The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

Looking for Some Yum Organic Food in NYC? July 31, 2010

I’m an avid user and reviewer of Yelp, so I decided to highlight some of my reviews of organic, local, and sustainable eats in NYC and Brooklyn. This is by no means comprehensive though! On my to-do list:  The Good Fork, ABC Restaurant, Xoom, and so. many. others. Good sustainable food is everywhere, you just need to know where to look!

Bobo

West Village

7/31/10

As a huge local food fan, I’m always excited to hear about a restaurant with a relationship with the farmers. You won’t see a Cisco food truck outside of this place. Every dish is lovingly crafted from artisinal cheeses, locally-grown produce, and delicious humanly raised meats. It makes it all the better than the owner, Carlos Suarez, quit finance (“a lack of values” he said) to open this restaurant.

We arrived just a few minutes later for our 7:45 reservation, and an older gentleman led us up the painted wood stairs lined with flickering candles to a romantic dining room. The handcrafted quality of the restaurant shines through even in the decor. Fashioned from what was obviously a townhouse at some point, the dining room is romantically lit, with bookshelves stocked with old tomes, heavy draperies, and candles everywhere.

We hit a hiccup when our waiter forgot to provide us with a wine list, but he apologized when he realized 10 minutes later and was quickly back to take our order of an artisinal and biodynamic malbec. There was also a short list of cocktails, bottled and draft beers, and aperitifs. I hardly noticed the less than stellar service because he was so friendly, and even made me laugh a few times.

We provided the waiter with a coupon from Blackboard eats, and received in return a plate of fig leaf wraps with brown rice and a sweet sauce, and three “shooters” of pepper and zucchini infused non-alcoholic drink. They have a long list of canapes that comes in singles for about $3 a piece, so you can mix and match.

The star of the night was the duck breast with chorizo that my boyfriend ordered – it was an eyes-rolling-back-my-head moment. My brook trout wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, unfortunately. And at one point I had to pull a small bone out of my mouth. Yuck.

However, you must order something from the dessert menu. We had a trio of ice cream sandwich sliders: gingerbread-oatmeal-raisin cookies with a mildly fruity ice cream, chocolate with what I think was a cookies and cream ice cream, and and a classic chocolate chip ice cream sandwich. We made a huge mess, but since they put down paper on the tables instead of white cloth, I didn’t feel so bad.

As we left we noticed that the downstairs bar was booming. And it looks like you can order some food at the stand up tables by the window as well.

A word on the prices – they are very reasonable. I was suprised that the bill wasn’t more, given that we ordered so much, and the quality of the restaurant. Add in the fact that all ingredients are local and organic, well it’s practically a steal. I’m not saying it’s cheap, but the value is definitely there.

All in all I would definitely come back here, but it hasn’t quite made my list of favorites.

The Farm on Adderley

Neighborhood: Flatbush

7/28/2010

Oh man does my boyfriend know me well. I’m a huge local/organic/sustainable food buff, and at his suggestion we came to The Farm on Adderly for a casual after work dinner.

We ate inside, since there was a short wait for the garden out back. The tables are well spaced so you aren’t elbowing your neighbor, and the whole space has a cozy feel.

When the waiter (friendly, knowledgeable, and prompt) described their steak special of the night, I wondered to myself if the meat was grass-fed or local. Imagine my delight when I spied the footnote on the menu: “All the meat on the menu has been sourced locally, is pasture-raised and humanely cared for.” Score!

The menu itself is short and sweet, with an assortment of cheeses, not more than five salads, and some entrees. But the beer and wine menu looked extensive. We ordered cocktails – he got the cucumber lemonade and I ordered the grapefruit Blue Ridge Parkway (a reference to a scenic drive through the Appalachians.)

For non-alcoholic beverages, they had some interesting choices, including Fentiman’s Brewed Cola, Zico Coconut Water, Fever Tree Tonic, and even homemade kombucha.  This place is a hippie paradise. At the bottom, as if they are ashamed to admit it, there is diet coke too.

I ordered the special, which was… hmmm… what did they call it… a crepette I think? It was a meat dish with tripe. The waiter was nice enough to warn me about the tripe, but really, you can’t even tell it’s there. It wasn’t the best meat dish I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t bad either, and was very filling.

My bf ordered the butcher’s meatballs, which he reported being quite satisfied with. We took a glance at the dessert menu, just to see what was on there. Mistake. I had to shove it away so I wouldn’t be tempted by all the delicious confections on there, including banana chocolate upside down cake. Another time, for sure.

Bonus, go a few doors down to Sycamore for a follow-up drink in their garden. It’s equally enjoyable.

Community Food & Juice

Neighborhood: Morningside Heights

7/26/2010

I had heard such wonderful things about this place, and after coming here both for dinner and brunch, I’ve gotten a 360 view.

They have a wonderful selection of organic and local beers to start off with. I didn’t try the cocktails, but they were tempting, to say the least. In fact, they have a lot of local and sustainable fair on the menu, which is always very nice.

I had a delicious salmon and fried potato salad over a bed of parsley, which just blew my mind. I’m not a huge salad person, but I left feeling very full.

I came here a few days later for brunch. We managed to snag a table in the shade outside (the wait for an indoor table looked long) but not all tables are shaded, so watch out on a hot summer day.

We saw several B.E.L.T.s walk by (bacon lettuce tomato and egg on sourdough, yum!)  But I opted for a more traditional house-made apple sausage and eggs with carrot hashbrowns. Filling and delicious. My friend had the blueberry pancakes, which came with a syrup that tasted like brown sugar and butter. So decadent, and so good!

The service was great both times. The waiters quickly came by, and so did our food. I will be eating here whenever I get the chance!

