Archive for Little Trips

All You Need Is Love Apple Farm

All You Need Is Love Apple Farm

Carrots at Love Apple Farms~Jessica LargeyBorage Flowers at Love Apple Farms by Jessica Largey

Imagine a world with the sweetest carrots, peppery radishes, and leek scapes with a musky, garlic bite. This is a world where the produce is given extra loving care by farmers who never take a day off and who live a stone throw away from the planting beds. Every morning the crops are pruned and tended, and by mid-afternoon the day’s vegetables are picked and whisked away. Washed and cleaned, they are roasted, chopped and pureed into the food of two star Michelin Manresa restaurant. A silky smooth puree of parsnip rests below roast squab, and turnip milk is steamed into a frothy foam atop a root vegetable risotto. All this and the vegetables hardly even touch the inside of a refrigerator.

Everything about Love Apple Farm at owner Cynthia Sandberg’s home feels magical, vibrant, and robust. The Santa Cruz sunlight streaks through the trees onto the planting beds, feeding the produce with vital nutrients. Volunteers and farmers spread throughout the two-acre farm. One woman pulls out spotted leaves from red Russian Kale.  These leaves have been attacked by pests, and this is the farm’s way of naturally protecting against attackers. Another woman feeds the chickens with vegetable scraps. The air is rich with the earthy, musky smell of vegetables; life is thriving all around.

The relationship between Love Apple and Manresa is truly codependent. Each Manresa cook saves compost scraps to return to the farm, putting back into the land what is taken out.  The restaurant is the exclusive consumer of the farm which  makes it possible for Sandberg to focus on the special needs of her customer, something most farmers are unable to do. She concentrates the farm on biodynamic techniques. No artificial chemicals are used, instead, fermented herbal and mineral preparations are applied as compost additives and field sprays. Sandberg also uses the astronomical calender to determine planting times and harvesting.

A typical day at the farm begins as one might imagine, just as the sunrise is peeking out above the Santa Cruz Mountains. Love Apple Farm is home to a flock of chickens, who provide more than half of the egg supply to the restaurant, and a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig named Dali. The morning chores include feeding these hungry animals, mending the planting beds, sowing seeds, and weeding. In the afternoons, the farm workers and volunteers all enjoy a lunch together made with products from the farm. On Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays the farm is open to the public for tomato sales, the namesake of the farm. And closing chores include collecting the chicken eggs, closing the greenhouses, and covering the planting beds with frost blankets. In the evening the farm workers again share meals together with the produce of the farm. Occasionally cooks from the restaurant join the farmers and treat them to Manresa-style prepared meals.

25 miles down the road in Los Gatos, Manresa’s chef David Kinch has been serving his dish Into the Garden since 2006, an item that showcases the relationship between Love Apple Farms and the restaurant.  A mixture of seasonal vegetables are chosen daily, each plate is unique and different. Some of the produce is served raw, some is cooked softly in its own juices, and everything is served on a dusting of a dehydrated chicory dirt. Raw slivers of solar yellow carrots nest between shaved beets and Bordeaux spinach, vegetable jus foam playfully dots nasturtium,  and bright green pea tendrils peep out. With each bite the earthy, honest flavors of the garden come through, a perfect mix a creativity, reverence and culinary sophistication.

photo by Jessica Largey

Walking through Love Apple Farm, it’s easy to see where Kinch draws his inspiration. Arugula flowers remarkably seem more pungent then their leafy moniker, flower beds are packed with borage flowers full of vanilla and almond aromas. Bite into ruby streaks mustard greens and your mouth is afire of horse radish flavor, then chew on flowering cilantro which has double the tang of the standard variety. On this farm the produce is fresher, more vibrant, and succulent than anything you have ever tasted. It must have something to do with all that love they are putting into it. In a country where so many people depend on commercially produced fruits and vegetables, or even worse, frozen and canned products, Love Apple Farm is a beacon of hope, a ray of sunshine and a omen for the future of farming and restaurants everywhere. Or at least one can dream. And on this two-acre of farm land in Santa Cruz, California that dream is reality.

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Dominican Republica: Paradise Found

Dominican Republica: Paradise Found

ATV RideMaking Dominican CoffeeDominican cook

 

Charlotte revved the throttle of the atv as we roared up the rocky hillside, pushing into the Samana mountain range.  Day three of the Dominican adventure and we were deep into the lush countryside heading towards the coffee fields.

