(Earth Eats theme music.)
KAYTE YOUNG: From WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana, I'm Kate Young and this is Earth Eats.
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: That passion and commitment has been sort of our guiding force through this. If we were just focused on paying the bills, we probably would have made some different decisions than we have, so we've been kind of heart first.
KAYTE YOUNG: This week on our show, we talked with Chef and Restaurant tour Arlen Lewellen of Function Brewing about how their business has adapted during these uncertain times and she shares 2 versions of a classic recipe with us.
We also speak with Aidan Reef, of Frostfall Baked Goods, about what it takes to be a home-based vendor, and about their favorite donut glazes.
That's all just ahead, so stay with us.
(Earth Eats theme music fades out)
KAYTE YOUNG: Thank you for listening to Earth eats. I'm Kate young. Renee Reed is here with food and farming reports. Hello, Renee.
RENEE REED: Hello Kate, an invasive bug recently found in Kansas could spell trouble for agricultural states in the Midwest if more are confirmed, Harvest Public Media's Katie Peikes reports.
KATIE PEIKES: The spotted lanternfly has bright red hindwings with black spots. It may look pretty, but Iowa State University entomologist Donald Lewis says this pest and its quote piercing sucking mouthparts feed on SAP, which will weaken lots of fruit and woody trees.
DONALD LEWIS: Eventually, these insects could feed on the SAP from dozens and dozens of different kinds of plants, causing problems for us.
KATIE PEIKES:The state of Kansas and federal officials are investigating after one of the bugs was found in a 4H project native to Asia. The spotted Lanternfly was first seen in Pennsylvania in 2014 and is a skilled hitchhiker. The Iowa and Nebraska Act departments have both received possible sightings of the insect, but so far they've all been false alarms. Katie Peikes, Harvest Public Media.
RENEE REED: Fertilizer pollution into the Mississippi River is increasing in some basin states despite plans to reduce farm runoff. Illinois's nutrient loss reduction strategy, for example, released a report last week showing that phosphorus and nitrogen pollution have gone up 35% and 13%, respectively. Compared to baseline numbers. Max Webster is the Midwest policy manager with American Farmland Trust, which is involved with the strategy. He says more federal support is needed for Mississippi River basin states to get on track to meet their goals.
MAX WEBSTER: These are challenges that are going to take significant investment and our long term challenges and so that's not just relying on what's happening within the state, but also attracting resources from the federal government and the private sector, too.
RENEE REED: He says increase rainfall linked to climate change is the main reason farm runoff has gone up over the past few years. Webster says the strategies need to take the effects of climate change into account in order to effectively meet their goals.
Thanks to Harvest Public Media, Dana Cronin and Katie Peikes for those updates. For Earth Eats, I'm Renee Reed.
(Earth Eats news theme music fades out)
KAYTE YOUNG: A hand lettered sign by the side of the road with the words baked goods will almost always get me to slam on the brakes.
(Lively music starts)
In this case, I was on an evening bike ride with my son just a few blocks from our house. It was a sandwich board style sign with a chalkboard face. up the driveway I could see a table with some items arranged in plastic bags, maybe some loaves of bread. My son wanted a bit more exertion than I was up for that night, so while he pedaled on ahead up the hill, I stopped and pulled out my phone to look up Frostfall baked goods to learn more about that sign, we'd passed. Turns out I had heard of this bakery before through a weekly newsletter from Sobremesa Farm. They had a Facebook page. I found a list of available items, contact information and other markets and stands where I could find their goods.
By the time we rode back by, the place was packed up for the night. The next day I placed an order for biscuits and cookies. After a couple of email exchanges, I was given a pick-up date from the home location. I sent my son with the cash to retrieve the items since I was working late that day. He helped himself to one of the white chocolate matcha cookies and reported that the baker “was nice.”
We saved the tender, buttery biscuits for an after-dinner snack. The texture of those mozzarella garlic scape biscuits told me this person knows what they're doing. After that I scheduled an interview.
We sat outside on their back patio where there was a surprising amount of background noise, including backup alarms from a construction site and clucking chickens from the backyard coop.
AIDAN REEF: I’m Aidan Reef and my business is Frostfall Baked Goods. I can talk about my pronouns--I don't really have specific pronouns--pretty much all of them, I guess.
I'm a baker, I work at Frostfall Baked Goods and I'm the Baker, owner operator--It's all me.
Frostfall Baked Goods is a home based bakery. It's been running for about two years now. I think I started in like November 2019, so almost two years. As a home based vendor in Monroe County there's certain--you have to label all your products--like the weight, or with baked goods,
it's not really the weight, but the product count in an individual package, and the name the ingredients and then the location. As a home based vendor, you can also only sell at farmers markets or at roadside stands, and then certain frostings you can't do--it has to have a certain pH Level, and besides that it's pretty much anything--like bread, cookies, cupcakes, stuff like that. And it can't include things like meat, cheese, well, cheese can be baked in. Dairy can be baked in, but not like on top or on the outside of it
if it's not baked. And I even do cakes 'cause you can do like coconut cream frostings instead of dairy cream--or pretty much any other thing, that's like a vegan cream or butter substitute to make frostings.
