Much to my extreme pleasure, it appears I will be going back to San Francisco, most beloved City by the Bay, over Labor Day weekend. Having recently traveled there in April, I wasn’t planning a return trip so soon. At best, I usually manage to visit my favorite American city every few years. While reading Bon Appetit magazine last week, however, I came across a full-page ad for an event that made me catch my breath. Slow Food Nation ’08, Come to the Table, will be held at the Civic Center Plaza, as well as at various locations both in and around the city. Featuring a veritable pantheon (thank you Iron Chef for the eloquent superlative!) of food activists, food policy leaders, writers, and artisan food producers, the conference offers for me all of my food heroes, in one place, for one weekend. To be able to attend such an event makes me feel like Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, managing to somehow procure a Golden Ticket. Except, of course, this event is open to the public and any able to pay. But you see what I’m getting at.
Begun in 1986 by Italian Carlo Petrini (HE’S GOING TO BE THERE!!!!!!), Slow Food represented a response to the increasing industrialization of the world’s food supply, cutting off suppliers from direct interaction with their consumers and thereby presenting challenges to the stability of global food supplies, as is now being witnessed. Additionally, such industrialization often resulted in foods stripped of their nutrients, packed with artificial colorings, flavorings and preservatives, high in refined ingredients and sold at a much cheaper price than their nutritious, whole food-based counterparts. Working to counter the trend, Petrini enlisted the aid of friends and colleagues and began speaking out against “Fast Foods” wherever he could find an audience. The movement gained increasing momentum in the ensuing decades and shows no signs of slowing.
In addition to lectures on global food security and creating local food networks, the conference will highlight, in which are being gorgeously dubbed “Tasting Pavilions”, artisan food producers from across the nation. From cheese, to bread, chocolate, spirits and more, individual small food businesses will showcase their wares and allow attendees to sample. This is SO my Chocolate Factory. When I was younger and short on cash and for some reason at the mall, I would make a facsimile of a meal by sampling every offering available at Hickory Farms, Orange Julius, really anywhere with something to eat. I plan on engaging in similar satiation methods at the Pavilions. Look for detailed blogging Labor Day weekend.
In a recent letter from the editor of Dwell magazine, great emphasis was placed on making design smarter. The editor stressed repeatedly to reconsider the manner in which things are conceived, produced, marketed, and, once their usefulness has expired, disposed of, or, hopefully, repurposed. This mentality represents a paradigm shift that seems to subtly be making its way into mainstream consciousness. Even the big box retailers are emphasizing their green business practices. Wal-Mart stores have begun putting solar panels on their roofs, in some locations.
I recently encountered an item that represents this new “Cradle to Cradle” approach. It was modest. It was humble. It was a candle. Atlanta-based candlemaker Paddywax offers a line of Eco candles which, while not singularly changing the world, provide a glimpse at what could be a new industrial revolution. The candles and their packaging utilize environmentally-friendly and post-consumer elements. The candles themselves are soy wax blended with natural oils. Their packaging is recyclable, as well as biodegradable. You can literally place soil and seeds in the container and plant it outside, fully extending the life of the packaging. The glass the candles are poured into has almost no labeling, allowing the vessel to go on to later hold additional candles or be re-assigned as a drinking glass or vase. There is absolutely no waste. Again, folks, I don’t expect the world to be changed by a candle, but I do believe the world can be changed by the thinking and consideration involved in such a candle. Such conscientious craftsmanship heralds a return to inclusive thinking not witnessed in manufacturing in some time. Let’s hope the momentum only builds.
It seems that cherries are everywhere lately. In this amazing food blog, quickly becoming one of my favorites, and in this magazine, cherries abound! For those lucky enough to live in cherry territory, like Michigan, Washington, Oregon or California, cherry bliss is yours for the picking, literally. Because of my profound and relentless love of the cherry (“tastes great AND great for gout”-what more could you ask for from your fruit?), I think Glenn and I will be planting a cherry tree or two. I’d actually been thinking an ideal way to celebrate each anniversary would be by planting a tree, each one growing and maturing along with us. My friend, Ric Scalzo, founder of Gaia Herbs, clued me in to this amazing nursery in Virginia that ships organic fruit and nut trees nationwide. I’ve been eyeballing Joel and Jan for some time now and it might be time to finally make my move. Locally, Reems Creek Valley Nursery in Weaverville has several cherry trees available, along with pear and apple. It’s dangerous for me to go there, though. I seem to couch my capacity for self control in the car and surrender to “Extreme Plant Lust” (E.P.L. for short) with reckless abandon. Glenn knows this to be true.
But I digress. Where were we? Oh, swooning over cherries. And so it was, succumbing to my cherry passion, that “Cherry Almond Galette” came into being. This can be made with either fresh or frozen cherries (I opted for the latter as, one, they were organic, and two, fresh cherries at my local natural food store are going for $7.99/lb. and I needed a lot of cherries). The flavor will be the same.
Was it good, you ask? Good doesn’t do it justice. Let’s just say, it had to be hidden away, out of view, lest the passion of the cherry overcome us both and we devour everything but the parchment. It was a rough lesson in self-discipline, folks. Be forewarned.
Cherry Almond Galette
-3 c. pitted cherries (fresh or frozen; if using frozen, allow to thaw, then drain off juice)
-4 Tbsp. kuzu or cornstarch (I used kuzu here, yes, the same vine that rapidly covers up cows and small children; it’s an awesome thickener, but cornstarch will work just as well)
-1/2 c. sugar (I opted for Florida Crystals so I can feel good about eating sugar!)
-2 Tbsp. amaretto (the alcohol burns off in cooking; a non-alcoholic option would be 1 tsp. almond extract)
-pinch of salt
-Juice of 1/2 lemon
-1 Tbsp. butter, cut into tiny bits
-1 egg, beaten with 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
-Sugar for sanding
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
-Stir cherries, kuzu (or cornstarch), sugar, amaretto, salt and lemon juice in medium size bowl. Set aside.
-adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison
-2 c. all-purpose flour
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1 Tbsp. sugar
-10 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces
-1/3 c. ice water
-Mix flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor (or in mixing bowl if not available). Add butter and pulse until incorporated into pea-sized bits (cut in with pastry cutter with not using processor). Slowly add ice water in 2 Tbsp. increments, just until dough forms a ball. Wrap ball in plastic wrap, press into a disk and refrigerate 15 minutes to firm up.
-On a lightly floured counter, roll dough out to a 14 inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Fold in half and transfer to baking sheet.
-Add cherry filling, pouring off any excess juice first.
-Beginning at any point on the edge of the dough, fold dough up and to the left to form overlapping edges (refer to photo
above for visual guide).
-Top filling with 1 Tbsp. chilled butter bits.
-If any dough is left over, feel free to cut out shapes for topping. I used stars from an aspic set.
-Beat egg with heavy cream (from cherry filling ingredients list). With pastry brush, paint edges of crust and any dough
cut-outs. Sprinkle all liberally with sugar.
-Bake at 400F for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F and bake an additional 25 minutes, or until crust is golden.
About this time last year, as my brand-new husband and I were lugging our, well luggage, through the train station in Rome on the last leg of our honeymoon, I made a declaration. “Everyday we’re here,” I pronounced, “I’m going to eat gelato. Or sorbet.” I mean, you know, when in Rome….True to my claim, I did in fact eat gelato every day, sometimes twice a day! Our favorite place to indulge, Giolitti, is the very same gelateria Gregory Peck took Audrey Hepburn to in “Roman Holiday.” We figured, if it’s good enough for Audrey, it’s good enough for us.