Friday, August 29, 2008

On the Eve of Slow Food Nation!

Well, sort of the eve, for me at least...

The first day of Slow Food Nation was officially today, but I am attending my first event tomorrow. Much hoopla in the city and my own personal excitement has led up to this event, giving me heightened expectations and some mixed feelings. Visitors have to pay for most events and many are rather pricey with a lot of them having already sold out. While their selling out and the proceedings going to the international Slow Food nonprofit is exciting, it does seem a little exclusive to have so many of the events at seemingly cost prohibitive prices. I know I have written about how it is good that a bourgeois culture is adopting many of the slow food concepts into their lifestyles, but I do think having the celebration of the slow food movement being costly to the individual is a bit contradictory, or has the potential to be at least.

I don't want to say too much, however, before I attend my events. My first stop tomorrow will be volunteering at CUESA (not exactly SFN sanctioned, but in the same vain), and then to the victory garden, followed by the Slow Food talk at 4 pm. On Sunday, I'm going to be going to the Sunday night taste pavilion with a possible jaunt at the Slow Food Rocks concert, but we'll see. Next week, I will have plenty to write about I am sure!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Ice Cream Man!

About two years ago, I had my first run in with the Ice Cream Man at a concert in SF, and it was a totally glorious surprise. The Ice Cream Man travels around the country giving free ice cream away to individuals, because "it makes people happy." The funding for this venture comes from advertisers, sponsors, advertisers, and promotions, and, to date, Matt Allen, the founder, and his crew have given away 125,000 treats. Yesterday, I had my second time with Matt Allen, the founder of Ice Cream Man, and the experience could not have been more splendid.

I love ice cream; my first job was in an ice cream shop and after two years of free ice cream and ten pounds gained, I still loved the creamy, icy goodness. Partly nostalgic and partly glutenous, my love of ice cream lives on, my favorite spot in SF being Bi-Rite Creamery where I will often suggest meeting for an after work cone to replace the after work drink.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in South Park, and, after enjoying a tasty chicken and blue cheese salad from South Park Cafe, the Ice Cream Man arrived at 1:30 pm and my friend Peter and I joined the line of South Park techies and Current employees. I got an ice cream sandwich while Peter for one of those cones things with the chocolate on top. On such a hot day, it was so lovely to cool off with those cool, creamy bights; this coupled with the novel surprise of free ice cream at my usual lunch spot, I left my lunch hour a very happy camper. Ice Cream Man, you make my day.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Foraging for Blackberries

This past weekend, I made a trip with my friends Katie, Liz, and Arianna to Russian River where we were also joined by our friend's Lisa, Brad, and Sarah. After a trip to the SF Ferry Terminal Market, we only spent a night at Lisa's newly renovated family home, but the food was delicious. While Saturday's dinner was scrumptious, I specifically want to talk about the wild blackberries we picked Sunday morning for breakfast.
Sunday morning we all woke up all in the mood for pancakes, specifically stone crushed oat pancakes with fresh fruit on top. We had some white peaches from the farmer's market that had gotten a little mushed during the car ride up, so were sliced into tasty morsels. Lisa, having been coming to this same place for her life, remembered the blackberry bushes around the corner from her house and suggested we pick some. Bringing a bowl, we reached through the prickly, vine-like bushes to reach the sweetest blackberries I had ever tasted. When they were especially ripe and delicious, they would crumble in your hands as you took them off, which I wasn't able to resist eating rather than putting in the bowl. Every once in a while, I grabbed a not so ripe one, which was reminiscent of the blackberries we are used to buying in stores. Also, the prickers on the vines surround the berries grabbed me a few times, which left a few small scratches on my arms and legs and one larger one on my sandal clad toe (it now bears a band-aid).I have also just finished the foraging section of Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and felt quite the satisfaction about gathering my own food as he felt. I also felt a great connection with what I was about to eat, feeling that I was in fact responsible for each of those tasty bites I took.
In any event, fresh blackberries on top of stone crushed oatmeal pancakes was a wonderful beginning to a Sunday morning.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Eliason's Waterfalls

I think this will be my first post unrelated to food but I wanted to write about Olafur Eliason's waterfalls I saw on my most recent trip to New York. Olafur Eliason is one of my most favorite artists; his recent exhibition at the SFMOMA, which traveled to the New York MoMA, amazed me. I had always been interested in the concepts behind Eliason's work, but walking through the once white walled gallery spaces turned misting, stone chamber totally took my breath away as my imagination went wild. I loved these pieces when I saw them in person for the illusions they created in spaces that I had once thought were so controlled; after my initial wonder, I then attempted to decipher how in fact he did make the temperature of the SFMOMA gallery suddenly drop 10 degrees when walking between rooms.

