— Renee's notes from behind the bar —
Summer has arrived, and that means iced drinks of various kinds are available to you morning, high noon and night. Up until a couple of years ago, a favorite (and necessary) start to a summer day for me was an iced coffee, quickly gulped so the caffeine could go ahead and start its work. I’d pour some espresso over ice and think that’s all the world could offer me in the early hours. I was reasonably content. Then we started making cold brew coffee here at Food Dance. Cold brew, you say? I call it iced coffee, but que sera, they’re the same thing...right?
Oh no, and as in love, chemistry has everything to do with it. I never thought about nor used to care what happens when two-hundred-degree water hits coffee grounds, I just wanted the coffee, but apparently hot water and cool, filtered water affect coffee grounds very differently. The fatty acids and oils that are released at high temps aren’t if you soak coffee grounds in cool water, and let them sit a day at room temperature. This ‘cold brewing’ gives you a product that is smoother, fruitier, much less acidic and therefore seems sweeter than regularly brewed coffee. Can’t imagine drinking coffee without spoonfuls of sugar and cream? Try cold brew without any; you’ll be amazed. The sweetener and dairy you used before to balance the acid and bitterness may not be necessary.
Making cold brew coffee is easier than you may think. It just requires patience. To start, slowly mix four ounces of your favorite coarsely-ground coffee with 2 ½ cups of water. Slowly, because you want to allow the coffee to ‘bloom’ and release its wonderful aromatics. Blooming happens when you add only enough water to dampen the grounds and let it sit for a bit before adding the rest of the water. (about 10 minutes for cold brew). This allows the carbon dioxide that gets trapped in the beans during roasting to be released. The fresher the beans, the bigger the ‘bloom’- which looks like the grounds are swelling up- because carbon dioxide will be released naturally over time. Once the coffee has bloomed, add the rest of the water to the container, be it a mason jar or Tupperware, seal it and leave it at room temp for 18 to 24 hours. This is where the patience comes into play. A day or two later, strain the coffee through a paper filter (it may need to be strained twice to remove all the grounds), and now you’ve got cold brew ‘concentrate’. Add another 2 ½ cups of water, more or less to taste, and you’re ready to start sippin’.
Currently, you’ll see us barrel aging and infusing spirits with everything from fruits, nuts, herbs, roots and vegetables to smoke, tea and various botanicals. And we love pickled things. We’re just going to pickle everything we can get our hands on, so you may just find something tasty garnishing the next cocktail you order.
I find it rather fitting that on the anniversary of our birth, that is Food Dance's, I should find myself listening to one of the local food movement's most charismatic spokespersons, Michael Pollan. I heard him echo the same work and thoughts I have spent the last 20 years working to bring to this community. Never setting out to change the way people saw food, I only knew it was better tasting and I knew the people who grew it. 20 years ago no one wanted to recognize that we were bringing them real food they just knew it tasted good and we offered a relaxed, attentive, fun experience. We brought sitting down to eat a meal together possible even during the workday by having a counter where people engaged in conversation with perhaps strangers.
Michael told many familiar stories like how McDonald's pretty much single handedly moved our farming industry to one of a commodity confinement farming models. How what we eat from the industrial food companies is rapidly increasing our health care costs causing the largest increase in type 2 diabetes in our youth and how our government subsidizes the very products that cause us the most harm, corn and
He talked about the feedback of the high costs of using local food, eating healthy whole foods while fast food appears cheap and well faster than buying raw food and cooking it.
Something dear to my heart that I will continue to work towards is education for our children to be actively involved in their food by planting harvesting cooking preserving their food so they will know how to better feed themselves. I have always thought, being a teacher from the start, that middle school children should be out in the community doing volunteer work, engaging because their hormones keep them from gaining any traditional learning in the classroom. They want to have busy hands and they should...in the dirt, in the kitchen, in the community. Michael Pollan spoke of the same thought tonight and it made me smile and to strengthen the Vision of creating a way for Food Dance to make this happen in our community.
The candy canes in the Food Dance Market from Hannah’s Natural Hard Candies, of Tukwila, WA, have become a tradition for many of our guests and staff alike. Hannah’s Natural is one of only a few companies still making candy canes the way they were made in the 1800’s. They’ve preserved the techniques and the art of candy making, and paired that with recipes that have been handed down through the generations. Each candy cane is literally a unique, edible piece of art. It is also important to note that these candy canes are all natural made of sugar, corn syrup, peppermint oil and natural colors derived from fruits and vegetables.
So what does it take to craft a handmade candy cane?
