Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bountiful Boston: Stop One

I’ve got to say Boston didn’t start out on the finest foot.  Thursday night before leaving I dropped my phone again, this time rendering the SIM card useless approximately 5 minutes after the Apple store had closed for the night.  I spent a long two hours worrying if I could pull off 4 appointments on a Friday without a phone. 
It turned out that the phone function was to become utterly secondary to GPS.  Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about either as my brilliant friends M&G managed to take humpty apart and put him back together again before I left town.  With a full signal, I headed out on my Friday flight ready to face the day. (Oh, silly...of course, it wasn't a full signal on the plane! I was in 'airplane" mode, naturally.) An added perk was my upgraded seat thanks to S (who I already adore, but now adore even more), especially since the flight was full of screaming children and uptight business men.  I had plenty of my own space to work on the plane which actually inspired me to DO work. (Usually I am overcome by magazines or sleeping on plane rides.)

The farm and lands The Food Project shares with the Trustees of Reservations

Things went slightly downhill when I picked up the rental car to head out to Beverly, MA, on the North Shore, for lunch with the Food Project.  Along with the 100+ degree temperatures, the Boston highway system overwhelmed me before I was even off airport property.  Trapped in tunnels with no apparent exit, my GPS didn't appear to be of much use.  Every few seconds, it would tell me "Turn left on Mass Ave." or "Turn right on Commonwealth." a funny, but not funny ha-ha, way the GPS was apparently guiding me via the streets *above* me, not the subterranean hell in which I was trapped.  In short, let's just say I saw a LOT of Boston and its suburbs before I finally got pointed towards Beverly.   

But, arrive, I did, and The Food Project was incredible.  As I told their outreach director, I'm really not sure if seeing them as one of my first visits will help set a standard of comparison (i.e., aim for *this*) or completely dishearten me that no one can reach this same level.  Of course, they are celebrating 20 years of running the program, so I guess that can't hurt your awesomeness factor.

The view from the Trustees of Reservations' Children's Garden down to the Food Project's Farm and Tents
I arrived at the Long Hill farm (just one of the Food Project's several farms around the Boston area) around 11AM and followed the explicitly helpful directions from their website to park in the correct location.  As I walked towards a cluster of females wearing "Food Project" t-shirts, I knew my contact was not there (he's a male...that was a good giveaway).  The girls, however, were very helpful- making phone calls to ascertain who I was, talking to me about the grounds, showing me in to the farmhouse to meet another Food Project staff member.  It was only after they adeptly managed a stranger in their midst that I found out these girls were actually the kids who work in the Food Project's summer program.  Yep, they were teenagers.  That was my first indication that the Food Project is doing some serious leadership and character building.  I would never have guessed the girls weren't even in college yet for all their poise.

17-year old Keely, 15-year old Marcus and 17-year old Emily speak to luncheon guests about the FP

I spent a 1/2 hour self-touring the grounds of the land shared by the Food Project and the Trustees of Reservations, all of which are very woodsy and New England.  Despite the heat, the humidity was rather low, keeping me from turning into a puddle of sweat.  (Although, I did sneak back to my rental and change from pants to shorts in the back seat for lack of a better location.)  Michael Iceland, the Food Project's Outreach Director, arrived soon after that and began working with the kids to set up lunch.  The meal was prepared by local Gloucester restaurant Market Restaurant who turned the Food Project's harvest into a delicious meal for their summer Community Lunch.  These lunches are a chance for supporters, Board Members and potential donors to hear from the teens involved in the Food Project firsthand.  They are also a chance for the teens to see how the produce they grow can be utilized by a chef in a restaurant setting.  It was great fun to sit down at a table shared with farmers, teens, board members and community members united over fresh, local food.  And, of course, the best part was listening and learning about the Food Project from the kids themselves.  I look forward to sharing more with you about this fabulous, dynamic organization in future posts.

