Posts Tagged ‘FRESH Week’
Posted on May 7, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
Guest Post by: Lori Fredrich of Burp! Where Food Happens
FRESH is more than a film, it is a reflection of a rising movement of people and communities across America who are re-inventing our food system. Directed by ana Sofia joanes, FRESH celebrates the farmers that are really making a difference — individuals like Milwaukee’s own Will Allen, whose vision and guidance has made Growing Power one of the most successful urban farming projects in the nation.Fresh is about inspiration — not scare tactics.The film offers a practical vision for the future of sustainable agriculture — and empowers ordinary people to take action that incites real (and lasting) change.
FRESH is currently being screened in selected cities (and homes) around the nation. And the screenings are being accompanied by a series of great events promoting local eating and sustainable agriculture.
Sustainability is at the heart of our food philosophy here at Burp! So, when the good people at FRESH asked us to be the official bloggers at one of their farm to table restaurant events, how could we resist? Of course, we had no idea that our dinner at Meritage would be one of the best we’ve eaten in the Milwaukee area.
Sure, Meritage has a Zagat rating of “Very Good to Excellent” with comments ranging from “a welcome addition to the West side” to “can’t wait to go back.” They’re soon to be named among the “Top 25 Restaurants” this week by Milwaukee Magazine. And yes — friends have recommended we eat there many-a-time in the past… but we failed to heed their call. Silly Peef and Lo!
When we arrived at the restaurant, we were seated promptly. The host even granted our request to be seated at the window, where we’d have better natural lighting for our photography. Our waiter, Peter, was an absolute joy. Friendly and knowledgeable, Peter put his 25 years of restaurant service experience to work from the get-go. He started off by walking us through the prix fixe farm-to-table menu:
- Spinach salad with buttermilk apple cider vinaigrette
- Portabella mushroom pizza with feta cheese, spinach, and roasted tomatoes
- Our choice of entrees: Bison ribeye with roasted fingerling potatoes and vegetables OR Vegetable paprikash with tofu, broccoli, carrots, and celery root
- Meritage’s signature dessert: Chocolate Lover’s Cake
The spinach salad arrived at the table with a glass of Charles DeFere Brut — a delicate, yet concentrated, champagne with elegant bubbles and a pleasantly toasted aroma. It paired beautifully with the spinach salad — which featured locally grown (and stored) apples, local greenhouse spinach and red onions, with a delightfully sweet-tart buttermilk dressing.
The portabella mushroom “pizza” also paired nicely with the champagne. Composed of a grilled portabella mushroom cap, tomato-based sauce, sauteed spinach, roasted Roma tomatoes, and feta cheese, this dish reminded us of the sort of starter you’d find served in a Napa Valley eatery. The dish was bursting with flavors — salty, sweet, and briny — with the flavor of freshly cracked pepper lingering on the finish. Even the bed of watercress on which the “pizza” was served seemed to complement the dish swimmingly.
The grilled bison rib-eye was perfectly cooked to a medium-rare — and covered in richly flavored sauteed wild mushrooms. It was accompanied by a generous helping of sweet, roasted fingerling potatoes, more of the roasted Roma tomatoes, and a luscious pile of roasted celery root. The dish was paired with a Wisconsin gem — Big Mouth Red by Stone’s Throw Vineyard — a wine bursting with cherry flavor, augmented by a bit of pepper on the finish.
And then there was the dessert: Chocolate Lover’s Cake. Although we were nearly too full to move, we couldn’t resist this sumptuous treat. Layers of flourless chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and chocolate ganache came together in a chocoholic’s dream that was further topped with whipped cream and a sprig of mint. It was even more perfect when paired with Ramos Pinto Porto Riserva (Portugal) — an unfiltered ruby port with sweet cherry notes and plenty of complementary chocolate flavors.
Throughout dinner, Peter was happy to guide us through the menu — answering questions about the various farms that had supplied the dishes we ate, and running back to the kitchen to check on items about which we had questions. Turns out Peter himself grew up on a farm in Dubuque, Iowa, where his father farmed and his mother gardened and captured the summer bounty by canning and preserving. He learned first-hand what “farm to table” meant — and it’s fed his passion for the restaurant business. His eyes shone as he spoke about his boss, Chef Jan Kelly.
