Monday, December 31, 2007

Searching for Food

We live in interesting times. Neither hunter nor gatherer in the traditional sense, yet both in a contemporary sense. Armed with Google, a GPS device, or both, we can track and find much of what is locally available.

Here is my current list of places to find out where to find local food:
- Eat Well Guide. Search for local foods by entering a zip code and mileage.
- Connecticut Farm Map. Intended to be the online companion to the paper map.
- BuyCTGrown. Search by item, zip code, and mileage.
- Eat Wild. Find grass-fed food.
- CT Northeast Organic Farming Association Farms. Includes Farmer's Market information.
- DOAG Diversified Dairy Farms in Connecticut.
- Local Harvest.
- Pick Your Own.
- CT Farm Fresh. Farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area. Includes a catalog for items you cannot find locally.
- Connecticut Wine Trail.
- Edible Nutmeg. A quarterly newsletter that celebrates the harvest of the Nutmeg state. Publication includes directories.
- City Seed Farmer's Markets.
- Farm & Food. A New York Resource. (A significant portion of my foodshed lies in NY.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saturday's Forage

I have to say, being a grasshopper locavore--one who did not spend the summer storing up for the winter--causes one to take some pretty desperate measures, like going to an outdoor Farmer's Market in the middle of the winter in search of sustenance. (Okay, it's technically not winter yet, but it's cold and white out there!)

This Saturday (12/15), we followed up on a lead to City Seed's Holiday Market at Wooster Square in New Haven (map). City Seed's criteria for vendors are:
1. All farm products sold at the market must be grown in Connecticut.
2. City Farmers' Markets are "Producer Only" markets at which farmers sell what they grow and other vendors sell what they themselves have produced.
Works for me!

I regret to say that I did not take notes about which vendors came out on Saturday. In my defense, it was pretty darn cold and I wasn't interested in taking off my gloves, except to pay or sample cheeses! City Seed has a Web page listing of their usual Wooster Square vendors. Most of them were there on Saturday, which was rather impressive because, like I said, it was pretty darn cold. For this grasshopper locavore, it was well worth the 32-mile trip. City Seed maintains a Web page with the schedule for their Year-Round markets. The next market dates are: Jan 19, Feb 16, Mar 15, Apr 19 -- 10AM - 1PM.

I came home with:
- Artisinal cheeses from Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm in Lyme, CT.
- Chevre from Belthane Farm in Lebanon, CT.
- Fresh yogurt from Trinity Dairy Farm in Ensfield, CT
- Organic kale, butternut squash, brussels sprouts, carrots, and potatoes from Waldingfield Farm in Washington, CT.
- Salad greens. (Deep apologies, but I can't recall the farm name.)

I am delighted that I can continue eating local, sustainable food throughout the winter. I cannot express enough gratitude to these farmers who left the warm comfort of their homes to feed me (and others like me) good and healthy food.

And as an added bonus, Wooster Street is the Little Italy of New Haven, CT! It is home to the original Pepe's Pizzeria, the legendary Sally's Apizza, and a host of other restaurants.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I finally ordered and read the other locavore book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. Like Kingsolver, Pollan is an exceptional writer and his story is well-told. While he provides a plethora of research details, it is never boring; in fact, it's fascinating. If you really want to know where your food comes from (mostly corn) and why it comes that way, read this book.

One of the things I took away from the book is that farming doesn't really scale well past a certain point. Factory farms and feedlots are not in the best interests of the country, the environment, the economy, and the health and well-being of the eaters (us).

One of the book's segments discusses Polyface Farm in Swoope, VA, a model of sustainability. The farm belongs to Joel Salatin, who is one guy I'd love to meet. I wish there were more farms adopting Salatin's model.

Among many other things, Salatin said, "We don't need a law against McDonald's or a law against slaughterhouse abuse--we ask for too much salvation by legislation. All we need to do is empower individuals with the right philosophy and the right information to opt out en masse."

Working the Land

I came across the Working the Land Web site which is a site devoted to Connecticut farm land and a documentary about the same.

The site describes it as: "Working the Land, a new documentary from SimonPure Productions, tells the compelling story of state agriculture – from its earliest history to its present-day diversity. The program also explores trends affecting farming in the state and the public policy that shapes its future. Along the way, we visit many picturesque state farms and meet the farmers who work the land and waters of Connecticut."

I ordered the Working the Land video on DVD and watched it. It's an interesting and well-made documentary, narrated by Sam Waterston. I learned quite a few things and I'd recommend this video to anyone with even a remote interest in Connecticut farming.

Since becoming a local foodie, I've been researching farms in my spare time, trying to replace my old, worldly pantry with a new, sustainable pantry. I have lists: lists of farms I've visited, lists of farms I intend to visit, and lists of farms that feed me that I've never visited (Farmer's Market and Natural food stores vendors). Much of the video featured farmers talking about their farms. I had to laugh at myself--whenever there was a farmer from one of my lists, I was cheering at the screen: that's one of my farms!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberries are one of three fruits indigenous to North America. In case you were wondering, the other two are blueberries and concord grapes.