I focus a lot on different types of breads. I do like a sandwich bread, which is. It's basically like a white bread and then a habanero bread, which is that with habanero powder mixed in, I do those a lot and it's all mostly organic ingredients. There's some that I'm still sourcing quality ingredients on, but I do the best ingredients I can. Like, my flour currently is not organic but it is non GMO and bleach free--that type of stuff. I also focus a lot on donuts, different donut flavors. Most of my donuts are vegan,
I also do gluten-free. My biggest, like, the donut thing that I do is Pride donuts. So I I glaze them with different colors like a rainbow color bi-color, pan-color, stuff like that.
They are baked cake donuts. I have six or seven donut pans. I just do a bunch of a bunch at once.
I have done yeast donuts as well, but it's just a whole different thing that I usually don't focus on.
I've baked pretty much since I was a little kid on and off. My family has always been into cooking.
They've always run a farm. My parents have always worked in like the restaurant industry and a lot of my friends also cook and bake. I was in a baking club for like a year and a half, and that was a lot of fun.
I learned a lot of stuff there. My parents ran a farm business for a while called Reef Family Farm.
I first started in early 2019 selling with them at the Peoples Market, which was called the East Side Market at that time and I started making donuts to sell with them. And I had a friend at the time who was also really into baking. They did a lot more gluten free stuff and we were baking together and we thought we might sell together, start something up. So that's when we started the business.
It is just mine. Yeah, the business had a different name at the time too. They wanted to break off and do other stuff and when they left, they requested that it be changed to something else.
It was called Equality Baked Goods. Now it's Frostfall.
Frostfall is--I'm also a writer, so it's a location in a novel that I've been writing for a few years, and it's like a-- it's a sort of sanctuary for people and I thought it went well with the sort of business model that I wanted to promote. I like selling in and creating atmospheres that are comfortable for everyone, so it's kind of in line with the People Market, which is inclusivity and food justice. Making a space that feels comfortable for anyone and everyone and yeah, just making food that can be accessible for people with my baked goods. It can be hard to like, make more affordable baked goods because I am using a lot of expensive (more expensive) organic ingredients. But I usually try to like --selling with the people market does make it--or I feel like it makes it more accessible to a lot of people.
With the People’s Market you can buy like those sponsored boxes and sponsor for people in need. But also, any of my extras, I try to donate or give to people who are in need, which there's always extras every week
KAYTE YOUNG: When I asked Aidan where they sell Frostfall Baked Goods, the backyard chickens chimed in.
AIDAN REEF: Right now I sell at the People’s Market and the Goldleaf Farmers Market every Saturday.
I also sell sometimes at my home location at a roadside stand. And there's El Mercado Farmers Market, which is once a month on Sundays.
Sometimes I sell at the Sobremesa Farm farmers market, which is also on Sundays.
(sound of chicken squawking loudly--soft laughter)
AIDAN REEF: Must be an ache right now. (laughs)
I enjoy customer interaction a lot, just like being able to talk and meet new people and talk about like the baking and stuff I enjoy--I enjoy all of it, especially the donuts. I have a lot of fun with 'cause I can try different designs, different decorating or just exploring different flavors with pretty much anything.
There's so much like diversity that I can do with them. So I can do different flavors.
I can do like, chocolate donuts, vanilla donuts, red velvet donuts, and that's just, you know, the cake.
And then I can do pretty much anything with with glaze flavors. I have like 25 flavors right now, that I rotate out every week. And one of my favorites (which a lot of people aren't sure about) but I do a pickle brine glaze, which it's like it's a little sweet, but it's sour--a dill pickle, usually made from pickles that we ferment here and I like that one a lot.
KAYTE YOUNG: Aiden also makes cookies. I've got like 3 or 4 flavors right now. I do like a matcha white chocolate or red velvet, a peanut butter chocolate chip, also do like white chocolate chip.
I have, uh, a double chocolate and a white chocolate candy cane that I do for, uh, in the winter season.
I enjoy it a lot and it's something that I'd like to do for a while. I've thought if--I don't know if I'm going to continue being home based. I've looked into commercial kitchens in town. I've also looked into a few storefronts, but I don't, at least at the moment. I don't think that's--I don't want to go that far because I also want to have time for like, my writing, like I said before, and also music, some other stuff that I do, 'cause that's definitely something that's important to me--'cause there's a lot of stuff that I enjoy doing and I want to make sure I have time for everything while also being able to have time for my business, and pay attention to that.
