Blogs for June, 2014
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
“Location, location, location,” may ring true for many a circumstance, but for entertaining, “presentation, presentation, presentation” can transform any location into a picnic in Provence.
Admit it. You haunt Pinterest pages, planning that perfect soiree. At The City Farm, we believe you only need a few staples to create the dreamy feeling that will have your friends lingering over their last glass of wine ‘til long after the sunlight fades away.
Presentation: Will you choose a floral centerpiece for your farm table, or several small bouquets, perhaps one at each place setting? The City Farm Wire Bottle Tote basket with three small milk bottles looks lovely with sprays of a delicate flower like Sweet pea. To create an easy-going farm atmosphere, add some wildflowers to The City Farm’s red watering can. Martha has some inspiring tabletop centerpiece ideas here, including a creative crudité arrangement. Take inspiration from her ideas, and run with your own!
A vintage vase, cheese board, and rustic bowl will set the scene, whether for high tea in the afternoon or a mid-morning brunch with a quiche. Take a look at some of our favorite recipes for entertaining, including an Easy Smoked Trout Pate, Salmon Mousse, and Spinach Dip over on our COOK blog.
No room for a long farm table to host a large party? Invite a few friends over to enjoy a couple of delicious courses, made the more meaningful by your small space and the intimate conversation of coffee talk… or mimosas – either inspire story telling and the sharing and mixing of lives, which is the best part of outdoor parties. Set the scene with good food and a few lovely touches, and then sit back and enjoy the space you’ve created for friendships to flourish.
Share your favorite spaces and ideas for outdoor entertaining with us in the comment section or over on Twitter @TheCityFarm!
Parking the car, we patiently waited for the seemingly endless bicycle traffic to pass as we wended our way into the farmer’s market stands. As Cantinetta chef and owner Deborah Mullin pointed out and discussed various herbs, the woman behind one table separated the leafy greens into sections, deftly wrapping them into brown paper cones with practiced care. A short summer rain shower made us huddle closer under the covered stalls, and the boyfriend and I waited for Deb and her wife Claudia to choose vegetables for the evening’s menu, packing them into bags to take to Cantinetta Wine & Pasta, their farm-to-table osteria in Amsterdam.
Visiting Holland, I had visions of constant fresh food (and tulips and cheeses and wooden shoes). Surely the healthy, tall, bike-riding denizens of a canal-filled city would prioritize organic, fresh food. The air was sucked from the windmills of my Netherlands dream as Claudia, Deb’s wife and partner at Cantinetta, described her favorite childhood breakfast from Holland, a piece of white bread toast smothered in sugar sprinkles. But that makes Deb & Claudia’s farm to table restaurant all the more critical. Yes, critical. I feel the need for hyperbole when discussing the delicious, simple food prepared and served with skill, flavor, and love that made up one of the best meals I’ve eaten.
Visiting Cantinetta on a busy Saturday night, the tables were crowded with regulars including a Dutch filmmaker and his actor wife celebrating a birthday, the conversation and food overflowing to the tables on the sidewalk outside, and we felt part of a family. Seated at a table along the brick wall, we were served a glass of Villa Doral, an organic prosecco. Claudia, my sister-in-law via marriage once-removed (it gets complicated, so I just call Deb and Claudia my sisters-in-law, as they feel like family), asked if we would like to order from the night’s menu, or allow Deb to craft a meal for us. We’re not dumb. We waited to be surprised by the chef’s choices.
We tried to slow ourselves to truly taste each bite of every dish that Deb sent our way, from the salad of mixed organic Knotwilg Farm salad greens grown in Beemster, organic Belgian endive, local, organic mint & parsley from Bellemarie, Drenthe, toasted hazelnuts, organic, local beets, pecorino romano cheese, red wine-lemon and thyme vinaigrette, with mozzarella from Buffalo Farm Twente.
That was just the SALAD. Our next course was roasted, organic cauliflower & broccoli, flavored with house-marinated fresh anchovy, sea salted capers, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and pepperoncini. Though I love reds, the courses were best paired with a delicious white wine, Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium Lazio Bianco, made by nuns on an organic vineyard in Italy. Nuns. It’s like we were in a movie. (You can buy a bottle of Coenbobium in the U.S. here.)
The wine paired deliciously with our pasta (gluten-free for me, the Celiac traveler), which was the first time I’ve tried guanciale: pork cheek procured from italy via fumagalli salumi. Delicious.
Though I felt too full even to finish the wine, which is a first for me, I somehow managed to fit in the cheese and dessert course, a ricotta con fragola e grappa, with fresh ricotta from Buffalo Farm Twente, flower blossom honey from Beemster, a strawberry-grappa marmelatta, and toasted hazelnuts. We finished with a sparkling dessert wine, a Birbet Brachetto Lungo from the Roero.
