it is coming from the balcony. Peter has placed two ladders, transported by mini-van, up against the balcony and is climbing off the ladder and over the bannister in his shorts, tank top and flip-flops. His skin has a residual leathery-bronzed look from his five-week vacation in Panama and his wrists and ankles are adorned with native jewelry. “Are you decent?” he asked? I guess it wouldn’t matter if I was or wasn’t because it was too late. He informed me I didn’t need to help and he’d be back in 10 minutes with his buddy the get the ladder up. So Peter and his buddy Michael put the couch on their shoulders and pushed it all the way up the ladders and onto the second story balcony. He took the door off and successfully brought the couch into the living room. I don’t even want to think about what is going t happen when we move. Needless to say, we have the best landlord ever!
I started work last week for a small marketing company in downtown Cleveland! Three brothers and their childhood friend started the company in 2001and in December 2013, they sold the company to an investment group in NYC, which will allow them to fine-tune their efforts by hiring more staff and re-focusing the biz (enter me…new staff). So far, so good! I have met some really wonderful people and am looking forward to learning this industry!
Brad has been going through the hiring process for sous chefs and sourcing farmers to supply the restaurant. He hired Jodie, his pastry chef in Sacramento to come out and join the Cleveland effort, so she will be moving out in a month or so. And we will get to see another familiar face, Ryan Seng, the bartender at Grange, will be consulting for Urban Farmer Cleveland and will be here for a week in April.
For now Brad and I are focusing our efforts on getting through the freezing and the snow. Well…if you can’t beat it, join it. In honor of winter, we indulged in our favorite childhood treat! Our buddy Alton Brown helped with the recipe and we made up the rest.
Heads-up: The ingredients aren’t typically something a household has on hand unless you are a baking wizard. You may have to shop for these supplies ahead of time!
3 (1 ounce) packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approx 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
nonstick cooking spray (we used wax paper which works just as well)
1. Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
2. In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer* onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
3. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes**. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.
4. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use. (you want a THICK coat, this is what allows the mallow not to stick).
5. When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
6. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Servings: Ten-dozen small marshmallows or two-dozen jumbo marshmallows.
*It calls for a candy thermometer but we just allowed the sugar, corn syrup and salt to boil for 9 minutes after it came to the boil.
**We let the mixture mix for a good 15-16 minutes; you will really see the transformation take place around minutes 11-13.
1 Semi-sweet bar of good chocolate
1 stick of cinnamon
2 cups of whole milk
1 cup water to boil
1. In a saucepan, on med-low temp, heat milk and cinnamon stick.
2. In double boiler*, bring water to a boil in bottom. Place the chocolate in the top part and allow to cook until chocolate is smooth, stirring as needed.
3. Pour melted chocolate into heated milk, stir until mixed.
4. Pour into your favorite mug, place a mallow on top (or two!) and enjoy!
It’s Valentine’s day! Here we are in Ohio, getting settled and trying to learn the nuances of living in actual snow. Our windshield washer fluid froze because the fluid in there wasn’t anti-anti-anti-freeze (it only could withhold temperatures of 32 degrees or above…). Which, in turn, broke our windshield wiper fluid valves, and led us to having a salty, dirty windshield for a couple of days. The holding container still has frozen fluid – the only way to defrost it is to blow dryer it since the temperature never goes above 32 degrees. Subaru suggested I pour rubbing alcohol in the container to help it thaw out. Oh, and park it in the sun…there is no sun.
We live in a neighborhood called Tremont, two miles from downtown Cleveland. Which lands us about two miles from the Indians Ball Park, the Cav’s Arena and three miles from the Brown’s Stadium. We can see two of them from our bedroom window and in the summer hope to ride our bikes to games! We have decided to cheer for the Indians, as they aren’t in the same league as the Giants.
Our neighborhood is home to multiple fantastic restaurants including Fat Cat’s which is directly across the street from our house. The owner/chef, Ricardo Sandoval, also owns Lava Lounge in the hood, which we haven’t been to yet but is apparently open late night. We got to eat at Fat Cat’s for a quick brunch the day we arrived, I had delicious breakfast tacos which included humus, quinoa, scrambled eggs topped with a little cilantro. We also snuck in for a late dinner two nights ago and enjoyed Brussels Sprouts, Lumpia (crispy egg rolls), and warm escarole to start. The escarole could have been a touch warmer as the consistency became a little slimy and made the dish loose its integrity. We split the Mac and Cheese with grilled onions, plum jam, marinated chicken breast, and cheddar cheese. It was great because it didn’t have too much cheese on it (however, M&C connoisseurs may want that crispy, bread crumby, topping holding the heat and goo in, but I don’t love melted cheese so it was perfect). Michael Symon’s restaurant, Lolita, is two blocks away and we’ve heard it’s better than her touristy sister, Lola, in downtown Cleve, which we hope to be true. There are plenty of great pubs and bars, sushi, and cafeteria-style food as well, which we can’t wait to try.
(West Side Market)