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Monday, July 30, 2007

Eating Local, Buying Local

Not long ago I was in North Carolina visiting a beautiful garden at the Biltmore estate. I asked the gardener if it was organic and he got very agitated. "Let me get on my soap box" he said. He then proceeded to explain that most pesticides in the US were organic and that just because something is organic doesn't mean it is free of pesticides and that some organic pesticides are not very effective. He said that sometimes he would have to use an organic pesticide 6 or 7 times instead of using a non-organic pesticide once. The gardener then told me about an integrated insect approach that he used, attracting beneficial insects to do the work to help keep his garden as healthy as possible. But when he must resort to pesticides he chooses whatever he thinks is best, organic or not. Is organic always best? Clearly, it's not that simple. Because a few years back I was critical of a campaign to "eat only local food", I left some people under the impression th...
Friday, July 27, 2007

A Super Market

What did you do during Summer vacation? I went to a supermarket. Actually, I seek out all kinds of markets every time I travel. I try to visit farmers markets, covered indoor markets, tailgate markets, you name it. I like seeing what's on offer, what people are buying and I usually find some great souvenirs. In France I bought rhubarb and prune jam, in Mexico dulce de leche, in Vietnam lotus-scented and flowering teas, in Spain bitter orange marmalade, in Asheville sourwood honey. The last supermarket I visited was nothing like any supermarket I'd ever seen before. While I didn't actually purchase anything, I did check out every department. What sets this supermarket apart from the rest was that it's an interesting reflection of where many supermarkets might just be heading. So what does the supermarket of the future look like? It looks a lot more like a high-end specialty market. It features many distinctive departments such as a bakery that continually bakes fre...
Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Grilled Summer Vegetable Salad Recipe

Today is National Salad Day. Would I make that up? Actually I got several emails reminding me about it. I was going to post a vegetable salad when I realized, it was also an all local dish which fits nicely with the One Local Summer event where participants make one meal a week with local ingredients. It's an early version of a recipe I made for my recipe development client. The vegetables--zucchini, corn, peppers and eggplant all came from Capay Organic , the lemon from Los Gatos and the olive oil from Napa. Voila! One local Summer Vegetable Salad. I served it with Sonoma lamb chops. While the idea is to eat at least one local meal a week, I actually had another meal that was primarily local this week. Ok, the rice and spices weren't but the Spicy Eggplant and Tomatoes dish had Capay Organic eggplant and Greenbrae backyard-grown tomatoes. Delicious stuff and so fresh tasting. I got the recipe from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes , a terrific book written by local food writer and cooki...
Monday, July 23, 2007

All About Mangoes

Did you know that mangoes are the most popular fruit in the world? There are more than 2,500 varieties of the fruit and when you consider where they are grown it's really no surprise. Mangoes are grown throughout Asia and Southeast Asia, India, Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, and Latin America as well as Florida, Hawaii and California. Mangoes come in a variety of shades including red, orange, yellow and green, so you can never tell by color alone if a mango is ripe. Some are tiny as plums and others are big as pineapples. Some mangoes are best eaten firm, though most should be slightly soft to the touch. In many parts of the world mangoes aren't exported much, because the locals eat them all. Mangoes can be challenging to grow commercially and are never grown on a large scale. Filled with vitamins A and C and many trace minerals, they are healthy, refreshing and sweet, and their orangy colored flesh is uplifting and cheery. During a recent visit to the Fairchild Botanic...
Thursday, July 19, 2007

Free Movie Tickets!

