Tag Archives: dining

Obama administration announces rule to deal with illegal fishing, seafood fraud

The Obama administration on Dec. 8 issued a final rule to implement the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to address illegal fishing and seafood fraud in the United States.

This rule will require imported seafood at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud to be traced from the fishing boat or farm to the U.S. border, helping to stop illegally caught and mislabeled seafood from entering the United States.

This is a statement by Oceana senior campaign director Beth Lowell:

Today’s announcement is a groundbreaking step towards more transparency and traceability in the seafood supply chain. We applaud President Obama for his ambitious plan to require traceability for imported seafood ‘at-risk’ of illegal fishing and seafood fraud.

For the first time ever, some imported seafood will now be held to the same standards as domestically caught fish, helping to level the playing field for American fishermen and reducing the risk facing U.S. consumers.

But the problem doesn’t stop here. We must continue to build on this important work and expand seafood traceability to include all seafood sold in the U.S. and extend it throughout the entire supply chain.

Without full-chain traceability for all seafood, consumers will continue to be cheated, hardworking, honest fishermen will continue to be undercut, and the long-term productivity of our oceans will continue to be in jeopardy.

American consumers deserve to know more about their seafood, including what kind of fish it is, and how and where it was caught or farmed. While Oceana celebrates today’s announcement, there’s still more to do in the fight against illegal fishing and seafood fraud.

 

About Oceana…

Oceana’s investigations of fish, shrimp, crab cakes and most recently salmon, in retail markets and restaurants found that, on average, one-third of the seafood examined in these studies was mislabeled — the product listed on the label or menu was different from what the buyer thought they purchased, often a less desirable or lower-priced species. Oceana has observed threatened species being sold as more sustainable, expensive varieties replaced with cheaper alternatives and fish that can cause illness substituted in place of those that are safer to eat.

In September, Oceana released a report detailing the global scale of seafood fraud, finding that on average, one in five of more than 25,000 samples of seafood tested worldwide was mislabeled. In the report, Oceana reviewed more than 200 published studies from 55 countries, on every continent except Antarctica, and found seafood fraud in 99.9 percent of the studies. The studies reviewed also found seafood mislabeling in every sector of the seafood supply chain: retail, wholesale, distribution, import/export, packaging/processing and landing.

The report also highlighted recent developments in the European Union to crack down on illegal fishing and improve transparency and accountability in the seafood supply chain. According to Oceana’s analysis, preliminary data out of the EU suggests that catch documentation, traceability and consumer labeling are feasible and effective at reducing seafood fraud.

For more information about Oceana’s campaign to stop seafood fraud, please visit www.oceana.org/fraud.

Gifts for those who cook and those who just eat

Barbeque and southern foods expert Elizabeth Karmel rounded up her favorite products of the year and suggests these gifts for those who cook — and those who just like to eat:

GIFTS THAT GIVE BACK

  • Williams-Sonoma has teamed up with Share our Strength and celebrity food folks including Ina Garten, Chrissy Teigen and Trisha Yearwood to create artwork for the No Kid Hungry Kitchen Spatula. Proceeds from the silicone spatulas benefit No Kid Hungry in its campaign to end childhood hunger in the U.S. Available in stores and online, 30 percent of the proceeds go to charity. $12.95

STOCKING STUFFERS

  • Sukeno Donut Socks are the perfect (calorie-free) gift for the doughnut lover in your life. Designed to fit both men and women, they come folded up and packaged like a single doughnut, and are available in six different “flavors” such as Oreo Ring, Rainbow Sprinkles and Berry Sprinkles. $15.50.
  • I use Revolo porcelain crumpled cups every single morning for coffee, and I love that they now have cups with a Christmas theme. The cups are perfect for coffee, cappuccino, hot chocolate or tea. I’ve also been known to use the porcelain cups for cocktails as well. The crumpled cup feels good in your hand because of the indentation that the crumpled part at the top makes in the round cup. A set of two cups is available exclusively on their website. You can choose between a set of 1 red and 1 Moose design, or 2 other holiday motifs, Gingerbread and Santa. $39.99 for two.

FOR COOKS

  • The Wustfhof classic 8-inch Uber Cook’s Knife can be used to chop, slice, dice and mince everything. This essential, multi-purpose knife is a workhorse in the kitchen. The knife takes the traditional features of an 8-inch chef’s knife and adds a bigger “belly” to create a smoother motion for all chopping, mincing and dicing tasks. I like to think of the knife as a mash-up of the popular Santoku knife and a classic chef’s knife. $139.99.
  • I had heard that the Breville Toaster oven was so good that it could rival my wall oven, but I didn’t believe it until I tested the new Smart Oven Pro. I made a roast, a chicken, banana bread, and cookies as well as toast and they all came out as good if not better than in my oven. It also re-heated pizza to perfection. If you don’t have the counter space for the PRO, get the Smart Oven mini which puts other small models to shame. $269.99.

