Sunday, December 20, 2009

Meaty Issues

It seems that as I work to source and provide the highest quality food for my family, I am at the same time shown the gaps in my efforts (no pun intended--but the reference is apt). This week's irony: having to eat questionable food out on the pilgrimage to collect a our sustainable, local holiday lamb.

This was a long story in the making, as I put my name on a list for a "locker" lamb (a whole animal, custom butchered) last summer. I actually had forgotten about it when I got a call from Margaret of Spring Hill Farm--did I want a lamb they had just slaughtered? Did I?! This is what I have been wanting all along!

Margaret had already sent the lamb to Farmer George, a custom butcher in Port Orchard. I spent a while on the phone with a woman there to make sure that I got exactly the cuts I wanted and insisting that they include everything--the bones, the offal, the fat, etc. Everything but the baa. Margaret has even offered me some tongues, a part she usually saves for herself; she seemed genuinely happy that I wanted to make use of the whole animal. But, of course, no? That's part of why we are doing this thing . . .

Anyway, Port Orchard is a long drive from here, 83 miles to be exact. And I don't much like driving to begin with. Thankfully, I was able to combine this errand with picking one of the kids up from SeaTac (Seattle's airport), as Farmer George's is basically right off of the highway on the way. It's just, well, it's a looong trip (minimum of five hours, roundtrip, usually six or more if the arrivee checks bags or inconveniently chooses a time around Rush Hour to arrive). I usually eat before I leave and take nuts and fruit to sustain me, but this time it wasn't enough, and both the daughter I brought with me and the one I was picking up were starved as we headed back. Ok, so we ought to be able to find something edible on the 130 mile drive, right? I like to get out of the urban traffic before even looking, as dealing with unfamiliar neighborhoods in big cities is not my idea of fun when famished.

That put us in Gig Harbor, just over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from Tacoma. It's a sweet small town, and we have had absolutely marvelous meals at Brix 25', but this time I just wanted fast, cheap, simple. Usually that means Mexican for us, where I can get a carne asada or a fajita salad and be relatively sure I won't get sick. I found a place that had pretty good reviews online--which is how I had found Brix in August (I bow to the iPhone in these situations!), but this time ended up being disappointed. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't good either. And I woke up the next morning puffy and congested (not horrible reactions--thanks, I think, to much time on the GAPS diet, but a reaction nonetheless). Enough said, as I am sure there are many folks who like the place. I just have different standards.

Which bring me to Healthy Eats Here, a healthy dining guide with restaurant reviews from around the country that is in ebook format. (Full Disclosure: the author, Holly Hickman is a friend of mine, but I was not given a free copy and she doesn't even know I am writing this. Hi Holly!)

The book sets out criteria for real food in a restaurant context and gives details about each reviewed site (quality of food, taste, cost, any caveats or serenditipites). It would be a wonderful last-minute gift for out-of-town family and friends who care about their food or who just love to eat. I can attest to Holly's credentials a Woman of Taste, a gal with a large appetite and the palate to discern the good from the godawful. And she travels, yes indeed, being a journalist and all. So she has had good reason to find food that tastes good, won't make her sick in the long run and will even support the health of the planet. Now we just have to get her to explore the Tacoma area . . .or to get me to be a PNW contributor? How about it, Holly--do you want contributors at large?

So, I have 50+ lbs of lamb in my friend's freezer (thanks E--I intend to defrost mine tomorrow if the weather cooperates), I survived the doubtful Mexican meal, and I have a source for choosing restaurants in unfamiliar towns. Not a bad week for filling in the gaps!


Holly Hickman -Zee author of zee book said...

Oh my goodness, you sneaky thing! Thank you, Justine!

And, people, can I just take a minute here to attest to Justine's fantastic cooking skills? She is a veritable wonder from whom I am always learning something new.

You are much missed in Miami, dear one...

Holly Hickman (again!) said...

And you know what? That contributor-at-large thing ain't a bad idea. I shall mull it over...

Justine Raphael said...

Hey Holly! How was Italy? Working on Healthy Eats Here, The International Edition, eh?

Ah, I would love some cooking in Miami right about now, being that it's a typical rainy winter day in the North-Wet. Instead, I've got short ribs braising in the oven, the best defense against damp and cold.

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