Identity-Driven Dairy Artisans

23FEMCHEESE-5-master675

The Cheese Shop at Cato Corner Farm. Credit Sherry Peters for The New York Times

A brief history of the cheese-making craft in North America reveals a little-known fact about a domain where women rule:

merlin_130384553_f8f9a526-077a-43c3-861b-b3ef728638d5-master675

The cheese maker Mark Gillman, of Cato Corner Farm, slices a wedge of Womanchego in the farm store. Credit Sherry Peters for The New York Times

…Second-wave pioneers taking back the land in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s included Judy Schad of Capriole Inc. in Greenville, Ind.; Laini Fondiller of Lazy Lady Farm in Westfield, Vt.; and Sue Conley and Peggy Smith of Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, Calif.

23FEMCHEESE-4-superJumbo.jpg

Bearded Lady cheese from Prodigal Farm in Rougemont, N.C.

Last year Ms. Schad, 75, introduced Flora, named for her grandmother, who made cheese under less than ideal conditions on her back porch. It joined Piper’s Pyramide, inspired by Ms. Schad’s own first, redheaded granddaughter (“bright and spicy — just like her namesake!”); Sofia, for a longtime friend (“a queen at any age!”); and Julianna, after a Hungarian intern. “Beneath her wrinkly exterior lies a complexity not often found in such a young cheese,” reads Capriole’s description of the Wabash Cannonball, a popular, prizewinning cheese named for the folk song about a fictional train sung by Johnny Cash. Continue reading

Sourdough, The Book

sourdough-cover-animation

What a great book, seriously.

When Cory Doctorow says it so simply, we take him at his word. Trendy, pretty shiny things can invoke laughter as well as wonder. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, there is plenty to laugh at in the growing obsessions with precious food, among other social phenomena; and Robin Sloan’s new book may be the best compilation, as this review in Mother Jones makes clear:

And here are our favorite Sourdough food trend send-ups:

1. Hipster bakers. Sourdough‘s protagonist Lois learns to bake after reading The Soul of Sourdough, written by a young baker, Everett Broom, “with a thick black beard below a face so clean and cherubic it made the beard appear glued on.” The bread bible recounts Broom’s “flameout as a professional skateboarder, his addiction to a home-cooked drug known as spaz rocks, and finally his retreat to a bread-baking shack on the beach.” Continue reading

Bread Is Gold

Bread1cThe publisher’s blurb starts with an annoying claim, as if there is one chef better than all others in the world, that illustrates why foodie-ism is less and less linked to on this platform. Nonetheless, the book sounds worthy of attention:

Massimo Bottura, the world’s best chef, prepares extraordinary meals from ordinary and sometimes ‘wasted’ ingredients inspiring home chefs to eat well while living well.

‘These dishes could change the way we feed the world, because they can be cooked by anyone, anywhere, on any budget. To feed the planet, first you have to fight the waste’, Massimo Bottura

Bread is Gold is the first book to take a holistic look at the subject of food waste, presenting recipes for three-course meals from 45 of the world’s top chefs, including Daniel Humm, Mario Batali, René Redzepi, Alain Ducasse, Joan Roca, Enrique Olvera, Ferran & Albert Adrià and Virgilio Martínez. These recipes, which number more than 150, turn everyday ingredients into inspiring dishes that are delicious, economical, and easy to make.

We remember the genesis of this from a story by Adam Robb a couple of years ago:

26bottura-robb-1-master1050

The renovated Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan’s Greco neighborhood will house a charity event organized by chef Massimo Bottura during Expo Milano 2015. Credit Adam Robb

Massimo Bottura’s Pope Francis-Approved Refectory, and Recipe to Turn Stale Bread Into Gold

Italy’s most progressive exhibition of sustainable cooking commences this Thursday, when the Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura throws open the doors of Refettorio Ambrosiano, the once-derelict theater repurposed to educate and feed the refugees and working poor who reside far across town from the multinational pavilions welcoming culinary tourists to this summer’s Expo Milano 2015. Continue reading

