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Archive for the ‘Easting local’ Category

Is there something called Bloggers block. If there is I’ve had it. I’ve been whirling in circles, writing and deleting blog posts in my head and never quite making it to the computer to get anything down. It’s partly because I’m not sure what I have to say. Because I’ve been having a hard time to stay true to local, local, local, even in the middle of the summer. For example, last week I bought eggplant from a street vendor on St. Nicholas Avenue.  I have no idea where it came from. I have no idea if it was local or organic. But it looked really nice. It was there and it was $1/lb.  I felt like a bit like a renegade. I also bought avocados, which are never local.  I know, I’m a real rebel.

In case you didn’t notice. I’ve taken a tiny  break from blogging. In fact, I noticed it’s been more than a month since my last post. I’ve been doing more or less what I have come to do – my sustainable practice – but I’ve been less than perfect. I’ve eaten a lot more take out than I should have which has made garbage. I haven’t been reading as much and  I’ve been more interested in writing about other things.

It’s hard to decide what to share in the blog and what to keep private. Even though I know most of my readers are actually people I know, the open conversation when it comes to more personal matters makes me a bit squeamish. I guess I’m showing my age. In a post-everything world, nobody really cares. But I do.  So, the reason I stopped posting is pretty much economic. I left my job. It was time and I am glad to be moving on to new opportunities, but still, it was a shake up. And without the security of a paycheck, it has really made me think twice about the expense of organic and local food. Which brings me back to my eggplant and avocados on St. Nicholas Avenue.

Up and down the streets of 181st and St. Nicholas Avenue, there are street vendors with fresh fruits and vegetables being sold for super cheap prices — a buck for a cantaloupe, 2 avocados for a buck fifty – what impact does it make on the food infrastructure does it have to buy from them. Is it better to buy organic from a big corporation like Whole Foods? There’s got to be some value in supporting people who may have limited ways to make a living and who are bring fresh produce to an inner city neighborhood

Think twice does not mean abandon. Because the truth of the matter is that I love going to the farmers market, meeting farmers and getting tips.  We have lost a lot of our know-how when it comes to cooking and sustaining ourselves. But, as I’ve been spending more time looking for a job, I’ve had even less time to beef up on the latest. It’s another reason behind my blogger’s block. Still, the fact is, I’m still composting, cooking from scratch and more or less buying local. Writing about it, helps me remember, that it’s worth the trouble.


A corny question:

Most people think corn in the husk keeps the corn fresher. But according to a farmer at the Tuesday market, it’s better to husk the corn, put it in a Ziploc bag and store it in the fridge. She said husking delays the sugar breaking down and keeps the corn fresher and sweeter. I can’t seem to verify this on the Internet – I’m getting conflicting opinions. All I know is that I followed her advice, husked the corn on Tuesday, ate in on Thursday and it was pretty freakin’ good.

To husk or not to husk? Any other opinions out there?

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On the way to Kitty Hawk, we stopped at a farm stand. A farm stand! After miles and miles of passing vacant stands with empty shelved on the Eastern Shore, I was almost ecstatic. A line of signs promised strawberries and peaches and whole host of other fruits and vegetables many of which I knew were not in season. And, like our New Jersey stop, the signs also promised fudge – again free samples. It was becoming a habit. The kids complained but we stopped at the red wood stand. They had strawberries and grape out front. I asked if the strawberries were local. “South Carolina,” he said, “So sort of.”

It was close enough for me. They also had asparagus, from a mile up the road. I asked cautiously if they use a lot of insecticides. I want to ask questions, but still be respectful. But the boy, chimed right in, be said, “No, we don’t spray unless we absolutely have to.” I’ve begun to be able to tell if a farmer is telling me what he thinks I want to hear or if he’s actually genuine. I believed this kid.

They also had may peas and butter beans which I’d read about in cook books but never actually seen.  The butter beans were also from up the road so I bought them. (In my head I imagine they will be delicious with cornbread, but that may be a fantasy.)

