The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

Put it on the To Do List: The Hester Street Fair July 27, 2010

Sunday, after having a delicious brunch at the sustainable and organic Community Food and Juice in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side, Vicki (the roomie) and I set out on an adventure all the way down to the Lower East Side. I was actually just there Saturday night with Agatha, my friend from work. But I wasn’t going down there on Sunday for Ommegang beer and gin and tonics. Nope, I was headed down to sample hand crafted macarons, spicy popsicles, and peruse some vintage wares and locally-made crafts.

Allow me this rant first: Sometimes I really hate the MTA. New York’s transportation system is like a five year old’s birthday party run by a drunk grown up: nobody knows what is going on, it’s always a mess, and there ends up being a lot of pissed off people.

I had gone jogging earlier in the morning at 9, and reported back to Vicki that it wasn’t “that bad. It’s doable.” But as we came closer to noon, the heat became close to unbearable. Vicki and I found that the subway 1 line was not stopping at 125th, 116th, 110th, or 103 going downtown. Since we live at 110th, this put us in a predicament. We waited at the bus stop, panting like poodles in the heat. One bus rumbled by, too full to stop. Another pulled over to let over a little old Asian couple, but didn’t allow anyone on. Our trip to the fair seemed like it might be a huge mistake. Vicki suggested we walk east to the AC line, four long blocks West. Peering out from our shady spot under the bus shelter was like gazing from an oasis across a parched desert. But I finally agreed. We passed through a pedestrian fairway with shady trees, and finally managed to get a train going in the right direction, cooling off in the wonderfully icy interior of the subway car. From the Grand St subway stop, the fair was only a few blocks away.

The Hester Street fair is deceptively small. With only a hundred yards of grounds, you would think you would get bored quickly. And yeah, you might if you like to speed shop and you aren’t hungry. But Vicki and I spent nearly an hour as we hopped from booth to booth, gossiping with the vendors, asking them about their foods and crafts, and nibbling on the tasties.

After passing by some cute stationary (which is getting old, I feel like a see at least one – if not three – hand printed stationary table at every fair in New York) we stopped at DBA. I thought DBA only produces beautifully simple biodegradable pens, but upon visiting their site right now, I’ve found all sorts of nice little sustainable things that are “forthcoming,” like a dishrack, an extension cord, and a heater. Ok, sounds boring, but it would be the most stylish extension cord you ever owned, trust me. But right now, besides the matte black pen that uses non-toxic ink and is 98% biodegradable, they also have an “endless notebook” that can

be combined and rearranged to create your perfect little notebook. It’s 100% post-consumer waste and chlorine free. If you don’t have a compost bin, you can just send the pen back, and they’ll take care of it for you!

I scribbled a bit using the pen and chatted with Niamh (pronounced Neev – she’s one of those Irish beauties whose name is crazily spelled) Hughes, the Business Development Manager. She tried on my Kayu glasses, saying she had  been salivating over them for some time. I think they actually looked cuter on her than on I…Obviously, I bought a pack of the pens, happy to support the venture.

Next door: the Macaron Parlour with Simon Tung manning the table. We’re lucky we didn’t come Friday, because the shop had sold out, riding on a wave of customers after a mention in the Daily Candy. But today he had lots of flavors. I tried the lemon macaron, which seems silly in hindsight, with flavors like candied bacon with maple cream cheese, thai chili, and earl grey available. I mean, I’m not saying was disappointed with my choice. I bit in

to the flaky crust which melted away to reveal the ganache filling – tart and tasty. “This is better than Laduree!” I declared. He practically blushed. “No way, that isn’t true. Though Christina [Christina Ha, his business partner] did study under Pierre Herme in Paris.” I nodded like I knew what he was talking about. It sounded impressive, at least.

Vicki ordered the cinnamon pistachio with morello cherries, which I nibbled on as well. Not bad!

Moving on to the next yummy thing, I had a iced lychee white tea, then a delicious waffle with sweet red bean in the center. A bean filling sounds savory, but this one was sweet, almost like a fruit filling. And they were shaped like fish! Charming. I felt bad for the pair manning the griddle, in the 90 degree heat though. Luckily nearby there was a tent whose sole purpose was to cover visitors with a cool mist.

