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The Scrumptious Pantry and Slow Food Chicago are hosting The Beaver Dam Pepper Centennial Celebration, a series of events to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Beaver Dam pepper in Chicago from Sept. 17 to 23.
The Scrumptious Pantry, a gourmet food company that works with sustainable family farms, and the nonprofit Slow Food Chicago, which promotes sustainable food, are having the red, mildly spicy Beaver Dam peppers, where they will be served at restaurants, farmers’ markets, and in-store tastings during the centennial celebration.
Joseph Hussli brought the Beaver Dam pepper to Beaver Dam, Wis., in 1912. It is at risk for extinction because it is more difficult to grow than the more modern, hybrid varieties. The Beaver Dam pepper grows to be 9 inches long, which requires the plants to be trellised, making them harder to cultivate, according to event organizers.
"The Beaver Dam Pepper Centennial Celebration has been created to introduce people to delicious flavor and complexity of this heirloom pepper. In addition, we want to share the pepper’s history and demonstrate the importance of preserving heirloom food traditions," said Scrumptious Pantry founder Lee Greene.
Celebratory events include the Tour de Menu at local restaurants like Lula Café, Birchwood Kitchen, Uncommon Ground and Green Zebra, where local chefs will feature the Beaver Dam pepper on special menu from Sept. 21 to 23. Birchwood Kitchen is hosting a Beaver Dam Pepper Brunch featuring a dish of peperonata, lemon-garlic Swiss chard, grilled bread, poached eggs, and Beaver Dam pepper relish; Green Zebra is serving basil cavatelli with roasted summer fennel, Beaver Dam chile coulis, and pea tendrils; and Standard Market Deli is serving Beaver Dam pepper quesadillas.
Slow Food Chicago and The Scrumptious Pantry will be popping up at select farmers' markets in Chicago, like Lincoln Square Market on Sept. 18, Daley Market on Sept. 20, Green City Market on Sept. 22, and Logan Square Market on Sept. 23 to share the story of the peppers, and pass out samples, recipes, and seed packets.
The Beaver Dam Pepper Centennial Celebration also includes demonstrations and in-store tastings at Marcel’s Culinary Experience and Provenance Food & Wine on Sept. 21 and Apple Fest and Provence Food & Wine, City Olive, and Standard Market on Sept. 22.
Lauren Mack is the Travel Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @lmack.
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Fate of this year's Dodge County Fair, flea markets unknown
The fate of the 2020 Dodge County Fair and monthly flea markets in Beaver Dam is still up in the air.
The fair is scheduled for August 19-23 and the first of the flea markets is scheduled for May 23.
Planning in Beaver Dam is on hold while organizers await state limitations to be lifted from the COVID-19 pandemic, and additional guidance from state officials.
Officials said the Fair Board met earlier this week to talk about options for the fair, but with too many unknowns, the board decided it was too early to make any final decisions on this year's events.
Dodge County Fairgrounds officials said they are still waiting on final interpretations on whether or not flea markets and vendor fairs are essential. Organizers said a final decision cannot be made until May 21, two days before the first market.
The board hopes to hold the flea market in some capacity, which supports Frosty's Fosters Animal Rescue.
The remaining flea markets are scheduled for June 20, July 18, August 29, September 19 and October 17.
A Visit to En Season Cafe in Galesburg
I heard about the Sustainable Business Center in Galesburg from a friend and I have been wanting to visit ever since. An end-of-Summer kid-trip to the Galesburg Children’s Museum was the perfect excuse. Not exactly on the beaten path, the SBC is a business incubator to assist the development of green, innovative companies through business support resources and services. In addition to several green businesses, they have a commercial kitchen for rent and they operate En Season Cafe, offering a daily menu of locally-sourced food. The Cafe is only open Wednesday-Friday, 11:00 am-2:00 pm and Saturday, 9:00 am-2:00 pm. There are five local farms, including one dairy and one livestock, who provide much of the food served at the restaurant.
The menu changes daily depending on what’s available from the farm but usually includes a selection of soups, sandwiches, salads, entrees, and dessert, but maybe only 1 or 2 of each. We had half a grilled cheese sandwich with white cheddar from Milton Farms in Iowa on multi-grain bread (it was excellent – I’ll find out where it came from) and a bowl of Provencal Pistou soup. Doesn’t sound that exciting, but the grilled cheese is one of their specialties. The hot, gooey, richness of the wonderful cheddar was balanced by the hearty, chewy, crunchy multi-grain loaf. The Pistou, a hearty French soup with potatoes, zucchini, corn, and an herbed “pesto” on top was actually lighter than it sounds especially on the 102 degree Summer day we were experiencing! It tasted fresh and straight from the field. Our lunches were garnished with the fattest pickle I have ever seen – and the taste was like nothing I have ever eaten. It wasn’t as sharp and vinegar-y as a store-bought dill, but still had a distinct biting flavor and a nice, satisfying crunch. I suspect someone had just made it.
The Cafe has an open kitchen with a counter for viewing and eating as well as traditional tables and chairs. They sell some fresh produce and all kinds of grains, flours, dried beans, herbs, honey, and other dry goods. On Wednesdays they host a small farmers market. All-in-all, well worth a trip to experience the whole package and support our local farmers. This is how eating out should be – a limited menu, fresh, fresh ingredients, and an open, easy atmosphere that’s efficient, inexpensive and very, very enjoyable.