RTF: Pretzel’s are a girls best friend

New York City is a dynamic city known for finance, media, and entertainment – and people, lots of people. With so many people and so many ideas buzzing around they all seem to have successfully created a unique and vibrant food scene too. I strolled through the streets of East Village and Soho admiring the abundance of local food establishments. It’s rare to pass restaurant chains in this bustling city. Sigmund’s Pretzels is one of those neighborhood spots that’s doing a great job at helping keeping food local and distinctive in New York City.

   

These pretzels are hand made and crafted fresh everyday offering a variety of flavors. In the back of the cozy pretzel-shop they create the wide range of pretzels and when they run out they simply run out!

All of those behind Sigmund’s Pretzels take pride in offering a wholesome snack such as the traditional salted pretzel, a savory bacon and scallion flavor, sandwiches on pretzel rolls and even “Uber Pretzels” for sharing. The pretzels are also suggested to be paired with a variety of dips ranging from adventurous ‘beet-horseradish’ to a smooth and sweet nutella.

The pretzel goodness is found at over 20 establishments ranging from the Dean & Deluca retail stores, local bier gartens and even the Delta airline at Laguardia. Beyond these they are also interested in expanding their wholesale program as they are eager to include other local eateries.

  

  

All hail a food artisan.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: Making culture mainstream

Upon arrival in New York City there was an overwhelming amount of places to dine at, yet I wasn’t sure where in the world to start. My visit in the Big Apple was short lived but wildly successful. My first morning in the city riding one of the many yellow taxis I scrolled through the Twitter sphere. Within minutes I was reading New York Time’s most recent post in its Diner’s Journal, Two Fresh Approaches to Yogurt.

While many of us tend to know the healthy benefits that are naturally found in plain and greek yogurts it is slowly becoming a trend to enjoy the thick and sometimes quiet sour substance. Until now there are only few places that have capitalized on selling yogurt fresh and by order, nature’s true secret. As a foodie that digs the cool taste of my morning greek treat I had yet to see it sold anywhere besides rows of it in the dairy aisle of a grocery store – until now.

The Diner’s Journal was covering The Yogurt Culture Company along with a similar food establishment and their novel approach to selling fresh yogurt with an endless supply of pure, wholesome toppings.

The Yogurt Culture Company is doing exactly what their name says, creating a culture around yogurt. A fun pun is that this stuff is actually also packed with beneficial cultures and probiotics that keep your insides pleased and clean. Any of the employees will happily explain the natural benefits of the yogurt and how the cultures are one of the nine amino acids our bodies need to survive. The probiotics and natural cultures also help aid digestion, and in a delicious way. There are also a variety of pamphlets available throughout the store offering much more information, including their philosophies. Their approach is not only to sell the stuff but actually educate their customers and show them how yogurt can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or as a sweet snack depending on what’s on top.

    

Their plain yogurt is processed through Dannon in White Plains, New York and shipped to The Yogurt Culture Company store front. While their greek yogurt stems from the Battenkill Valley Creamery in Salem, New York allowing them to support other local New York food establishments. Where they source the yogurt goes along with one of their philosophies, to provide the highest quality of all-natural dairy. Battenkill Valley Creamery is over 100 years old as well as being family owned, making wholesome, sustainable milk their life long priority. Their cows are hormone free and allow The Yogurt Culture Company to offer a clean product.

Once in the store the customer has a variety of toppings to add on. The most impressive are the fruit purees that are made with 100% fruit that is hand-churned by a local New York fruit producer and naturally sweetened. Along with the fresh fruits, the Yogurt Culture Company is attempting to offer an experience to their customers that will help make yogurt shops a part of mainstream food establishments.

Beyond the high quality yogurt, the company actually upholds a second mission geared toward the business’s carbon footprint. All of the people behind The Yogurt Culture Company believe in having a company that is sustainable and environmentally conscious. All of the store materials as well as their cutlery is made from 100% corn-based plastics, 100% recycled fiber. The Forest Stewardship Council has certified much of their wooden utensils while their wooden counters come from reclaimed wood. All of the above gives a small glimpse at the kind of decisions being made at The Yogurt Culture Company.

Beyond the fresh yogurt and outstanding company philosophies, the menu extends to frozen yogurt and the opportunity to make parfaits or smoothies. The rustic inspired shop also offers daily baked pastries, salads and sandwiches all made with yogurt as a key ingredient.