Cucumber and Onion Salad with Fresh Herbs
Beets with the mintiest-mint I have ever tasted.  Yum.
Potato Salad with Shallots and Dill
Squash, Onion, Spinach and Goat Cheese Tart
My lunch table at The Food Project Community Lunch: Farmers, teen participants, community representatives and board members

Look for a full breakdown of The Food Project and their work in a coming post!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In the Nick of Time

Look what's here!

Yeah, my number is blacked out.  I don't want people from the Interwebs calling me.

Of course, I had to have them overnight, express shipped because doing everything just before it absolutely must be done is how I'm rolling lately.   Suddenly this weekend, it struck me that I was about to start the "tour" without business cards. (Other than the lame-o ones with just my name and number that I've basically only used to hand out to boys in bars.  Um, not kidding.) is ten kinds of awesome though and they had these little puppies to me in four days looking all snazzy like I planned them months in advance.  Thank you, Moo.

After a phone conversation this morning solidifying another meeting on my Boston schedule, I briefly had what I thought was a heart attack (for reals, I was contemplating dialing 911...or at least screaming very loudly), but appears to be some sort of spasming muscle near my ribs/diaphragm.  Consequently, I ate a lot of vegetables for lunch and did some yoga just to check my stress levels.  I haven't reached nirvana, but I'd say I'm a bit more serene than how I woke up.  Sometimes breathing just feels GOOD.

I plan on spending the evening at a chill dinner with a friend and then sipping red wine while I study up on The Food Project and Haley House, my first two appointments.  In an ideal world, I'd also finish my piece on Common Good for Zomppa, but after my almost-emergency this morning, I probably won't push my luck.  I need something to do on the plane, right?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Technology is Fallible and Other Lessons

The Washingtonian Mag event at the National Building Museum.  Also, the last site my iPhone was seen working properly.

While I was attending the Washingtonian Magazine "Best of" event last week, my iPhone had a little whoopsies!.  When I bought the phone, my lovely friends at the AT&T store (where I am a regular due to things like slamming my phone into metal poles and flushing it in the toilet of Nationals Stadium) were apprehensive.  "Do you really want to invest in an iPhone with your, er, 'luck'?", they asked.  And, of course, I did.  So, they fitted me with the sturdiest (and most awkward) protective cover that money can buy and sent me on my way, no doubt frowning sternly and hanging their heads as I trotted off, forever the optimist.

I do hate to live up to expectations.

The Best Of party was very colorful this year.  Last year, it was under a big tent (indoors) and was quite dark.  But, the chefs were cuter in 2010- so what can you do?
Yet, here I am.  I discovered that the...let's call it a "slide"my phone took across the metro station last week was perhaps less gentle than I initially thought. At first, everything seemed fine.  Then, in the middle of a treadmill run last week (it's hot as hell here and I have a delicate nature), it suddenly cut out during an episode of 'Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!' (Yes, I'm also a nerd...we covered that in another post.)  It then refused to play ANY public radio podcast in its entirety.  The damn thing still plays Lil' Wayne and Bon Iver but draws the line at NPR podcasts.  Seriously?! (sigh. seriously.)

People line up for various "best" restaurants tastings or drink offerings.  (Yes, yes, the drinks *might* have had something to contribute to the iPhone mishap.)

Mostly, I just make up excuses to photograph the guys working the event.  This guy is rolling corn in huge vats of butter.  And still smiling.  I like that moxie.
This was a spicy bison tartare sample.  Um..YUM!
Now, I find myself wondering what to do about this.  A new iPhone costs big dollars, and it's very possible I can limp this puppy along for a while.  Then again, I have terrible luck, and it could be a degenerative problem (I have this issue with boyfriends a lot) and slowly degrade until it cuts out in Boston right before a crucial phone meeting.  My lazy and practical sides will continue to duke it out for the next 24-48 hours until they come to a resolution I can live with for the weekend.  Won't it be suspenseful to find out if I can navigate a rental car around Boston, make every tightly scheduled appointment in far flung corners of the city AND keep my iPhone functional?  Wheee!  Good times.  I can hardly wait.