I never quite made it to the Kitty Hawk Farmer’s Market – it closed before we could make it there.  I planned on stopping at the farm stand on the way home. I had this vision of local North Carolina asparagus for my local table Seder on Saturday night. But in the end we couldn’t stop. Again, my planning was off.  Yes. It’s also that I am so used to food being plentiful and convenient that I know finding the more sustainable source is optional.  But the fact that I missed out on those asparagus are really killing me.

Yesterday, I almost went to the store in Virginia Beach that sold Polyface farm meat – I couldn’t carry Joel Salatin’s meat home, but maybe, probably they would have North Carolina asparagus.  But when I called to ask if they had local vegetables, they said, “Well, we have Yams. But this time of year there isn’t a lot.” We have spinach and greens in the market in New York. Why was finding local veggies so difficult? The CSA according to Norfolk Farmer’s Market had tomatoes. But I couldn’t find them.

In the end, the only real local food I managed to eat was a dozen Seaside oysters  — local from Chincoteague.VA.  (Check out Paul Greenberg’s An Oyster on the Seder Plate to see why eating an oyster during passover is sort of kosher)

Our oysters came with a little plastic cup of  cocktail sauce. I’ve been collecting these bits of plastic to recycle. But I have to confess, I left this one to go in the trash — although I’m in still in Delaware, maybe on the next leg of my journey, I’ll find something else delicious to add to my table.

When I search for local food in Virginia, Thomas Jefferson comes up a lot.  Enjoying local food and enjoying history seem to go hand in hand. Which makes sense to me. Part of the pleasure in tasting something like salsify or eating charoses is connecting to our past through our taste buds.

Here’s a great bit of wisdom from a website called Eating Local In Virginia.  I should have read this site more closely before I hit the road

Eating Like Thomas Jefferson

From Eating Local in Virginia

Back in Jefferson’s day diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity were little known.  Nutrition came from the garden then, not from the grocery store.

 Today advertisers spend approximately 32 billion dollars a year trying to tell us what to eat and yet our food comes in a paper box or a plastic bag. However, regardless of how much money is spent on advertising these various foods it pales in comparison to the $250 billion a year spent on healthcare for diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

So where did we go wrong?  How did we ever get to the point where our food travels some 1500 miles on the average to reach our table? Why are our tomatoes bland and our beans canned?  Why does the food we eat lack the necessary nutrition to keep us healthy?  And for God’s sake, what in the world would our forefathers think?

If Thomas Jefferson were here I’m sure he would have plenty to say about today’s food, — so since he isn’t, I have a few suggestions:

Rule # 1. Don’t eat anything that Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t recognize as food.
Rule # 2. Never eat anything that doesn’t spoil in a reasonable amount of time.
Rule # 3. Know and respect the people who grow your food.
Rule # 4. Eat food that doesn’t come with a packaging list of unfamiliar ingredients.
Rule # 5. Eat food in season.
Rule # 6. Eat a large variety of foods.
Rule # 7. Eat colorful food.
Rule # 8. Food is not the best place to economize.

Another good rule to remember is always honor your food.  Thomas Jefferson was a gourmet who rarely dined alone.  He preferred round tables so that his guests could look directly at each other while sharing food and conversation. What better way to enjoy life.

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We were upstate looking for  maple sugaring. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going. B was asleep in the back of the car and the fuel guage was dipping dangerously below E. Then, like a beacon in the fog, I saw a sign. “Nettle Meadow Farm and Farm and Artisanal Cheese.” I had to stop.

Nettle Meadow Farm was originally founded in 1990 and is the home of 300 goats, several dozen sheep and a variety of farm sanctuary animals. I saw a few goats wandering in the pasture as I  drove up a spring muddy road and stopped in front of the old farm house. The side porch was almost completely covered. B was still asleep in the car as I parked the car in the muddy parking lot and stepped up to the front door and rang the bell.

A girl with braids like bumps on the side of her head answered the door. She wiped her hands on her apron as explained the types of cheeses.