Cook up a batch of sugar, water and corn syrup until it becomes a translucent candy ‘dough’. Pour hot candy ‘dough’ onto a counter and begin folding it, so that it cools evenly. Set aside a portion for your colored strip. Then begin pulling the candy dough, using a hook. Picture the ‘dough’ being hung on a coat hook, then pulled down, and folded back onto its self. Then repeat many, many times. Each pull is actually breaking the sugar crystals and allowing air in. This is what causes the translucent ‘dough’ to turn white. Once the pulling is complete the ‘dough’ is formed into an oblong loaf, the strip is fashioned and added, and then finally the actual sticks of candy are pulled, rolled and formed into the Sheppard’s Hook shape we have all come to see as a candy cane. Of course it isn’t as easy as it sounds, or looks
(check out the videos If you can spare 13 minutes click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPEHsj3UDR4 , if you have 5 minutes, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCFcptJsaQ0.)
The Hannah’s Natural Candy Canes are available in traditional, or chocolate filled, both equally delicious. The Food Dance Market still has a few on hand, so if your in need of the perfect stocking stuffer, package topper, cocoa stirrer (spiked coffee, too), round-trip ticket down memory lane or a new holiday tradition stop in and pick up one or two.
Food Dance Bar
The Food Dance bartenders are pros! They take pride in making cocktails using classic mixology techniques & fresh ingredients. There is a lot of behind the scenes squeezing, juicing and blending that the bartenders do to create solid base elements for many of the cocktails. They now have a fabulous commercial juicing machine to lighten the load and allow us to make OJ squeezed to order and fresh homemade lemonades. We hope you taste the freshness & attention to detail!
At Food Dance, in Michigan, in the Midwest, in America... We eat meat. Well the vast majority of us do anyway. We're not trying to put lipstick on a pig, we understand and respect the exchange in this equation. The simple fact is a living animal dies in order to put meat on our plate.
In a perfect food system there wouldn’t be a reason to talk about ‘sustainable’ and ‘humanely’ raised animals, period. But in the US, our food system is far from perfect. There are lots of ideas about what to change, but no one seems to be able to tell us exactly what or when that change might happen on a large scale. If we want real change, it will have to start at home. Here at Food Dance, we are working hard to make contributions, initiate change, and promote improving our food system in all the ways we can within our small sphere.
Chef Robb's Meat Month Reflections
I was preparing to teach a class for the Food Dance staff about the meat we serve, as well as the general state of the industry, I realized that the quality of meat and proteins I want to eat, and serve to others, is viewed as a luxury. Just the way meat at every meal would have been an extravagance throughout much of history, not to mention in many cultures today.
Many have explained what the importance of humanely and sustainably raised animals are for the environment as well as those who consume the meat, much more eloquently than I ever could. Google Joel Salatin, Alice Waters, Michael Pollan (among many others) for eloquence. I'm a Chef, and here's how I see it.
The Food Dance definition of
QUALITY MEAT is:
The animal will live outside in an environment that is as close to nature as that animal would choose on it’s own.
The animal is only fed enough food to be healthy, not to gain weight in an unhealthy or unnatural manner.
The animals food does not contain any animal by-product. By-products of a farm or food industry, are acceptable. If your neighbor is a cheese maker with good practices and your pigs love the leftover whey, then let them eat whey. After all the Italians have been doing that for generations... It's called prosciutto!
The slaughter of the animal is to be done in a manner that is as humane to the animal as possible. For example the hogs we get from Young Earth Farms go through Devries Meats in Coopersville. Devries puts all of it’s hogs to sleep with CO2 before they are killed. This allows the animal to come to rest in a calm and respectful manner.
As Executive Chef at a large restaurant like Food Dance, I’m in a unique position to prepare, serve and expose a large number of guests to quality meat. We feel we can have a meaningful impact on our farming community by locally sourcing quality meats that we serve 160,000 guests annually. This is my contribution to the 'meat conversation' but I say that with the understanding that each individual defines ‘quality meat’ for themselves and their families.
Thankfully there are many people in our community that actively choose to spend, roughly 30%, more for an omelet or chicken sandwich that is made with these family farmed meats, rather than the meat of factory and confinement raised animals. It may seem obvious, but without our guests our mission would not be possible.
The farming profession is the epitome of the "what you put in, is what you get back" mentality. The Carlsons as a family and a farm personify a strong work-ethic and integrity. They would have found success whether or not Norm Carlson had ever walked into my office 3 years ago. It began with a simple handshake agreement. Then through an open, honest working relationship, Food Dance and Carlson’s Farm has formed a true partnership. Carlson’s Farm provides our kitchen with 500-600 dozen hand picked eggs and 500-600 pounds of whole chickens (that are then processed by our very own, in-house Butchers), all from completely pastured chickens…
and that’s each and every week! These numbers alone are staggering but it is their hard work and commitment to quality that is truly inspiring.
