I ♥ New York (‘s Foodies)

Some of you lovelies may recall my mentioning Just Food in blogs gone-by. I have had the incredible fortune of interning with Just Food’s Farm School NYC for the past few months. It has been a great pleasure seeing the foodie retrolution through their eyes and engaging with urban farmers on an intimate level. The Just Food Conference has just passed us by, and as always, was a huge hit. Kudos to the team.

The magnificent view in the photo below was taken at a networking event thrown in the Bank of America Building by Just Food.

Way to Be, NYCThanks Just Foodies, for taking me in.


Windowsill Growings-Ons

We’ve made some mentions lately of goodies from our garden being thrown in our meals, like scallions in our peanut noodles and chives in our eggs, et cetera, but it’s been a while since we’ve given a progress report on our window garden’s goings-ons.

Our cherry tomato plants we were so dubious about are actual tomatoes… or tomatoes of the not-red-yet variety.  They’re cramped and could definitely be happier – drought not helping – but they’re fruiting, so I, for one, have big plans for their future.

Cherry Tomato Plant

Cherry Tomato Plant

We have added zucchini to our plot, knowing that it tends to grow copiously. And copious it has been! The zucchini greenery has spread like mad, and we now have little zuchi flowers a-bloomin’!

Zucchini Flowers

I’ve heard rumors you can cook with the flowers, but haven’t heard of any appealing recipes. Would be delighted by contributions.

And a certain someone demanded we have a lemon tree. I have no clue on earth how a lemon tree will survive in our apartment come winter, but I assume we’ll find out. And it must be going well enough as little buzzy bees have been visiting our windowsill!

Lemon Tree BeesAnd as our last addition, we grew some berries! They’ve quickly gotten squiggly with the heatwave we’ve been suffering, but when we get to them in time they’ve been a stupendous treat.

Strawberry Plant

In less good news, our spinach totally kicked the bucket. It was a comic failure. As were our mustard greens. And our mint has on days and off days. But I’m taking the optimistic view that for our first window garden ever, things are going in our favor.

Just Foodamooga

Just Food

The Just Food section of the Great GoogaMooga Festival (widely griped about here), was a haven in a sea of dangerously hungry foodies. A tightly-knit variety of stands promoting local farms, tasty veggies, and sustainability nestled itself up on a hill overlooking the rest of the fest. Equally apart from the nostalgic riffs of the Lez Zeppelin stage and the bluesy soul of the Fitz & the Tantrums stage, it was the perfect hide-out for a breather.

In this grassy home away from home, Just Food advocates smilingly handed out CSA pamphlets, promoted urban gardens, and sold “seed bombs,” combinations of seeds and compost that if one chucks anywhere (like say, an abandoned lot) will grow magical plots of flowers.

Below, kiddies find some shade under an elevated planter box growing vegetables from a public school youth farm!

Youth Farm!

Just Food, you win again.

A Taste of Googa

Googa StandsThis weekend, 40,000 people (including our own haphazard crew) descended upon Prospect Park for the highly anticipated Great GoogaMooga Festival. The event was a showcase for New York’s hippest restaurants, each of which offered up one dish that represented their style in half or full portions, so you could try some of everything.  A foodie’s delight.

The concept for the festival was great: hand out free tickets to a slew of people and point them to the food stands.  And with stands manned by teams from Jean Georges, Baohaus, Luke’s Lobster, The Spotted Pig, Big Gay Ice Cream, Momofuku, and more, expectations were high. From what I can tell, the restaurants lived up to their reputations. Unfortunately, the festival wasn’t run with quite the same elegance as your average restaurant kitchen.

The event garnered tremendous publicity… most of it bad.  Among complaints about long lines and lack of cell phone reception (true of any festival), were legitimate laments. Food started running out around 3:30 on Sunday (apparently sooner on Saturday), which is a bummer if you planned on hanging out until closing time at 8:00, and a big deal if you sprung for the all-inclusive $250 “Extra Mooga” tickets. “Extra Mooga”Reading the GoogaMooga also got you access to special events, which most of the general population did not seem to know were going to be special events. Our hopes of seeing Masaharu Morimoto break down a fish, Anthony Bourdain mock everyone under the sun, and the hubs’ desire to eat hordes of ocean boogers (aka: oysters), were all dashed to oblivion once we walked through the gate. This was seemingly misled in their advertising. (Or, to be fair, possibly misread.)

Another misleading aspect was that the festival would be local-leaning. GoogaMooga teamed up and advertised through Just Food, indicating that there would be a big push toward farm-to-table attitudes. Unfortunately, there was merely a designated corner of the festival for Just Food sponsored spectacles (including a very charming CSA Cook-Off and Blue Hill Sausage-Grinding… lovable, but graphic). This was a downer given this obvious opportunity to promote local farms, humane meat production, and conscious eating. We saw virtually no information at the restaurant stands about where its food came from and actually witnessed someone on stage defend Tyson. Poor form, Googa.