Immigrant Mobile Food Vendor Heritage

roasted-pumpkin-taco_wide-989cb44a90437f6cf9228861c0178518fde7dde2-s1300-c85.jpg

Roasted pumpkin tacos from chef Wes Avila’s cookbook, Guerrilla TacosDylan James Ho and Jeni Afuso/Courtesy of Ten Speed Press

Thanks to Mandalit del Barco and the National Public Radio (USA) folks at the salt for this book review that has special resonance to those of us with immigrant street vendor heritage:

‘Guerrilla Tacos’: Street Food With A High-End Pedigree

How many taco trucks do you know that not only have a cookbook but a theme song? Wes Avila’s Guerrilla Tacos truck does – and has once again made food critic Jonathan Gold’s influential list of favorite Los Angeles eateries.

9780399578632_custom-1290954c4c68f10d38993aede65645a3c56a1961-s400-c85.jpgFive years ago, Avila was working as a sous chef at a pop up restaurant called Le Comptoir. It was only open four days a week, and Avila says he wasn’t making enough money to cover his rent. So he bought a simple food cart. He used his last $167 on ingredients. Then he and a friend began selling tacos in the arts district in downtown Los Angeles without the required health department permits.

“We were kind of bending the law, not necessarily breaking the law. We had to move around so we wouldn’t get caught — you know, like guerrilla warfare,” Avila says. “That’s why we had that name, because we’d be in random alleys, random streets, being kind of renegade like that.” Continue reading

Meals as Message

A barbecued vegetable platter, top, with kale rib and carrot “brisket.” Beluga lentils, black rice and chimichurri broth, left, and a side of crisped smoked beef from Stemple Creek Ranch. Credit Preston Gannaway for The New York Times

Although not quite an example of “Model Mad“, this culinary entrepreneurial activism sends a message to both consumers and food industry colleagues alike.

San Francisco Chefs Serve Up a Message About Climate Change

Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint opened the Perennial in San Francisco last year with a clear mission in mind: Run an environmentally friendly restaurant with a minimal carbon footprint, and inspire other restaurateurs to do the same.

As [the current administration] has questioned the existence of climate change, Ms. Leibowitz and Mr. Myint have emerged as activists, at the forefront of a growing movement of chefs who not only recognize and measure the impact of their industry on the planet, but also look for new ways to undo the damage.

Mr. Myint and Ms. Leibowitz, who are married, have been immersed for the last few years in the research that directs every decision at the restaurant, like choosing the kitchen’s energy-efficient equipment and its raw ingredients, many of which are grown in ways that can regenerate the soil. Continue reading

A Puddle Of Bizbaz

170904_r30446

Photograph by Simone Lueck for The New Yorker

Although our most consistent feature suggests obsession (yesterday completing the 72nd month and 2,217 dailies in a row of bird photos, we know how it looks), we are anything but obsessed. That word implies trouble. We are looking for anti-trouble. We mostly post stories and images that imply reduction of trouble–through more information, and better quality of information, and useful case studies in trouble management.

This has led us to post 8,500 times (including this one) covering dozens of themes over the years. Usually several per day. Recently, in addition to our daily bird photo we are trying to post just once per day on something that highlights a remarkable example or explanation of any of those themes. Taste of place is on our minds now, more than anything else. So it is time for another restaurant review. Thanks to the reliably concise Nicolas Niarchos for this opening line:

In the nineteen-nineties, the late, great writer Denis Johnson once followed a group of Somalis across the border from Ethiopia and into the heart of their turbulent country. One of the images that endures from the piece he wrote afterward is of Somali food—“chunks of goat and spaghetti”—and of his narrator being taught “how to eat pasta the Somali way, without utensils, taking a shock of it in his right hand, turning it this way and that and gathering the long strands up into his palm, and then shoving it into his face.” Continue reading

