Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Accidental Challenge Dinner

I'd defrosted some chicken from Herondale Farm (just over the border in NY). Tonight we roasted it with shallots from Cherry Grove Farm in Newtown, organic carrots (locals long since been eaten), some store-bought chicken broth, some red peppers we had on hand (origins unknown), and thyme and sage from Missy's Farm in Warwick, NY (dried and bagged by us).

For our vegetable or carb (however you want to call it), we had acorn squash from Waldingfield Farm (acquired at the New Haven Farmer's Market this weekend). We quartered and seasoned that with a little butter, pumpkin pie spice, and a few drizzles of maple syrup from the Community of the Holy Spirit's Bluestone Farm in Brewster, NY.

The funny thing (to me) is that we weren't even trying to create a mostly local meal. It was an easy after-a-workday meal made from the stuff we had on hand! Wish every day could be like this.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened at the Winery

It sounds like the begining of a joke, which could as easily have begun: a Priest and a Locavore walk into a winery...

Anyway, we did (walk into a winery); McLaughlin Vineyards. It was Saturday afternoon and we'd spent the day Locavoring around New Haven. On the way home, we decided to stop into our neighborhood winery to replenish our Vista Riposa.

McLaughlin also sells eggs from Rough Cut Ranch, their neighbor. These are the most beautiful eggs I have ever seen. I wish I had a better camera to do them justice.

At McLaughlin's, Dee Dee's domain is the tastings and Frank (Francis) runs the retail store, among other things. We all got to talking about, what else, local food (and drink) and where you could get local honey. I told them that Holbrook's carries honey and the Stuart's carry honey. Frank wanted really local honey. I said that Cherry Grove Farm in Newtown has their own organic honey. And so the conversation continued.

As a matter of interest, Frank told me about this 93-year-old locavore in Newtown who keeps a Web site reporting on local foods and farms. I was intrigued--a kindred spirit, and a neighbor no less. He was impressed that this old biddy could still get around! I gave him my e-mail address so he could send me the link. He went on to talk about her Thanksgiving dinner of local foods and how she served McLaughlin wine. "So did I," I told him. He continued, saying that she felt bad that the Tom turkey wasn't local, but was a Butterball. The way he said it, got me thinking... That sure sounds like my Thanksgiving! "Are you sure she's 93," I asked? He was sure. He'd checked the profile at her blog and it said she was 93.

"Wait," I said, "it's me!" But I'm not 93. When I created my account, I had refused to enter my year of birth and the original version inserted a year from the turn of the century (the other one). I recalled a friend making a joke about it several months ago. It turns out that the upgraded version allows you to leave it blank without making a wild guess. So, I've fixed it. I am sorry if anyone felt misled. Kind of comical, though...

So, while I am old by some standards, I'm young by others. I do have gray hair. (I might dye it if they start to grow hair color in my 100 miles.) If you really want to know how old I am, when I was a kid:
- We had to get up to change television channels (though we did have TV, even color, but only seven channels).
- Water wasn't bottled.
- Coffee only came in one flavor: coffee.
- People smoked everywhere: in the grocery store (in every store for that matter), on buses, trains, and, airplanes, even in the doctor's office. Really. (It was legal back then.)
- Cars only had AM radio and you actually got exercise opening and closing the windows.
- Soda did not have high fructose corn syrup.
- Margarine was thought to be good for you and butter was unhealthy.
- Jack LaLane was the only one working out on TV. Julia Child and Graham Kerr were the only ones cooking on TV.
I could go on--but you get the idea. Suffice it to say, I was too young for the first Woodstock and too old for the second.

Anyway, I hope you're here for the local food information and not just marveling that an old lady can drive from farm to farm. If it's any consolation, I've been told that I do drive like an old lady.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dark Days Eat Local Challenge

Mostly local meal of the week, 1/19/2008:

- Meatballs, made from Stuart Family Farm ground beef
- Home made pasta
- Gravy (a red, meat based "sauce") from the freezer from "before"
- Bread, from Apicella's Bakery, New Haven
- Salad, lettuce from Two Guys from Woodbridge (organic and hydroponic greens)
- Wine, Vista Riposa, from McLaughlin Vineyards

Thursday, January 17, 2008

CitySeed's Year-Round Farmer's Market

The CitySeed's Year-Round Farmer's Market is this Saturday (1/19) from 10 AM to 1 PM at Wooster Square in New Haven, CT. Many of CitySeed's summer vendors come out for this.