All hail the healthy cultures.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: Food justice going beyond food.

“Food justice may focus on food, but in connects with issues like economic development, race and class inequities, education, vacant properties, and of course, environmental sustainability.”
-Sherry Linkon
Center for Working-Class Studies

Working-Class Perspectives

Last fall, I had the opportunity to interview Chris Hedges for my radio show, just after he’d delivered a powerful but incredibly discouraging talk about how Americans are becoming less able to think critically (based on his book Empire of Illusion) and how the Democratic party can longer be counted on to support the interests of working people (Death of the Liberal Class).  I asked him what he thought we ought to do about this depressing state of affairs.

His response: work on promoting locally-grown, sustainable agriculture.  Even though I serve on the board of an organization engaged in that kind of work, his response surprised me.

But lately –in part because of a terrific panel at the Working-Class Studies Association conference in June – I’ve been thinking about the potential power of food justice as an alternative to traditional leftist organizing.  I still believe in unions…

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RTF: Farmers as social media advocates

When times change they change all sections of society, however only two of those sections tend to cross over and in a major way. Those two are food and the way people talk about food. As a food warrior intern we are working to find out about what is making what, how and when they are doing it as well as how it contributes to the bigger picture. All of these things are believed to not be new questions but perhaps are being expressed differently. Ever since roughly 2004 there has been a rise in how people talk about their passions. Individual passions are art forms and it appears that the most common and definitely most shared are music and food.

With the introduction of MySpace, many users utilized its services to share personal new tracks or their favorite biggest hits. the transformation to Facebook was a way for people in the elite academic circles to connect. Currently looking at the evolution of Facebook it is greatly used as a way for people to share their pictures.

Twitter joined the conversation in 2008 and soon because a place for people to hone in on their niche interests and ‘follow’ handlebars that speak directly to those interests. The live-feed of the Twitter sphere can be a public space for advocacy in food, women’s’ rights, politics in general or even children’s safety over seas.

Many of the pictures that stream through a foodies Facebook newsfeed come from the meals they eat, markets and grocery stores they shop at, restaurants they dine at, and even farms they visit. Today there is strong urge for restaurants, markets and all establishments striving to sell a product to join Facebook. This is even more apparent with the current shift in the food industry that is promoting locally and seasonal ingredients. The tweets that are being updated from these food establishments follow a similar track.

Years ago the majority of Americans were farmers and the food served to a community was different as you traveled across the world. Today you can chow down on something from each end of the universe, not really… but maybe someday? The technological advancements in agriculture, the government and then obviously our food production has removed people from food and even disconnected them from their own cultures. The shift in our food system today is fighting against this disconnect and striving to revert back to the ‘olden days’. The farmers, food artisans, and consumers are doing so because of their ingrained interest of enjoying food that is wholesome, good and clean.

Tying the growing social media spheres along with this shift in our food systems leads to a lot of different conversations. The constant stream of knowledge that each farmer, food artisan and establishment experiences can now be shared with others in the same field. The idea of competition between producers in a market is decreasing to build a community and overall shape society. Social media is a way for the producers to connect with consumers and offer them what is wanted as well as for consumers to learn more about what’s provided. Food systems have always been a two way street communication between producers and consumers, but until now there hasn’t been one sphere for this to happen. Thus introducing social network sites.

For more tangible examples a few of us who are Real Time Farms Food Warriors stumbled upon farmers that are sharing their stories through pictures and information online. Click the images to experience their farm from the virtual side.

  

  

To dive into Food Advocacy in the Twitterverse, check out one of my previous posts discussing just that.

All hail social connections and good food.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: Meet Rebecca Rosenthal

From Manhattan to Northern Westchester to Montreal and currently Boston with big dreams of back to New York, Australia and England Rebecca Roesenthal is quite the food advocating jet setter. Born in Manhattan, yet raised in Katonah-Northern Westchester, Rebecca was introduced to a way of life that revolved around the preservation and culture of food. In 2008 she was swept away by Montreal, Canada where she spent time as an undergraduate student at the University at McGill studying Urban Systems in their Department of Geography.

