WBEZ | Food http://www.wbez.org/tags/food Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en California drought renews debate on regional food systems http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/DROUGHT MIDWEST.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>At a Chicago area farmers market in July you won&rsquo;t see many signs of the California drought. This is the time of year when produce lovers can pretty much gorge on all the local cherries, blueberries and zucchini they want.</p><p>But this wasn&rsquo;t the case in January.</p><p>&ldquo;What we saw was extremely high prices on kales, leafy greens etc in the first part of the year,&rdquo; said Bob Scaman president of Goodness Greenness the Midwest&rsquo;s biggest distributor of organic produce.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483">Drought drives drilling frenzy for groundwater in California</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>And as the year wore on, Scaman says, the effects of the drought only got worse. Farmers had to decide which crops they were going to water and which they weren&rsquo;t resulting in what he called the California &ldquo;cherry season that didn&rsquo;t exist in 2014.&rdquo;</p><p>Luckily, the Washington State cherry crop was booming this year. And today Michigan cherries have filled any other gaps. But Scaman warns that this bounty will last for only about another 100 days in the Midwest.</p><p>&ldquo;But going into the late fall, early winter when we are relying again on California we are going to be right back where we were on these drought supplies,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and we will be negatively affected back here in the Midwest.&rdquo;</p><p>One Arizona State University study says that the California drought is likely to push items like avocados and lettuce up 28 to 34 percent.&nbsp; And the USDA expects drought and other factors to push domestic food prices for meat and produce up 3 to 6 percent this year.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Business professor Timothy Richards who conducted the Arizona State study noted that the pricier California crops could drive more retailers to source their produce from Mexico and Chile. But others think we should go the other way and reestablish more regional food systems again.</p><p>&ldquo;This is the ideal storm for the local food network in the Midwest,&rdquo; Scaman said. &ldquo;It really brings home what people have been talking about for years: the need to grow more local food, stabilize the food supply and build the local market.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158677537&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe><strong>Related: <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/water-issues-in-the-west-could">What water issues in California mean for the Midwest</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Adding to the drought problems this year were high summer gas prices that further argued for more localized food production.<br /><br />&ldquo;So not only is there less product but we are paying more to transport it from California,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;ve got a double whammy coming at us. So when you look at local food supplies, we&rsquo;ve got a little more stability in getting it to the marketplace, lesser freight costs and we are growing our local economies.&rdquo;</p><p>Terra Brockman founded the Land Connection, a local non-profit that helps train Midwest farmers. She says that while the drought hasn&rsquo;t made big waves among local farmers so far, it has revived important questions.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Like, &lsquo;Why do we have plenty of farmers market farmers and CSA farmers but not enough people growing at a slightly bigger scale that could produce quantities of fruits and vegetables that could go into our grocery stores and school cafeterias and other institutions where people are shopping and eating,&rdquo; Brockman said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a question of building infrastructure and putting together policies and funding to make that happen.&rdquo;</p><p>Brockman says that Land Connection has recently applied for grants to teach Midwest farmers techniques for extending the notoriously short growing season.</p><p>Bob Borchardt of Harvest Moons Farm in Wisconsin says he is already using some of them and investigating others.</p><p>&ldquo;Some kind of controlled environment growing is really the answer,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;whether it be greenhouses or hoop houses or inside and vertical gardens. Anything that we can do to push more local product into the non-conventional farming months here in the Midwest I think are things that need to be on top of our list as producers.&rdquo;</p><p>Brockman notes that farmers can also extend the seasons by planting varieties of vegetables that mature early or late in the season.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s like an early broccoli and a late broccoli,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;One that comes to fruition earlier and later. Just not putting your eggs in one basket or not just planting one kind of broccoli you can sort of insure yourself from whatever the season might be.&rdquo;</p><p>But she says the drought isn&rsquo;t the only water related issue causing debate in Midwest agricultural circles.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re concerned about water then you have to be concerned about agriculture because the thing that affects our water quality the most of anything in this state is agriculture,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>&ldquo;So that&rsquo;s everything from erosion and soil washing into our rivers and silting them up and making them inhospitable for river life, and especially the run off. So in Illinois the main source of pollution in our waterways is industrial farming, and the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that runs off that becomes a dead zone the size of Delaware in the Gulf of Mexico is due to runoff from Illinois and Midwest corn fields.&rdquo;</p><p>Brockman hopes that concern for our waterways will prompt Midwest farmers to swap synthetic fertilizers for crop rotations that take longer but can fertilize the soil naturally.</p><p>Scaman, however, has aspirations that go one step further. Given the growing demand for local produce and the richness of Illinois soil, he hopes the drought might convince some corn and soy farmers--whose harvests go primarily to processed food, animal feed and ethanol tanks--to grow crops suitable for local human consumption.</p><p>&ldquo;Years and years ago, Illinois as an example was one of the largest vegetable growing states in the country,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t necessarily need to just grow soybeans and corn. There is a need for vegetable production here in the Midwest to supply Chicago and other cities. And it provides a lot of economic opportunities for rural communities. So [the drought] has really brought that need to the forefront. You are seeing more and more farmers every year and more local produce. And the demand for local is off the charts.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497 Chicago's Mexican ice cream shops offer cool innovative treats http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-mexican-ice-cream-shops-offer-cool-innovative-treats-110431 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mangonada.jpg" style="height: 455px; width: 620px; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px;" title="The mangonada reigns supreme at Chicago’s many neverias. These Mexican ice cream shops have grown exponentially in the Chicago area in recent years. " /></p><p>While some Chicago foodies are still swooning over doughnuts, <a href="http://dominiqueansel.com/cronut-101/">cronuts </a>or wonuts, others have moved on to the sweet treat taking over Chicago&rsquo;s Mexican ice cream shops.</p><p>It&rsquo;s called the <em>mangonada, </em>and if you haven&rsquo;t tried it yet, here&rsquo;s what to expect: cool mango sorbet topped with fresh mango chunks and a sweet salty sauce called chamoy.</p><p>The dessert takes center stage at Chicago&rsquo;s <em>neverias,</em> Mexican ice cream shops whose numbers have ballooned over the last two years. Eladio Montoya opened his first <a href="http://los-mangos.com/">Los Mangos Neveria</a> in 2012, but today he&rsquo;s expanded to seven thriving stores in the Chicago area. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I guess it was something that wasn&rsquo;t discovered before,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But now that we&rsquo;ve discovered it&rsquo;s a good business, everybody is trying to jump on it.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, there are now more than 60 neverias operating in Chicago&rsquo;s city limits and likely just as many more serving nearby suburbs like Aurora, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Berwyn and Cicero.