Slow Food Nation

I was able to spend a few days at the Slow Food Nation celebration in San Francisco last weekend, and I thought I'd post a few pictures....

I drove down to SF on Friday morning, and arrived around mid-day. Part of the event was this organic "Victory Garden" that was planted next to city hall. It was unusually warm and sunny for San Francisco - a beautiful day!

Check out that broccoli head! Most of the veggies were heirloom (old) varieties,

This is a traditional milpa, a traditional Native American planting of corn, beans, and squash.

All of the veggies were donated to the food bank. What a wonderful statement for the city to make!

I have to say that I think it was a bit of a mistake to hold this event in San Francisco though. California's bounty is already celebrated enough - wouldn't Iowa City or Ann Arbor or Madison have been better, more exciting choice? I think if Slow Food wanted to get rid of their stuffy elitist image, San Francisco wasn't really the best choice.... maybe I'm just being picky though....

At the end of the garden they had a "soap box" set up, with scheduled free speakers. I happened to walk by when Mas Masomoto was reading his poetry! He's a peach farmer/poet with roots in Japan. I've known of him and bought his peaches for years, but I've never seen him in person. He was reading his poetry along with traditional Japanese drums - it was wonderful! You can even watch in on You Tube!

On one side of the garden was a farmer's market, and food vendors on the other. There were a few cool things at the market, but overall I wasn't too impressed. It made me realize what a wonderful farmer's market we have in Arcata - I'm spoiled!

These heirloom apples did catch my eye though. What a beautiful display! I couldn't help but buy some.

There was also a booth selling Belgian endive - I guess most people grow it hydroponically, but not these people. This display showed how it develops - interesting!

There was also a pretty good informational compost display....

I then waled over to the Herbst Theater (just a few blocks away) to two panel discussions. The first, Relocalizaing Food, featured Michael Pollan, Winona La Duke, Gary Nabhan, and Dan Barber. It was really interesting and inspiring! If it ever shows up on You Tube, I'll be sure to link to it!

The second panel I went to was moderated by Eric Scholsser (author of Fast Food Nation.) It was a bit unorganized (all the speakers went way over, so there was no time left for questions from the audience at the end,) but it was still moving and inspiring. The speakers described the plight of farm workers in the US, and reminded the audience that any definition of "good" food must alway include a fair deal for the farm workers who do much of the hardest work involved in farming. Here in Humboldt County we don't really think about that too much - most of our farmers rely on just a few hired hands, and are nothing like large farms in other parts of the country. It's an important thing to remember!

The next morning I went to the "Taste Pavilions" on the waterfront at Fort Mason. I got there pretty early and took a walk up the hill overlooking the site. You can see the bread pavilion in the foreground - most of the action was inside the building on the bottom right, which is on a long pier going out into the bay.

This is a shot of people waiting for the taste pavilions to open, Notice the little trees?...

They were all different heirloom fruit trees! Each one had tag that told a little bit about it's history. I never did find out what they did with them after the event...planted them I hope!

The gates finally opened and people started steaming in. I headed inside the building that most of the pavilions were in and started out at the sausage pavilion. I'm not sure why I chose it - looking back, I'm not sure if a sausage tasting was the best was to start the day! This was the tasting menu - you got a little piece of each of these.

There were a bunch of people slicing and sampling....

I couldn't really stomach this one. I tried it, but it just didn't seem like the right thing to be eating at 11:00 in the morning. I'm sure it's really good in the right context!

Next stop was the cheese pavilion. I loved how they made walls out of Strauss Milk crates!

Lots if cheese, but I didn't see any from Wisconsin - What a travesty!

I couldn't resist this sign - amen sister!

This is the tea pavilion. Everyone sat down at tables and was shown how to steep tea in the traditional Japanese way. Fun! The tea was delicious too!

This is a lousy picture of the ice cream pavilion, but it's the best one I got. They were serving a sampler of sweet corn/blackberry, ginger, and creme brulee ice cream. The sweet corn was especially amazing - I'd say it was my favorite taste of the day. I could have eaten a lot more than the little scoop they gave me, that's for sure!

The chocolate pavilion was pretty cool too. They used wooden palates to make walls and hallways - very imaginative!

Volunteers getting chocolate for people to taste....

I didn't get a shot inside the honey pavilion, but it was a pretty neat design as well. I couldn't fit the ey in the picture, but the crates embedded in the wall spelled honey. They were serving a sampler of 4 honeys from different Bay Area location - you really could taste a difference!

This was a beautiful fish display that featured a bunch of fresh fish from the bay.


I was awestruck by the size of this bread snail! the snail is Slow Food's symbol.

Lots of beautiful bread was being exhibited at the bread pavilion.

This guy was doing a demonstration about different kinds of wheat. He had the audience taste a little of each of the varieties, and talked about their uses.