KAYTE YOUNG: It sounds to me like Aidan has their priorities in order. See photos, links and more about Frostfall on our website earth eats dot org.
Still ahead, we hear about a new trend in growing pea crops in the Midwest, plus conversation and recipes with Chef Arlyn Llewellyn of Function Brewing. Stay with us.
KAYTE YOUNG: Kate Young here, this is Earth Eats. For years, consumers have been eating more and more dry peas, chickpeas, lentils and beans. Most of those crops are produced in northern states like North Dakota, Montana and Idaho, but Harvest Public Media’s Elizabeth Rembert reports that states in the Great Plains are becoming increasingly important to meet rising demand.
ELIZABETH REMBERT: When you walk down a grocery store aisle you probably don’t take a second look at bags of lentils or canned chickpeas. But with a closer eye you might be surprised at where else you can find beans and peas on the shelves.
ELIZABETH REMBERT: We also have things like okay, Pea-tos. Which are like Cheetos made from peas. Their tagline is “junk food taste, made from peas.”
And in the freezer aisle... Here we have the Beyond ground beef, quote unquote? Ingredients: Water, pea protein. The latest data from the United States Department of Agriculture estimates that people are consuming two more pounds of legumes per year than they were in 2000, and experts see that climb continuing.
Eric Thalken is one of the farmers growing the main ingredients in those Pea-tos or Beyond Burgers.
ERIC THALKEN: A little more than 2,000 acres, about 5 miles that way down to Dorchester. So … this was peas? This was peas!
ELIZABETH REMBERT: He harvested the green peas in July on his organic farm in southeast Nebraska.
He chose to plant them because they work well as a third crop in his corn and soybean rotation. Peas fit into his planting and harvest schedule and use less water while adding nutrients to the soil as they grow. So pea farmers are able to nourish their fields AND collect a paycheck.
ERIC THALKEN: It feels like the ground is more energetic after peas. We've grown like double crop corn, no additional fertilizer. Everything always looks really good after peas.
ELIZABETH REMBERT: Thalken is a board member on the state’s recently formed Dry Pea and Lentil Commission, which aims to coordinate research, advocacy and crop insurance for farmers interested in trying out peas. The commission will also help farmers learn to overcome the challenges of growing peas.
ERIC THALKEN: There's a couple problems and one is that it's really hard to harvest. This harvest is very slow and difficult. We might harvest 40 acres a day here, where soybeans we could do 130.
ELIZABETH REMBERT: Another obstacle is the unpredictability of pricing: last year, pea prices fell to their lowest in a decade. This year, they’ve rallied to near all-time highs in some regions.
Rol Rushman, a co-director on the commission, has been growing peas in western Nebraska for about 12 years. He says this momentum for peas in the region matches the global demand for pulse crops.
ROL RUSHMAN: I think it was bound to happen because of the world outcry for pulses.
ELIZABETH REMBERT: “Pulse crops” is an industry term that describes beans, peas and lentils. Companies are also betting that the Great Plains will work well as a source and logistics center.
ROL RUSHMAN: And as farmers react to markets, well, then processors see hey, we can do something in this geography.
ELIZABETH REMBERT: One company that is hoping to cash is Columbia Grain International. The supplier recently bought a plant in Hastings, Nebraska, to clean and prepare peas for sale.
Tony Roelofs heads up the pulse crops division for CGI. He says he hopes the plant fills a gap for farmers in the region.
TONY ROELOFS: I think that's been the biggest struggle for farmers in the areas, they just haven't had a consistent demand or consistent market for their pulses.
ELIZABETH REMBERT: Marvin Fast manages the plant for CGI. He says he was born and raised with corn and soybeans, but working with peas has been a rewarding change.
MARVIN FAST: Sending out a clean product and seeing it in actually seeing it in a grocery store. That is it's really cool to me.
ELIZABETH REMBERT: The commission, a dedicated facility and this year’s high prices give advocates hope that Great Plains farmers could start planting more peas and beans. They’re confident the demand for pea and bean products will continue to increase. But they also acknowledge the risks of trying something new could dissuade some growers from giving peas a chance. Elizabeth Rembert, Harvest Public Media.
KAYTE YOUNG: Harvest Public Media is a reporter collective, covering food and farming in the heartland. Find more at harvest public media dot org.
KAYTE YOUNG (narrating):Regular earth eats listeners will be familiar with the voice of Arlyn Llewellyn.
She's the chef at Function Brewing and she shared several fabulous recipes here on the show--from a memorable whole radish soup to enchiladas made with jackfruit. Her recipes are usually sensitive to vegetarian and vegan diners, but lately at the restaurant has gone a step further. Let's join Chef Arlyn in the kitchen to learn more.
KAYTE YOUNG: What are we going to make?