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MAP: <a href="#map">Where are Chicago&#39;s neverias?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Many used to operate as popsicle shops or <em>paleterias</em>. But in recent years they&rsquo;ve expanded into full service snack shops serving sundaes, yogurt parfaits, fruit cups, corn in a cup, and smoothies. Then there are the Dorilocos, a family of snacks that some might recognize as the more colorful cousins of the walking taco. They start with a bag of chips that gets sliced down the side with scissors and then it&#39;s filled with cucumbers, pickled pig skin, crunchy peanuts, hot sauce and more.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/5dM1Hfpvm7s" width="620"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a combination of both worlds,&rdquo; said Rosario Pulido whose family owns a group of neverias called <em>100 Percent Michoacana</em>. &ldquo;Because we have our traditional pico de gallo but then we also love our potato chips like Doritos. So it&rsquo;s just a combination of those two.&rdquo;</p><p>While most neverias offer similar menus, each tries to distinguish itself with signature hybrid dishes. At Los Mangos in Little Village one of those treats is the Honey Bun sundae--yes a honey bun at the bottom of an ice cream sundae.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s just something that we came up with,&rdquo; Montoya said. &ldquo;We pretty much do stuff that we like and we present it to the people and if they like it, we keep it. And I mean, who doesn&rsquo;t like a honey bun?&rdquo;</p><p>While most dishes reflect strong Mexican flavor profiles (blending salty, sour, sweet and spicy), things like the honey bun sundae &ldquo;have been more Americanized,&quot; Pulido says. &quot;But you could say that we all love doughnuts and we all love ice cream, and so it&rsquo;s a combination of both.&rdquo;</p><p>Cynthia Alvarado works at <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paleteria-Y-Neveria-Bombon/182778985257617">Bombon Neveria</a> in Riis Park where they serve a hybrid snack called Elotes Bombon Style. It starts with a choice of Doritos, Fritos, Churritos or Tostitos.</p><p>&ldquo;They all come with corn [cut from the cob] and then you pick the flavor of the sauce you put on it,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Either chile limon, habanero, chipotle or jalapeno. It&rsquo;s like a mayo sauce.&quot; The dish is finished with a topping of bacon or ham and voila!</p><p>Amid all the corn chips and ice cream, neverias also sell a lot of fresh fruit--including papaya, mango, watermelon and pineapple.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s what keeps our business year-round,&rdquo; Montoya says, &ldquo;because we sell fruit-year round and with everybody trying to be healthy, it&rsquo;s really popular.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, he admits it&rsquo;s the ice creams that draw the most customers this time of year. Among his dozens of flavors, you&rsquo;ll find pine nut, mango with chile, egg nog, tequila, cheese, cucumber, bubble gum, guava and more.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/PHOTO%208.jpg" style="float: left; height: 180px; width: 320px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="The menu at Paleteria and Neveria BomBon uses pictures and colorful names like Maraca and Trolebuss to illustrate the eclectic offerings. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" />But Montoya says you need more than great ice cream to succeed in this business. You also need funky names like the vampire or <em>vampiro </em>featuring mango ice cream and a blood red sauce or the<em> bionico</em> a bionic blend of cream, fruit, nuts and raisins.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;ve gotta make up names that are catchy and leave people wondering and flying in their minds for a while,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So whenever they get hungry that&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s in their head and they think of us.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Some of those names at BomBon include the enchanted apple and their signature Trolley Bus or trolebuss which Alvarado describes as &ldquo;Fritos with corn then nacho cheese, sour cream and hot sauce.&rdquo;</p><p>Arcoiris in Avondale on Belmont Avenue used to be a paleteria before it expanded like so many others. Today one of its most popular items is the green smoothie full of parsley, cactus, green apple, spinach, cucumber and more.</p><p>The shops seem especially popular with families because, Montoya says, they offer something for everyone. &nbsp;The teenagers might get the Dorilocos but &ldquo;mom will get the fruit and then the kids and the dad and the grandparents will always get the ice cream.&rdquo;</p><p>So what does he recommend for first timers?</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;ve got to try the mangonada, the yogurt with fruit. It&rsquo;s all natural fruit that we dice every morning,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And then they&rsquo;ve got to try our paletas and ice cream.&rdquo;</p><p>The honey bun sundae, you might want to leave for your second trip.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>SEVEN THINGS TO ORDER</strong></p><p>FOR FRUIT LOVERS: Get a<em> coktel de fruta</em>. A dish of freshly cut jicama, cucumber, papaya, pineapple, mango, pineapple or melon (depending on store) showered in lime juice, chile powder and salt. Tell the server which fruits and toppings you want.</p><p>FOR HEALTH NUTS: Many neverias serve green drinks of spinach, cucumber, parsley, cactus, green apple, yogurt, oats, honey, kiwi and more. Exact ingredients will vary but I love the green blend from Paleteria Arco Iris at 2950 W.&nbsp; Belmont Ave.</p><p>FOR SPICY SNACK LOVERS: Get the Dori-, Taki- or Tostilocos and indicate which toppings you want. The pickled pig skin strips (cueritos) add a vinegary chew but they are not for everyone. The cabbage, cucumber and jicama make you feel almost virtuous while eating chips. The chicharron preparado is similar but uses fake pork rinds instead of chips.</p><p>FOR THE INDULGENT: Try one of the churro, doughnut or honey bun sundaes. Perk it up with innovative ice cream flavors like cheese, cucumber or gooseberry.</p><p>FOR TRADITIONALISTS: Get a strawberry popsicle (often studded with big chunks of strawberry) a scoop of ice cream, mangonada or fruit gazpacho if you don&#39;t mind salty cheese and chile in your orange juice.</p><p>FOR THE MEAL SEEKERS: Many neverias serve sandwiches called tortas along with fresh fruit drinks called <em>raspas </em>or <em>raspados.</em></p><p>FOR ASBESTOS MOUTHS: Try a <em>diablito</em> (or little devil) which blends fruit, juice and LOTS of chile.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Map: Chicago&#39;s neverias<a name="map"></a></span></p><p><span style="font-size:14px;">Update: Thanks to <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/1466432036936124/">Summer Paleta Crawl</a> for letting us know about a few places missing from the original map.</span></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col7+from+1LF3rcsX8yRrpNqgSaInQwmaV6Mz3FXHtZ3URy5NR&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=41.867546139885&amp;lng=-87.73225747014222&amp;t=1&amp;z=10&amp;l=col7&amp;y=3&amp;tmplt=3&amp;hml=KML" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 30 Jun 2014 07:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-mexican-ice-cream-shops-offer-cool-innovative-treats-110431 Chicago’s top chefs join Ald. Ed Burke to urge limits on antibiotic use http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-top-chefs-join-ald-ed-burke-urge-limits-antibiotic-use-110406 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BURKE-photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When you see a gathering of white coated chefs around Chicago it&rsquo;s usually as part of a food festival or some gala dinner. But Tuesday morning some of the city&rsquo;s top cooks and restaurateurs gathered at City Hall to voice their concerns about public health and the way animals are raised in this country.</p><p>They were there to support a non-binding City Council resolution to support long-stalled Congressional bills on antibiotics. Known as <a href="http://www.louise.house.gov/the-preservation-of-antibiotics-for-medical-treatment-act">PAMPTA </a>and PARA, they would stop American farmers from using certain classes of antibiotics on healthy animals. The practice is meant to promote growth and prevent disease.</p><p>The world&rsquo;s leading health authorities believe that overuse of antibiotics in hospital and farm settings is leading to the rise of &ldquo;superbugs&rdquo;, or bacterial infections that can no longer be cured with antibiotics.