Tag Archives: local

The first tomato, and a reflection on what it means

1. This morning, Max picked the first sungold tomato produced in our garden. The tomato plant came from our amazing CSA at Westhaven Farm, and we have watched it grow and fruit over the last few weeks. Tiny, orange, and pretty darn delicious, it was a little piece of sunshine after all the thunder and lightning yesterday in Ithaca. To us, though, it meant something else. It was a reminder of the industrial food system and our efforts to disconnect ourselves from it and to figure out how others can do the same.

2. We recently read an article, an excerpt from a book, actually, by Mark Estabrook, a former editor of Gourmet (RIP). Many of us know about the horrifying human costs of industrial tomato farming. I learned in this article that there are migrant workers who are literally, not figuratively, enslaved on tomato farms. Maybe you already knew about this?

3. This is a little hard for me to write. When I got done reading the Estabrook article, I felt really, really sick. I wanted to drive to Wegman’s and yell at someone. I don’t think this is a good platform to tell people what and how to eat, but I want to share what I learned and what I think, which is this: It’s still important to eat carefully, especially when it comes to tomatoes. For me, this means eating local tomatoes only when I’m the one doing the shopping. In Ithaca, this means eating them when they’re in season, not whenever I want one. This is a choice I’m prepared to make. And anyway, they taste better.

Your thoughts?

Some important quotations from the Estabrook article:

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Once Upon A Rambling Time in the Enchanted Fairytale Forest of Bumpkin…

Welcome friends, to the mysterious enchanted forest of Bumpkin, where last week the Rambling Restaurant transformed a skyhigh attic dining room for a fabulous fairytale feast. As one of the Three Little Pigs, let me welcome you into the lush and glittering Rambling Fairytale…

The whole event was a fantastic collaboration between so many talented people – Sarah demonstrating her chef skills in the kitchen along with the versatile and knowledgable Bumpkin staff, Abi aka the Little Red Riding Hood and I doing the serving with the help of Ali and Billy behind the bar, the gorgeous decor creations of Miss Ali O’Malley (previously of Moulin Rouge fame), and a participatory cabaret full of wit, wonder, and wows led by Lucy from The Little Show Off as the very Wicked Stepmother, Matt the contact juggler, and Simon who dazzled the crowd as the surprise secret ingredient. Although not one of the listed performers, the man behind these lovely photos, our photographer Martin – had our diners shaking with laughter at his spectacular poetic rendition of Hansel and Gretel.

I’ll let the wise and wonderful words of the Wicked Stepmother take you through the evening….

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San Francisco Eating Happy Times at the Ferry Building Farmers Market

I spent what might be the ideal local/urban/farming/foodie Saturday in San Francisco during my visit last month.  Ferry Building Farmers Market + Alemany Farm + dinner with friends to feast on all our accumulated goods = serious eating happy times.

It started at one of my favorite places of porkaliciousness on the planet, the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market…

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Eat&Joy Maatilatori: A Market for Local Farmers and Producers in Helsinki

New cities are full of possibilities.  My first night in Helsinki, I spent several hours traipsing around the narrow historic streets and the broad tree-lined esplanades, getting a feel for this unfamiliar and exhilarating territory.  Exploring a cityscape in search of  quirky sights and unexpected urban landmarks to write a treasure hunt game often occupies my brain for hours until I realize that it’s gotten dark and it’s way past time for dinner.  But that brings me to the best part about traveling to new places – finding the most delicious and exciting local food to eat. And I was luckily enough to stumble upon the warm and inviting shopfront of Eat&Joy Maatilatori right by the central train station.  eat&joy maatilatori

Eat&Joy Maatilatori is a fantastic place that should exist in every urban space – it’s essentially a farmer’s market in a shop that sources local foods from all over Finland to bring to city consumers.  Offerings range from the very fresh (cheese and yogurt from nearby dairy farms, just-baked rye bread, fruits and vegetables) to the canned, jarred, and otherwise long-lasting (jams, jellies, chocolates, mustards, and more) as well as lots of baskets. Apparently Finland is big on baskets.

the inside of eat&joy maatilatori

Chatting with the man at the counter, I learned that Eat&Joy opened for a trial period beginning in June and after a successful three month stint,  would be opening as a permanent location just the next day.  The shop owners are dedicated to showcasing the best of small Finnish producers – some who might not otherwise reach a large consumer base – and apparently the public has responded with enthusiasm. Who wouldn’t be enthusiastic about Finnish riispiirakka, a palm-sized rye pastry filled with just-barely- sweet rice pudding?

riispiirakka

Especially when they’re place on beautifully designed Finnish tea towels.  As a brief segue…the graphic and textile design in Finland is, unsurprisingly, spectacular. I covet every single item in the Marimekko store and hope that someday my kitchen will be decked out in extremely expensive but oh-so-gorgeous tea towels and oven mitts and cloth napkins and tablecloths and I will be an enviable domestic goddess with pastries in the oven, decked out in a spotless Marimekko apron. Well, actually that’s not true.  I want to have a real, bustling, happy, full-of-life-and-love-and-food-probably-a-little-(lot)-of-mess kitchen. I don’t really want to live in the polished and gleaming perfection of the Marimekko store….

the marimekko store in helsinki

…or maybe I do.

