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Archive for the ‘Portland Maine’ Category
Monday, October 22nd, 2012
Here’s what I did this weekend:
Technically, not the weekend yet…Thursday night I watched the new documentary on Ethel Kennedy, an insider’s view of the Kennedy dynasty.
Friday night I was invited to a Wine & Cheese Tasting at Whole Foods Market in Portland. We sampled five wines and an ice cider and eight cheeses from the Cellars at Jasper Hill.
When I found out I was lactose intolerant my senior year of college I argued with the doctors and my body. How, after spending three years on a near lactic diet of pizza, tuna melts, ice cream and let us not forget Sal’s blue cheese dip that went nicely with the greasiest of wings…how on earth could I be intolerant to it!? Let’s just say my futile attempts to convince my body otherwise did not go well. Flash forward more than a decade, I’m in Whole Foods Market in Portland explaining to the woman behind the cheese counter what I can and cannot eat. Goat and sheep, check. Cow, nope. Maybe it was because she was so nice, or it could have just been she knew a heck of a lot about cheese, but she encouraged me to try an aged cheese – it has less lactose she said, and I did. It was a two or three bite size sample of a cheese that left me wanting a lot more of it (and my body was OK with it!). That was the day I met Shannon (a fellow Chicago Bears fan) and the moment I fell hard for Jasper Hill’s Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.
It was also the beginning of a less than scientific study of how tolerant my body could be with cheese. Portion size it seems has a lot to do with it (and alas no milkshakes). Anyhow, the Cellars at Jasper Hill …conjures up a magical (I’d like to think this Harry Potter style and all) place set in reality in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. A concrete bunker (aka cave) built by Andy and Mateo Kehler with climate-controlled rooms where batches of cheese are tasted, tracked and analyzed till they are released to the public.
Sunday I went back to the store and picked up some of Jasper Hill’s Alfa Tolman and Cabot Clothbound and a bottle of the Lockhart, Pinot Noir to go with them.
*For more information on Jasper Hill Farm and the Cellars, pickup Issue # 15 of Diner Journal (published 2010) with the thoughtful article by Annaliese Griffin on Jasper Hill Farm and The Cellars’ system.
Landaff by Landaff Creamery, aged at Jasper Hill
What does one do after eating cheese and drinking wine? Go do dinner of course. A business associate in town for a couple days invited me to dinner. Having heard raves about Grace recently I suggested we go there and was not disappointed.
Since I’m eating dessert these days (giving myself thru the holidays then I’ll wean myself off sugar again), I supported ordering multiple desserts. After all, this place is known for their pastry chef Ilma Lopez. Next time I’m doing the same, only I might order two servings of the Bananas as I’m not wont to share that dish again YUM!
Bittersweet – Layered Chocolate Cake w/ 72% Ice Cream and White Chocolate Crumble
Figs – Lemon Curd, Honey Meringue and Yogurt Sherbert
Bananas – Toasted Hazelnuts, Milk Chocolate Cream and Vanilla Marshmallows
I finished this book, read this article on Larry Flynt in The New York Times(online) and the November issues of Saveur. Penny de los Santos images inspire and the article “Cassanova Nation” is no exception.
While listening to the Donovan Frankenreiter station on Pandora I stitched a few coasters for friends from a couple of the fabrics I picked up at Alewives Fabrics (thanks again SL for pointing me there).
Saturday night, still exhausted from getting back late Friday night and up early for the chickens, I stayed in and downloaded the medical comedy/drama “Emily Owens, M.D.” starring Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter). It’s really good. *I cannot stand ads so network television is pretty much out for me as it is (unless it’s football), thus I usually wait till midway through or the end of a season and download episodes onto my laptop. According to Wiki.answers: A typical 1 hour TV show has 16 minutes of commercials. No thanks!
Sunday I attended a signing with Blue Bottle Coffee Co.‘s James and Caitlin Freeman at Tandem Coffee Roasters for their new book The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes. I picked up a copy there from Rabelais (a co-host of the event). *Check out the book trailer (video produced by White on Rice Couple) and take a glance at my first BBC experience.
The book is about coffee growing, roasting, drinking and the food that goes with it anytime of the day. A little something sweet to think about dear readers is the recipe for Saffron-Vanilla Snickerdoodles in the ever so perfectly titled chapter “Perfect for Dunking”… Okay, pause…the truth of it is I’ve never been a coffee dunker. Or a tea dunker or really any kind of dunker…nope, not even as a kid did I dunk Oreos into my milk. It’s never too late to try, right?? and maybe this will be it. Or maybe not, and I’ll just make these ever so soulful sounding cookies and munch on them between sips of coffee or tea.