Also, I almost got a ping pong ball the to the face, but luckily one of the players snatched it from the air by my head. Of course, I had no clue until they both started laughing. Typically me.

Vicki and I perused some vintage jewelry and dishes, marveling at an old butter churn and examining old postcards. I gave some serious thought to getting some lovely jars (something I’ve been obsessed with lately) but the swing-top lid was so rusty it was a struggle to get it open and that’s not something I wanted to deal with on a daily basis.

I passed by Laura Fisk’s table and fell in love with her printed cotton accessories. There were classy cobalt blue napkins with ruby pomegranates. “If I had a real house with more than two seats at a table, I would get those,” I told Vicki. Instead I opted for a pretty little apron with an adjustable neck, and cupcakes on the front. I was giddy when Laura yanked on the strings and the apron slid up. “We short people always have to fold it up,” she said. I totally agree. It gets annoying that normal aprons starts right under my boobs. She also had a children’s book, stationary, and some children’s-sized aprons. They’re printed with non-toxic inks as well, though I wish it was organic cotton. Can’t win ’em all!

You can see her stuff at fiskandfern.com.

Of course, it wasn’t all stuffing my face with food and shopping for myself. I shopped for other people too! I bought Mike a very manly belt from Feur Wear made from out-of-commission German fire hoses. That’s Dave, above, posing with the belt. His company, Holstee, is selling the belts for Feur Wear, because they like the German company’s stuff so much and wants to see them in the US. Holstee designs and curates beautifully designed sustainable goods, and you should really give their website a look, because there is some uber-cool stuff on there. It debunks the myth that sustainable design is all hippie skirts and fanciful stationary.

I especially love their manifesto:

“This is your life. Do what you love and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love…” And on. (I don’t want to brush up against copyright infringement by reprinting the whole thing here…” You’ll have to check it out for yourself.

Next to Holstee was a table displaying some select stuff from Sustainable NYC: adorable fold-up reusable bags, Toms shoes, soy candles, and upcycled purses. I did not even know this place existed, but now I feel like I have to go there! It’s at Avenue A and 9th St. A bit out of the way for me, but still….

At this point another vendor piped up, saying a huge rain storm was about ten minutes away. To the West the sky was dark and ominous. Vicki wanted to leave right then, but I wanted to stay a little longer.

Finally we stopped at Xoom for some smoothie samples. I wish this smoothie and tea shop wasn’t so far away from me, because if Xoom was on the UWS, it would replace my obsession with Juice Generation, I’m sure. Not only because the smoothies are delicious, but their green creds (to the right) are top notch.

At this point we hurried away from the fair to beat the rain. As fat raindrops spattered the sidewalk, I took one last picture of the bike valet and Vicki and I promised each other we would come back to try everything else. What we didn’t get to sample: the ice cream sandwiches, sassily flavored popsicles, and barbecue. Not to mention the adorable yoga bags I forgot to go back for. Another day, another time…

Vicki set off in a dead run for the subway, with me calling after her. “Wait up!” as I struggled to run in my Jack Rogers. You would think she would melt or something. We waited on the platform for a full twenty minutes, watching train after train go by on the opposite platform. Finally a voice over the intercom. “Wah wah wah Brooklyn bound only wah wah.”

That’s when we saw a sign saying no north-bound trains at that station. Awesome. We emerged, walked ten steps and then the skies let loose. Luckily the Green Market farmers market was right next to use, so we hid under a tent and chatted with the Green Market worker about her time in India while waiting for the downpour to ease. (I love New York!)

When the rain eased up a little, we walked on, stopping at The Pickle Guys for Vicki, and then we hopped a bus and took it up to The Strand. Can you believe I’ve never been to this bookstore before? I could spend hours in there, but I stuck to my shopping list and walked away with Markets of New York City (natch), 101 Things I learned in Culinary School, and Remember Be Here Now, the classic hippie tome about the spiritual life. That and psychedelic drugs, ha.

Finally we hopped on the subway and came home. I cooked some stir fry up for Vicki and Mike, Vicki made mimosas, and it was a good day.

