chicken speak: by J

pastured chickens

Umm, just in case it wasn’t obvious, I am pretty in love with food.

I love buying it, eating it, cooking it, thinking about it, dreaming about it. I’m a food centric person. And since living in SF, food meca, I have begun to learn a lot more. I’m still a beginner, and outside of Farm School, I have little formal training.

I do however, want to eat responsibly and healthfully, and I find this difficult at times in a world of marketing, etc.

David Maren’s article, from here, about poultry production claims, was so incredibly informative I had to share it.

In case you’re not up to reading the whole article, below are a few key tips.

  1. The best poultry should say “raised on pasture or pastured”. This means the chickens spend most of their time in a grassy field, eating grass and bugs they find, with usually some supplemental feed for their protein needs.
  2. Free-range can mean something similar, and it can also mean they are raised in confined indoor spaces, with “access” to the outdoors, which sadly can mean a tiny cat door in one corner of the facility that the birds don’t even know how to use. So education is key, ask questions when you can.
  3. Organic is great as far as what the birds consume, however, it doesn’t specify how the birds are raised, so an organic bird can be raised in a confined indoor space.
  4. Antibiotic free is good, because many animals are raised today on a constant feed of antibiotics due to the poor/ cramped living conditions.
  5. Meaningless claims include: cage free, as poultry for meat isn’t raised in cages, it makes no sense (it is only relevant to eggs), hormone free is true of all US raised chickens (the USDA doesn’t allow any hormones used in raising chickens), vegetarian feed (chickens should have access to bugs and insects in pasture).
  6. Often companies will use healthful words in the naming of their product that don’t relate to the actual raising of the poultry at all. A company can name themselves Natural Green Pastures, and not use any of that in their production methods.

Of course the reality is, happy chickens, raised sustainably and ethically are expensive, and everyone might not have the means to buy the best chicken out there, however, I feel better knowing I at least know what I’m buying and can begin to unpack the claims made by the poultry industry.

xo J

fresh flowers: by J

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You can never overestimate the ability of a bunch of flowers to brighten any table.

I picked these sweet babies up during farm school from the lusciously idyllic Oak Hill Farm.

They started out growing flowers, before the international flower market took off, and today they still do, in combination with beautiful fresh vegetables, including some of the best carrots I’ve ever tasted.

The safflowers caught my eye because of their playful brightness, and the thistly top with an inflamed shade of orange.

xo J

best hamburger in ny : by K

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Dinner at The Spotted Pig in the West Village Friday night. Supposedly the best hamburger and shoestring, rosemary fries in NYC.  It’s hard to commit to saying something is the best ever in NYC…but I will say, this burger and fry combo comes very close to attaining that title.  House made warm bun? Roquefort cheese? Yes. Please.

I’ve walked by this place a bunch over the past few months, assuming it was a flower/garden shop. The outside is just covered in potted plants and herbs and flowers – it does not look like a place that serves the best hamburger in all of the city. I guess that’s what makes it even more tasty.

We get there early, prepared to sit at the bar for an hour or more before getting a table – since that seems to be the norm lately.  We are greeted by a sassy, new york hostess who was just NOT in the mood. For anything. Not hiding that you’re just not in the mood to do your job is pretty common and even “appropriate” and “understandable” behavior in NYC.

Before she could finish telling us the wait was 40 – 60 minutes in a “I don’t know what you were thinking, waltzing in here at 7pm on a Friday night expecting to sit down…” sort of way…another customer who, by the expression on his face, had been waiting quite awhile for his chance to sit down and eat a delicious hamburger, came up to inquire about the status of his name on the list. Well. Sassy hostess was not about to have this AT ALL. She will come FIND him when it was time…  “what does he think? I’m just gonna LEAVE him there?!”

Lesson number 5,783 about living in NYC – be nice. Instead of cowering or giving attitude to the lady who had our dinner fate in her hands, we laughed and made her feel…hilarious. Guess who got seated right away, by the window, with a little wink from our new sassy friend?

xo k

pictures from here.