The sky over head was clear, the sun shone bright above us. Each turn brought a new view.  In the wilderness, surrounded by lush greens, the blue beach peeped out between the valleys in the far off distance. Then all at once, we were bumping along the rocky countryside, holding onto the sides of the atv desperately. The road was dotted with cheerfully painted houses, bright pinks, yellows and blues. Dominican children met us along the way, waving merrily yelling “Hola, hola!”

I had arrived on my first trip to the Dominican three days prior with my long time friend Erin, her boyfriend Morgan, and our friend  Charlotte.  Erin’s family owns a home in Las Terrenas, a small fisherman village in the Samana Pennisula, a two hour trip from the capital city of Santo Domingo.  Instead of an all-inclusive resort, our vacation plans included a beach front abode with home cooked meals, in house exercise classes taught by Erin’s fitness instructor mother, and insider knowledge and guidance from our local hosts. It would truly be a locals vacation, an immersion into the culture of the Dominican rather than the luxury resort images that trips to the Caribbean often conjure up.

Walking along the deserted beach the first day, we couldn’t have asked for a more serene trip. During our breakfast of fresh tropical fruits and pineapple juice at a nearby hotel’s restaurant, the town seemed void of any other foreigners. Dominican women walked along the road, laughing and talking loudly. Men zoomed by on motorcycles. A herd of cattle cooled in the shade of a tidal pool along the beaches edge.

Surfing was the activity I had come for so we headed to Playa Bonita, the wave beach.  We rented boards from an Argentinian who gave us simple instructions in broken English. The water was cool, but mild, and the waves crashed softly against the sand. We waded in the shallow water, letting the salty sea eat at our skin. Once I found my balance atop the board, I waited for the pull of the wave behind me. Sitting on the board, the sun beating down on my body, life in the Caribbean was perfect.

An atv quad expedition is key to the Dominican experience. Renting the all terrain vehicles for the day was inexpensive and let us conquer the rugged Dominican landscape. Leaving Las Terrenas behind, the trip to the coffee fields brought us deep into the wilderness. Our guides, Erin’s parents neighbors, who are French transplants to the DR, led us to a home where the coffee beans are harvested and laid out on a large paved floors to dry in the sun. The beans are then ground, water is boiled, poured over the ground beans and pushed through a simple sieve. Rich, sweet, and bright, it is coffee than can beat any corner shop Americans have grown dependent on.

Back on the quads, we powered through the rocky trail,  and passed a shack where the bark from rubber trees is pressed into latex, stopping to buy some jewelry from the locals. Thirty minutes later, we reached the town of Limone. There we stopped to have a Dominican style lunch. The table quickly filled with rotisserie chicken, stewed goat, rice with pigeon peas, crispy potatoes, and fried cakes spiced with anise seed. Tall glasses of cool, fresh squeeze pineapple juice quenched our throats after the long drive. Talk turned to life as an expatriate in the Dominican. French, English, German, and Spanish filled the table as we all discussed our experiences traveling to this country. The Dominican is home to many expats, mostly French, who have created quite a community of cafes, restaurants, and shops in the towns.

After lunch we left our French guides and carried onwards to the beach. Along the gravel road, we hired a motoconcho, a motorcyle taxi, to lead the way. Through the town of Limone we passed teenagers dancing, families eating, and men and women walking around. Motorcycles and atvs zoomed all around us. Past the town and our atvs slopped downward, and then suddenly we were driving over a short, muddy bridge. As we drew close, the sun set a yellowy haze over the beach. We had arrived at paradise, a totally secluded, alcove of a beach with bright white sands, gushing waves, and rocky cliffs. We jumped into the water, playing with the waves and then napped under the sun, letting the exhaustion of the day overtake us. Spring days are long in the Dominican and  it was still sunny when we awoke. Our motoconcho driver sliced open fresh coconuts he found nearby and we all shared a snack before heading back to town. The younger coconuts had soft meat that slid down our throats, but its bitter milk was not as palatable. The older coconuts had sweet milk, refreshing and clean, with crunchy, fibrous meat. A great snack to get us started on our drive back to the fishermen village.

With days spent in vigorous activities, evenings at our abode were spent living a simple life. Dinners of grilled fish bought from the local fishermen complimented salads of potatoes, green beans and onions, couscous, and wine. Eating to the soundtrack of the waves crashing along the beach; easy dinner conversation shared between friends. A few nights we mustered up energy and ventured into town for salsa dancing and cocktails with the locals. Several venues had live music and even to the most ardent two left footer dancing in the Caribbean is done with ease.