Dress warmly!

Monday, January 14, 2008


This hardly qualifies as a true confession since I've been complaining about it incessantly, but I have no idea where my wheat is coming from.

I would like to buy wheat from my foodshed (100 miles from Newtown, CT) or at least regionally (New England/Mid-Atlantic). I would like to get it whole, as in buy a mill and grind it on my countertop. I would like it to be durum wheat and hard red winter wheat. I was told (at a local Farmer's Market) that CT is not a good region for growing wheat--it's too humid. I guess they weren't so picky about their wheat in 1875.

I generally use King Arthur's, Hodgson Mill, and even (gasp) Pillsbury and Gold Medal, but I have no idea where these guys are getting it. King Arthur's Web site does not say where they get their wheat but it does say that they enrich it. Their semolina ingredients are durum wheat, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid. I was looking to get the plain kind. It seems Hodgson Mill sells the plain kind, but they're in the Ozarks, so they're not even a regional producer. Yet they may very well be the closest source to my home.

So where are these companies getting their raw wheat? Here's a PDF of where wheat is grown in the US (HINT: Not New England or the Mid-Atlantic). Mostly North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Kansas, Colorado, and even Washington (not DC). Looks like you can get durum and hard red winter wheat in California too. Is there anything they don't grow in that state?

It's equally possible that we (meaning American corporations) are selling our domestic wheat to other countries and buying ours from still other countries. We could just be trading between the same countries. Food migration is turning out to be weird. According to the North American Grain Export Association, "as much as one third of all grain produced in the U.S. moves into export" More from their site:
Exporting grain is both a competitive and a capital-intensive industry. Since the margin of profit to be earned from moving a ton of grain can be quite small, exporters depend upon moving large volumes very quickly. They seek to achieve an economy of scale that lowers their average fixed costs per unit of volume handled, provides operating flexibility, increases bargaining power in chartering for shipping, and improves the services they can provide worldwide.

It seems that to purchase US Wheat, I need to be a big company (think commodity trader) or another country looking to do business with a big American company. See US Wheat Associates.
Buying wheat is a serious enterprise, especially since there is a high financial risk due to the large volumes of the commodity traded. Thus, in order for an inquiry to be considered by a reputable exporter, a buyer should be prepared to provide ... information.
An importer who is ready to buy will typically seek offers from exporters through either direct negotiations with specific suppliers or through an invitation for bids. Buyers who negotiate directly usually watch the U.S. cash market for advantageous times to make their purchase and then negotiate private transactions. Those issuing an invitation operate through a public or private tender system.

I really didn't want that much...maybe a few pounds a month...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dark Days Local Challenge, Winter Extension, Week 1

Thanks to an enthusiastic response, Laura over at Urban Hennery has extended the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge...

My mostly local meal for the week was tonight:
- Roast beef, top round from Stuart Family Farm in Bridgewater, CT. Delicious.
- Broccoli in a garlic, olive oil, & chicken broth. The garlic is local. Sorry to say, the broccoli was Bird's Eye.
- Semolina egg noodles with butter (Cabot, regional). Okay, so the semolina is not local. It's probably from North Dakota (which produces 2/3 of America's durum wheat. So, if you buy a box of pasta from Italy, it may very well have come from North Dakota). BUT--I'm hoping to get redemption points for making these noodles myself (yes, from prime ingredients: semolina, egg, olive oil)! (Plus, the egg I used came from McLaughlin's Vineyard's neighbor!)
- Wine, from McLaughlin Vineyards.

Looking forward to the nextie.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Michael Pollan in Connecticut: A Review (of sorts)

This post is a follow up to this post.

With all due respect to the Jersey Boys: Oh what a night! The Station Square in Madison, CT. was packed! I had e-mailed for reservations but the author's talk was already booked solid. My party was even too late to get on the waiting list. And yet, we got in! Pollan turned out to be excellent. He is one of those rare authors who speaks as well as he writes.

The Farmer's Market side of the venue was packed as well. There wasn't room to turn around. And yet, it was exhiliarating--all of us there to get the good stuff.