Their prize cheese Kunik is a brie like cheese. In their own words: “Kunik is a white mold-ripened wheel made from goat’s milk and Jersey cow cream. The blend makes Kunik far richer and more flavorful than a brie-type cheese yet more subtle and sumptuous than similarly ripened goat cheeses.”

Goat cheese tends to have a bite. I like it but there’s a sharp bite that I thought was characteristic. Not on Nettle farms. The Kunik is trully amazing. It’s rich and creamy. Yes it’s like a brie but a brie that bursts with dimension. I think it’s literally the best cheese I’ve ever eaten.

They also had several spreadable goat cheeses, all hand crafted, in a variety of flavors. The spreadable cheeses are also delicious. I tasted the horseradish at the farm and liked it a lot and thought would be a nice to put out before the Seder, but they were out. So I went on their recommendation and bought one garlic and oil and one lavender and honey. The garlic and oil is delicious – it’s what that commercial Alouette cheese wants to be when it grows up. The lavender and honey has almost a ricotta like sweetness. I want to try it as the center of a buckwheat billini. I think that would be a perfect pairing.

In the cartoons, goats stand on church spires or eat their way down a mountain of tin cans. Nettle Meadow Farm capitalizes on the goats natural instinct to eat what other animals, including people, find unappetizing. The farm has been developing a pasturing program where they graze the goats on patches of forested land that normally are un-grazable. The goats end up eating nettles and raspberry leaves and other prickly or weed like substances – the forest junk. Which is why I call their cheese, the most delicious and nutritious junk food you can find.  This “junk” is actually quite nutritious not just for the goat, but also for the lucky folks like us who eat food made from these goats milk.

For the easiest but special brunch, try this super delicious open faced sandwich. It’s so easy, it barely warrants a recipe, But here’s one anyway:

Super Easy Open Faced Goat Cheese & Egg Sandwich

1 slice bread (per serving)
2 eggs (per serving)
2 tbs milk
Chives (optional)
1 -2 tb Nettle Meadow Fromage Blanc  (I used the garlic and oil flavor)
A bit of butter for the pan
Sliced tomato

Toast your bread. Crack and beat the eggs with the milk.  Add the few chives if you have them). Slice a tomato.  Spread the Fromage blanc on the toast. Add the slice of tomato. Top with scrambled eggs. Enjoy.

If you live in “the city”, you don’t have to drive to Thurman to buy this very special cheese. In NYC, it’s available at the following locations:

• Provisions, NYC, NY
• Vintage NY, Manhattan, NY
• Murray’s Cheese, Manhattan, NY
• Saxelby’s Cheese, Manhattan, NY
• Fresh Direct, NYC, NY
• Westside Market, NY, NY
• Bedford Cheese Shop, Brooklyn, NY
• Forager’s Market, Brooklyn, NY
• Manhattan Fruitier, NY, NY
• Gourmet Garage, NYC, NY
• Barzini Market, NY, NY
• Blue Apron, Brooklyn, NY

For other locations in the north east and even California visit http://www.nettlemeadow.com/find.html

This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday.

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I think I mentioned that I broke down and started buying winter veggies at Whole Foods. Not a lot. And I am careful to avoid buying just anything. So a few days ago I sadly put back my Meyer Lemon when I realized it came from the Middle East. Sigh.

But I have been buying organic lettuce and broccoli from California, and ironically hot house tomatoes from Maine. And, I have begun to buy some of the frozen kid-veggies I know  will get eaten – peas, corn and the lima beans. So far, I’ve bought about 4 bags and I feel guilty every time – but I am not going to not feed my kids vegetables all winter because I did not plan and freeze enough of my summer share.

Enter Winter Sun Farms. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for – a local source of frozen or canned local, sustainable produce. Wow.

Winter Sun Farms partners with local sustainable farms in order to bring to their CSA members a winter share of frozen vegetables once a month all winter long. You can chose two plans either from December through March or December through May.

I spoke to Jim Hyland, the president yesterday and he told me that right now they have about 1300 members and that next year they hope to increase to about 2000. They are completely booked for the season, but I hope that next year I will be one of their new customers.