Rebecca has taken her life experiences of different cities to her university setting, where she is understanding how cities are broken down through their architectural designs. Rebecca has crafted maps focused on all things from food and sanitation to transportation, truly putting her degree to good use. Through this work she became very interested in food systems where she was able to tie in an environmental psychology minor. Before it is time for her to graduate from her undergraduate career Rebecca is roaming Boston to meet with local farmers and food artisans to understand their unique food systems. As a Real Time Farms Food Warrior with an Urban Systems and Environmental Psychology degree her blog on the Food Warrior experiences offers an outstanding look at our current food system.

While Rebecca is not spending her time studying psychology and mapping out cities, she truly enjoys writing. The Real Time Farms Food Warrior internship fit her well due to the amount of writing she is very used to. While at school Rebecca spends much of her free time contributing to a Food Blog at her university.

Beyond her interest in putting a pen to paper, Rebecca is most eager to engage with farmers and food artisans in order to learn the Boston food scene. This summer is the first time that farmers are allowed to sell fish at markets which is one of the many things Rebecca has already started to learn about. Rebecca is also interested in learning more about the business aspects, including sourcing and distribution. This past semester at McGill she won a Sustainability Case Competition that lead her to develop a self-sustaining, student-run cafe that strived to source locally. She learned a lot from her own experience but hopes to see how local sourcing and fair distribution is replicated in the real world. These are only two examples of what Rebecca hopes to learn from her time with Real Time Farms. The list does not stop there as this headstrong foodie wishes to learn more about the technicalities behind fisheries and fishermen, the stories behind the people supporting Boston’s food system along with the struggles and socioeconomic aspects of farming and food quality. To learn more about her adventures through all of this, dive into her Real Time Farms blog, ‘Local Life, Global Goals‘.

Looking at Rebecca on a more personal level allows you to understand her strong interests in food. Everyday she eats with the philosophy, “know thyself.” For Rebecca food has strong and important qualities that can make a true impact when adjusted correctly to help support our bodies. Joy McCarthy is a nutritional role model for Rebecca as McCarthy strives to explain that there are ‘seven billion diets for seven billion people.’ While arugula is one of Rebecca’s favorite vegetables she struggles with a handful of food sensitivities that have pushed her to better understand foods. She has returned to basic, wholesome cooking but finds herself exploring new spices and dishes along with keeping her mind on the benefits of food while she strives to alkalize her body through food.

Cheers to Rebecca and her summer of adventures.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: Sharing a way of life

The confusion associated with walking up to the olive oil aisle in a grocery store left Tyler and Carry Guell fed up with their cooking experiences as they often ended up at home, opening a new bottle of olive oil and feeling defeated with its lack of or even overpowering flavors. Their very own olive oil and fine vinegar boutique soon became the answer to these problems. Tyler and Carry Guell are the happy couple that founded Olivada, nestled on the river of Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Beyond housing the freshest olives oils accompanied by fine balsamic vinegars Tyler and Carry wanted to offer the customer an experience. Therefore, the shopper is able to sample anything in the store before purchase. This is a part of understanding your food deeper in order to enjoy it to its fullest advantage. The amount of oils and vinegars range far and wide while many customers know very little about the different flavors and accents. Tyler and Carry take the time to truly explain to their customers how to understand the flavors before even bottling it for them in house.

For example the one of the many honey balsamics is taken like a half shot out of a small plastic cup and then swirled around in your mouth until the flavors are in full effect. The acidity of balsamic holds many different flavors, especially when they are infused. Allowing the taste buds to gather the balsamic’s key notes gives the individual a full idea of how it can be enjoyed best. While using your senses to do this it is easy to fantasize about the endless dishes it would enhance, and soon find yourself wanting to sample the entire row.

On the other hand, sampling the oils is done a bit differently. The shopper is instructed to cover the small cup while rubbing the bottom on your palm. This warms the oil and prepares you for a full experience. After about 30 seconds of this you are to breath in the oil, smelling the different undertones. Finally, you slowly sip the oil and let it rest on your tongue while sliding down your throat. You are essentially using a majority of your senses to not only taste the oil but also understanding the olives and their strengths. This is a learning experience that helps to connect the customer with oil they are destined to cook with.

The wore down shipping warehouses lining Sheboygan’s river have become home to a variety of funky hipster cafes, fine English pubs, health food stores and more allowing Olivada to fit in as well as a missing puzzle piece. The establishment has only been in working service for about a year but their expertise with oils and vinegars really sets them apart and allows business to do very well. This unique approach to selling oils and vinegars stems from their own frustration and encourages them to offer a sampling of all products sold as well as bottling everything in store before purchase.

