Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Urban Garden Started in an Empty Corner Office

Tip: Label Everything!
I moved to Boston (Somerville actually) in March of 2008 and soonafter asked my landlord about planting a few vegetables somewhere in the yard.  There's not a ton of land, but my downstairs neighbors had a small garden in the side yard, so I thought it couldn't hurt to ask.  Ron was more excited about my garden than I was and we talked possible locations.  He pointed me to the front yard since it got the most sun.  I wasn't about to be picky, so I agreed and got to work tearing up the (crab) grass and tilling.  I'd never had a garden before, but I come from a long line of green thumbs and I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty!  How hard could it be to grow a few tomatoes, right? 

Tip 2: Plastic Doesn't Mold & is Reusable!
Well, the garden was a hit!  My neighbors would walk by and marvel and I couldn't talk to my landlord without hearing about how great it looked.  I was thrilled when the first zucchini came in.  I didn't realize that the plants would stop fruiting if I let them get too big and I was so proud of how fast they grew, that I let them get HUGE so I could stuff them with quinoa.  What I love about gardening is that I'm always learning something practical (you don't get much more practical than how to feed yourself!).  This year, I wanted to start everything from seed.  I probably spent $100 or so on heirloom varieties without realizing that I didn't know a damn thing about seed starting (again, how hard could it be, right?).  I bought a few books, read the instructions on seed packs and got to it!

Happy Cucumber and Squash Seedlings
I did have one small problem.  I live in on the second floor of a large Victorian that is surrounded by trees.  There are tons of windows, but none that get enough sun for seedlings.  My office, on the other hand, is an extremely sunny place, so I brought all my supplies to work and stayed late one night after everyone had left to sow my seeds in the kitchen.  I borrowed a coworker's space heater, watered, and headed home for the night.  And like good seeds do, a few days later, they sprouted.  Trouble was, I started a bit late AND I had to travel a lot in March, April, and May for work... so they didn't get the love they deserved and not many made it to the actual garden.  Successful transplants included roma and cherry tomatoes, escarole, and hmmm... that might be about it! 

Yes, I transplanted more than just that, but the damn japanese beetles ate most of my young plants.  I eventually ended up replacing a lot of the plants I had started from seed with plants I bought at Pemberton Farms, Home Depot, Lowes, seedling sales at local farms, and farmers markets.  But at least this year, I tried to start everything from seed... and I think I made pretty damn good use of that empty corner office, don't you think!?  And in case you're wondering, those sandwich platters with lids do make excellent "greenhouses!"

Bet you can't wait to see the pics of the garden now, right?  Coming soon, I promise!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Remember My Trip to Hawaii? Well, Here's the Post!

A Day at the Beach
I'm learning that in the world of blogging, doing is better than thinking.  The perfectionist in me keeps wanting to post things in the order they happen, as they happen, with pretty pictures and everything.  But let's face it, I'm busy and new at this whole blogging thing.  My trip to Oahu was in March and I've held off on posting about my garden because I wanted to get this one done first!  Shame on me.  From now on, I'm not going to be a perfectionist about fromseedtostomach!

Oahu was amazing.  It was my first time to Hawaii.  One of my best  friends from college moved there a few years ago shortly after marrying a naval officer who got orders that sent them both to paradise.  I had an open invite, a place to stay, and a best friend to visit and it took me like 3 years to finally take Laura (on the right in this picture) and her husband Will, up on their awesome offer!  When Laura was asking me about what I wanted to see/do while in town, I told her that all I cared about was checking out the local farmers markets, eating lots of tropical food, and sticking to my budget!
The Farmers' Market was awesome.  I took too many pictures to post here, but you can check them out on flickr.  There's a set for the farmers market and a set for Oahu.

In Hawaii, I fell in love with papaya.  Sure I had eaten papaya before, but never in a smoothie or with Greek yogurt.  I couldn't (and still can't) get enough of this delicious candy-like fruit!  I know it has to travel great distances to get to my plate, so I've tried to keep that in mind and not go overboard, but they're SO tempting!
My appreciation for flowers also skyrocketed as I saw all kinds of beautiful flowers I had never even imagined, let alone seen in real life!  I took so many pictures of gorgeous flowers that I made a set just for flowers on my flickr photostream!
So what did we buy?  Thought you'd never ask!  I got an amazing Land of Organica organic mango sorbet.  Laura introduced me to spicy pickles from the pickle man and picked up a few jars of amazing pickles.  We both tried corn sprouts for the first time and I bought a bag that I never did anything with!  I fell in love with Taro Salad from Taro Delight (where the taro farmer told me all about taro!).  Laura got some beets that we roasted and tossed with goat feta and mixed greens in delicious salad for dinner that night!  Oh, and Laura got a lavender scone (I thought that sounded nuts, but it was SOOO good!).
Alii Kula Lavender Booth
While the KCC Farmers Market was certainly a major highlight of my trip, I would be remiss not to mention the amazing cookies from Honolulu Cookie Company.  I've never been a huge fan of shortbread, but I sampled every cookie at least once.  I think my favorite was the lilikoi (passion fruit)!  So yummy.  Oh, and I got to see some family in Oahu, too.  My step-aunt and her family moved out there a few years ago and I felt so lucky to get to try Aunt Lynn's Okinawa Sweet Potato Pie and her lilikoi jam!