With my love for Eliason's work in mind, I sadly did not love these waterfalls. A lot of what I love about Eliason's work is his ability to make the seemingly impossible happen in the strangest of places, ie. making a soft mist descend for the ceiling of the SFMOMA gallery, a place where one isn't even allowed to drink water from a bottle. I had also been terribly excited for the waterfalls since the New York Sun covered the projected installation this past January and I thus realize my expectations were a little high. The waterfalls, in contrast with the image in the NY Sun article, were constructed of scaffolding with water pouring off of one side. At night, I realize, the waterfalls are illuminated from behind and the scaffolding seems to disappear, but when I saw the waterfalls during the day, the advent of having a mettle structure coming out of the east river was a little less amazing than having mist indoors. So, in this manner, the first aspect I love about Eliason's work, the sheer miracles he creates in the oddest of places, was missing.

On the other hand, the second aspect of his work I enjoy, the construction behind his work, was
pretty amazing, although not unnecessarily visible at first glance. One of the challenges of constructing the waterfalls was the location in the New York's East River, where natural aquatic life must be taken into consideration. In this manner, the team behind the construction of the waterfalls used a material permeable to water but with holes too small for aquatic life to move through to create a basin from which water was pumped. Obviously, the materials and technology for creating such a basin were not already created as this request was unprecedented. What I thus find interesting about Eliason's East River installation is the creative sourcing of materials that had to go into the creation of these waterfalls.

Here also are two videos of the waterfalls; in the first one, you can the Pier 35 waterfall, while in the second, I scan between the Pier 35 waterfall and the Brooklyn Bridge waterfall, finally landing on my friend Danish who visited the waterfalls with me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's as if the NYT was reading my mind...

In today's NYTimes, April Dembosky writes about P.S.1's Public Farm 1, which I wrote about my posting yesterday. The article, entitled Fun on the Farm Down Home in Long Island City, discusses in more depth P.S.1's weekly Warm Up event and the interactions that occurs between the visitors and the urban farm during these happenings. A few things I learned while reading the article that I wish I had known while I was visiting is that you can actually pick the plants and lay on the grass filled cylinders. When I went on a quiet Friday afternoon with my friend Danish, we were frequently the only people walking around the structure. I think with more people filling up the space, visitors begin to naturally experiment. With only a few people in the space, one is conscious of being outside an art institution and our trained sense to not touch "art" prevails. If only I had known, I could have actually eaten those strawberries! Thanks NYT for the follow up...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


On a recent trip to New York, I visited my ever favorite art space, P.S.1, excited to see this summer's courtyard installation. This year, the architecture project chosen for the MoMA/P.S.1 Young Architects Program was WORK Architecture's P.F.1. P.F.1, standing for Public Farm 1, is an urban farm space constructed of large cardboard tubes that form a v-shaped plat form that dips in the middle around a central pool. The top surface of the structure acts as a working farm, producing produce and plants that are used in P.S.1's cafe as well as sold at an "absurdly local" farmer's market right in front of of P.S.1's entrance. The structure as also built totally of recycled materials, is powered 100% by solar power, and utilizes rain water for irrigation, bringing together sustainable agriculture with sustainable construction.

In addition, P.F.1 includes a small chicken coop as well as some fun interactive features. I particularly like the chicken coop; it smelled clean and had lots of space per chicken, obviously standing in stark contrast to any industrial farming chicken coop--these were happy chickens! There were also recordings of farm noises, such as cows mooing and sheep baaing, which were probably intended for little kids judging by how low they were to the grown, but were pretty darn enjoyable to play with during a Friday afternoon.

What I really liked about this project is how it makes principles of sustainable agriculture not only accessible in an urban environment, but visually engaging. In addition, I like that during the Saturdays of the summer season, New York's hipsters will be gathering in the quirky urban/agricultural space during Warm Up, making sustainable agriculture just a little bit cooler. So, if you're in New York at some point before September 15th, I would suggest visiting this rather nifty Urban Farm! Maybe you'll catch little kids swimming in the pool like I did...which I thought was a little strange, even if it was hot...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another reason to know where you meat comes from...this video is just a little bit disturbing...

This is a video just sent to me by a friend Juliet who works at Current. It's pretty gruesome and horrible. I thought about how the woman, an environmental consultant from Chino, who drove by the facility every day, was so surprised that with 5 full time inspectors, employees trained to not abuse cattle, and external and internal audits that this abuse still occurred at this meat plant. It makes you think about how at Polyface farm you, the consumer, can look right into Polyface's chicken slaughtering area and how Joel Salatin declared this a greater guarantee of clean meat. This just goes to prove he's probably right...

Friday, August 8, 2008

My Birthday: 25 years of eating to celebrate...

About a week and a half ago, I turned 25 and had a gathering with tasty food consumables coupled with many bottles of wine. The theme was to Crayola colors and so I tried to have the most colorful food as possible. I also had a few special ingredients with which to play, namely a block of honeycomb from Turkey, courtesy of Nikki and Emily, and some truffled honey, courtesy of Katie. Honeycomb lends the sweetness of honey to whatever its added but with the additional crunch and visual of the comb, while truffled honey has a unique sweet flavor with strong truffle undertones, which is generally hard to explain unless you have tried it.

