Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wishing, Dreaming, and Learning with Glenfiddich's Cask of Dreams

Glenfiddich's Cask of Dreams
A couple of weeks ago I was blessed with an invitation to a Glenfiddich event to introduce their Cask of Dreams limited bottling at Seven Grand and was able to learn a little bit more about the world of whisky.

Now just in case you don’t know a lick about whisky (which was me about a year and a half ago, but I learn a little bit more each time I goes to one of these kinds of events) Glenfiddich (who is celebrating it’s 125th birthday this year) is the largest producer Single Malt Scotch Whisky in the world (and also the most awarded Single Malt Scotch Whisky out there).

Now for those nascent to the world of brown liquor, Single Malt Scotch is whisky made in Scotland (otherwise it’s just called whisky). It needs to be made from barley (versus rye or wheat) and at a single distillery (if it’s not then it’s usually referenced as: "blended malt", "vatted malt" or "pure malt"). Another rule is that Single Malt Scotch must matured in an oak cask in Scotland for at least three years (though most Single Malts are matured for much longer).

Glenfiddich’s Cask of Dreams promotion is a toast to the spirit of Glenfiddich founder William Grant’s pioneering spirit. With that in mind Glenfiddich took 11 virgin American oak casks all over the United States, had people sign them with their dreams (my favorite: “I wish for a girlfriend”), and then sent them to Scotland to be used for the finishing of this Scotch.

The brown liquor inside of these casks was a marriage of Glenfiddich whiskies taken from a hand-picked selection of American oak casks holding matured whiskies of a variety of ages, with the youngest at 14 Years Old. The whisky was then decanted into the 11 Casks of Dreams and left to finish to bring an intense and powerful vanilla sweetness. The casks were closely monitored to ensure a desirable balance of the oak’s vanilla and spice with fruity, floral aromas, with Malt Master Brian Kinsman finding everything just about right after 3 months of finishing at a high strength of 48.8% ABV.

The project was such a hit Glenfiddich’s already committed to doing it again next year and our neighbors to the north (read: Canada) are jumping in on the action.
So if you’re game to enter the world of Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Glenfiddich’s Cask of Dreams is available in the limited quantity of 3,500 bottles at select American retailers, restaurants, and bars (like Seven Grand) with the recommended retail price of $99.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Using Mushrooms to Teach Kids About Food Ownership at ModernMom.com

Have an article on Using Mushrooms to Teach Kids About Food Ownership on the homepage of Modern Mom today. Here's just a tidbit:
Back to the Roots Growth

Using Mushrooms to Teach Kids About Food Ownership

Food is the fuel of human beings. To stay strong and healthy we eat healthy things. Sounds like a pretty simple concepts right? But sometimes the simplest of concepts are the hardest.
I know it sounds crazy but one of the biggest relationships we’ll ever have in our life is with food (another one is money). A kid’s relationship to food will last their lifetime and will affect every aspect of their life from their health, to their education, to their career, to their romantic relationships, to the actual length of their life.

That’s why it’s so important to teach children about ownership when it comes to what they put in their mouth. Ownership that applies not only what they should eat (healthy food), to how it’s grown or made (without chemicals), to how it affects the bigger picture (the environment).
But how do you teach such grand, and somewhat overwhelming, concepts in a simple and fun way? One great way is using a mushroom kit from Back to the Roots. It's interactive and fun - kids spray the mushrooms with water as they grow - and these kits can grow up grow up to 1 1/2 lbs of tasty organic oyster mushrooms in as little as 10 days right from the box.

Check out the entire article at http://www.modernmom.com/blogs/kat-thomas/using-mushrooms-to-teach-kids-about-food-ownership

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dan Barber and How Food Should be Created

This is an amazing TED talk by Blue Hill Farm chef Dan Barber at the Taste3 conference about a small farm in Spain that has found a humane way to produce foie gras (one of the most inhumane (and tastiest) food's out there). Raising his geese in a natural environment, farmer Eduardo Sousa embodies the kind of food production Barber believes in.

You might think it's funny a vegetarian would push a foie gras talk but the point at the end are Totally Choice: We need now to adopt a new conception of agriculture, really new, one where we stop treating the planet as if it were some kind of business liquidation. And we need to stopped degrading resources under the guise of cheap food. We can start by looking to farmers like Eduardo for solutions, farmers who rely on nature for solutions, for answers. Rather than imposing solutions on nature, we should be listening. Listening, as Janine Benyus one of my favorite writers and thinkers about this topic says: Listening to nature’s operating instruction.