James Freeman wrote this book for the kind and enthusiastic people who line up for his coffee. As someone who has and certainly remains enthusiastic about it, let me say thank you James for creating good coffee and now this book, which I look forward to reading so I may better understand coffee.
Want to know more about Tandem (where I’ll be found when in town) check out this article on Sprudge (the coffee news site pointed out to me by my knowledgeable coffee friend Anestes.
During half-time I made Smitten Kitchen’s Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel using Wealthy and Smokehouse Apples from Out on a Limb Heritage Apple CSA.
A fun bit on Wealthy apples from the CSA site: Cherry crab seedling. Excelsior, MN, 1868. One of the most famous of the hardy all-purpose varieties, Wealthy is also considered to be a standout among pie apples. If you want to try a single-variety crisp or pie this week, try one with Wealthy. At peak ripeness, the flavor is more sweet than tart, and the texture is soft without being mushy. Just before it’s ripe, the pie flavor tends to be slightly tart. Wealthy makes a tart, creamy sauce. It’s also a good acid source for fermented cider. Our old friend, long-time orchardist, 96-year-old Francis Fenton of Sandy River Orchards, believes Wealthy—not McIntosh—should be the favorite commercial apple of northern New England. The trees his father planted in Mercer 105 years ago are still going strong.
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Monday, October 15th, 2012
The other night I was invited to a cooking class with Ana Sortun at Whole Foods Market in Portland by the truly wonderful Barbara Gulino, the store’s marketing team leader. Should anyone from the Whole Foods national exec team read this – I want to first applaud you for having the sense to hire her and second tell you I sure as heck hope you know how lucky you are to have her. Barbara’s energy, straight shooting no nonsense talk, big heart and passion for food make her a respected member of the Portland Maine food community. At this store (and I’m saying this from my personal perspective w/ no ad $ involved) there really is an emphasis on team and supporting local. I can’t say that’s true about some other Whole Foods stores in communities where a couple friends live (fyi in huge urban environments). I just know Barbara’s hard work goes a long way and gets people like me in the doors more frequently than I might otherwise. I’ll be at Friday night’s Cellars at Jasper Hill Cheese & Wine Pairing and depending on who’s playing that day the Beer Tasting there on Saturday, October 27. Hope to see some of you at both/either!
And now to Ana Sortun. Before winning a James Beard award for her Cambridge, MA restaurant Oleana (thank you again James for one of the best birthday treats ever – dinner there..xo) she spent time apprenticing with a Tunisian chef and traveling through the Eastern Mediterranean. Julia Moskin’s piece in The New York Times is the best I could find on Sortun’s background. This review in Saveur of Oleana is spot on.
Attending a class with her was a wonderful experience. I recommend it if you have the chance. *Contact Sofra or Oleana as she does do classes on occasion during the winter. The other best bet is to keep an eye on what is going on at Stir (Barbara Lynch’s demo kitchen/bookstore next door to their produce stand in Boston’s South End).
Sortun was at Whole Foods as part of her publicity tour for her new Chef Sets, her “chef-inspired homemade meals” in a box. In the class she made the “from scratch” version of Couscous with Moroccan Spices & Almonds with Chicken (Vegetarian instructions are on the Chef Set site).
Sortun opened up by telling the 20 some people in the room above the store about Moroccan food. They use steaming as a primary cooking technique, which is what makes couscous light and fluffy when served there (* Sortun said when cooking couscous soak in a little liquid at a time so it has time to “grow” slowly and stay light – she said “you want it to feel like feathers when done”). Sortun explained the art of eating a couscous dish is to “add liquid broth little by little as it’s consumed” – in Morocco she explained they put the couscous on top of the meat/vegetables so it does not absorb all the sauce. Moroccan cuisine we learned, also emphasizes balancing earthy and sweet spices. Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, Sortun’s informative and easy to follow cookbook, is organized by spice and herb groupings or families. If you want to learn more about which spices compliment each other and the individual qualities of each spice this would be a good book to own.