ARYLN LLEWELLYN: Today we are making pesto two ways, it's, uh, showing one of the things that we've done over the pandemic is that we converted many of our base recipes to be vegan to allow plant based eaters to be able to enjoy more of our menu items. And it was really important in the conversion process that we not lose any of our signature flavors that omnivores and vegetarians would be disappointed to see missing. So this is an attempt to sort of show you how we converted a traditional pesto into a vegan pesto without sacrificing any flavor.
KAYTE YOUNG: Nice, OK.
ARYLN LLEWELLYN:So we're going to start with our traditional pesto. Most people have their own go-to recipe, I don't think that we reinvented the wheel in any particular respects. We do have a few individual aspects to it. One, we use aged Gouda instead of Parmesan and there's just an extra nuttiness and creaminess and just a little bit more complexity in my mind to aged Gouda than to Parmesan--which I also love, Parmesan is amazing--but for our pesto, we traditionally made it with aged Gouda, and so we're going to start with one ounce of that. Like most professional kitchens, we do everything by weight when possible, just to get a more consistent effect. And doing a pesto you want to put the hardiest, densest stuff in the food processor bowl first, and then 'cause it to really break it down. Once you start adding the looser components like oil and liquid, you'll give the hard hard stuff an opportunity to swim around the blade. But when you have nothing but hard stuff in the food processor, then the hard stuff sort of forced to be broken down first.
So the hard stuff being garlic and the aged Gouda. So we're going to do 1 ounce of Gouda, approximately a clove of garlic and 1.5 ounces of toasted cashews. This is the other ingredient that's less traditional--since in a traditional pesto you would use pine nuts instead of cashews. To be honest, it's part of it, as a restaurant you're always looking for efficiency. And we already have cashews because we have a curry cashew item on our menu, so that's the primary driver and we taste tested it side by side with pine nut pesto and did not prefer it. Pine nut pesto pesto is delicious, but cashews just work better for us. It's a little simpler to just have one nut on hand.
So, we've got our garlic and the cheese and the cashews in the food processor first, so I like to let that break down as much as possible before adding the basil, and we're going to pulse it.
(food processor turning on and off repeatedly)
OK, so it's now, there's still some grittiness to it, but there aren't any large pieces. To that, we're going to add 2 ounces of fresh basil. Some stem is OK, but you don't want a really dense stalk. Even if your food processor is robust enough to break it down, it doesn't have nearly as good of a bright, fresh flavor as the more tender part of the plant. And so, when possible, you're going to want to discard that stock, nd keep just the leaves and the tiny parts of the stalk there up at the top.
(sound of picking basil leaves)
And you can very carefully and fastidiously pick off every single leaf. I think there's a joyous's Zen to doing that when you're at home, but in a restaurant kitchen you're always looking at moving as quickly as possible, and I have to say that I don't--as long as your food processor is relatively sharp, you don't need to go through every single leaf and break it apart. It's just a little bit faster to do it that way.
OK, so now we're going to put--this is still dry--well, I also like to add the salt pepper at this stage. That extra sharpness from the salt and pepper will also help break the leaves down before we add any liquid, so we're going to add half a teaspoon of kosher salt and half a teaspoon of black pepper.
KAYTE YOUNG: That basil aroma is already really strong and you haven't even chopped it up yet. It's almost licorice-y
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: Yeah, I think, I mean, I think in part because it's a little later in the season, you're getting a more robust plant. I do love that beautiful springtime tender basil--it's just a little fleeting.
OK, so we've got the salt and pepper in there and we're going to pulse it and try to break the basil down as much as possible before adding any liquid.
(sound of food processor on and off)
So we have what looks kind of like a very very finely chopped salad in our food processor bowl, and then we will stream in lemon juice and olive oil. Specifically, we're going to do 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, and we're going to do 1/3 of a cup of olive oil or another oil.
I specifically am saying olive oil, not extra virgin olive oil. This, in my opinion, pesto is not the time to use extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil, while amazing, breaks down and produces some sort of harsh flavors when it's over-worked in a food processor or a blender, so if I was making a pasta for instance, and I wanted to use extra virgin olive oil, I would save that for the very end I would take my my pesto, my pasta, and then stream in that beautiful aromatic extra virgin olive oil at the very end and as I'm tossing it into a pasta dish. It would never go on the food processor if I could avoid it.
So we use regular olive oil, not extra virgin because it does allow for a more neutral palette and then also you can really taste the basil coming through.
KAYTE YOUNG: I see and so you're mixing it right in together, which I think is so smart, 'cause then you can pour it all at once instead of your little bit of lemon juice, and then your olive oil, that's great.
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: yes, I'm putting it in a little measuring cup with a pour spout and then I can stream it in very delicately as the pesto is as I'm watching the pesto breakdown, I always like to double check at this point that I put everything else in here because if you miss something it's impossible to get it well incorporated after you've added all that liquid.
