Back On the Wagon

March 30, 2010 § 2 Comments

Alright alright alright. I’m sorry. I told you a long time ago I have a hard time following through on things like this. I’ve been SO busy… working 6-7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day, and I caught a nasty bout of the plague on the plane home from NZ…. AND I’m acting in a play this weekend and have been playing catch up on rehearsal…. 

So… that’s the end of my excuses for not writing. But, guess what? I’m back :)

Spring is right around the corner! Its raining now, but its supposed to be 80 this weekend! Lots of rain and lots of bright sunshine make happy crops, and that makes for a happy locavore.  I was getting a little whiny there for a bit about the lack of variety in my diet, but the truth is… I still love winter food. Maybe it’s because I had a great break in New Zealand and was able to stuff myself with juicy plums and tomatoes, but I am still loving kale and mushrooms.  In fact, I made them for dinner tonight with another one of Bev’s amazing pork chops.  It was (again) so incredibly delicious. A little salt and pepper and a flash in the pan, and ta dah! I’m a brilliant chef! ;) It was an obscene amount of meat for one person though, so I ate half and am saving the rest for a sandwich tomorrow (with plum chutney, mmm).  

In all honesty, it’s been a tough couple of weeks since I’ve been back.  Trying to get back into the groove of cooking, and restocking the fridge, and remembering to make my own food. But Star Hollow is back on an every Saturday schedule, and I’m getting more local food in Sweetgreen every week (now that things are starting to grow) so lunches are easier, and very delicious :)

Sorry for the long hiatus. I promise I’ll be better.  I’ve missed talking to you people! :) I’m ready to get back in here and give you all the advice I can on where to find food, who to buy it from, and why buying local, sustainable food is the best thing you can do for your body, your community, and your tastebuds. 

So if you’ve got questions- lay ‘em on me. Which CSAs still have availability? When are the farmers markets opening for the season?  What can you expect to be eating in April and May?  It’s all to come.  Thanks for sticking with me!

xoxo Erin

A Word from New Zealand

March 15, 2010 § 4 Comments

Sincere apologies for not updating on my trip to Kiwiland… but quite frankly, i just couldn’t bring myself to spend too much time online in this incredible place.  Once I’m back in the States (very early on Monday morning) I’ll get crackin on a full update of my amazing visit to this nearly fully sustainable country.  

In the meantime… here’s a quick recap. While in NZ, I…

Drove  on the wrong side of the road, and the wrong side of the car. And didn’t die. 

Stayed with a couple who both, separately, received medals from the Queen of England for saving vast parts of NZ wildlife from the governments’ efforts to destroy it. 

Ate butterfish, pulled from the ocean an hour earlier, with the man who speared it (yes, SPEARED it).

Learned how to clean and prepare fresh abalone.

Hugged an avocado tree out of shear joy at being near one. 

Ate no less than 15lbs of fresh-from-the-tree Omega Plums. 

Whitewater rafted over a waterfall.

Attended a traditional Maori hangi (feast), for which they slow roasted meat and vegetables in the ground all day. 

Watched the world’s first sunrise on my 26th birthday.

Drove along The Forgotten Highway for 5 hours, and quickly realized why we were the only ones driving it. 

Devoured New Zealand lamb, venison, mussels, fish, beef and stone fruit like it was going out of style. 

Got my first tattoo. 

Drank incredible pinot noir at cult vineyard Mt. Difficulty in Central Otago… and then decided to go bungy jumping immediately after. 

Bungy jumped off a bridge in Central Otago.

Ate the freshest, cleanest, most ethical and delicious food of my life without even trying. 

*I promise a full recap with pictures once I have better access… thanks everyone for putting up with my 2 week blog break! Im back on with a vengeance, starting Monday :)

Mid-Winter Blues (Time to Escape!)

February 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

So… listen, I love meat and potatoes as much the next red blooded American. But I am so getting pretty bored with my food lately.  I had an EcoFriendly Foods pork blade steak and sweet potatoes for dinner, and as tasty as it was… my tastebuds are going to go on strike soon if they don’t get something fresh and juicy.  This is right about the time it happens every year, late February- the dead middle of winter.  No, I haven’t quite gotten sick of kale yet (especially since we’ve put my favorite Crispy Kale on the new Market menu at Sweetgreen Logan), but I am wanting something new soon. 