Are you heartbroken that you didn't win a book earlier this week? If so, I have a consolation prize. If you live near San Francisco and would like a sneak preview pass to see No Reservations (not be confused with the Anthony Bourdain TV series ), I have 20 pairs of tickets to give away. Sneak preview: 7:30 pm Tuesday July 24st @ AMC Metreon, 101 Fourth St, San Francisco Because I only got the tickets today, I can send them to you if you email me your mailing address NOW! But don't delay or they won't get to you in time. Also you need to show up early if you want to get in, seating is limited and not guaranteed. I have no idea if this movie is any good, but I did love the German film it was based on called Mostly Martha and Abigail Breslin was terrific in Little Miss Sunshine so I plan on checking it out. As one of my readers pointed out--Aaron Eckhardt gave a memorable performance in Thank You for Smoking . The only thing I remember seeing Catherine Zeta Jon...
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Congratulations to Sandy, Jesse, Emily, Cindy, Susan, Phaedrus, Lee, Jackie, Anonymous (with an email) and Kyle, the winners of The United States of Arugula ! As of this morning a total of 10 people had correctly answered all the very tough trivia questions. All the answers to this contest were to be found in Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking , a reference book I highly recommend. 1. The characteristic orange-pink color of salmon is due to a chemical relative of the carotene pigment that colors carrots True or False 2. The olive tree was most likely cultivated a) 5,000 years ago b) 2,000 years ago c) 1,000 years ago 3. Sake is best drunk a) As young as possible b) When aged 4. Surimi in Japanese means a) Fake fish b) Fishcake c) Minced fish 5. Bean curd was invented in Japan True or False 6. The word sausage comes from the Latin word a) Cure b) Salt c) Stuff 7. Eggs are what percent of a hen's weight? a) 5% b) 3% c) 1% 8. Which is richer? a)...
Tuesday, July 17, 2007

United States of Arugula Contest

The United States of Arugula is truly a great read. The subtitle on the hardcover was "how we became a gourmet nation" but on the newly released paperback it is "the sun-dried, cold-pressed, dark-roasted, extra virgin story of the American food revolution." If you ever wondered how we became a nation obsessed with food, author David Kamp investigates and the results are fascinating. I enjoyed reading about the early days of pioneers such as Alice Waters, James Beard, Julia Child, Emeril Lagasse and Thomas Keller, to name but a few. The book is filled with so much history, politics, and juicy gossip that I simply couldn't put it down. Kamp even touches on current hot buttons like "sustainability", Whole Foods Market, and Fast Food Nation . Best of all, the book left me feeling optimistic about where we are heading when it comes to food. If you haven't read The United States of Arugula yet, this may be your lucky day. Courtesy of Broadway B...
Monday, July 16, 2007

Remember how there used to book giveaways and contests on this site? Well come back tomorrow and there will be another one! I will be giving away 10 paperback copies of a book that was chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review. I have been passing my copy around to friends and family ever since I finished reading it. It has one of the best titles ever. I am just back from a long weekend in Florida where I attended the International Mango Festival. I learned a lot about mangoes and will be posting an "All About Mangoes" post very soon. In the meantime I have posted some of my favorite photos from the weekend over at Flickr. A funny coincidence-- my review of Cafe Majestic went up on Friday and on Sunday, Michael Bauer's review was in the San Francisco Chronicle. You can read both and compare if you like. I think we were generally in agreement about the place. I have really been enjoying reading all those comments about traditional ve...
Saturday, July 14, 2007

Still hungry?

Over at SF Station is my review of the Cafe Majestic . It's a bit pricey but an elegant spot to go for intimate celebrations. FOOD...
Friday, July 13, 2007

Breakfast of Champions!

I know what you're probably thinking. Leftover spaghetti is NOT breakfast food. But it is for me! I get bored eating only traditional American fare like eggs, cereal, pancakes and waffles. According to my research, leftover spaghetti is not a traditional breakfast food anywhere. But reading the breakfast article over at Wikipedia I found out about amazing breakfasts from all around the world (photos too!). Some of the most memorable breakfasts I've had in other countries include a traditional Turkish breakfast that featured tomatoes, cucumber, cheese and olives and an enormous smoked seafood buffet in Finland, although that may be more indicative of hotel breakfast food than what the average Finn eats. I also find comfort in the simple French breakfast of a baguette, butter, jam or croissant, and hot chocolate. Lee's favorite is a British breakfast and he likes Asian breakfasts too. In general I am not crazy about most traditional Chinese and Japanese breakfasts, but ...
Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Favorite Things:Blisscotti

You'll never forget your birthday or your social security number. As long as I live, I will never forget that Tuesday's were hot dog day in elementary school. While not a huge fan of hot dogs, the real appeal of the day was the choice of chips and ice cream. For years I stuck with Fritos corn chips and an orange creamsicle . At some point I moved on to ice cream sandwiches, before ultimately settling in with fudgesicles . Honestly, I couldn't tell you the last time I had a fudgesicle. But I do remember my last few ice cream sandwiches. One of my favorites is a local specialty the It's-It . As you would expect from the Bay Area it's a non-conformist treat, made from oatmeal cookies and filled with vanilla, chocolate, cappucino or mint ice cream. But another ice cream sandwich has impressed me as of late, Blisscotti . Sadly, neither did particularly well recently with the tasting panel at the San Francisco Chronice. "The fifth-ranked Blisscotti ($3.99 ...
Monday, July 09, 2007