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: So everything is in here.
I'm going to go ahead and start and I'm not going to worry about pulsing it this time. (kitchen sounds) But as soon as I start hearing that noise where it kind of changed from a rougher sound, it started getting a little smoother I usually like to strip down size. OK, so we have a traditional basil pesto, which is obviously vegetarian but not vegan, and this is how we made pesto for the first six plus years that we were open. It's a little walk down memory lane for me.
KAYTE YOUNG: That's beautiful.
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: Yeah, it's nice and bright and green and As you may know, the trick trick at home if you wanting to keep your pesto nice and green is to go ahead and put a piece of Saran wrap and push it down straight onto the surface of the pesto to minimize the amount of surface area that comes in contact with the airflow in your kitchen or house, because that will just speed up the oxidizing process that will turn this beautiful pesto. Dark, not that it won't taste good, but it won't look as beautiful and green as it does right now. It freezes beautifully and we do that sometimes at the restaurant to avoid food waste. If we make it on the very last day and we're gonna be closed for a couple days, we freeze it, pop it back out. We've tried it side by side, there's no difference, and to us it's really important to avoid throwing food away because it just feels like the right thing to do on many levels. I can attest from personal experience. It definitely falls beautifully and you really won't will not notice that. But I will say you want to put it in an appropriate sized vessel for your future use and I would recommend putting it in obviously ice cube trays or in the baby food section of a lot of stores. They'll have like bigger than ice cube trays because a lot of people start making their own baby food and we'll freeze it so you can get little frozen things that look like an ice cube tray, but the. Capacity of each individual square is a rectangle is three or four times the size of a regular ice cube tray. So something like that will work really well and you can freeze it in the batch sizes that you would like.
KAYTE YOUNG: We've been talking with Chef Arlyn Llewellyn of Function Brewing. After a short break, we'll return to hear how she's adapted her traditional pesto recipe into an entirely plant based version. We'll also hear about how the restaurant and brewery has adapted their business model in response to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay with us.
KAYTE YOUNG: This is Earth Eats. I'm Kayte Young. We're back with Chef Arlyn Llewellyn in the kitchen of Function Brewing. She's just walked us through the steps of her traditional pesto recipe and now for the variation.
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: OK, so we are going to do the same thing, but now we're going to do it with a vegan list of ingredients so the only non vegan ingredient in the original is obviously the aged Gouda. But that's bringing several components to the party. It's bringing a dense, hearty solid component. It's bringing a lot of rich, nutty, complex flavor. We substitute it with two ingredients to accomplish those two different portions of the aged Gouda role. For the hearty thick portion we use chickpeas and for the rich, complex, cheesy flavor, we've used nutritional yeast, and by bringing those two to get components together, 'cause that is a lot about when you look at, uh, trying to convert a recipe from non vegan to vegan or from a meat recipe to vegetarian or anytime you're dealing with somebody with any dietary situation you know, gluten free or nut free, or that or seed free is you want to think about what the ingredient is that you're substituting out and like specifically what it's doing for the texture and the flavor and the mouthfeel of the dish. And if you don't replicate all those different components, the dish will feel a little flat to somebody who's used to the original version. So we're going to go ahead and do that with our vegan one, so otherwise the ingredients are all going to start the same. We're going to have that one clove of garlic and ounce and half of toasted cashews. But now instead of the aged Gouda, we're going to use 3/4 of an ounce of drained chickpeas. We're going to put all that in the food processor and try to get that to break down first. We're going to add those 2 ounces of fresh basil leaves. Actually, before we put the basil in, we're going to go ahead and put our nutritional yeast at the bottom so that it doesn't get blown around the food processor when we start blending up the basil. It's already so fine you don't really have to worry about it being blended, but you do want to make sure you don't lose a lot of it out the top of your food processor. I would say it's effectively, at about 2 two and a half tablespoons I will have to say I don't feel like a little extra nutritional yeast is ever a bad thing? Well, extra cheesiness. As somebody whose eating a lot more plant based food myself, it's really great being. Uh grocery shopper these days because? Stores are just really expanding their plant based offerings and I feel like a lot of grocery stores that you might not expect too often will have nutritional yeast now. It's typically in the baking section near like actual yeast. Even though you couldn't use it to make bread.
KAYTE YOUNG: A quick note on nutritional yeast. What is it? Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast. It's available in the form of yellow flakes or powder. It's popular with. Vegetarians and vegans, due to its cheesy nutty, savory flavor that can mimic some cheeses. It's a significant source of some B complex vitamins, and it is sometimes fortified with B12, a nutrient that plant based diets often lack. One serving provides 9 grams of protein which is complete protein, providing all nine amino acids the human body cannot produce on its own. Nutritional yeast is produced by culturing a yeast strain in a nutrient medium, usually sourced from sugar cane or beet molasses. Once the yeast is ready, it's deactivated with heat. It's collected, washed, dried, and packaged. It's a popular topping for popcorn, and it's often used to make vegan Mac and cheese. But yeah, though it's called yeast, it is inactive and you cannot use it as a leavening for yeast breads. OK, back to Arlyn Llewellyn.