One of my "rules" for defining local is 100 miles. These cranberries come from just under 200 miles away so I'm calling them mezza-local.

This year, something bothered me about the typical fresh whole-berry cranberry sauce recipe: one cup of water, one cup of sugar, a bag of cranberries. Maybe because it was boring, or maybe it was the blatant and singular use of refined white sugar. (Not that I am swearing off refined white sugar--it just doesn't grow near here...other sweetners do.)

So, I thought I'd try a local sweetner: maple syrup. Here's the recipe and I thought it was pretty darn good.

1 - 12 oz bag of cranberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup apple cider
1 cinnamon stick

Bring the syrup and cider to a boil. Add the cranberries and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil again until the cranberries stop popping. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick. Serve warm or chill.

Some variations could include dried whole hot pepper along with the cinnamon, more syrup and less cider, maybe nuts...whatever strikes your fancy.

The cider and syrup are local. The cranberries are mezza-local. The cinnamon stick is the Marco Polo exception.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Saturday's Forage

Today (12/8) took us to Rich Farm in Oxford, CT for raw milk, New Morning Natural Foods for various sundries, including Murray's Chicken, and Waldingfield Farm in Washington, CT.

Murray's chickens are local to Pennsylvania. They are humanely raised by a number of family farms in PA. They are not given growth hormones or antibiotics. They guarantee that all of their retailers are within 300 miles of their farms. Okay, so not 100 miles for me, more like 200, but given the issues with getting chickens in CT (regulations), this is as good as it is for now. I'm not giving up, but Murray's is not Perdue either.

The drive to Waldingfield Farm was lovely...from Oxford, through Southbury and Woodbury...looked like a postcard from Connecticut. I met Patrick Horan (one of three brothers running the farm) last week at the Sandy Hook Holiday Farmer's Market. He had lots of jars of his pasta sauce. The organic tomatoes are from his farm, the basil, onions, and garlic are from friends (in CT), and the olive oil is of course, from the world.

I am Italian (4th generation American, but still full-blooded Italian) and I generally do not eat pasta sauces that are not made by blood relatives. It's not snobbery per se; let's just say that my expectations have been well managed over the years. But seeings how I am in the dark days of winter and did not spend many of the light days of summer "putting by" the local bounty, Patrick's sauce, if it worked out, could be a life saver.

Well, it worked out. It is a delightfully delicious marinara. I'm jealous because it takes me longer to make one pot of marinara than it took him to make 5000 jars. The recipe is Waldingfield's and is produced at Palmieri's in New Haven, CT. According to Patrick, it's "one of the last old school Italian tomato processing facilities around."

This pasta sauce is good, real good. It has a good flavor. So I went to his farm in search of more.

I met his parents and his brother Quincy, the full time farmer. It turns out that the farm first belonged to their mother's grandfather and has been in the family ever since. I met the dogs too, although I forget their names (because I'm a cat person). But they were good dogs.

Anyway, I left with a case of pasta sauce and very happy.

By the way, those who know me are probably flipping out that I'm calling this "pasta sauce." Well, that's what the Waldingfield folks are calling it. And it is a marinara (meatless), so the name "sauce" applies. The meat-based, red tomato, divine-simmered-all-day-Sunday stuff is still gravy in my vocabulary. No meat = sauce. Meat (pork & beef) = gravy.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Raw Milk Experiment

As I mentioned in a previous post, I found a new raw milk supplier, Rich Farm in Oxford, CT. My usual supplier won't be supplying over the winter, and having had raw milk for all of these months, I am not willing to go back to cooked milk.

Rich Farm is a locally famous Ice Cream venue run by David Rich. The raw milk side of the business is run by his brother Don Rich. The ice cream stand is closed for the season, but the raw milk is available throughout the winter. The milk bears the Ajello label, named for their grandfather, Thomas Ajello, who began the dairy farm.

To get raw milk, put your order in a day in advance (203-888-3171) and pick up your milk at the farm.

Since I'm purchasing a small quantity (I only go through about a half a gallon a week), I looked into freezing raw milk. I read in an online forum that the only negative side effect is that the fat does not defrost well, so you could end up with globules of fat on top of your cereal, which would not be visually appealing. Someone on the forum suggested using a stick blender (aka a boat motor) to recombine the milk and said it would be fine.

I told Don of my plan and he gave me a quart to test. I did two experiments. I put the quart directly in the freezer and I poured about a pint from the half gallon into a mason freezer jar and put that in the freezer as well.

A few days later, I defrosted the pint in the mason jar and blended it with the boat motor. Due to the blending, it was rather foamy, like latte. The foam went down in about an hour. The milk tasted and behaved the same as never-been-frozen milk.

A few more days later, I defrosted the quart. I did not blend it; I merely shook the bottle (because it's creamline milk), and poured it right on top of my cereal. It too looked, behaved, and tasted like never-been-frozen milk.

So, the experiements were a success and I can keep a backup in my freezer in case weather prevents me from getting out.