This was at the Native American pavilion. It's corn kernals, corn meal, and chili powder, and meant to symbolize the interconnected nature of all life.

By the time I left, the place was packed! I'd been at the tasting pavilions for almost three hours, and my taste buds were exhausted! I walked back to my car and headed over the Golden Gate Bridge home to Arcata. It was a great trip, but I left thinking about how good things are here in Humboldt, and excited to get home to start my September local challenge!
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A Local Feast at La Trattoria

Life's been pretty busy for me the last few weeks. I haven't had much time to cook, and when I have had time, there was no time to take pictures or blog about it.

Last week we had the opportunity to attend a very special meal at La Trattoria (my favorite restaurant it town,) however. It was a "price fixed" meal, reservations required, and everyone was served the same things at the same time. It wasn't cheap - $38.00 per person, plus a bottle of wine, but it was worth it! The entire 5 course meal was entirely made of locally grown ingredients. As far as I could tell, the cook didn't even use olive oil or salt, which for a good Italian restaurant is quite a feat!

We started off with a bottle of Merlot from Winnett Vineyards, in Willow Creek. The restaurant was only serving wines that were grown and vinted in Humboldt County, and Winnett is one of the few good ones that fit the bill. The first course (above,) was Humboldt Grassfed Beef carpacio, (raw beef pounded very thin,) topped with fresh arugula, Pierce Family Farm bell peppers, and Earthly Edibles onions.

The second course was a barley soup with roasted vegetables and basil. Wow! I was really amazed at how much flavor the vegetables and herbs had without salt or other spices. The barley was from Shakefork Community Farm, one of the only farms in our area attempting to grow grains. It was delicious!

It looked so good, I started eating the main course before I remembered to take a picture - Lamb, braised in a white wine sauce with herbs and vegetables, and beans from Warren Creek Farm. The lamb was melt in your mouth tender, and the beans were the perfect complement. Wow again!

This was the "Contorno," course, a small vegetable course between the main course and dessert - Green beans stewed with tomatoes, onion, garlic, and basil. It was kind of an odd course by itself, but delicious none the less.

Unfortunately, I finished the dessert before I remembered to take a picture! I guess that's sign that I liked it! It was peach ice cream made with Neukom Family Farm peaches and Humboldt Creamery cream, sweetened with local honey. It was really good - not too sweet. They served it with herbal tea (peppermint or mormon.)

Again, all this was grown locally - everything. If only I could eat like this every night!
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Hot soup in summer? I know it seems crazy, but here on the coast it never really warms up. We had a pretty good stretch of cold foggy weather in the middle of August, so I decided to make one of my favorite soups - borscht. This Russian beet soup is so good, I really can't understand why more people don't eat it regularly. Everyone I've ever served it to loves it - even people who think they hate beets. My mom used to make it, and it was a favorite of us kids.

I started out with the above ingredients, all grown locally: carrots, potatoes (from our garden,) young onions (also from the garden,) and of course, red beets.

Caraway seeds are the secret to this recipe. I use them very liberally all through the process.

The first step is sauteing onions, carrots, beets, and potatoes in butter with caraway seeds and dried dill weed. I start with the onions, then add the harder veggies (carrots and beets,) and lastly the potatoes.

After the roots started to get tender, I added some more caraway seeds and local cabbage and Swiss chard (chard's not a traditional ingredient, but I had some in the fridge that I wanted to use up.) I cooked that for a few minutes, and finally added some chicken stock and a little apple cider vinegar. I think traditionally you would use beef stock, but chicken stock is what I had in the cupboard. It gives it a little lighter taste than beef. The vinegar gives the soup a great tang. I let all this cook down for about 20 minutes, until the veggies were tender.

Fresh dill is another vital ingredient. Here is it chopped and ready to go.

The finished soup gets topped with sour cream and fresh dill. It's so good! There's something so rich and satisfying about the beets combined with caraway, apple cider vinegar, and sour cream. For me, this is the ultimate comfort food! We had it with a nice loaf of sourdough bread, although I would have preferred dark rye. Unfortunately, none of the bakeries in town make a good dark rye bread.

The broth ends up being the most beautiful pink color. Mmmmm. I made lots, and we ate it for about 3 days. As the flavors melded together, the soup kept getting better and better!
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The Blueberry Farm

took a trip yesterday to Wolfsen's blueberry farm in McKinleyville.

This is my favorite u-pick in our area. It's owned by a retired couple who have around 5 acres of blueberries. The whole thing is covered by a bird/deer net.

You have to stoop over once you're inside the net. It's such a wonderful thing to pick blueberries on a beautiful day! There were lots of families picking - everyone seemed to be having a great time!

I spent about an hour and picked 4.3lb. At $4.50/lb they weren't cheap, but totally worth it! Now to figure out how to eat them all....
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