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: And again, we're going to use add our salt and pepper now to help try to break that down a little bit further too. Increase the salt this time, because the that's obviously something that the age is gouda was bringing. So now we're up to 3/4 of a teaspoon instead of 1/2. Teaspoon for the same size batch. So now we’re going to pulse it so we can get alll the space to break down without any liquid. Right? Again, we're going to add 1/3 of a cup of olive oil or a neutral oil, and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. And now we're going to let the food processor run and just stream this in. And again, once we start, we'll listen for that sound when it starts going from a rough to a smoother sound, I'm going to scrape the sides down. I had a sous chef who taught me I I work. I worked in a kitchen. Where he was, the sous chef, and he taught me a lot of things and he said it sounds. like a boat motor is when you know it's starting to come together. So that's kind of my description. It sounds like a boat motor when it starts getting a little smoother. And now we have a vegan pesto, which I think looks very similar. We have to get them side by side and of course we have to taste them side by side. Based on first glance, it certainly looks very similar. The other thing to think about, I think when converting traditional recipes to plant based, is that. I think it's a losing gambit to try to focus on it tasting exactly the same what I think you want to make sure it doesn't taste is is different, like different in a negative way that it tastes worse. Sometimes it just tastes slightly different. But that doesn't necessarily mean that that's bad at all. Sometimes it actually tastes much better. Sometimes it makes taste indistinguishable, but something that may just taste different and unique and just as pleasurable. Looking at them side by side, you can see that the oil is incorporated a little bit more into the vegan one and the traditional one. Right? Close to the surface, a little bit more right?
KAYTE YOUNG: And that's not 'cause, it's just been sitting there.
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: Correct. it was that way as soon as I transferred it. I believe the difference is that nutritional yeast binds with the oil in a sort of a pastier way, whereas in the traditional pesto the oil separates a little bit more. If anything, this makes that this means that this will just be better. Emulsify did it, work a little bit better. And a pasta sauce. Potentially one of my favorite things to do with pesto is to make a salad dressing with it where you dilute it with red wine vinegar, maybe a little bit oil to taste part of. Typically, when you're making a vinaigrette, you want some type of emulsifier. Often it's you know traditional French vinaigrette. It's like a mustard Dijon mustard. So this is almost doing some of that work for you. It's already emulsifying things a little bit better.
KAYTE YOUNG: We headed out into the dining room where we could get further apart and take our masks down to taste the two pestos side by side.
KAYTE YOUNG: Well, I would say you have done a really good job of like you said, really, bringing that the kind of mouthfeel and the richness is there. They taste different and because I know what nutritional yeast tastes like, I can really taste that in there. But I think that like you said, the chickpeas are really adding that body and it tastes really good and they taste different, but they taste really good and what you're really tasting was the basil. That's really coming through. I think your proportions are really good because you're just really emphasizing the basil and then you've just got the kind of fat and everything that's. You know the olive oil is still there and the nuts are still there, so you're getting a lot of that fatty goodness.
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: Well, thank you I I I feel like they are definitely different. They're not, but I feel like I primarily feel like because I'm tasting them side by side if I had one one week and then you asked me to try it in the next week, I think I would say oh, they taste the same. I feel like I would describe them as siblings. They are different, but they are very similar and you can see the similarities between them. The vegan one is a little sharper and the garlic, and maybe that's because I chose a slightly bigger clove of garlic in that batch or maybe the cheese tucks that garlic in a little bit more in the traditional one. I don't mind that at all. I love garlic. If you are not a big fan of garlic you could cut back on the garlic a little bit perhaps, but otherwise I think that they're both just really delicious. And I I'm so when I'm thrilled by that outcome because in the long run when I'm wanting to eat more plant based stuff, I love it when a substitute feels very equal, which is what this feels to me. It doesn't feel the same, but it feels equal. They're equally satisfying to me.
KAYTE YOUNG: Yeah, and I could imagine. I mean, I'm I'm sure, you're always saying on the menu whether something's plant based or not, but if you were just to serve it to someone they probably wouldn't be like wow, is this, uh, is this a vegan pesto? I don't think anyone would would say that, right?
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: Right then that's our hope. And also we're not serving pasta dishes coated in pesto sauce, where that you're primarily only tasting the pesto. The pesto is going on a sandwich with a bunch of other components, so you have a lot of other things marrying with it and I truly hand on heart. Don't believe that a single meat or cheese eater would miss the difference.
KAYTE YOUNG: Yeah.That's very nice, thank you.