</p><p>Long-time Chicago restaurateur and co-founder of the <a href="http://buygreenchicago.org/">Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition</a> Ina Pinkney introduced the long list of scientists and doctors who would speak at the finance committee hearing on the resolution later that day.</p><p>But she also shared a personal story of a friend who recently gave birth to twins.</p><p>&ldquo;One baby went home and the other one was sick and they found MRSA in her nose as a nine-day-old,&rdquo; Pinkney said. &ldquo;Then you have to say that things are not OK.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about.html">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports</a> that over 2 million Americans are infected by so-called superbugs each year and and more than 23,000 die.</p><p>&ldquo;The antibiotic issue is just out of control,&rdquo; said Dan <a href="https://www.sopraffina.com/dolce/homepage.htm">Rosenthal, whose restaurant group </a>owns seven Chicago eateries including Sopraffina and Ciccheti.</p><p>&ldquo;We are creating, in our industrial meat complex, the perfect environment to create antibiotic resistant bacteria...They are found in our meat and water supply and system and what happens is we get to a situation where antibiotics are no longer effective.&rdquo; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Rosenthal is so concerned over the issue that since 2012, he&#39;s sourced all 800,000 pounds of meat he serves in his restaurants each year from farms who don&rsquo;t use antibiotics on their healthy animals.</p><p>It was also Rosenthal who, last April, urged Alderman Ed Burke to introduce the proposed resolution to the City Council.</p><p>If passed tomorrow, the resolution can&rsquo;t force Congress to do anything, but Burke says it can &ldquo;call the attention of the Illinois delegation to what we believe is an important public health initiative.&rdquo;</p><p>But the measures face considerable opposition. The biggest players in the livestock industry have long resisted any mandatory restrictions.</p><p>&quot;We are opposed to those bills because we really believe they are out of date with the current Food and Drug Administration regulatory activities,&rdquo; said Illinois Pork Producer Association spokesman Tim Maier, who is based in Springfield.</p><p>He&#39;s referring to recent voluntary guidelines that prohibit using antibiotics to make animals grow faster. But preventative uses are still in a gray area and critics say the situation is much too grave to solve with voluntary guidelines. They further argue that the government doesn&rsquo;t collect enough data to know if any farmers are choosing to comply. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>But while health activists cite the rise of antibiotic resistant infections and antibiotic resistant bacteria on supermarket meat as as threat to public health, Maier says it&#39;s the restrictions proposed in the legislation that would cause a threat.</p><p>&ldquo;We think they would actually harm animal health and by extension food safety by limiting the antibiotics that are available for farmers to use when they want to treat their animals,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Denmark, which is one of the largest pork producers in the world, banned the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock in 2000. The move required some adjustments and saw some outbreaks of disease, but within a decade the World Health Organization &ldquo;found that the ban reduced human health risk without significantly harming animal health or farmers&#39; incomes,&rdquo; according to the<a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2010/11/01/avoiding-antibiotic-resistance-denmarks-ban-on-growth-promoting-antibiotics-in-food-animals"> Pew Charitable Trust</a>.</p><p>So why are chefs and restaurateurs involved in this legislative discussion?</p><p>&ldquo;Because they understand that a meat supply that produces killer bacteria along with the meat is an unsustainable system and it has to be changed,&rdquo; said Rosenthal. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why these chefs are standing up for meat raised in a sustainable fashion without antibiotics to provide a better source of supply of meat both at the restaurant level and in the grocery store.&quot;</p><p>At grocery stores like <a href="http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/animal-welfare-standards">Whole Foods Market, </a>meat raised without antibiotics has served the baseline standards for a few years. Jared Donisvitch oversees the butcher counter at the store&rsquo;s Lincoln Park location, where, he says, the antibiotic issue on shoppers minds.</p><p>&ldquo;It comes up fairly often with our interactions with customers,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and so we are a well-trained group here and try to help customers with any questions they have on that.&rdquo;</p><p>Representative Louise Slaughter of New York State is Congress&rsquo; only microbiologist and the sponsor of PAMPTA. Last week, she sent a letter to the Chicago City Council, saying &ldquo;It is only through local, grassroots efforts like yours that we will make a difference in public health on a national level.&quot;</p><p>If the City Council resolution passes this week, Chicago would join the ranks of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Seattle and others. But even if all the cities in the nation adopt such resolutions, they can&rsquo;t pass an act of Congress.</p><p>Still, Susan Vaughn Grooters of <a href="http://www.keepantibioticsworking.com/">Keep Antibiotics Working</a>, a nationwide coalition that aims to pass legislation to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, says the local resolutions add a new voice to the usual Congressional debates. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If we could get the groundswell from city councils across the nation to help support the federal legislation it could really help what&rsquo;s happening in DC now,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s essential that they hear from other people, not just inside the beltway in DC.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Burke also notes that municipal resolutions have played a part in creating national momentum on issues in the past. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;One issue that comes to mind is the effort we undertook a number of years ago to ban trans fats from food products,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Now you can&rsquo;t walk down the aisles of the grocery store without seeing notations on boxes, &lsquo;no trans fats&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p><p>The City Council is expected to vote on the resolution Wednesday afternoon.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 08:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-top-chefs-join-ald-ed-burke-urge-limits-antibiotic-use-110406 Chicago Food Swap lets foodies diversify their diet http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-food-swap-lets-foodies-diversify-their-diet-110353 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/swap.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>While most of us stock our kitchens from grocery stores or farmers markets this time of year, hundreds of Chicagoans have found another way to fill their larders--by trading homemade treats at <a href="http://www.chicagofoodswap.com/" target="_blank">Chicago Food Swaps</a>.</p><p>Last month, at a little store in Oak Park, dozens of amateur cooks showed up with boxes of pastries and pickles and hearts full of expectations.</p><p>Ian Fecke-Stoudt started the event with several little servings of chipotle peanuts, pickled red onions, vegan dog treats, saffron salts and double chocolate ginger snaps.</p><p>But by the time the event was over, the Humboldt Park vegan&rsquo; had his bags jammed full of lot more.</p><p>&ldquo;We got pickled mushrooms, jam and mustard, pickled ramps, sunflower seed butter, focaccia, almond milk, vegan chocolate peanut butter fudge, apple tahini, chia pudding, mango coconut muesli and lots of other stuff,&rdquo; he reported.</p><p>Fecke-Stoudt is part of Chicago&rsquo;s enthusiastic food swapping community. They&rsquo;re a group of friendly do-it-yourselfers who meet at different locations to trade their wares each month. Some are former kitchen pros, but most just have a passion for cooking (sometimes too much) and want to share what they have. <a href="http://www.westoftheloop.com/" target="_blank">West of the Loop</a> blogger Emily Paster said she decided to launch the swap a few years ago,&nbsp; after reading about one in Philadelphia.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m kind of that person with the basement full of jams and pickles, more than any family could eat,&rdquo; she admitted, &ldquo; And so as soon as I read about it I thought &lsquo;I have to do that because then I could actually do something with all this jam and my husband will stop giving me a hard time&rsquo;.