At my urging, we devoted a second day to surfing, sharing the waves with some German tourists who seemed as novice at the water sport as we did. Wave after wave, I pulled the board back against the tide, hoping to catch a good wave and jump up, getting at least my knees up on the board. The strength of the water was exhausting, the waves beating upon me, but it was exhilarating to swim in the cool Dominican sea. Finally I managed to catch a few good waves, enough to satisfy my surfing interests, at least for a time.

With Erin’s parents as guides, we enjoyed a day hiking to the waterfall at Limone. Rolling green hills started the trail, and large pastures of chickens and horses met us along the way. A steep, rocky decline brought us to the base of the lowest waterfall.  As we walked deeper into the bushland, it seemed we were conquering a rain forest. The trees became more dense, the air filled with moisture, sounds of birds and wildlife filled the air. Sunbeams shot through the trees, shining golden rays through the emerald topography. In the far distance we could hear the cascading waters as we descended down steep, rock steps built into the hillside. The waterfall was breathtaking. Standing at its base, spritzed in water, a calmness overcame us.

WaterfallLobster lunch at Playa Coson

Our last day in Las Terrenas and we rented atvs again and rode to Playa Coson. This secluded beach is only accessible by a two hour walk along the beach from Playa Bonita or by the small dirt rode we zoomed through town on the atvs. At the end of the road we found white sands and palms trees, the picture picture beach. A small shack is set up on one end, ready to feed the large number of people who have gathered to the beach for grilled lobster, fish and chicken. We ordered our lobster quickly, securing enough lobster for our group, and sat down at the picnic table at the beach to soak up the sun and sip on pineapple juice and rum. The lobster arrived glistening in the sun, covered in butter, earthy and charred. With a big plate of rice, red beans, french fries, and shredded salad, it was the perfect meal to end the perfect vacation. Basking in the sun, time stood still, and nothing could be better than life in the Dominican.

Our flight the next day seemed surreal. The worry and anxiety that was the reality of flight connections and checking baggage seemed such a contrast to the easy, simple life we had led in the Dominican. I knew the feelings of calm and serenity we had found in the Caribbean would fade, I just had hoped it wouldn’t happen as suddenly as our transfer in Fort Lauderdale. But alas real life comes stumbling back abruptly at times and you run with it as you must. For Paradise is easily found, and in the Dominican Republic it is never very far away.

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First Look: Farmers Market Preview

First Look: Farmers Market Preview

An Array of ApplesGreens at the Market

The days are warming up and your tongue is craving the sweet strawberries and juicy peaches of spring. Even with the occasional bright sunny day, it’s still just a bit too early for fruit, but the farmers markets are starting to bustle. This Sunday, the Dupont Market was alive with bustle, and lucky for the home cook, springtime is just around the corner.

I have to say, I’m a bit of a farmers market snob. Having spent the last three years shopping at the best markets in Los Angles, it’s hard not to be. But inspiration from this week’s Washington Post Food Section spotlight on farmers markets had me yearning for a trip to the market.

While April is still a bit too early for East coast produce, the Dupont Market was alive with farm fresh eggs from Smith Meadows Farm, Pink Lady apples from Quaker Valley Orchards, and bright green butter lettuce from Endless Summer Harvest. Local artists entertained with folk music and customers cooled off with a sweet bite of Dolcezza’s gelato. While the market was sparse on the produce end, shoppers happily purchased artisan bread from the Atwater Bakery stall, organic shitake, trumpet, and oyster mushrooms from Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms, and grass-fed cows milk from Clear Spring Creamery. As the weather continues to warm up, more produce will appear each week. With so much inspiration straight from the markets, this spring give your recipes a new look with products straight from the farm.

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Eatin’ and Drivin’, Drivin’ and Eatin’

Eatin’ and a Drivin’, Drivin’ and a Eatin’

The wide open road offers the traveler many things. Peace and calm, long stretches of land full of solitude and reflection. Broad picturesque views and rolling mountainsides dot the land, with a car often the only inhabitant for miles. Quirky road side stops, local flavor changing from city to city, mile to mile. The road can nourish the soul, the mind, and the stomach. Stops along the way break the monotony of driving and offer a slap in the face of the culture and food of the land.