Now, excuse me while I go breathe into my paper bag.

The National Building Museum is really the prettiest indoor place in DC, I think.  

{In other news, this week's M@M post is up over at Zomppa.  Check it out here.  Melons and summer dinner parties are this week's topic.}

Pretty bar.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Things in Your Rearview Mirror May Be Closer Than They Appear

DC Frittata Tour Stop #3, Common Good City Farm
Boston.  It's happening.  In four days.  I spent a good 20 minutes this morning with my head between my knees, followed by breathing into a paper bag trying to dispel the sheer panic that has become an alarming part of my daily existence.  I've scheduled meetings.  I booked a rental car.  A hotel room waits.  More particularly, I am taking up precious time of people who have very little of it, so I need to be meticulously prepared.  Yes, yes, this is all becoming quite real.

[Please hold while I do some more deep ugi breathing.]

Shelter area used for cooking demos, classes and farm meetings.  There's electricity and a sink!  Luxuries I don't usually have at demos.

Last week slipped away from me, and this is really a luxury I can not afford.  Writing needs to take place a wee bit more often.  I wish I was better at writing late at night or post-happy hour (or maybe better at just skipping happy hour, hmmm??).  That time frame worked well when I only wrote about dating and cute boys.  Rambling and giggling tirades felt right in that situation.  Not so much here.  Sobriety.  What a drag.  Sigh.

This makes me want to sing the Dead Presidents of the USA's "Peaches" song.  You know the one..."Peaches come in a can, they were put there by a man, who works in a factory."  Except peaches don't.  They come on trees.  Like this one in Common Good City Farm.
A week ago, I continued my unofficial DC Frittata Demo Tour over at Common Good City Farm in the Shaw neighborhood.  The event was for their "Green Tomorrows" program which reaches out to low-income neighbors and provides them with a crate of the farm's produce in return for 2 hours of work in the garden each week.  And what a garden it is!  This place has food bursting out everywhere.  No nook or cranny is unfilled.  I mean, there's a peach tree!  A peach tree! I stumbled around my tour of the area simply gawking.  To think that the farm sits on what was once an abandoned school's baseball field only makes it more spectacular.  It is a true snapshot of an urban garden.  Certainly Common Good will make a worthy first entry in my articles for Food Fighters on Zomppa.  Look for it this weekend!

A view of both garden and surrounding neighborhood

The signs that label the produce are all cute and hand-painted.  (But, this is the cutest.)

You can bring your compost to Common Good!  I can't wait to start doing this.  (As soon as I find a spot to keep it where Lola won't eat it before I get it there.  Argh.)

Look at all that green!  

Speaking of Zomppa, I'm a little behind linking to the M@M piece from last week. (Or maybe I'm just wishful thinking because I have another one, right now.)  Click here and check out some super easy blueberry cornbread and my love letter to DC.

Blueberry Corn Cake- Dig it.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Picture from Capital Fringe Festival official site.  Yes, they really do have prosecco on tap.

Good stuff happened Thursday.  A highlight was the Tactile Dinner Car production at the Capital Fringe Festival.  This was good for two reasons.  One: My friend was the director, and I was able to support her on opening night.  Two: I got to pretend for an hour or so that I am actually a hip Washingtonian that frequents events like this on a regular basis.  The show itself was incredibly creative, interactive and involved me getting a sushi shot (as in, big needle filled with fish).  You want more?  You'll have to go check it out.  Tactile Dinner Car is located in the Fringe tent right next to the spot where you can order beer.  Which I did...since my date cancelled on me the day of the production, and I had to show up all alone at an event with people who actually *are* cool by nature (and not faking it, like me).