EDIBLE GIFTS

  • Ice Cider (think dessert wine) made from heirloom apples … can you think of anything more appropriate or delicious to serve with a warm apple crisp, apple cake or a nice wedge of cheddar cheese? Eleanor and Albert Leger, founders of Eden Ice Cider, produce a rich full-bodied ice cider from their apple orchards where they grow both sweet and sour heirloom varietals. A 375 ml bottle is made from more than 8 pounds of apples. They offer eight ice cider options including honeycrisp, as well as a smaller 187 ml limited release Brandy Barrel Heirloom Blend Ice Cider. $25.00 for a 375 ml bottle.
  • I met Brenda “Blondie” Coffman at last year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival. One bite of her buttercream-iced cookies and her s’mores bars transported me to cookie nirvana. I gave my sweet-toothed father a gift of the Blondie’s Cookies cookie-of-the-month club and it quickly became his favorite gift. The beauty of this gift is that you choose how many months — from 1 to 12— and the cookies are different each month so you never get tired of the assortment. Each from-scratch cookie is individually wrapped and can be frozen. $29.99 per box.

KITCHEN ESSENTIALS

  • The Cuisinart egg cooker changed my egg- eating life. Sure I can boil a soft-boiled egg but sometimes it’s more cooked than I like it, especially if I get busy doing something else while I’m boiling the eggs. But this Egg Central uses steam to cook the eggs which also makes them easy to peel as the steam prevents the shell from sticking to the white — just make sure to load them with the smaller point of the egg facing down. All I have to do is crack it under cold running water and the shell literally slips off. The Egg Central also comes with attachments for poached eggs and omelets. $39.
  • The brainchild of John Pittner who owns a kitchen shop in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, this acacia-wood cutting board is made with a slight concave center that holds exactly 1 cup of liquid. It also has heavy-duty silicone treads on each corner so that the board won’t slip on your counter — especially helpful when carving. $49.99.

Gourmet ganja? Marijuana dining is growing up, slowly

How to set a tone of woodsy chic at a four-course candlelight dinner served under the stars in the Colorado foothills:

Live musicians and flowers, check.

Award-winning cuisine, check.

Beer and wine pairings with each course, check.

Marijuana pairings? Oh, yes.

The 100 diners at this $200-a-plate dinner smoked a citrus-smelling marijuana strain to go with a fall salad with apples, dates and bacon, followed by a darker, sweeter strain of pot to accompany a main course of slow-roasted pork shoulder in a mole sauce with charred root vegetables and rice.

And with dessert? Marijuana-infused chocolate, of course, grated over salted caramel ice cream and paired with coffee infused with non-intoxicating hemp oil.

The diners received small glass pieces and lighters to smoke the pairings, or they could have their marijuana rolled into joints by professional rollers set up next to a bartender pouring wine.

Welcome to fine dining in Weed Country.

The marijuana industry is trying to move away from its pizza-and-Doritos roots as folks explore how to safely serve marijuana and food. Chefs are working with marijuana growers to chart the still-very-unscientific world of pairing food and weed. And a proliferation of mass-market cheap pot is driving professional growers to develop distinctive flavors and aromas to distinguish themselves in a crowded market.

“We talk with the (marijuana) grower to understand what traits they saw in the marijuana … whether it’s earthy notes, citrus notes, herbal notes, things that we could play off,” said Corey Buck, head of catering for Blackbelly Restaurant, a top-rated farm-to-table restaurant that provided the meal.

The grower of one of the pot strains served at the dinner, Alex Perry, said it won’t be long until marijuana’s flavors and effects are parsed as intently as wine profiles. But that’s in the future, he conceded.

“It’s still looked down upon as a not-very-sophisticated thing,” said Perry, who grew a strain called Black Cherry Soda for his company, Headquarters Cannabis.

Holding his nose to a small jar of marijuana, Perry said, “If I asked my mom or my dad what they smell, they’re going to say, ‘skunk,’ or, ‘It smells like marijuana.’ But it’s like wine or anything else. There’s more flavor profile there.”

But chefs and pot growers trying to explore fine dining with weed face a legal gauntlet to make pot dinners a reality, even where the drug is as legal as beer.

Colorado’s marijuana retailers can’t also sell food, so guests at this dinner had to buy a separate $25 “goodie bag” from a dispensary for the pot pairings.

The bags came with tiny graters for diners to shave the pot chocolate onto their ice cream themselves; the wait staff could not legally serve a dish containing pot, even though the event was private and limited to people over 21. Diners were shuttled to and from the event by private bus, to avoid potentially stoned drivers leaving the dinner.

Marijuana dining may become more accessible in coming months, though.

Denver voters this fall will consider a proposal to allow marijuana use at some bars and restaurants as long as the drug isn’t smoked, with the potential for new outdoor marijuana smoking areas.

And two of the five states considering recreational marijuana in November _ California and Maine _ would allow some “social use” of the drug, leaving the potential for pot clubs or cafes.

