In The Washington Post a few weeks ago, Tom Sietsema rightfully raved about Mike Phillips charcuterie production at The Craftsman. Mike makes some mean cured and dried meats. I have had the opportunity to watch him cure fresh pork legs and begin the process that results in his top-notch prosciutto, and let me tell you he makes all the right moves. Sietsema points to the duck liver mousse, the rabbit terrine, the dry cured ham, salame, and pancetta as big winners. But the “sense of place” he writes about when he praises Craftsman’s food is what caught my eye, especially in light of my recent trip to Iowa (more on that later). I have been wondering out loud and in print for years—what food should Minnesota 'own'?
Wisconsin’s cheese board has done an amazing job promoting and marketing its local cheeses. Iowa has done same with pork and corn. What’s Minnesota famous for? What can we ‘own’ in terms of branding? Walleye? Nope, the vast percentage of the walleye consumed in this state comes to us from Canada. Cheese? I would like to think we can, but that horse has left the barn and we can compete, but we can’t own it. Pork? We had our chance when the Berkshire craze took off 15 years ago, and we can do well to stay in that game, but like cheese, pork is a brand we would have to share with others. It would be a long, hard road, but we could own the domestic cured meat, salame, and charcuterie end of the game. The best stuff in the country comes from established local micro-regional producers like Armandino Batali, or small farm-to-table processors like Iowa’s La Quercia (easily the best domestic prosciutto available, not even close). With the right bankroll behind them, folks like Mike Phillips could catch up fast. The road to brand ownership would be tough, but worth it. The trick is to catch the wave as it builds, before it crests.
I also think we can own the goat market outright if we cared to—and don’t laugh—if you think cooked goat is just stringy and reeking of the barnyard, think again. I have been seeing more and more of it popping up all over the country. Based on what I have seen our country's best chefs do with the new goat—the goat of 2009 that has more fat content and marbling and less barnyard flavor and roasts up beautifully—this is the next big food ingredient poised to be the ‘it’ menu darling of late 2010 and 2011. Crossing Spanish and Boer goats, adjusting feed, fattening animals up before harvesting, and aging meat have been a few of the seminal causal underpinnings of the new goat craze, but ever since the goat I ate at Brasa and the stuff that I ate last week in LA, I have been thinking about this issue nonstop. Thoughts?
I just spent a few days in Des Moines at the Iowa Premier Food & Wine event, and I am here to tell you it’s the Tale of Two Cities. Dickens immortal classic begins with the line “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times ” and that’s my takeaway from last weekend. First off, the best of times: Great fans who came out in large numbers all weekend long. A superb team on the ground at the Hy-Vee Center that put on a great event. Awesome copresenters, especially Duff and Mary Alice from Ace of Cakes. Duff and I each did three demos and a bunch of signings, and if you ever get the chance to see him live, do it. He’s a great showman and I was totally jealous watching him shoot cupcakes at the crowd using a hockey stick. Fun. Not fun? The hotel and restaurant scene in Des Moines which is downright depressing.
Not depressing? Opening up the mail and finding a recipe for David Chang’s Korean marinade for skirt or hanger steak .2 cups apple juice, ½ cup usukuchi (light soy), ½ yellow onion sliced, 5 garlic cloves sliced, 1 t sesame oil, 1 t ground black pepper combine with 2 pounds of beef in a Ziploc bag, set in fridge for 24 hours, grill it, rest it, serve it with rice, kimchi, and a sauce made of 2 bunches minced scallions combined with ½ cup minced ginger, ¼ cup grapeseed oil, 2 t usukuchi, 1 t sherry vinegar, and 1 t sea salt.