So, being the clever girl I am and knowing this would happen, I planned a trip months ago to ease my projected mid-winter blues. Somewhere it’s warm… with beaches… and has a fantastic growing climate… somewhere it’s summer in February… somewhere like… New Zealand!!

Yes friends, on Thursday I’ll be leaving for New Zealand for 2 and half weeks. While it’s not a great time to be leaving Sweetgreen, I planned the trip months ago while I was still at DCCK (and had loads of vacation time built up).  With all the changes that have been happening in my life lately though (new job, recently single…), I really need this vacation.  This is going to be very, very good for me.

I have absolutely no plans once I get there. I literally have a plane ticket and a passport and that’s about it. I’m just going to get a car (probably should reserve that soon?) and drive around looking for food… and farms… and vineyards.  New Zealand is pretty much the most sustainable country in the world (probably by virtue of necessity- they are 2000 miles from the nearest land mass, making them the most remote country on earth).  I cannot wait!!

Yes, eating local and in season is important, and delicious, and the right way to live.  But that doesn’t mean that for 1 month out of the year you won’t get bored. You will. So just prepare yourself- freeze summer tomatoes, strawberries, peaches… and plan a vacation in February.  With 2 weeks in New Zealand summer ahead of me, DC spring seems closer than ever.

Bev’s Pork Chop with Mustard Cream with Roasted Potatoes and Kale

February 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

Not to be a total bragasaurus, but I made the BEST dinner on Monday night.  At the Dupont Market on Sunday I bought one single, thick pork chop from my darling Bev for $3.50. For the price his high end cuts go for, this may be the best deal at the market.  I decided to make it Monday night because I just really needed a good meal.  I’ve been making a lot of very blah meals the past week or so, and needed that reassurance that I can, in fact, cook.  Well, this was just what the doctor ordered. I’m now getting an inflated ego over this meal, but if I’m going to be honest… the pig really did all the work here. This meal would have been just alright with a chop from any other animal- but with one from Bev’s pig… it was practically a religious experience. 

Oh how I WISH I had taken a picture of the pork chop raw. It had this gorgeous 3/4 inch layer of pure white fat along one side, and a frenched bone. It was truly artistic. When seared in the hot pan, the fat got crispy on the outside and meltingly tender in the center.  Oooh… it gives me delicious chills even thinking about it now. 

This is also a perfectly seasonal meal, and nearly everything in it is locally and sustainably produced.  The kale is from Sunnyside Farm at Dupont, and the potatoes are from my Star Hollow CSA. The exceptions are the usuals- Maille mustard (it is the best, there is no substitute), chardonnay (from CA), kosher salt. I did get a little fancy and use local crushed red pepper- last month I got a dried cayenne pepper from my CSA and crushed it myself. I feel like I get double points for that one :) 

Mustard Coated Pork Chop in a Dijon Cream Sauce, with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Kale

1 EcoFriendly Foods Pork Chop

2 tbsp Maille Mustard (or other good Dijon), separated

1 tbsp pork fat (bacon grease, preferably from EcoFriendly bacon- I have seriously loyalties)

Handful of fingerling potatoes (like 6-8 maybe? Depends on how hungry you are)

1 cup kale, chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

1/4 cup milk or cream

1/4 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay, dry Riesling would work well too)

salt 

red pepper flakes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. 

Melt bacon fat in a hot cast iron/heavy bottom, oven proof skillet. Slice potatoes in half and put them cut side down into the skillet. Leave them alone while you prep the pork. Pat pork chop dry, then rub down all over with 1 tbsp mustard, and salt liberally (for real, don’t get stingy here). Check potatoes, the underside should be crispy and browned. Flip the potatoes, push the to the outside of the pan and lay the the chop in the center. Cook it until well browned on each side (about 2-3 minutes on high heat),add the kale the the pan, then throw the skillet in the oven for about 4-5 minutes.  Mince shallots while you wait. Pull the skillet out and transfer the chop, the kale and potatoes to plate. 

Add shallots to pan (and more fat if needed).  Deglaze the pan by pouring in wine and letting it bubble away. Once reduced, add rest of mustard and milk or cream. Stir together, let reduce a little more, then pour over your pork chop.  

This meal is only local, seasonal, delicious, fast, and easy… it also only uses 1 pan (I hate doing dishes). Plus if you use cast iron you just have to pour in a little water while its hot and wipe out with a paper towel. It doesn’t get easier than this. (BTW, if you wash your cast iron skillet with water and soap, please stop before you break my heart.)