KAYTE YOUNG: It had been a while since I'd had the chance to talk with Chef Arlyn Lewellen. There had been some life changes for her family and life changes for all of us due to the pandemic. We sat down in the dining room of function brewing to catch up.
KAYTE YOUNG: So Arlyn Lewellen, I just wanted to ask you a few things about what life has been like here at Function Brewing over the the whole pandemic that we're all living through. You guys are a brewery, but you're also a restaurant. And what, In a nutshell, what has been near your story with this situation?
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: Yeah, I mean we, my husband and I started this business 7 1/2 years ago because it was something that we were passionate about. It wasn't just to pay the bills and so I think that that passion and commitment has been sort of our guiding force through this. If we were just focused on paying the bills, we probably would have made some different decisions than we have. Some of the choices we've made have not been great financially, but they felt like the right thing to do, so we've been kind of heart first. The first six months, we just we were all still getting our feet under us in terms of what the pandemic looked like and what appropriate levels of interaction we should be having are and so we did completely carry out only for the first six months and only beer after six months. We brought food back in September of 2020, but still only carry out. And in May of 2021, we brought customers back, but only outside, so we went 15 months without any situation where a customer would sit down at a table and order a sandwich or drink a beer and here we are 18 months in and we still have not had a customer sit inside, which is sad because we missed the Community feel of somebody sitting at a bar and drinking a beer and being to chat with him about it but everyone has to make their own decisions in this experience. This collective, difficult experience that we're having and for us it just hasn't felt like the thing that we're going to do so. we've just continued to listen to our customers and our employees about what they feel comfortable and safe doing and let those comfort levels guide us so we are at this point still completely either carryout or outside dining, and we have the looming question coming of what it looks like in the cold because we don't know if people will sit outside in the cold. Maybe they'll go back to carryout, or we'll see, but the whole experience has been like it has for all of us personally has been both good and bad.You've we've learned so much about how to be more efficient. We've also had lots of quiet reflection time to think about what we want out of life and are out of our business and the things about our pre pandemic life that we miss most and how best to try to capture any parts of that spirit. We have continued to really enjoy connecting with customers outside and and on social media, I feel like if anything, we've also kind of leaned into that a little bit more as an opportunity to really reach people and interact with them that way which has been really nice and. Yeah, I feel like we're going to be leaner and tougher and wiser on the other side.
KAYTE YOUNG: So you had talked about how you were moving some of your menu items towards more plant based and that that was something that kind of came out of this pandemic time. What is that connection or how do you think that happened?
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: Yeah, I think a couple things. One, I think personally me and Steve were just eating more plant based at home and I think everyone has had to use the pandemic as an opportunity to kind of reflect on their values and for us you know there's several very, very compelling reasons to either be vegan or to eat more plant based food and we're really feeling kind of tugged towards that we've eaten incorporate that a lot more into our household, and so to some extent because of the business as a passion project, it's always kind of reflected us in our personal choices, so that was kind of an inevitability, but I also think that the pandemic has given us a chance to really double down on connecting with our core values and our core customers and our vegan and vegetarian customer base is something that we really have always had a really strong connection with because in terms of of a restaurant, we have more vegetarian, naturally vegetarian options than most others do, and and then over the last several years we've added a lot more vegan offerings, and so we really want to kind of bridge the gap where we allow well not being a completely vegan or vegetarian restaurant, we give somebody who does eat that way an opportunity to really explore a lot of different flavor profiles rather than feeling like there's one or two dishes on the menu and that's all you're going to be able to have a chance to try. So part of what we've done is adapt a bunch of sandwich components. Like our dry rubbed onions and our Curry cashews and our pesto and our all of our aiolis and made all of them vegan so that a vegan could now have access to some of these sandwiches that they were never able to because we also have source this really great product from the Beehive in Kentucky, which is a a seitan roast beef and coconut smoked cheese. So we have the option to trade out any meat on the sandwich for the seitan and any cheese for the coconut cheese, and we have now all those other components are now vegan, so that the only thing that's really on a sandwich that is not vegan, is the meat or the cheese and that can easily be substituted out and that gives us an opportunity to sort of really play around. We also made a master list of all menu items that are vegan all components so that vegans can also take a look at that, and maybe they'll have an idea that we haven't come up with ways to combine something into something unique and different and fun.
KAYTE YOUNG: Yeah, so it sounds like while you're not becoming a strictly vegetarian or vegan restaurant? You are, The vegan options aren't an afterthought. They're built into kind of everything you're doing.