Currently, Alaska is the only legal weed state that allows on-site marijuana use, with “tasting rooms” possible in commercial dispensaries. But that state is still working on rules for how those consumption areas would work.

For now, marijuana dining is limited to folks who hire private chefs to craft infused foods for meals served in their homes, or to special events like this one, limited to adults and set outside to avoid violating smoke-free air laws.

Guests at the Colorado dinner were admittedly experimenting with pairing weed and food, many giggling as they toked between bites. It became apparent late in the evening that a rich meal doesn’t counteract marijuana’s effects.

“What was I just saying?” one diner wondered aloud before dessert. “Oh, yeah. About my dog. No, your dog. Somebody’s dog.”

The man trailed off, not finishing his thought. His neighbor patted him on the back and handed him a fresh spoon for the ice cream.

Diners seemed genuinely curious about how to properly pair marijuana and food without getting too intoxicated.

“I am not a savant with this,” said Tamara Haddad of Lyons, who was waiting to have one of her pot samples professionally rolled into a joint. “I enjoy (marijuana) occasionally. I enjoy it with friends. I’m learning more about it.”

She laughed when asked whether marijuana can really move beyond its association with junk-food cravings.

“I have also munched out after being at the bar and drinking martinis and thinking, ‘Taco Bell sounds great,”” she said.

The po-boy: A messy history

History has it that the po-boy was invented by the Martin brothers, Benny and Clovis, to feed striking streetcar drivers in New Orleans in 1929.

According to an account on the website of the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival, Benny Martin once said: “We fed those men free of charge until the strike ended. Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming, one of us would say, ‘Here comes another poor boy.’”

It is true that the Martin brothers wrote a letter, addressed to the striking drivers and printed in at least one local newspaper, in which they promised to feed the men. “Our meal is free to any members of Division I94,” they wrote, omitting any description of what that meal might be.

But history is often not neat.

The explanation for how things came to be can change over time. What is accepted as gospel in one generation may bear little resemblance to what was previously believed. Sometimes what sticks is the best story. This is how legends are made.

The generally accepted and oft-repeated story of how the celebrated po-boy sandwich was invented first appeared in a New Orleans newspaper in 1969, 40 years after the streetcar strike. But before that the tale was different.

In 1933, The New Orleans States wrote about the Martin brothers as they marked their grand opening at a new location, a story that appeared alongside a large advertisement paid for by the shop. The States told how the Martins came to the city from Raceland and began selling “sandwiches of half a loaf of French bread generously filled with whatever one desired, from roast beef to oysters” near the old French Market. They later moved to the corner of Dumaine and Decatur before returning to the French Market, where they stayed until 1929. Based on this version of events, Benny and Clovis Martin were selling the sandwich years before the labor dispute sent streetcar drivers to the picket line.

The States then described how the sandwich got its unusual name, an account similar to those repeated throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

“From the hard-pressed truck farmers of St. Bernard, who gathered daily on the curb along North Peters Street with their produce, came the name of Poor Boy,” the paper wrote.

***

There are other mysteries about the official history of the po-boy. One involves New Orleans’ most famous son.

In his autobiography, jazz great Sidney Bechet writes of joining with a cornet player he had never heard play to promote a show at a local theater, presumably sometime in the 1910s.

“I hired Louis (Armstrong) to come with me on this advertising, and, you know, it was wonderful,” Bechet writes in Treat It Gentle, published in 1960.

“Anyway, I gave him 50 c., I gave the drummer, Little Mack, 50 c., and that meant I made a dollar; the leader always kept the double. That was the first time I ever heard Louis play the cornet. He played the cornet then, though he went to the trumpet later.

“We went out and bought some beer with the money and got those sandwiches, Poor Boys, they’re called — a half a loaf of bread split open and stuffed with ham. We really had good times.”

It is possible that Bechet learned of the po-boy later and embellished the story of his early gig with Armstrong. But it’s worth noting that Bechet’s exposure to New Orleans later in his life was limited. He was long gone from the city by the time of the 1929 streetcar strike during which the po-boy was supposedly invented. Bechet moved north in 1917, years before Benny and Clovis Martin had even arrived in the city. Armstrong left New Orleans, too, moving to Chicago in 1922.

According to John Chilton in his Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz, the clarinetist who wrote of eating po-boys as a young man became estranged from his family and rarely returned to his hometown. Bechet came back to New Orleans for 10 days in 1944, then played a one-night stand at Municipal Auditorium in 1945, a dark period when the po-boy seemed at risk of extinction. (On Nov. 11, 1946, the States wrote that “the ‘poor boy’ sandwich, a New Orleans invention whose notoriety ran ahead of its nutrient worth, is today little heard of in the land of its birth.”)

Other than that, it’s unclear whether Bechet ever set foot in Louisiana again.