Waitress: Movie

Waitress is the perfect Summer flick. Set in a diner in the South, it revolves around the emotional lives of three waitresses. It has equal parts humor, romance, with plenty of pie and some "spontaneous poetry" thrown in for good measure. Kerri Russell stars as the main character, a waitress, who creates pies for the diner and often dreams up pies that reflect her emotional state such as Falling-in-love Chocolate Mousse Pie, Mermaid Marshmallow Pie, Kick In The Pants Pie, Peachy Keen Tart and I Hate My Husband Pie. Especially noteworthy is Andy Griffith as a soft-hearted curmudgeon customer and owner of the diner. But really, with the exception of the creepy and controlling husband, all the characters are a pleasure to watch. The movie is so charming you'll likely overlook the predictable plot turns and the stereotypical nature of some of the characters. Waitress is thoroughly entertaining, sweet and as enjoyable as a slice of you-know-what! Sadly it's not so eas...
Saturday, July 07, 2007

Staying in for Chinese food

When a number of Chinese cookbooks aimed at home cooks crossed my desk recently I knew I wanted to write something about them. I tried several recipes and pondered questions like "what makes Chinese food authentic?" and "does authenticity matter to the home cook anyway?" My first extended book review for Culinate is up today, I hope you'll check it out and let me know what you think. It contains reprints of several wonderful recipes for you to try at home. Thanks! Amy FOOD...
Friday, July 06, 2007

Early Girl Eatery: Restaurant

Early Girl Eatery is the perfect reflection of Asheville. It's artsy, casual, classic, modern, and delicious all at once. The menu , a combination of North Carolina and vegetarian food works surprisingly well. But then again, Asheville is surrounded by farm country and what was once farm country. The hip interior features tables covered in brown paper and walls covered with the work of local artists, some of whom take to using the brown paper as canvas. I wish I could tell you what lunch or dinner are like, but I was only there for multiple breakfasts. I even snuck in a last time the day I left Asheville to get some pumpkin bread to take on the plane. Proprietor John Stehling grew up in the mountains and parts of Central and Eastern North Carolina, a state that has lost more than 6,000 farms and 300,000 acres of farmland since 2002. He is committed to buying as much local produce and meat as he can. Using what's local and in-season makes sense to him, serving plenty of v...
Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Mostarda Recipe

I spent a year living in Europe, and six months of that was in Italy. Having eaten a lot of Italian food, I like to think I understand it, perhaps just a little. In fact, whenever I try to recreate an Italian dish I think back to earlier versions that I've eaten. What was it that I liked about it? What was the essence of the dish? In all my time in Italy, I don't remember trying mostarda. It's not surprising really because the most well-known versions come from Veneto, Lombardia and Piemonte. Most of my time was spent in Tuscany. But I still think I understand mostarda, just a bit. It's like an Italian chutney I suppose. Don't make the mistake of translating it as "mustard". Mostarda does have a little bit of mustard in it, but it's really a combination of preserved fruit in syrup with a bit of a kick. The kick comes from mustard oil, mustard essence, dry mustard, mustard seeds or some combination thereof. Other ingredients include sugar or honey, w...
Monday, July 02, 2007

Posts for Your Pleasure

I'm sorry. I'm just too darned obsessed with my new iPhone to post anything original right now. I have been surfing the web however, on my new iPhone , and came across some posts you really should read. Pocket Farm has announced One Local Summer. This is very cool and I'm sorry I didn't hear about it earlier. The idea is to prepare one local meal each week of the Summer. I know I've been critical of the whole eating local thing in the past, but to me, this is totally doable and a really interesting experiment/habit. You can check out what meals look like regionally on the One Local Summer blog. Are you sick of posts about dining at the French Laundry? Of course not! Kristen of Give Me Some Food includes plenty of photos to make you feel like you are there. If you want to skip ahead to know how much she enjoyed the meal, the smile on her face in the last picture says it all. Derrick of Obsession with Food points out the irony of a "real food" con...