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How to do The Jazz Age Picnic at Governor’s Island

1.

Bring a parasol to keep the hot sun at bay.

2.

Invest in some dance classes before hand or show up before 12 to get a free one so you can take full advantage of the brass band

…Or just wing it.

3.

Don’t wander too far away from the dance floor, you don’t want to miss the beautiful singing.

4.

Red lipstick is key.

5.

Accessories make the outfit.

6.

Guys look hot in suspenders, hats, and bow ties.

7.

Don’t be afraid to show off your best assets…

8.

Bring some blankets on which to stretch out

9.

Kids are more than welcome!

10.

Peach is perfect.

11.

Bring a camera so you can capture the beauty….

 

Free NYC Screenings of Earth-y Movies July 16, 2010

This summer the PRdream Summer Film Fest presents “Earth 101”, a primer on global warming, fossil fuels, industrial farming, genetically modified food, and water.  According to Judith Escalona, Director of PRdream.com:  “We’ve always had an environment and health component to the screenings, but this year we decided to devote the entire festival to it—given the Gulf Coast Disaster.”

EARTH 101: What You Don’t Know Will Kill You! opens Thursday, July 22, 8:00 PM with music from latin group Grupo Coco Rico.

The documentary screenings are free and take place every Thursday night at sunset, approximately 8:30pm, at the 103rd Street Community Garden, between Park and Lexington Avenues.

This year’s exclusive focus on environmental documentaries coincides with a new exhibition at MediaNoche, PRdream’s digital art gallery. MediaNoche is located on the corner of 102nd Street and Park Avenue, just one block south of the community garden where the films will screen.  The exhibition “SPILL>>Forward” is scheduled to open July 29 at 6pm.  As the title suggests, the works displayed are a response to the Gulf Coast oil disaster.  SPILL>>Forward is a collaboration between MediaNoche and Transnational Temps, an international new media arts collective devoted to increasing awareness about the environment.

Opening the PRdream Summer Film Fest is Grupo Coco Rico, featuring Joe Falcon on bass, Luis Rodriguez on guitar, and sonero mayor Ismael Rosado.  The trio will play traditional Puerto Rican music and Latin Jazz before the first film screens on Thursday, July 22.   Not to be missed!  Music begins at 8:00PM.

Thursday, July 22  An Inconvenient Truth – Redux

Thursday, July 29  A Crude Awakening:  The Oil Crash

Thursday, August 5  Crude

Thursday, August 12  Food Inc.

Thursday, August 19  The World According to Monsanto

Thursday, August 26  Flow

An Inconvenient Truth, directed by Davis Guggenheim

Redux.  PRdream brings back the sobering classic on climate change.  Former Vice-President Al Gore explains the present and future effects of global warming.  “Each one of us is a cause of global warming, but each one of us can make choices to change that with the things we buy, the electricity we use, the cars we drive.”

Crude Awakening:  The Oil Crash, directed by Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack

What happens when the earth runs out of oil? This is your wake up call.  At a time of unprecedented and ever-growing demand, the available oil worldwide is fast approaching peaked oil depletion.

Crude, directed by Joe Berlinger

It’s déjà vu all over again! Instead of British Petroleum, its Chevron; and instead of our Gulf Coast, it’s the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador, South America.  The film follows the crusade of an Ecuadorian lawsuit against Chevron for 2 of its 14 years!  We see the tragic pollution of a once pristine rainforest and the devastation of the people who inhabit it.

Food Inc., directed by Robert Kenner

And you thought Aunt Em and Uncle Henry were still running the farm!  Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers, and our own environment. The highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer is exposed.

The World According to Monsanto, directed by Marie-Monique Robin

From Iowa to Paraguay, from England to India, Monsanto is uprooting our food supply and replacing it with their patented genetically engineered seeds. Along the way, farmers, communities, and nature become collateral damage.

Flow, directed by Irena Salina

The most important political and environmental issue of the 21st Century — the World Water Crisis.  Here is the case against the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh water.  Politics, pollution, human rights, and the emergence of a domineering international water cartel that wants to control our water supply–and our future as a species.