&rdquo;&nbsp;The May event was a specialized vegan swap, but the offerings are usually all over the map. And Paster says that this helps home cooks fill in their culinary gaps.</p><p>&ldquo;So I&rsquo;m a big canner,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But I&rsquo;m scared of yeast.&nbsp; Like I can&rsquo;t do yeast bread, too scary. So I love to come in and get some amazing artisan bread.&rdquo;</p><p>But for swapper Linsey Herman, it&rsquo;s also about meeting new people and trying new things.</p><p>&ldquo;I like the community aspect and I like the idea that some people take the idea of the swap very seriously,&rdquo; the former professional cook said. &ldquo;There was a family who are not vegan but studied up on vegan cuisine and they took some really interesting risks and they had great results with a a fudge and a seitan. You do get to try a cornucopia of products and you never know what people are going to bring.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>But what about food safety? Paster says that swappers are instructed to use their best hygienic practices but she warns that there are no guarantees.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re the kind of person who is sort of skeeved out by the idea of eating food someone else prepared it may not be for you,&rdquo; Paster said. &ldquo;I think some people take comfort in the fact that you get to talk to the people who made it and so it&rsquo;s like going to the farmers market in that regard. You can ask the questions if you do have dietary restrictions or an allergy. But it may not be for everyone. If you are super strict vegan or have celiac disease, it may not be for you. We would do our best to accommodate you, but it is a little bit of an assumption of risk.&rdquo;</p><p>Although it varies by state, food swaps aren&rsquo;t regulated by health or business authorities in Illinois. They technically operate as private get-togethers where no money changes hands. And while the concept may seem weird and novel to Chicagoans, it couldn&rsquo;t be older. In fact, trading for food was one of the earliest forms of food procurement. And it&rsquo;s never gone out of style in many rural areas.</p><p>Tara O&rsquo;Loughlin comes Northwest Indiana into the Chicago swaps, where her turkey and duck eggs are kind of no big deal.</p><p>&ldquo;But the duck egg seem to be so popular here,&rdquo; she said displaying her last dozen of the large eggs great for pastry and noodlemaking, &ldquo;People really have gone crazy over them. That&rsquo;s why it was fun to meet Emily here and meet people who love duck eggs so much.&rdquo;</p><p>So how does a food swap work? Each month (it went monthly last year) Paster posts the location and date of the next swap on the Chicago Food Swap site. Folks register to attend and the list is closed when it reaches capacity (this month at about 70). Once there, swappers set up at tables and browse and sample during the first 30 minutes.</p><p>When Paster gives the start signal, &ldquo;things get a little crazy,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s like letting the horses out of the gate.&quot;</p><p>Some people stand by their goods fielding offers while others wander around making deals. Most of these deals go through but some don&rsquo;t. Fecke-Stoudt explains that, as a vegan, trades can be tricky.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes people want our kale chips because they&rsquo;re paleo,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;but they have something with lots of meat and other animal byproducts and...&rdquo;</p><p>Other deals go sour if one swapper feels the others product isn&rsquo;t worth as much.&ldquo;So sometimes we&rsquo;ll trade two small things for one big thing,&rdquo; Fecke-Stoudt said.&nbsp;</p><p>For those thinking of attending their first swap, Paster offers a list of tips on her site. And if you want to be the belle of the swap, she suggests going savory.</p><p>&ldquo;There is often a heavy emphasis on cupcakes, brownies, quick breads and caramels and they are often too good to pass up,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But for that reason savory does very well. If people bring soups or tabouleh or little mini quiches that they could eat for lunch the next day, those are very hot.&rdquo;</p><p>If you ask 10 swappers about their best food trade, you&rsquo;ll probably get 10 different answers. Gena Boehm of Libertyville, said she had this very discussion around the dinner table the other night.</p><p>&ldquo;The kids said that it was red velvet cup cakes,&rdquo; Boehm said. &ldquo;My son loved some preserved peaches we got last summer and my husband and I thought we had some really amazing bread one time last year. It&rsquo;s always different. If you ask me six months from now it will be something else.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>The Chicago Food Swap will be held at Sur La Table in downtown Chicago on June 29.&nbsp; This gives you just enough time to perfect those mini quiches, that cabbage kimchi or mango muesli recipe you always wanted to swap and share.</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-196e5857-a6e0-3796-f705-73efcdb988f8"><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 16:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-food-swap-lets-foodies-diversify-their-diet-110353 Grilled meats serve up dangerous compounds, but you can avoid some http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/grilled-meats-serve-dangerous-compounds-you-can-avoid-some-110214 <p><p>For many, Memorial Day weekend means it&rsquo;s finally time to bust out two things: the white shoes and blackened meats.&nbsp;</p><p>American dads may take pride in their cross-hatch grill marks, but those juicy, charred slabs of meat are coming under incresing scrutiny for the dangerous compounds they develop when protein meets dry blazing heat.</p><p>These include heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and advanced glycation end products or HCAs, PAHs and AGEs.</p><p>Peter Guengerich is a biochemistry professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He&rsquo;s been studying HCAs and PAHs for 25 years, and he says that, on their own, the compounds aren&#39;t all that dangerous.</p><p>&ldquo;But our bodies have enzyme systems that convert these into reactive compounds,&rdquo; Guengerich said. &ldquo;Things that get stuck irreversibly on your DNA and can cause mutations and potentially cancer, most commonly colon cancer.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s important to note that this has little to do with charcoal vs. gas or other fuels.</p><p>Dr Jaime Uribarri of Mount Sinai Medical Center says what matters are the AGEs &mdash; the crispy, browned, tasty bits that form on the outside of grilled meat and other foods.&nbsp; In the kitchen they&rsquo;re considered flavor, but in most medical labs, Uribarri says, they&rsquo;re linked to inflammation that causes &ldquo;diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, dementia and essentially most of the chronic medical conditions of modern times.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, recent Mount Sinai research shows that mice fed a diet high in AGEs &mdash; similar to a Western diet &mdash; developed marked cognitive decline and precursors to Alzheimers disease and diabetes. Those fed a low-AGE diet were free of those conditions.&nbsp;</p><p>So does this mean an end to the all-American cookout?&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If it is something done only once a year it may not be that bad,&rdquo; Uribarri says.</p><p>Only once a year?</p><p>Professor Guengerich won&rsquo;t go that far, but he does urge moderation.</p><p>&ldquo;Well basically if you only eat these things occasionally, [I&rsquo;m] probably not too concerned,&rdquo; the biochemist said. &ldquo;But if you are making a habit of eating these things every other day, grilled at high temperatures, you probably should think about it a little bit more.&rdquo;</p><p>But before you put away the Weber you should know there are lots of ways to cut down on these compounds at your barbecue.</p><p>To reduce the AGE&rsquo;s, Uribarri suggests a few things.</p><p>&ldquo;Make sure the meat is not left for very long periods of time on the grill,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Whenever possible, the meat should be marinated or freshened with juices during the cooking. And simultaneously, eat a lot of fruits vegetables and things that will kind of antagonize the bad effects of these compounds.&rdquo;</p><p>These would include antioxidant rich foods like blueberries, pomegranates and cherries &mdash; one Michigan butcher even blends them into his burger meat.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/blueberries.jpg" title="Eating antioxidant rich foods like blueberries, cherries and pomegranates with grilled foods may help reduce the harmful effects of grilling byproducts. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG) " /></div><p>Studies also show that marination in wine, vinegar or lemon juice can lower the meat&rsquo;s pH and cut way down on the formation of AGE and HCA. Another study shows that rubbing meat with fresh rosemary can cut HCA development most entirely.</p><p>Guengerich says you should also cover your grill with foil to avoid carcinogenic flare ups that produce PAHs on the surface.</p><p>&ldquo;And if you are particularly concerned you can preheat [the meat] in a microwave and get the juice out,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Then take it out and put it on the grill and you&rsquo;ll actually reduce your exposure by about 90 percent and you won&rsquo;t lose that much in the way of taste either.&rdquo;</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s the low-tech method of simply scraping off what Guengerich calls &quot;the black crud&quot; from the outside of your food. Those grill marks are rich in these carcinogenic compounds.<br /><br />Fans of cole slaw, broccoli and Brussels sprouts may also have more leeway. One study found that regular consumption of these cruciferous vegetables can help clear DNA damage wrought by the grilling process.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>And finally, Uribarri suggests simply swapping the dry high heat cooking for gentler water based methods most of the time.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;So take for example a piece of meat,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You put it on the grill to cook for half an hour, you generate so many AGEs. Then you take the same piece of meat, but now you put it under a lot of water to cook as a stew, you generate much much fewer. &ldquo;&nbsp;</p><p>This may be effective, but will anyone really want to come over to your house this summer for a burger boil?</p><p>Wiviott doesn&rsquo;t think so.<br /><br />&ldquo;No one wants to eat nine ounces of poached chicken or turkey breast,&rdquo; the pitmaster of Barn &amp; Company says.</p><p>&quot;Conversely, if you grill it and you have texture and crunch and flavor and salt and fat, that&rsquo;s when something really tastes good.&quot;</p><p>Wiviott is the author of &ldquo;Low and Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in FIve Easy Lessons.&rdquo; And he finds&nbsp; it hard to swallow all the recent science deriding his favorite foods.</p><p>&quot;In my lifetime, I&rsquo;ve seen coffee be not good for you; now it&rsquo;s good for you. Red wine not good for you; now it&rsquo;s good for you.&nbsp; Butter, pig fat. Margarine was good for you and now it&rsquo;s not,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I mean, since the cavemen started cooking, people have cooked their meat over an open fire and we&rsquo;re still around. So I can&rsquo;t imagine that it&rsquo;s all that bad for you&hellip;.Plus, it&rsquo;s absolutely delicious.&quot;</p><p>So does this mean you have to choose between boiled meat or colon cancer? Between long life and a char-striped hot dog?</p><p>&ldquo;Well it is a carcinogen,&rdquo; Guengerich says. &ldquo;But I don&rsquo;t want people to have a guilty conscience or feel like they are going to get cancer tomorrow. Just be moderate about your consumption of anything. Grilled foods included.&quot;</p><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Farmers-market-cabbage.jpg" style="width: 620px;" title="Regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts can help clear DNA damage from byproducts of grilled meats. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG) " /></div><p><strong>Tips for Reducing Grilled Food Dangers</strong></p><p>If you don&rsquo;t want to give up grilling meat all together, experts say, there are several ways to reduce the formation and your consumption of heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and advanced glycation end products. Here are some of them:</p><ul><li>Pre-cook your meat in a pot of water, a low-temperature oven or microwave before finishing briefly on the grill.</li><li>Cover grill with foil to reduce drips and flare ups, which produce PAHs, or consider wrapping your meat in foil before placing it on the grill.&nbsp;</li><li>Marinate meat with vinegar, lemon juice or wine for at least 10 minutes before grilling. This can alter its pH, thus reducing the formation of AGEs during cooking.</li><li>Rub your meat with rosemary or other antioxidant rich fresh herbs before cooking.</li><li>Before eating, scrape off the carcinogenic &ldquo;black crud&rdquo; that may develop on meat or other foods during grilling.</li><li>Remove browned and blackened chicken skin before eating.</li><li>Eat cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables on a regular basis to provide your body with sulforaphane, which has been known to help clear DNA damaging compounds more quickly.</li><li>Eat antioxidant rich, deeply colored fruits and vegetables with your grilled meats to help counter the effects of the compounds.&nbsp;</li><li>Consider a weenie boil rather than a weenie roast. You will produce many fewer AGEs in the process.&nbsp;</li></ul></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 21 May 2014 11:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/grilled-meats-serve-dangerous-compounds-you-can-avoid-some-110214 Chicago's street food vendors get a shot at legalization http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-street-food-vendors-get-shot-legalization-110169 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Fruit-cup.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On a typical morning in Chicago&rsquo;s Little Village, you can find a vendor named Maria waking early and packing her cart full of watermelons, mangoes, melons, pineapples, cucumbers, jicama, limes and more.<br />&nbsp;<br />Throughout the day, she&rsquo;ll take them out of the cooler and slice them into colorful fruit cups that are finished with a shower of fresh lime and spices.&nbsp;<br /><br />From her little corner stand, Maria also sells bags of potato chips and artificial pork rinds.<br /><br />But can you guess which one of her snacks the city considers the biggest threat to public health?</p><p>If you guessed fried chips, you&rsquo;d be wrong.<br /><br />According to Chicago Department of Public Health, cutting fresh fruits and vegetables on a cart constitutes a health code violation.</p><p>&ldquo;Once the fruit is cut, it becomes adulterated,&rdquo; said the department&rsquo;s Brian Richardson. &ldquo;In order to serve, it must be kept stored at the right temperature and it must have been washed using the same methods that they would at a brick and mortar restaurant. And most carts are not equipped with handwashing at the levels that are required by the health department.&rdquo;</p><p>This issue has long prevented the legalization of Chicago eloteros (corn on the cob sellers) who&rsquo;ve worked Chicago streets for decades, but always with a cloud of uncertainty.</p><p>&ldquo;Every time they go out to sell, they&rsquo;re scared,&rdquo; said Vickie Lugo, vice president of the Asociacion de Vendadores Ambulantes (mobile vendors association). &ldquo;They are scared that they might be stopped by the police or get ticketed or even get arrested, which has has happened several times in the past. And the fines have been up to $1,000, and in certain occasions, up to $1,500.&rdquo;<br /><br />Despite years of pushing cart legalization efforts, the city and pushcart vendors have remained at a decades-long impasse.<br /><br />Enter the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, a civil liberties law firm that works out of the University of Chicago law school. Earlier this month, IJ director Beth Kregor unveiled a compromise plan.<br /><br />&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve written up an ordinance that would allow vendors to sell all manner of food as long as they&rsquo;ve prepared it in advance in a proper kitchen and as long as it has been licensed and inspected by the city,&rdquo; Kregor said.<br /><br />The proposal would require all food to be pre-packaged rather than prepared on the street and it would include licensing fees of about $250 a year. That&rsquo;s all before the kitchen rental expenses.</p><p>Kregor said says she&rsquo;s been working closely for months with aldermen and the Health Department to tackle their concerns early in the proposal process. The proposal, to date, lacks a aldermanic sponsor to introduce it in the City Council, but Kregor says several have shown their support.</p><p>Chief among them is 20th Ward Alderman Willie B. Cochran, who has been part of the legalization effort for years.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Having safe dining options is must, but it is also a must to ensure that people are given the opportunity to develop business and provide for themselves and make it convenient for people who are looking for quality food products,&rdquo; Cochran said. &ldquo;It will give us an opportunity to expand kitchens that can support these products and (to) businesses and it will give an opportunity for the employed to be employed.