“There’s no Milwaukee chef better than Kelly…” he crooned, “she has the restaurant business in her blood, and there’s no one who pairs flavors quite like she does.”
Peter also introduced us to Chef Kelly, herself, who took the time to talk with us about her philosophy in bringing farm-fresh produce to her restaurant table.
Kelly has been involved with “restaurant supported agriculture” programs for almost three years now. She was a founding member of “Braise RSA” — the brainchild of David Swanson — an organization which provides the infrastructure for local farmers to easily distribute and sell to restaurants and businesses who support local food in Southeast Wisconsin. She also supports local farms and businesses like Growing Power, Sassy Cow Creamery, Simple Soyman, Yuppie Hill, Pin-Oak Ridge Farms, and Lakeview Buffalo Farm.
“These are not corporations,” Kelly commented, “they’re people. And we’re supporting families, not just buying product.”
Kelly suspects that up to 70% of the food she serves at Meritage is sourced either locally or regionally — which is pretty fantastic, considering we live in Wisconsin (a lovely place, but not one known for its long growing season).
“This is the hardest time of the year,” she confesses, though judging from the meal we’d just finished, she’s doing pretty well. “Braise is great,” she added, “but Growing power gives us balance during the winter months — fairly soon we’ll be able to get green tomatoes from their greenhouse.”
Ah — the thought of fried green tomatoes made us feel a little bit woobly inside. And we couldn’t help but feel excited when she told us that they’d be growing Chinese long beans for Meritage during the next growing season.
We chatted for almost a half-hour as we sipped our locally roasted Alterra coffee. It was difficult not to feel utterly welcome — as if we’d been invited into Kelly’s living room for a visit. Of course, that might not be so far from the truth. In fact, our night ended with a hug from the Chef… and the feeling that we’d just done something pretty awesome.
Of course, one night of awesome only goes so far… we need to stick with it… which is exactly what FRESH is all about. One person at a time, making little changes that have a big impact.
Here are a couple of things you can do right now to bring a little bit of “FRESH” into your own lives:
- If you’re in Milwaukee, think about attending one of the remaining FRESH Week events, including one of the movie screenings at the Landmark Downer Theater on April 19-21. We’d love to see you there!
- If you don’t live in (or near) Milwaukee, participate in FRESH events in a city near you (upcoming events taking place in Minneapolis, Portland, and Seattle):
We’ll be back next week to tell you all about the movie. And talk a bit more about things we can do to really make a difference. One little bite at a time.
Disclosure: We were not paid or compensated in any way for writing this post. We were asked to write about the experience by the crew over at FRESH, but the opinions are our own. In other words, the experience really was that awesome — which makes it all the easier to share.
Posted on April 19, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
Guest Blogger Tiffany Finley, Sustainability Strategist, www.paystolivegreen.com
The movie Food Inc. has gained increasing press and viewers that documents the serious jeopardy our food system has fallen into over the past three decades. With vast industrialization, synthetic ingredients have replaced what our Grandparents used to call ‘food’. Now as much as I love learning the facts, I also love positive and inspiring messages, which is where I hope the movie FRESH comes into play!
They are hosting Farm to Table dinners across the Nation with a free movie ticket to the showing. Not a bad deal for a meal, a speaker, and a movie all for only the price of the meal!
Here is an example of one City’s events (Minneapolis, MN). Click through to find events for a City near you!
I would like to invite all of you to also attend an event and the screening so we can see how the different cities took on the challenge of fresh Farm to Table dinners! Feel free to post your thoughts on the dinner, the speaker, and the movie as well. I am excited to attend a dinner, speaking event, and the screening over the next two weeks so for those of you unable to attend, I will be happy to share how it all went!
Here is a little snippet about FRESH the movie:
“FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet.”
Joel Salatin, a personal hero and any ’soil’ farmer’s advocate will also be speaking at several events and is featured in the movie, just as a little teaser.