Cheese School: by J

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Last year K gave me an amazing gift of a class at Cheese School. It only took just over 12 months to finally go.

It was pretty amazing.

I thought I’d share a few things I learned.

  1. serve your cheeses whole, and allow people to cut for themselves, pre-cut cheeses will dry out and lose their flavour.
  2. before dinner, serve only one cheese, preferably soft and mild. Soft cheeses are less filling, and also they wont overwhelm the meal ahead.
  3. bring cheese to room temperature before eating. Roughly 1 hour with a covered cloth should work, depending on how hot or cold it is where you are. The exception is triple cream brie, which should be taken out shortly before serving due to its delicate nature.
  4. cheese tasting is much like wine tasting. First learn about the cheese (how it was made, etc), look at it, smell it, and then place a piece on the center of your tongue to roll around to truly taste it.
  5. thin crackers and slightly sweet bread is ideal for cheese tasting. No sour dough.
  6. cheese is a living organism, so store it wrapped in parchment or wax paper, and then plastic to allow it to breathe while keeping it from drying out.
  7. cut cheeses from the centre out, that way everyone enjoys a similar cross section, and there is little waste. A good guide to cheese cutting.

Of course these are all pretty nit picky, cheese centric rules, and the most important one to me is to simply buy cheeses you love, and eat them with delicious things.

xo J

cheese cake

An SF weekend: by J

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Loved this movie as a late afternoon matinee.

Followed by dinner here. Almost impossible to get reservations and long wait times for walk-ins are for a very delicious reason. And a 4-year-old’s insightful review.

Brunch the next day here.

Spent a few hours reading this book about composting for farm school.

An all around great weekend,

Happy Monday,

xo J

image of pickled anchovy-sesame pancake

shishito peppers: by J

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Newest addition to my list of ridiculously simple, beautifully subtle and delicious foods.

A mild flavoured pepper, with a delicate skin, and the lovely risk of roughly one in ten being spicy.

They taste of summer, and I ate nearly the entire bowl and wished I had more. Sadly none of mine were spicy so I can’t advise on what to expect spice wise.

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To prepare:

Rinse fresh crisp shisito peppers, pat dry, poke each pepper with a knife to form a tiny hole to allow any steam to escape while cooking.

Heat pan with a heat safe mild flavoured oil like grapeseed until shimmering, and just before smoking.

Add the shishito peppers, and toss frequently until the outsides are blistered and the peppers have just started to soften.

Slide into a bowl and finish with course sea salt to taste.

Eat them as finger food, leaving just the stem.

shishito

 

xo J

 

 

caterpillars and imaginal cells: by J

I heard the most beautiful story in yoga class.

Much of it reminded me of things I had learned as a child, but most was something completely new.

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When a caterpillar begins the work of becoming a butterfly, it attaches to a leaf and becomes a chrysalid.

The remarkable part, is as enzymes are released in the tiny insect, it dissolves, and basic cell structures called imaginal cells begin to reproduce and vibrate.

The vibrating message of imaginal cells is simple: I am a creature that is meant to fly.

They interact with all of the other cells to reorganize the makeup of the caterpillar into that of a butterfly.

xo J

ps some research suggests that butterflies may even retain some memories from their previous life as a caterpillar.

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france in nyc: by K

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Great dinner with friends in the West Village Saturday night. An ity bity, French restaurant, called Buvette.

I have been here for brunch and now dinner. It is an experience for sure – the wait staff are all dressed in old fashioned aprons and striped shirts, but in a sophisticated way. The tables are so tiny that your food comes on stackable plates, so there is enough room for everyone to eat comfortably. The dishes are simple, but fresh and incredibly delicious.

Brunch feels more like an individual eating experience but dinner plates are small and better suited for tapas style eating. It is one of the more charming spots in the area and has the perfect atmosphere for a romantic date night or catch up with a good friend.

ps read about how it is considered the best breakfast in NYC here.

xo k

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