Posts Tagged ‘seasonal’

the solar dome with its unassuming herb garden

Greetings from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, specifically a tiny hamlet called Albany. I’m here vacationing for 2 1/2 weeks while Natural Gourmet is closed for summer renovations.

I’m staying at a place known as the “Albany Solar Dome,” a completely isolated, solar-powered house in the hills. As if that weren’t Vermont-y enough, there’s recycling and composting here. But I wanted to commune with nature, albeit in an enhanced environment with WiFi, flat screen TV, a washer and dryer, and a dishwasher.

I arrived yesterday in a panic and bluster typical of any New Yorker. I won’t bore you with the details. So at 4 pm, I suddenly realized I needed to get food in the house before the sun went down. The roads leading up to this place are crazy challenging.

I went first to the “market” in Albany, which turned out to be a convenience store. The healthiest thing I could find was Magic Hat beer (which I promptly purchased). I then drove to the next town, Irasberg, where there was a typical country supermarket. You know the kind: only trucked-in, conventional produce in a state drowning (ironically) in small, local farms. I let purism go; I had to eat, and I was grateful for what I could get.

I woke up this morning, and the day was so beautiful. I was inspired to get some “real” food. I had to go to St. Johnsbury on an errand, so I was hoping to find local produce there. Somehow, on arrival, I got enticed into a store called “Cost Cutters.” Damn. They had a mountain of organic fruits and vegetables. I know I should have eschewed them for a farmers market, but instant gratification got the better of me and I bought everything in sight.

I did do a little better in Hardwick, a little town with a great co-op called the Buffalo Mountain Food Co-op and Cafe. They had beautiful local produce, and I did some more damage.

I came back to the Solar Dome, proudly, with the kind of swag that in Brooklyn would have cost me a fortune. I was pretty chuffed with myself, as I put everything in the fridge.

To celebrate, I went on the deck to watch the sunset while I ate my organic arugula salad with fresh corn, heirloom tomatoes, olive oil and lemon juice. It was then I noticed for the first time the elaborate garden just below me that somehow failed to captivate my attention on my arrival.

In all my city slicker haste (and yes, ignorance), I had only registered that there was some kind of garden with flowers and stuff growing. You would think a natural foods culinary instructor would be more sentient when it comes to food growing before his eyes.

I jumped down from the deck to discover that many of the herbs I purchased were growing right there – in great profusion no less – along with blackberries and raspberries (which I had also purchased). Hell, for all I know, there’s arugula and corn growing out there too. Then the guy renting me the house called and told me to stop at his greenhouse down the hill for all the heirloom tomatoes I could eat.

This experience was humbling, to say the least. I prepare fresh food all the time, I teach its preparation, but I didn’t even see it growing before my eyes.  Check out what I missed:

Thyme is growing EVERYWHERE like gangbusters, but I have to use up the 1 ounce package I bought first.


at least I didn’t buy sage


rosemary (bought it)

oregano, anyone?

I can make tea out of thistle, right?


I’ve eaten my pint of berries from the market. These are on tomorrow’s agenda.


I’m not gonna eat him, even though he was in the garden.


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This blog post on Ellen’s Food and Soul by our Chef’s Training graduate Ellen Arian is a lucid and thoughtful consideration of the issues surrounding the meaning and practice of organics.  Check it out:

Does Organic Matter?

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Fresh: A Film About the Food Revolution

Fresh: A Film About the Food Revolution

On Monday night, a roomful of Chef’s Training Program students got together with Chef Instructor Rich LaMarita towork with some of their favorite things: fresh, local, seasonal and organic ingredients.

That evening’s specials included a screening of Fresh and the preparation of a delicious tasting menu. Other than an errant onion and a shallot or two, more than 90% of the ingredients that we worked with were organic and from the Greenmarket. Here’s what we made for our Farm to Table feast:

Braised Baby Carrots with Balsamic Glaze & Pine Nuts

Grilled Oyster Mushrooms

Pan Seared Shiitake and Ginger with Hazelnut Dust

Wilted Russian Kale with Garlic

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Golden Raisins

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Thyme and Honey

White Wine Braised Leeks with Shallots

Korean Black Radish Slaw with Honey

Curried Lentils with Spinach

Summer Farro Salad

Mixed Baby Greens

Indian Style Spiced Popcorn

With ingredients this “fresh,” we kept the preparation simple.  Chef Rich read through the menu, called out the preparation for each dish, the students paired up to cook and we were eating dinner within an hour.

Chef Rich Anticipating a Great Local, Seasonal and Organic Meal

Chef Rich Anticipating a Great Local, Seasonal and Organic Feast

Fresh is a film that celebrates the farmers who are transforming our food system.  The film was fantastic and re-acquainted us with the movers and shakers of our Food Revolution, including Michael Pollan, Will Allen and Joel Salatin, as well as a few new voices, each sharing their unique insights.

At the film’s end, we were all re-committed to sourcing organic ingredients from local sources.  After all, with a meal like that, the proof was in the pudding.

Chef's Training Program Students Raise a Toast to the Meal

Chef's Training Program Students Raise a Toast to the Food

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