Cheers to taking a healthy dose of reality, responsibility, and re-engaging with that simple yet vital thing called f-o-o-d. See you at the screening!
Posted on April 16, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
When a conversation with my neighbor, Lulu, hits the twenty-minute mark, it won’t be long before she raises her right pinky, dons a frenzied grimace and puts on her best impersonation of Herman, a clinically insane man pacing back and forth, hooking thin air and repeatedly chirping: “Neer! Neer! Neer! Neer!”
A lifelong tenant of my building in the Puerto Rican enclave of today’s Williamsburg, Lulu has reminded me more than once that the apartment building across the street stands on the former grounds of a psychiatric ward, where mental patients would mill around the gates and chat with kids on the street through a wire-mesh fence.
Williamsburg, like much of New York, has quite a bit of history behind it, and Herman’s antics comprise one small tale of many that are still waiting to be passed down. You might not know this, however, from the average New Yorker’s loyalty to the universal hipster narrative, that knee-jerk understanding in which the crazies and kids are now one, making Williamsburg little more than a weekend zoo for Manhattanites and a convenient target for the collective rolled eyes of the city. Given how little people seem to think on how this neighborhood’s various parts have come into being, going back in the day through Lulu’s stories is a nice way of sparking the imagination and offering glimpses at our lionized landscape that cut through the newspeak of pop-cultural geography.
Being just as transient as the next twenty-something, I don’t say this to stake out a claim on authenticity. As I move out of Williamsburg, I simply hope that twenty years from now this patch of Brooklyn won’t be remembered in the form of skinny jeans, facial hair and poorly conceived irony – the so-called “hipsters” of Williamsburg deserve better. Real communities, new and old, continue to write their own stories between Broadway and Nassau, and if the growth of Brooklyn’s locally sourced food scene is any indication, the resulting merge will be something more interesting than the displacement of roots with cash registers.
The Mast Bros. Chocolate tasting I attended last week as part of the publicity blitz for Fresh! is one example of how the dining scene in Williamsburg is equal parts consumer-based gentrification and organic community building. At a glance, the event seemed a stereotypical meeting of the prissy and the pricey; gourmet chocolates set out alongside flowers as the conversation of an affluent, educated crowd of mostly white faces.
A closer look at the Fresh! campaign and a deeper taste of the gathering on North 3rd St would reveal an element of ownership that instills affluence with anima, particularly in how the Mast brothers uncompromisingly handcraft their chocolate to the enviable passion that Shane Welch and his staff at Sixpoint Craft Ales put into their Brooklyn-based brews. While the $7 price tag of a Mast Bros. Chocolate bar (higher if you purchase it outside the factory) screams high end consumerism, the intimacy of this hole-in-the-wall factory and beard-charmed accessibility of its owners makes a more complex statement of migration and growth, one which shines in significant contrast to the new Duane Reade pharmacy in construction just a few blocks away.
The chocolates on offer during the tasting certainly offered a real taste of personality. I’ve dismissed the Masts’ chocolate as too floral in the past, but was happy to be proven immensely wrong as I sampled piece after piece of the brothers’ standard rotation of bars. Like my colleague over at Food in Mouth, I quickly got over the intensity of the chocolate and become much more concerned with when I could procure the next bite-sized chunk.
The most satisfying aspect of Mast Bros. chocolate is that the foo foo liner notes that accompany its product are stunningly accurate. Single origin, 81% cocoa Dominican Republic is a hefty expression of earthy flavors – “rustic earth, black tea, rum, black berry, maybe even tobacco and sometimes licorice,” to be precise. Likewise, The Masts’ Fleur de Sal de Guerande (hand-harvested sea salt from France) is “a perfect finishing salt, amplifying the sweetness and citrus of the Madagascar cacao,” and the “nuttiness, fruit and beautiful texture” of the Mast’s meaty cacao nibs introduce a hearty element to their chocolate that is as much to savor as it is to feel. The distinctive profiles of each bar bore much of this flavor text to my taste buds in way that rarely happens when I drink a glass of red wine.
