Imagine an evening of cocktails and nibbles with fellow farmland enthusiasts. That’s what happened on a frigid evening in Chicago when American Farmland Trust fans braved the cold to save farmland.
Food star Sarah Stegner, chef/partner at Prairie Fire in Chicago, has been a tireless advocate for local food. She’s a co-founder of Chicago’s Green City Market, widely considered one of the best in the nation for its focus on producers who farm with care for the environment and for setting higher standards for the entire region. I first got to know Sarah years ago when I served on Green City’s organizing board.
When she invited me to serve as guest bartender at Prairie Fire there was no question about which cocktail I’d make and which not-for-profit would get my tips.
My cocktail would be a Midwest Manhattan made with Templeton Rye, a craft distillery in Iowa using a prohibition-era recipe and some Michigan cherries. I had met president Scott Bush at the Des Moines farmers market where he was selling rye whiskey barbecue sauce created by one of his partners Michael Killmer. Delicious discoveries like this were highlights of my road trip across eight Midwestern states to research my upcoming book, Seasonal Markets of the Heartland.
It was during my research that I also met a number of the dynamic team members behind American Farmland Trust. I had known supporters of the organization for some time, but got more enamored when I learned about the work they do to help farmland stay in agriculture and stem the loss of land to development. The effervescent Anita Zurbrugg traveled from DeKalb, Illinois, to join the festivities. And Chef Sarah made sandwiches from Tallgrass Beef and rye bread custom baked by Bennison’s Bakery.
All in all, it was a convivial group with a passion for farms and an easy way to help engage others in supporting local farms and food.
Templeton Rye is the perfect golden whiskey here, set off by cherries from my home state of Michigan, steeped in a boozy concoction created by Prairie Fire mixologist Daniel Sviland.
1½ jiggers Templeton Rye small batch
1 jigger sweet vermouth
1 squirt (about two teaspoons) boozy cherry juice
3 boozy Michigan cherries
whisper of bitters
Put a handful of ice into a cocktail shaker, then add Templeton Rye, sweet vermouth and boozy cherry juice. Shake well, then pour into a glass. Top with bitters and add boozy cherries. Of course, you can vary the proportions according to your taste.
Boozy cherry juice
Stir together equal parts brandy, sweet vermouth, maraschino syrup and simple syrup. The amount will vary depending on how many cherries you want to steep, but a half cup each should be enough for a several cups of cherries. Add pitted cherries, cover and refrigerate for four days or up to six weeks.
How to make simple syrup: boil equal parts sugar and water until slightly thickened, about five minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
About the Author: Janine MacLachlan is a food writer, farm groupie and author of Seasonal Markets of the Heartland, to be published in spring 2012 by University of Illinois Press. She’s been devoted to local food for years, working with Slow Food and Chicago’s Green City Market to pave the way for small farmers to connect with eager eaters. Visit her blog at RusticKitchen.com or follow her on Twitter. http://twitter.com/RusticKitchen