***

The po-boy name first saw the light of day in the New Orleans press in late 1929, four months after the start of the streetcar strike, in a story about a high-profile murder trial in Pointe a la Hache. The scandalous case involved a man who had fallen off a steamship into the Mississippi River in what was first thought to be a suicide. After his body was recovered, though, it was discovered that he had been shot. A woman traveling with the dead man claimed she had become engaged to the ship’s second officer; he was charged with murder.

The legal drama attracted a circus of journalists and curious onlookers at the Plaquemines Parish Courthouse on Nov. 4, 1929. At 1 p.m. that day, wrote Meigs O. Frost of The New Orleans States, “human appetites began to assert themselves.”

“Lawyers and reporters went or sent to a nearby lunch stand,” Frost wrote.

“Presently the tree-shaded courthouse lawn was dotted with groups gnawing at the huge sandwiches New Orleans knows as the ‘po-boy sandwich’ — whole loaves of French bread split lengthwise and filled with a freight of ham, sausage or cheese — and drinking from bottles of pop.”

The ship officer was eventually exonerated. He and the woman, socialite Gloria Rouzer (the ex-wife of British film director Michael Powell), were both freed.

***

Lunch stands in New Orleans were serving sandwiches that bear a strong resemblance to modern po-boys long before the po-boy name became famous, some of them on the Uptown side of Canal Street. In 1917, for example, the Comus Soda Fountain on Common Street and St. Charles Avenue advertised an oyster sandwich for 10 cents.

“Four delicious fried oysters in a toasted, buttered French loaf with piece of pickle, wrapped in sanitary wax paper sealed bag, for 10 c.,” the ad says. “We keep them hot and ready to take with you.”

But even in 1917, the sandwich that would be king was not new to New Orleans. More than a half-century earlier, Sam’s Saloon on St. Charles Avenue began selling oysters in sandwiches, instead of the then-standard metal containers.

“A big loaf of bread is ‘dug out’ — reserving a crust end as a stop — any quantity of delicious fried or broiled oysters is piled in; the top is neatly put on; and a gentleman can carry home his loaf and his ‘dozen’ — all hot — or have them brought home, for a lunch or a relish to dinner, without putting himself out of ‘tin’ to pay for ‘tin,’” wrote The Daily Picayune on Dec. 7, 1851.

Sam’s Saloon was operated by John McClure, the founder of the New Orleans Crescent, which three years earlier had brought Walt Whitman to the city to write for the newspaper. (Whitman lasted only a few months in New Orleans.)

“The oysters are ‘Sam’s’ are not remarkable as fish, but as oysters they are ‘good,”” wrote the Picayune.

***

There are tantalizing fragments of history surrounding the po-boy name. On New Year’s Day in 1931, Andrew Battistella ran an advertisement in the New Orleans Item touting his sandwich shop in the French Market. “New Year’s greetings to all,” the small ad says. “French Market coffee and lunch stand. A. Battistella, Prop. Originator of the Poor Boy’s Sandwich.”

Battistella gives his telephone number in the ad: Main 1407. Years earlier, that phone number had been used by a prominent local real estate agent named Armstrong Donaldson. Donaldson ran his own advertisements in the local papers in the 1910s and 1920s. He signed them “A. Donaldson, poor man’s agent.”

In the mid-1920s, the Bienville Meat Market, which had several locations in the city, regularly advertised its prices “in our flyproof markets.” One fixture: the “poor boy’s special for hard times,” stew meat for 10 cents per pound. It was perhaps not a bad base for making a sandwich, though any connection to a restaurant is unclear.

***

While the origins of the po-boy and its name are murky, it is clear that the Martin brothers perfected the sandwich, helped make it famous and bequeathed it with many of the defining characteristics that we know today, the bread shape and consistency chief among them. There were some key differences, though, according to Nick Gagliano, a lawyer who lives in Metairie.

Gagliano, who was 3 years old the year of the streetcar strike, remembers going to the Martins’ sandwich shop as a child.

“There were several things that stood out for me,” he said in an email this year, “one being their house-made mayo that was like no other that I ever tasted. The lettuce was shredded, which was a first-time experience for me, and there was very little gravy, which allowed the crisp French bread to taste like bread (not like the sodden mess you get today from some shops).

“I do not recall them asking me if I wanted it dressed, nor do I recall whether they offered tomato,” he said. “I simply ordered a roast beef sandwich with mayo and lettuce.

“I can say it was what I would call a modest well-balanced sandwich, where the meat, gravy, bread and fixin’s did not overwhelm each other, and which you could easily eat with your hands, without fork or knife or a week’s supply of napkins.”

An AP member exchange feature.

14 Wisconsin groups in national Good Food guide

Fourteen Wisconsin-based groups are listed in the annual Good Food Org Guide announced this week.

The guide includes these Wisconsin-based groups: Hunger Task Force, Wellspring, Wisconsin Local Food Network, Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, REAP Food Group, Central Rivers Farmshed, Community GroundWorks, FairShare CSA Coalition, FRESH Food Connection, Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative, Madison Waste Watchers, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and Milwaukee Urban Gardens.