Some Science On Ramon

RamSci1Ramón and Maya Ruins: An Ecological, not an Economic, Relation

 J. D. H. Lambert and J. T. Arnason
Science

New Series, Vol. 216, No. 4543 (Apr. 16, 1982), pp. 298-299

RamSci2Observations on Maya Subsistence and the Ecology of a Tropical Tree

Charles M. Peters
American Antiquity
Vol. 48, No. 3 (Jul., 1983), pp. 610-615
We have a sizable team, including our staff members of Maya heritage as well as those who know the forest ecology as part of their work, plus two summer interns, a chef, and a design director among others–all looking into this tree and its fruit. These journal articles, less dry than some academia and fresher than their age would suggest were brought to my attention by Nicoletta Maestri who I thank for the article below. For my team mates and me this is food for thought on our path to determining how this tree, introduced millennia ago by Mayans, plays into the future of Chan Chich Lodge:

Brosimum Alicastrum, The Ancient Maya Breadnut Tree

Did the Maya Build Forests of Breadnut Trees?

The breadnut tree (Brosimum alicastrum) is an important species of tree that grows in the wet and dry tropical forests of Mexico and Central America, as well as in the Caribbean Islands. Also known as the ramón tree, asli or Cha Kook in the Mayan language, the breadnut tree usually grows in regions that are between 300 and 2,000 meters (1,000-6,500 feet) above sea level. The fruits have a small, elongated shape, similar to apricots, although they are not particularly sweet. Continue reading

Southern Roots Run Deep

Ms. Gomez grew up pulling mangoes from the trees and buying sugar cane from the vendors gathered outside her parochial school. Evan Sung for The New York Times

While Crist may have had the good fortune to enjoy a taste of Kerala with Asha Gomez during travel away from our home there, I was busy exploring the market byways for local ingredients and food ways. What a fascinating story to hear that Asha is actually experiencing that same sense of discovery and exploration within her own home state.

It looks like Crist might have gotten his wish for Asha to come to Kerala, after all!

A Chef’s Quest in India: Win Respect for Its Cooking

“I think I had disconnected myself from this place in some way by saying for so long that the U.S. was home,” said Ms. Gomez, 47, who had moved from the Indian state of Kerala to the state of Michigan as a teenager. “There is still so much a part of me here. I think I had forgotten that.”

Ms. Gomez had come to this land of ports, tea estates and spice gardens not only to reconnect with a part of herself, but also to find new ways to use her camera-ready personality and kitchen chops to lasso Kerala’s beautiful food culture and drag it back to the United States.

“I have to remove people from the mentality that all Indian food should be clumped up into nine dishes that are not really Indian dishes,” she said. “Not all Indian food belongs on a buffet line at $4.99. Indian food is 5,000 years of tradition and history, and it belongs right up there with French cuisine.”

Her frustration over American interpretations of the beloved coconut-scented fish curries, dosas and carefully layered beef biryanis of her homeland echoes the lament of countless cooks who have immigrated from countries like China, Mexico or Vietnam only to find their food mangled to meet the limitations of a new country’s palate and relegated to its cheap-eats guides.

“I wish I could say to every immigrant cook in America, ‘Why do you think your food should be any less than any other cuisine that comes from anywhere else in the world?’” Ms. Gomez said. Continue reading

Foraging Forays

Taking a break from packing for my upcoming return to Belize, I joined a group of old friends from the Georgia Mushroom Club in a foray near the Georgia/South Carolina border. Fresh air, a walk in the woods, good company, and foraging for mushrooms – what better way to spend a morning?

The weather has been warm and wet, great conditions for mushrooms and we were happy to find patches of chanterelles. As we searched we talked about Chan Chich Lodge and Belize, and that we’re in the midst of brainstorming collaborations with the staff and local community who carry the ancestral knowledge of the old Mayan and Belizean foodways, and chefs who focus on foraging in the creation of their menus. We’ve recently discovered a variety of foods that are plentifully available from the Chan Chich forests, and are excited to incorporate them into our culinary story.  Continue reading

The Wonders Of Trees Never Cease

goat-02_custom-060bac4eeff1a0b290ff201210009e650a2025d0-s1400-c85.jpg

Goats climb an argan tree in Morocco to dine on its fruit. Jeremy Horner/Getty Images

At Chan Chich Lodge we are just embarking on a tree-related culinary journey, so any counterintuitive story about trees is likely to catch my attention these days.

