Monday, December 21, 2009

The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Elizabeth Madden

I am endlessly fascinated by this new generation of artisanal craftspeople who are making food products using hands-on skill and exceptional ingredients in place of mass machinery and chemicals. They pour their heart and soul into these foods and I feel it is my duty as a proud and loyal American to buy and enjoy as many of them as I can. That said, I don't profess to know Elizabeth Madden, only her jam, Rare Bird Preserves. I know her jam because I am by nature, drawn to beautiful things. Her logo and packaging made the first impression, but it was what was on the inside of the jar that really sold me. Startlingly clear flavors and provocative combinations such as Fig Earl Grey, Lemon Blueberry and Plum Cardamom Orange. Uses? Morning toast and tea, a sauce for your pork shoulder or loin and I think they'd make the sexiest thumbprint cookies your family and friends have ever tasted...

WHO Elizabeth Madden is the creator of Rare Bird Preserves local, artisanal jam. The same instincts that inspired Elizabeth Madden to pursue an advanced arts degree in photography are there in the way she makes preserves: a desire to capture life, its seasons, its moments, its essence, its deliciousness. After deciding to shift from the visual arts to the culinary, Elizabeth graduated from the French Pastry School and trained with some of the world’s most renowned chefs. She found her niche in making preserves. Elizabeth blends classic, traditional French and British methods to create her own modern American style. Elizabeth is committed to seasonal, local, and sustainably grown fruit. Using artisanal methods, she blends hand-cut fruit with floral and herbal pairings to create her own signature flavors.

THE GIFT When I asked my husband what he wants for Christmas, he said “Coffee, of course." He knows I always put a bag of Blue Max Coffee in his stocking every year. Blue Max is a local coffee roaster located in Forest Park, Illinois. They are committed to organic and fair trade coffee.

For myself? I love gifts that are definitely guilty pleasures. Gastronomica is a gorgeous, smart magazine, which hits all my pleasure zones. Every issue is an amazing collection of curated thoughts on culture, history, art, and society all viewed through the lens of food. Not inexpensive at $50 a subscription, so it might not be something I purchase for myself, but I'd love to give or receive as a gift. (Hint to husband.)

WHERE DO YOU LIVE? I live with my husband Jeff and 6 year old son Henry in River Forest, Illinois.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? I am inspired by the fleeting beauty of fruit. Each season sings to me. I try to capture that.

GO-TO DISH WHEN COOKING FOR YOURSELF? Soup! Right now my go-to meal is a comforting Roasted Butternut Squash soup with Sage. I tend to make simple dishes with lots of flavor. This soup is from Real Simple: Meals Made Easy. Roasting the butternut squash makes all the difference. Throw in a grilled cheese made with some amazing cheese and bread from Marion Street Cheese Market and I’m happy!

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