30 December 2010

A New Year's Resolution?

Dear Internet,

Lest an actual entire year goes by without me posting a single thing on this blog, I'd like to give myself a chance to revive stem+leaf with some much needed CPR. Sure, it's easy for me to say now, while I have a bunch of free time, it's cold out, and I'm feeling hermit-ish, but I think I can, I think I can.

I'll be honest with you-- one of the reasons I have a hard time keeping up with blogging is that I don't really like spending that much time on the computer ::gasp!::, which is not to say that I don't spend time on the computer, but I prefer to just do what I need to do and then return less technologically dependent tasks. However, in the spirit of rebirth in the new year, I'd like to rethink how stem+leaf is going to look, going to operate. Maybe it will be a little more personal, have less direct recipes and more photos of delicious things I made and what's in them, and who knows what else-- after all, if I'm not engaged about the subjects, why should any of you be? At it's core it's still going to be rooted in sustainability, going green, and being healthy-- but there's a big wide world out there that all of those things can live in. Let's explore!

Things I'm really passionate about learning about and acting on right now are:
- Fresh and Healthy Food Access / Food Deserts
- Anti-Hunger Advocacy
- Honeybees
- Recommitting myself to Vegetarianism
- Finding Love in the Kitchen Again

This past year, though very good and successful on paper was a challenge for me in many ways. I worked on a farm, did my first big solo catering gig, travelled to coastal Maine for work, I took care of some of my own digestive health issues, I saw the success and experienced the challenges of several of my projects (food and non-food related), I went on an amazing vacation to Asia, saw every member of my immediate family at least once, and I worked A LOT.

For now though, all I can say is that my staycation is treating me right. Sure, we got a lot of snow dumped on us, but I don't really mind, it quiets down the city and makes us more playful. Coming up I am planning to incorporate more new adventures into my life-- camping, hiking, windsurfing, Thai boxing, volunteering, writing, photographing, learning Italian-- and feel excited and energized by living. So, I'm looking forward to 2011-- could be pretty awesome.

Thanks for always being there,

28 January 2010

strange beauty

What happens when sustainability, sake, and cephalopods collide? Ika Tokkuri, or traditional sake bottles, made from squids. YES, SQUIDS. These completely edible vessels are made from sun-dried squid and molded by hand, making them just about the greenest beverage receptacle since your own hands. What's more, the saltiness of the squid skin actually mellows the sake while absorbing some of its flavor, creating a perfect compliment between the drink and its vessel-cum-snack. No food waste, no manufacturing by-products, all sake-squidy goodness.

Already popular in Takahama, Japan, it remains to be seen whether these fishy flagons will catch on stateside. I wouldn't even need to drink from one - I could just look at them hanging on strings all day. They're beautiful!

Image via inhabitat.com

25 January 2010

real thick n' juicy.

As a supporter of local businesses as well as a lover of excellent food, I am a crazy fan of the Brooklyn Kitchen Labs, the educational off-shoot of the beloved kitchenware shop, The Brooklyn Kitchen. This 7000sf former warehouse houses two teaching labs; a bulk room of locally-sourced bulk products (duh); brewing and baking supplies, and a full research library of unique and out-of-print cookbooks.

In addition to all this, the Labs are home to The Meat Hook, a full service, custom butcher shop focused on "local, sustainable meat and small-scale farming." Run by Tom Mylan, Brent Young and Benjamin Turley, this neighborhood meatlocker is offering classes and events in conjunction with the Brooklyn Kitchen Labs. They've got a world of awesome lined up for the next few weeks, and I thought I'd help spread the word right here on s+l. You can sign up for any of these meat-fueled events and see their other offerings as well by visiting the Lab's calendar, found here.

*** How better to celebrate small-scale, sustainable meat farming than to learn about its antithesis, the corrupt, corporate mega-meatpackers? Penned by Upton Sinclair, the novel highlighted the necessity of humanity in the workplace (both for the humans and the animals) and is as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1906. Join BK Labs for discussion and a pot-luck on January 28th at 6:30PM.

*** You can buy a bajillion little gadgets to help you in the kitchen, but all you REALLY need is one good knife. Sharpen (!) your skills with Chef Brendan McDermott as he explains the finer points of knife use, care, and safety. This one and a half hour class is available February 1, 17th, and 28th.

*** Take part in a demonstration on how to cut up a half a pig while hitting on your neighbors. It's The Meat Hook's "Date Night" Pig Butchering class, complete with a $20 butcher shop credit AND drinks. Register now - this one will sell out faster than you can say "Baby got fatback."
Click here to download a PDF of The Brooklyn Kitchen's February calendar. Have fun, everybody!

22 January 2010

bathroom habits and tempuramobiles

The first month of 2010 is nearly over! How are those New Year's resolutions? Did you resolve to be greener in this new decade (and hopefully for years on)? If you did, you certainly weren't alone - thousands vowed to try living slower, more sustainable lives in the coming year, bettering their health, their minds, and their planet's future.

Whenever thousands of people join together in a movement, however, marketing types take note. A bevy of companies have (for reasons both well-intended and, uh, not) come up with some...interesting products and services aimed at the eco-minded market. Time Magazine recently compiled a list of some of the oddest green ideas out there today, some of which I can see the sense in, others...well, you'll have to see for yourself. Among Time's noted concepts are:

  • Wallypop manufactures washable, reusable cloth toilet 'paper', made from a mixture of soft terry and flannel. Though Wallypop insists that the cloths clean perfectly and have no smell, I imagine these will be a tough sell. If you're not convinced, stick with recycled toilet paper, which is made with a minimum of 80% post consumer content and has a yuck factor of 100% less than the Wallypop wipes.