To reward myself for braving it alone, I headed over to PS7's bar where Gina Chersevani, great guru of mixology, hooked me up with a lovely meal of a coastal roll, a beef and prosciutto (yes, both) small plate and potato doughnut holes with lime and raspberry coulis (that I pretty much licked off the plate).  I found only one of these offerings actually on the menu, but I'm not sure if that's because they were special orders or I just imbibed a bit too much at the bar to be able to read accurately. (Gina's "daily punch"...geez.  All I can say this morning is "ouchie".) It was my decadent meal of the week.

But, the most exciting news is that I finally made contact with someone at The Food Project in Boston, and it looks like we are going to be able to make something happen.  I'll to need to rent a car and navigate the Boston suburbs, but that's ok.  Just excited to see this place in action. Plus, after bugging all my friends and contacts *again* yesterday (love you, friends!), I have a few more leads in the nationwide hopper.  And lots of volunteers to join me in Detroit.  When I begged for a travel companion, who knew Detroit would be such a hot spot?  Not I.

Lastly, I can't believe it, but I'm kind of in love with Twitter.  Despite being a naysayer and disbeliever for the past year, I am finding it incredible useful for making and pursuing contacts.  I like the food justice community.  I'm kind of crushing on them, too, right now.

Tomorrow is the demo at Common Good City Farm.  Hopefully, I'll have enough time to check out the place and take pictures on this visit.  And, yes, I'm making a frittata.  Again.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Where Am I?

I could seriously use any one of these cocktails.  Doesn't matter...pass one over.

Planning trips to multiple locations simultaneously is sometimes difficult.  I spent a good portion of today confusing locations in Boston and Philly and then having to go back and re-sort them all out again.  I can't blame drinking or exhaustion since I've been getting a solid 8 hours of sleep every night and have skipped my usual glass or two of wine at night.  (Wait...maybe this means I *should* be having a glass or two of wine every night.  Maybe it gives me super powers.  Antioxidants and all, you know?)

Anywho, I resorted to sending out blind emails to people and places in Boston today.  By next week, I'll be stalking people via Twitter (so very fabulous for stalking I'm learning).  I'm trying to get a better jump on Philly to avoid this situation, although, I'm not as concerned because I have such a fabulous contact there.

Here's the summer travel schedule (mostly places I'll be flying into):

Boston: July 22-25
Philly: August 25-29 (maybe a second trip as well because they've got a lot going on there)
Chicago (possibly Detroit, too): September 22-26
NYC: October 13-15 (Ok, I guess this is Fall, but whatever)

Road Trip will start with New England, most likely Oct. 18-19.  My goal is to be on the West Coast by mid-November.  I'll return via the South in late November and finish up the SouthEast in early December.  However, I have slight panic attacks (read: I get nauseous and feel light-headed) when I think about the logistics of this, so I'm going to breathe into a paper bag now and not talk about it anymore.  Perhaps someone in Texas should plan on hosting me for Thanksgiving though.

Also, really hoping to find someone to travel with me for different "legs" of the trip.  (Read: Detroit.) Anyone want to quit their job and see the country?!  Maybe walk a big, furry dog on occasion?

Anyone? Yes?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Things That Are Moving Quickly...and Things't

YOUR nation's capital on July 4th.  That big, bad black cloud is Mr. Humidity's fault, not mine.  This is what happens in July when you build your city on a swamp.  Oh, and I took this from my apartment window.  Yeah, that's right- fireworks and A/C.

I've been told I shouldn't reveal things on this blog that might indicate that I am anything other than a stellar and component human being.  Because, you know, once you put things on the Internet they exist forEVER and stuff. And I do want to start a business at the end of this whole shebang. (I wish someone had mentioned this theory back when I was writing my food and dating blog. Although now, I can forever blame my postings as the reason for my (apparently non-existent) love life.) So, let's just consider a hypothetical.  Suppose someone was really good about envisioning the future and really good at making split-second decisions, but maybe kind-of, sort-of not so good at the "medium range" decision making process.  How would that person fare at planning a multi-state food justice tour?  Hypothetically.