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Cochran is referring to the hundreds of licensed prep kitchens that would need to spring up all over Chicago to accommodate the current crop of vendors who number around 1,500. Kregor says this could bring in new revenue to existing facilities like churches whose kitchens could help fill the void.</p><p>Lugo admits that the legalization comes with drawbacks: the licensing and rental fees, the waste possibly created by pre-package products that may not sell, and the loss of the live cooking demonstration that ensues each time a fruit cup is ordered.&nbsp;<br /><br />While these changes may be necessary to get a ordinance passed, some question its importance for public health. The Chicago Park District has licensed these same vendors to operate on park property without incident for years. &ldquo;But,&rdquo; as Kregor noted, &ldquo;across the street from a park on the sidewalk it&rsquo;s completely forbidden.&rdquo;<br /><br />Still, for Maria, the compromise may be worth it.</p><p>&ldquo;This license will allow us to sell our products without being bothered by the police and being ticketed,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s good.&rdquo;&nbsp;<br />With warm summer days on the horizon, more vendors will be returning to their regular Chicago corners. And Kregor says they could be doing it legally by the end of the year if she finds a sponsor.<br /><br />Although the current focus is on eloteros and vendors who sell fresh fruit, Kregor and her IJ colleague Michael Lanahan says their proposal would legalize all sorts of small food cart vendors.</p><p>&ldquo;It might be dumplings, It might be cookies, corn on the cob or tamales,&rdquo; she said at a recent Rogers Park meeting to gather support for the plan.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;As long as it meets the baseline of being prepared in a licensed kitchen, packaged and kept at the right temperature, then flavors away anything can happen,&rdquo; Lanahan said.<br /><br />So why does Chicago still lag so far behind Chicago on street food offerings?<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve struggled to understand why it&rsquo;s so hard for Chicago to embrace street food when every other city in the world thrives on street food,&rdquo; Kregor said. &ldquo;What would New York be without roasted chestnuts in the winter? What would Paris be without crepes on the go?...Chicago seems to be abnormally obsessed with keeping the streets clean, but its really hard to understand.&rdquo;<br /><br />If passed, Kregor says her proposal could deliver a fresh new smorgasbord of legal street food to city. And, to many, that would be a welcome change over the same stale impasse that has branded fruit cups as contraband for far too long.<br /><br /><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 13 May 2014 10:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-street-food-vendors-get-shot-legalization-110169 Who makes Chicago's Top 5 croissants? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/who-makes-chicagos-top-5-croissants-110110 <p><p>If you can&rsquo;t make it to Paris but still long for a rich buttery croissant, you don&rsquo;t have to look far in Chicago.</p><p>That wasn&rsquo;t always the case. For decades, we suffered a terrible deficit of decent French bakeries. But in recent years and months, Chicago has seen the opening of<a href="http://www.eclair-bakery.com/welcome/"> Eclair Patisserie</a> in Andersonville, &nbsp;<a href="http://www.laboulangeriechicago.com/">La Boulangerie</a> in Lakeview,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cellardoorprovisions.com/#welcome">Cellar Door Provisions</a>&nbsp;in Avondale,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.vanillepatisserie.com/home.php">Vanille Patisserie</a> in Lincoln Park and most recently,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.beurrage.com">Beurrage in Pilsen</a>. A Chicago location of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lepainquotidien.com/store/gold-coast/#.U1qIPVdnBno">Le Pain Quotidien</a> is also set to open any day now in the Gold Coast.</p><p>Even&nbsp;<a href="http://www.starbucks.com/menu/food/bakery/butter-croissant?foodZone=9999">Starbucks</a> got in on French bakery act when it launched its own not-so-shabby line of croissants here last fall.</p><p>So what does this mean for Chicago croissant lovers? That depends on whom you talk to.</p><p>My<em> Chewing the Fat</em> co-host Louisa Chu is not impressed by the Chicago offerings, which she deems just &ldquo;OK.&rdquo; As Louisa OFTEN reminds me, she lived and cooked in Paris for years, and is consequently, &ldquo;spoiled.&rdquo;</p><p>When I suggested that she lighten up and join me on a quest to find five really delicious croissants in the city, she scoffed and said something like &ldquo;c&rsquo;est impossible!.&rdquo;</p><p>So, after we finished interviewing Beurrage baker Jeffrey Hallenback (whose croissants Louisa likes) on a recent Saturday, I set off with my 10-year-old daughter to find buttery bliss.</p><p>I started with a list of recommendations from foodies, colleagues and Facebook friends and quickly nibbled it down to 10 that I could munch in the next week. Facebook commenters suggested some that I didn&rsquo;t get to including those from Ely&rsquo;s Pancake House (four locations), Bon Jour Bakery in Hyde Park and St. Roger Abbey in Vernon Hills. &nbsp;</p><p>When all was said and done, we had a tie for No. 1 because Louisa only voted for one. I found four more that I would proudly serve on my table. They ran between $2.50 and $3.50 and all are worth it for the occasional decadent morning meal. Here they are:</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CROISSANT%20beurrage.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Beurrage in Pilsen makes croissants with home churned butter from Jersey cows. Louisa chose it as her favorite in Chicago. (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-bc880e77-b422-4a8d-22bc-f3a001e1099a">1. <a href="http://beurragechicago.com">Beurrage</a>: Supremely flakey with dough full of character building housemade cultured butter.</p><p dir="ltr">and</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CROISSANT%20FRITZ.jpg" style="height: 436px; width: 620px;" title="Fritz Pastry’s ultra rich croissant tied for No. 1 in a recent Chewing the Fat croissant tasting. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p><a href="http://fritzpastry.com">Fritz Pastry</a>: Well-browned, complexly flavored croissants that are so criminally rich and buttery that you&rsquo;ll look around for the cops as you eat them. We think the ham and cheese version are THE best handheld breakfast in Chicago. &nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CROISSANT%20cellar%20door%281%29.jpg" style="height: 426px; width: 620px;" title="Cellar Door Provisions makes a croissant with an aggressively browned exterior and soft tender interior. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p>2. <a href="http://www.cellardoorprovisions.com/" target="_blank">Cellar Door Provisions</a>: Aggressively browned with a nutty exterior and light eggy center.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CROISSANT%20la%20vanille.jpg" style="height: 530px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>3. <a href="http://www.vanillepatisserie.com/home.php" target="_blank">Vanille Patisserie</a>: Restrained browning, but a buttery and pleasantly sweet center.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CROISSANT%20la%20boulangerie.jpg" title="" /></div><p>4.<a href="http://www.laboulangeriechicago.com/" target="_blank">La Boulangerie</a>: Not gorgeous but full of a flakey but dense and flavorful dough.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/eclair%20choco%20croissant.jpg" title="Eclair Patisserie has been selling retail out of Urban Orchard in Andersonville. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p>5. <a href="http://www.eclair-bakery.com/" target="_blank">Éclair Patisserie</a>: Delicate and buttery and we love the striping on the pain au chocolat and the little bag of 5 to go.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a>&nbsp;podcast. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a>&nbsp;or write to her at&nbsp;<a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em></p></p> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/who-makes-chicagos-top-5-croissants-110110 Organic foods sold by Walmart create fear among some organic farmers and farm advocates http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/organic-foods-sold-walmart-create-fear-among-some-organic-farmers-and-farm-advocates <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/beans.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On a bustling Saturday morning at Chicago&rsquo;s Green City Farmers Market, shoppers fill their canvas bags with organic grains, sauces, pasta and jams. These are staples of the Midwest winter farmers market season.