We’d closed the place down and sat sipping our wine, watching the staff polish the wine glasses and set the tables for the following week. Deb carefully plated the “family” dinner for the staff to enjoy, and we left them sitting shoulder to shoulder at the bar, to their delicious meal. They’ve created a feeling of family at Cantinetta, breaking bread next to strangers who feel like friends as you wish them bon appetite or happy birthday, listening to people laugh together, forks laid on empty plates, wine glasses clinking in toasts to the good life.
What’s your favorite place to eat farm-to-table?
(Photo Collage by Rebecca Snavely – peonies were in season in Amsterdam.)
I spotted a new favorite flower while waiting for my smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and the boyfriend’s croque madame, sitting outside at a table on the patio of Look Mum No Hands, a restaurant, bakery, and bicycle repair shop. A typical grey morning in London, a collection of cut flowers in green-glass bottles caught our eyes, and we grabbed one to add a dash of color to our unfinished wood tabletop. The blueish-purple thistle stood out against the browns and greys of the day, and I went straight to the answer machine to find out how I could have more of them in my daily life. Upon Googling the photos I snapped (and the help of a Facebook friend who pulls endless amounts of them from her flower-bed in France), I learned it was called an Eryngium “Sapphire Blue” thistle from the Apiaceae family. Say THAT five times fast. The flower is often called Sea Holly (a bit easier on the tongue) and is not only drought resistant, but also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, and reportedly repels rattlesnakes.
An image search revealed the popularity of Sea Holly in bouquets and centerpieces as well as an easy-to-grow garden favorite. To add them to your yard, table tops, or bridal ensemble, plant the thistle in a space that receives full sun, with plenty of drainage, as they will not survive wet, soggy soil. According to BHG, these perennials “thrive on neglect,” so they also make a perfect gift for the would-be gardener who claims their green thumb has turned grey.
“A weed is but an unloved flower.” ― Ella Wheeler Wilcox
If unwanted, these thistles may be labeled weeds, so you’ll want to prune and deadhead fading flowers to encourage a longer flowering season, as well as to prevent them from self-seeding and taking over your garden. Easy to love, they’re not only ornamental, but have health benefits as well. Many of the family Apiaceae have been used in folk medicine or as an herbal remedy for scorpion stings in Jordan. If you’re interested in researching more, take a look at the scintillatingly titled Phytochemical Constituents and Pharmacological Activities of Eryngium L. (Apiaceae), which states that “Some Eryngium species are cultivated as ornamental, vegetable, or medicinal crops for folk uses. With increasing chemical and biological investigations, Eryngium has shown its potential as pharmaceutical crops.” The review explores the potential use for the plant in “anti-inflammatory, anti-snake and scorpion venoms, antibacterial, antifungal, and antimalarial, antioxidant, and antihyperglycemic effects.”
If you’re simply looking to add more to bring the birds and butterflies to your yard, be sure to plant your Eryngium in a permanent place where its long taproot can reach deep down. Check out GardeningKnowHow for a list of Sea Holly varietals, from the Rattlesnake Master, so named because of the myth that the plant could cure snake bites, to the Giant Sea Holly, a.k.a. Miss Wilmot’s Ghost (named for English gardener Ellen Wilmot). These thistles seem to tell tales with each planting…what story does your garden tell? Share photos with us on Twitter at @TheCityFarm
(Photo Credit: Rebecca Snavely, center bouquet from TribalRoseFlowers)
How often do you hear not one, but two friends, talk about wwoofing within a two-week time span, and not in reference to a four-legged friend? I learned about wwoofing this month, which, with its extra w, is an acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. In a video created by one wwoofer and his girlfriend, who spent eight months on eight farms in nine countries across Europe, one farmer talks about living in harmony with the earth, and puts it simply: I’m not a political person, I’m not going to change the world by revolution, but living the way I feel is the right way for me.”
In this age, where the only time we bump into each other is because our eyes are on our smartphones, not our world, that life seems pretty revolutionary. One friend, a horticulturist, is on her way to wwoof for the first time in France, while the other wwoofed a few years ago, and, though I knew her as a writer and Web producer, she’s now a cheesemonger who knows the ins & outs of sheep, goats, and cows. (That sounded grosser and a little more veterinarian than I intended… she knows their milk.)
Wwoofing reminds me of a book, In Praise of Slowness, by Carl Honoré, that introduced me to the Slow movements around the world – Slow Cities that design for pedestrians to walk to work, creating bike lanes for ease when grabbing groceries from a farmer’s market or local shop, and ways of creating space for community. Slow Food movements that include farm to table restaurants, where you know where your food was grown or where your chicken lived her last days, a la Portlandia (“his name was Collin.”) Eating at a restaurant in Congo that catered to the expat community, I recognized the Slow Food insignia on the wall. The owner, a Congolese woman, laughed. In Congo, she explained, where there is no infrastructure, all food is locally sourced and slow.