[I'll pause while you consider.]


Today, I made my travel plans for Boston which is in, oh, TWO WEEKS.  That would be all well and good except right now my itinerary for food justice visits is...empty.  Having a wee bit of a contacts issue.  Worked *really* hard today trying to resolve this.

I do, however, have a few stops in mind at least.  A wish list, if you will:

I'll get back to you on how this itinerary shapes up.  Otherwise, I'll just be eating out and flirting with cute boys for 4 days in Boston.  ('s good to have a back-up plan.)

In other news, it's my Melissa@Market day over at  So, click on the link and pop on over for this farm fresh Cherry Salsa recipe.  Oh, and the real truth about gummy things.  

Don't worry- it's totally competent and stellar over there, too.

Monday, July 4, 2011

All a Twitter

The food justice tour is officially underway!  Bread for the City was my first stop.  It was the perfect kick-off as the organization incorporates all three of the areas I am looking at in my travels: production (BFC has a rooftop garden, gleans from local farms, and is organizing an urban orchard harvest for the future); distribution (the farmer's market that I participated in, food pantry and garden exchange programs where volunteers take home some of what they help to grow); and education (cooking classes, home gardening classes, demonstrations at food collections of how to use produce).

Wednesday was demo day (vegetable frittata) at the Bread for the City farmer's market in Shaw.  It was a crystal clear, low humidity and barely 80s kind-of-day.  So, in short, perfect.  The market was incredibly well organized with representatives from all sorts of food outreach non-profits in attendance.  Over 150 low-income families and clients in the Shaw neighborhood dropped by for food samples, face painting, and especially, all the fresh produce gleaned from nearby farms, farmer's markets and gardens.  Check out more about the market and see a slideshow on BFC's blog.  I found both the BFC staff and clients very friendly and really enjoyed myself.  This is why my job never seems like work!  Sunshine, good conversation, delicious fresh food - what more can a girl ask for?  Well, in this case, I asked for a post-market tour of BFC's amazing and ingenious rooftop garden.  This space is so well-utilized, and I was especially impressed by their willingness to use trial and error to find what worked.  I'll be writing more in depth about this phenomenal non-profit after I visit their second location (to cook frittatas at a second market!) in Anacostia at the end of July.

Bread for the City's Rooftop Garden
An unexpected benefit of the BFC market was meeting a representative from Common Good City Farm who not only gave me information about coming over to visit their operation, but also invited me to do another cooking demonstration at an open house garden on Saturday.  I'm excited to check out this urban garden that specializes in meeting the needs of its low-income patrons for both obtaining and using fresh produce.  They've done such amazing work that Prince Charles recently visited on his trip through DC in early June.

On Saturday, I was back at the H St. FreshFarm Market doing my monthly demo using produce in a simple, straightforward way.  Slowly but surely, FreshFarm is increasing the number of SNAP recipients using their federal dollars at farmer's markets.  The Double Dollars program (where the market raises funds to match federal dollars up to a certain amount each week so participants can buy twice the amount of produce) is starting to gain word of mouth.  It was great to see almost three times the amount of users at this week's market and even better to see them want to replicate the zucchini fritters I was demonstrating!

(Find the recipe for zucchini fritters here. )

This week, I'll be finalizing the schedule for my "big city" trips to Boston, Philly, Chicago/Detroit and NYC.  Look for that later this week, and please shout out suggestions for non-profits, restaurants and lodging here or on our page on Facebook (Food Fighters if you haven't "liked" us yet).  Better yet, contacts if you have them!

Finally, Food Fighters is now on Twitter.  @FoodFightersUS is our handle.  (Is that how you say it?  I have no idea.  I'm just hoping to maintain propriety at all costs.  Technology baffles me, so keep your fingers crossed.)  I'm hoping to make use of Twitter though, particularly in gaining recommendations for dining/lodging/other road logistics.  Hopefully, I'll figure it out by trial and error over the summer.

A DC sunset last week.