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: Yeah, I mean we will probably always have candy bacon. That's something that we're known for, but it doesn't mean that we can't also offer all this amazing plant based stuff too, and give people choices and whether making sure that a vegan feels at home in the menu. There's lots of things for them. The person who wants that candied bacon can either add that to a very vegetable centric sandwich, or they can, they can get them very meat and cheese heavy sandwich they've always gotten, but there are options for everybody and it isn't as you said, an afterthought, and it's not meant to just be a sort of sad vegan substitute. It's meant to be something that's really thought about as a comprehensive and tasty vegan dish that happens to be vegan, and as such that an omnivore omnivore might really enjoy it.
KAYTE YOUNG: I know that in well, two years ago or so you became a mom and you have twins. And so I was wondering how things might have changed a little bit for you guys at home in terms of how you approach meal time and just kind of how you budget your time. I mean, there's also the restaurant, and then I know things have also changed over those two years, because when they were born we weren't in a pandemic. But if you have any reflections on that or anything you want to share about that.
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: Yeah, as anyone who's had a child knows, it does change almost every aspect of your life in totality, but in really amazing ways and it also refines lots of things and changes the way you think about certain parts of your life. And time in the kitchen is definitely one of them. That's obviously my passion. I love spending time in the kitchen. And that's something I really look forward to doing with my kids as they get older. 2 year olds and kitchens, especially when there's two of them. There's only one of me--'cause Steve's at work--is a challenging dynamic to navigate, but I'm trying to do it a little bit where we have safe versions of things for them to work on while I'm making food. But you know, there's no getting around the fact that I have a lot less time to spend in the kitchen than I used to, so I try to make things that are just really efficient because I don't have much time, but it's still resulting in wholesome, healthy, satisfying food for us to eat because I don't I don't want to just lean into prepared foods, there's I'm not judging that at all, and there's certainly been plenty of times that I have. But that is something that I have an ability to do, and a very strong interest in doing which is making homemade food, and so I want to figure out how to do that with much less time than I used to have. So just like our business has sort of been forced to be more efficient during the pandemic, as a mother of two, I've been forced to be more efficient at home as well, and overall I feel like that's a, you know, such a wonderful thing. Because efficiency frees up the best resource that you have, which is time and then you can spend it on the things that you really want to do rather than getting sucked into things that sort of end up taking away from the most important and valuable parts of your life.
KAYTE YOUNG: So do you have any examples of something you've made or sort of discovered and you were so happy that like oh now I have this that kind of helps you with that efficiency in the kitchen but also maybe something that your kids like or that the whole family really enjoys.
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: I've definitely discovered that you can eat leftover scrambled eggs. We eat. Actually my kids. I mean, kids eat a mixture of. It's a tofu mix and eggs so that they're eating some tofu and some egg, and we make that and I can. One big batch will get me for three days and it can. If you reheat it just gently enough so it doesn't dry out. They were very happy to eat it. So little things like that. Where I've discovered like maybe I don't need to just prep this fresh absolutely every single time. If it doesn't affect the quality then then it's just really the ritual of doing it. And I think when you have more time, sometimes the ritual is really just soothing in and of itself, and I can really enjoy that. And like I can imagine someone saying I'm going to get up every morning and make myself fresh eggs, but when your time is limited, it's also nice to be able to say, hey, I'm still giving them this like really great protein packed powerhouse of a breakfast but I'm also able to read more books this morning too, so we've been doing a lot of things like that or it's also fun to just be able to make connections with them like I started making a lot of our own bread over the pandemic, like so many people I know there's a point where we are all sort of flour and yeast in the stores because we're all doing that, but that was really fun to be able because the pictures of bread in books look much more like a homemade loaf than they do. The store bought sliced ones and so, and to watch they can like you know, turn on the oven light and watch it rising in the oven and being able to create this kind of moments where we have e have a little garden out front and we've been growing cherry tomatoes, which is one of their absolute favorite foods. And so the biggest challenge is making sure that when we're walking out to the car that they're not grabbing them and stuffing in their mouth, including like the green ones, because now they know that's where the tomatoes grow, and so being at home with them more at a time when we were sort of like really thinking about our food and how we make it has been really such a cool opportunity.
KAYTE YOUNG: Thank you so much.. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. It's really great to see you again and to be backIn the kitchen with you.
ARLYN LLEWELLYN: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you reaching out.
KAYTE YOUNG: That was chef Arlen Lewellen of Function Brewing located in downtown Bloomington, IN. Find both versions of her pesto recipe plus information about the brewery and restaurant on our website eartheats.org. That's it for our show this week thanks for tuning in. We'll see you next time.
RENEE REED : The Earth Eats team includes Eoban Binder, Mark Chila, Abraham Hill, Peyton Canova, Josephine McRobbie, Daniela Richardson, Harvest Public Media, and me Renee Reed
KAYTE YOUNG: Special thanks this week to Aidan Reef. Arlen Llewellyn and everyone at Function Brewing.
RENEE REED: Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Additional music on the show comes to us from the artists at Universal Productions Music. Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kayte Young and our executive producer is John Bailey.