Totally Choice!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chipotle Gives Food for Thought in Modern Mom

Have an article on Chipotle's film Back to the Start airing during the Grammy's on the homepage of Modern Mom today. Here's just a tidbit:

Back to the Start

Chipotle Gives Food for Thought With "Back to the Start"

One of the biggest successes of the 2012 Grammy Awards on Sunday was Chipotle's short film "Back to the Start" - which aired as a commercial during the award show.
Encouraging us to "Cultivate a better world," the spot spotlights issues with factory farming and emphasizes the importance of a sustainable food system.

The stop-motion animated film depicts a farmer whose family farm has slowly evolved into a factory. In a moment of self-reflection, the farmer realizes that he must go “back to the start” and transition away from factory conditions and towards more sustainable farming methods. Directed by London-based Johnny Kelly, the film features Willie Nelson covering the Coldplay song "The Scientist." "Back to the Start" was the longest commercial to run during the Grammys in recent history and was the first time Chipotle ran a national television advertisement since the burrito chain’s inception in 1993.

“We are changing the way people think about and eat fast food,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “We have always understood the importance of serving food that is raised right, but that is a difficult thing to communicate with the limitations of traditional advertising."
Check out the entire article at http://www.modernmom.com/blogs/kat-thomas/chipotle-gives-food-for-thought-with-back-to-the-start

Veggie Grill Expanding to Oregon

Veggie Grill
Veggie Grill, the California plant based fast food chain is expanding to the Beaver State (seriously guys that's Oregon's actual nickname....)

Veggie Grill's expansion will happen with the partnership of long-time restaurant developer Ed Casey. Based in Portland and an Oregon resident for over 20 years, when Casey discovered Veggie Grill, he found the perfect fit for the adventurous Portland consumer: a concept at once healthful, food-centric and fun.

Casey has developed, owned and operated over 25 Baja Fresh Mexican Grill franchises in the Pacific Northwest. He also introduced Oregon to Applebees in 1993 and TGI Fridays in 1980. Casey also served as President/CEO of the Counter, a 2008 National Restaurant Association’s Hot Concept winner (and who's first location was in lovely lovely Santa Monica).

As a joint venture partner, Casey will develop Veggie Grill restaurants in Oregon, opening the first location in January of 2012 followed by a second in May. The first location will open in Beaverton (home to Nike) and the second in the downtown financial district of Portland. Casey is also currently in negotiations on two other locations in Portland and the surrounding communities, including in and around Washington State.

So for every Portlandia-er who is dying for chicken-free chicken soup (which is positively Auh-Mazing!) get ready!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Wine Factoids (Hooray!)

Let’s learn a couple new things about wine Kids! (And by Kids I most definitely mean anyone over the age of 21 who is a child at heart).

Every time I attend a wine or spirit event I learn a little bit more about the world of alcohol. A couple of week's ago I attended 9th Annual STARS of Santa Barbara at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hosted by Ian Blackburn's Learn About Wine where I was once again schooled of a variety of areas of wine. And now with no further ado: WINE Factoids!!!

Let's learn about Mourvèdre? What's Mourvèdre you ask?
Mourvèdre is a Rhône style grape that is difficult to grow on its own so its usually only use a blending wine for both strong, dark red wines and rosés. The taste has a tendency to change according to its growing area but overall it often has a gamey or earthy flavors. Mourvèdre has a true affinity for Grenache, it softens it and gives it structure. For that reason you will see the two in a GSM blend.

And what’s a GSM blend you ask?
GSM (which stands for Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre). This blend originated from the blending of wines from the Southern section of the Rhône wine region in France (which is probably most famous for their Châteauneuf-du-Pape). Countries such as Chile, South Africa, the United States, and especially Australia have embraced this blending trio.

The buzzword of the event was Happy Canyon. What is Happy Canyon and where is located?
Happy Canyon is the newest AVA (which stands for American Viticultural Areas aka an Appellation, which just means where the grapes are from) in Santa Barbara County (in November of 2009). Happy Canyon is also SB's smallest AVA. It lies north and west of Lake Cachuma it is differentiated by its hotter temperatures and the minerality of its soil. Varietals grown in the area include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot as well as many Rhône varietals like Syrah. Happy Canyon is now home to six major vineyards and two wineries.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Something to Check Out: Gardening in the City this Thursday!

It's time for another Santa Monica Farmers Market Quarterly Library Panel Series on Thursday February 9th. This one will focus on how does your garden grow, either on the farm and in the city. I recommend a lot of events, but the Library Panel Series definitely one of my Favs. Free, fun, super educational, and with great free food (purchased at the Wednesday SMFM) at the end of it, this time made by Il Grano chef Sal Marino!

Deets are below!