I wanted to make the Chef Set of Couscous with Moroccan Spices & Almonds with Chicken before publishing this post, but I have leftovers and ingredients that need to be eaten/used up before I return to the market. Soon as I do I’ll share my impression, though it shouldn’t count for too much. I say this, because each individual’s cooking experience is going to be completely different based on time/taste/cooking knowledge/kitchen utilities… For $6.99 I recommend you pickup one and spend the 15 minutes cooking it (plus “x” amount of time and $ @ a market picking up additional ingredients). I also recommend you pickup her book and at least skim through it first to get a flavor for her and her cooking. It’s $34.95, but a great investment if you are interested in Moroccan/Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. **Think holiday present to yourself. Oh, in which case if you do gift say her book and the set please also consider getting one each of Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Paula Wolfert‘s cookbooks on Mediterranean cuisine. That would be an amazing (!!) gift for you/a cook in your life. p.s. Nancy is a truly good person so support her and from what I can tell of Ana so is she. Maybe some day I’ll be fortunate enough to meet Paula. xo
Chicken with Moroccan Spices & Barley Couscous as inspired by Ana Sortun’s Chef Set, Recipe by Ana Sortun
4-5 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1″ cubes
2 large onions, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into very thin slices
1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon; divided
1 tsp ground ginger
1 pinch saffron
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup blanched almonds, toasted
1 tsp demerara sugar
Kosher salt to taste
3 Tbsp and 3/4 Tbsp EVOO
2 cups couscous (not Israeli kind, it’s bigger and not good for this recipe)
1 tsp harissa
1/2 cup pitted green olives, like picholine or lucques
1 tsp orange flower water (you can buy some at Sofra, it’s beautiful smelling)
Heat a large saucepot over medium heat (Sortun always uses medium not high heat). Add 2 Tbsp EVOO, chicken, sliced onions, carrots, 1 tsp cinnamon, ginger, saffron & turmeric. Cover w/ 2 cups of water & simmer for 15 minutes, until the onions are soft & the chicken is cooked through.
Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Place couscous in a large mixing bowl with 1 Tbsp of EVOO and some salt to taste. Add 1/2 the boiling water & stir to coat the couscous w/ water to start hydrating. Let sit 5 minutes & add the rest of the water. Stir w/ a fork to fluff.
(Topping) Use a food processor, fitted w/ a metal blade, finely grind the toasted almonds w/ the remaining 3/4 tsp of cinnamon, demerrara sugar, 1/2 tsp kosher salt (something flaky & light, just not Morton’s) & tsp EVOO.
Check the chicken for seasoning, adjust by adding more salt if necessary. Stir in orange blossom water, honey, olives & harissa. Spoon the chicken & vegetables into a deep bowl & top w/ 1/2 cup of steamed couscous & 1 – 2 Tbsp of almonds.
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Saturday, October 13th, 2012
My wonderful bee mentor Deborah, without whom I’d be lost as a new beekeeper, invited one of Maine’s own “Swarm Team” Keith Kettelhut over for the last inspection before tucking the hives in for winter. I’ll have him back in the spring** for another inspection when Deborah and I (all things willing) split my hives and I grow my two hives to three or four hives. (**Reference the beekeeper’s calendar I’ve included at the bottom of this post for a sort of seasonal “to do” list for backyard beekeepers.)
First thing first, Deborah and I took a look at my hives a week before Keith came over and confirmed (a) I needed to treat for mites and (b) I had enough capped honey in each hive I’d likely not have to feed my bees heading into winter.
Capped Honey in both hives = beautiful! We found close to 100 pounds in one hive and 60 in the other.
Keith inspecting the hives
Honeybee larvae (checking for mites)
Marking the queen
Mixing Fumagillin into the (2:1) sugar water to prevent Nosema
Applying Terramycin for prevention of American Foulbrood and European Foulbrood (1 Tbsp on top of the bars on each side on top of the brood box, where have the ApiGuard tin for mite treatment). **The only reason I applied this is because, there was a chance my hives could have been contaminated with EFB by tools used in a bee yard where EFB was present.
Grass squeezed into an entrance to prevent robbing of honey (by bees from other hives).
