Monday, August 31, 2009

Fog city gardening celebrating the end of August

Saturday's volunteer day at Garden for the Environment: a bountiful CSA harvest in the hot sun highlighted by gorgeous strawberries and beautiful blooms. Followed by building free standing compost piles, a composition of sculptures to decomposition.
Arugula is getting a healthy start!

This week at my community garden plot, that blushing tomato turned full-on red, and two more are on the way to ripening!

Onion blossoms are my new inspiration.

Grand opening: EAT Mondays @ Minna

I don't do happy hour without food, really, no one should. But this leaves so many great spots, like the art gallery/bar 111 Minna out of my usual range. Starting tonight, EAT on Mondays at 111 Minna there will be a beautiful menu of sustainable seasonal eats at good prices ($4-10), $5 cover starting next week. Art/music/food & libations=a good way to start the week.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another beautiful GFE harvest

I spent my Saturday morning in the company of friends new and old harvesting these beautiful veggies for a local housing service for youth!

What's in the GFE box?
Pink pearl apples (they're pink inside!), kale, swiss chard, a bouquet of herbs, carrots (from Thomas the wonder-volunteer's garden), mixed string beans, ornamental squash and loads of eating squash--just look at that patty pan beauty!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tell all your friends: the time for healthy school food is Now.

I was inspired by a movement gaining ground at an evening talk last night--a movement to return healthy, good food to our schools.

One of the many tendrils of the local food movement is school food--it's one that never really caught my eye--maybe it was because I'm not a teacher or a parent--but last night, a panel of thoughtful speakers and at the latest installment of Kitchen Table Talks brought the issue home. School food is a community issue.

I realized that school food is suffering from the same problems facing our national food system: the commodification of the food that nourishes us and the conglomeration of those who produce, prepare and distribute our food.

Two points of the talk resonated with me: In San Francisco, the meals that kids receive at school--lunch and for some, breakfast plus an after-school snack, usually served in a black pre-packaged bag--may be the only meals they have all day. And secondly, kids who eat healthy, good food do better academically. When our school systems begin to recognize this fundamental need to nourish students, real transformation can happen.

The speakers, which included Colleen Kavanaugh Executive Director, Campaign for Better Nutrition, Lena Brook, grassroots parent advocate, and Ed Wilkins, Director of Student Nutrition Services for SF Public Schools--reiterated that the time is now to change the way we feed children at school. The Child Nutrition Act is undergoing reauthorization this year. For the first time in decades, a President is actually talking about the need for school food reform. The local food movement is gaining political will and know-how. And communities are beginning to organize around healthy food.

What can you do?
  • Attend one of the 272 Time for Lunch Eat-In's across the nation on Labor Day (or organize one in your community). It is a national day of action to get real food in schools
  • Call your representatives and let them know you want more $$ for school food. Call them, don't send a letter or sign a petition. All that counts is a personal call or note. For more info on what to say check out this guide.
  • Get educated about school food and make it a priority in your community.
Do you know any great examples of good school food? Please share them!

Life in the garden: the miracle of a blushing tomato

Summer is turning to fall even in fog city. Here's a few photos from my community garden plot at White Crane...

A zucchini plant goes out in style - another victim of powdery mildew.

Tomatoes are looking good--one, hiding in this photo, is even beginning to blush! I was already getting jealous of my Missionista friends with beautiful reds and was looking up pickled green tomato recipes. There may be hope yet...
GFE is full of fall blooms.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

SF comes out in support of street food...

From the huge crowds at this weekend's SF street food fair, you can tell SF is ready for some serious street food. Food that's affordable, well made, unique, fast, and preferably served out of something on wheels. (I just think there's something about that potential transience, the mystery of such creativity and goodness coming out of pocket sized kitchens that speaks to the urban dweller)

But unfortunately, by 3pm the lines crowding Folsom between 25th and 26th were too long for me and my friends to brave...and the spicy eggplant pocket pie that I craved was already sold out. I had expected more street food vendors, but instead found the likes of Pizzeria Delfina, Poleng, and Aziza. To be fair there were a few illegal street vendors that were made legal for the day, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting.

As an event that highlighted the great work of the community kitchen La Cocina I couldn't be happier about the success of the event.

I think the event was equally successful in bringing awareness about the gaps in our local laws to create a thriving street food cart scene like Portland. If you love street food and want to help change our laws check out the petition here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Good Eats: Il Cane Rosso

I was craving soup on yesterday's foggy day and decided to explore a new spot in the SF Ferry Building: Il Cane Rosso. It's all about seasonal local fare---I got a sweet corn soup with pickled green tomatoes. Mmmmm. And at $6 this bowl of soul-warming soup only cost .70 more than the lentil soup I almost went for at the SF Soup Company.

