Thursday, February 21, 2013

Salad heaven

  Santa Fe bistro Vinaigrette knocks it clear out of the park for locally-sourced, fantastically innovative salads. I was there for lunch yesterday and, by my host's suggestion, ordered the All Kale Caesar! salad. As promised, it was about the most flavorful salad I've ever had, with a combination of flavors I would never have expected in such a dish, nor that I think I've ever experienced in a green salad. Here's the description from the menu:
Shredded super-food kale with a zingy, zestry lemon-anchovy vinaigrette, fresh parmesan and chopped Marcona almonds.

The three of us in our lunch group all had this dish, and all added fresh, grilled Ruby trout. It was a delicious, filling meal (I took some home in a compostable carry-out box) and I am now hell-bent on recreating it for myself, since (sadly) I don't live in Santa Fe (yet).

These folks use locally-sourced, organic produce: "Much of the restaurant's organic produce is grown on owner Erin Wade's 10-acre Nambe farm, Los Portales." Great, locally-sourced food, lively, natural-light atmosphere, snappy service. What could be better? Well, me living nearby.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Kale in February

Say what you want about California and/or Californians, but the climate is great. I started these kale (and a couple of others) from seed in November. Though we've had some freezes, and I still have to cover them some nights, I've been harvesting fresh kale—if only a few leaves at a time for now.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Eat local!

Huevos Montulenos. $10, gluten-free.

Seems to me that one of the biggest boosts to re-localizing our economic activity will be the sheer delight of local foods. This morning I had a delicious breakfast at Roots Catering, a Chico business that, having success under its belt with its catering and banquet hall business is expanding into the restaurant arena. Owners David and Kelly Gomez put strong emphasis on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, high quality, and excellent service. In my single at-table encounter, I can say they have succeeded on all counts. I also happen to know two of their employees (one is my nephew, who served me this morning!), and all reports indicate that Roots is serious about delivering on its commitments. The restaurant uses their banquet hall space. It's a warm and sunny space of columns and arches, with bar/register in the middle, dividing the hall into two lobes. The lovely faux-finish floor complements the warm paint tones in the walls, and guests are surrounded by large photo prints of local Chico points of interest. I can imagine the space becoming very reverberant with a noisy party crowd, but acoustical fine points can be addressed later. They've been open for breakfast only a month, and have plans to add lunch soon.

My breakfast, pictured above, came recommended by my server, and was a delightful blend of flavors. Stacked atop two crispy-fresh corn tortillas were grilled ham, gouda cheese, black beans, and two eggs over medium, liberally topped with chipotle salsa, peas, green onions, and queso fresco from nearby Orland Creamery (20 miles west of Chico). Perfectly prepared plantains played king-of-the-hill on this filling and delicious breakfast stack. Everything tasted fresh and what could easily have become a soggy, chaotic sludge pile maintained the integrity of the individual components while blending together into a compatible whole. On the side, the chicken apple sausages were among the best I've had. I don't know their origin, but I presume they are house-made, or at least locally acquired. The tortillas appeared to be house-made, though I didn't verify that. With a glass of sadly not fresh-squeezed orange juice (something they could add in future, given the manpower), I was out the door for about $16 before tip (I tipped my nephew well; I want him to think fondly of his visiting uncle!). And I was full and very pleased. The best breakfast I've had out in a long time!

This is what it's about, folks. Fresh, local food, prepared (and served!) by people you know, or could easily come to know—members of your community, your circle of immediate financial influence, if you will. Toss in a few well-considered culinary ideas (the rest of the Roots breakfast menu was so tempting I was hard-pressed to make my selection), and you've got the makings of a community-building local destination that helps make the ties that bind. Us. Together. As we always are, and should recognize the fact.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

And we have the gall to laugh at the "quaint" or "bizarre" ways of our forebears.

365 days of makeup applied to a woman's face in one day.

Now is the time to stop laughing.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Chinese choke on "blue sky" irony

This WSJ article describes China's (specifically, Beijing's) air pollution woes, and sheds a hazy light on both the new, developed-world sort of problems the world's most populous nation faces and on its government's slowly evolving response to them.

How ironic it would be if they had continued to call high-pollution days "blue sky days," while the people all died off of respiratory-related illnesses. China's acceleration of development will require equal acceleration of environmental stewardship or they risk massive catastrophes, the air quality of Beijing being just a taste of what's to come.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Plucked from the garden this morning:

In the post-peak world, perhaps after a settling period, I like to imagine that we in the developed world will eat better than we did before The Change. Seem like a crazy dream? Perhaps. But when I read, a few years back, that the English diet actually improved in quality (if it was perhaps short on calories at times) during WWII, I was further convinced of the problems inherent in our modern, oil-subsidized, convenience-based, developed-world diet. For the wartime English, meat products and imported American grains became scare due to the war effort and shipping blockades. Previously, two-thirds of their food had been imported; thus they were forced to make dramatic increases in domestic production—and not of meats, but of vegetables. Of course, the increase in potato production (it was doubled) may not suggest an improved diet, but along with the tubers came other, more healthful produce.

I don't recall where I read that article about the English wartime diet, but I found several other interesting links looking at the history:
A BBC History link about the wartime diet.
A BBC article from 2004 about one person's attempt to eat that way for a week.

Meantime, I would urge you to examine your own diet and consider what level of nutrition it provides. I have a strong tendency to look at problems in their totality, to become overwhelmed by the degree of change and the amount of effort needed to overcome them; but when I have the inspiration (and calmness of spirit) to break the problem into smaller parts—miniature problems—and address those more manageable bits one at a time, I find that not only can I gain a more useful perspective on the overall problem, but I can free inspiration and the impetus to effect meaningful—if limited—change.

About three years or so ago, in an effort to make some small, tangible improvement to my diet, I began to add "green smoothies" to my morning regimen. A blenderful of water, apple, kale, and carrot was the basis for numerous improvisations that included fruit in season, other vegetables, fresh ginger—whatever seemed interesting and healthful. All raw, all as fresh as possible. I've since included freshly ground golden flax seed and chopped beets as regulars in the mix. And I'm an inveterate sweet tooth—I won't eat or drink anything regularly that isn't at least leaning toward the sweet end of the spectrum. But almost all the smoothies I've made have been delightful, if not all truly sweet. A half-cup of organic apple juice does the heavy lifting, if I have some. And ground cinnamon can counter any bitterness of the kale and add its own delight to the drink.

I continue to look for ways to improve my diet, which is by no means completely healthy. But I'm very pleased with the start I've made. Growing my own foods would be the next obvious step, and that handful of kale in the photo is the result of this morning's small harvest. It went right into the blender with the other ingredients for a truly delicious morning breakfast. Though I'd love to do so, I'm not in a position to grow all, or even a major portion of, my food intake; but if I could have a small kale bed, and perhaps some carrots, I could do well for at least part of the year. I took a chance with this planting of kale. I put the seeds in very late, and we've had to protect them from some sub-freezing temperatures, but they're doing well, if a bit behind the warmer-season growth curve.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

More evidence of climate weirding. Shot this video this morning:

Until recently, the nights had been quite cold-- down into the 20s some nights-- but now the days are sunny, into the 60s, and the nights are warmer. I'm not familiar with the long-term weather patterns here, but them as knows have said this tree blooming now is way out of line with the norm.