**Fall and spring are the busiest times for beekeepers. Following is a basic outline of what backyard beekeepers (vs. professional pollinators) should be doing season to season…
September – November (now): Harvest fall honey crop, unite weak hives, remove supers/consolidate boxes, reduce entrances, monitor Varroa Mite populations, apply medications and mite treatments (I’m using ApiGuard), feed heavy (2:1 sugar/water) syrup if needed, attach/create mouse guards (by pounding in a small nail in the center of the smallest opening of your entrance reducer – this is the way “old timers do it and the way I am). Provide upper ventilation, remove mite treatments when wrap colonies with tar paper/add Homasote boards (they absorb moisture from the hive and keep the hive warm and dry). In Maine, where we get Nor’easters it’s a very good idea to also tie each of your hives down w/ nylon rope. *The Honey Exchange in Portland sells weather-resistant polypropylene straps w/ a dual-gear ratchet tie down (you can also find these at hardware stores – at least Lowe’s).
December – February: If you have it sell honey, read beekeeping texts (I’ll be reading some of Michael Bush’s work and spending an afternoon w/ Sam & Don @ Rabelais ensconced in a box of their bee books), and basically leave the bees alone.
March – May: Unwrap or take down winter protection, remove insulating materials, remove entrance reducers in strong colonies, check colony conditions (if honey reserves are short, feed candy or dry sugar), apply mite treatments, divide colonies at fruit bloom (when you split a hive in two), if you haven’t already order necessary woodenware (or in my case order/make as this will be my second year and Deborah & I will be trying some new things!!). Register hives with state agriculture department.
June – August: Check out my Birds and Bees posts (first, second, third, fourth, fifth) for updates on inspections and nuc and package installation…
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Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
For seven years I knew the joy of owning a shelter dog, so when I found out October is National Adopt a Dog from a Shelter Month I thought hey I know some folks who can help us celebrate.
Kiersten is one of my dog heroes (as of recent I’ve got a few). She’s dedicated a good part of her life to helping dogs find a permanent home and she’s a smart and loving dog momma. She is active with Almost Home Rescue, so be sure to check them out if you’re looking for a new dog/best pal!
**Please read the last part and take it in – where Kiersten shares how to prepare for adopting a dog. It can be heartbreaking bringing home a new dog and having to let them go, because you did not do your homework – it’s tough on the dog and you and unfair to you both. I’ll be posting on dog adoption and will provide a list of books, examples of pros to talk to… OK dear readers, the fabulous Kiersten….
Number of dogs you have adopted from shelters, from where and how you found about them.
When I graduated college, the only thing I wanted was a husky puppy. Our family had had huskies all my life and I was ready to have my own. However, fate intervened and I didn’t get that puppy… At the time, my aunt had a 6 month old husky of her own (Kenobi) and since she was driving from NJ to CT and then up to Maine to see my graduation, she called the kennel we trusted in CT to find out if she could board Kenobi there when she headed north for my graduation. When she called, the people there (who had known us for a long time) asked if she happened to want another husky. It turns out a local family had dropped off their 2.5 year old husky to be boarded as they went on a family vacation and on their way home from the kennel to pick up their luggage, they were hit by a drunk driver. The results were devastating leaving the mom dead, the kids injured and the dad in a wheelchair. SO they asked the kennel to find another home for Penny. When I heard this, I drove home from college (it was short term anyway – 5 weeks of partying which I was pretty much over at that point) and went over to meet Penny. She was skinny and stressed and shedding everywhere, but when I took her for a walk, she jumped into my car and it was the start of a beautiful friendship.
I had Penny through a year at law school, 4 years in New York City and my move back up to Maine. She passed away at age 15 in July of 2009. It was the hardest time of my life.
But a few months later my friend Jill who owns Camp Bow Wow (and who had known and loved Penny) told me about another husky they were fostering through Almost Home Rescue. I wasn’t sure I wanted another dog yet – and Pepper was almost 8 years old already – but I went over to meet her and she was a love. Apparently she was depressed in foster care and didn’t want to play with other dogs. I ended up visiting her a couple more times and each time Jill told me that she perked up after and was a different dog. When I found myself buying her toys and treats I knew I needed to bring her home.
She is 11 now and is wonderful. And during that adoption I got to know the amazing people at Almost Home Rescue. And since then, I have volunteered to do their marketing, fundraising and merchandise. I have never met a group of more caring people who sacrifice so much to help so many dogs in need.
Type(s) of dogs you have adopted and a little bit about attracted you to the breed(s).
We have always had huskies in my family so I grew up with them (and a stray poodle or two). They are very sweet and vocal. The downside is that some are complete escape artists. But other than that – and the constant shedding – they are a great breed. One note, they can be very stubborn and it would be helpful to know the breed before taking one home.