I asked Jim what types of veggies a shareholder could expect. He explained that unlike a regular summer CSA, you pretty much know what you are going to get in advance. So for example this year members got 7 packs of the kinds of  veggies my kids love like Sweet corn, Edamame, broccoli and string beans. Plus the kinds of veggies I love like Frozen Fall greens (think kale or collards etc) and diced green and red peppers. And, the share also comes with one berry – a blueberry, raspberry or blackberry. This year he said it was mostly blue berries. We would be so fine with that. Here’s a link to this years actual list

Plus he also said that shares included fresh pea shoots from my own CSA farmer Ted Bloomgren at Windflower Farms. Nice.

Like many CSA’s Winter Sun Farms is able to service their members by gathering their produce from many farms. Currently, according to Jim, they work with about 20 farms in the Hudson Valley. And what’s nice is that all the veggies come in individually bags labeled with the farm that produced it.

Unlike your normal CSA summer share, these bags of veggies are partially prepared. The string beans are snapped. The tomatoes are stewed. Even the butternut squash is cut, peeled and puréed –– ready to become a quick winter soup. It sounds too easy to be sustainable.

Of course, like all things convenient, the shares are not cheap. A primary share, which includes 4 months, costs $128. Add in the month of April and the cost goes up to $160. I did a quick calculation and that comes to a little over $4.50 a bag of veggies. It is probably more expensive than my Whole Foods frozen bags, but I would be more than willing to pay the extra money to be able to stay true to my principles over the winter. Jim says that they are looking to have more options in the future including ways to make their veggies more affordable. But until now, there was a lack of infrastructure for farms to package small products.

In order to meet this need, this spring he opened the Farm to Table Kitchen up in Kingston, which will allow small farms to individually quick freeze their veggies or produce basic canned goods like local tomato sauces.

“We are going to be dealing with local farms and giving them the ability to source that stuff,” Jim explained.

Winter Sun Farms CSA has tons of pick up locations both the Hudson Valley and Manhattan and Brooklyn. You can check here for a list.

And they are also in the Saturday Farmer’s market in New Paltz this weekend and then again on March 12th. I can’t do this weekend, but I could see a road trip that includes a trip to Fleisher’s Organic Grass Fed and Organic Meat in nearby Kingston  in my near future.

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Last Saturday I didn’t go to the farmer’s market. Last Saturday I was so tired from the workweek that I couldn’t find the strength to leave the house – in fact, I barely left the living room couch.

I wasn’t in a rush to run up to Inwood. The week before, the market was so spare I left without much that I could use to feed the kids for the week and what I did buy was expensive and a bit iffy. The peel on the pears and apples was starting to buckle. The carrots, when I got them home, were  limp as the tip. And the potatoes were pricey. My regular farm stand at the end of the market near the park had vanished. And the market manager admitted the closest green to be had were probably back at the Bodega on Broadway.

I thought that I would at least find a cabbage but there was none to be had. The market manager said that she was trying to get greens in the market. She said kale was a winter crop and could be picked even in the dead of January. But when I asked the bio-dynamic farm vendor if they had Kale, she looked at me strangely. “The fields are frozen,” she said.

I looked at the bleak selection in the stalls and felt my usual panic. Not having food freaks me out. Not being able to feed my kids puts me in a double panic.

“I’ve been doing this local thing on my own,” I said to the market manager, “I need some sort of book. Kind of like a locavore for dummies.” She laughed. Then she thought for a moment. “I don’t know if there is one like that. But there are blogs and websites.” I wrote down the info on a recipe card and put it in my bag and pretty much forgot about it until yesterday when I was cleaning out my wallet for receipts for an expense report.

In the meanwhile, since I didn’t go to the farmers market, I did go to Whole Foods. It was a mad house. I haven’t stopped shopping at Whole Foods since I shifted to a more farmer’s market mentality but I haven’t done a big shop there in months. I have to say it was a guilty pleasure. It was like being on vacation – everything was easy. And I had choice. Lots of stuff was organic. And by farmer’s market standards, things were less expensive. My whole shopping which included 3 chickens and a pound and a half of grass-fed local steak was under $150.