After being greeted with a gust of air conditioning you find yourself face to face with a wall of dark bottles. Below each is a small description of the vinegars location, flavorings and pairings. Recipes are sprinkled among the bottles and featured in the center of the store is the island of oils. These olive oils are 100% pure extra virgin coming from the northern and southern hemispheres allowing Olivada to offer the freshest oils. Any of the staff members will gleefully explain that there are only two time frames a year when olives are crushed. Due to Olivada gathering oils from both hemispheres they are receiving oils twice a year when those olives were crushed, leading to the freshest product available. These different olives coming from both the northern and southern hemispheres allows the oil to range in flavor from a more grassy and earthy undertone to the buttery and rich flavors.

The idea of Olivada is to avoid selling a vinegar or oil to someone who is not truly invested in its flavor. Food is to be enjoyed and experienced and the Italians believe that olive oil is an ingredient that unleashes flavors in foods that would not otherwise be tasted. The vinegars offer a way to enhance ingredients through adding wholesome acidity. Olivada is not only selling these product but rather sharing a way of life.

All hail oil and vinegar.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: 8 varieties and 3 generations

 

Honey is harvested from the hives at the beginning of each fall season. It is then bottled, processed and sold throughout the year until they can harvest the honey in the upcoming fall. By the time the honey is processed and being sold the new honey is starting to be harvested. Kallas Honey is a regional business so their distribution is not spread across the United States allowing them to work with only a small amount of farmers. The amount of honey they collect is sold by the time the next harvest comes around allowing them to collect and sell the freshest honey. Many larger honey processors work to sell their honey on national and regional scales as well as to many grocery stores. This causes them to harvest mass quantities of honey and process it much heavier since it is distributed far and wide. Many national honey processors provide the average honey bear many of us are used to seeing in grocery stores and often free from any crystallization or imperfections. This honey purchased in a grocery store was bottled many harvests before offering a more processed product that has a longer shelf life.

 

Perry Kallas along with the entire Kallas family business prides themselves on working with small farmers to bottle the honey as fresh as possible after harvest and sell that honey to local restaurants and other food establishments. Their honey is very pure when comparing it to brand name processed brands sold nation wide. The more processed honeys are striving to remove the effect of crystallization and instead ‘satisfy’ the customers. Perry Kallas touched on the issues about a lack of education around honey and how the products found in the grocery store can seem misleading. A more pure honey is bound to crystallize over time due to air entering the jar after many uses. Kallas honey tends to have a crystallization seen in their glass jars which unfortunately can have this negative connotation associated with it. The crystallization, however, is a pure sign of fresh, less processed honey, that is why the raw honey has a higher amount than other honeys. In fact, the Kallas raw honey is one of the most pure honey products on the market as they bottle it directly from the bee’s hives.

Driving up to Kallas Honey is an interesting experience when you realize you are stationed a couple blocks away from the heart of the city of Milwaukee – Wisconsin. This ‘farm’ is a place where three generations of Kallas family members pristinely process honey gathered from their local, Midwestern bee keepers. The Kallas Honey Farm is a building where these philosophies behind raising bees and processing, or simply bottling in the case of their Raw Honey, comes to a reality.

The Kallas family has built their business to maintain roughly 50 farmers in the Midwest region who are humanely raising bees under similar principles and philosophies that come with raising any other livestock. Perry Kallas simply touches on the science behind bee keeping along with the entire business behind the honey bears that are commonly found on grocery store shelves. The Kallas family strives to produce their honey each year so that it is the freshest and most pure. They keep their clientele small and manageable while sourcing locally to Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana food producers.

 

The Kallas business produces eight different varieties that are mainly sold to food producers in bulk, yet available as wholesale on site and throughout farmers’ markets and other specialty stores. The Kallas family strives to understand the nature of the bees and source a wholesome product while educating their customers.

      

All hail honeybees.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: A walk in someone else’s hooves.

When walking through the pastures, barns and enclosures Temple Grandin strives to sense what the animals experience. Her autistic nature allowed her to understand the feelings of America’s farm animals. Her years of experience and research have helped farmers all over the country reconstruct their enclosures, pasture landscapes and even the route to which an animal takes as they exit the farm and head for the processing plant. Temple’s work has inspired many farmers to change their thought process from viewing the animal as a commodity but rather how to better treat the animals with respect. The approach Temple shares through lectures and literature, guides farmers to treat animals in a way that keeps them happy, safe and ultimately healthy. These animals are producing a higher quality meat that is raised more humanely with flavor that is greatly appreciated.