On the panel Thursday are:
  • Moderator - Darra Henigan
  • Master Gardner Sarah Spitz formerly of KCRW
  • Il Grano] chef Sal Marino
  • Urban Homsteader Craig Ruggless from Winnetka Farms
  • Nate Peitso of Maggie's Farm
February 9th · 7:00pm - 9:00pm (these events are first come first serve and always fill up some get there 15-20 minutes early!)

Santa Monica Main Library MLK Jr. Auditorium 601 Santa Monica Blvd. (310) 458-8600 www.smpl.org

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Banning the Bag!

Hooray! Hooray! Last week Santa Monica finally banned single-use plastic carryout bags. It's definitely a big fraking deal. (Enough to get two hoorays!) And just in case you're wondering why here's my opinion piece for the SM Observer on exactly that subject.

Owning 2011: Banning the Bag

During the first couple weeks of 2011 I happened to come across a little sign that was posted multiple times on my friends Facebook pages:
Frak 2010.
Own 2011.
Now nowhere does this statement have more relevance to me than with the amazing action last week of the Santa Monica city council banning single use plastic bags. (And okay this saying doesn’t really use the word Frak but for everyone looking for a PG column that might also be a Battlestar Galactica fan, Ta-da!)

The basic details are this: As of September, plastic carryout bags will no longer be available at any retailers in Santa Monica, except restaurants providing food and liquids for takeout. Grocery stores and pharmacies would only be able to distribute paper bags, so long as they contain at least 40% post-consumer content. Shoppers who forget their reusable bags have the option of purchasing paper bags at checkout for at least 10 cents each. Santa Monica’s banning of the bag also includes shoppers at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Markets who will no longer be provided single-use plastic or paper bags.

All this happened on Tuesday of last week; on Saturday I was strolling with a friend on one of our city’s soon to be cleaner beaches and informed him of this exciting action.
“What’s the big deal?” was his response. “I don’t really think any of those things really make a bit of difference.”

What’s the big deal? What’s the big deal? The big deal is Fraking ownership, that’s the big deal.
I can say I was never so proud of our city than at the moment I heard that the ban had been passed. The most important thing we can do in our lives is take a good long hard look at the world we’ve created around us and take ownership of it. The banning of the bag was doing the right thing, by doing a little thing that will make a big difference down the line. Perhaps you’ve heard the Gandi quote, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Plastic bags last hundreds of years (or longer!) and may never truly go away. Our actions of today have ramifications for hundred and hundreds of year. Plain and simple: plastic bags don’t biodegrade. Instead, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic when exposed to sunlight and water, but they will never truly disappear.

These single use plastic bags, which can be found blowing down Santa Monica’s beaches, streets, and parks, make our neighborhoods look like dumps. When these momentarily used bags enter the ocean, either through the storm drains or by blowing across our beaches, they kill or injure ocean animals. In fact, they are frequently eaten by marine mammals, fish, and seabirds who mistake them for jellyfish (and all you have to do is watch a video where you see a sea gull choking on a plastic bag and you’ll never want to touch another one again).

Recycling is not the solution (though it is a great thing). Fewer than 5% of plastic grocery bags are recycled each year statewide, which leaves 95% to fill up space in landfills and harm animal life when the bags wind up in our waterways. And if it’s not an environmental issue for you then perhaps money talks: California municipalities spend nearly $25 million each year to collect and dispose of plastic bag waste. With Santa Monica’s ban of single use plastic bags Heal the Bay stated this action would seek an end to the "fiscal waste" created by the use of about 26 million plastic shopping bags each year in the city of Santa Monica, alone.

Sure the ban was long overdue (that for being as Green as Santa Monica is it took a multitude of cites, starting with the city of San Francisco in 2007 and including eight cities in Los Angeles county, before our ban was finally enacted). Banning plastic bags in Santa Monica was supposed to happen three years ago, but threats of litigation from the plastic bag manufactures caused more than a few feet to be dragged. And yes some of the reason that the bag banning finally happened here in our fair city had to do with the fact that unincorporated Los Angeles was now taking on the same issue (remember Santa Monica loves to tout itself off as progressively Green, but that only works if we actually do things before anyone else in Los Angeles…). But even if the city’s actions are slightly sluggish and selfish in nature we still got the job done (and as Woody Allen once said, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up”).

All of these issues were really just miniature hurdles to a jump that soared last week. To some, it might not seem like a big deal, but life is a game of inches. Not even inches, but millimeters really. Tony Robbins (which even if you take him or leave him really does make some great points) talks about how he hit a golf ball that went a hundred yards off from the mark. Robbins was annoyed until his golf-pro explained to him that he was really only millimeters off from the right spot where the club made contact with the ball, he was really only millimeters off from the spot that would get him to that perfect shot. It turns out that those hundred or so yards were the direct result of one tiny action. The little things add up to big things. Every action needs to start at the smallest level with you or me. As they say, “think globally, act locally.”