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>But they also make up the bulk of Walmart&rsquo;s new Wild Oats <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/business/walmart-to-offer-organic-line-of-food-at-cut-rate-prices.html" target="_blank">organic line of pantry staples</a>--staples the retailer promises to price at about 25 percent lower than its competitors. Several items, including beans and olive oil, have already hit local shelves.</p><p>This kind of affordable organic has been the theoretical dream of the sustainable food community for decades. So then why is the move being greeted by so much suspicion?</p><p>&nbsp;Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse and one of the nation&rsquo;s biggest cheerleaders for organic seasonal food, has real questions about who will be hurt in the quest for cheaper organic.</p><p>&ldquo;It definitely scares me,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I really feel like, when we are talking about cheap food, that somebody, somewhere is not being paid. And I am pretty certain that the person who is not being paid is the person raising that animal and tending that farm.&rdquo;</p><p>When WBEZ asked Walmart how it planned to source the organic materials for this discounted line, the retailer responded with a statement that:</p><p>&ldquo;We are working with Wild Oats to create a surety of demand which ultimately helps us pass along savings to our customers. We using our scale to deliver quality organic groceries to our customers for less.&rdquo;</p><p>But this equation of greater demand producing lower prices doesn&rsquo;t add up for folks like organic farmer Harry Carr of Mint Creek Farm in East Central Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s got everybody a bit perplexed,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t make sense. I just can&rsquo;t see Walmart proactively choosing to improve the quality of their food and picking up the price differential because they are nice guys. We know that historically Walmart&rsquo;s strategy has been to price other retailers out of the market with their size and scope and economies of scale. They took away our main streets in exchange for big boxes and I don&rsquo;t think people look upon that very kindly.&rdquo;</p><p>Wild Oats CEO Tom Casey says he understands the confusion about how higher demand could create lower prices. But he says the farmers pay is only a small part of the food equation.<br />He notes the real savings will come from streamlining the now fragmented manufacturing, distribution and retail stages of the organic food chain.</p><p>Author and food journalist Ruth Reichl is also skeptical about sourcing, but she can see some real benefits to the move.</p><p>&ldquo;For all the people who want to eat organic food and don&rsquo;t want pesticides and so forth, it&rsquo;s a good thing,&rdquo; Reichl says. &ldquo;I think for down the road, for making organics mainstream it&rsquo;s a very good thing. But I think for small farmers who are now raising organic food it could prove disastrous. I think they way they are going to end up doing this is industrial organic and probably a lot of imported organic food.&rdquo;</p><p>Casey won&rsquo;t say what percentage of imported organic will go into Walmart&rsquo;s Wild Oats line but he acknowledges: &ldquo;there are certain products that are difficult to source effectively in the US right now. So we have a limited number of products we source internationally, but that would be typical of anybody sourcing organic products&hellip;.The key is that these products are organic certified and they have to meet these requirements no matter who&rsquo;s producing them.&rdquo;</p><p>While some worry that these discounted organics will put small organic family farmers out of business, Casey says that Walmart is simply trying to offer &ldquo;more choices.&rdquo;<br /><br />Jim Slama,&nbsp; president of Family Farmed.org, says he&rsquo;s not worried about the effect on small farmers because he believes they serve a totally different marketplace.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think that someone growing on a family farm is going to be selling at a farmers market or maybe to local restaurants who will pay higher prices or maybe to Whole Foods or Marianos,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But there is no way they have the scale to sell to Walmart and they are not going to take their price.&rdquo;</p><p>Plus, Slama says, there are real upsides for the environment if Walmart&rsquo;s demand pushes more farmers to adopt organic practices. These would require them to meet standards that preserve the quality of soil and water.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s going to transition quite a bit more land from conventional to organic because its providing new very large markets for organic products,&rdquo; he says.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Harry Rhodes, who directs a group of Chicago organic farms called Growing Home, also sees pluses in Walmart&rsquo;s new organic push.<br />&ldquo;The more organic options everywhere lead to healthier food choices,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So I think it&rsquo;s a win-win. I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s competition or danger to anything we&rsquo;re doing.&rdquo;</p><p>Sean Shatto is the CSA manager for Tomato Mountain Organic. He was at Green City Market last weekend selling tomato sauces, CSA shares and spinach. For now, he takes the long view.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;It might turn people on to paying more attention to their food---maybe,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And if that happens, then they might say, &lsquo;well I got this organic spinach at Walmart, maybe I&rsquo;ll go down to the farmers market to see what they&rsquo;ve got.&rsquo; Their jaw will drop the first time they walk by and see that my spinach is $10 a pound. But then I will hand them a leaf and it will taste 10 times better than what they are getting for a $1 a pound at Walmart. And then hopefully they&rsquo;ll come back.&rdquo;</p><p>With so little information about how the food will be sourced and how consumers will react, it&rsquo;s hard, even for critics, to draw firm conclusions. But Reichl says that one thing is certain.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to change the landscape for organics enormously,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Being an optimist, I would say that in the future, this is going to be good. But for right now it scares me.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the&nbsp;</em><em><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a></strong></em><em>&nbsp;podcast. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a>&nbsp;or write to her at&nbsp;</em><em><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 14:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/organic-foods-sold-walmart-create-fear-among-some-organic-farmers-and-farm-advocates Do kids belong out late in adult restaurants? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/do-kids-belong-out-late-adult-restaurants-110053 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kideatingflickreyeliam.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A man and a wife and their kid walk into a restaurant bar. The host looks at them and says &lsquo;we&rsquo;re not seating couples with children at this time.&rsquo; So the sad family packs up and finds some place else to eat.</p><p>This was the decidedly unfunny scenario faced by two Chicago area parents recently when they tried to eat at one of their favorite restaurants. They asked that we leave out their names because they&rsquo;d like dine there again--when they find a babysitter, of course.</p><p>Many thought that&rsquo;s what the parents of the, now notorious, <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.com%2F2014%2F01%2F14%2Falinea-baby-controversy_n_4597643.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHaDxp6rRcCH8vlSewdC4R_RD01ig">Alinea baby</a> should have done earlier this year, when their child&rsquo;s dining room crying was heard around the world---thanks to a perplexed tweet by chef Grant Achatz on the matter.</p><p>Still, for many parents, including former New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl, the issue is not so cut and dried.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it depends on the kid,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;If you are a parent who goes out with your child and your kid starts fussing, you take the child out. That&rsquo;s all there is to it. It&#39;s that easy. But I would be deeply offended if I took my child to a restaurant and I was told no you can&rsquo;t come in.