Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Long View of Food

I just finished two pancakes, half an egg white omelet with spinach, mushrooms, and feta, local Italian bread toasted to perfection, and some pork sausage patties from a farm just across the border in PA. It did not suck. I did not take a picture because I was inhaling food at a rapid pace. There may need to be a walk in my future if the rain stops. If not, perhaps I'll twist my ankles around in the car while driving back across the mountains.

You may have noticed the lack of posting. In part, that's due to the fact that I'm no longer a stationary being. Over 1,000 miles in the past 10 days. But I've decided I still want to write. Bully for you.

Time being, I'll be posting synopsis pieces. A week in the food life of, a three day trip recap, etc.

Here's the first one, encompassing a whirlwind tour of WV, PA, MD, and VA in about 10 days time. I don't know if I'll put any of this in chronological order or not. I've only had one cup of coffee so far today, and my brain's still woozy from long sleep and lack of alarm clocks all over the room waking me up. I'm not used to that of late.

Last week, Chester, Virginia. Three tacos al pastor at Don Jose's. Ubiquity. But the meat was good and the pastor sauce was made there at the restaurant and the pico had a lot of fresh cilantro in it. I would have doubled up the small corn tacos like the street vendor taquerias in SoCal do, but I'm not in crisis mode if my one tortilla per taco tears a bit because the meat is still so juicy. This was one of those moments when just having a clean booth and prompt service within walking distance of a hotel was a wonderful treat for a road-weary foodie.

Don Jose on Urbanspoon

When you go to Jamaica Cuisine, get ready for culinary smack down. The owner's in charge, and you better like it. Put your cell phone away when she's at the table, ask her opinion because she knows the food (hell, she's cookin' it too), and be ready for her to decide you really meant to order something else. Trust me, she knows this food better than you do. She's going to know what's better from day to day.

I asked her to pick between the Jerk Ribs and the Fish in Coconut Curry. She started writing on her pad before I was done asking. I didn't know what I was eating until it showed up on the table. Steamed Fish and Crackers. LOVED IT. Table consensus was that the red snapper on my plate and sauce surrounding it was the best dish of the four we got. The hot garlic shrimp and curried lobster were groovy too, and we all dug that they turned tofu into flavorful with real texture. But the fish was perfectly cooked and the curry has the perfect heat and cool in the same bite, and it really wasn't too strange to have water crackers sitting on the plate soaking up the sauce. C'mon, you've dunked crackers in tomato soup, you've put oyster crackers in chowder. It's good.

Stopped in CRW last weekend. Herbert ordered this pretty plate of classic Americana breakfast. I went Acapulco omelet with chorizo and avocado. Both of us were happy. Ms. S wolfed down a piece of French toast so fast Herb asked if she had received it yet...damn that was quick.

Morgantownians - GO HERE! Kenyan Cafe. It's over in the shopping plaza where Pug's makes yum pasta and pizzas. Friggin' AMAZING food! Went with Six-Pack and the soon-to-be-Mom.

The food is an amazing blend of southern comfort food and Indian. No, really. Think about it. Chicken or beef stew with collard greens, kale, or cabbage? Ugali, which is a white corn meal mixture that is best described as a texture between grits and biscuits. And it's a perfect tool with which to sop stew. The collards are tender, the cabbage was tart and dreamy. The beef stew was beef and carrots and cardamom and coriander, and cloves.

It's stews with chicken, beef, and goat. And it's Indian/near Eastern spices. What a brilliant combination.

The samosas were hand made fried dough wonderlands of spiced ground beef. The fried plantains we ordered after dinner should not have been physically able to fit in our bellies. But Six-Pack and I found room somehow.

J's chicken curry was delish, and Bec wanted a few more pounds of collards.

The owner came out and spoke with us for several minutes when the food had arrived and was extremely helpful when we were ordering as well. Nice young guy from Kenya who came to the States to get an education and decided to stay and open a business. Wi-Fi and good African coffee in this University town will ensure he has a constant supply of out-of-country students frequenting his spot. I sure hope the rest of town gets their courage up to overcome the 'different' and get this food in their bellies.

Get here and keep this guy in business.

Kenyan Cafe on Urbanspoon

Yes, there have been home kitchens in use in my travels as well. Bec made up this tasty looking plate for lunch yesterday. Egg white omelet with sauteed mushrooms and spinach and a healthy dose of feta for salty goodness. Same deal this morning plus the sausages and pancakes. This house eats well!

Before I left CRW I made up a batch of collard greens and mac n' cheese so Greco would have sides to serve with his pork chop lunch special. I gotta tell you, that mac n' cheese was friggin' amazing. I can cook for crowds too. Three pounds of mac, 1 pound of butter, three pounds of cheese, and almost a gallon of milk. Mmmmmmmm.

