Last month I traveled a little more than 2,700 miles to experience the place where the “real food” revolution started -Alice Water’s Chez Pannise in Berkley, California. It was just as I had dreamed – the atmosphere dim and casual, the space filled with glossy tarts and ripe local produce. It felt like pulling up a chair at Alice’s dining room table.
The evening’s menu was filled with simple dishes that highlighted the best produce of the Bay Area that day – including the “purslane” that garnished my fennel salad with fig preserves. I had never heard of purslane before that night and our server smiled when I asked what the “baby jade-like succulent” was on my plate. Since my trip, I now have a pot of purslane growing in my kitchen on Mendenhall.
It would be foolish to think the trendiness of locally, organically, and sustainably grown food emerged from nowhere and it was a treat to experience the place where it began. In my reflection, shortly after Chez Panisse’s 40th anniversary, I thought about Greensboro’s piece of that tradition.
Just a little more than a mile away from Mendenhall, Greensboro has it’s own official space dedicated to the “we are what we eat” mentality – our own Edible Schoolyard at the Greensboro Children’s Museum. The garden isn’t just a knock off, it is the only official (licensed by Alice herself) Edible Schoolyard at a Children’s Museum in the country. Our Schoolyard, set smack- dab in the middle of our growing and somewhat-bustling downtown is perfectly picturesque – landscaped meticulously by their gardener Justin and decorated with handmade place markers. It is filled with everything from herbs to corn, rice, chickens, bees and bunnies (what children insist are kitties with big ears). The Greensboro Children’s Museum is leading and supporting the same effort to teach our children, parents and adults the value of understanding, enjoying and sharing food in Greensboro.And while the garden may have been built for Greensboro’s children, it welcomes kids of all ages. This past week, I hosted the Elmwood Garden Club for their monthly meeting at the Edible Schoolyard. Thirty-five women were let loose in the “playground” to explore while being treated to wine and fall hors D’oeuvres created from the garden. Hot cast iron skillets of bubbling fontina cheese with herbs and mushrooms, pulled pork with sweet onion, fig and thyme jam on locally-made Anna Mae’s Sweet Potato Molasses Rolls, skewers of roasted brussel sprouts with portuguese sausage and endive with local goat cheese, sweet and spicy pecans with seasonal pears.
We ate family style under barn with the glow of both the fall moon and the newly-fixed time display atop the Lincoln Financial Building. Conversations were shared of family dinner tables, recipes passed through generations, culinary failures and lessons learned. These conversations were, in fact, reminders of the importance of Alice’s message and the Children’s Museum’s work.
We finished our evening in the garden with Big Kid Chocolate Truffles with Cinnamon and Chili Pepper. They were bold in flavor with a salty bite and a spicy kick. Again, we are what we eat.
These chocolate truffles will be the perfect treat for your adult (and adventurous kids) this Halloween.
Chili and Cinnamon Dark Chocolate Truffles with Salted Pumpkin Seeds
- 8 ounces, semisweet chocolate
- 8 ounces, bittersweet chocolate
- 1 (14oz) can, sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon, or to taste, ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon, or to taste, ground chipotle chili pepper
- pinch, cayenne pepper
- 1 bag, dark chocolate chips
- salted pumpkin seeds
Over medium heat using a double boiler, heat the semi sweet and bittersweet chocolate until melted. Add condensed milk. Stir with a spatula until glossy. Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, chipotle and cayenne pepper. Taste for seasoning – feel free to make them as spicy as you’d like!
Remove from heat, cover and refrigerate for two hours.
Once chilled, roll in balls. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring in-between, until melted. Roll the chocolate balls into the chocolate until coated. Sprinkle with salted pumpkin seeds.