Snow covered Grand Canyon

Heading west from Los Angeles, a detour north is unescapable, for the immense caverns of the Grand Canyon lay within a days drive. Topped with snow, even a few minutes in the national park are breathtaking, the surreal views showcasing the bounty of the landscape. Driving west toward New Mexico, a stop at Whataburger is a must. The pride of the southwestern hamburger joints, this juicy burger is best alongside a mikshake and fries, true road trip style.

Late night driving west into Texas is lonesome. The road becomes impossibly dark and unnervingly empty. Morning sunshine brings clouds so low you can reach out and touch them and a true Texan lunch of barbecue. With large outdoor grills full of brisket, chicken, half-smokes, ribs, Rudy’s BBQ is a mainstay of San Antonio. The meat is tender and juicy, covered in dry rub and then dipped in Rudy’s homemade sauce. Baked beans and coleslaw are a must for sides, and the sweet creamed corn offsets the spicy meats. Finished off with an ice-cold root beer, this giant sized lunch is serious business in Texas.

BBQ doesn't get better than at Rudy's

Home to the Alamo, the river-walk,  and a diverse spread of Southwestern culture, San Antonio is also a great place to try local Mexican cuisine. Hidden back a woodsy area at outskirts of San Antonio, El Bosque is stomping ground of the locals with a lot of flavor. The signature dish, chili rellenos stuffed with a sweet and spicy mixture of beef and raisins, is reason enough to make the trip. And you won’t be able to get enough of the Tex Mex staples of beans, rice, taquitos, and enchiladas.

Platter from El Bosque

Heading further West, the sky fills with a dramatic mixture of pinks and reds as the sun sets on Texas.

Texan Sunset

Pull into New Orleans in the deep night and the city is still alive with party goers walking Bourbon Street. Whether you spend the night driving or drinking, breakfast in New Orleans is definitely beignets at Cafe du Monde. Listen to street performers belt out jazz classics at this famed waterfront cafe, watching tourists and locals traipse through the cities historic streets. Hot, powdered sugar covered beignets and cafe au lait provide a great start for a day of exploring NoLa.

Walk the streets, take a step back in time and marvel at the beauty of a city rebuilt. Outdoor cafes and bars offer spirits in true New Orleans style with live music; shops provide cajun spices, gumbo seasoning, and cookbooks, true souvenirs for the foodie traveler.

A trip to New Orleans must include a good southern meal and Acme Oyster House really shows off creole cuisine. Fresh oysters, shucked at the bar, greet guests into this award-winning New Orleans staple. And when in NoLa, a po-boy and gumbo are definite musts. Juicy shrimp, breaded and fried are stuffed into a soft roll, topped with tomatoes, lettuce, and tabasco spiked mayo. Served in a bread bowl, spicy, earthy and full of flavor, Acme’s gumbo shows off what makes this dish a New Orleans favorite.

Beignets and Cafe au Late at Cafe du Monde

Oysters Galore at Acme Oyster House

From New Orleans there is no where to go but North into Tennessee. A must-stop for a the foodie road tripper, Memphis is another city who boasts the best barbecue. At Blues City Cafe, ribs slathered in sweet, spicy sauce, crispy fries and buttery toast really hit the spot. And nothing says the south like a tall glass of  sweet tea.

BBQ in Memphis, TN

Finally, the east coast appears as the monuments of Washington DC graze the skyline. Maryland crab defines this area of the east and crab cakes at Eastern Market make a lovely lunch. Peruse the vendors of the market, purchase meats and vegetables, pastries and fresh flowers. End with a a market lunch, a juicy crab cake on a delicate, sweet roll and large heaping of coleslaw.

Crab Cakes at Eastern Market

From west to east, the foodie traveller can certainly eat their way across the country. From road stops to pit stops, eating plays a big part of driving long treks. One might say it’s even be the reason for the trip after all. With a good friend by your side and a good meal in your stomach, any day is a great day to start a foodie road trip.


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So Long Los Angeles, It’s Been Swell

So Long Los Angeles, It’s Been Swell

The great thing about Los Angeles is that at the drop of a hat you can do just about anything. A thirty minute cruise through the city and you’re working on your tan and eating ice cream on Venice Beach. Or hop on the subway and head downtown for dim sum and red bean pastries in Chinatown. There’s a farmers market every day, where the freshest local, organic produce can be turned into a meal worth feeding the Gods. And on every corner you can find either a great cup of coffee, a bacon wrapped hotdog or a bakery sporting cupcakes. The culture in Los Angeles is so diverse, there is everything from Jewish delis selling the best Matzoa ball soup to dim sum in Chinatown to the classic Los Angeles staple, a hot dog at Pinks. Moving from this city is a hard thing to do; there is so much food to be missed.

