Sunday, June 03, 2007

Eating Local

While quality and flavor are high on my list of priorities, I just hadn't been thinking much about "buying local." Sure, I'll buy my silver queen corn from the guy selling it at the produce stand in Hunt Valley, but beyond that, I just don't think too much about it.

Finally, after months of Spike's (of celebrity chef and Artifact Coffee fame) soliliquizing (is that a word?) on the virtues of locally produced everything, I decided to break down and take a visit to Springfield Farm. in Sparks, MD.

It's out in the, well, country - down winding roads, through forest groves and meandering through the lush Northern Baltimore County countryside. It's a fun ride in a truck and I wonder how much better it will be in a Ferrari.

After the twists and turns, the entrance to the farm comes suddenly, then it's a hard right turn into someone's driveway and towards a house. Is this the right place? There's a pond to the left and all sorts of vehicles, ATVs, bed mowers and whatnot scattered along driveway. At first, you're not sure if this is place - 'cause it really looks like someone's house, and maybe they might shoot you.

As you come around the bend, that's when you notice the large metal walk-in cooler and you know this must be the place.

The farm store itself is pretty small. Just a table and a few refrigerated merchandisers holding the products. They've got beef, chicken, pork, eggs, milk, sausage, ice cream - and it's all ready for the taking. Much of the stuff I saw was frozen - evidently, they didn't move as much product over the Memorial Day Weekend and ended up freezing a bunch of stuff.

If it comes from beef, pork or chicken, you can pretty much get what you want. Want some ribeyes? No problem. Need a chicken? Can do. Want an 80 pound pig for a 4th of July roast? Be ready that morning. And all of it coming straight from the farm. Not just some anonymous farm - this farm. Right here. And not too long ago either.

I swear I used some restraint. But I was compelled to try as much as I could, so here's what I bought:

4lb whole chicken
1lb ribeye
1dz large eggs
3pt ice cream
1pk bacon

Then I rushed home to start cooking.

With the chicken, I cut it up and made that fried chicken recipe I've been tweaking. WIth the eggs and bacon, I made those this morning for breakfast. The ice cream I sampled last night while watching The Sopranos on DVD. And the ribeye is still in the fridge awaiting it's time in my hot skillet (with lots of butter, of course).

So, how was this locally produced stuff? Good? Yes, but incredibly different.

Maybe I'm just used to the mass-produced, steroid pumped and feed plumped chicken that you buy at Wegman's because this farm-raised chicken actually had flavor - especially the thigh and leg pieces. But, I'll be honest, that flavor kinda wigged me out a bit. Chicken shouldn't taste like "chicken." It should be plump, juicy but neutral tasting. Or should it?

The chicken reminded me of my trips to the Philippines. Where the chickens aren't plump and they actually have flavor. But this is America dammit, is this how chicken is supposed to taste here???

Well, of course it is, and it was damn good too. Although, I think I need to tweak it with just a little more salt. I ended up adding more salt to the chicken to "pop" its' flavor.

Then there's this morning with the bacon and eggs. Simple right? Wrong. The bacon wasn't that papery thin stuff Wegman's is passing off as good, this stuff was thick - and short so it fit perfectly in my small cast iron skillet. Nice. And the thickness helped it to cook evenly and meaty.

The eggs. These were "large" eggs but, Jesus, these weren't just "large", they were LARGE. Mother Large. So large that the two eggs nearly filled the skillet. So large that, halfway through, I was thinking: Shit, these are large. Note: one "large" egg is enough.

So far, it's been an interesting and exciting journey with locally produced meats. They're beyond my expectation. They're outside of my expectation. It's going to be a brave new world with chicken that tastes like chicken and eggs too huge to mention.

But, this kind of flavor and quality doesn't come cheap. That shopping list above? Seventy bucks. Yes, you read it right: $70. It's not cheap, but it is good.

Guess I just have to buy a Ferrari to make the drive...

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