The James Beard Foundation (www.jamesbeard.org) and Food Tank (www.foodtank.com), along with an advisory group of more than 70 food system experts, developed the third annual Good Food Org Guide, which features 1,000 food-related organizations across the United States.

This guide highlights organizations that are “doing exceptional and dedicated work” in the areas of food and agriculture, nutrition and health, hunger and obesity and food justice.

The guide, expanded for 2016, incorporates new initiatives from across the nation and will be released at the seventh annual James Beard Food Conference in New York City Oct. 17-18.

”Working in collaboration with the James Beard Foundation, we are proud to bring the total number of listed organizations to the 1,000 mark. It is a testament to the tremendous amount of growth and support we have seen in the ‘good food’ sector,” said Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank.

She said the vision and objective of the annual publication is to focus attention on the organizations “that work every day in fields, kitchens, classrooms, laboratories, businesses, town halls and Congress to create a better food system.”

Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation, said, ”The Good Food Org Guide continues to serve as a useful tool for individuals looking for opportunities to improve their local food system. The guide’s user-friendly design makes it the go-to resource for identifying nearby organizations doing good work in the areas of food justice, hunger, and agriculture.

Experts, including past recipients of the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award and food and agriculture leaders, collaborated to generate the list.

Here’s a closer look at the Wisconsin institutions, as described by the creators of the guide:

  • Hunger Task Force

The Hunger Task Force, based in Milwaukee, operates a food bank that provides healthy and nutritious food free of charge to a local network of food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters, as well as a 200-plus acre farm that grows fruits and vegetables for the express purpose of feeding the hungry.

In addition, a dietitian educator teaches a nutrition education curriculum to children in local elementary schools. Kids learn about nutrition, healthy eating and how to make healthy recipes. During the growing season, these kids make regular field trips to The Farm where they get to work in our school garden and demonstration kitchen, and get hands-on experience.

  • Wellspring

Wellspring is a nonprofit education and retreat center and organic farm whose mission is to inspire and teach people to grow, prepare and eat healthy food. In so doing, Wellspring hopes to transform food systems and build community. Programs in wellness education, ecology and gardening, the arts and personal growth have been offered to the public since 1982. The group offers a variety of cooking classes and workshops on horticulture and permaculture. It also operates a Farm to School program in addition to their Summer Farm Camp.

  • Wisconsin Local Food Network

The Wisconsin Local Food Network is a collection of individuals and organizations that all share a common vision for Wisconsin: a state that offers communities and businesses a local food system that supports sustainable farms of all sizes, a strong infrastructure for those farms and supporting food business to thrive, and affordable access to healthy locally grown food for all Wisconsin residents.

  • Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association

Established in 1948, the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association is one of the oldest organizations to be included in our guide.

Wisconsin is the third largest potato producing state in the country and this coalition of 140 farmers aims to educate Wisconsinites on their practices, research more sustainable growing methods, and create a social network of farmers where information can flow easily.

The group also operates the “spudmoblie,” a mobile potato farm that travels around the state educating children on the art of growing potatoes.

  • Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems

The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems is a research center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The outreach and training programs are helping farmers, educators, crop consultants, businesses, and eaters put these research nonprofit land trust committed to the acquisition and preservation of land in Milwaukee.

Through partnering with neighborhood residents, communities cultivate healthy, locally sustained gardens and improve the quality of life in Milwaukee.

  • REAP Food Group

REAP Food Group wants to see locally produced food on every plate in Southern Wisconsin. The organization has also produced a Farm Fresh Atlas that maps the food organizations, organic restaurants and farmers’ markets in the region. REAP’s Farm to School program partners with the Madison Metropolitan School District to offer fresh, healthy food at school. The program includes classroom education, local food procurement for school meals and a snack program that serves a fresh, locally grown fruit or vegetable to over 5,000 low-income students every week.

  • Central Rivers Farmshed

Perhaps the first “farmshed” in the country, Central Rivers defines the term simply as a network of people, businesses, organizations and productive lands that create a local food economy. Similar in concept to a foodshed, the farmshed idea helps envision and strengthen a community’s relationship with regional landscape. Farmshed organizes events, resources and partnerships to support a local food economy by providing opportunities for participation, education, cooperation and action to support a local food economy in Central Wisconsin.

  • Community GroundWorks

Since 2001, Community GroundWorks has managed Troy Gardens, 26 acres of public protected farmland, prairie and woodlands in Madison. Hands-on educational programs for children and adults, in gardening, urban agriculture, nutrition and environmental protection, allow Community GroundWorks to realize a goal of connecting people with nature and food.

  • FairShare CSA Coalition

The FairShare CSA Coalition, based in Madison makes CSAs more accessible by linking consumers to local farmers through outreach, education, community building and resource sharing. Annual FairShare CSA Coalition events includes the FairShare CSA Open House, a free event where attendees can learn more about CSA products and meet local farmers. The coalition also organizes two annual fundraising bike tours called Bike the Barns and Bike the Barns West, which work highlight local farms and food.