At the top of my list, single origin, 72% cocoa Madagascar “tickles your palate with blood orange, dried sour cherry and raspberry notes. Soft tannins and bright fruit linger on your brain like a night in Napa Valley.” As I popped piece after piece of this chocolate into my mouth and grappled with the flavors as they unwound on my tongue, these ridiculous, J. Peterman-worshipping words only become more true, with one all-important difference: Whereas Peterman dealt in plastering status onto schlock, Rick and Michael Mast engage in creating food that encapsulates labor and art.
Is an artisan chocolate bar the form of hipsterism, matured? Is it simply another unwitting offensive in socioeconomic restructuring? The Mast brothers, flanked by like-minded, locally-focused entrepreneurs at the Brooklyn Kitchen, the Meat Hook, Marlow & Daugters, Pies and Thighs, the Greenpoint Greenmarket, and the many other members of North Brooklyn’s blossoming food community, have nurtured an answer that goes beyond dive bars without eschewing them and stands up to five-stars without pursuing them. Most importantly, these voices are not alone in their statement of delicious development: With the help of social media and the spark of generational change, a similar process has taken root in urban environments all over the United States.
I’m not one to know exactly how this spirit will guide the evolution of Williamsburg, let alone the rest of the country. Despite the fact that culture clashes of gentrification are very much alive and well, this town’s food-crazed denizens, the Mast brothers certainly included, have done a lot in my eyes to make a tasteful case for their ongoing invasion.
Mast Bros. Chocolate
105 North 3rd St.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Open Sat. and Sun. 2pm-8pm
Posted on April 16, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
By Guest Blogger: Molly Cerreta Smith
Originally posted on Foodies Like Us
I am such a pasta junkie that I jumped at the chance to check out PastaBAR, even if it was under the “guise” of attending a promo for the Fresh documentary – and a farm to table dinner prepared by the extraordinary Chef Wade Moises himself (please stay tuned for more on him in a very-near-future article).
Now, I have to admit that since becoming a full-time mom and only a part-time writer, I rarely leave the comfort zone of my immediate neighborhood. It’s been years since I’ve frequented a restaurant in downtown Phoenix, but I was impressed to see the whole area coming alive with hidden gems. And I mean that in the truest sense of the phrase. PastaBAR is housed within a building – you might never know it was there if you weren’t looking for it. Good thing we were.
Chef Wade prepared a special three-course meal the night we dined in collaboration with promotion for Fresh, which is showing this Friday and Saturday only at the Madcap Theaters in Tempe. The dinner came complete with a ticket to see the movie, which emphasizes the importance of re-inventing our food system to forge a healthier, more sustainable alternative by using local produce and meats – something Chef Wade does on the daily.
His menu even states: “PastaBAR uses as many products from as many local farmers, ranchers and producers as possible.” A quick breeze through the website and you’ll find a list of some familiar names — McClendon’s Select, Maya’s Farm, The Meat Shop, Sunizona, and the Downtown Phoenix Public Market, which Wade is now running (more on that in the coming part-two article – you just can’t fit Chef Wade into one little blog!).
The menu that he created to promote the Fresh concept was steeped in simplicity. The first course was braised leeks in water, olive oil and butter topped with hard-boiled egg shavings and breadcrumbs. The mild leeks were intensified by the unique textural sensations of the egg and crunchy breadcrumbs. We were off to a good start.
The main course was a pasta primavera packed with homegrown vegetables – sugar snap peas, Maya’s sweet 100s tomatoes, green beans and fava beans – and topped with basil and Parmesan. The homemade, hand-rolled garganelli pasta was perfectly cooked. Elegant yet simple, this pasta dish did not leave me with that heavy feeling that I usually get after eating a plateful of pasta. And believe me, I finished every last bite.
Chef Wade rounded out the three-course meal with each diner’s choice of one of three fresh granitas. I couldn’t resist the cherry-lime, which was mouth-puckeringly tart. It tickles my taste buds just thinking about it. I couldn’t finish it, but I did demolish the decadent cream atop my icy dessert. I’d gladly down a martini glass filled with that stuff any day.