Everything is presented with care and beauty at this sliver of a restaurant--from the hand lettered signs letting you know where their produce is grown, to the displays of fresh produce and flowers.

The Straus soft-serve on tap could prove to be my downfall...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bike-In Movies and a Memorial to the Culture Bus

I'm nostalgic for Drive-In movie theaters. I'm ecstatic for the new bike-in theater events in SF, complete with street food carts! Check out the article here to read more about creating community out of concrete.

In other things urban and transportation, let's all take a moment of silence for the death of SF's most useless bus line, the Culture Bus. The Culture Bus was a good idea in theory that just never worked in practice--create a bus line, a bright yellow one at that, connecting SF's best tourist spots, but it was so expensive and unknown that no one ever actually rode it. Maximum capacity I witnessed: 4 people.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Urban homestead classes take root

Canning, pickling, starting a sourdough starter, beer brewing, cheese making, fermenting, meal planning, gardening--as summer hits its' stride and the slow food movement begins to take root people are making these old skills new again.

Classes are popping up everywhere I look. I just participated in a canning and preserving class at the Studio for Urban Projects taught by chef Nicole LoBue. Good takeaways: always can with a posse, it cuts down on the time, creativity blossoms, and it's just more fun that way; follow your recipe (important for a recipe infidel like myself) and the Ball Blue Book of Preserving is a great place to start; and finally, there are never-ending ways of to can -- the hot water bath method is a great way to go (unless you're canning meat, which..... I just can't even begin to think about.)

Other great spots to check out classes in SF are Urban Peasant and Urban Kitchen. SF's community kitchen space La Cocina is also holding Yes We Can events this summer where you are able to buy community canned local produce and if you're interested, learn how to do it in the process.

Are classes like this popping up all over? Let me know if you've found other interesting urban homesteading classes!

A Tomato Scarce Summer for the Northeast

The Northeastern US is suffering from a huge tomato crop loss this year. This great op-ed by Dan Barber does a good job of outlining the causes and consequences of the tomato blight.

There's a lot of lessons to be learned here but one huge takeaway for me is to be conscientious about where you get those seeds and seedlings you're planting in your backyard garden. Some quick tips:
  • Try going to your local farmers' market for seedlings sown by local farmers, they'll probably be the ones that work best in your micro climate too!
  • Next stop should be your local nursery--if they don't have veggie starts ask them to start carrying them, a lot of nurseries are just getting started with this. (for Bay Area gardeners I've found good starts at SF's Sloat, Three Bees, Hortica on Castro may have them too. Berkeley's Spiral Gardens is a superstar.)
  • Buy seeds from local sources that have organic and heirloom seed varieties. I still need to work on finding more sources in my area but here are a few I've found: Sustainable Seed Company based in CA and Territorial Seed based in OR
  • If you can't get them there, try places like Seed Saver's Exchange and Native Seed/SEARCH.
  • Learn how to save your own seed!
  • Make your garden a diverse one.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A week in Portland (part I)

Portland is...local food heaven, artisan coffee all day long, local breweries on every corner, patio paradise, street cart dining, user-friendly public transit, corn and zucchini growing where lawns would normally be and good peeps.

Here's a few highlights from my week in Portland...

The discovery of North Portland gems: Por que no: ceviche is not to be missed. the ReBuilding Center, Pistils Nursery your nonstop shop for urban chicken raising and terrariums, the patio and the pitchers at Amnesia brewery, Mississippi Studios the spot for shows and fresh baked bread.

Besaws: is old wicker chairs, breakfast till 3, ball jars filled with homemade pickles and preserves & a menu of local foods at recession prices.

I'm a complete Stumptown convert--so many varieties and
what can I say, I'm a french press junkie.
But Coffeehouse Northwest takes it to another level, their iced coffee is unparalleled.

Pine State Biscuits is unreal: mushroom gravy, quarts of sweet tea, a side of hash browns and collard greens you can barely finish. Pictured above is the star of the show, the Reggie delux, yup that's fried chicken, bacon, egg, cheese and gravy.

Fresh currants!

I could spend an entire summer exploring PDX's street cart food extravaganza. Here's a little spinach cheese wonderland from Ziba's Bosnian food cart.

Hops growing strong at Lucky Lab brewery.

The tea garden.

My first berry picking adventure! Marionberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and peaches were on tap at this spot on Sauvie Island.

Pok pok's killer papaya salad -- went well with the tofu noodle soup.
Otherwise, stay away from the veggie options!

One of the best street food stops was at Lickity Split on NW 10th & Hoyt.
Vegan Meatballs (you can get happy pork too), fire roasted green chili sauce, heirloom tomato polenta, cheese and a little spice. So. Good.

Other Portland recommendations:
Thank you friends for all your recommendations--keep them coming!
Portland Part II = a special visit to Gaining Ground farm...