Snow Days FAIL Confession

February 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

Ok. Eating local food with 5 feet of snow on the ground is HARD.  It’s hard even imagining that things grow out of the ground when you can’t SEE the ground.  That’s no real excuse, I know…  I should have planned better, I should have stocked up on more food when I knew the storm was coming. But I really just didn’t think there would be quite this MUCH snow, or that it would affect DC for so long (yeah, thanks DC, for not plowing anything.)

I did pretty well, but I’ve been feeling guilty all week about my non-local indulgences.  So, in the spirit of transparency (and absolution), here is everything I’ve eaten while tumbling off the wagon.  

Snowpocolypse 1, last weekend- I was trapped (though not unhappily) at a friend’s house in Glover Park from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.  There was zero local food in his house and naturally I forgot to bring anything, so over the course of the weekend I had some Barilla pasta and tomato sauce, toast, Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal, and lots of French Champagne (not apologizing for that one).

Being the gentleman he is, he went out into the storm to forage some food for me, and though Whole Foods was closed, he managed to find the only barbeque joint I’ve ever heard of that uses local and sustainable meat- Rocklands BBQ.  As it turns out, Rocklands is also repped by Sweetgreen’s fabulous PR maven, Dusty Lockheart, and she told me the owner, John Snedden, buys many of his animals from 4-H kids at the county fair… and, as a former, 4-H kid myself, that is about the best thing I’ve ever heard. And the bbq was really good (being from Texas, I’m a harsh critic).  Ok aside from the meat I did also have a heaping portion of decidedly NOT local mac and cheese. I may have detected a Velveeta sauce (so tasty, so close to being flavored plastic).

Then I went into my first week at Sweetgreen. For the most part it’s pretty easy to eat locally at Sweetgreen (though soon you will hardly be able to NOT eat locally there, muahaha!).  We already get lots of local fruit and veggies, and all the chicken and turkey is sustainably raised around Gettysburg, PA.  The salads are easy. It’s the Sweetflow that gets me.  Sweetgreen’s tart frozen yogurt is just SO GOOD, and I’m already addicted.  But right now I can’t claim it’s made with local ingredients. In the next couple of weeks we are switching over to a custom Stonyfield blend made with their plain organic yogurt. Stonyfield is an amazing company that has grown to massive success, and yet has managed to stay true to their mission of supporting sustainable family farms.  The vast majority of their milk comes from Vermont, and I’m telling you right now… Sweetflow is about to be added into the “exceptions” column with coffee and chocolate. It’s now non-negotiable. If you want to know why just come try some. 

Other times I fell off the wagon because I just couldn’t help it- 

UrbanDaddy.com DC launch party at the W Hotel- 1 bacon wrapped shrimp (Thailand wrapped in nitrates), 1 lobster roll (Maine lobster, sot so bad), 1 veggie roll (first time I’ve had rice in months), and again… lots of French Champagne.  Food aside, someone please tell companies that are coming in to assert themselves as an authority on the local art and culture scene to STOP importing art and culture from elsewhere for their parties.  This was the DC launch party, and they had a DJ, a rock violinist, and a music entertainment group ALL shipped in from NYC.  **Dear UrbanDaddy, I know it’s hard to believe, but we actually LIKE it here. If we wanted to live in New York, we would. Please stop treating us like Manhattan’s bastard step child. Love, DC.**

My friends Matt and Hillary’s engagement party- It was a great party but a rough night because of some relationship drama (nothing to do with the very happy couple. Just my own, naturally). I drank lots of single barrel whiskey and had a few nuts and shrimp to avoid getting piss drunk. 

International Wine and Food Festival- Nic and I did a really fun live stage demo at the Fest of our new Winter Market Quinoa (coming soon to Sweetgreen), and I think we did pretty fantastic- even though we were right after Jose Andres, and no one can compete with than man onstage! Our quinoa salad included Firefly Farms Allegheny Chevre (MD), Mr. McGregor’s Mushrooms (NJ), sweet potatoes from Lois’ produce (VA), and micro beet greens from Lakeville Produce (DE, I think?)… but quinoa is definitely from South America (though organic), and I’ll bet the raw beets and red onions we used are from California or something.  But it was so good I ate like 5 lbs of it (and then some again for lunch today…).  I’d say it’s about 75% local… but I’m going for 95% at the low end.  I’m going to tweak that recipe so that the only thing not totally local is the quinoa, which will be organic sustainable. And then sometimes I might switch it out for some local wheatberries. Just for kicks :)

I feel like there have been a few others here and there also.  I guess it hasn’t been so bad overall… but I haven’t felt as in touch with my food as usual this week, and my body has noticed.  It’s been a fast and furious first week at Sweetgreen, and with the snow and it being the middle of February and everything… I just felt a little out of control.  I’m vowing to get back on track this week.  I bought a bunch of meat and poultry from Bev at EcoFriendly today at the market, so that will have to make up for the lack of vegetables coming out of the ground.  Veal cutlets, young chicken, and pork loin, oh my!