On Wednesday morning, bright and early, a true foodie will head west to the Santa Monica farmers market(Arizona and 2nd Avenue). Nothing beats Californian produce, and this market is unparalleled, with helpful and attentive farmers always ready to share a story or a laugh. At Weiser Family Farms,smiling Alex Weiser helps you choose purple and yellow carrots and butterball potatoes. In the summer the farm has intricately flavored melons and delicious mulberries, if you can manage to track some down. For more berries, including bright yellow and orange raspberries and pungent blackberries, the ladies at Pudwill Farms won’t steer you wrong. And there is nothing better than a California strawberry, especially the ones from Harry’s Berries. At the end  of the market, Monak Ranch is great in the summer for a rainbow array of heirloom tomatoes, and the stall next door, Sea Canyon, is the place in the winter for apples. And the peaches at Reiger Farms are dream worthy; bright, sweet and tart, they are a taste you won’t soon forget. While spring and summer offer a dreamers delight of fruit and vegetables, this market holds true even in the winter, with farmers bringing an abundance of wonderful citrus, root vegetables, and flowers. Grab a coffee and pastry from Rockenwagner Bakery, a Austrian style bakery located nearby, and stroll along, smelling, tasting, and learning about the bounty of California.

While you’re near the beach, check out the eclectic Venice Beach. Rent a bike from the Santa Monica Pier and ride it along the beach through the Venice boardwalk, stopping to check out the body builders on Muscle Beach and the rowdy street performers.  Keep heading along the beach east towards the must-see the Venice Beach Canals. The houses that line the man made canals are breathtaking, the area breathes of  peaceful calm. Nearby Abbot Kinney Boulevard is home to a number of unique boutiques, shops and restaurants. Jin Patisserie is a wonderful place to take a break. The relaxing zen garden compliments the delicate cakes, macaroons and sweets of their tea service. Not far from Abbot Kinney, you can find the city’s best Italian store, Bay Cities. The meatball sandwich is worth the plane ticket alone.

Heading East, the drive through Beverly Hills into Hollywood is an adventure all its own. Take Wilshire Boulevard and you’ll pass numerous doughnut shops, a strange staple in a city full of health food fanatics. Beverly Hills is home to a few classic Los Angeles food stops, including Sprinkles cupcakes, which started the cupcake craze and a Pinkberry. Frozen yogurt in Los Angeles has become a dime a dozen; every shopping center seems to have a FrozenBerry, SnowBerry, or Yogurtland.(See MattBites) The original is still the best, and ask for mochi as a topping, this Japanese gummi bear makes the yogurt so much better. The area is also home to several upscale patisseries, including chocolate haven Madame Chocolate, Boule for bread and dainty cakes, and Paulette for beautiful, french style macarons.

A little more east and you’ll hit the start of Hollywood. Among the selection of Ethiopian restaurants of little Ethiopia, you’ll find Jewish deli Canter’s. With great matzoa ball soup and an open 24 hours policy, this is a popular late night hang out. For a grilled Reuben, however, Greenblatt’s deli has no competition. Half pastrami, half corned beef on rye with sauerkraut and extra thousand island is the way to go. Nearby, the best brunch spot is The Griddle. But be warned, there is always a line and the giant pancakes are topped with sugar, sugar and more sugar. Just a hint, you can order just one pancake and one is more than enough. The chili here is also phenomenal. Hollywood is also home to Runyun Canyon, one of the many hiking area’s Los Angeles offers. Burn off all those calories hiking up above the smog; you’ll get some great fews of the city and may even see a celebrity or two. For a cool treat after your hike, Mashti Malone’s is a Los Angeles favorite, well-known for their rosewater ice cream. A hidden gem slightly east of the area is Scoops, which offers fresh, inventful flavors, like black sesame, honey thyme, or brown bread ice cream.