And the greatest bummer came in the form of the disclaimer written on the festival’s website:
“We promise to make vegetarians and vegans happy, too, as well as those with any other dietary restrictions. You’ll go home inspired, enlightened, entertained and full.”

Sigh… I am afraid, dearest Googa, you did not deliver on this particular commitment. While I’m sure all of the carnivorous offerings were delicious and of the finest quality, the vegetarian options could be counted on one hand. And of those options, I, for one, saw not a single dish that was vegan.

All this impressive negativity having been stated, I should say that the things we did eat were delicious.  The Little Muenster’s grilled cheese made me dance a little dance, Momofuku’s coffee ice milk was a joyful reprieve from the heat, and Seersucker’s asparagus and ricotta tart tasted just like springtime. We missed the greatly-coveted deep fried cheesecake and the Big Gay Ice Cream. Both gone by the time we were ready for sweets. But as far as taste buds go, mine have no complaints.

Little Muenster
The kinks will work themselves out, I’m sure of this. I hope in the process the organizers will also address the expectations they built regarding local and vegetarian food.  Best of luck next year, GoogaMoogs!

One Square Foot

When my hubs and I attended the Just Food Conference in February, it was structured to give large talks at the beginning and end of the day with small seminars in the middle (of which there were many to choose from).  We agonized between School Food Solution; Racism in the Food System; Building Your Own Community Supported Kitchen; Hydroponics, Aquaculture, and Aquaponics; Strengthening Urban Agriculture in NYC… and more, ad nauseum.

We chose our workshops pretty well, but by the end wished we’d had another month to fill in the blanks.  (Although by Saturday afernoon we were seeing spots that looked remarkably like kale and apples and were happy to have Sunday to eat junk food — I mean…)  One of the seminars we partook in was One Square Foot: Grow & Own Your Own Food in thBig Apple with Jennifer Berg.  The pitch being that even with merely a window in New York you can grow your own vegetable garden.

“Ha!” you say.  And so do we.

But she gave us a pretty clear step-by-step and we are going to give it the ol’ college cliche.  And she promised that even if all you have is a northern facing window, which we do, seeds will sprout.  I’ll key you in to progress… if there is any.  And beforehand, show you how it’s done.

“All you need,” said Mrs. Berg, our host, “is a bag of soil, some newspaper, a can, and a bag of seeds.”  Bag of soil, check.  Newspaper, check.  Bags of spinach, zucchini, and scallion seeds, check.  And if we have any luck with these, I’m trying cherry tomatoes.

We were shown how to make a planter by rolling a piece of newspaper around a can and scrunching the leftover paper into the bottom.  It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to stay together for a couple of weeks.

Fill the paper planter about halfway with soil, put a couple seeds of your choice in, cover them with soil, and finally water.

Once the plants have sprouted to about an inch and a half, you place the entire newspaper planter into a large container full of soil, and the newspaper will eventually disintegrate.  Apparently newspaper ink is made of soy (who knew?!) and will not harm your veggies one bit.

New York is notoriously confined for space.  Like, for example, my husband and I living in a studio apartment with two cats and the occasional guest, or two – sometimes three.  It is always snug in this city.  So finding outdoor spaces to grow vegetables is a coveted experience.  Most of us can’t do it.  But a small project like this can give you the reward of an urban vegetable garden, or at least close to it, and gives a little more control in knowing what you’ll be eating this season as our CSA approaches.

We’re going to give it a try.  We’d love to have our windows full of delicious treats to gnaw on, through the summer of course, but ideally even through the winter months.  And we even have a tiny outdoor ledge just big enough for a few planters, so once the weather evens out a bit we’ll be transporting our planters and our big bowl of mustard greens (from the Natural History Museum farmers market (see above)) and have ourselves a wee garden.

Hints of Spring

Winter?After what was an undeniably soft winter, “spring” has arrived.  Can it be spring without winter?

California has spring.  Doesn’t it?

Here in the Northeast, we don’t take kindly to the lack of seasons.  We use them to map out our emotions – truly.  Summer is a sticky, lethargic time for movies in Bryant Park.  We feel restful, relieved, rejuvenated, with a looming sense of doom that the cold is approaching.  Fall is crisp, sarcastic, a bit of a tease.  Winter, we are grumpy.  Leave us alone in winter; we hibernate and don’t appreciate interruptions.  And then spring comes.  And the city lights up.  Everyone crowds to the streets, people greet you, invite you into their homes, stay out all night (or so I’m told).  It is a magical time of hope and greenery.  If we don’t get the crabby winter, there’s no joy in spring.

But here we are, March 10th, and after temperatures that barely dipped below 45 this winter, we are now entering 60°-70° weather – already.  Which, despite the skepticism about the past few months, means that we can secretly begin fantasizing about the next growing season.

It’s been a long hibernation, but there good things to come.  We recently attended the Just Food Conference and will share stories and news about the movements in urban agriculture.  We’re signing up for this year’s CSA (today!), and we will be bringing seasonal stories, pictures, recipes, and a little farm to your (and our) city.