Much thanks to Don for participating in this great experiment!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

December Forage

This week's foraging adventures were on the light side.

On Saturday (12/1), I went to Holbrook Farm. Although they're winding down for the season, I did get some broccoli and beets. They're going to be doing something different for the winter. The Newtown Chocolatier will be minding the store, offering baked goods, coffee, and of course, chocolate. There will be little if any eggs (the chickens have slowed down tremendously). There will be no raw milk and no veggies.

My next stop was Rich Farm in Oxford, a new raw milk source. The link is to their ice cream stand Web site, run by David Rich, which is closed for the season. The raw milk side of the business is run by his brother Don, and is available through the winter. Put your order in a day in advance (203-888-3171) and pick up your milk at the farm.

On the way home, I saw a small "Fresh Eggs" sign and instantly pulled over. Talk about fortuitous!

On Sunday (12/1), we went looking for a Christmas tree. Their are numerous places in Connecticut to get a local tree, but the weather (snow) put a damper on my willingness to drive around much. I went to Masons Farm Market (map only) on Route 25 in Monroe. They have a wonderful selection, reasonable prices, and Connecticut trees.

On this particular day, there was also a special Farmer's Market and Crafts Day going on at St. John's Episcopal Church (Google map) in Sandy Hook. I got some home made jams from Stoneledge Hollow and some pasta sauce from Patrick of Waldingfield Farms in Washington, CT.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thinking about rules

I'm thinking about my rules...what constitutes a true locavore to me? Idealy, I'd like to be a 90% local foodie. The only non-local items would be stuff that just doesn't happen in the 100-mile foodshed around Newtown, Connecticut.

Those who have been reading along know that I haven't been doing this long enough to have significant stores. I got more serious about puttin' by at the beginning of the Fall. Somehow it hit me that the bounty party was about to end. You also know I never planned on puttin' by. I was hoping to be able to find what I needed as I needed it. Well, you can't get there from here.

The Farmer's Markets are done. The Brewster's Farmer's Market stayed open until the weekend before Thanksgiving, but all the other ones in my area were long closed. Holbrook's Farm Stand is winding down, and once Christmas comes, it's closed for the season.

I'm not even in the bad months yet and I can't even hold 60%. Today (fairly typical mix), I had (not in this order):
- Sliced fennell bulb (from the world)
- Beef loin steak (local, Stuart, Bridgewater)
- broccoli (worldly, California)
- chestnuts (local, Cherry Grove, Newtown)
- Macoun apple (old, falling apart, but local! Blue Jay, Bethel)
- hard-boiled egg (local, Holbrook's, Bethel)
- coffee, Kona and Sumatra (worldly)
- milk (some from who knows where and some from the CT Farmers)
- tea (worldly)
- honey (Cherry Grove, Newtown)
- leftover turkey (worldly--Butterball)
- leftover mashed potatoes (local, Holbrook's)
- sauteed red and yellow peppers (local, Cherry Grove, Newtown)
- sauteed mushrooms (worldly, California)
- wine (local, McLaughlin's, Sandy Hook)

I really don't want to drop below 50%. It's going to be an experience for sure!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

We are hosting the annual celebration of the harvest bounty.

Our guests will be my parents, my siblings, their spouses and children. All together, there are 10 of us. Our diets are an interesting mix. We have one vegetarian, one salt-free, one post-tonsilectomy, one on Weight Watchers core, one post-gastric bypass, one allergic to nuts and chocolate, one locavore and a few who will not try new things.

This year's Thanksgiving menu is a mix of local and "worldly" foods.

Appetizers include a fresh vegetable platter, hummus dip, and bread. The beets and carrots are local. The bread is from Wave Hill Bakery in Wilton, CT (thanks to Holbrook's Farm Stand). Everything else in this course is of unknown but organic origins.

The soup is pumpkin & butternut squash and includes carrots and an apple. All of these items are from local farms (Don Taylor, Kandew, Missy's Greenhouse). The herbs: sage, rosemary, and thyme, are from my back yard. The chicken broth is from the health food store and the label says organic and free-range, but the known history ends there.

The main course is of course a roasted turkey. It is (sigh) a Butterball. A fresh, not frozen specimen, but a Butterball nonetheless. My guests were not keen on a local free-range heritage turkey and I don't have any experience to make a convincing case. Bummer, but moving on...

Tom will be stuffed with a wild rice stuffing. The wild rice came from Canada--big place and the box didn't say exactly where in that big place. Curious, that they can grow rice in Canada, but not Connecticut. The long grain rice came from Carolina, so the box said. Connecticut really doesn't have much to offer in the way of grains. However, the carrots, onions, and thyme in the recipe are local. The parsley is ours, potted and brought in for the winter.

The gravy is, well, from the turkey and flour. Nuff said.