FigDeer.jpg

Thanks to Marc Silver at National Public Radio for the story about the picture above, Do Tree-Climbing Goats Help Plant New Trees? It is a short read and worth every second of your attention if you are interested in arboreal foodstuff.

This image to the left, while not as amusing as the one above, shows a deer doing the same thing with less panache. That deer will spread the seeds of that wild fig far and wide in the forest, increasing food supply. Continue reading

Food Sleuthing

00Apples-2-superJumbo.jpg

The remnant of an old apple orchard among wheat fields in Steptoe Butte State Park in Washington. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Yesterday magic happened. After sharing in the morning a quick mention of why my thoughts are on agriculture, I was walking with a member of Chan Chich Lodge’s groundskeeping team to review some work he had completed. On the way, we encountered a tree showering small fruits onto the ground. Fragrant. I asked him what it was and he said a word I did not recognize that sounded like “yo”.

About the size of a blueberry but not a berry, nor resembling anything I could identify. Until I opened it and its inside looked exactly like that of my favorite fruit. And then I realized my colleague had said higo, the Spanish word for fig. He then told me that in his village the old Mayans use this to make a flour, something they have done since olden times. He paused a moment, a bit of reverie I could tell, and then he continued about how the tortilla made from this is the best. It’s got me thinking. Thanks to Kirk Johnson for this second unexpected pleasure of a story:

Hunting Down the Lost Apples of the Pacific Northwest

STEPTOE, Wash. — David Benscoter honed his craft as an investigator for the F.B.I. and the United States Treasury, cornering corrupt politicians and tax evaders. The lost apple trees that he hunts down now are really not so different. People and things, he said, tend to hide in plain sight if you know how and where to look. Continue reading

Foraging Classes

HornFarmCenterLogoStacked-72-540x540WhiteBGA mushroom dropped in on my life, in an unexpected manner, and now I find myself wandering to unexpected places, such as rural Pennsylvania. I am sharing here mainly as a record of how I have come across the resources that inform how we approach bringing foraging to Chan Chich Lodge.

So, bravo and thanks to our friends at the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, which is my latest find in these wanderings. I particularly like their clearly laid out information on the educational resources they offer, most notably this section on foraging classes: Continue reading

Newtonian Moment At Chan Chich Lodge

ForageCCL.jpgEach morning at dawn, and then again at dusk, I walk the trails at Chan Chich Lodge. The walks serve multiple purposes, but they also serve no particular purpose; and when I get that just right, ideas present themselves.

This tree, not a standout in any way I can see, is a marker for me now. It is on a trail where I have had some wonderful wildlife sightings, the best of which, camera-less, was with a tapir. More recently, a troupe of peccaries was snouting around the base of this tree.

And most days there are two species of primate in the vicinity, each challenging the other for territory in their own way–one with grunting howls and the other by shaking clusters of branches vigorously to appear more intimidating than their common name, spider monkey, would imply. Yesterday, a Newtonian inspiration, tailored to my own interests, came to me right here. I saw these bursts of light on the tree trunk at the same moment that I heard a plop in the leaves on the ground right in front of the tree.

ForageCCL2Instead of an apple, and instead of my head, it was some sort of a fungus, a cluster of mushrooms by the look of it, that fell from the canopy into the ground cover. Gravity already having had its heyday of consideration, I instead turned my thoughts to the possibility of a new dimension to the Chan Chich Lodge food program.

I had never heard of mushrooms growing in the forest canopy, but why should I not expect such a thing? I know from our friend Meg, among others, that the vast majority of biodiversity in a rainforest is concentrated in the canopy. So, hmmmm. Is it an edible one?

I snapped these photographs and sent them to one of the two fellows who I always consult on these matters. Answer: too dry to make a positive id. Don’t eat. Of course I will not! But, and here’s the closest I will get to a Newtonian moment of inspiration… Continue reading

Food For The Ages

05HIPPIES-slide-YY6Q-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600.jpg

Cole Wilson for The New York Times

Shoutout to our food friends in Ithaca, among other places and to all the back to the land folks who make our food better in terms of both taste and ecology:

The Hippies Have Won (the Plate, at Least)

By

The current food mood may also be a reaction to the more exhausting aspects of life in the digital era.