The local mushrooms, which I normally pay $8.99/lb for at the farmers market, where only $3.99/lb. But here’s the part of last weeks farmer’s market that I forgot to mention. They guy who sells the mushrooms at the market normally isn’t very friendly. Normally, I get the sense I’m annoying him with my questions and he wishes I would just hurry up so that he could move on to the next customer. Last week when I bought my limp carrots and mushrooms from him, he seemed genuinely grateful to see me. He said “thank you,” but I could tell he really meant it.

I love Whole Foods as a back up. But I know in my heart, that Whole Foods is a big business. That’s why I wasn’t exactly surprised to read Ariel Schwartz’s article on Fast Company OrganicGate: Are Whole Foods, Stonyfield Farm, and Organic Valley Cozying Up to Monsanto? According to Shwartz, “Forbes and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) have brought our attention to an unsettling bit of information: Whole Food Markets, Stonyfield Farm, and Organic Valley–three of the biggest natural food brands–split with the rest of the organic community and opted to support “co-existence” with Monsanto’s alfalfa.”

The article reports that Whole Foods when faced with the choice between full deregulation of GE alfalfa or conditional deregulation of it thought it was better to hedge our bets and hope the USDA to regulate GMO alfalfa so that non-GMO varieties are preserved.

Shwartz goes on to say “Whole Foods also expects Monsanto to pay “the farmer for any losses related to the contamination of his crop”–a tactic that the OCA is referring to as paying hush money to farmers.” Ugg.

The article also reports that according to the OCA, both Whole Foods and Stonyfield Farm’s CEOs are buddies with former Iowa governor and current USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack who has been seen traveling in Monsanto corporate jets on the campaign trail. Double ugg.

I was very disappointed to see Organic Valley bundled in this potential scandal. Apparently, all the info was not so cut and dry and I thought it important enough to repost Organic Valley’s rebuttal to these allocations

(Via Fast Company) “As one of the brands mentioned in this article, we want to address the untrue claims made by the OCA that have unfortunately ended up in pieces like this one. Organic Valley does not have a relationship with Monsanto, nor did we come up with any sort of compromise or “deal” with them or the USDA.

We’ve always advocated for the strongest restrictions against GMO alfalfa available, and have no interest in compromising with biotech. Here’s what really happened: over the past several months Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack had asked for stakeholders to weigh-in on the USDA’s impending decision regarding GMO alfalfa, and we were a part of these talks. Organic Valley has advocated to keep GMO alfalfa off the market from the start, and this was originally an option according to the USDA.

However, as of December, they had left only two options on the table: allowing unrestricted commercial growing, or partly restricted growing. When we understood the only options the USDA were open to considering involved the legal planting of GMO alfalfa, we knew we had a responsibility to advocate for the most restrictive set of regulations possible, so that farmers would have legal recourse in the face of contamination, and contamination could be avoided by mandating sizable buffer zones and geographical planting restrictions. To have taken any other route at that juncture would have been a clear abdication of our responsibility to our organic farmers and consumers.

Walking away from the table was not an option, and would only have furthered Monsanto’s interests. We’ve not split with the rest of the organic community. On the contrary, we are uniting with several other organizations and companies against this GE alfalfa decision, and have co-signed a letter explaining our position and calling on consumers to join us: http://ov.coop/3h6. It was irresponsible of Ronnie Cummins and the OCA to make these false and unsubstantiated allegations during a time when organic farmers need our support, and unity is more important than ever. We expect an apology from him, and hope others investigate the facts before perpetuating this misinformation.

Leslie Kruempel Organic Valley”

After reading this, it’s pretty clear, the organic community was really up against a rock and a hard place. So in light of this kind of info do I boycott Whole Foods? Or do I enjoy the ease $1.39 a lb chicken?

What I really wish is that I could boycott the USDA. They are the ones who really sold us out.

