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Kurt Michael Friese's Posts

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The dog days of summer mean bountiful farm stands and spicy salsas

This is the time of year we flatlanders pine for the snows of January, when it's a full 100 degrees colder than it is right now, and all the humidity is frozen to our windshields. August in Iowa may be unbearable for humans, but vegetables love it -- the hot, sticky dog days bring us sweet corn (different from the "field" corn that feeds confined hogs and ethanol plants), hot peppers, and the very first tomatoes. At this time of the year in Iowa City, you can shop at farmers markets every day of the week, if you pay attention …

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After a mass bike ride across Iowa, a slow-food chef picks up the pace

Do the ride thing. Photo: David Wade Every year for the last 36, Iowa plays host to a unique event. At the beginning of the last full week of July, more than 15,000 people dip the rear tires of their bicycles in the Missouri River -- and seven days and about 450 miles later, they dunk their front tires in the Mississippi. That ceremonial immersion draws to a close a ride that is sometimes called "Burning Man on Wheels," or "The World's Longest Pub Crawl," but is formally referred to as RAGBRAI, the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. …

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Simple cooking can produce delicious results — like old-fashioned Austrian pancakes

Get cooking, sonny. Too many people in this country have been sold a bill of goods. They've been tricked, flim-flammed, conned, and hustled. They've been bamboozled into believing that food comes wrapped in plastic from the freezer at the nearest Walmart. They've learned to believe that cooking is a chore -- like laundry or washing windows -- to be avoided if at all possible and then done only grudgingly when it can't be. I understand that some people just plain don't like to cook. That's fine. But there are also those who would actually enjoy it, if they hadn't been …

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Iowa’s chefs and their farmer-suppliers get busy recovering from disaster

Roads and restaurants may be closed, but Iowa is getting back on its feet. Photo: Kurt Michael Friese The weather here in Iowa City has been gorgeous for more than a week. Is Mother Nature trying to make amends? While she smiles on us, she's still causing trouble for our friends to the south. The horrendous flooding continues, breeching nearly every levee it encounters in Missouri and Illinois, and leaving behind a litany of statistics that indicate the millions of lives affected. In Iowa alone, we've got 36,000 new homeless folks, and 3 million inundated acres of farmland. And then …

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As storms rage on the prairie, strawberries and rhubarb bring comfort

A bright spot in the storm. Gaia has been hard on us prairie-dwellers lately. A dear friend who's the director of the area's largest CSA lost her 102-year-old barn to a storm this weekend. Swelled with recent rains, the Iowa River has been raging, sloshing toward levels never seen before. Fortunately, my restaurant sits on high ground, so if the floods reach us here, you'll see the animals lining up two by two and Kevin Costner frowning from the roof. We're lucky, too, that many of the local farms that supply us are also keeping their heads above water, and …

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Toward a civil, inclusive national conversation on food — over a savory tart

As the date for Slow Food Nation -- the big sustainable-food conference scheduled in San Francisco this coming August -- draws near, I've been thinking about attitudes toward food in the erstwhile Fast Food Nation. Like a big pot of water that's been on high heat seemingly forever, our national conversation on food seems to be reaching a boil at long last. Slow Food Nation. Now, my world revolves around food, so I may not be the most reliable gauge of such things. I have a tendency to assume everyone shares my obsession -- to the point where I am …

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Got weeds? Reach for the food processor, not the lawnmower

Around this time of year, all the foodies in my neck of the woods are, well, in the woods. Spring and fall are the best wild food foraging times around here, and as if ol' Mother Nature knew our food prices were going through the roof and transportation costs skyrocketing, she's brought us a cornucopia of wild edibles out there, free for the taking. Nettles, how sweet thy sting. Photo: Kurt Michael Friese Besides the morels I spoke of recently (did I mention my son found some 10 feet from our back door?), we find oyster and velvet foot and …

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Duck!

Chicago overturns 2-year old ordinance banning foie gras

In The New York Times Dining section yesterday, I read this: Chicagoans can feast on foie gras once more. The Chicago City Council just repealed the ban on its sale that it put in place two years ago. Now I know that many of my vegan friends will go ballistic on me when I say that this is a good thing, but this is a good thing. The animal rights groups who supported this measure did so because they saw it as a layup -- an easy target. Who would oppose a ban on something only rich, snobby, hoity-toity gourmands …

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CSAs can transform Iowa’s farm economy — and take its sandwiches to the next level

Getting fresh. Here in Iowa, the farmers markets are just emerging from hibernation, and with them the CSAs. Community-supported agriculture is not a new idea, but it certainly has been gaining ground over the past few years as ideas such as "local" and "sustainable" migrate from the fringes to the center. For the uninitiated, CSAs operate a lot like magazine subscriptions. You find one whose content you like, pay your money up front, and receive weekly allotments of fresh local produce, dairy, eggs, flowers, and sometimes meat. CSAs offer a great way to "go local," and they present you with …

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An earthy recipe for treading lightly on earth and pocketbook alike

As Earth Day approaches this year, it seems that people are thinking more about food's price than its ecological footprint. A simple trip to the grocery store tells the same story we've been hearing on the news: it's getting more and more expensive to feed ourselves. The morel of the story. I've been thinking a lot about food prices, too. After holding off for almost a year, I raised the prices at my restaurant. I was able to avoid it longer than some of my fellow restaurant owners, partly because I have relatively low overhead: a small space and a …

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