  • FRESH Food Connection

FRESH Food Connection is a group of farms in southern Wisconsin sustainably producing vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, cheeses, canned goods, wool and other farm commodities. As farmers seeking to produce in harmony with nature and with the least environmental impact, they sign onto a sustainability pledge that enumerates the principles they follow and adhere their practices to those sustainable standards.

  • Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative

The Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative is a farmer-led cooperative owned by the producers and the Wisconsin Farmers Union. They are dedicated to securing the most profitable markets for producer-members. The hub makes it easy for the retail, institutional, and foodservice sectors to buy locally. The organization helps local farmers by providing them with the opportunity, through marketing, sales, aggregation and logistics, to access wholesale markets they could not access easily before.

  • Madison Waste Watchers

Madison Waste Watchers is a Madison initiative dedicated to waste reduction in the city. The program provides recycling and composting education to communities to help reduce the amount of waste produced. The organization has been busy all through 2015, hosting a number of local food events and offering internships for youths to learn more about sustainable farming.

  • Michael Fields Agricultural Institute

The Michael Fields Agricultural Institute promotes the ecological, social and economic resiliency of food and farming systems through programs like their Crop and Soil Research program, which uses classic plant breeding and modern screening methods to produce plants that perform highly and can be used in organic systems. In addition, the Public Policy program engages grassroots support for sustainable agriculture while helping farmers and others take full advantage of sustainable agriculture programs.

  • Milwaukee Urban Gardens

Milwaukee Urban Gardens, a program of Groundwork Milwaukee, is a mobile potato farm that travels around the state educating children on the art of growing potatoes.

Positive reviews for 1st pizza ATM

Customers will soon be able to get pizza from an ATM at one Ohio University.

Xavier University in Cincinnati has partnered with a French company to install the first Pizza ATM in North America.

The company, Paline, says the machine will hold 70 pizzas at once.

Customers will be able to use a touch screen to pick one of the $10 pizzas, which will be heated for several minutes, placed in a cardboard box and ejected through a slot.

Paline says the pizza dispensers have been in Europe for 14 years.

They’re typically in small towns, at gas stations or pizzerias.

Xavier’s marketing director for auxiliary services, Jennifer Paiotti, tells WCPO-TV that she’s a New Yorker but considers the machine-dispensed pizza to be the best she’s ever had.

Foraging for food on holiday in England

“This,” said our guide James Feaver, “is our main course.” We were standing in front of a dung heap in a high meadow in the English countryside.

Pushing up out of the ooze was a low-growing weed. He bent down, plucked a sprig and held it up.

“Fat hen. Humans have eaten it for thousands of years. We’re going to need a lot of it.”

After a glance among us, my family and I set about picking with an approximation of gusto. When you are foraging for your food you can’t be too squeamish about little things like cow dung beneath your fingers.

I have long been fascinated with the idea of living off the land, finding sustenance among the wild plants that teem in hedges and fields. So a week’s holiday in Dorset, in southwest England — a county bursting with picture-book countryside — gave me the chance to see how abundant nature’s larder really is.

Foraging is increasingly popular in the U.K. and there are many teachers to choose from. On a recommendation, I contacted Hedgerow Harvest and booked a half-day course for me, my partner Fon and our 7-year-old son, Jimmy.

On a classic English summer’s day — meaning we experienced all weather conditions in one afternoon — we met up with James Feaver, who gave up office work for professional foraging eight years ago. He now runs courses in south and southwest England, but mostly in Dorset, his adopted home.

We met him in the village of Toller Porcorum, donned rubber boots and light waterproof jackets, and set off in search of wild provender.

We spent the next few hours walking through lanes hedged in with soaring banks, down tracks drenched in birdsong, beside clear streams and across uncut meadows in search of ingredients for a three-course meal.

If like me you can’t tell wild sorrel from a blade of grass, this quickly becomes daunting. But Feaver has gimlet eyes and an encyclopedic knowledge of the edible.

High in a hedgerow, a spray of tiny white flowers stood proud of the foliage. He hooked it with his hazel stick, pulled it down to picking height, and inhaled.

“The smell of summer,” he said.

For centuries, country-folk have used the fragrant elderflower to add a zesty flavor to food and drink. Now it would bring its zing to our dessert. We plucked head after head. I lifted up Jimmy so he could join the harvest.

In quick order we found red currants, wild mint and tiny, sweet, wild strawberries. The wicker basket James provided — a nice touch — began to fill.

So far so idyllic, but this arcadia comes with thorns.

Of the many rules of foraging the most important is this: Don’t eat anything unless you are 100 percent certain you know what it is. Some edible plants look uncannily like ones that are deadly. For example, cow parsley goes well in salads but is easily mistaken for something you wouldn’t want near your dinner plate: hemlock.

