This week, the Washington Post‘s Mighty Appetite blog is hosting an Eat Local Challenge. I signed up, even though we are already doing the One Local Summer challenge, and frankly, at this time of year it’s almost more of a challenge not to eat local — at least when you spend as much time at farmers markets as we do!
The ELC challenge was simply to include 10 local items into your meals over the course of the week. The Southern Maryland “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” campaign, also this week, suggests adding one farm-fresh ingredient each day. Since we ate 10 local items on Saturday alone, I challenged myself to go further — no chain coffee or lunches, and eliminating some of my usual cheats. While we don’t have true local grains (mills yes, but the grains come from elsewhere), my general rule is to get locally-baked breads and pastas. For other grains, the rule is organic and/or whole grains – and if all else fails, absolutely no high fructose corn syrup. Which meant I made my pie crust from scratch this weekend, since Pillsbury meets none of those standards. I would like to make my own bread and pasta, but it’s hard to find time with a toddler who seems to get clingy whenever I head into the kitchen.
As a “foodie,” there are certain ingredients I could never give up, such as olive oil, olives, sea salt, balsamic vinegar, citrus and my Hungarian smoked paprika. The OLS challenge exempts oil, vinegar and spices, so I permit those. Whenever possible, I follow the Locavore “Terroir” rule — if local olive oil isn’t available, then buy it from regions that specialize in that product (and preferably organic and/or fair trade certified). I also try to buy my gourmet products from locally-owned shops. We have some great bakeries and shops nearby, including Cheesetique in Del Ray and Grape + Bean in Old Town, which make it easier.
I know this is a family-friendly blog, but sometimes the grown-ups enjoy an adult beverage with their meal. While I have yet to come across Virginia-produced gin, we do have a decent wine and beer selection. (And Delaware’s Dogfish Head is just slightly more than 100 mi. from us.) Virginia wines can be hit or miss though, so I stopped into Grape+Bean to see what local wines they carried. I was told rather apologetically that they only have two at the moment, but hope to add more soon. I picked up a bottle of Thibaut & Janisson sparkling wine to enjoy this weekend. Definitely an indulgence, but I thought it would be fun to celebrate the best of local drinks along with all our peak summer produce. (Their other pick was Barboursville‘s Voignier.) In addition to wine and coffee, Grape+Bean sells fresh-baked bread from Restaurant Eve. I got the most perfectly chewy loaf of olive bread yesterday to accompany last night’s pasta dinner.
Another area where we are blessed with local options is dessert. Of course, it’s not that hard to make your own frozen treats, but we have a number of locally-owned establishments who make scrumptious treats with local, farm-fresh ingredients — the Dairy Godmother, Moorenko‘s and Dolcezza, to name a few. With sources like these, there’s no need to rely on those two guys from Vermont.
For those participating in the Eat Local challenge, or just taking small steps, what’s the one non-local thing you can’t give up?