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amsterdam, part two: a quest to experience all the city’s local (and legal) specialties

what’s the first thing you think of when you think of amsterdam? what’s a specialty the city is known for that makes travelers from all over the world flock to this metropolis of canals and churches? what famous item is wrapped up in the identity of this global destination and truly makes amsterdam amsterdam?

obviously, it’s the raw herring. if that’s not what you were thinking of, it should be.

fresh herring in a bun

discovering local foods is one of my absolute favorite things about traveling. it’s a great excuse to talk to people, to make new friends with random strangers, shopkeepers and restauranteurs, to learn new things about food and culture and identity, and to sample some delicious and often deliciously weird things along the way.  sanne, one of our very gracious dutch hosts, recommended we try the fresh herring, which has generally been lightly salted or brined to conserve.  for you history buffs, apparently herring has played a major role in the historical and economic development of the netherlands dating back to the 14th century. unfortunately, we forgot to follow up with a recommendation for a good place to get the herring. luckily, the fantastic foodiefest street of haarlemmerstraat came through for the win as i randomly walked by a classic herring vendor on a bridge right near the apartment. turns out that stubbe haring is actually considered one of the best herring wagons in town. success!

stube herring for the win

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frizzante at hackney city farm: wild boar sausage, tomato sunshine, and perfect strawberry clouds of dessert

wild boar salsiccia, parsley salsa verde and homemade bread

FRIZZANTE! according to my italian speaking dining companion kellin, it means ‘sparkling’ as in ‘i would like my water frizzante.’ a less romantic translation could also be ‘gassy’ but i think we can all agree that’s not a good restaurant name.

frizzante is the casual yet intimate, rustic yet gourmet italian restaurant tucked into an unassuming building at hackney city farm. i may have mentioned once or twice how excited i am to live next to a farm in the city with real animals (especially donkeys named larry and calves named rhubarb and custard. GAHH. stop trying to debilitate me with your cuteness). i am even more excited that the farm is home to such a warmandfuzzy feeling place as frizzante.

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welcome to the rambling restaurant, secret supper extraordinare

plates of lavender ice cream

hellloooooooo homemade lavender ice cream! where did this lovely dessert come from? i’ve just recently gotten to participate in something very exciting in the food world: secret suppers! after attending the salad club secret supper a few weeks ago and making the acquaintance of the lovely foodrambler, i got to assist in the launching of her secret supper last sunday:  the rambling restaurant. my excitement knows no bounds.

soo…i don’t really get it. WTF is a secret supper?

secret suppers are essentially a fusion of a restaurant and a dinner party; it’s a meal served to curious and adventurous diners in someone’s home or another unexpected location. they’ve been in existence in san francisco for years and have recently been growing in popularity in london, as evidenced by this article from the london paper that namechecks rambling restaurant! i’m so happy to be involved in helping to get one off the ground, especially with such a talented chef as the miss foodrambler.

okay. i get the idea.  so what’s with the secret thing?

well, the suppers are secret because it’s sort of a shady concept to be running a restaurant out of the home without permits and health inspections and all that boring stuff. as a result, people generally pay by a suggested donation rather than an established fee for meals and service to escape all those pesky legal ramifications. in addition, it’s secret because the location usually isn’t released until soon before the meal, both to protect the people behind the supper but more so to keep things exciting. isn’t it always better to add a little intrigue and mystery to your meal?

sweet! any other thoughts about secret suppers? i’m fascinated…really.

i personally think the most interesting part is exploring the space between restaurant meals  and dinner parties. it’s certainly a novel experience on its own to be served a meal in someone’s living room and to eat the food of an unestablished but clearly passionate chef (you don’t slave over the stove for strangers unless you reaaaally enjoy cooking). however, i find it most fascinating when you can push the boundaries and bring something more than the restaurant experience for the people venturing out to eat. for example, we divided the fifteen diners into three tables, which meant that everyone sat with people they didn’t know before. if you’re going to a secret supper and just sit with the people you came with, in some senses the social experience is as limited as going to a restaurant. when you encourage interaction with other diners, all of whom have taken the same leap of faith to eat unknown food with mysterious people in a surprising location, it adds an entire new element of community and interaction to the eating experience. below you see some perfect strangers  who will soon be dining companions…

diners at rambling restaurant

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Organic or Local? Eat Both with this Apple Blueberry Honey Yogurt Ginger Tart

since moving to London, it’s been a bit challenging finding time to cook and furnish a kitchen while also trying to launch a business, not get hit by buses driving on the lefthand side of the street, and calculate military time (you’d think i’d be decent at subtraction having made it through the second grade, but hey, we can’t all be perfect). i still don’t own any measuring cups or baking tins and it also took me about twenty minutes to figure out how to turn on the stove. however, to prove i do actually cook and hopefully have some marginally useful things to say here, i’ve re-posted an article i originally wrote for eat.drink.better, a blog about sustainable eating and food production. this tart is made of tasty organic and local ingredients and can also be made dairy-free. woohoo! enjoy.

*****

Grocery shopping can be complicated when you’re trying to make ethical choices. You’re faced with a lot of difficult questions: Is it better to buy the organically grown blueberries trucked across the country from California or the conventionally grown apples from a local farm in Western Massachusetts? In my case, the more vexing question is ‘Why did you freaking move away from the organic AND local food paradise of San Francisco in the first place? But I digress.

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