What adopting a dog from a shelter means to you?
It’s hard for me to understand people who buy dogs from breeders when there are so many out there in need of love and a home. And with so much love to give. Dogs are so resilient.They go through so much at the hands of people and yet still love people. Rescue dogs deserve the right people and I am very proud to have rescued dogs – and to work with Almost Home Rescue to help other dogs find their forever families. It’s such a small thing I do that can bring joy to so many – dogs AND people.
Tips, based on your experience(s), for persons considering adopting a dog from a shelter.
Always visit a reputable shelter or use a state licensed rescue. You don’t want to inadvertently help breeders by using a rescue that does not have the correct licensing.
Obviously, I work with Almost Home Rescue, but through my work, I have also worked with the folks at Lucky Pup Rescue. Both are run by wonderful, caring volunteers and are worth checking out.
Ask lots of questions. Talk to the local vets and see who they’d recommend you adopt from. Some vets even foster dogs themselves. And if you know other dog people, talk to them as well…
Rescues tend to have their dogs in foster care before they are adopted which is a great way to find out how the dogs will behave in home situations. Talk to the foster families and find out the dog’s true nature. Some dogs are super sweet, but just don’t belong with certain families. If you have young children, you may not want a high energy or larger dog. Or if you are an avid hiker, you may want a dog who is high-energy….
And meet the dog! A dog may be great in pictures but sometimes you just won’t click.
DO your research and be prepared to spend time and money. Dogs are not cheap nor are they easy. It’s a commitment you have to be willing to make. But it’s so worth it…
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Thursday, September 6th, 2012
A Sea Raven in an aquarium at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Doesn’t it look a lot like an aquatic bulldog (if there were such a thing).
GMRI helps fishermen, conservationists and policymakers make better decisions about stewardship and use of the Gulf of Maine’s resources. They help New England fishermen respond to changing regulations and work with fishermen to test new (required) gear’s potential to maximize profits and reduce bycatch of juvenile and non-targeted species.
The Gulf of Maine is one of the most productive eco-fishing areas in the world (others are along the coasts of Norway, Antarctica, Chile and in the “Irish Box”). Nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus, the Vikings fished the northern area in their famous longships around the time one of their explorers discovered North America. Today, fishermen like Glenn Libby of Port Clyde Fresh Catch make their living fishing these waters.
Lunch at The Well at Jordan’s Farm, for some real farm-to-table dining. I met Jason, the chef/owner, with a few Portland, Maine food luminaries at a dinner last winter. Well SH, S&DL it only took me a few months to get there…but I did and it was delicious! (The Well is normally open for dinner and is seasonal).
It’s always fun to see Penny Jordan, one of the forces behind the Cape Farm Alliance and whose father established Jordan’s Farm – one of the most well known farms in Southern Maine. Thanks Penny for handing out freshly picked cucumbers, I’m going to grow some of those pickling ones next year and will pickup my compost and topsoil from the farm next growing season.
It was fun taking the group to Broadturn Farm to meet Stacy.
After a little free time we took a tour of Maine Mead Works and then after a little more free time we had dinner at Fore Street. It was at the restaurant somewhere between Mixed Organic Maine Salad Greens w/ Barrel Aged Cider Vinaigrette and Wood Oven Roasted Maine Mussels (harvested from Frenchman’s Bay) with Garlic Almond Butter that R (aka Ezra Pound Cake) uttered one of my now favorite lines “the place is taking it to church” – imagine said in a heavily southern influenced accent and it’s brilliant! I don’t know how it started, but we started high-fiving each other between each course and as our bellies filled our laughter escalated. After Atlantic Hake Filet with Chive Butter Sauce and Green Beans with Honey Tarragon Vinaigrette and Dark Chocolate Torte with Cookie Crust and Hot Fudge …we looked around and realized we’d practically closed the place down. Fore Street from top (James Beard Chef Sam Hayward) down (dish washers…) is the finest restaurant I have ever experienced (and that’s to put things in perspective including 4-5 star restaurants in NYC/DC/Paris and Rome). They do everything right.
The next morning, what we really needed was a ten mile hike, but instead we had a behind the scenes tour of Standard Bakery. At the end we got to sample two of my favorites from there – the morning bun and pain au chocolat.
Lunch at The Slipway, though one of my favorite dining spots all I could muster the energy to eat was a salad (granted w/ one of Scott’s terrific crab cakes).