For more about this controversy, check out the OCA website. Here’s three articles worth reading:

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If local means within 200 miles, then the Hudson Valley treasure Love Bites, a mere 97 miles north of my apartment, could be defined as a local hang out
. I wish practicality matched my linguistic game because Love Bites was awesome. We stopped there on our way upstate on Saturday morning and had a delicious and primarily local, mostly organic, and even a bit vegan meal. Sounds a lot like my life these days.

Opened about three years ago, the cafe is  little bite of a restaurant; it only has two rows of tables flanking a thin aisle.  When we walked in, the red walls with royal blue trim and beautiful tin ceiling spruced up with a coat of silver felt warm and cozy and inviting.  It was crowded  with interesting looking people but luckily  there was a table for four by the door.  As we sat down, I saw that two tables down a woman was about to dig into a square plate heaping with french toast. It looked delicious.

“Maybe we found a place that beats brunch at Kitchenette?” I whispered to the kids as we opened our menus. We love Kitchenette’s brunch and with its quirky menu and overall look, Love Bites felt to us a bit like Kitchenette’s country cousin.

The reviews online suggested we order off the specials. But it was a tough choice. There was a gnocchi in cream on the special that looked scrumptous. And the main menu boasted a decadent and intriguing Carrot-Coconut French Toast which is actually french toast created from carrot cake.

The kids ordered the french toast off the special board. B got his the way the special was intended, Chocolate banana french toast . Z left out the chocolate.John ordered the Zucchini -n-Sweet corn fritters with two poached eggs. I also ordered off the special board — the Crimini-Parmegian omelet with a side of sautéed spinach and a cup of regular coffee.

The coffee came in a pretty light blue cup. It was shaped more like a tea-cup but had the heft and size of mug. It felt good in my hand. I could tell by the swirl of light brown foam on the top that it was clearly brewed  individually. Plus it arrived with a small metal pitcher of steamed milk on the side. It was perfect. Little details like that are part of what make this sliver of a cafe so delicious.

The coffee was roasted locally. The bacon was from a local farm. And as I overheard th waitress say , the bread was organic sourdough.

According to the pamphlet/menu by the door, the cafe is owned by three partners — Mark, Juan and Maria. Juan it turned out was on the grill whipping out beautiful omelettes and plates of french toast with amazing speed and style.

Mark, who seemed to be overseeing everything said that they started up about three years ago. None of them were officially trained but everyone had worked in restaurants. Juan, answered a few questions between plating food. From the Dashi on the special board to the Smoked Chicken Panini there were clearly nods to many regional and ethnic types of foods on the menu . So I asked if they were influenced by any school of cooking.  He said that not  they cook from inspiration not from books.

Johns eggs were poached perfectly and looked lovely on top of their fritter. The fritters had a bit of a bite of baking soda bit in them. This was our least favorite plate. My omelet was perfect. It came with a light potato pancake cut into triangles – a nice touch. The greens in the side salad were beautiful — dark with stripes of purple — honestly the best salad greens I’ve had all winter. Mark, the owner, said they came from a greenhouse somewhere out toward Pennsylvania. The spinach was also good. It was bright and fresh sautéed with just the right amount of good olive oil. The kids french toast was decadent and delicious. The waitress was surprised that Z finished his plate – the portions were not small by any means.

Clearly everything in the restaurant was not local. I picked up a pamphlet by the front door when we came that had their menu and their philosophy. I was struck by this line: “We are excited to bring you as much locally produced food to your plate as possible!” As much is not only. It made me think about how I am living — although I am by no means only eating local or organic food, I have been feeling a bit bad about it.  I asked Mark what he thought about eating local and he shrugged his shoulders. “If we only ate what was local in the winter,” he said,  “we’d be eating nothing but squash and lamb.”

The menu boasted many vegan options.  I’ve just finished Mark Bittmans’ Food Matters. His belief is that the best way to live more sustainably is to eat vegan for most of the day, and then allow yourself to eat whatever you like for dinner.  I asked whether Love Bite’s vegan options was political choice.  Mark said that when they decided to open the café, they asked the local community what they needed. What they heard was that the town needed a restaurant with more vegan options.

