Fall is definitely upon us, but I can't complain a bit. The weather has been un.be.lievable and being outside is a constant pleasure. I've been walking and riding my bike and simply can't get enough. Everything is still bright green and lush, though it could frost any time now.
The river is just gorgeous, and so green.
My basil is following suit and is nearly up to my waist. We cook with it almost every day.
We've been eating a heck of a lot of these, too:
A friend let us take our fill of his heirlooms, which are doing much better than mine this year:
I couldn't stop playing with them.
And they were delicious, every one. I canned some, froze some, ate some before washing them, and made sandwiches from others.
Our new favorite:
Tofu, Spinach, and Tomatoes (TST)
Toasted wheat bread, lemon aioli from vegenaise, spinach, tomato slices, and slabs of tofu lightly fried in canola oil with just salt and pepper, garnished with basil.
I can't even tell you how good this is. We are hooked.
I also got some local plums, which are beautiful and sweet.
On to the titular walk! Last week, Tim and I took part in a Culinary Walk around Iowa City. The tour was put on by the Johnson County Local Foods Alliance as part of the Field to Family Local Foods Festival, which runs through October. The Culinary Walk lets eaters sample small plates from some of the best restaurants downtown. The goal of the walk was to celebrate and strengthen our local food community, so the participants were encouraged to use ingredients from local farms.
The tour included seven stops. The first for us was The Motley Cow.
The Cow served up a colorful plate composed of healthy basics that were well prepared. This included what I think was amaranth, some raw cabbage slaw, a piece of slowly cooked meat that tasted like pot roast, and some very tasty and sour pickled cucumbers from the Maharishi Vedic City Organic Farm.
Our plates came with a fresh veggie drink, something like V8, which I think had beets, tomatoes, and rutabaga.
Passports and forks in hand, we walked across the street to our next stop,
First we were poured a small glass of some dry local cider from Sutliff Cider.
The owner described the pork dish to me, but all I heard was bacon paté. It was served with some little cheddar biscuits, vegetarian paella, and a small cup of gazpacho.
Next, we took a walk to the booth run by the catering department at one of the major sponsors, the University's Iowa Memorial Union.
We got, um, a can of Coke, and a wrap that included noodles and a full chicken breast. This booth was certainly the odd duck.
Next, we hit up the New Pioneer Coop. This was my favorite plate of the night. It came with a beer from Millstream and two cheese samples from Milton Creamery. We got two delicious bites composed of fried sweet potato chip, a piece of pork tenderloin, a smear of creamy cheese, a dollop of strawberry balsamic reduction and sliced chard. Mmmm.
We moved across the street to the Red Avocado, a vegan restaurant that I love. Coincidentally, they served us more of the Sutliff, as well as these little corn cakes with some kind of tomato relish and roasted red peppers, which I believe were also from Vedic City.
Next, we moved on to 126, which included flat breads from its new extension, Hearth. Our plate included a Margherita style flat bread and a slice with bacon and carmelized onions. We also got some fresh corn and new potato ragout, and another small cup of gazpacho garnished with pickled watermelon rind.
Our tour ended at Atlas with a basic bruschetta, some fresh corn ice cream, a pulled pork sandwich, and lots of elk products from Wildlife Lakes Elk Farm, including pastrami.
It was a perfect evening for strolling around town, and the variety and quality of food shows that Iowans are putting their resources to good use. It reminded me to take some time to explore the path our food takes from its farm beginnings to the table, and support the people who are doing it well.
Since I last posted, I've canned another nine quarts of tomatoes, bringing our total to 14 quarts! This is going to be a fine winter.
In the words of Garrison Keillor, who had a stroke this week, be well, do good work, and keep in touch.