Today’s farming is shifting away from the ‘commodity farmer’ and moving towards a more sustainable and wholesome approach to farming. A commodity farmer is helping to feed America and produce high quantities of food. However, many farmers are starting to approach this differently and follow some of Temple Grandin’s suggestions. This allows farmers to consider the animals’ point of view in their day to day work.

      

Golden Bear Farm is located just outside Sheboygan, Wisconsin where their open pastures extend to roughly 200 acres. The slightly rolling meadows are home to about 50 cows, 100 Berkshire pigs and a handful of horses. The animals graze and incorporate each other as they rotate through various parts of these 200 acres. While one area of their land is being repaired and restored to grow grains for another season the animals are helping to graze the neighboring section. The animals manure along with hay and local fish help to create a fresh and wholesome fertilizer rejuvenating the land once again. Within five years Steve and Marie, founders of Golden Bear Farm, have cultivated their land to offer a home for the animals we currently view as food.

   

Steve and Marie first started looking into Temple Grandin’s work when they purchased some horses; hoping to truly understand the beautiful creatures and train them to some day assist with the farm work. The philosophies and psychology behind working with horses and their ability to sense human’s energy soon because how Steve and Marie approached their cows and pigs. The more they thought about this approach the better sense it started to make while today it is deeply ingrained in their approach to farming.

Golden Bear Farm follows the stages of farming all the way to the end – the butcher. They spent many years researching butchers to make sure they were able to offer a wholesome product through and through. Golden Bear Farm works very diligently to make sure the animals are raised 100% grass-fed, organic and with absolutely no antibiotics or hormones. Beck’s Meat Processing in central Wisconsin follows through the organic process by avoiding the use of nitrates and any other impure substances while processing Golden Bear meats.

The Golden Bear Farm’s success lies in an idea that Steve and Marie stumbled upon years ago, grass is not simply grass. They came to the realization that the animals raised should be treated like “you and me”. These two farmers said, “we choose to look at it from the whole picture, soil on up.” Their own philosophies regarding food and the land its grown on, Temple’s inspiring work and the animals themselves have all helped Golden Bear Farm produce a pure and divine product that is appreciated by all who enjoy it.

All hail the spirit of animals.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: The Golden Bear hogs

As a part of the food warrior internship a video is to be produced in order to help our journalistic skills evolve. While visiting Golden Bear Farms I spent some time with the happily grunting piglets and their trusting farming. Here is a look at the life of a pig.

RTF: ‘Dance while you can’

As part of this summers activities and adventures as a Food Warrior I am exposed to a variety of literature and documentaries offered from farmers, friends and our amazing Real Time Farms core team. The most recent review is on American Meat, a documentary discussing exactly that, the meat in America. This documentary dives into the good and bad about the animals raised to produce America’s meat from the view of ‘Commodity Hog Farmers’ to farmers practicing ways that resemble the work done generations ago. The documentary does a phenomenal job of showing all sides of meat and allowing the consumer to learn about what is happening in today’s society revolving the 59 billion pounds of meat consumed by Americans every year.

The producers arranged the content into three parts that cover today’s current farming system, compared to ‘A Different Path’ and ending with a portion that tells viewers that it is simply ‘Up to Us’. In order to feed America meat that is grass-fed and following the practices similar to Joel Salatin ‘we’ would need to have roughly 4 million people start farming that way. There is an increase in young farmers, yet there is also a skepticism that the urge of new farmers needed will not be pursued  by the majority of society.

The documentary starts with a woman completely disconnected from her meat, while stating she would ‘never’ eat her own chickens and prefers the grocery store meat due to the fact that it is packaged and ready to be cooked without needing to ever cross her mind. Traveling to a variety of farms, while meeting the farmers and food markets, restaurants and artisans it ends with a couple turning their backyard into a garden and farm in order to support their families diet. The story ended with them stating, “Get to the party when you get there and dance while you can”. They are a middle-aged couple that have changed their way of life and plan on fulfilling the American dream from here on out reducing the 4 million by 2.

All hail knowledge. Watch, learn and plant a seed.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior