As a food writer for the last several years I have been fortunate enough to meet many of the farmers, chefs, writers and artisans that I write about. These are some of my favorite experiences. Connecting a face to the name, sharing a meal and great conversation about their craft- their contribution to my culinary world.
In late September attended Chicago Gourmet, a huge 3 day food and wine festival in Millenium Park in Chicago, as a guest of Maple Leaf Farms Duck. This homegrown producer is the largest supplier of Pekin duck in the United States and it graces many a menu in the finest restaurants in the midwest and beyond. Not only is their duck top notch, but it is also available to the home cook like myself.
This trip was two-fold. I was to attend this food event and interact with visitors at the Maple Leaf booth, learn more about the product and share my own perspective on cooking with duck with others. That is easy. I not only love duck but I had decided a few years ago that teaching others how healthy and easy to prepare duck is was going to be a mission of mine. Learning from their staff of dedicated people was a priceless experience.
The flip side of this was that joining us was renowned chef Sara Moulton and she would be doing a live cooking show on the Bon Appetit stage that featured Maple Leaf duck. This recipe was for Bistro Duck Breasts and start to finish she had this made in under 30 minutes. She shared tips on preparation, parings and how to make this healthy meal on a weeknight. You know, when time is a premium.
You can imagine that this was a big weekend for me and I want to thank Nora, Beth L, Beth J, Carl, Phil and the whole Maple Leaf team for including me and making me feel like a part of your team. I learned so much over the course of 3 days with you all not only about duck, but also about myself. The culinary celebrity sightings were fun and I had some pretty fantastic food from Chicago-area eateries that I am still thinking about
Sara and I spoke several times about authenticity, being your true self and cooking from the heart. Not just cooking to your audience, but for those who matter. In my case that is my family. She really ‘Got’ what I am all about. Maximizing family time, feeding them well, leading a healthy life and igniting your creative passion. Whether it be through writing or creating something delicious with your own hands, Sara sparked something in me. Lit a fire that needed to be lit. Maybe it was her straightforward and down to Earth demeanor, maybe it was the personal memories with Julia Child that she shared with us all weekend. Either way I am looking at things differently. Sara has risen and maintained a respectable following over the years in her uncompromisingly professional and realistic cooking style. Real food, real people-real lives.
Below I have shared a few pictures highlights of our weekend. Please take a moment to visit not only Sara’s WEBSITE but Maple Leaf Farms WEBSITE as well. Visit Sara and Maple Leaf on FACEBOOK and be sure to tell them I sent you. Want to try Maple Leaf Farms Duck for yourself? Click HERE for a discount coupon. I only ever order online and it comes perfectly packaged and cold every time. Find their new ground duck as well as the AWESOME new duck bacon. Really people. This is off the hook good.