If you are a fresh food foodie, check out Fresh this weekend. You will be inspired to, like Chef Wade, find a fresh, simple and local way to cook, eat and enjoy the fruits of our regional farms. But if you don’t feel like doing it yourself, head to PastaBAR for a heaping helping of farm to table freshness.
Posted on April 14, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
Guest Post by Rosemarie Gambetta, President of Cheapeats, Inc.
Cheapeats recently attended an enlightening event at the New School as part of Fresh Week. An Evening with Anna Lappe – author of Diet For A Hot Planet. This book discusses the climate crisis at the end of your fork and what you can do about it. How can my fork affect the climate? Read on and learn.
What would you guess to be the largest contributor to emissions in the atmosphere? Cars? Airplanes? Manufacturing? Wrong….it’s livestock. The methane emitted from livestock is 160x greater than humans produce. Staggering! Why? It’s the waste produced, synthetic fertilizers and farming practices that release massive amounts of carbon into the air and rob it from the soil.
Did you know that 50% of corn and 90% of soy produced in this country feed livestock, not people. With the focus on healthy eating, dieting and obesity, you’d think we be eating better; right? We may think we are, but not necessarily. Take for instance a Granola Bar. Many of us eat them. I know I do. It’s a healthy snack. Boosts energy. How can this affect the climate? The #1 ingredient in these snacks is Palm Oil. 100% of Palm Oil is produced in Malaysia and Indonesia. These fields are burned in the manufacturing process. That is a lot of carbon being released in the atmosphere.
It’s estimated by 2050 the consumption of meat in this country will increase to 465million tons. That’s staggering when you think about the effect of their carbon footprint. Am I saying we should all become Vegetarians? No. But for years, we have been sold the fallacy that without processed foods, we will go hungry. The lie must end. If we don’t reduce our carbon footprint by 2050….we’re in big trouble!!!
What can we do?
- Support sustainable farming
- Do away with industrial farms because they’re causing the loss of carbon in our soils
- Stop the processed food craze
- Encourage your local government and current administration to end Anti-trust practices in the food system
The movement – 1 year ago the Real Food Challenge was started on campuses across the US. Their goal is to convert 20% of school food to real food by 2020. To date, 389 schools have come on board. Has yours?
You don’t have to spend more money……you just have to spend it smarter! The power is in our forks!!!!
Posted on April 9, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
Guest post by Rosemarie Gambetta, President of Cheapeats Inc.
Now that the weather seems to have turned, all the sidewalk cafes are bustling with people laughing, drinking and of course eating. With the warm weather upon us, we’re being more conscious about what we’re eating. After all, bikini season is just around the corner…..YIKES! On my quest to find green eating on the cheap and support Fresh, my last spot for the Farm To Table Dinners is Counter.
Counter is a martini/wine bar and bistro wrapped in one. Nestled in the quaint East Village neighborhood, this spot has a very downtown vibe and cool atmosphere. I stepped in and was immediately greeted by a friendly smile. “I’m here for the Fresh dinner;” I said. Within seconds I was seated at a intimate table by the open glass front with a fabulous view for my favorite thing hobbies…people watching. Whitney, who I spoke with with when making the reservation, sat down to say hi. We chatted about some of the other spots I had hit for the Fresh Event Week, the Cheapeats blog/site and what they had planned for dinner. They were preparing a great salad to make the meal light enough to indulge in one of their sinful desserts. Salad and dessert? Sounds perfect to me.
The server set down a beautiful watercress salad with heirloom cherry tomatoes, grilled tofu in a light citrus dressing. Looks refreshing. First bite – delicious. I won’t be feeling guilty about dessert at all. But what is this little brown thing? A small olive? Best be careful not to bite on the pit. Wait, this isn’t an olive…it’s a boiled peanut. How inventive. That is my new addition to my home salads. All components of this salad hit my sensory buttons. Crunch, texture and taste.