Alongside Tom will be:
- Fresh whole-berry cranberry sauce: The cranberries are from Lakeville, Massachussets. A great deal of MA is within my 100 miles, but this particular cranberry bog is a 167 mile drive from my house. (Cranberries are one of three fruits native to North America. Concord grapes and blueberries are the other two.)
- Applesauce. Made from 100% Connecticut Macouns, sauced in my own kitchen. A very pretty pink.
- Smashed Potatoes: like mashed, but with some chunks and the red skins still on. Potatoes from Holbrook's farm in Bethel, CT.
- Baked Sweet Potatoes: Also from Holbrook's.
- Artichokes: From the Big Y (a grocery chain in the northeast). Big Y got them from California.
- Herb Roasted Butternut Squash & Turnips: butternut squash from Don Taylor's farm in Danbury, CT and turnips from Cherry Grove Farm in Newtown, CT. Herbs from my back yard, either dried in my kitchen or wintering in pots by the sliding glass door.

For dessert we'll have:
- Apple Pie. Not home made this year, but made by the folks at Blue Jay Orchards in Bethel, CT.
- Pumpkin Pie. Home made with actual pumpkins acquired from Don Taylor's farm in Danbury, CT and fresh eggs from Holbrook's. The rest of the ingredients are worldly. Even the nutmeg, despite CT being the Nutmeg state.
- Ice Cream. From Ferris Acres Creamery (up the road).
- Fresh Whipped Cream. Unfortunately from the ultra pasteurized variety of heavy cream from somewhere else in the country. It turns out that my local milk source does not provide a heavy cream, and although their milk is cream line and you can separate out the cream, it won't whip.

The apple cider is local (Blue Jay Orchards). The wine is local (McLaughlin Vineyards). The water is local (my own well). The Pellegrino is from Italy (as were our ancesters.) The coffees are quite worldly, but predominantly fair trade. (The milk is from CT--both whole and raw varieties.) The teas are also worldly, but the honey is from right here!

All in all, not bad for Thanksgiving three months into my first locavore year. My hope for next year is to discover more local food sources earlier so I can put some favorites by and of course, get some experience cooking a local Tom.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Whatever you eat, wherever it came from, may it nourish and sustain you.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Word of the Year

I heard on NPR today that the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Year for 2007 is Locavore. Four women in San Francisco are credited with coining the phrase (

Talk about jump-starting the effort to raise people's awareness!

I find it ironic though, that this phrase came out of San Francisco. How hard can it be in California to restrict your diet to a 100 mile radius? I can eat more easily from their foodshed here in Connecticut than I can from my own--especially at this time of year. In my local Stop & Shop, the produce aisles are filled with the great California Bounty (unless they're growing avacados and pistachios in Massachussetts these days).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Edible Nutmeg

I picked up the Fall 2007 Edible Nutmeg magazine at New Morning. It's a great idea and I found it to be mostly a good read but was somewhat disappointed in the lack of follow-through in some parts. For example:
  • In their Letter from the Publishers of the Fall 2007 issue, they pointed out that people were writing in to find out where to get pasture-raised hogs in Litchfield and a CT source of true free-range chickens. While they were looking to make a certain point with their editorial, they never mentioned where one might actually fined pastured chicken and pork in CT?

  • They prominently features an ad for the BuyCTGrown Web site, which looked promising, yet the site is still not ready.

  • The entries in the Edible Events and Fall Farmer's Markets sections are about to expire. I am not sure exactly when this issue was publicly available, but I am fairly certain that it was past mid-October. I know of one nearby Farmer's market open until mid-November and one farm stand that will remain open until Christmas and that's it. Are there others? It would have been more useful to those in the market for local foods to continue these calendars into the date range of the next issue.

  • The article on wine discussed the difficulty of growing red wine grapes in the CT climate but pointed out that there are good Cab Francs here, yet they didn't say which vineyards were offering them.

Still, it's an interesting magazine and I look forward to future issues.

UPDATE: I sent an e-mail to Robert Lockhart, the publisher of Edible Nutmeg, and he personally (and quickly) responded to several of my points. I am absolutely fascinated with this!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge

Laura at Urban Hennery posed a Dark Days Eat Local Challenge. She's posted her personal rules and encourages others to make their own.

I'm in! I'm thinking that if I can't get to 90%, I can at least have one local ingredient per meal. Does that sounds too easy? Wow-- what progress! Three months ago, I probably had about one local item per month!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Freezing Food

To save my precious applesauce, pureed pumpkins, pumpkin soup, and various other locally produced and personally processed items, I purchased a FoodSaver home vacuum-packaging system. It sucks out the air and seals the bag. I have beautiful blocks of frozen fare in my freezer!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Raw Milk

I finally tried raw milk. I read a few articles, like How Raw Milk Got a Bad Rap, The Raw Deal (Washington Post) and What is Real Milk? According to this last reference:

Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.

In my 100 mile radius, raw milk is legal in Connecticut, New York, Massachussets, and Vermont. It is not legal in New Jersey or Rhode Island.

I decided that the health benefits were significant enough if I mitigated the risks. All articles agree: know where your raw milk is comes from. I got mine at Holbrook Farms, a reseller I trust. They get raw milk from Deerfield Farm in Durham, CT.

