A Californian such as myself might be forgiven for thinking that all roads from the current sustainable-agriculture movement lead back to Alice Waters. Not so! Last week I was at the Morgan Library, where I stumbled upon a New Yorker cartoon of a woman at a deli counter asking, “I wonder how much Louis Bromfield charges for his bacon?” Curiosity sparked, I did what every journalist does—I Googled him—and realized the movement was chic even before Waters was born. Bromfield was a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer who, in 1938, moved from France back to his childhood home in central Ohio and built one of the country's first organic farms, Malabar Farm. There he put his earlier study of agriculture to use, becoming a champion of sustainability and grass-based farming. Like food stars today, Bromfield also had Hollywood connections to help bring attention to his cause—Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart married and honeymooned at Malabar. Bromfield's farm still runs on the principles he supported decades ago, although it is now a historic landmark owned by the state of Ohio.
A cheese lover's heaven.
A few years ago, I had a brief love affair with the notion of running away and becoming a cheesemaker somewhere green and beautiful. Now, Murray’s is offering its first cheesemaker tour to give wannabe cheesemakers like me an insider's look into the art of cheesemaking, right at the source.
Murray’s Director of Education, Taylor Cocalis, is leading a group of no more than 20 around the Swiss region of Bad Ragaz June 8 to 13 with stops at traditional farmstead cheesemakers, Swiss farms and tours of 400-year-old aging caves. And of course, fabulous cheese tastings, wine-paired dinners and overnights at a luxe hotel and spa are included. Check out the full itinerary here. If this first trip is a success, Murray’s plans to lead more trips in the future.
Bad Ragaz Switzerland.
Two of my favorite California chefs are serving real feasts later this month at ridiculously recession-friendly prices. I encourage anyone within a 100-mile radius to check them both out; it could make for perhaps the best head-to-farm-to-tail-to-table week ever. At San Francisco's Incanto, Chris Cosentino's got not one, but two Head-to-Tail dinners planned for Monday, March 23 and Wednesday, March 25, with five ingenious courses--including venison-heart tartare with foie gras--all for a mere $75, wine not included. Then on Friday, March 27 at Craft Los Angeles, Matt Accarrino continues his nifty "Farm-maker" series, featuring produce from a single nearby farm: This month it's Hollister, California's Heirloom Organics. Accarrino's put together a whopping 13 courses – small plates such as Fried Kusshi Oysters with Parsley Root Remoulade and Parsley-Lemon Confit – for only $100, including course pairings of wine, beer and carrot juice.
Anyone who has read or seen He’s Just Not That Into You—or anyone currently dating, for that matter—knows that finding a good match takes a lot of patience and work. Quirky niche-dating websites like FarmersOnly.com narrow the options, but Monday, Jil Hales, owner of the funky Sonoma restaurant Barndiva, took matchmaking to another level by hosting a farmer-chef speed-dating event in Healdsburg, California.
Eighty highly motivated (lonely?) farmers and chefs braved the rain and packed Barndiva’s lounge looking to hook up with new partners. Participants included chefs from Cyrus, Dry Creek Kitchen and Zin, and farmers from Dragonfly Farm and Gleason Ranch, just to name a few. Chefs had prompting notebooks (sensuous vegetables? ditch or date?) and were given four minutes to put their questions to each farmer, rancher and olive oil or cheese purveyor, many of whom had brought product to “tease with.” Frozen duck may not be your idea of foreplay, but this was a very different crowd. Check out photos from the event here.
© Chris Quinlan
The Del Posto crew with their Tamworth pig
Next stop for Cochon 555: Portland, OR.
For quite some time now, the only lamb I've been able to buy is from New Zealand. Thanks to Costco, it's cheap and sold in bulk (good for feeding my family). The only downside is that I never find it all that flavorful. I guess that's fine if you don't like the taste of lamb, but then you should just buy beef...
A friend sent me eight lamb loin chops from an American lamb farmer, and I was eager to try them. After a quick marinade in garlic, olive oil and a hit of balsamic vinegar, I seared them and finished them in the oven. They were tender, succulent and lamb-y (not a baaaad thing, in my book). It was like the lamb of my childhood—packed with flavor, not like the overbred bland lamb I've grown accustomed to.
Here's my easy recipe:
8 lamb loin chops, (preferably American), about 1 1/2-inches thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°. In a resealable plastic bag, combine the lamb with the garlic, rosemary, vinegar, 1/4 cup of the oil and very generous pinches of salt and pepper. Seal the bag and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Drain the lamb, reserving the marinade. Heat the remaining oil in a large ovenproof skillet until shimmering. Add the lamb and cook until browned all over, about 6 minutes, turning once. Add the marinade, transfer to the oven and roast for about 5 minutes longer for medium-cooked lamb.
Buying local meat in New York City is not superconvenient for me and the quality isn't always reliable. That’s why I was thrilled last week to read about the new Dickon’s Farm Stand on Tasting Table, a New York-based daily e-mail blast edited by cool hunter and former F&W staffer Nick Fauchald. Created by Jake Dickson, Dickson’s Farm Stand lets its customers order reasonably-priced local meat online, then delivers it to specified locations (yep, generally street corners) all over the city. I immediately ordered from the friendly website, complete with cartoonish drawings of meat and detailed information about the farms, and picked up my order Sunday. The Ehrhardt Farm meaty lamb shanks I braised that night were deeply flavorful, thanks to the fact that the animals grazed on incredibly fertile pasture in New York state's Fingerlakes. Dickson has definitely become my go-to meat man (lamb shanks are $10.50 for 2; dicksonsfarmstand.com).
Our features intern, Kaitlyn Goalen, just blogged about how Michael Pollan, Rick Bayless, Dan Barber and dozens of other food activists signed a letter to President Elect Barack Obama offering up nominations for the position of Secretary of Agriculture.
So can you.
The grassroots movement that sent the original letter, Food Democracy Now!, has an online petition some 24,000 strong. Read the plea calling for a Secretary of Agriculture who will focus on sustainable agriculture, humane animal husbandry and renewable energy. Still not convinced? New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof's brilliant piece, "Obama’s ‘Secretary of Food’?", might just do the trick.