Also, not totally unrelated to the other kind of woofing: It’s farm dog week over at Modern Farmer. It’s very important that you know: Modern Farmer has an Official ModFarm Farm Dog Cam! “Brought to you live from Border Springs Farms in Virginia,” which hundreds of sheep and nine border collies call home.
“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds” ― Carl Honoré
If reading a book feels too slow for you, you can watch Honoré’s TedTalk here. It’s a good call to action – slower, more focused, attentive action. How can you slow down in your daily life? Check out wwoof.net to watch the short video referenced above, and wwoofinternational.org to learn more about how it works. Have you ever wwoofed? Do you want to? Share your stories of farm life in the comments, or over on Twitter@TheCityFarm and @RebeccaSnavely.
My mantra when having family and friends over has always been “Prepare it in advance.” I especially like appetizers and hors d’oeuvres that can be made ahead of time. This allows me ample time to focus on the main course when my guests arrive. Below are two of my favorite Summer menu ideas. The Salmon Mousse recipe came from my college roommate, Marlene Kamin. The Hot Spinach Dip recipe came from my neighbor, MaryAnn Green. I hope you like them.
1 cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
dash lemon juice
1 tsp. Dill weed
1 tsp. Horseradish – red or white
1 1/4 lb. of fresh cooked salmon (or use 1 lb. can of salmon plus 1 small can)
½ cup warm water
1 package Knox gelatin
Dissolve gelatin in ½ cup of warm water. Put all else into a blender and blend, then add gelatin mixture and blend well. Pour into well oiled mold, or pour into serving bowl and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Serve with crackers or thin sliced bread.
Hot Spinach Dip
2 Tblsp. Oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 Tblsp. Canned chopped green chilies
1 10-oz. Package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups grated Monterey jack cheese
1 8-oz. Package cream cheese, cut into ½ inch pieces
½ cup half-and-half
1 Tblsp. Red wine vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
Saute onion in oil about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and chilies and cook 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to large bowl and mix in remaining ingredients. Spoon into shallow baking dish.
At this point you can refrigerate the dip and bake it later, or bake it immediately. Bake at 400° on top third of oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with corn chips or pita chips.
Being car-free, I often write about walking in L.A., stopping to smell the roses and star jasmine, seeing a tiny green shoot defy city life and flourish in the crack of the sidewalk, the minutiae missed when you’re hurtling by at 40 miles an hour. But I also take for granted the ease with which I navigate my familiar city. Walking through the busy streets of London can be hazardous to your health, or at least your life expectancy, should you forget that the bus barreling down the narrow roadway drives on the left side of the road. The city has graciously painted guidance on many a street corner, telling tourists to “look left” or “look right,” but what about looking up?
As you make your way through the throngs of central London, you see signs directing you to gaze skyward, and you might catch a glimpse of green from the rooftop gardens growing veggies. You might also catch sight of a swarm of lawyers and bees. The London-based international law firm Olswang transformed its rooftop into a bio-diverse garden, growing flowers and food, and is now home to over 80,000 bees. Volunteers at the firm, trained in bee-keeping, are part of a self-sustaining bee network in the community.
We’ve talked before about the secret life of bees here on the blog, and why we so desperately need our bee network. As the law firm’s Website reminds us, that “environmental changes, pesticides and new diseases are all causing the world’s bee population to decline rapidly. The issue is so serious that it has been recognised as a global phenomenon by the United Nations. Yet bees are crucial to our ecosystem; of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees.”
In a continuing quest to bring back the bees, what will you plant? Check out my previous post to get tips on growing bee-friendly sunflowers, and think about what else you want to add to your garden to attract the pollinators to your yard: from heather to red-flowering currant to English lavender.
Is London leading the way for growing from the roof down? As its Rooftop Greenhouse initiative reminds us: “Not only can we grow food crops and consume them in the building below, we can also make use of the greenhouse to heat the building during the day, and the building to heat the greenhouse at night.”
Back across the pond, the folks behind Fresh Food Generation noticed under-served communities in Boston, who, lacking the food trucks of other areas, as well as grocery stores with options for organic, affordable food, were in need of healthy food choices. The team formulated a plan to “retrofit a food truck to serve healthy, locally sourced meals at affordable prices in neighborhoods that have been missing out” on the gourmet food truck trend, providing them with locally sourced, nutritional foods, year-round. Original Green, based in Los Angeles, is a project of home&community, inc., and supports homesteading, urban farming, and food entrepreneurship in low-income communities.
What is your city doing to grow green and fight hunger? What do you dream of doing and growing? Tell us in the comments, or over on Twitter @TheCityFarm.
Look Right. Look Left. Look Up. London reminds us that life is to be lived in balance, looking both ways, eyes on the street for safety, with plenty of pauses to look up, look around, and take in the swarming and buzzing of life around us
(Photo credit: Olswang Rooftop Garden)
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