The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

A Cook’s Cafe in Annapolis: a hidden Local Food gem December 20, 2009

Filed under: Food,Tips — Alden @ 8:49 pm
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Lately I’ve become smitten with local food. I even planned on stopping by the Farmers Market in Annapolis to get some winter squash for our early Christmas gathering with the Johnson side of the family. Well, it’s been dumping snow all over Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York…anyway, both the Market and the family gathering were a no-go. In fact, I haven’t left this house in about 40 hours because the street isn’t plowed yet. A low carbon weekend for sure, ha.

But before that I stumbled upon a whole world I didn’t know about! Annapolis actually has a great support system in place for local, slow food.

My boyfriend, Scott, works at a gym that is tucked way back in an industrial park right by the Annapolis Mall. After I was done working out Friday morning, we were trying to decide where to go to lunch. The mall was a hot mess as people rushed to buy gifts – traffic jams, no parking – not a good time.

Scott suggested A Cook’s Cafe, right in the industrial park. I wasn’t expecting much. What kind of place would set up shop in an industrial park? “Who goes there?’ I asked Scott. “People who work here, I guess,” he said. The day before we had gone to one of the franchised restaurants in the mall. The food was horrendously overpriced and unhealthy. I felt deep pangs of guilt about it, and later my stomach told me exactly what it felt about my decision too. So I liked the idea of avoiding the inauthentic food nearby and also the traffic and just walking to get our food. Even if it was just a deli.  So that is what we did.

A Cook’s Cafe doesn’t look like much. Lot’s of linoleum. But the table right inside the door was piled high with literature on local food and local business. Jackpot!!! It has cooking classes, and serves delicious sandwiches to people like us for lunch when they aren’t catering. They source from nine different farms, for lettuces and carrots, to raw cheeses, corn, kiwi, and even humane veal. After we ordered we sat and a table with a simple linen table cloth and we were brought our food with two glasses of water. We enjoyed sandwiches and delicious chili and beef stew, while a trio of little old ladies gossiped at the next table over. So instead of fighting traffic, and waiting forever for cheese-doused hamburgers that roiled my stomach at midnight, we had a whole hour to relax and eat delicious food.

I picked up a little card on all the benefits of buying from your local town instead of buying at chains. Here it is, paraphrased for you (from Buy Local Annapolis):

1. For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 goes back to our community. At a chain store, only $14 comes back.

2. Independent business make purchases requiring less transportation, so less carbon!

3. Small local businesses treat their employees like people, not like numbers.

4. Local business take the time to get to know their customers, and give great customer service.

5. Local businesses are owned by people who live here, work here, and are invested in the health of our community.

6. Non-profits receive and average of350% more support from local businesses than from non-locally owned businesses.

7. Local businesses in neighborhoods need comparatively less infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services compared to nationally owned stores entering the community.

7. Small businesses sell products based on what their customers want and need, not according to a national marketing plan.

8. Chain stores are changing the way Annapolis looks and operates. Do we really want to look like everyone else??

9. Keep Annapolis authentic!

The last two reasons are especially close to my heart. I hate the way everyone flocks to the mall to buy mass produced stuff that you can get everywhere. How all the restaurants that ring its perimeter are mediocre franchized steakhouses. How people seem to think that Christmas is an excuse to just buy a bunch of DVD’s for everyone you know. My favorite places to shop in Annapolis are downtown, in the little boutiques with adorable lady owners that sell embroidered linens and local artistic offerings. Sure, there are a lot of lighthouses and carved crabs. But it’s absolutely Annapolis. And exploring the bricked streets and discovering boutiques is so much less stressful than rushing through the mall. Believe me.

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My Birthday and Eco-friendly birthday presents! November 29, 2009

I’ve gotten two presents so far. Yesterday my boyfriend gave me a climbing session at Earth Treks, per my request. (I wrote about my birthday and Christmas requests in this earlier post.)

It was a great time. When I first started up a stalactite, my position felt so perilous, like I would fall backwards if I even tried to move. “Why did I ask to do this?” I wondered. But as I started to pull myself up and to the top, I remembered why I like rock climbing so much. It’s a challenge, you come off it feeling happy and strong, and it’s so much better than sitting around and watching tv!

After that Scott took me to dinner at the Wild Orchid Cafe in Annapolis. He consulted my sister for a good recommendation. They both tortured me for weeks about it. “Ohhh, you’re going to LOVE it,” Colby kept saying, without telling me what it was. As we walked up the brick sidewalk to the porch, I asked Scott, “Is it local, sustainable food?”

He grinned. “Yup.”

At that point, I started squealing with delight. I’m so happy there’s a place like this in Annapolis! From their website:

Our cuisine is based primarily on the local produce and humanely raised animals of the Chesapeake Bay area…Chef Jim Wilder and team of Certified Chefs incorporate the finest seasonal seafood, game, and fresh local produce into the cuisine. For this reason, some have referred to our style as “Californian” meaning, we are well-known for creative preparations using the freshest and finest local products, which makes for stunning plate presentations with a natural, simple beauty…

And then today, Mom presented me with a beautiful blanket created from all my college t-shirts! I was so taken with it. And apparently, my sister’s husband liked it so much, he’s presented Mom with all his old nerdy/cool band t-shirts. I took a picture of them lined up and ready to be sewn, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise so I won’t post it here.

And I’ll just end with this. I was listening to Marketplace on NPR the other day, and there was a piece on the “value waste” that happens every year at Christmas. It’s because we pay money for gifts for other people, like what we think are a cute pair of gloves. But the receiver might not have paid so much for the gloves, or wouldn’t want to pay at all. So that money is wasted. The guest contributor, Joel Waldfogel, author of  Scroogenomics, put present waste at 20% of holiday spending. Really?? Thats 12 to 13 billion dollars a year of money that could have been saved, paid for better food, or a mortgage, or something else. Maybe we should rethink this.