I like the integration of vegan into a traditional menu. I agree with Bittman, that eating more vegan and vegetarian are clearly an important part of rethinking our daily menu. But stigmatizing vegan as weird and out there is messed up. Although Love Bites is probably a bit hippy for the general public, it’s also a lot foodie. And merging those two headsets can only be good. And the way it’s done at Love Bites was inspiring and even better, felt doable.

Overall, with its interesting food choices, locavore spin and great ambiance, Love Bite is definitely one of my new favorites — even if it’s not local enough to walk to .

On the  local dessert menu:

If you’re in Saugerties, stop by Lucky ‘s Chocolates a few doors down from Love Bites. Yummy small batch, fair trade and organic chocolates in fun shapes — chocolate frog etc. Our favorites — monster sized peanut butter cups, chocolate covered potato chips and ice cream in the summer.

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I first read about Fleisher’s Grass Fed & Organic Meats last summer? I was surfing around looking for places to buy grass-fed beef when it came up. Even though they were about a hundred miles upstate, I was curious. And a little bit intimidated.

The Fleischer’s website is everything that makes me feel doltish about my fumbling attempts to eat in a way that promotes sustainability. At Fleisher’s it seems like they have the whole thing down pat – affordable, available, grass-fed organic meat. Their website makes the whole prospect of eating with a conscience look so easy.

Of course, I wanted to visit them right away. But there was something that seemed off about driving an hour and half just to buy a chicken. That just couldn’t be green. They do deliver to NY, but the $12 service charge felt expensive. So, I had  been waiting for a time when we were in the neighborhood.

John knew about Fleisher’s, too. “It’s that butcher shop the Julia and Julia writer worked at.” He scowled sort of jokingly. “Didn’t she have an affair with some hot butcher?”

(He’s right, Julie Powell wrote Cleave based on her experience in Fleisher’s butcher apprenticeship program.)

The Fleisher’s site said that on Tuesday and Wednesday, they were open by appointment. The site also suggested we put in our order in advance.  I was worried that I would miss out on my opportunity so as we drove through Albany on the thruway south, John called. They were very relaxed. “Yes, we are open until 7.  Come on down.”

We turned off the Thruway at the exit for Kingston. It was a few days after the big blizzard after Christmas and the snow was gray and gritty.  The Catskills in general are melancholy. There’s always a feeling that you’re driving through someplace lost or, if not forgotten completely, kind of overlooked. A big sign welcomed us and pointed us in the direction of visitor information so there must have been some sort of a tourist trade. In the summer? Not now. As the twilight settled, and we wound through a familiar landscape of strip malls and gas stations, it was very suburban and a little sad.  I wondered when we’d hit the neighborhood that housed this eco-chic butcher with national acclaim

Fleisher’s was created to be a local butcher shop that only sold only premium products. The site said that they bought from local farmers who have raised their animals on a primarily grass-based diet or according to organic standards. The combination of grass fed and local makes the meat more sustainable.

According to their site: “Industrial farming requires transportation, processing, packaging and fossil fuel usage that puts tremendous stress on the environment. For example, between production and transportation, growing 10% more produce for local consumption in Iowa would result in an annual savings ranging from 280,000 to 346,000 gallons of fuel, and an annual reduction in CO2 emissions ranging from 6.7 to 7.9 million pounds.”

I’m already convinced that eating in this way is the right choice, but still I like to remember the facts behind my convictions once in a while.

After driving in circles in downtown Kingston, we finally found the store. We parked next to a snowbank and walked past a fancy real estate agency to the main street. I noticed a boutique that sold organic kids cloths and toys. But I quickly realized that was the only bit of eco-chic ambiance, I was going to get out of Kingston. Most of the main street was pretty dead.

The butcher shop was pretty much that – a butcher shop. It’s not fancy or slick. In the front, by the window, there were local and organic beans and soba noodles on some wooden tables. The beans were not cheap, $5.99 /lb but I scooped them up.

