Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dear NYC, meet the Holton Farms CSA... a.k.a. your dream come true.

Oh friends. Perhaps you're something like me. You *mean* to get down to the Union Square green market, you really do. But the crowds are INSANE, and it's really far from where you live, and most of it isn't organic, and... and... Well shoot, now it's too late to bother going anyway.

So then you go to Whole Foods. It's mobbed there too. And you're totally frustrated with their produce, most of which is conventionally grown anyway. The organic stuff is grown either on the other side of the country or better yet in another country altogether. You get excited about the huge honking sign proclaiming "LOCAL PRODUCE!!", and deflate quickly when beneath that sign you find three kinds of (conventionally grown) apples.

It would be so great if you could have just joined that CSA you heard about from your friend, but the membership waiting list is just ages long; they're all like that aren't they? But no, then you'd just end up with three pounds of radishes and a bunch of parsnips anyway.


Ahem. Enter Holton Farms of Westminster, Vermont and their fabulous new CSA Select program. A bit of a neighbor to the north, I'll grant you, but at a four hour drive locovores shouldn't be scoffing. I cannot take credit for this discovery; after being in my neighborhood for approximately 12 minutes, my friend Liz Cherry of the Excellent Name discovered Holton, which is so conveniently dropping off about eight blocks from my house. They're probably dropping by somewhere near your place too, or by your work maybe, since they have nearly 30 stops around the city throughout the week.

It gets better though. This ain't your mama's CSA. Unlike the others you've heard of, you don't just get a bag of whatever produce they feel like schlepping your way. You get to choose. It's like you're actually shopping for the food that you want to eat! Crazytime! Naturally what you can choose from depends on what they're growing and what is ready to harvest at that particular time, but this is one heck of a farm and the variety is great. So what you choose from is in peak season, just picked, and nearly all organic! Seriously, this is what it looks like when you log in:

As you may have gathered, the hubby and I have jumped right onto this here bandwagon. And it's kind of awesome. Last Sunday morning we strolled on over to the truck to pick up our produce - in the ecologically friendly reusable tote provided to us by Holton, of course. This week's picks included raspberries, blueberries, yellow squash, zucchini, parsley, red lettuce, a bunch of carrots, and a bunch of bok choy. The guys in the truck are so awesome - even though I know they've been awake since some obscene hour, they are still enthusiastic and funny and helpful, and really excited about the work they do. Call me idealistic, but to me there's something special about getting your food from people who actually know where it came from and are happy about providing it to you.
You get to guess at how much of our haul was actually for our darling furchild, Harvey the Rabbit. I will say that Harvey is now in LOVE with blueberries, which he had never had before this week. And he hearts carrot greens just about as much as the carrots themselves. Needless to say, the Holton Farms CSA Select program is Harvey-tested, Harvey-approved.

CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. And the more members they get, the more work they'll be able to do within the community. So if you've been meaning to look into a CSA but just haven't quite gotten around to it, THIS IS SO YOUR CHANCE. You know you want to. Is this the summer when you learn to eat local, seasonal, organic foods? It just might be...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I still eat, I swear! Today I had a lovely gazpacho.

Hello dear readers! Miss me?

OK, so I know you're not *demanding* an explanation for my three-month-long absence, but I'm going to provide a bit of one anyway. The short version: my body is trying to kill me.

The slightly longer version: Immediately after returning from the wedding in March I had to schedule a wee bit of oral surgery (wisdom teeth removal). It took place in mid-April. Given that I must do everything the hardest way possible, of course after the surgery I got a dry socket. So there were many weeks where my gustatory world consisted of little other than smoothies, yogurt, lukewarm soup, and other soft food objects that one can eat sitting up in bed. Which brings us to about mid-May.

I had just really started to recuperate and get out into the world again - Jonathan and I went to the Cloisters for our fourth anniversary, and then ate at Peace Food Cafe. Terrible name, fantastic food, just by the way. And then the very next weekend... KIDNEY STONES! An emergency room visit, four days in the hospital because my kidneys got infected (I had an obstructed ureter), a handful of minor surgeries and procedures, and ten to fourteen glasses of water or other clear liquids per day. For the past month and a half. I'm telling you, I don't walk; I float.

But anyway, it's sort of kind of beginning to resolve now. Anyway, about that gazpacho.

I believe I've talked here before about Le Pain Quotidien - let's just call it LPQ for short. The waitstaff does, so I don't see why I can't. When I first dined at an LPQ I had very mixed feelings about it: it's a chain, albeit a European one. It's definitely a bit overpriced. But they do have a location a mere block from my office, their soup of the day is always vegan, and they nearly always have one or two vegan baked goods in the cases up front. This was enough to sway me to their favor over this past long winter.

Winter is most definitively gone. We are in the middle of a nasty heat wave - so bad, in fact, that it has forced me to finally go out and buy air conditioning units. Today is what I am truly and sincerely hoping will be our hottest day of the year - 98*. And come lunchtime, the dining option that popped into my head was the good old LPQ, and the cold gazpacho that's been on their menu for the past month or two.

Any gazpacho in the world has a tough measure to live up to: my mom's. Hers is killer, and since it's practically the only one I've ever had it's what I know the dish *should* taste like. I am happy to report that LPQ can give my mom's cold soup a run for its money (not that I wouldn't still eat hers any day of the week). It is pungent, perfect in consistency, extremely flavorful, and topped with a swirl of a deep green sort of basil aioli/puree that adds both visual interest and an increased depth of flavor. The occasional small chunks of mango and avocado take it right over the top - I do believe this is my new favorite summer dish.

Here's a question: what other cold soups are there? The husband and I can't think of any, other than variations on gazpacho which really don't count. Three points to whoever can tell us one!