Salt Water Farm, like The Well, was a place none of my grow/eat friends in Maine could believe I had not been too yet. Well, I’ve been and I want to go back and take a class. The cooking school is located a few miles north of Camden overlooking Penobscot Bay.
To cap off (my portion of) the tour we went to Rock City Coffee Roasters and some free time in Rockland.
A final bit of parting advice from one of my new favorite people Jen of Use Real Butter “Rose Hips..don’t eat them, because your butt will itch.” Good to know! (said while we were walking by a number of Rose Hip bushes)
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Monday, September 3rd, 2012
I just wrapped up a week along the coast of Maine with some of the nicest, funniest persons…who share my passion for good food. Did I mention they all blog too? So basically, I had a blast. Didn’t sleep much and ate way more than I normally do, but had such a great time. Their blog audiences are all WAY bigger than mine, their geo bases range from Nashville to two floors up from Boulder (in other words way up there) to Venice Beach, CA (only one of my favorite places) and their time spent in bakeries was dedicated to making cakes not eating them (oh yeah, slice by slice in the back room). All of this meant I had to do some serious advance work (which, I actually enjoy).
As the primary organizer of the trip I can tell you there were a lot of details, extremely supportive partners (CW we will be going for Dark & Stormy’s, because lady you rock and so does the Maine Office of Tourism) and incredible business owners who put a lot of overtime and energy during an already busy time into making sure this was a success (big thanks to Annie Mahle of the Schooner J&E Riggin for being a host).
The idea behind the trip was to share a part of Maine (Portland and the Midcoast) with some of the most influential social networkers in this country. With a week to fit in a number of culinary experiences, time was of the essence (especially given the time it took to get from one place to the next). Believe me, we only glazed the tip of the iceberg…because what everyone who truly knows the edible side of Maine can appreciate is the almost unfathomable number of culinary resources here – and we were only covering two regions. I need them to come back to dine at Nebo Lodge, peruse the stacks at Rabelais, eat upstairs at Primo, attend a preservation class at any one of the 1/2 dozen or so resources in the Portland area, go out with fishermen from Port Clyde Fresh Catch, eat lobster rolls with Cal Hancock, visit some of our outstanding cheesemakers and vintners, wake to bagels from Scratch Baking Co, see what’s going on with the farm to school movement (all hail Portland) and on and on. Don’t even get me started if I could squeeze in Norway, Isle au Haut, Skowhegan and the Bar Harbor area. So, as I begin to document this tour please try to hold off judgements about where we did not go and focus on sharing with me via email or the comment section of this blog where I should take the next writers I help bring to Maine.
A final thank you note before we get into the festivities should go to Jen, Hilton, Joy, Rebecca and Jeff for having the faith in me and the belief in the rough itinerary you were sent months ago to commit your time to this trip. I can only imagine how many invitations like this one you’ve received during your blogging/cookbook days, and so on behalf of everyone you took the time to hang out with and hear their stories thank you! It was such a blast and I can’t wait to do all the stuff we talked about starting and ending somewhere between maple sugaring, touring Loretta Lynn’s house, eating at Huckleberry and snowshoeing.
OK, let’s get this party started.
Who knows how to throw a proper shindig – Cheryl, Norine and crew at El Rayo Cantina and Taqueria – that’s who!! Cheryl is pretty much my “is this a sane/good/will people get it” idea sounding board and the person whose creative touch is just well, brilliant. She was the first call I made about this tour after talking to CW. Cheryl, god love her, does things BIG. If she’s going to do it, she’s going to get right in there hang the lights rev the roller coaster up and let it go. Her version of “go big or go home” this time was 13 (technically 14 if you count the insanely rich/delicious coconut cupcake she sent each attendee home with) courses!!
At El Rayo Taqueria we started off with Nonesuch Oysters (another favorite – Abigail was there), Salsa/Guacamole/Chips, Goat Meat Tacos (made w/ goat meat from Ten Apple Farm – run by Margaret and Karl who I had not seen in way too long) and Chile Fritas (so good, so unbelievably good). Of course, one hand held either a homemade soda or house margarita at all times.
Anestes from Portland Food Map joined us and even blogged about the dinner!!