As I approached the butcher counter, a tall, bulky boy asked if he could help me. I was overwhelmed, there were chickens and tons of kinds of beef and lamb. Nothing was expensive by grass fed standards. The chicken was a bit more than I normally pay ($3.49 as compared to $2.99), but for fifty cents I thought it was worth it because I believed it was pasture raised. The Murray’s Chicken I’ve been eating is humanely raised but lives in a barn. I think of it as industrial farming light. Unfortunately, after digging a little deeper, I found that Fleisher’s chicken was supplied by Pristine Cuisine which is organic but not pasture raised. Oh well. I guess $3.49 was too good  a price to hope for for pastured chicken which normally in the farmer’s markets runs much more.

In addition to two chickens, I picked up some ground beef, a roast and a London Broil. While we were shopping, several butchers were slicing and dicing a large animal in the background.

“Do you mind if I take pic for my blog?” I asked.

Sure, one of the butchers said. They all posed.

Then he elbowed one of the other butchers. “Brian,” the butcher said, “take these nice folks on a tour.”

“Would you like a tour?” he asked me.  I looked at the kids and we all nodded.

“Sure,” I said.

Brian emerged from the pack of butchers. He was a young former musician with a healthy covering of tattoos. He opened the counter next to the cash register and invited us behind the counter.

He showed us the freezers with sides of pork belly that would become bacon. He showed us a big meat grinder where they grind the meat for sausage. He also explained how the leftover bits were used for pet food, so that nothing was wasted.

He explained how Josh Appleton came from heritage of butchers — his grandfather was a butcher in Brooklyn — but that he was a former vegan. When he decided to start eating meat, he couldn’t find local, organic or pastured options and thus the idea for Fleisher’s was born.

Z was excited by all the big knives and he watched with fascination as they sliced away at a pig. B on the other hand was horrified. He stared in dismay as one of the butcher’s helpers pressed the button and meat came dripping out of the metal grate.

One of these days, I want to go up to Fleisher’s and take one of their farm to table butchering classes. I also am eager for my next trip so that

Brian was great. He answered all our questions. He also told us that in early spring Fleischer’s would be opening “Grass”, a sustainable luncheonette in the space next door to the butcher shop. He even gave us a package of hot dogs on the house.

My last attempt at organic grass-fed hot dogs was a travesty. The kids wouldn’t eat them. But on Friday night, we grilled up the pack and as you can see by B’s happy face, they were a hit. I felt a little guilt feeding my kids such an all American 50s-esque dinner. But even John, who was eating vege-dogs was excited. “Hot dogs for dinner,” he sighed. “Wow.”

Grass fed hot dogs are definitely way more expensive than supermarket dogs. Even the Applegate farms brand (again industrial light) from Whole Foods —  they only run me about $5 a pack. In comparison, a pack of Fleisher’s dogs cost 13$. But it was sooo easy. And Chinese food (our former Friday night tradition), which costs around 35 bucks on a good day, is certainly no bargain. Plus, Chinese food made from industrially-raised chicken makes a ton of garbage even when I do my paper container trick.

I don’t think I will be making hot dogs a weekly meal, but once in a while it’s really worth it to be able to give my kids kid food and still be able to stick to my principles.

One part of  the Fleisher’s website I really recommend is their Is it Affordable? section where they map out how to serve 4 meals a week to a family of four for under $50. I think they under-estimate how much a family of four eats are a little bit — or maybe I just have two boys — but I still found it useful and worth checking out.

If you place an order of over $100, Fleisher’s will deliver to NYC. The delivery charge of $12 initially seemed like a big expense. But after tasting the quality of their meat, I would definitely consider it  for times when I’m not in the neighborhood. And for me, I  do hop upstate enough that I can see a trip to Fleisher’s as part of my new routine.

More Fleisher’s Online:

Every Wednesday, Jessica and Joshua publish The Butcher Blog for Sauveur Magazine where they share links that help us understand what artisanal butchers do and to appreciate where our meat comes from.

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