While eating my salad I glanced at the menu. They offer small plates, flatbread pizzas and large plates. All Vegetarian supporting local farmers. A note on the menu says that they use local sustainable dairy with no animal rennet. Impressive.
Are you ready for dessert? Am I? They have many options that all sound good. What’s this I see? All desserts are Vegan…even the ice cream? That could be really good or really bad. Apple Crumble please and a Jasmine green tea. I’m a sucker for a crunchy topping.
My server brings a white ramekin filled with chunks of apples topped with a crunchy streusel topping with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream on top. Looks good, but how does it taste? I dig my spoon in and pull out a spoonful of apple, topping and ice cream. My lips are going in. Mmmmm!!!! Warm, crunchy and sweet. You taste the apples and cinnamon. It’s like a hug for your belly. With a cup of tea, I sat back in my chair and released all the craziness from the day. I can’t believe this is Vegan.
My experience at Counter was just delightful. Whitney, my waiter John and the other servers were attentive, warm and just lovely. My vote…..2 thumbs up!!!!
Thanks Fresh, Counter and all the wonderful restaurants I visited during the Farm To Table Dinners. It was great eating and am proud to see that local farms are being supported. But most of all…..you can eat green without spending a lot of green.
Happiness, $25 and under.
P.S. Don’t forget to check out Fresh the Movie April 9-15
Posted on April 2, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
By: Rosemarie Gambetta
Cross-posted from Cheapeats
Cheapeats is honored to have been asked to review and share their experience during the Farm To Table dinners celebrating the screening of Fresh the Movie. Fresh is a powerful film discussing the current farming and food system and the simple changes we can make to better Americans and the planet.
The most common argument people have is that eating “Green” and “Organic” is expensive. Cheapeats is going to show you that you can find great healthy options without breaking the break. Part 1 – Candle Cafe.
Candle Cafe is a casual eatery on the Upper Eastside whose mission is to serve a organic plant based menu. Many of the dishes use seasonal ingredients free of pesticides and chemicals. They were gracious enough to prepare a menu for Fresh fans featuring farm fresh specials. My hungry belly was excited and up to the challenge. From the many yummy options, I chose “Cashew Crusted Tempeh over Vegetable Quinoa Pilaf.” If your scratching your head saying; “What language is she speaking?” To simplify it, Tempeh is a soybean cake. If Yuck is the first word to come to mind, you are sssooooo wrong. When my dish came out, my eyes were smiling. It was beautifully presented. Almost too pretty to eat…almost.
First bite – A perfect crunchy coating surrounding a filling of herbs and flavor. It’s so difficult to describe the taste of Tempeh. It’s like a blank canvas that takes on whatever flavors you paint it with. It was like a polenta cake but with so much flavor, you’d think you’re eating chicken. Honest. The Quinoa (similar to cous cous) was light, fluffy and combined with an assortment of fresh vegetables (string beans, fennel, greens). The sauce underneath was like a rich broth; both savory and sweet. The perfect amount of each. When I combined it all into one perfect bite, it was like a party in my mouth. To complete the combination of textures, the dish was topped with crispy fennel and radishes. While enjoying my dinner, I’m watching the place fill up. Who knew so many people ate vegetarian.
Do you have room dessert my waitress asked? Oh I think I can make room. My choice – Vanilla Cheesecake with an Almond Cookie Crust. Sounds good right?
First Bite – Creamy, silky, sweet and light with a little crunch from the cookie crust. Ladies and Gentleman, we have winner!!!!! I tasted vanilla and almonds but what was cheese? Silken Tofu? Who knew. Combined with the creamy vanilla sauce, it was like a cloud on a plate.
I know you’re squirming in your seat saying, ”There is no way that eating vegetarian will taste good.” Guess what…it will. The chef adds so many flavors to trick your palette, you honestly won’t miss the meat. Based on the crowd eating and those waiting to be seated is proof that it doesn’t have to be boring nor expensive to eat green.
Tix for the screening of Fresh are being sold at Candle Cafe and their sister restaurant Candle 79 and don’t forget to check out the Fresh Week Events.