I understand that Caraluzzi Market in Bethel, CT will begin carrying Deerfield's raw milk in addition to raw milk from Grassy Hill Dairy in Woodbury, CT.

I'm not much of a milk drinker--you generally won't find me pouring a tall glass of ice cold milk. I do however take milk in my coffee and on my cereal. Pasteurization occurs at 161 degrees F for 15-20 seconds. My coffee is 160 from the machine and drops instantly to 105 when I add the milk (from the refrigerator). I don't know if I'm killing my raw milk in my coffee, but I am fairly certain that I'm not doing any worse than I would be with the pasteurized kind.

Friday, October 12, 2007


I know I said I wasn't going to be "puttting by" foods; that I wanted to get my foods already prepared, just local, sustainable, and as organic as possible. So much for what I said.

I live in Connecticut and I come from New York. We make the best apples in the world in this region. I can't rationalize getting apples from New Zealand. Furthermore, Macouns (my favorite apples) have an incredibly short run. So what's a Locavore to do?

I gave in and got an OXO Good Grips Food Mill and set about making applesauce.

It turned out to be simpler than I expected. I cut a bag of the apples into sections and put them in a pot, skins, cores and all. I poured in about an inch of cider. I turned up the heat and covered the pot. When the apples were soft all the way through, I cranked them through the food mill using the medium grinding disc.

The applesauce really worked out! It was a lovely light pinkish color and tasted delicious. I did not add any sugar or spices. Just apples (and some cider).

Next step, buy enough apples to make enough applesauce for the equivalent of an apple a day until this time next year. Maybe I need a bigger freezer.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Nutmeg State. NOT!

Connecticut is known as the nutmeg state, but don't waste your time trying to find locally-grown nutmeg.

According to Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, from the Know Your Ingredient section of his Web site:

The nutmeg tree requires a hot, moist climate and well-drained soil with partial shade. With a history rooted deep into the distant past, Nutmeg had its origin in the Moluccas [Spice Islands].

The British introduced this spice to India at end of the 19th century.

Nutmeg was heavily used in foods in the U. S. Colonial period. Early recipes for such diverse foods as lobster, mussels, chicken, puddings and many desserts included nutmeg as a flavoring. It was so highly prized that it was common for unscrupulous Yankee peddlers (mostly from Connecticut) to carve nutmeg look-alikes, store them with real nutmegs to absorb the scent and then sell them to gullible housewives. This is how Connecticut came to be called the Nutmeg State.

So, the bottom line is that you cannot get Connecticut-grown nutmegs!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Saturday's Forage

We hit the road again this Saturday, concentrating on the Bethel area. I must admit, hunting for and gathering our weekly food in this manner beats the heck out of grocery shopping in the supermarket.

Our first stop was Bethel Farmer's market. The farmers are thinning out, but Don Taylor is still there and so are my favorite apples from Apple Ridge Farm. I couldn't resist getting another bucket of Macouns. I can't find a Web site for them, but the here's the Google Map link. I can't find a Web site for Don Taylor either, but did find an interesting article. The Bethel Farmer's Market's last day is Saturday, October 27.

Then it was off to find Holbrook Farm. We did find it, pretty much exactly where their directions said it would be. The place is surreal--barely noticable from the road, but chock full of the good stuff we're looking for.
In particular:
Holbrook's own fresh eggs: we are now addicted to fresh eggs and would not go back to the bleached variety. These were just being washed and set out as we walked in!
Vegetables galore. Carol (I think that was her name) was particularly helpful, letting us know how we could prepare some of the more exotic vegetables. John completely surprised me when he offered me some raw corn (on the cob) to taste. I have never eaten raw corn in my life, nor have I heard of anyone else doing so. John says if the corn isn't good raw, it's not going to be good cooked. He cautions us not to buy corn from a farm that won't let us taste it raw. Let me tell you, this corn was divine. It was quite possibly the best corn I've ever eaten. Of course we got some for home. Did I mention that it was raw? (I still haven't gotten over that!)

Holbrooks carries dairy products from New Pond Farm. We picked up some milk, yogurt, and fresh mozzarella.

And then there were the baked goods; pies, delectabilities (like the raspberry chocolate whatever it was called that I broke my diet for), and breads, including a three-grain French Country bread from Wave Hill Breads--the best "Italian" bread I've had in Connecticut. I can't find a Web site for them, but here's the Google Map link and a review from

We dipped that country bread in some Olive Oil from the Olive Oil Factory in Watertown, CT (also available at Holbrook's).

Whew! There's lots more there and I can't wait to go back--between the atmosphere, the education, and the exceptional inventory, this is THE place.

Here's a picture of John, Carol, and Lynn (John's wife)

Since we were in the neighborhood, we stopped in at Redding Coffee Roasters where Bill O'Keefe gave us a free cup of coffee (Nicaraguan) and a tour of his coffee roaster. In case you didn't know, coffee is a passion of mine. (Marco Polo!)

Bill O'Keefe

Next stop was Chamomile in Bethel to fill in the the rest of our weekly grocery needs.