Keep heading East along Sunset Boulevard and you’ll hit Sunset Junction. During the day, stroll into the boutiques and take a photo booth picture at Pull My Daisy, then  grab a coffee at Casbah Cafe and people watch outside. For great Vietnamese noodle soup check out Pho Cafe, then walk to nearby Echo Park and sit near the lake. Try the fruit from a street cart, fresh melons, pineapple, mango and coconut diced up to order and topped with lime juice and chili powder.It’s very refreshing and very LA. For dinner, head slightly south to Los Angeles’s Koreatown, home to numerous karaoke bars, Korean spas, and barbecue. The place for Korean BBQ is Parks, which offers an impressive display of kimchi as well as the best pork belly in town. After dinner, a drive up the street will take you to Los Feliz. Have a cocktail circa 1980 at the Dresden and if you’re feeling confident, take a turn singing at the piano bar. If you’re possibly still hungry, almost everything on the menu at Fred 62 is great, and the Mac Daddy and Cheese Balls usually hit the late night hunger spot. Or in true Los Angeles style, venture onto Taco Zone(Alvarado and Montana), Los Angeles’s best taco truck. The steak tacos with lots of lime, onion, and cilantro can’t be beat.

Once you hit Downtown you’ve pretty much had the run of Los Angeles, although the area offers so much you could spend a good amount of time there. A interesting overview is Grand Central Market. It’s a little beat up, but there are numerous stalls of spices, produce and food to walk around and taste. A nice day trip downtown is wandering around Little Tokyo. The grocery store in the market area offers numerous Japanese staples, the boutiques show off new and old Japanese wares, and the bakeries offer light, sweet cakes for a snack for the road. For a break from all the food, see an exhibit at The Geffen, part of the Museum of Contemporary Art or visit the Japanese American National Museum. Another must do in downtown is Phillipe’s. Opened in 1908, this is the place the French Dip was born, and these sandwiches are sublime. Juicy meat on French bread dipped in a rich sauce, topped off with coleslaw. Nightlife in downtown is rejuvenated and the area offers anything from dive bars, to burlesques shows at The Edison, to drinks on the roof of The Standard hotel. There is never a dull moment in Los Angeles.

Of course, the list could go on and on. Pack it all into one day. Well, maybe a few. Los Angeles offers so much more, and everyday new places are sprouting up and old classics are being spotted. While the  east coast boasts of melting pots cities and complains about west coast traffic, Los Angeles stands on its own two feet. You really can find pretty much anything in this city, and at the end of the day, the traffic isn’t all that bad. No different than waiting for a subway train anyway. For all its food, among other things, Los Angeles is certainly a city to miss. It’s great that a visit back is sure to fill the stomach and warm the heart.

Bacon Wrapped Hot DogAcrobat at The Edison

French Dip with Coleslaw at Phillipe'sSushi in Little Tokyo

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Slow Down Everyone, You’re Moving Too Fast

Slow Down Everyone, You’re Moving Too Fast

Make Jack Johnson a modern day poet and you’ve got words to live life by. So I slowed down my life(and took a quick trip up to San Francisco) for the first annual Slow Food Nation(SFN) event. I went, I saw, I ate. And SFN threw quite the food party, filling the four day Labor Day weekend with more food events than its visitors could handle.

The event overtook the Civic Center Plaza. Built on the lawn of San Francisco’s City Hall, the Victory Garden brought visitors, families, and farmers out to grow and pick produce then donated to local food shelters. At the farmer’s market stalls, vendors from all over California showed off their best produce and wares. Weiser Family Farm’s showcased fingerling potatoes,  Strauss Creamery sold ice cream to cool off the hot day, and visitors walked around eating heirloom apples from Windrose Farm.

At the Fort Mason Center, The Tasting Pavilions showcased every aspect of the food movement. Stalls included beer, wine and spirits experts, pizza baked in brick oven built specially for the event, cheese, charcuterie, and olive oils from all over the US. Taste workshops gave visitors an intimate look at specific food items with lectures on items like coffee cupping and raw milk cheese. The bookstore at the Center offered signed books discussing Slow Food issues. The photography exhibit, Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town gave Italian insight on just how to slow down life a little bit. On the lawn outside of the Center, the Slow Food Rocks concert brought music into the mix, with performances from The New Pornographers, Phil Lesh, and Gnarls Barkley.

Throughout the city San Franciscan chefs involved in the movement opened their doors for dinners planned around the weekend.  Day trips brought visitors to creameries, vineyards, and farms around the Bay area and hikes showcased agricultural spaces and green areas of San Francisco.

Slow Food Nation was, at the least, well planned out.