Not that this week is going to slow down or be any easier! We are opening our 4th outpost, Sweetgreen Logan this Friday… and we are adding 2 soups and 3 sides (which we are calling The Market).  It’s going to be AWESOME.  But I’ll likely be at work way past dinner time for several days. 

So far, life as the Sourceress is pretty freaking fantastic. Now I just have to remember to get myself some local food as well as the restaurants! On to week two..

Fantastic First Day at Sweetgreen

February 9, 2010 § 3 Comments

It seems as though a lot of people wanted a little green freshness in their life in the midst of this blizzard, because my new Sourceress job picked up quite a bit of buzz today! 

Washington Business Journal- “Sweetgreen Takes Locavore to a New Level”

Tasting Table- “From The Source” (including my favorite things at the market!)

Amanda over at Metrocurean gave Sweetgreen some Twitter love, and we got several calls at the office from excited people who read the article and were thrilled we are moving to an all-sustainable menu.

I am a very lucky girl to be working at such a fantastic, socially responsible company.  I felt like I’d already been there for months when it was just my first day!

We are pressing forward at full speed to have as much local food as humanely possible ready to go for the Sweetgreen Local Circle opening on February 16th!! Get excited- we are!!  I am in talks with Firefly Farms, EcoFriendly Foods, Tuscarora Co-op, Atwater’s Bakery and many more wonderful local food producers to make sure we are serving the most delicious, community inclusive, sustainably grown food around.   

And the Sweetgreen salads are soooo good. Check out the all-local salad I made for lunch today.

Mache, beets, butternut squash, roasted mushrooms, watermelon radishes, turkey and goat cheese, plus roasted purple potatoes and onions from last night’s roast chicken (with bread from Bakery de France and an Honest Tea).

SO. GOOD.

The Sweet(green) Life

February 8, 2010 § 3 Comments

Well, the secret is out!

Friday was my last day at DC Central Kitchen, and Monday I will start work at Sweetgreen, a young start-up fast-casual restaurant concept with unlimited possibilities. After learning about what I was doing at DC Central Kitchen with local food sourcing, the 3 vibrant young founders courted me into their company as their first Sourcing and Sustainability Manager (or, as I have been jokingly calling myself- The Sourceress.  It caught on with the SG team and has kind of stuck! It makes me smile. hehe.)

It’s hard to believe my incredible luck at finding the one company in DC (and maybe in the country) that is so committed to local and sustainable food that they have created a position solely dedicated to sourcing it.  Eeeee!! How FUN is this going to be?? I love that I will be really supporting my local farmers (with 3 restaurants and 3 on the way in DC, I’ll have a lot of purchasing power), and I’ll be bringing healthy, sustainable food to an even wider swath of Washingtonians.  I was successful in bringing fresh, local produce to homeless shelters and low-income areas.  And it’s great that high-end expensive restaurants are buying local food, and even better (for me!) when mid-price places like Saint Ex and Commonwealth do it…. but to have a fast-casual restaurant with several locations buy all local food is pretty impressive- if I do say so myself ;)  They are way ahead of the curve in most areas of corporate responsibility and sustainability, but I want to help Sweetgreen really emerge as a leader in the local food movement and show that not only is it the responsible thing to do, but also a profitable way to do business.  

I am beyond excited at the possibilities with Sweetgreen, but leaving the Kitchen was difficult for me.  It was my first real work family.  I’ll always be grateful for the support of Robert Egger and Mike Curtin- they are the reason I was even able to discover this path for my life.  Both of them have been incredible mentors, and I intend on keeping them, and the DCCK family and mission, a big part of my life. 

I’ll be posting on the Sweetgreen blog about once a week as well, and probably cross-posting here.  Follow what we are doing over at SG at www.sweetgreen.com.  

xoxo erin

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