We looked for On the Rocks Farm in Newtown, traveled some undeveloped back roads, found the address, but it no longer seems to be a working farm.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

My 100 Miles

According to the 100 Mile Diet Web site, "a typical ingredient in a modern meal has traveled 1500 miles or more from farm to plate."

The popular standard for local eating is anything from within a 100-mile radius.

The 100 Mile Diet site includes a widget where you can enter your zip code to display a map with a nice big red circle defining your 100 miles.

My 100 miles go as far east as Providence, RI, as far north as just over the MA/VT border, as far west as the west edge of the Catskill State Park in NY, and a bit farther south than Point Pleasant, NJ. (Looks like I get Jersey peaches after all!)

Monday, October 1, 2007

This Week's Foraging Adventure

We're getting our Saturday Adventures down to a routine: at least one farmer's market, one actual farm, and one whole/local foods retail store. It's a lovely way to explore the area, especially this time of year. We remembered to bring a cooler this time.

Our journey began at the Brewster Farmer's Market, located at Peaceable Hill Rd. at Routes 6 & 22 in Putnam County, NY. They're open every Wednesday & Saturday from June 9th - November 17th, 9 AM - 2 PM. They typically offer plants, herbs, honey, meat, cheese, bread, veggies, fruits, organics, and more.

The "and more" included Italian cheeses, breads, and prepared meats from Brooklyn, NY. Brooklyn is within 100 miles! I got fresh mozz and real NY Italian bread. (Connecticut is not famous for its Italian bread) I called Marco Polo for the provolone and soprasatta!

In addition to Macouns, carrots, potatoes, beets, and more, I scored some zucchini flowers. Very nice fried after an egg wash and a dredge through some flour.

Next it was off to the Stuart Family Farm in Bridgewater to get some beef. I was a bit concerned that there weren't any rib eyes listed on the Web site, since they are my favorite.

The shop proprietor/curator is Jim Winter, Deb Stuart's dad.

Jim explained that a Delmonico is a boneless rib eye. Happy me. (Further research revealed that the name Delmonico refers to a different cut depending on the region and the century.) Jim let us know that we can pre-order our meat and they will reserve it for our pick-up. Very convenient.

We got a few Delmonicos, some ground beef, and a roast. We also got some eggs, honey, and a couple of potatoes. I'd say we did all right for ourselves!

Then it was off to Green Planet Market in Watertown, CT.

On our way, we passed Maple Bank Farm in Roxbury, CT, and like those Saturday garage sale people, we instantly pulled over to check out their wares. We left there with some veggies and scones (baked at Ovens of France in Woodbury). They had lots of pumpkins, but no sugar pumpkins, but expected to next week.

We weren't so thrilled with Green Planet; their inventory is light compared to New Morning in Woodbury.

We're still looking for someone who's canning, freezing, drying, or otherwise putting by local foods for purchase. Any leads?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Marco Polo Exception

It turns out that there's already a locavore phrase for those foods that don't grow locally: the Marco Polo exception. Bill McKibben coined the phrase:

And I made what might be called the Marco Polo exception—
I considered fair game anything your average 13th century
explorer might have brought back from distant lands.
So: pepper, and turmeric, and even the odd knob of ginger
root stayed in the larder.

While I'm drinking my coffee, mixing cinnamon into my granola and apple cider, enjoying vanilla ice cream, and sautéing with olive oil, I'll be sure to call out "Marco Polo!"

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How do you like them apples?

I forgot to mention, we picked our own apples at Blue Jay Orchards. The Macouns were running!

Macouns (to me) are the perfect apple: crisp and juicy. It turns out they were invented in New York (like me) by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (not like me). They are a cross between a MacIntosh and a Jersey Black.

You can cook with them or simply eat them raw! You can only get them for a few weeks from the end of September to early November.

Crunchy Granola

Making granola is one of the easiest things to prepare and it may even qualify as baking. Wonderful smells emanate from the kitchen. And it's versatile: you can eat it right out of the bag, you can eat it like cereal, you can sprinkle it on yogurt or anything else that needs a crunch; the possibilites are nearly endless.

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup wheat germ
3/4 tsp salt
a sprinkle of cinnamon
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp Maple syrup
3 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Mix the dry ingredients.
Mix the wet ingredients.
Let it rest for about 15 minutes.
Spread the mixture out on a cookie sheet.
Bake for about 45 -55 minutes, turning and stirring a few times in the middle.
It's done when it's golden brown and dry.
Cool completely.
You can add dried fruit at this point if you like.
Store in an airtight container.

I've been using this recipe since before and it needs to be localized. So far, only the water and the maple syrup are local. The water comes from my well, so that's definitely local.

The maple syrup comes from the Sisters (the Community of the Holy Spirit, Bluestone Farm, Brewster, NY --20 driving miles from here). It is made with, as they say, nothing but sap, fire, and love.

Between Terri's sprouts and my granola, I'm feeling a bit anachronistic. Think I'll go to a peace rally!


