A Week to Reflect

October 11th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words:

One week ago today seems like forever past.  Although the events of last Sunday required an immense amount of planning and preparation, they unfolded in a fraction of the time.  Monday morning brought what seemed like a deserted space, so vibrant and energy filled just a few hours prior.  We gathered, we saw, we ate, we reflected, we toasted, we shook hands, and we departed slightly changed – a little more connected with our neighbors, our city, and a place within it so long forgotten in ambiguity was brought to life in a new way.  The poetics of the juxtapositions of the project played out so close to the minds eye of the projects creators; infrastructure, scale, community, commodification, creativity, landscape, sustenance.  Very satisfying indeed, and motivation to go on creating more.

It is truly impossible to thank the hundreds of folks who made the day happen; from paltry paid organizers working out of passion, artists who flew in from far away places, volunteer table setters, animated servers, dedicated chefs and their staff, farmers, iron workers, fabulous photographers, grain elevator owners, neighbors with wheelbarrows and rakes, large format printers, people with the city who lent a hand, and sponsors and supporters who offered financial resources to something unknown and unprecedented, and of course those who blindly purchased tickets; the list is massive.  Thank you all.

Images courtesy Bryce Bridges Photographic & Andrey Mikityuk Photography

photos by
Bryce Bridges
Andrey Mikityuk
Corrie Suhr
Kameron Bayne

Chef Blog #10: Tim Shew, La Buvette

September 30th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words:

Watching Tim Shew in the kitchen at La Buvette is like witnessing a craftsman who has practiced his trade for decades.  He manuevers around the sparsely applianced, well aged space like second nature, while entertaining patrons eating and drinking at the bar with conversation about literature, obscure film, and his outdoorsman adventures.  The ease by which he multi-tasks is reason enough to sit at the bar.  In an hours time, I counted over 20 plates he composed from a couple of hotplates and a small counter oven.  Meats and cheeses, mussles with chorizo, clam fettucini, and creamy soups with beef cheeks.  Everything that comes from his hotplate is simple, elegant, and comforting.  Tim is a good fit in the space at La Buvette.

When asked about food, he talks about his fondness for simple, French cuisine.  Not fussy, but quality, recognizable, locally raised ingredients that can make even his eldest customers compare it to the olden days; when chicken actually tasted like chicken.  He raves about some of his favorite producers – mostly meat – and how ‘clean and real’ their products are.  If he had his own restaurant, it would be simple, farm to table, and lots of foraging – not growing, but truly foraging – finding things in the wild to incorporate into the menu.  The outdoorsman comes through here, and in some ways sets his personality apart from the other chefs.  He talks about being part of this project having exposed him to food technology – cryovacs, etc.  I suspect he will take it all in, but gladly go back to foraging in the woods.

Tim Shew is an Omaha native. He is a graduate of Central High School and holds a degree in Literature from Creighton University.  Tim’s mother was a home-ec teacher in the 1970′s, and though she was not in this line of work when he was born, she put great importance on learning to cook and family meals.  Therefore, like most cooks, Tim is a momma’s boy and learned to love the kitchen from a very young age.  After working at many local restaurants including California Taco and B&G Tasty Foods, Tim acquired a job cooking at La Buvette during his junior year of college.  He managed La Buvette for a year and a half and now cooks there four nights a week.

Chef Blog #9: Jacqui Caniglia, La Charlotte-Caniglia Pastries

September 29th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words:

Baker Jacqui Caniglia works out of a non-descript one story green building on the corner of 29th and Harney that overlooks the whirling buzz of I-480. Only a small sign above the door, almost imperceptible to passerbyers, indicates the buildings use: LA CHARLOTTE-CANIGLIA PASTRIES. This modest, three inch tall sign is representative of the modesty of the baker inside as she works diligently through the night while the rest of the world sleeps. I visited Jacqui in her kitchen at 1am and realized what a thankless job overnight baking can be – no one sees her come and go from a full days (nights) work. But the quiet of the world around was also strangely calming and almost rogue. When the world wakes in the morning, her hard work will greet them with treats and what Jacqui hopes will begin their day with delight.

Jacqui has been baking, professionally, for more than 15 years. After graduating from the Baltimore International Culinary College in 1995, she returned to Omaha and worked at Delice European Bakery. Several years after making the switch to La Charlotte, she decided to purchase the business in 2009 and became owner of La Charlotte-Caniglia Pastries. Jacqui continues with the tradition of excellent pastries while working to incorporate more locally supported produce. Everything that comes out of Jacqui’s oven is made from scratch using traditional methods, fruit from local orchards and farmers’ markets and eggs raised locally. Jacqui especially likes that her business is a family run operation born and raised right here in Omaha.

La Charlotte

What do you make in your kitchen?
I bake all kinds of sweet treats. I offer a variety of European style pastries that you would find in the countryside of France or Italy. My favorite things to bake are seasonal tarts ( a buttery crust, piled high with seasonal fruit and streusel on top).

What do you enjoy the most about baking?
I love what cooking and baking can do to the atmosphere around me. Good smells bring people together, lighten the mood and are excellent for conversation and gathering.