Other rules include don’t uproot anything (it’s illegal), only take sustainably and don’t pick from ground-hugging plants near footpaths “where dogs can wee on them.” That was Jimmy’s favorite rule.

Time was getting on. From Toller Porcorum we drove down steep, narrow lanes to a nearby beach. Here you can see the stunning coastline sweep in an arc from Portland in Dorset right into neighboring east Devon. A trove of fossils has earned it the name Jurassic Coast and UNESCO World Heritage status.

But we weren’t there for beauty or geology. We were there for sea beet leaves, a close relative of garden spinach that grows in low belts along the pebbly foreshore. More free food, right at our feet.

But don’t go thinking you can kiss goodbye to supermarkets just because your eyes have been opened. That’s not the idea of the course.

“Foraging isn’t really about survival,” Feaver had said at the start. “It’s about taking the best of the wild and adding it to conventional ingredients to make great-tasting food.”

Great tasting? We’d be the judges of that.

Back at our holiday cottage, Feaver supervised the preparation of the feast. For starters, sea beet soup. For main course, fat hen pesto bake, with more fat hen as a side dish, washed down with sparkling elderflower wine. To finish, elderflower and gooseberry fool, garnished with wild strawberries.

It was a revelation, especially the sea beet soup which was one of the most delicious soups I have ever had: rich, velvety and homey, like swallowing a big bowl of contentment.

It had been a long day. We’d started at 1:30 p.m. and the last spoon didn’t scrape its empty bowl till 9 p.m.

As he packed away his stick, basket and scissors, Feaver said that after doing the course, “people look at the countryside with different eyes.”

Yes, I thought. With eyes like dinner plates.

 

If You Go…

HEDGEROW HARVEST: http://www.hedgerow-harvest.com .

Our course with James Feaver cost 150 pounds (about $198) for two adults and a child. Price varies by number of people and itinerary.

ASSOCIATION OF FORAGERS: List by region, http://www.foragers-association.org.uk

 

Everyone loves ‘Brunch’ — now downtown’s premier breakfast spot

There’s a new eggs Benedict and Bloody Mary spot in the Cawker Building downtown, and it has an appropriate name: Brunch.

Owner Morgan Sampson is betting that a restaurant devoted to everyone’s favorite weekend meal will be successful in this as-yet-unlucky dining venue. Espana Tapas House couldn’t make the location work and, most recently, Agave Southwest Bar & Grill shuttered after less than two years. Brunch will open June 25, just in time to serve up its first Saturday morning meals.

“Brunch is something that everyone can enjoy,” says Sampson. “The other restaurants that occupied this space were all dinner places that were focused on one particular kind of cuisine and we’re going to be a family-friendly breakfast and lunch spot. We’re definitely going to break the curse of the Cawker Building.”

Sampson has enlisted the culinary talents of Joe Glisch, formerly of Spin Milwaukee, Ale Asylum, and All Purpose, to cook up classic breakfast fare with a gourmet twist.

“While I enjoy cooking and I consider myself a decent cook, I’m definitely not a chef,” says Sampson. “My husband and I decided to simply ask Chef Glisch if he’d be interested in working with us and he was very enthusiastic. He is a ‘from scratch’ kind of guy. Even our meat rubs are completely homemade.”

Sampson’s favorite menu item at Brunch is the steak and eggs. It’s one of the pricier items, at around $22 to $25, but the 16 oz. prime rib, seasoned with a special brunch rub, is worth the cost. Sampson also raves about the avocado toast, the three varieties of eggs Benedict — one including soft-shell crab — and the fresh maple syrup that will be drizzled over breakfast standbys like pancakes and French toast. There are also numerous options for those on gluten-free and vegetarian diets.

Brunch’s cheerful color scheme brightens up the corner of Plankinton and Wells, with sunshine-yellow walls designed to draw passersby into the open and airy space. In fact, during my interview with Sampson, a resident of one of the Cawker Building’s condos popped in to ask when the restaurant would be opening.

During the NFL season, Sampson is hoping that football fans will kick off their Sundays around the Brunch bar, watching the 12 p.m. games (Brunch closes at 3 p.m.), drinking local beers, and admiring the collection of quirky alarm clocks that line the ledge above the TVs.

“That was my husband’s touch,” says Sampson. “Every day for the past month, an alarm clock has arrived on our doorstep. He’s been going a little crazy on Amazon buying these quirky clocks, but it’s his fun way of being part of Brunch.” And fun will certainly be a big part of the culture here — staff members will be decked out in robin’s-egg-blue t-shirts with “Brunch So Hard” printed on the back.

So, make sure that you set your own alarm clock to have brunch downtown Milwaukee this weekend. You may just discover your new favorite spot for everyone’s favorite meal.

THE QUICK BITE

Name: Brunch

Location: 800 N. Plankinton Ave., Milwaukee

Premise: Classic breakfast and lunch fare with gourmet, made-from-scratch flare.