My partner has been sprouting seeds on the kitchen counter. We have an alfalfa, radish sprout mix and a chick pea, pea, lentil mix going. The sprouts are delicious and nutritious.

I read that sprouts contain an enormous amount of vitamins and nutrients and that you could give up taking vitamin pills if you eat sprouts daily. The idea appeals to me because I don't believe in vitamin pills. How can we be sure that the chemists who formulated the vitamins took into account the associated food factors that make the vitamins actually work in human bodies. What's the point of taking something that your body can't absorb? What good is taking something that requires something else to be effective if the something else is missing? So, sprouts seemed like a great idea. It's a living food!

It turns out there's lots of disagreement on just how nutritious sprouts are. It seems some claims may have been overstated. So, I don't know. (Can anyone point me to some authoritative information?)

Funny thing, I have been feeling better since I've been eating them (could be the placebo effect, and I'll take it if it means feeling better!).

The bottom line: we grow them on our kitchen counter and you can't get any more local than that!

Delicious nutritious sandwich:
Spread tahini on 2 lightly toasted slices of bread (I like the sprouted wheat kind from Alvarado Street Bakery*. Pile sprouts on each slice. Place two thick slices of local heirloom tomatoes on one pile of sprouts and cover with the other. Enjoy!

*Yeah, I know--the bread traveled 3000 miles to get to me; I'm hoping it averages out since the sprouts came from my kitchen and the tomato came from my back yard.
Anyone know a local baker that can bake sprouted wheat bread like the Alvarado Street Bakery?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Beef: It's What's for Dinner

Deciding to eat locally and sustainably does not (for me) preclude meat. I am an omnivore and make no apologies about it.

Meat gets a bad rap in the organic food community because of the methods used in raising animals and bringing them to market. For example, to quickly fatten cows (and increase profitability), conventional commercial operations feed them corn and grains and give them growth hormones. Corn and grain-fed cows gain about 5 pounds a day versus the 1.5-2 pounds a day a grass-fed cow gains. Since cows don't naturally eat corn and grains and live in very tight quarters, they also need antibiotics, which get passed on to the consumer.

Since those cows are not eating grass (their natural diet), there are nutrients they aren't getting and therefore, nutrients they aren't producing. Grass-fed beef is higher in vitamin E and Omega-3 Fatty acids as well as beta-carotene and conjugated linoleic acids. It is also lower in calories and fat than conventional grain or corn-fed beef.

The question is, where can I find locally raised and humanely produced meat products?

In a previous post, I mentioned that a natural foods store carried locally raised beef from Stuart Family Farm in Bridgewater, CT. I bought some to perform some cooking and palate experiments.

The price was high (a rib eye steak was about $20 a pound). You can get it significantly cheaper by going to the farm yourself, but even then, it's more expensive than supermarket beef. The high price is due to the additional land required to rotate grass fed beef and the quality of that land. Also, it takes seven months longer for a cow to come to weight naturally.

In the end, it comes down to taste. And as promised, I'm ready to share my results. We cooked the rib eye on the grill and the steak was fantastic! It was not gamey or strange tasting. There was less fat on the steak and it tasted less greasy. But it was tender and juicy. It was delicious. I would definitely do this again.

Now, where can I find chicken and pork?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Like Peapod, but not

In a previous post, I expressed envy that a particular supermarket has a delivery service. You order groceries from their Web site and they bring it to your door. That's one of the perqs of living in the 21st century. Oh that local, sustainably-grown foods came with the same convenience.

As it happens, there are a few such services:
My Personal Farmers works with a number of local NY farms and will deliver anywhere in Westchester County, NY. Since I don't live in Westchester County, I cannot use the service and am therefore unable to provide a review or any guidance whatsoever. It does seem like a very cool thing. I invite anyone with any experience with this service to share their experiences in the comments.

Organic Connection in Brewster, NY delivers to Westchester and Putnam counties in NY and Fairfield County in CT. How excited am I?!
More on this service once I've had a chance to try it out.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Another Foraging Adventure

Our second (deliberate) adventure in foraging brought us to New Morning Natural and Organic Store in Woodbury, CT., about 10 miles away.

It's a fairly large store (as natural foods stores go), but they carry so many items, the place seems small. This is a good thing since they are building a new store with lots more space!
They have a wide variety of products: organic/local produce, dairy products, meat products, prepared foods, boxed and frozen foods, household items, hygiene and heath care products, baked goods, coffee, and more.

I thought the produce section was rather small (comparing it only to the size of the farmer's market). And I wish their signs would have been more specific about the food origin--Connecticut Grown seems rather generic to me. For a small state, it's pretty big. (Happily, the entire state fits into our 100-mile local radius.)

The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, answering all kinds of scientific and sociological questions about their products.

Among many other items, we bought some locally raised beef from Stuart Family Farm in Bridgewater, CT. This is an experiment. Long ago, I bought some free-range beef from elsewhere to check it out and found it to be tough, gamey, and generally not tasty. I feared my palate had been socialized into corruption over the (many) years of my life. This is another chance. I bought a rib-eye steak and some ground beef. I plan to do the steak up on the grill and to make my much-loved meatballs out of the ground beef. (I'm having visions of chasing free-range meatballs around the kitchen.) I promise more information on this beef once we cook and taste it.