Oh, and I can't write a post about Hawaii without mentioning the shaved ice.  You can bet I ate that at least 3 times... with the condensed milk and the sweet azuki beans and tropical flavors every time!  I almost forgot to mention the KONA COFFEE!  I don't consider myself to be a coffee connoisseur at all, but there's no denying that Kona Coffee is some of the best coffee on the planet!

I can't finish this post without airing one grievance.  When I started planning my trip, I had visions of roadside produce stands selling pineapples, coconuts, and mangoes.  I was REALLY disappointed that I had to go out of my way to find all the stuff that the fertile land in Oahu bears, especially when there were plate lunch trucks pushing steak plates on every other corner!  Gross.

PS: Pineapples grow in bushes on the ground, not in trees!  (Can you tell that was news to me when we drove past the Dole Plantation on the way to the North Shore?)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Visualizing our Food System | food tech connect

In my professional life, I market books about computing and IT. In fact, I'm heading to LA right now for SIGGRAPH, the biggest computer graphics conference in the world. So it was a bit serindipidous when, at 36,000 feet on board my Virgin America flight, I discovered (via @civileater via @MichaelPollan on twitter), this amazing graphic that visualizes our food system on a blog that made me feel like my two worlds just collided! You have to check out the graphic and the blog and tell me what you think!

Visualizing our Food System | food tech connect

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Month of Meals from the Atlantic to the Pacific: Part 2.3 – Farewell San Fran - Gather Restaurant Review

This is another long overdue post that I’ve been thinking about for months!

The Bay Area is home to so much great food and Gather’s got to be at the top of the list for anyone interested in sustainable, local, organic, vegetarian, grass-fed, and/or delicious food!  Christina (mentioned in previous post) and I tracked this place down after doing a quick yelp search for veg-friendly places in Berkeley.  We knew there’d be plenty of choices, but after taking a quick look at this place on our phones, it was a no-brainer.  This place was love at first yelp. 

From the moment we walked in, I was getting ideas.  The look of this place was right up my alley.  Simple wood.  Clean lines. A visible kitchen. Slate and chalk and brushed metal. Oh my. On the way to our table, after we passed the breastfeeding woman, I noticed that Gather was practically decorated with giant ball jars filled with grains and beans.  Seriously… why hadn’t I thought of that? I had been spending so much money on those expensive OXO pop containers for all my dry pantry staples! By now, my canning jar collection has exploded and I’m in love with my cabinets!

But I digress.  As we poured over the menu, one thing was abundantly clear: this place rocked!

Stream of consciousness: Yes of course this goes with that.  Oh Yum. I want to know how to make that. 

Everything on the menu just made sense. Gather supports local farmers and clearly spends a lot of time considering where to source their ingredients (or maybe it doesn’t take that much time to find great sources when you’re in California!).  Gather’s proud of their ½ vegetarian menu and I was thrilled to see lots of vegan options and even some good-looking meat (not that I’d order any, but if I suddenly decided I wanted to eat something with legs again, I might hold out for a return trip to this place).

The simple one-page menu changes frequently based on what’s available but looks to be consistently organized into Small Plates, Soups and Salads, Artisanal Plates, Pizzas, and Large Plates.  The prices seem fair for the careful planning that goes into every dish.  I started with a vegan split pea soup.  I love it when restaurants serve vegetarian things that should be vegetarian to begin with but are often spoiled with the addition of a ham hock.  So that was a no-brainer and it was delicious. 

Then Christina and I split the Vegan “charcuterie.” There was asparagus with a lentil salsa, toasted ciabotta with avocado and fried tofu skin, heirloom carrots on a bed of cashew ricotta, a potato sunchoke chanterelle salad, and roasted beets with blood oranges and fennel!  Words cannot even describe how delicious everything was. What I can say was that the cashew ricotta helped me understand how vegans can live without cheese. I still don’t think it’s for me, but hey, it’s food for thought.  Tee Hee.