This program is made possible with the support of the New York State Council on the Arts, Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and individual donors.  Special thanks:  Hugh Mandeville, Todd Escalona, Eric Wold, Tanya Torres, Juan Nunez, Taina Caragol, Joe Falcon,Yolanda Sanchez and other superlative individuals.

Earth 101 is a departure from PRdream’s usual summer film program of Puerto Rican/Latino films and other international independent cinemas.  These films are scheduled for late Fall.

 

Enter to Win Free Eco-Friendly Stuff! July 13, 2010

Living Echo is having contest. Just register at their website and you’re entered to win natural candles, chocolate, seed bombs, shea butter, or lip balm.

Living Echo is a website that allows you not only to shop for earth-friendly stuff, you can also rate companies, peruse articles on living greenly, and watch and post videos. It’s on my good list. 🙂

 

What’s Organic About Organic? Well, I’ll Tell You July 9, 2010

“The pesticides are made to stay on even in a rainstorm….So how big of a rainstorm are you giving in your kitchen?” – A farmer on pesticide use in apple orchards

Whew, this post is late. Things just got a little out of hand, what with my trip out of town and all that stuff I had to attend to, like watching ten episodes of Lost. (I have a lot of catching up to do.)

Anyhoo, last Thursday – shoot, the Thursday before, actually, I scooted down to the Here Theater to see What’s Organic About Organic? a sort of low-budget Food Inc. The little theater was packed with people, despite it being the fourth showing of a whole week. Apparently there are a lot of very aware and curious people in NYC.

The movie didn’t teach me a lot of things I didn’t already know, since I’m already a voracious reader of blogs on the topic. Still, it’s good for me to watch this stuff, because sometimes I need a boost in my determination to be more aware about what I eat. It’s like going on a diet – you need to keep trying on those skinny jeans in order to remember why you gave up dessert….and hamburgers…and anything not organic…

I did pick up some choice facts about conventional farming (aka, “not organic.”) THey’re a swift kick in the pants to all you Luddites still enjoying McDonald’s. Please enjoy:

  • Farmers and their families on conventional farms frequently suffer from pesticide poisoning
  • Pesticides are the same chemicals used in chemical warfare. They are just watered down to put on our food.
  • Chemicals from those pesticides can get into our water supply
  • The estimated health and environmental costs of our farm chemical usage in the US is estimated at $9 billion
  • Arsenic is often put in chicken feed. The chicken poop is then fed to other animals.
  • Industrialized farming (think large-scale farms with produced shipped hundreds of miles) currently depends on cheap fossil fuel, something that is getting harder and harder to come by.
  • Switching to all organic farming could reduce 25% of our carbon emissions
  • Produce loses 40% of its nutrients within three days of being picked. Unfortunately, most produce doesn’t reach your shopping cart until after that.
  • 70% of antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals. (Which makes your next round of needed antibiotics less effective, by the way.)
  • Sewage sludge is used as fertilizer in conventional agriculture

The movie was equal parts hope and frustration. Farmers talked with a fierce pride about sticking to their guns, even as everyone told them they would do better if they used fancy pesticides and GMOs. They tut-tutted other farmers who are deep in debt and battling super weeds and crazy infestations of bugs, even as they douse fields with Roundup. They talked about their hope for the future, about the quality and beauty of their food. But even so, the sheer scale of the problem was sobering. Sadly, one farming cooperative that the movie focused on had shut down by the time the movie was done being produced.

After the lights came up I chatted with a girl my age next to me with masses of long curly hair and fun bracelets that clinked on her wrist. Her name was Rose, and she is even more into food issues than I am. She also already knew about most of what the movie had to say, “I mean, images of CAFOs are burned into my brain,” she said “so…”

While we talked the panelists came up on stage. Restaurants was the topic of the night. I was curious to hear more about sustainable restaurants, but even if I had wanted to, I couldn’t have left. Not a person in the theater budged from their seats, eagerly looking up at some of the most well-respected members of the farm-to-table movement.