Even so, at the end of my trip, I had little idea what Slow Food meant. Maybe I was too focused eating the amazing food at the Taste Pavilion and reliving my Italian dreams at the photography exhibit to realize what the event was really about. I hadn’t been able to make it to any of the discussions or panels, and thinking back on the event, I slowly began to feel a little lost. When I imagined a definition, I thought about slowing down to think about what we are eating, how it is grown, sold, processed, and all the  elements that go into that system. This seemed the right track, but somehow I felt there was more.

The follow-up e-mail from SlowFoodNation.org did little to help my education cause. Over 60,000 people came to the event it heralded, and tickets to the tasting pavilions sold out in advance. The site itself did a wonderful job showcasing the event, including information on planning and how the ideas became a reality. But Slow Food itself was just two words on the site, being used to describe the event, the farmers and such.

At SlowFood.com, an international website for the cause, I found more of the information I was looking for.

“Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.”

This definition made sense and it seemed I had been on the right track. SFN had showcased farmers who were certified organic, used no sprays or pesticides, or practiced dry-farming, which allows the produce to pull nutrients and water from the earth. Lectures had stressed the ideas of buying locally, government policies that affect the food systems, the affects of climate and environmental elements on food costs, availably, and sustainability. The Washington Post described the event in these terms.

“Slow Food Nation, as the conference was dubbed, aimed to create a very different impression. At formal lectures, impromptu outdoor speeches and even in the tasting pavilions, where those very wines and cheeses were being served, the talk was mainly about how to transform the food system—and Slow Food’s reputation. Chefs, authors, activists and CEOs focused not on gastronomic indulgence but on new political relevance at a time when food is poised to take center stage.

The  idea of transforming the food system and understanding of food’s political relevance began to define Slow Food. Good food, grown and produced in a clean way. It held onto traditional elements, and did not harm the environment and culture around it. In the way stood convenience foods, cheaper farming and production methods that are adverse for communities or the environment; unethical labor situations and inhumane practices. Slow Food was really about getting everyone good(healthy) food while looking out for the environment and tradition.

And Slow Food Nation really did a good job of showcasing these ideas. Although the definition of Slow Food could have been spelled out a little clearer, each event glorified what Slow Food is all about, and brought an understanding to its guests about its importance.

Summed up in Time Magazine, “In its broadest sense, the movement is trying to get people to stop and really think about what’s on their plate and how it got there. In the end, Slow Food is more interested in producing better-tasting food than leading a jihad against chemical fertilizers, and there’s something to be said for appealing to the stomach to get to the head.”

As a foodie, through and through, I can agree with that. And with slowing down to think about our food a little bit more.

Find more information at:

Home

Does Superfoods and Brain Food really work?

http://slowfoodusa.com

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A Wish for Bread

A Wish for Bread

If you could wish for anything, what would it be? Peace, happiness, love. Bread and Doughnuts for the world. Bread and Doughnuts that would bring peace and happiness. A food lovers wish. Or a seven year olds. Would it be your wish?

Yoko Ono asks just that in her art installation, Wish Tree for Pasadena. In the busy shopping center of One Colorado, twenty-one crab myrtle trees sit in planters made of recycled wine barrels, waiting for wishes to grace their branches. Visitors write their wishes on provided paper slips, and the trees are covered in fluttering white wishes.

“A black motorcycle jacket”

“World peace”

“True Love”

“A new puppy”

These are just a few of those hanging on the trees at One Colorado. Yoko Ono will collect all the wishes, combining them with those from other matching installations in Detroit, Washington, DC, Oxford, England, Alicante, Spain,Rio de Janeiro, Jerusalem, Tokyo, Seoul, and Venice. The wishes will be placed in capsules and installed in the space surrounding her Imagine Peace Tower in Reykjavik, Iceland. Created in the memory of John Lennon, the tower is dedicated to peace and inscribed with Imagine Peace in twenty four languages.It is realized in the form of a wishing well from which a strong beam of light shines. The beam is lit for two months during the year, from Lennon’s birthday on October 9th to the anniversary of his death on December 9th.

The installation will be in Pasadena until November 9th, after which the wishes will be collected and the trees will be donated to the community garden, Arlington Garden.

Does Yoko Ono asking the world to wish make the wishes come true? Does writing these wishes down, tying them onto trees, allowing the world to view them, does this help them come true? It’s a very nice thought, and the installation is quite moving. Especially, for a foodie, the wish for bread and doughnuts for the world.

For more information visit  http://www.onecolorado.com/fun_yokoono.php and http://www.imaginepeace.com.

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