“It’s a weird mixture of technology and palo santo” — iPhones and incense — said the chef Gerardo Gonzalez, suggesting that people who live online may be moved to seek out the restorative properties of natural foods. “You’re constantly in this thing that’s not reality, and eating food can be the most real act you can partake in.”

It’s Moosewood’s world. We’re just eating in it. Continue reading

Food We Enjoy Reading About, For Inspirational Purposes

29REST-AUGUSTINE-slide-V5M4-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600.jpg

Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

As noted yesterday, and earlier, we have food on our mind recently, so more than ever I am following reviews and other food stories in the various publications I read. Even when he is tough on his subject, Pete Wells delivers the reader something to brighten the day. This review has a few paragraphs that define his style to me, including a graceful set of kisses followed by a bracing slap on the cheek:

…Restaurants don’t need to do new things if they do the old things right.

The leg of lamb has not been reinvented. Having spun on a rotisserie under a coat of herbs, it is carved off in long strips, like shawarma, and draped over very soft flageolets. A cheese soufflé appetizer recalls the warm pot de fromage at Cherche Midi; it’s delicious, even if it is breadier than a classic soufflé, more like a Gruyère-and-Parmesan popover. Continue reading

Getting A Restaurant Ready

Burton.jpg

Thanks to the Atlantic and its author Erica Moriarty for A Restaurant Brings New Traditions to an 18th-Century Irish Home, with video by The Perennial Plate. These are 20 minutes well spent, especially if you have been through a similar process more than once recently, and even more so if you are contemplating doing so again:

Since the 1700s, the Fennell family has lived on the same property in County Kildare, Ireland. In the past, they were able to generate income from their small farm to support themselves. Continue reading

Eat More Sweets

Sax-TheSrirachaArgumentforImmigration-600

When fighting for the rights of immigrants, food just might be an unexpected weapon. PHOTOGRAPH BY ANNA QUAGLIA / ALAMY

Here is an idea I can believe in, not strictly because I like the type of sweets in the photo to the right (akin to those in my home growing up, made by my immigrant mom) but including that; mainly I like the idea of consuming certain items as a proxy for something more important. In a post titled THE SRIRACHA ARGUMENT FOR IMMIGRATION, by David Sax, this proxy is made clear in a concise 5-minute read:

Ethiopian Options

170327_r29603-1200x649-1489682838 (1).jpg

I have stated my own preferences for certain pros critiquing and explaining food and the places where you can explore it anew. I have recently been appreciating those like this one–not least because I love Ethiopia, and its contributions to humanity, and in general I am an Ethiopian diaspora fanboy–by the newer reviewer, Nicholas Niarchos and look forward to his providing many more. I am happy to see in the image accompanying his review what appears at first to be popcorn on the lower left, but is more likely a lightly toasted version of a superfood we came to favor when in Ethiopia, (speaking of superfoods):

A Vegan Ethiopian Feast at Bunna Café

The absence of meat and dairy isn’t obvious while you’re there, but when you leave your step will have a new spring in it.

Continue reading

Super Food, If Not Superfood

17-congee-3.nocrop.w710.h2147483647.2x.jpg

The Good Sort. Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Our preferred blank canvas, at least in the morning, has been oats when we have developed new restaurants recently. And we have tended to look at superfoods when we do our scouting and conceptualization for new menu ideas, and that is about food that (we try to ensure) provides health for both humans and the planet.  We have not put congee on any menus, nor has it even been on our radar, but perhaps it should be:

Congee Is the Original Grain Bowl

By Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite

Congee, also known as jook, or rice gruel, has long been the breakfast of billions in China — filling, cheap, energizing, and easily digestible, fit for infants and nonagenarians alike. Some swear by it as a post-exercise pick-me-up; others as a superb hangover cure. Its soothing properties are considered so powerful that congee is even served at funerals. Continue reading