What makes your kitchen special?
I take great pride in the fact that everything coming out of my kitchen is made from scratch and by hand. It takes a lot longer but the results are worth it. I also love taking advantage of the seasonal offerings in the midwest. It starts off with rhubarb and goes right through the fall to pumpkins, apples and pears.

What does local food mean to you and your work?
Local food is of such great importance. It means supporting my community, better quality, better for the environment  and taking advantage of the bounty of each season.
Jacqui will be working with Pastry Artist Brigitte McQueen to create Apple Crisp, Carrot Cake with Honey Butter Cream, and Sweet Potato Cake with Candied Walnuts and Caramel Sauce as the grand finale to the October 3 Harvest Dinner.

Chef Blog #8: Paul Kulik, The Boiler Room

September 28th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words:

This is a challenging chef blog to write, mostly because the experiences I have had at The Boiler Room leave me searching for words about food.  I live life looking for nothing but great experiences and I think this is the only solid direction from which to approach this piece of writing.  The Boiler Room is an experience; from the space, to the drinks, to the grotesque and wonderful Vera Mercer art on the walls, to the first bite.  Several times, as a guest, I have found my non-foodie self brushing a few tears from my face in an increasingly rare kind of a moment in our busy and saturated world.  The first time was an olive tepanade, second time pork belly, third time a carefully concocted cherry infused brandy, fourth time lemongrass sausage, and fifth time a house charcuterie pastrami. Despite the hundreds of meals I have enjoyed in various locations around the world, each aforementioned incident at The Boiler Room was similar: an almost arresting moment.  And powerful enough that the second bite or drink seemed inappropriate.  Maybe even disrespectful. The Boiler Room is a special treat to which I bring each and every out-of-town guest.  I can be assured they will never forget Omaha.

The Boiler Room Restaurant is the current project of self-taught chef, Paul Kulik. This ingredient inspired farm to table restaurant in the Old Market came to be after having worked in kitchens in Berlin, Paris, Chicago, Omaha and Washington DC.  Paul met Boiler Room Restaurant owners Mark and Vera Mercer while spending five years running their other small Old Market French eatery, La Buvette.

While studying Physics at the University of Nebraska, Paul began working for Ken Hughes at the Bistro in the Market.  After graduating with degrees in Physics and French, Paul worked in numerous other Omaha restaurants and for Stefane Lazle at Restaurant Montmartre in Washington DC before settling at La Buvette.  La Buvette’s daily menu changes and true bistro cuisine helped pave the way for the truly farm ingredient driven constantly rotating menus at The Boiler Room.  Time spent in the kitchens of James Beard winner Koren Grieveson’s Avec in Chicago, Restaurant l’Adresse in Paris and one star Michelin chef Peter Frühsammer in Berlin give Paul an international approach to proudly cooking local ingredients.

Paul’s insight and direction on this quickly approaching October 3 Harvest Dinner has been nothing short of the experience of his restaurant.  He is articulate and adept at simply, but meaningfully, creating experience.  We look forward to what he will bring to the table, and I secretly hope that in combination with the awe-inspiring surroundings, there will be a few indescribable tears.

Wrestling Giants

September 27th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words:

Last week was an intense one that those of us who were on-site at the grain elevator from sunrise to sunset can likely still feel in our bones.  The erraticness of fall weather fell upon Omaha, and not even the towering concrete grain elevator could shield us.  But 13 giant windsails had to be hung, and the crew of iron workers at Davis Erection were excited to do it.  Day One only saw one banner up, while the kinks of hanging such a thing from 110′ in the air were worked out and the afternoon brought 50mph winds.  Those of us watching from the ground couldn’t feel the wind, but we could see it as the lift cages smashed up against the silo wall.  Even iron workers know when to say No.

Day two brought us three more banners – Aerial Production, Corn as Commodity, and Speak Up for Small Farms, and the iron workers had it down: hoist the banner up as one long 20′ roll draped across two lifts, drill in the screws along the top edge, and let go as the banner unfurls down the front of the silo. Bam. Color.  Both lifts would simultaneously work both edges, screwing in through the grommets and tugging the banner taut to the silo



Day three managed Corn Cob, Tomatoes, and Oglala.  Then the rain came.


Day Four was a nail biter with wicked wind and rain that the iron workers ignored for long enough to install Drive Shed.  It wasn’t pretty and iron workers left soaked to the bone.














Day Five was a hustle, bringing into existence Hourglass (which has already been redesigned for reprint as the dots were not large enough to convey the illusion of pinching the silo.  The one currently hanging will be repurposed into Freitag-like bags for sale to cover the cost of reprint), Bacon, Diminishing Returns and Battery on the north end.  After lunch, both lifts moved to the far south silo – the one we’d been ignoring for a whole week – the precarious position next to I-80, open to winds and whirling traffic, and difficult positioning for the lifts operating from the ground.  After the lift was stuck in the rain produced mud a couple of times, a resulting hydraulic leak, and winds funneled down the I-80 corridor, iron workers said No again and we moved Cultivator to the northern most silo.  We intend to eventually move Cultivator where it belongs – next to I-80 – so the play on scale and infrastructure that it so stunningly creates with I-80 can happen.