At El Rayo Cantina we started off with Hibiscus Pickled Deviled Eggs and ended with Churros and Chocolate (we got spoons for the extra chocolate – it took willpower not to finish it off). Somewhere in the middle we had Mexico City Style Street Corn, the recipe of which can be found in Karl and Margaret’s new book Portland Maine Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from Casco Bay (we each got signed copies). Norine’s beer and wine pairings were a highlight of the evening.
ps, check out Jen’s gorgeous pictures from the evening here.
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Sunday, August 19th, 2012
After only three days in Vermont I was ready to get home, but inspired and energized by all the wonderful people I’d met from all over the country who are making the connection from farm to school and community a reality. So many food heroes, people who smile and ask questions – who engage, and come from a diversity of backgrounds – a terrific conference experience.
In two short months there will be an opportunity for everyone in this country to celebrate healthy, affordable, and sustainable food with Food Day. Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Earth Day like movement is powered by a diverse coalition of (food movement) leaders, organizations and people from all walks of life. Last year, in the inaugural year of the Food Day campaign, over 2,300 events took place in all 50 states. I’m the volunteer organizer for Portland area events, which basically means I register them with national and get informational materials from national for local events. The University of Maine’s Orono campus and Colby College are both supposedly working on events, which is great – when I was in university there were a lot of events like this I attended.
Thanks to all the connections I made at the conference I’ve got plenty of real food friendly folks to exchange ideas with about this and other ways to bring real food to everyone’s table.
The organizations represented in the workshop I participated in:
YMCA in Granby, CT
Alpine Berry Farm in Batesville, IN
Bottom image by Sea thos.
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Saturday, August 11th, 2012
What is Farm to School? Farm to School connects schools (levels kindergarten through 12th grade) and local farms with the objectives of serving more healthful meals in school cafeterias; improving student nutrition; providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities; and supporting local and regional farmers and producers
The first day of the Farm to Cafeteria Conference I went on a field trip to several of Burlington School Food Projects (BSFP) partner sites.
BSFP is Vermont’s largest Farm to School program, encompassing the entire Burlington School District, and is widely recognized as a model program for the rest of the state and country. It is a former project of the Burlington Food Council, whose goals are to increase educational opportunities for students and their families around food, farms and nutrition. It was originally funded in 2003 with a 3-year USDA Community Food Project Grant entitled “Growing Farms, Growing Minds: the Burlington School Food Project.” In 2006, the district hired a Farm 2 School Coordinator to assist Food Service in sourcing and using locally grown foods.
It is important to note the 2011 Vermont Dept of Education Food and Nutrition Management Statistics report of the 4,130 students in the Burlington School District, 46% are low income with 1,730 qualifying for free lunch. Also, Burlington’s refugee community is made up of over 35 countries (including Bhutanese, Burmese, Iraqis and Meskhetian Turks). Doug Davis, the Director of the BSFP, said there are approximately 60 languages spoken in Burlington High School. Wow (cool)!
We visited Burlington High School (where they have a greenhouse and international gardens), Healthy City Youth Farm (a hands-on farm-to-school program designed to teach basic cooking and gardening skills, boost physical activity and increase healthy lifestyle choices for Burlington K-12 students) at Hunt Middle School and The Intervale Center (a 501(c)3 nonprofit), which supplies the school district.
Davis, the Director of the BSFP or “lunch lady stud” as at least one person accurately described him, is a Culinary Institute of America graduate who has been putting his skills to very good use. Thanks in large part to him (and his mobilizing the community, finding solid partners…) there is one line at BHS designated for ethnic foods – the students help to create those menus and by partnering with Burlington’s community-owned grocery store (City Market Coop) the school has brought in (immigrant/new American) parents to teach the staff how to replicate certain dishes. Every international holiday represented by even one student at the school is celebrated with food. American children are learning about other countries through food. Imagine a community celebrating different religions – this is the way the world should be(come).
Doug has been smart enough to realize African countries do things a lot cheaper than we do in the States and has been working hard (with his talented team) to provide for Burlington School District’s students in a way that everyone who needs to be fed (the first priority, as those 1,730 students mentioned earlier need to go home with full bellies as there could be no food there) can be and with fresh food.
I’ve found too often in this country people create more barriers to real food by wrapping it up in fancy ribbons and putting a high price tag on it. I’m happy to pay $$ to a farmer I know worked for it, but get a marketing agency involved and I’m out.