Menu samples: Fried-egg-and-bacon topped brunch burger ($14); chicken and waffle sandwich ($12); steak and eggs ($22-25)

Bite-size review: Finally, a bright and cheerful breakfast and lunch spot in the heart of Downtown Milwaukee.

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market to open 1st Wisconsin store

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, a rapidly growing Midwest specialty retailer focused on healthy and organic products and groceries, will open its first Wisconsin store in Milwaukee’s North End.

The store is at 470 E. Pleasant Street and will first open at 7 a.m. Wednesday, June 8.

That morning, the first 250 shoppers in line will receive a free tote bag filled with Fresh Thyme offerings.

Also, at 3:45 p.m. June 7, the store will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony with city officials, including Mayor Tom Barrett and Ald. Nik Kovak, as well as Lakefront Brewery owner Russ Klisch.

“We’re thrilled to be opening our first store in Wisconsin and to fill a much needed gap in downtown Milwaukee. We love the city and look forward to serving the community,” Fresh Thyme CEO Chris Sherrell said in a news release. “The Fresh Thyme mission is to service our customers like family and to offer healthy good food at really good prices.”

As part of the grand opening, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market has scheduled a variety of family-friendly events on-site with local partners.

Fresh Thyme, in an announcement for the store, said it is passionate about connections to the local community, from stocking local products and produce to hiring local residents and partnering with nonprofit efforts that benefit the residents.

Fresh Thyme has filled 100 full-time and part-time positions for the Milwaukee store.

Local residents seeking employment opportunities are encouraged to view existing openings by visiting freshthyme.com/careers.

The Halal Guys spices up Milwaukee with its first location in Wisconsin

The Halal Guys’ food is so good an obsessed Midwesterner once used frequent flier miles to visit the original food cart in Manhattan, according to Dustin LeFebvre, who recently opened a first Wisconsin location.

Now Milwaukeeans can enjoy the Guys’ famous sandwiches and platters in their hometown. The restaurant, 3133 N. Oakland St. offers a clean, bright dining environment that adheres to the original food cart’s mustard yellow and ketchup-red color scheme.

The restaurant’s name comes from Islamic law: The term “halal” refers to foods that Muslims are permitted to eat.

The restaurant’s menu items combine chicken or beef with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors over rice or enfolded into pitas. Both versions come with a dollop of Halal’s three signature sauces. There’s a nondairy mayonnaise-based white sauce blended with spices, which comes in regular and wickedly hot versions. And there’s a simple barbecue sauce.

Lettuce and tomatoes round out the plate.

LeFebvre says the food truck was started out of necessity, with no plans for nationwide expansion.

“In 1990, the three founders of Halal Guys were sharing a New York City taxi medallion,” LeFebvre explains. “They were Egyptian immigrants and devout Muslims who adhered to halal regulations. No one in Midtown was selling halal food, so out of necessity came innovation in the form of a food cart.

“Their initial clientele was other taxi drivers, because many of them were also Muslim. This became the best marketing device, because the taxi drivers recommended the Halal Guys’ food cart to all of their passengers, locals and tourists alike.”

Business bloomed. Halal Guys is now the most-Yelped restaurant in the United States and has almost two dozen locations across the country, as well as in Manila.

LeFebvre got involved in the business shortly after graduating from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He was in the market to open a business of his own, but a fast-casual restaurant wasn’t really on his radar until he tried the Halal Guys fare.

“I thought it was awesome,” he says. “If I wasn’t passionate about the food, then I couldn’t run this restaurant. When I met the founders in New York City, I felt that they were great people. They aren’t focused on money. They are passionate about their food and they just want to share it with others.”

It’s clear LeFebvre picked the right business for him. He practically inhaled his platter of food during our conversation. I filled up too. I loved the combination of rice, meat and vegetables. And the white sauce was the perfect complement to the core ingredients. Vegetarians are welcome at Halal Guys, too — falafel and hummus also are on the menu.

Milwaukee’s Halal Guys outpost is practically on the UW-Milwaukee campus, and the menu and prices should attract a lot of students. It’s open until 3 a.m., so I predict the after-bar crowd will flock here to soak up a belly of beer with a hearty platter or sandwich.

During the restaurant’s soft opening, two international students, one hailing from Jordan and the other from Saudi Arabia, were fork-deep into quickly vanishing platters. They liked the food a lot and said they’d certainly be back.

For a restaurant with a focus on Middle Eastern-inspired dishes, their comments might be the best review possible.

The Quick Bite

Name: The Halal Guys

Location: 3133 N. Oakland St.,
Milwaukee

Premise: Fast-casual Middle
Eastern food

Menu samples: Combo chicken/gyro platter, served with rice, pita, lettuce, tomato ($7.59 small, $8.69 regular); falafel sandwich wrap with lettuce and tomato ($6.29).

Bite-size review: As a place to grab food fast on the way to class and as a restaurant in its own right, The Halal Guys is a smart, delicious addition to the Oakland corridor.