Archive for March, 2010

Tending the information bar

March 16th, 2010

citrus season

So, decent night tonight manning the bar.  A party of newcomers dined with us tonight, and that is almost always fun.  They  could appreciate, and were genuinely interested in, what we are doing as a restaurant.  Thursdays I generally count on Mike rolling through the heavy pine door of the restaurant, but that didn’t happen tonight.

A lady sat at the bar tonight.  I recognized her: she’d been in a few times, but apparantly this was the first time that she had been in with this particular gentleman.  They had cocktails, the grilled shrimp and grits appetizer, and pretty much covered the “first date” conversational gamut.  After a little while she began describing her website, or in her words “my little effort to help the world”.  I sidled up and into the conversation.

“What’s your website,” I asked.

She had, she told me, 20 years experience working wood products at Home Depot, and she had created a business to supply eco friendly wood products to those folks desirious of such.  Her site is Greenworldnow.com.

I was interested, her date seemed to enjoy me giving him a break from chatting, and she was genuine and knowledgeable.

“That’s great,” I tell her, “one of my regulars, Mike, is a very talented worker of wood, and I would be very happy to pass along your information.”  She seemed pleased, asked her guest whether he minded  her scribbling down her information on a cocktail napkin.  He didn’t, so she did.  I resumed my duties, and the couple continued their conversation for forty-five minutes or so.

Later that night I emailed her site  information not only to Mike, but also to another regular of mine.  He is putting together a website celebrating the conscious community of Portland, Oregon. His site is Showcasepdx.com.

He thought her concept beautiful and very in sync with his.  We will see if anything blossoms from this exchange of information, but everyone seemed happy enough to gather connections.

Is Portland Posh?

March 12th, 2010

Unknown

My girlfriend and I had dinner in Las Vegas Monday night at Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s French restaurant in the wine cellar of the Venetian Hotel/Casino (bouchonbistro.com).  Named one of the best restaurants on the Las Vegas strip, indeed even one of the best restaurants in America, Bouchon has apparently captured the attention of hundreds of thousands of people.

We started with a sparkling Vouvray and salmon tartare, then a  crisp Suave Blanc with goat cheese and greens with red wine  vinaigrette:  two sips of white wine remained when the Sommelier came over and assisted me in choosing a Cote du Rhone…and then the entrees arrived.

She had the beef burgundy on a bed of root vegetables with chitarra noodles.

“I don’t like that they have their name on it,” she commented.

“Bouchon” was emblazoned in robin’s egg blue  across the large, thick lip of the ivory plate.  The flatware was Sysco number five or something, and the red wine glasses were delicate, but not crystal.  The nice French bistro ambiance filled the air, and the starched waiters bustled.  More than a few were fueled on cocaine and white wine.  I could sense it by their movement, but that’s the restaurant biz.

My plate held a thick stripe of collard greens, risottoed barley and braised lamb neck, and upon that was the scalloped leg of lamb, perfectly medium rare.  The Cote du Rhone had a big fruit start, brite  blackberry  soaked in cinnamon, then a soft spicy, oaked  roll down the back of the throat.  Perfect bed partners for both the lamb and the beef.

The lamb came from Pennsylvania, the beef from Newport, California (that’s what our waiter said, but it didn’t sound right to me).  They were quality products, though, good to the taste.

We do better up here in Portland.

The Country Cat (thecountrycat.net) receives its beef and hogs from Sweet Briar Farms (sweet-briar-farms.com), and lamb from Cat Tail Creek farm (cattailcreeklamb.com) all about two hours away down south a bit.  Our vegetables and fuits and herbs come from farms no farther than the crow can fly in thirty minutes.  Sure we get trout from Idaho and Steal Head from Tacoma and grits from South Carolina: they’re the best.

Is it possible to  quantify  integerity?  That elusive sprite that beckons every human differently; the act of doing what’s right for the sake of right; performing the same task, with zeal and ardour, whether your boss is present or not.

Taste the flesh of a grass fed steer (except for the last twelve days of its life when fat needs to be added via barley, corn and rye) next to what is coming out of the industrial slaughter factories.  Are McDonald’s burger patties real beef? Or merely cow patties that have been sold to the public as beef?

Sure one can trace the carbon path from petroleum to corn to cattle (The Omnivore’s Dillema, Michael Pollan, michaelpollan.com/omnivore.php), but  I am not talking about petroleum based power or even a sustainable agricultural model: I am exploring the treatment of animals within the light of our food production. If we don’t treat with diginity that which we consume, then how can we hope to live our lifes with dignity?

We have something special here in Portland and we need to foster this little spark of food integrity and blow gently upon it until the nation blazes with food integrity, and obesity does not afflict the poor and ignorant within our beautiful  country.

Monsanto gets a kick in the eggplant

March 8th, 2010

Picture 1

Recently hundreds of  of farmers in India met outisde the auditorium of Bangalore University.  They waved placards and chanted praises for the new, genetically modified aubergine.  This was the final public consultation on whether the genetically altered eggplant known as BT Brinjal would be allowed access to India.  BT Brinjal is the result of a partnership between an Indian hybrid seed company and Monsanto, the giant biotech multi-national.

Environment Minister Jairam Maresh not only placed a moratorium on the implementation of BT Brinjal in India, he also ripped the propaganda curtains down: he knew that these “farmers” were really landless laborers, devoid of aubergine farming experience,  bussed in by unnamed companies.  It is obvious that Monsanto will stop at no lengths to accomplish it’s goals of world domination.(http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15498385)

While citizens of the United States may have become calloused and unnerved by the duplicitous behaviour of the USDA and the EPA, the Environment Minister of India drew a line in the sand, “It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary, principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release,” until scientific tests can guarantee the safety of the product, said Ramesh. (http://rawstory.com/2010/02/india-refuses-genetically-modified-crops-citing-inadequate-science/).  It seems the Indians are not yet in thrall to the industrialized food cabal.

Supporters suggest that research  shows that the use of BT Brinjal would reduce the amount of crop destruction from pests by 50% and the use of pesticides by 85%. (http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15498385)  This would indeed  suggest that the Indians adopt this new wonder crop.  Yet, there is always a truth behind the propaganda unfurled by such huge companies.

There exists a hope that a second, genetically induced  “green revolution” may help feed the people of India.  Saline soil is a component of this and “saline soil is caused by nitrates and over-irrigation, two essentials of the Green Revolution.” (The Little Food Book, Craig Sams, Alastair Sawday 2004).  Earth that is fertilized with nitrates require more and more fertilizer until the bio-diviersity has been purged  and the lands become barren.  These fact only come in retrospect: no independent research has been allowed on Genetically Modified Organisms.

“Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects.” (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research)

The hungry of India do not need their land despoiled by petroleum products; they do not need their farmers enslaved by giant multinationals like Monsanto whose  only concern is the bottom line.  In The Hindu, Dr. V.S. Vijayan, Chair of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, said that the decision “forestalled the surrender of the country’s food security to multinational companies, such as Monsanto and Mahyco.” (http://www.panna.org/resources/panups/panup_20100212#6)

Someday, perhaps, the US appointees to the USDA and the EPA will behave with such  integrity and stand firm against the corruption of the food chain by big business.  I would not suggest that you hold your breath.