One of the first things Doug had to do (and this is standard in school systems revamping their school lunches) is install or replace kitchens. Next time you are in a school check out the kitchen – is it just microwaves, refrigerators (maybe) and counter space? Time to get involved parents, and don’t worry we’ll get there I’ve got a lot of information to share in future posts.
Then in addition to sourcing local ingredients, Doug had to figure out the processing part. Say he buys 300 pounds of zucchini from a local farm, that has to be cleaned, chopped, bagged, frozen (I’m probably leaving out a step or two) before months later ending up in some tasty zucchini bread. Then there’s meat, which is a much bigger obstacle and he’s figured that out as well sourcing local meat (I didn’t take notes on the formula, if you want it let me know and I’ll ask Doug). Interestingly, the first item they processed – basil.
In all Doug said he sources about 30% of the food (milk, produce, meat) in the Burlington School District locally. According to a contact with the School Nutrition Association, this is about average these days (examples: Washington D.C. public schools and Portland, Maine public schools). Thing is, Doug’s model of serving “real” (nutritious non genetically modified) food in the cafeteria is what most of the rest of the nation is looking at (this and other programs). He is a food hero.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats (feeds) its children.” – Nelson Mandela
Burlington High School Farm
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Thursday, August 9th, 2012
Nikki, a soon to be contributor to themaineblog recently participated in a dress competition sponsored by the Western Maine Art Group. The idea: design a dress based on your Maine fantasy. Nikki brought together moose, loons, canoeing and campfires, lobster cookouts, rustling pine boughs, the state’s hunting heritage and L.L. Bean boots. *The dress is currently on display at the Coleman Burke Gallery on Congress St. in Portland.
I’m really excited to see what else Nikki shares on the blog, she is one of the kindest most interesting people I’ve ever met – a former art teacher we all wish we’d had early on to help mold us. Her husband Ken is one of Maine’s farm to school leaders.
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Sunday, July 29th, 2012
Early last week I visited Stacy Brenner at Broadturn Farm, the Produce and Flower CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm she has run with her husband John Bliss since 2007.
The property is in agricultural conservation with the Scarborough Land Conservation Trust. Formerly called the Keith Meserve Farm, the land is one of the largest farm properties in the Greater Portland area. It has 100 acres of open land and about 330 wooded acres. Stacy and John have a unique 30-year lease arrangement with provisions for building maintenance (they cooperatively renovate and maintain the structures) so while I can’t speak to what the setting looked like pre-S&J it is absolutely beautiful now (very much worth a visit!!).
Located 10 miles from Portland it’s convenient to the farm’s CSA members and those just interested in dropping by the farm stand for beautifully arranged farm fresh flowers (bouquets are $10 each, unless priced differently) and veggies. They raise organic vegetables, cut flowers, strawberries, a small amount of poultry, and turkey, as well as natural lamb and pork.
Fantastic tip from S&J for us bibliophiles…The Portland Room at the Portland Public Library has a great collection of Maine Agricultural Society’s Yearbooks– from the early 1800s!
Check out more about Stacy, John and the farm in their Meet Your Farmer short film (the series is a terrific way to spend an evening in).
A few pics from my visit:
Flora Bliss (farmstand)
My photo of the arrangements there didn’t come out (don’t ask, so annoying I know) and then I kept meaning to photograph the arrangement I picked up (I’m just not a good picture taker of flowers)…What I can tell you is her arrangements remind me of Saipua’s (so, yes..gorgeous).
Farm’s Field Map. Brilliant! Thinking this kind of visual presentation would be good for my office stacks (they are growing) and chicken/bee/garden tasks.
Root Crop Washer
The farm has a mixed bunch of layers (eggs feed work crew and Stacy/John’s family and allow the farm campers a way to engage with the chickens). I tried to get a closer pic of the beautiful chicken in front of the coop, but he/she (?) ran too fast from me silly bird. Stacy thought it might be an Araucana. (**Note I’ve hyperlinked to Murray McMurray Hatchery, but that’s not necessarily where S&J buy their chicks from, it’s just where I did.)
The farm sells pigs to their wedding couples for a pig roast, by the half side and the family eats a lot themselves. S&J also provide a pig to the farm crew as part of their board.
An old mattress in the garden bed!!
On my way out of the garlic barn I saw this painting. Stacy said it was in her grandmother’s house, then their attic and finally this seemed the right home for it. Love that!! (I keep meaning to hang a photo of the Algonquin in my chicken coop to honor the ladies of literature).
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