Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Recap of the April Swap and Information about May

This past weekend the Chicago Food Swap returned to The Chopping Block, the spacious and beautiful cooking school located in the iconic Merchandise Mart, for its April swap. And it was an outstanding afternoon of sampling, swapping and shopping.

As I said in my opening remarks to the group, when we are at The Chopping Block, it is like the Cadillac of food swaps: there is plenty of room for everyone, the staff is extraordinarily helpful and swappers even get a 15% discount at The Chopping Block's retail store. (My purchases? A bottle of peppermint extract, hard-to-find Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate chips, a pasta drying rack and one Goo-Goo Cluster. Cha-ching!)

Many swappers were perusing The Chopping Block's class schedule for April and May and I certainly understand why.  Whether you are a novice or experienced cook, there is class at The Chopping Block for you. The classes are extremely informative but most of all, they are fun.

Registration for the April swap took place on the Meal Sharing platform and as a result, we had a large number of new swappers. It was delightful to meet some new people and to see what they had brought to swap.

Someone told me that it seemed like a particularly sweets-heavy swap. I am not sure that I agree, but I did end up bringing home three different kinds of cookies, Diana's Mexican hot chocolate brownies, a stunning strawberry tart made by Mike from Chicago Food Bloggers, strawberry lemonade syrup from Michelle, Andrea's cinnamon buns, and Hope's maple sugar candies, so maybe there were a lot of sweets! Luckily, I also managed to swap for Liz's eggs and butternut squash soup, Anna's ricotta, new swapper Christina's cheese straws, Lissa's red wine vinegar and veteran swapper Christina's whole wheat cinnamon bread.

Among the other creative and delicious offerings I saw were lumpia (Filipino egg rolls), Vietnamese spring rolls, kim chi, Habanero hot sauce, roasted coffee beans from regulars Mike and Maddy, pesto, pickles, scones, Tuscan ribollita soup, two different kinds of dog biscuits (!), wine jelly from my friend Dora, carrot-ginger dressing, drink syrups like rhubarb ginger, and chicken liver pate from a new swapper. So it wasn't all sweets!

In the end, I think the new and returning swappers alike had a great time. Everyone went home with delicious homemade treats for themselves (or their dogs!) and some fun new kitchen tools from The Chopping Block store.

The May swap will take place on May 18 at Green Home Experts in Oak Park. There will be a small fee for the May swap because it will likely be small due to space constraints and I want to discourage last-minute cancellations and no-shows. As long as you cancel with at least one week's notice, however, your fee will be refunded.

As announced previously, the May swap will have a vegan theme. Swapper are encouraged (not required) to bring vegan items to swap. By "vegan" we mean items that contain no animal products. Besides the obvious meat, dairy and eggs, some other products that come from animals are honey, casein and gelatin. For a more complete list check out Vegan Baking. The idea behind this theme is to be welcoming to the vegan members of our community and also to provide those of us who are not vegan with a new cooking challenge. I hope everyone will take it in that spirit!  

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