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s Hopleaf Bar owner Michael Roper has enforced a no-kids rule at his establishment for nearly a decade. He believes the city needs places where grown-ups can enjoy grown-up drinks--for example, his wide selection of craft beers that happen to pair beautifully with his menu of sausages, seafood and smoked meat.<br />.<br />&ldquo;We are a bar. We call ourselves the Hopleaf Bar,&rdquo; Roper recently said on WBEZ. &ldquo;There are places that are bar-like but they are more like restaurants. It&rsquo;s not as if there&rsquo;s no place else to go with your kid. There are a lot of places and many of those places the kids actually prefer.&rdquo;</p><p>But does he ever get grief from customers over the rule?</p><p>&ldquo;We get some pushback but it&rsquo;s surprising,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We actually get mostly support, even from parents with children. They like to have a place to go. Sometimes people need to have an adult space.&rdquo;<br /><br />Mei-Ling Hopgood is a Chicago area mom who raised her oldest child in Buenos Aires. In her book &ldquo;How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm&rdquo; Hopgood details her initial shock at what seemed like crazy hours for kids to be in restaurants in Argentina.&nbsp;<br /><br />&ldquo;It would be 11 or 12 o&rsquo;clock and they&rsquo;d be running around the pizzeria or the grill,&rdquo; she recently said on WBEZ&rsquo;s Worldview. &ldquo;It was an extension of the cultures from which they came--Spain and Italy where people just eat later and the idea that you would not eat dinner with your child is really unthinkable in many ways.&rdquo;</p><p>Those kinds of careening children may be exactly what some restaurants are trying to avoid with the no-kid rules says a former server Cindy who called into WBEZ&rsquo;s Worldview saying, &ldquo;They would run circles around my legs when I would have hot trays of food.&rdquo;</p><p>Dining veteran Reichl says that she can see both sides of the issue and that there may be a simple solution.&nbsp;<br /><br />&ldquo;In an ideal world, restaurants would have an area for children and all the people would bring their children and the children would go off and there would be someone to watch them and the kids would have a great time together,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Because, really, a five-year-old doesn&rsquo;t want to listen to your boring conversation.&rdquo;</p><p>So Chuck E Cheese meets Alinea? Who knows? It just might work.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 21 Apr 2014 15:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/do-kids-belong-out-late-adult-restaurants-110053 Global Activism: One-third of the World's produced food is wasted http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-one-third-worlds-produced-food-wasted-110294 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ga-Jeff Cabbages scaled.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-ebf7408a-6d4d-06f4-923b-c7fd66663e3a">More than 1.3 billion tons of food goes to waste every year. That&rsquo;s one third of the total amount of food produced worldwide. The <a href="http://www.foodbanking.org">Global Foodbanking Network</a> is working to turn that waste into opportunities to feed the hungry. Jeffrey D. Klein, president and CEO of the Global Foodbanking Network, and Bill Rudnick a board member and 25 year veteran of food banking ,will join us to talk about their work.<iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/142913118&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">Jeffrey speaks on critical role of one FoodBanking Network partner:</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;I have said this on many occasions when asked about DLA Piper&rsquo;s pro bono work for The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN). It&rsquo;s a strong statement about our close relationship, DLA Piper&rsquo;s generous support on many, many levels. Beyond that, it&rsquo;s a statement about the depth of passion DLA Piper brings to our shared mission of fighting hunger around the world.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>A Humanitarian Solution to Two Critical Issues: Hunger and Food Waste</strong></p><p dir="ltr">GFN is an international non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating hunger and reducing food waste. We do that by creating, supplying and strengthening food banks and national food bank networks around the world, in countries outside the US. Currently, we support existing and developing food banks in more than 25 countries, home to more than one-third of the world&rsquo;s nearly one billion undernourished people.</p><p dir="ltr">Food banking is, in a sense, the business of logistics with a very important end result. We find and &ldquo;rescue&rdquo; perfectly nutritious, edible food that is non-saleable and get it to where it can be used to feed hungry people. It&rsquo;s a simplistic explanation, but it&rsquo;s really the core of what we do.</p><p dir="ltr">Many people are shocked when they learn that one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted so it never feeds a hungry person. We think this is a tragedy from a moral standpoint. It&rsquo;s also a huge issue for the environment because food in landfills breaks down very quickly and creates greenhouse gas in a ratio that&rsquo;s 20% greater than carbon dioxide. Food banking turns this problem into a solution to the problem of hunger.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>DLA Piper Helps Turn a US Idea into a Global Reality</strong></p><p dir="ltr">DLA Piper played a pivotal role in the creation of GFN and has remained an invaluable supporter of our mission and organization from the very beginning. In fact in the late 1990s, Bill Rudnick, a partner at DLA Piper, helped conceptualize the idea of global food banking with Bob Forney, who was the CEO of Feeding America at the time.</p><p dir="ltr">Bill had been actively involved with food banking in the US for a decade and realized the need for a global solution to problems of hunger and food waste. Bob, Bill, and a development team began working with food banking associations in Canada, Mexico, and Argentina to develop the global food banking model. In 2006, DLA Piper attorneys officially incorporated GFN and Bill became the founding Chairman of the Board.</p><p dir="ltr">Bill remains a member of the GFN board and stays involved from a professional and personal standpoint. Here is a story that shows how Bill and DLA Piper go the extra mile for GFN&hellip;</p><p dir="ltr">This year Bill joined a group of DLA Piper attorneys on a five-day, 364 mile bike ride through the Pyrenees before a global partners meeting. Always thinking of GFN, Bill turned this adventure into a fundraising opportunity for our organization. He completed the journey and exceeded his fundraising goal thanks to many DLA Piper staff and friends who contributed in support of Bill and his cause. Check out his fundraising page to learn more about Bill&rsquo;s<a href="http://www.razoo.com/story/My-Ridiculous-Ride-To-Fight-Hunger-Worldwide"> Ridiculous Ride to Fight Global Hunger</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Insightful Legal Support around the World</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Since the very beginning, DLA Piper has worked tirelessly and enthusiastically with us helping us grow into a leading hunger fighting organization. They have supported our work and that of individual food banks in more than 20 countries and have helped us create food banks in places such as South Africa, India, Israel, and Hong Kong.</p><p dir="ltr">GFN projects are supported by New Perimeter, a subsidiary of DLA Piper that brings US Style pro bono work to international projects. What sets this legal team apart is that while they bring a depth and breadth of legal skills (in a variety of practice areas) they also bring sensitivity and deep knowledge of the issues surrounding the practice of food banking.</p><p dir="ltr">Food banking is different in every country based on the legal and political environments, the culture and the nature of the economy, and the food system. For example, the tax benefits for those who provide food or other donated items are different country to country. In some countries, businesses receive a charitable tax deduction for donations, in others there is no deduction, and in other countries businesses must actually pay a gift tax for the donation.</p><p dir="ltr">Along with their insightful international legal advice, DLA Piper donates office space in the Chicago office allowing us to do our work day in and day out. It&rsquo;s another show of generosity and a demonstration of our close relationship. We wouldn&rsquo;t exist without DLA Piper. We also wouldn&rsquo;t be able to continually grow and expand to bring more food to more people around the world.</p><p>Thanks DLA Piper for making it all possible.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 09:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-one-third-worlds-produced-food-wasted-110294