Having an owner like Julie is the final piece that makes all this possible. I have worked at Food Dance off and on since 1998. We strive to be profitable, it’s just that we continually make choices through her leadership that align with our company's vision, and that vision doesn’t place profits at the top. As a result we often make choices that whittle away the bottom line, by choosing to spend more money on local, quality ingredients. My relationship with Julie is almost as rare as the relationship Food Dance has with the Carlson’s. Julie knows that if we are honest in our approach to cooking and serving the community, the community will support us.
Every loaf is made by hand in our own bakery.
Making great bread isn’t an easy task, so it’s a good thing that’s not why we do it! Why did we want to make our own bread? Because we are so passionately committed to making traditional artisan foods right here at Food Dance, and frankly we were a bit tired of the drive across the state to Ann Arbor. Besides, our bakers just LOVE to bake! With so much passion to be found under our own roof, we decided to push forward and try our hand at making bread.
What goes into each loaf? Time, love and great ingredients.
Well beyond the love and care of our bakers... It’s very looooooong rising time (18-24 hours) to allow the great flavor and a great crumb to develop. Combine that with naturally fermented sourdough starters, some yeast in the Brioche, 4 Grain and Ciabatta, unbleached spring patent flour, whole wheat berries, whole oats, local potatoes, free range eggs, fresh Wisconsin Grassland unsalted butter, Michigan honey, toasted caraway seeds, fresh rosemary, sea salt, and extra virgin olive oil and you’re rewarded with a great loaf!
We are excited to share our new breads with you, and we plan to keep introducing new breads. Just give us some time... and please let us know what you think!
Julie & The Bakers at Food Dance
For 18 years we have had the pleasure and privilege of serving Zingerman's Bakehouse breads. This has been, from the beginning, one of Food Dance's most important relationships. This relationship was forged far before that, through Julie's friendship with Ari and Frank, along with her ties to the Ann Arbor community.
As a young cook I had never seen anything like it. Bread with a look, shape and flavor, that I had only heard about from my Grandmother's descriptions of bread she had seen on her European trips. My family has a long tradition of bread baking, but this was unlike anything Mom or Grandpa ever made. Bread with an incredible crust, light and airy while being fresh and chewy on the inside.
As a "sandwich guy" it was also my nemesis. I laughed at Smitty during my initial Food Dance training, 13 years ago, when he said we cut all of our bread by hand. By then I had worked in way too many local restaurants, and not one of them so much as cut a baguette to order. Training to cut bread properly is a rite of passage for every FD cook. Getting the angle, thickness, and speed down takes months, all while praying to god that the serrated blade doesn't slip off the crust. If you sliced short of the 2 cm thick slice or "way too long" Julie knew, and that meant you knew shortly after. My dad and brother have mechanic's hands. I have bread cutting hands, pretty similar. No matter where I've cooked, I've always known how to slice great bread thanks to the partnership of Zingerman’s Bakehouse and Food Dance.
The staff at the Bakehouse have been great to work with. Patient when our orders were always late, truly concerned with any product issues, but first and foremost bakers of great bread and bakers that you could always count on.
Today (October 22, 2012) was the first day that we served exclusively Food Dance baked bread in our dining room, turning the page on a great business relationship that grew together as both companies grew in size. While developing our own bread recipes we were constantly aware of how high the bar was set. It was easy to see when we came up short, and much harder to decide if it was met. After all our guests were accustomed to the quality and craftsmanship of Zingerman’s Bakehouse breads. I would like to thank every person that helped make both companies better by contributing to the amazing breads made at Zingerman's Bakehouse over the last 18 years, and hoping the next 18 and beyond are just as successful. The Zingerman’s Bakehouse bread quality is and always will be the standard we measure ourselves against. Thanks again for everything, even the nicks and cuts.
Robb & The Food Dance Family
I have never felt as welcomed in another country as I do in Ireland. Traveling to southern Ireland again this fall was a reminder of all that I love about that country. Wonderful friendly kind people, rich lush green landscape with cows and sheep welcomed across our paths, artfully stacked rocks separating pastures and vibrant colored hedges of hydrangeas and fuchsia that brushed our rented car.
But it is truly the food that I love. From well cared for animals comes so many cheeses with so much flavor, the Cashel Blue, St. Tola goat cheese, Gubbeen or Vintage Cheddar. I wish I could of brought back some of the 10 lbs I purchased at the Cork market, we carried it with us for most of 5 days as we traveled to the west coast and back to Dublin munching happily on our way but alias we consumed it all!
This St. Patty’s day the celebration on of authentic Irish food begins Thursday and continues on through Saturday (when the parade comes to downtown) and onto Sunday -come celebrate with us at Food Dance as we offer you some great traditional Irish foods… all day long.
Food Dance Founder