  • Apparently, scientists have devised a way to use human urine to power batteries. I'm always a fan of a theme, and it's interesting to know that, when combined with copper chloride, magnesium and copper, pee can produce as much power as a AA battery. That said, I'm nervous to see what their ad campaign might include.

  • Everyone knows that our dependency on fossil fuels is a problem, but to date no one has come up with a definitive alternative to oil. Perhaps all we need is a fish fry - a car developed in Japan and powered on tempura oil (yes, as in the delicious frying type) finished 68th out of 109 in the 2006 Dakar rally. In a world where we are in quick and desperate need of an oil alternative, trying tempura has certainly got some practical appeal.
How far would you go to get green? Share your ideas and stories in the comments!

Image via Wallypop.net

21 January 2010

it's all about compromise.

Oh, Swiffer. Your speed. Your convenience. Your toxic, non-biodegradable throw-away cloths. The controversy over the green/greenwashed nature of the Swiffer (a plastic, non-recyclable mop substitute that uses disposable, chemically treated cloths instead of water) has raged on for years now, with environmentalists and designers firmly planted in their chosen camps. Some argue that the Swiffer saves thousands of gallons of water per year, but others are quick to point out how the one-time-use cloths required for the product's use sit in landfills, leeching their liquidy cleaning chemicals into the soil for ages to come.

If you, like many, are the owner of the conflicted Swiffer, here's a clever compromise offered up by Berlin Smith's delightful blog, Berlin's Whimsy: a washable, reusable, and totally eco-friendly Swiffer cover! A cinch to make, this DIY cover is a great alternative to using up many disposable cloths while still conserving water. Check out Berlin's patterns and all her other great ideas here!

Do you have any handy alternative solutions to simple eco-conflicts? If so, let the world know! Leave a comment and spread the news - the world would love to know.

Image via Berlin's Whimsy.

18 January 2010

dr. martin luther king, jr.

“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

A reminder that we all must do our part to make this world a better place, today and every day.

10 January 2010

restaurant review: saltie!

I (finally) went to Saltie the other day-- a newish sandwich shop and bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and much, much delicious happiness ensued. With a regular menu bespotted with sea-themed sandwiches and treats ("The Captain's Daughter", "Ships Biscuit", and salty caramel ice cream sandwiches), and a specials menu with soups, salads, and English-inspired goodies (Pork Pie and Chick a Leek) both meaties and veggies can eat in perfect harmony.

I got the Scuttlebutt. No, no, it's not a disorder, it's this... Soft foccacia with roasted winter squash, beets, feta, boiled egg, cucumber, olives, capers, and greens, and a garlicky aioli. A very messy thing to eat but it made me all kinds of happy. It is hard to find a unique and tasty sandwich, and as the BFF behind Sandwich Friend, I do know this.

My dining companion had the Curry Rabbit-- a take on Welsh Rarebit. Curried cheddar melted on toasted bread, served with a generous helping of Branston's Pickle and a cute salad made of pears and cilantro.

I'm looking for an excuse to eat there again soon...

09 January 2010

think less, do more: get out there!

Hey kiddos! There's some truly awesome eco-happenings going down in the NYC area this month; from filmmaker feedback to pie (pie!), there's something for everyone right here in your own back yard. I highly recommend:

The 2nd Annual GreenMarket Cassoulet Cook-Off will take place this year at Jimmy's No.43 (43 East 7th Street) on Januray 16 from 1-5pm. Part of the Greenmarket Sausage Week, the cook-off will feature Greenmarket ingredients and food sources will be acknowledged with proper credits. All proceeds from the door will be donated to the Greenmarkets of NYC. Want to throw your cassoulet into the ring? Then contact Jimmy Carbone at 212-982-3006, or email at jimmypotsandpans@earthlink.net.

The 3rd Annual Brooklyn Pie Contest has got you covered if you're more of a sweet than a savory person. Organized to aid the BK Farmyards, this yearly pastry showdown will run you just $5 entry, or free with a pie. The Brooklyn Pie Contest takes place on Saturday, January 23, from 6:00pm - 11:00pm at K&M Bar (North 4th and Roebling). View all the rules for entry here.

Evenings with Agriculture 2.0 calls itself a "gathering for the entrepreneurs, investors, food producers, and experts working to catalyze - and capitalize on - the transition to a more sustainable agricultural food system" - sort of a meet and greet for local green business people. Does that sound like you? Then head over to the
Black Door Bar (127 West 26th Street) on January 13 at 5:30pm where you'll be able to mix, mingle, and share ideas (and business cards!) with the brains behind numerous respectable organizations, including Stone-Burh flour, NewSeed Advisors, Flying Pigs Farm, and those dudes who run that crazy truck farm. Tickets are $10 in advance, $20 at the door.

Beyond these sparkling events there are always your local farmers markets and volunteer opportunities just outside your door. What are you doing in your community this January?

06 January 2010

tips of nature

This handy little guide has been floating around the internet lately and couldn't be more true! Read it through and remember it next time you're out at the market - you'll be surprised how easy it is!

(tip - click the image to enlarge it)

05 January 2010

product placement: straws!

Every once in a while I stumble across something so wonderfully innovative and charming, I just want to sing out loud/kick myself for not inventing it first.


With all the beverage-enjoying abilities of their plastic forefathers, these bendy-necked beauties will never crack, rust up, or otherwise impede on your milkshake adventures and, should one of them wind up bent or broken (heaven forbid!), they are 100% recyclable! What's more, they're sold right here in good ol' Brooklyn, so you can shop local while you sip smart.

These stainless steel straws are available at the Brook Farm General Store (75 South 6th St) and will run you $18 for a set of six. Not a New Yorker? You can buy them on line at www.brookfarmgeneralstore.com.

Image via Brook Farm General Store.

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