I have to share this. It's the mascot of a hot dog joint down at Patrick Street in CRW. Haven't eaten there yet, but this makes me really want to. Scary, no?

First meal in Naptown last week. Grilled flat iron steak and chicken/habanero pepper sausages with fresh green beans and broiled local 'maters with Italian seasonings and parmesan. What a great way to be welcomed back to town. Looking forward to more good food in this town too!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Food Safety in the News

So one of the tangents to the whole 'buy it locally from someone you know' phenomenon that's sweeping the nation 1912-style is a corrolary that the mass-production of food leads to less safe supplies of food. So there's a regulatory structure to make sure food producers are making people sick or killing them. Good idea, right?

Obviously, there are cracks in the system. Today brings two articles that talk about some of the recent problems in the food safety world and proposals by both the federal legislative and executive branches.

From Grist on H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act:
As we learned yet again in JBS’ recall of 421,000 pounds of beef, federal agencies don’t have the power to enforce recalls of tainted products; recalls are “voluntary”—and offending companies are not even required to release information about precisely where suspect products are sent. Indeed, as far I can tell, JBS has released no such information. On the company’s Web site, the latest press release dates to October 2008. This morning, I called the company’s “media relations” number—which is folded under the public relations department, according to the voice recording—to ask if the info had been released. I left a voice message; no one has called back.

Importantly, FWW informs us, H.R. 2749 would give the FDA to recall suspect food. That’s an important step—and it’s shocking that the agency doesn’t currently have that power. But here’s the catch: the FDA’s purview does not extend to meat. Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the USDA, not the FDA, monitors meat safety. “This means that meat and poultry plants under USDA inspection are not affected by this bill,” FWW writes.

And from McPaper on the Administration's Food Safety Working Group, a panel of administration officials and outside experts created in March and co-chaired by the Vice President and Secretary of HHS:

"The focus is to have a completely different emphasis than we've had in the past," Biden said. "We're going to make our new priority preventing (food contamination) from happening in the first place."

Coming changes that can be implemented without Congressional approval:

•Within 90 days, an improved individual alert system at to give consumers immediate access to "critical food safety information" such as recalls.

•New safeguards designed to cut salmonella in raw eggs, E. coli in ground beef and other pathogens in leafy greens, melons and tomatoes.

•A better tracking system to pinpoint the origins of outbreaks.

•Better communication between government agencies that regulate food safety.

Looks like there's some key industry support for these efforts with the National Grocers signing on to the administration changes already.

Well done folks. Do some things now that don't take legislation and work the legislation that appears to be needed to make food a much safer commodity in the marketplace.

And yes, dear readers, I promise to cook soon. Tonight, in fact. With as many local ingredients as I can get.

G and I are cooking up tomorrow's lunch special at Sam's.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Slow Money

Creating an economy of 'venture' capital at a slower pace, for an agricultural capital investment. I'll be reading more about his for sure. Thought I'd share what I found so far.

The Slow Money Alliance is trying to create a framework that allows people from all over the country to invest directly in their local agricultural economy. Most of the founders/talking points are coming from California right now, but that makes sense given California's 1) massive agricultural economy, and 2) leading thinkers on locavore/local agricultural economy.

Their principles start out like this:
The Slow Money Principles

In order to preserve and restore local food systems and local economies; in order to reconnect food producers and consumers and reconnect investors to that in which they are investing and to the places in which they live; in order to promote the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration; we do hereby affirm the following Principles.

I. We must bring money back down to earth.

II. We must bring our money home. We must put money back into local economies and carbon back into the soil.

III. We must invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered.

And here's a video they've put on their site to give you an introduction to the Slow Money idea.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Husson's - Slow Posting Pizza Day

Here's some pizza while you wait for real posts from me. They might take a while, but as you can see by the hand in the shot, this pizza will be large enough to tide you over for a bit.

It's from Husson's, a local 10-joint effort here in Charleston that does VERY good thin crust pies with sweet tomato sauce. It's the best damn pizza cold from the fridge the next day too.

And the large's are 18". So you're getting fed for a long time, or for a lot of people, with these bad boys. The fellas at Slice would like say there's no "there" there to the crust. And they'd almost be right. It's incredible how thin the crust is.

And the sauce is sweet, no two ways about it.

But they're loaded with fresh moz and good pepperoni, and they're quick on the draw to get your pie to you hot, and I don't live in NYC, and really, I LIKE this stuff.

Husson's is my number two pizza choice here in town. Number one is Graziano's on Capitol street. Real deal NY-Style pie with loads of good toppings, a few pasta choices, and an eggplant parm sammich that's de-ricious!

Husson's get's the coveted #2 spot for it's delicious Saturday and Sunday morning appeal, and for being a family joint that gets it right with quality.

Husson's Pizza on Urbanspoon