I recently had a conversation with my friends Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen of the 5 Gyres, a Santa Monica environmentalist couple who are sailing around the world mapping out our global plastic problem in the middle of the world’s five oceans. Having just returned from Cape Town, South Africa, Anna informed me that the “national flower” of South Africa is known as the plastic bag. A sad tale, but our actions in Santa Monica helped make sure that would never happen here in our amazingly great city, and perhaps one less single use plastic bag might was up on the beaches of Cape Town.

Way to own 2011 Santa Monica!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Michele Obama welcomes a soon to be Oasis in the Inglewood Food Desert

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama (First Lady of the United States, in case you haven't heard) was in Inglewood yesterday (and BTW she, as always, looked great!) to celebrate the making of the newest Northgate Gonzalez Market.

Obama, along with L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Inglewood Mayor James Butts, Northgate Gonzalez Markets COO and Co-President Oscar Gonzalez came together to celebrate the first tangible examples of progress facilitated by the California FreshWorks Fund. "It sounds so simple," said Obama. "When families have access to fresh fruit and vegetables, kids get better nutrition."

For those who don't know Inglewood is a known L.A. Food Desert (a food desert is any area in the industrialized world where healthful, affordable food is difficult to obtain). In other words, low income metropolitan areas that are littered with liquor stores and fast food chains, but no supermarkets with fresh fruits and veggies. The lack of real food results in a myriad of diseases from Diabetes to Hypertension.

Villaraigosa noted that Obesity is 3 times more likely to occur in South L.A. than in West L.A.. "It's not fair," Obama stated,"if a parent wants to pack a piece of fruit in their kid's lunch, they shouldn't need to get on a bus to do so!"

But all that will be changed as the site of an abandoned Inglewood warehouse will soon be home to the thirty-fifth Northgate Gonzalez Market with the help of help of California FreshWorks Fund financing. The California FreshWorks Fund is a $264 million public-private partnership loan fund led by The California Endowment and an all-star team of partners to bring affordable healthy food access to underserved communities around the state.

Obama noted that "it's not just about what our kids eat today, but what they feed their children. We're working not just on this generation, but the next one and the next one."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

STARS of SB (the Best of the Best)

Liquid Farm
Last week I was lucky enough to attend the press event for the 9th Annual STARS of Santa Barbara at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. Hosted by Ian Blackburn's Learn About Wine this event was a great way to explore the variety of wineries and wine varieties of Santa Barbara.

And there are a lot.

Below is a couple that of the many I tried, shown brighter and sparked like no other. So if you see them on the wine store shelf or on your favorite restaurant's list you cannot go wrong.
Liquid Farm
Dragonette Cellars, Winemaker
Liquid Farm is a Chardonnay focused project run by husband and wife team Jeff Nelson and Nikki Nelson. The company is Los Angeles based with their wine made in the Lompoc wine ghetto. Liquid Farm debuted with the 2009 vintage in two cuvees: White Hill (named for the chalky white hills of Chablis) and Golden Slope (named for the undulating slopes of Burgundy's Cote d'Or). You can get their wares at K&L, the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, and El VIno wines.
CHECK OUT White Hill Chardonnay, 2010. Baked pear, lemon curd, and cinnamon stick, this wine lasers in on Typicity (the degree to which a wine reflects its varietal origins, which truthfully I didn’t know that definition of until I read it in their Liquid Farm’s info). It’s their mission statement, and mission accomplished.

Winemaker Matthias Pippig produces of Rhone and Burgundy varietal wines, Sanguis makes unique small production blends from the best low yielding cool climate vineyards of Santa Barbara County.
CHECK OUT Las Mujeres, 2007. A blend consisting of 68% Grenache, 28% Syrah, 4% Roussanne, 2% Viognier it was balanced and ever so slightly spicy tasting of Carmel, Vanilla, and Cherry Pie. If you can get your hands on a bottle, Do It!

D‘Alfonso-Curran Wines
Kris Curran & Bruno D’Alfonso, Winemakers
The makers of Foley and Sea Smoke got married and started making wines. They each have their own label; Curran for her, Santayna and BADGE for him, along with the joint project D’Alfonso-Curran Wines . Utilizing nearly 50 years combined experience, they offer a collection of awesome wines.
CHECK OUT All of them. Everyone I tasted was amazing!
Also along with their libations Gioia Wines had some amazing food products that you will soon be able to get on their website. Created by Lauren Berley, Maison de Ferme offers such magical tastings as Herbs de Provence Chocolate and Apple Chutney.