Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Recap of the March Swap and April Registration

This past weekend, on March 9, the Chicago Food Swap met at Free Range Office, a co-working space in the heart of Wicker Park, for a fun and lively swap. With fifty or so attendees, this swap was smaller than the February swap, but the group was diverse and the offerings exciting.

For only the second time in over two years, I charged a fee to register for the swap. My goal in doing so was to reduce the number of last-minute cancellations and no-shows -- critical for smaller swaps like this one -- and to help cover some of my out-of-pocket expenses, like printing and supplies. I know that some swappers resisted this change and I understand their concern. But charging a small fee of $5 significantly reduced the percentage of last-minute cancellations and no-shows. Going forward, some swaps will remain free, typically the larger ones, but some swaps will have a fee associated with them. If you have questions about this change, please feel free to email me.  

All the swappers were charmed by location of the March swap. Located on the second floor of a converted glove factory, Free Range Office is filled with light and unique original features. Freelancers, entrepreneurs, creative types, and anyone who is self-employed can rent office space at Free Range Office and access the company's many amenities. The space is open, features a full kitchen and has plenty of private nooks and crannies for meetings. Free Range Office is also available for events. With plenty of tables and counter space, it was an ideal spot for a food swap.

The crowd was the usual mix of veteran swappers and newcomers. It was a treat to see so many familiar faces. Veteran swapper Chris and her husband Steve brought several offerings, but I was happiest to see that they brought more of the Winter Slaw with Citrus Dressing that I missed last time. Gena brought more of her popular cherry hand pies, pictured above, and some savory galettes, one of which made a great dinner for me last night. Food blogger Christina brought mustard and the beautiful galettes de rois in the top photo.

Tracey, who is famous for her buckeyes, brought Magic Mushroom Powder and some chocolate-peanut butter bars, but some folks (ahem!) missed the buckeyes. There were roasted coffee beans and bright pink beet hummus from Maddy and her husband, who have been to every swap this year so far. Culinary instructor Susan brought some fabulous cinnamon rolls and a South Asian rice pilaf. As usual, the veterans swappers mixed it up with tried-and-true favorites and some brand-new offerings.

Michelle, one of the most experienced swappers, ended up coming at the last minute with her daughter and brought vegan granola to specifically to trade with Ian, who was coming for the second time. Ian expressed to me his gratitude to folks who made an effort to make vegan items and label them as such. I was pleased that I could swap my pizza dough for his tangy red onions. I was so inspired by talking to Ian about vegan cooking that I am planning a vegan theme for the May swap!

The new swappers are always nervous, but in fact, they all brought amazing items.  I was happy to swap for first-timer Jason's pimento cheese biscuits. Yum! And the group that brought the lumpia? Amazing! Hanne, another newcomer, brought the most beautiful sugar flowers I have ever seen. Jenny and her friend were first-time swappers who set up next to me and I was very happy to trade for two of their Gooey Blackberry Butter Bars. The name alone was worth it! Andrea, another first-time swapper, brought flour she milled herself.

There were even a few folks who drove quite a ways to attend. Marie, who is the founder of the St. Louis Food Swap, drove up from Missouri to swap her whole wheat boules. Veteran swappers Tara and Danielle came from Indiana with their very tolerant husbands and thank goodness they did! Tara's duck and turkey eggs were the hottest item there, and Danielle's St. Patrick's Day-themed Irish soda bread, toffee and whiskey-flavored cupcakes were pretty popular too.

There were so many more amazing items that I can't even list them all. In addition to everything I've mentioned here, I saw jams and marmalade, delicious baked goods, unusual items like turmeric milk, homemade bath salts and more. It was truly overwhelming. My thanks to everyone who came and to our gracious host, Liane, from Free Range Office.

Everyone was asking about the April swap and I am delighted to say that we will be returning to The Chopping Block on April 6. The swap will begin at 3 pm. This will be a large swap because The Chopping Block kindly gives us two of their kitchens to use, and it is free to register. Registration for the April swap is now live.

The Chicago Food Swap is trying something new this month and using the MealSharing.com's platform for registration. The benefit of this platform is that it allows us to create profiles, review one another's food swap items, and message each other -- like for a recipe -- in between events. You will have to create a profile on Meal Sharing and, yes, you will be asked for a credit card. There will not be a charge to your card for this event. If this is nonetheless a concern for you, please email Emily or reach out to her on Facebook

Hope to see everyone in April!

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