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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Vermontini & Other Delicacies

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Braun Hughes, a cook, center, stokes a fire while another cook, Andy Risner, keeps watch. Drew Anthony Smith for The New York Times

Last week at Chan Chich Lodge we had guests from Vermont who were on their 6th visit, the first having been back in 1998. This couple started at dawn each day and while primarily birding they witnessed plenty of the other wildlife. Each sunset they enjoyed a classic dry martini with olives, and some conversation with Migde (yes, that is the spelling, pronounced mig-day) the bartender.

By the end of the week watching their sunset ritual, I had the image of a martini we might create in their honor. Instead of their favored olives we would put a few small cubes of chilled Harrington’s of Vermont smoked ham. Perhaps just to humor me, they said they would like to try that during their next visit. In the last few days I have been looking into the matter and I can find no evidence that this is a good idea.

I can also find no evidence that it is a bad idea. So I am continuing the investigation. And today I am happy to see a review related to another form of smoked meat, quite different from that of Harrington’s, in this case at a restaurant in Texas. Pete Wells now holds my attention better than any reviewer, on any topic. Anthony Lane, for a long time, held it on the residual strength of the laughter produced by one film review in 2005; his predecessor Pauline Kael also held it a long time before that. In the era of crowd-sourced reviews, the professional is still relevant for a reason. Today’s restaurant review is a case in point:

AUSTIN, Tex. — “How much brisket are you having?” Continue reading

Accentuate The Positive

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On the flip side, the study found that diets containing low amounts of nuts and seeds were linked to about 9 percent of deaths from heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. John Lawson/Belhaven/Getty Images

All things in moderation. If you follow that general rule, this article may not be of interest to you. But for most of us, the salt’s (thank you National Public Radio, USA) item for us today is worth a glance. After you collect some stardust, sprinkle it on a handful of nuts:

…We know, it may be tough to cut back on foods you love. Bacon is so alluring to many that it has even been called the ‘gateway’ to meat for vegetarians!

But, here’s the flip side: The researchers also found there’s a significant risk in eating too little of certain healthy foods. So, think of it this way: You can start consuming more of the foods that are protective… Continue reading

Coming To A Lodge Near You

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A bright cabbage slaw and a flour tortilla complement corned beef’s fatty saltiness. Credit Melina Hammer for The New York Times

Vegetarians, look away. Guests who have enjoyed the food program at Chan Chich Lodge, and have visited Gallon Jug Farm, normally come to know our commitment to fresh, all natural menu items. Including some of the finest beef in the world. And fresh tortillas. And bright cabbage slaw. Habaneros nearby. And a cold Belikin beer to accompany the meal. As Chef Ram explores all the options that the farm allows for his kitchen, we can imagine him making good use of the book below, brought to our attention by the Food Editor at the New York Times:

What if You Could Make Great Corned Beef?

By

51gO0bcPi8L._SL500_AA300_.jpg…You can do it easily, said Michael Ruhlman, a passionate advocate of the process and the author, with Brian Polcyn, of “Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.” You need only start by corning your own beef. “You can achieve tastes that aren’t available in the mass-produced versions,” he said. “Also, it’s a genuine thrill to transform plain old beef into something so tangy and piquant and red and delicious.”

Corned beef takes its name from the salt that was originally used to brine it, the crystals so large they resembled kernels of corn. Curing and packing plants in Ireland used that salt in the 19th century to cure slabs of beef that went into barrels, later cans, and onto ships to feed, among others, British colonists, troops, slaves and laborers across the globe. Eventually someone in Boston or the Bahamas fished out a cut of beef neck or a brisket and boiled it into submission with a head of cabbage, and that was dinner. Continue reading

Impossible’s Intriguing Inclination

Impossible.jpgMeatless is not even a concept yet for some, but we’re working on that. Many of us contributing on this platform have already started taking it seriously even if not totally converted–reducing meat consumption rather than going all out vegetarian, let alone vegan–for all kinds of good reasons.

