04 March 2012

these women are my village (part one)

in honor of women's history month i am working on a series of posts about the women in my life who have shared skills and knowledge, given me opportunities, and inspired me.  coincidentally this fits quite nicely with this year's theme: women’s education – women’s empowerment.  i have worked with (or for) many of them while others are friends or family members; some i'm connected to both professionally and personally.  i feel lucky to have encountered these powerful women who give me hope and aspirations.  my intentions and ideals are their collective reflection. 

i am grateful that they allowed me to learn from their experience and absorb their wisdom; without their influence and guidance i truly do not know where i would be.  i have no doubts that this is deeply rooted in their shared ability to encourage me to explore and sometimes test boundaries (to find myself).  because of this i do my best to remember how they have helped to change my perspective and attempt to frequently use the tools they have given me. my actions are their echos.

chef andrea baumgardner (ann arbor miller for mpr news)
to kick start the project i'd like to give a shout out to andrea baumgardner.  last year i had the pleasure of working with her at the green market kitchen.  unfortunately it wasn't very often or for long but i truly enjoyed every minute of it.  the way she operates her kitchen and her demeanor are a refreshing change of pace. she is far and away one of the best chefs i've ever met.

i definitely recommend eating there the next time you go out for dinner; but be sure to make reservations as they have limited seating and are quite popular.  once you taste her food it will immediately become obvious why - it is always impeccable.
Baumgardner has a great story: She grew up in Fargo, came to the Twin Cities to go to Macalester, went to cooking school in San Francisco, cooked at Chez Panisse, and opened the hottest restaurant in Los Angeles of 2001, Cobras and Matadors. One of the owners was from the rock band Tool.
Baumgardner decided to return to Fargo, because the quality of life is, as she told me, charming. Her restaurant is open Wednesday through Saturday, she serves North Dakota grass-pastured beef and lamb, chickens from a Hutterite colony in Hawley, Minn., and has enough time in her life that she gets to see her three-year-old.
as dara moskowitz-grumdahl of mpr stated, andrea uses fresh, local, organic ingredients (and does food trades for in-house credit with producers).  she so full of  passion and drive that she managed to figure out a way to be a chef in a way that works for her (and her adorable little family - who make frequent stops to the kitchen while she works).  food isn't just her job, it is her life and she wants to share it with her community.

because i was a server i did not get to spend a lot of time in the kitchen while andrea was preparing food but still managed to soak-in quite a bit about the dishes she was offering, their ingredients, and her methods; she happily answered all my questions and often took the time to discuss their cultural and historical significance.  she did a wonderful job ensuring that everyone learned about all different aspects of food service.

when you're at the kitchen it is easy to see the impact of her professionalism and dedication.  everyone spends an enormous amount of time and energy to ensure that each customer enjoys every bit (and bite) of their experience.  whether it is a catered event or dinner for two at the kitchen andrea exemplifies excellence in every way and expects the same from her employees.  she is simply amazing (and so is her food).

as their name suggests the green market is aware of their environmental impact and they actively try to reduce their waste.  some efforts include using biodegradable packaging, recycling, reducing, and reusing.  each summer they partner with probstfield farm to help promote regional organic agriculture and producers.  available year round are locally sourced retail items such as farm-fresh eggs, 'good butter', honey, and housemade baked goods & flax-seed crackers.  as bonus their menu often features gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options (other accommodations may be available upon request: scratchmade = control).

when you're there for dinner be sure to save room for cookies, tarts, and frozen desserts because even though andrea didn't fit into the full-time pastry box it does not mean she can't whip up a delicious dessert. (if i think hard enough i can still taste the local beta grape sorbet she made this summer.)  also don't forget to check out their cheese case as they have the best selection in town (ask to have a few samples before you decide which to purchase).  also, you may want to keep in mind that if you go early enough on saturdays you may be able to get your hands on one of their famous orange rolls or brett's bagels (i hear both are 'to die for').

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