Elizabeth Meltz, Director of Sustainability, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group

My ears perked up at the name Batali. I had just written a post about his wonderful pizzeria, Otto Enoteca, where I enjoyed some of the best pizza I had ever had, and heavenly cheese with truffle honey. Of course if you’ve heard of Mario Batali, you might know he has a small restaurant empire. I was so pleased to know that his restaurants embrace sustainability. They source from local farms, use organic produce, and avoid using fish that are being overfished. In order to convince all of the chefs – chefs always being averse to being told what to do – Elizabeth brought them all in and showed them videos of the impact of food decisions. They were converted. I think I have found my new favorite restaurant.

Jimmy Carbone, Owner, Jimmy’s No. 43

Jimmy’s love of good quality food came through as he talked. Far from being a gimmick, his seasonal variations on his menu evolved slowly as he acquired more and more food from local farms. One day, he said, he woke up and realized his summertime menu is composed almost entirely of food from within a hundred miles, save for the olive oil and lemon. Now he gets CSA deliveries right to his restaurant, which has become a hub of activity has other restaurants stop by to pick up their own produce. His fave farm? The Piggery.

Carlos Suarez, owner and Head Chef, Bobo Restaurant

Love this guy. He worked in finance for a year, but decided it had a lack of value (no, really??), so he quit and started a restaurant, Bobo. I had never heard of this West Village restaurant before, but believe me, it’s on my list. His restaurant doesn’t even serve bottled water.

Ian Marvey, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Added Value

Added Value is an urban farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and from what I can tell it is an amazing venture. Teenagers staff the field and the produce table. The owners of The Good Fork, which sources from Added Value, walk three blocks in the morning from their home to open up the restaurant. The restaurant, in turn, is three blocks from Added Value. The point of Ian telling the audience this is that all that money made from the farm circulates within Red Hook. The implication? Real, local people get the benefit of this agriculture, instead of faceless corporations hundreds of miles away.

Patrick Martins, Co-Founder, Heritage Foods

Patrick seems to be more of the pragmatic and sober type, instead of the pie-in-the-sky breed of organic evangelists. He caused a ruckus when he said that Purdue has value in that it “feeds the world.” Boy did that get everyone riled up, especially the farmer in attendance, Marty Mesh. What Patrick was trying to say is that famines used to be a way of life, and the sheer scale of conventional agriculture has made those a thing of the past. That’s a good thing, even if there are a lot of abuses and serious drawback to the system. After getting raked over the coals by other panelists, he reiterated that he dislikes Purdue and Smithfield as much as anyone. They are, after all, the enemies of the movement.

That’s Shelley Rogers by the way, the documentary maker, laughing to the left of Patrick.

Classie Parker, founder of Five Star Community Garden in Harlem

This lady was adorable. Rose and I kept on looking at each other and practically squealing with delight as she held forth about the importance of community and good food, and her jam with Southern Comfort in it. Yum. She’s a main character in the movie as well. “Not enough people are talking about it. Go on Facebook. Go on Twitter,” she exhorted the audience. “I guarantee you it will grow!”

Marty Mesh – Farmer Advocate and Executive Director of Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers

Marty was another main character in the movie, a grower with very strong opinions. (At one point he claimed Swine Flu was caused by conventional pig raising. Urp.) But I loved his idea of installing organic farms in low income areas and homes, a great way to improve nutrition. He got a huge round of applause from the audience when he declared we should “get corporations out of the food system.”

After the panel disbanded, Rose and I exchanged info, promising each other that we would get up to Harlem to see Classie’s Five Star Community Garden, and maybe get our hands a little dirty!

 

What’s Organic about Organic? Week-Long Kickoff in NYC June 18, 2010

Next week at the Here theater, the who’s who of the food, sustainable, and organic New York movement will be gathered around to screen the new documentary, What’s Organic about Organic? It discusses sustainable and organic agriculture and the myriad of issues that surround food. If you want to learn more about why what you eat is so incredibly important to the future of our country’s safety and happiness, (or you just want a fresh jolt of energy to keep walking past McDonald’s on your way home) you should check out at least one of the days for a panel discussion. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot.

As for the quality of the movie itself? I can’t find any solid reviews except for this very short one that says it doesn’t cover much new ground, though it is pretty interesting. Scroll to the bottom for the trailer and a synopsis.