For the honey comb, I wanted to add it to something that had some salty/savory flavors but that would be complimented by the sweet flavor. I quickly thought of a goat cheese and fruit combination and decided on using strawberries and figs as the fruits. The resulting bite was not only deliciously tasty and interestingly textured but was visually enticing.

Truffled honey, in comparison with the honeycomb, has a much more complex sweet and savory taste; in this particular truffled honey, the truffle flavor is especially strong and thus must be paired with something with an equally robust flavor so as to not overpower. I recently went to the new restaurant Uva Enoteca on Haight street and ordered a cheese plate; their suggested pairing for the mild blue cheese we ordered was their truffled honey. I am not a lover of blue cheese--most of the time I feel the strong flavor punches the back of my throat and makes me want to choke. Paired with truffled honey, however, the blue cheese bight was nicely softened and the robust truffle flavor was cut by the acidity of the cheese. I thus decided to pair Katie's truffled honey with a soft, not too strong blue cheese and placed this combination on red and green endive, which also created a pleasant visual pattern.

I also experimented with frying squash blossoms, but the batter didn't have enough seasoning in it, so the flavor was a little disappointing. I think next time I will add some salt to the batter as well as some truffle oil; I think I might also try to experiment with stuffing them with different cheeses. A few others bites were served as well: a grilled fig and prosciutto crostini; an "Asian" avocado dip (basically if you add sesame oil and soy sauce to something, writers will call it Asian); a bacon and cumin topped pear; as well as a slew of others thing you would have enjoyed if you had been there.

Too bad for you if you weren't.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Flavor Tripping: not quite as trippy as expected

A few months ago, I, along with many other readers, read the NY Times article about the miracle fruit that causes flavor tripping and have been pretty captivated by the idea for the last few months. After eating a piece of miracle fruit, one's taste buds are rewired for an hour or so rendering sour flavors sweet. Yesterday, San Francisco had its very own flavor tripping event, and I bought my ticket as soon as I heard.

So, after several months of dreaming of the miracle fruit and its miraculous affects, my expectations were reasonably high and were only heightened when I got there and the line reached the end of the block. After reaching the frontSo, after several months of dreaming of the (which didn't take very long as my very nice friend Peter had gotten there earlier and had done the waiting for the both of us), I was given a little, purple poach containing the fruit and instructions to swirl the fruit in my mouth for at least one minute but preferably two. While I was moving the fruit pulp around my mouth, a felt a slight tingling sensation across my tongue which resulted in something that felt like a partial numbing. Believing that I had begun tripping, I went straight for the bitter citrus, lemons and limes, and, well, they tasted like candy. The sensation of seeing something you have always known to be tart and bitter, even when sweetened, and tasting it as being totally sweet with very little hint of the usual bitterness, was totally bizarre! After this, however, the craziness of the effect was much less extreme. Grapefruits and pineapples simply tasted extra sweet and delicious while many other things, such as salad dressing and unsweetened cranberry juice, were hard to even gauge how much their taste had changed, without knowing exactly how they had tasted before.

There were, however, a few things whose tastes were altered in surprising ways, namely oysters and balsamic vinegar. Oysters had a newly creamy texture, seeming to melt across your tongue, but still maintained their salty flavors; at the event, I likened them to creme fraiche with a whole lot of tasty caviar on top. Balsamic vinegar was also interesting because when it was in your mouth, the subtle, sweet undertones dominated while the bitterness of the vinegar vanished until it went down your throat and the vinegar taste came back to bight you. All told, the flavor tripping experience was pretty interesting, but the expectations set by the NYTimes article that I would suddenly be pouring Tabasco on my tongue as if it were maple syrup did not exactly hold up.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Grow your own edible landscape

Daniela, who sent me the initial NY Times article that spurned the "Farming at your Back Doorstep" posting, sent me the link to the New York Times' By Design blog that I also thought was worth sharing. This blog entry, in comparison with the article posted earlier, introduces the idea of urban agriculture not as a bourgeois fad but rather as a piece of a larger movement towards locally produced food. Allison Arieff, the blog writer, hired Trevor Paque of My Farm to build a garden in her San Francisco backyard, replacing her "water dependent grass patch" with an edible landscape. Arieef also responds to those who see this as a "lazy locovore" trend by pointing towards the "collaboration, community, and connections to food, neighbors, and land" that has been created by this movement that is "slowly loosing it's elitist associations".

Arieff then goes onto to describe a few other related projects both locally, in her home town of San Francisco, and nationally. The two projects she talks about that I really got excited about are the San Francisco Victory Garden at Civic Center and P.F.1, this summer's PS1/MOMA Young Architect Program winner. The San Francisco Victory Garden is sponsored by Slow Food Nation, a nonprofit organization that is part of the slow food movement, which will be producing a three day celebration of American food over Labor Day weekend. Both are really interesting projects, which I will talk about in later postings. What I like about Arieff's posting is that she places urban agriculture in the context of a greater movement and shows the increasing urban consciousness about where our food comes from.