We have already expressed our interest as best we can without having yet tasted one of these, but thanks to this Guardian review we are now a step closer to the impossible. We do not need to have tasted it to have high expectations and hopes to match the ambitions of the company:

Impossible Foods is on the cusp of big things. But as the company lines up its first burger chain, it still needs to show it can convert the meat-loving masses Continue reading

Liquid Renaissance

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Sullivan Doh, owner-mixologist at Le Syndicat in Paris.Credit Charissa Fay

We are pleased to read of Mr. Field, in some ways doing in Paris what we have just noted happening with cacao in the Caribbean–a kind of renaissance of beverages that is also on our agenda in Belize:

The Slow Rise of Craft Cocktails in Paris

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28tmag-cocktails-slide-Q0D3-master180.jpgIn her new book, “The New Paris: The People, Places & Ideas Fueling a Movement” ($30, amazon.com), the writer (and T contributor) Lindsey Tramuta documents the creative and cultural shift she has witnessed in the city in recent years. Below is a passage on the rise of craft cocktails there.

To say that cocktails are a new phenomenon in Paris is to overlook a culture of distilling liquors dating back to the 1800s, one that gained greater traction more than one hundred years later during American prohibition, when newly unemployed bartenders came to Europe in droves and landed in some of the continent’s best hotel bars. Continue reading

Eat Your Vegetables, If You Can Find Them

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Vegetables were rationed at supermarkets in the U.K. due to poor weather conditions in Europe. Here, lettuce, broccoli and zucchini were rationed at a Tesco store in London. Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) and the folks at the salt for this story about the implications of vegetable shortages in the UK:

It started in late January. At my local grocery store in South London, salad seemed to be just a few pence pricier than usual. But I didn’t think much of it.

Later that week, the same market had conspicuously run out of zucchini. I’m not particularly fond of it, but I lamented for the carb-conscious yuppies who depended — and subsisted — on spiralized zucchini spaghetti. How would they cope? Continue reading

Model Mad, Marcus

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[Update: this post was originally published 48 hours ago but it definitely needs further attention so please do listen to Marcus]

This book came out late last year, and ever since I started sharing links to this man’s wonders  a of couple years ago, I keep watching for more reasons to do so; he always moves me. Today, again. Below is a link to a podcast he recently recorded to promote the book above. The conversation is artful. Powerful.

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Marcus is an immigrant to the USA, so his reflections on recent policy shifts in the ultimate country of immigrants are worth a listen even if you are not a foodie. If those observations do not move you, all I can say is wow. It fits the “model mad” theme we have been linking to in recent weeks–people and organizations speaking out and creatively resisting when something is wrong; and doing so at risk of significant loss. Continue reading

You Had Us At Sweet Potato

logoWe have only recently discovered this resource but I expect you will start seeing a flow of interesting stories. sourced from Harvest Public Media, that touch on topics of interest to us here. For example, the mere mention of sweet potatoes was enough to get us interested:

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According to the USDA, sweet potato consumption in the U.S. nearly doubled in just 15 years, from about 4 pounds per person in 2000. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country.

While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. In 2015, farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II. Continue reading

Truffle Entrepreneur, Immigrant Son’s Success

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Ian Purkayastha, the twenty-four-year-old wunderkind behind the luxury-food company Regalis, aims to “demystify this bourgeois product for a new generation.” PHOTOGRAPH BY KRISTIN GLADNEY / WIEDEN+KENNEDY

It could just be that I have had a nearly two-decade love for truffles; or the storyline combining entrepreneurship, economics and food, a mix that I favor; or maybe my being the son of an immigrant explains my response to this post at the New Yorker’s website; probably it is because I can almost picture my own son in such a story, in a parallel universe; whatever, enjoy:

HOW A TEXAS TEEN-AGER BECAME NEW YORK CITY’S PREMIER TRUFFLE DEALER

On a bare side street in Long Island City, Queens, beside Oh Bok Steel Shelving & Electric Supply, the Regalis luxury-food company keeps its goods. Upon entering the warehouse through a small red door, a visitor is immediately greeted by an intoxicating and pungent scent: the unmistakable, and nearly indescribable, odor of truffles. Continue reading

Small Dairy Farm & Value Creation

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Kevin and Ranae Dietzel, owners of a small dairy herd near Jewell, Iowa, named their signature cheese after this cow, Ingrid. Amy Mayer

A lovely little piece from the salt, over at National Public Radio (USA), that illustrates again how the production of artisanal cheeses can add value, in this case to an otherwise economically challenged farming enterprise

On a clear, cold winter evening, the sun begins to set at Lost Lake Farm near Jewell, Iowa, and Kevin Dietzel calls his 15 dairy cows to come home.

“Come on!” he hollers in a singsong voice. “Come on!”

Brown Swiss cows and black Normandy cows trot across the frozen field and, in groups of four, are ushered into the small milking parlor.: Continue reading