I bought tickets for Monday through Thursday. I’m not going to watch the movie over and over, but all the speakers sound so amazing, I’m going to try to make as my panel discussions as I can! Unfortunately I’ll be out of town Friday through Sunday, so I’m going to miss the superfun-sounding benefit on Friday with fancy local food. But here for you is a list of the notable attendees and the topics:

(Buy tix here)

Monday, June 21 – 7pm screening
Topic: Bringing organic food to the NYC population, the trend of urban farming and the organic farming model
Jacquie Berger, Executive Director, Just Food, Hilary Baum, Co-Founder of Food Systems NYC and Founder, Baum Forum

Tuesday, June 22 – 7pm screening
Topic: Organic farming as a solution for climate change
Paul Mankiewicz, Executive Director, Gaia Institute, Karen Washington, President, NYC Community Gardens Coalition, Maria-Paolo Sutto, Director, Urban Design Lab of Columbia’s Earth Institute

Wednesday, June 23 – 7pm screening
Topic: Farmers’ markets & direct relationships between people, their food & farmers
Michael Horowitz, Director, Greenmarket Program, GrowNYC, David Hughes, Operations Manager, Greenmarket Program, GrowNYC, Bob Lewis, US Department of Agriculture and Markets

Thursday, June 24 – 7pm screening
Topic: Restaurants and organic farming
Elizabeth Meltz, Director of Sustainability, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, Patrick Martins, Co-Founder, Heritage Foods, Jimmy Carbone, Owner, Jimmy’s 43, Carlos Suarez, Owner and Head Chef, Bobo Restaurant, Ian Marvey, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Added Value

Friday, June 25 – 7pm screening
Topic: Reconnecting urban and rural food systems
Scott Chaskey, President, NOFA-NY, Peter Hoffman, Chef, Back Forty and Savoy, Member of Chef’s Collaborative, Adriana Velez, Brooklyn Food Coalition

Friday, June 25 9pm BENEFIT PARTY <– Fun alert!
Benefit Party for NOFA-NY.
Tickets are $20.

Saturday, June 26 – 2pm matinée
Topic: Fun with composting (bring the kids!)
Christine Datz-Romero, Founder & Director, LES Ecology Center

Saturday, June 26 – 7pm screening
Topic: The benefits of a field-to-fork relationship
Joan Gussow, Professor Emerita of Nutrition Education, Columbia University, John Gorzynski, Farmer/Owner, Ornery Farm and “character” in WOAO?, Claudia Keel, Director, Dr. Weston Price Foundation

Sunday, June 27 – 2pm matinee
Topic: The benefits of organic food for child health and development
Annie Novak, farmer and founder of Growing Chefs, Yonnette Fleming, Urban Gardener

Sunday, June 27 – 7pm screening
Topic: Organic nutrition and food retail
Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, New York University, Anne Saxelby, Owner, Saxelby Cheesemongers, Urvashi Rangan, Environmental Health Scientist, Consumer’s Union and “character” in WOAO?, Dennis Derryk, Founder, Corbin Hill Farm, Marty Mesh, Executive Director, Florida Organic Growers and Co-producer, WOAO?

WHAT’S ORGANIC ABOUT “ORGANIC?” rings the alarm for the need to develop an ecological consciousness.  The film illustrates that the organic food debate extends well beyond personal choice and into the realm of social responsibility.

Each of the film’s characters is intimately connected to the organic world; they’re farmers, activists, and scientists.  While many folks can easily endorse “organic,” the characters in the film take the discussion beyond just shopping for another eco-label. As we glimpse into each of their lives, we see how organic agriculture has the potential to solve many of our environmental and health problems.  The film will explore how organic farming can be used as a soil and air protection system, a healthy solution to toxic pollution, and an innovative means to combat global warming.

(Buy tix here)

 

The Brooklyn Gay Pride Parade June 15, 2010

Not nearly as large or crazy as the New York City Gay Pride Parade, but still pretty fun, the Brooklyn version gave my friend Jenny and I an hour of entertainment after we were done watching the US-England World Cup game.

My favorite part? The itty bitty gay sidekicks!

Brooklyn Gay Pride Parade