Monday, February 10, 2014

Recap of the February Swap

Many swap items had a Valentine's Day theme.

The Chicago Food Swap held its February swap this past weekend, on February 8, at the kitchens of All Natural Chicago Catering, a local catering company specializing in healthy, freshly made food for corporate and private events. Husband and wife owners Tess and Mickey -- he's the chef -- were incredibly gracious hosts and everyone loved their funky loft kitchen and event space. If you are looking for a caterer for your next office breakfast or lunch or for a special event, definitely check out All Natural Chicago's menu of delicious, healthy options. 

Roast your own coffee beans? Why not? Swappers Mike and Maddie do.
Despite falling snow and slippery roads, the swappers trekked to the Near West side of Chicago to trade their delicious and creative homemade foods. As usual, the crowd was a mix of experienced swappers -- many of whom stepped up to help with set-up, photography and general trouble-shooting -- and newcomers.

Because the bad weather made many people late, we did not start swapping until forty-five minutes after the swap started, which gave the people extra time to mingle, sample and talk. I always get a little thrill when I overhear snippets of conversations about recipes, cooking techniques and ingredients. These moments of shared knowledge and passion are the heart of this dynamic, diverse community. And I do mean diverse: there were swappers there from all over the Chicago area, ranging in age from fifteen to seventy, vegans and carnivores, all brought together by a shared love of homemade food.

Buckeyes are a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate-peanut confection
It being almost Valentine's Day, the candy-makers were out in full force. I saw caramels adorably packaged in brown paper cones, gorgeous Neapolitan marshmallows, several kinds of fudge, homemade buckeyes (got some!) and Mounds bars, candied citrus peel, caramel and chocolate sauces and English toffee. Will any of these confections last until Valentine's Day? Given the rate at which my buckeyes are disappearing, I doubt it.

Fougasse from Colin: a French version of foccacia
The bakers had also been busy. There was an amazing assortment of cookies -- many with a Valentine theme -- brownies, biscotti, doughnut holes, vegan cinnamon rolls from new swapper Ian, quick breads, muffins, adorable cherry hand pies from Genevieve and Kelly's no-bake Biscoff bars. Swapper Colin brought some of this amazing artisanal bread again; I was lucky enough to score one of his loaves of sun-dried tomato fougasse, which is like a French version of foccacia. One swapper apparently had brought blue cheese biscuits - I wished I had seen those!

Fabulous varieties of handmade pasta
Fortunately, there were plenty of savory items to balance out all the sweets. Some first-time swappers brought a beautiful assortment of homemade pastas. (I brought two bags of my homemade pappardelle but I felt a little sheepish seeing all the different varieties that the real pasta-makers had brought.) Several people brought soup which, given the weather, was very smart. One new swapper made a delicious Indian-spiced chickpea dish and I also noticed several different kinds of grains, from rice to quinoa.Swapper Genevieve made some people very happy with her broccoli frittatas.

When coming to a swap, it is always a good idea to look for some shelf-stable or pantry items to bring home in addition to all the delicious treats that need to be consumed in a day or two. Among the shelf-stable offerings were flavored salts and sugars, plenty of jams, marmalade and pickles, mustard, and roasted coffee beans from swapping couple Mike and Maddie.. You could also stock your refrigerator with drink syrups, compound butter and for the adults, distilled whiskey and Meyer limoncello (from me). And swapper Serena really thought outside the box with her organic moisturizing body spray - just the thing to get us through this winter.

Drink syrups are one of my favorite swap items
It was really a terrific swap, as you can tell from the photos, and I hope that everyone who braved the weather to attend felt that it was worthwhile. For those who were unable to come due to bad roads, we certainly understand and you were missed.

Tickets for the March 9 swap went on sale today and are already going fast. Our host for the March swap is Free Range Office, a cool co-working space in the heart of Wicker Park. This will be a smaller event due to space constraints so do not wait to register! There will be a small fee of $5 to register for the March swap. This fee is intended to discourage last-minute cancellations and no-shows and will help defray some of the swap's costs, such as printing and supplies. If you have questions or feedback about the fee, please contact Emily.  Hope to see many of you there!

1 comment:

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