I scored:
- French Country Bread from Wave Hill Bakers.
- Empire Apples from Palazzi Orchard.
- Two cheeses, one with a Jalapeno and tequila rind from Meadow Stone Farm. (Sorry about not knowing the names of the cheeses. I bought what I sampled and didn't write them down.)
- A taste of Cabernet Franc from Chamard Vineyards. (They were not allowed to sell any at this venue, so I'm going to have to make the road trip!)
- Pleasant Son cheese and soft cheese from Beaver Brook Farm.
- Lettuce from Two Guys from Woodbridge.
- The latest edition of The Edible Nutmeg.
- A family membership to NOFA.
- Michael Pollan's new book, In Defense of Food (signed).

There were many, many other treats and not enough time to check them all out. It was so wonderful and wild. It was definitely worth staying out late on a school night. I am so sorry that I didn't get any pictures. Maybe next time!

UPDATE: Sue Spencer has done a much better job than I have at recapping the evening.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Michael Pollan in CT!

Michael Pollan's speaking tours launching his new book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto includes a stop in Madison CT. It's about a 60 mile drive for me and IMHO, well worth it. It's on Monday, January 7, 2008 from 4-8 PM at Station Square, 28 Durham Rd., Madison, CT.

The talk is sponsored by R.J. Julia Booksellers and is turning into the midwinter locavore event of the season. From their site:
To celebrate Michael Pollan's book launch of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, we have joined forces with Connecticut Grown and CitySeed to bring you fresh local breads, produce, cheeses, wine, meat, and much more. Vendors include: Two Guys Farm, Reingoat Farm, Sugar Maple Farms, Dove & Boar Farm, Palazzi Orchards, Natures Edge Farm, Guilford Foodworks, 18th Century Purity Farm, Four Mile River Farm, Chamard Vineyards, Beaver Brook Farm, Mama Manju's Salsa, Lisa Ann Skincare, Belltame Farm of Lebanon, Dinners on the Farm from River Tavern, Ashlawn Farm Coffee, Claire's Corner Copia of New Haven, Wave Hill Breads, Meadow Stone Farm, Bird Song Farm. There will be delicious tastings to sample, locally grown and baked items for purchase, and information to share. [links added]

Some of you may have heard me go on (and on) about Wave Hill Breads...their French Country bread is the best Italian bread in Fairfield County! I have been jonesin' for this stuff ever since Holbrook Farm scaled down for the winter.

Beaver Brook Farm and Beltane Farm have absolutely magnificent cheeses.

Who says nothing exciting happens in Connecticut?!

Extending the Eat Local Challenge

Laura at Urban Hennery is extending the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge through March! Visit her site/blog to vote and weigh in.

There is no way to fail. You set your own rules and report your results at the end of the week. Even if you can't keep up with your own rules, the experience of trying is a real eye-opener.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Organic Food Trail

The more I research the sources of my food and how it gets to my table, the more astonished I am at the discoveries. More reasons to favor local growers over corporate organics. features Dr. Phil Howard's chart of major corporate ownership and involvement in the organic food sector. The graphic is called Organic Industry Structure: Acquisitions by the Top 25 Food Processors in North America.

In an article discussing Monsanto vs. the rest of the world, there's a list of Organic and Natural Product Companies Associated with Monsanto:

Brand Name(s): Arrowhead Mills, Bearitos, Breadshop, Celestial Seasonings, Earth's Best Baby Food, Garden of Eatin, Health Valley, Imagine Foods, Terra
Chips, Westbrae, Millina's, Mountain Sun, Shari Ann's, Walnut Acres
Owned By: Hain Food Group
Principle Stockholders: Bank of America, Entergy Nuclear, ExxonMobil, H.J. Heinz, Lockheed Martin, Merck, Monsanto, Pfizer, Philip Morris, Walmart, Waste Mangement Inc.
Significantly Owned By: Citigroup

Brand Name(s): Cascadian Farms, Muir Glen
Owned By: Small Planet Foods
Principle Stockholders: General Mills
Significantly Owned By: Alcoa, Chevron, Disney, Dupont, ExxonMobil, General Electric, McDonalds, Monsanto, Nike, Pepsico, Pfizer, Philip Morris, Starbucks, Target, Texas Instruments

This information is not on the label. Whatever did we do before Google?