We bought Hautboy Hill Farm creamline milk, but I can't find a Web site to link to.

And finally, the sweet potatoes we bought were the sweetest sweet potatoes I have ever eaten.

Friday, September 14, 2007


The first local pumpkins of the season appeared on the scene. I found mine at Mason's Farm Market. (They don't have a Web site, but they're on Route 25 in Monroe, Ct. at the Bradford Drive intersection. Map here.)

It turns out that pumpkins are quite nutritious; they're rich in beta carotene, potassium, Vitamin C, calcium, and fiber.

I decided to attempt the pumpkin soup recipe (PDF) from Kingsolver's book, which calls for cooking the soup and serving it in its own shell.

I was very careful scraping the inside flesh and I am quite certain that I did not breach the skin/shell, but alas, the pumpkin did collapse and I was unable to use it as a tureen.

As for the taste--delicious, though not exactly what I was expecting; this is pumpkin herb, not pumpkin spice.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

First Forage

Last Saturday (9/8) , we ventured out on a foraging trip to a local Farmer's Market.

Finding a convenient Farmer's Market is not as easy as you'd think. This is how the supermarkets suck you in--they're ubiquitous and nearly always open. One even lets you shop online and delivers the food to your door. But they say anything worth having is worth working for.

I Googled on ct farmers markets and found the CT Farm Fresh Web site listed a few links down. (What did we do before Google?) Using their map, I found several farmer's markets in the county. Most are open one or two days a week during normal business hours. Not a great convenience for working people. However, the Bethel Farmer's Market (the nearest one by a lot) is open on Saturdays!

So we went. I was impressed with the selection and the number of participating farms. There were tomatoes, lettuces, kale, apples, peppers, onions, more tomatoes, herbs, pies, and much more. I picked a good week for my first forage! The prices were reasonable and for the most part, the quality was super. I left with cilantro, tomatoes, and McIntosh apples. Very happy.

I titled this post First Forage, although this is not my first-ever visit to a farmer's market; it is the first deliberate forage since reading Kingsolver's book. I still need to find a market that will solve my "putting by" issues. I also am on the lookout for (egads) meat!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Recap on Why

With all due respect to Henry David Thoreau, I wish to eat more deliberately so that at the end of my days I would not realize that I hadn't eaten food at all.

Like I said, Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle awakened something in me and lit a match under my butt.

Corporate food favors items that look attractive, package well, ship well, and last through the journey. Local growers have the luxury of choosing genetic lines that taste better and contain more nutrients.

  • I don't want to eat food provided by one of the six major food corporations controlling the global food supply.
  • I don't want to eat food that can't reproduce itself.
  • I don't want to eat food that traveled 3000+ miles to get to me. I want to pay for food, not transportation.
  • I don't want to eat food that consists of hormones, pesticides, unnatural fertilizers, and genetic modifications.
  • I do want to eat food that is more nutritious and tastes better.
  • I do want to eat food that is grown sustainably.
  • I do want to be part of the solution.

I am keeping this blog as a place to ask for and share information and a catalog of what I have found.

A New Beginning

I am just about finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. This book inspired me to begin this blog. Barbara Kingsolver is a brilliant writer; you may be familiar with some of her other works, such as The Poisonwood Bible or Prodigal Summer.

I'm not going to do a book review here---there are currently 110 of them at Amazon, and perhaps hundreds of others elsewhere. The basic premise of the book is that her family goes back to the farm in Appalachia and eats local foods for an entire year. Local includes their own farm, a neighbor's farm, or a farm within 100 miles of their home.

There are dozens of reasons to eat locally, not the least being that the bulk of our commercially available food is tasteless, nutritionless, and consumes more petroleum than our automotive vehicles. The book is informative and moving, practical and fantastic.

She made a believer out of me, perhaps because she's not one of those in-your-face health food nuts. She acknowledges that it's impossible to eat everything grown locally--take olive oil and pineapples for example (not in the same recipe). But if you take the time to think about it, you can make much better long-distance choices. The book has a companion Web site for more information.

I wondered if a suburban dweller with a full time day job and could take on an equivalent committment. My gardening skills are in their infancy. I do have a "victory garden" in my yard and it looks liks the Japanese beetles, deer, and chipmunks have declared victory. While Kingsolver's family spent about $0.50 per meal per person, my total garden yield this summer has been about a dozen tomatoes and a several dozen Jalapenos.

However, I am excited enough about the idea to begin this blog and hear about others adventures in local eating. Share your experiences, your successes (or not) in your attempts to eat closer to home.

I live in Connecticut, just east of Danbury. Can I amend my diet to favor locally produced fare? What's available in my neck of the woods? Where can I get it? Do I have to "put up" my own produce (canning and freezing) or can I retain my grasshopper-ness?