Tangled Vine

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

6/18/2010

My friend and I were lured here by the promise of organic and biodynamic wines. The menu was full of organic wines by the glass as promised, but I had a hard time ferreting out a biodynamic wine. Too bad. If you are looking for an extensive wine list, you’ve got it here. It goes on for pages and pages.

I know this might not matter, but I noticed the menus are cheap photo albums with printed paper slid into the plastic pockets. Small things like that really factor into my experience. That, along with the unfinished awning out front, gave me the feeling that they weren’t quite finished putting the place together.

The food (all meant to be shared) was delicious, and the service good. We ordered the organic veal meatballs and asparagus and peas risotto. I could have licked the plate!

My one big complaint was the tight space. It was a crowded Thursday night, so we sat at a high communal table with five others. In order to leave, everyone on one side of the table had to climb down from their stool to let the person pass.

It was super loud in there, but my friend and I had to strike a careful balance between speaking loud enough to here each other, and not offending our neighbors, who we knocked elbows with the whole meal.

I’ll probably go back for a casual glass of wine and some plates with a friend since it’s in my ‘hood, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for a romantic date, and I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

The Castello Plan

Neighborhood: Flatbush

6/14/2010

I am so happy this is right around the corner from my boyfriend’s place, because we both agree we’ll be going back soon!When the sommelier came over, he inquired after my preferences, and then went to get three bottles and three glasses. “I think I’ll taste some with you,” he told us.

Each glass he would give an abbreviated, broad description, (“full, fruity, bold) which was nice because it’s a proven scientific fact that you cannot detect five different notes in every wine, no matter how romantic it sounds. Then while my boyfriend and I followed protocol (swirl, smell, taste) he would knock it back like a frat boy taking a shot. We suspected he might be drunk, or maybe he didn’t even work there and was just hanging out. Doesn’t matter because we were super happy with the wine he helped us choose. He also pointed at the Brooklyn borough president who was schmoozing at a nearby table.

When our friends joined us, we ordered two appetizer plates, and an assortment of cheeses and prosciutto. The wooden platter of prosciutto and cheeses was amazing, but the duck really took the award for the night. I’ve never had such a sumptuous mouth-feel before. We tasted our friends’ sweet potato dish, it was hard to refrain from stealing their plate and eating the rest! Dessert was amazing too: bite-sized chocolate tulips. I would give you a fuller description, but by this point my faculties were severely impaired.

I also liked their presentation: vintage-looking silver and raw cut wood platters. We all had such a great time, I couldn’t imagine a nicer night.

Juice Generation

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

5/28/2010

As far as smoothie places go, this is the best.My reasons? Voila:

1. They use fresh, local-when-possible, organic ingredients.

2. They have delicious smoothies with ingredients like acai, goji berry, ginger, or just your regular strawberries and banana, plus boosters.

3. They use recycled plastic cups that – unlike Jamba Juice’s – don’t leach chemicals into your yummy smoothie.

4. Their sandwiches are fresh-made, and delicious, especially when grilled and cheesy-melty.

5. If you need a snack, they have crazy healthy raw food bars, trail mix, and protein muffins.

6. The people who work there are always friendly and helpful. They deserve all the tips they get and more!

7. In the winter, you can get a hot drink like their cold-busting ginger and orange juice drink. Peps you right up.

8. Everything always looks hyper-sterilized and organized.

This place costs me seven extra blocks of walking before work, but it’s totally worth it. I love starting my day with a smoothie or (if I’m hungover) a muffin.

 

Food Washing: Like Greenwashing, but grosser June 22, 2010

Have you read In Defense of Food yet? If you have, then you know the injecting Froot Loops with calcium and vitamin D doesn’t do bumpkus for your health. I mean, that should be obvious. But apparently it doesn’t take much to convince people that it’s OK to feed their kids sugary cereal and Wonder Bread for every meal.

The healthiest and happiest people know that in order to get your vitamins in minerals, you should just go ahead and eat whole foods: fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and humanely-raised meat. Science doesn’t fully understand how vitamins nutrients interact to help or hinder each other within the body. So pulling out one vitamin and saying it might prevent cancer is like saying holding hands and singing kumbaya might prevent a war.

Tell that to the food industry. Now that people are starting to become dimly aware that you need to eat healthy to lose weight, food companies are flailing about, trying to make their crap offerings appear not-so-bad. According to this post on ecosalon, there is nothing to prevent a packaged food brand from making all sorts of crazy claims. Do women actually believe Crystal Light will boost immunity. Guess what drains your immunity? Chemically derived sugars. Wait, isn’t that what Crystal Light is made of?

Ok, sorry. I’m being harsh. Sometimes we just want an excuse to eat what we want to eat. You better believe that if Reese’s said “Made with Real Peanuts!” I would be like, “Hell yeah, that counts as my vegetable for the day!” But still, I think we should be aware of what kind of messages are being used to manipulate us.

Read the post for more goodies like:

  • “Lightly sweetened Frosted Mini Wheats, which are 20% sugar by volume
  • Healthy Choice minestrone soup, which is only “healthy” if you eat half a cup, their recommended serving size. The actual bowl is twice that, and packs a huge punch of sodium.
  • Rice Krispies boost immunity. Really Kellogg’s?

The FDA has only gone as far as to send warning letters to some of the offending parties. In absence of any sort of regulation, I’ve given you a five step process for sorting through the claims of food manufacturers.

1. Read all labels carefully. Keep a look out for claims like “reduces risk of cancer,” “lowers cholesterol,” “weight challenge,” or anything similar.

2. Laugh heartily.

3. Set box back down, walk to the outside aisles of your grocery store.

4. Fill bags with fruit, vegetables, bulk grains,  and freshly butchered cuts of lean meat.

5. Go cook something. Anything. Stick a potato in the oven with olive oil. Throw some brown rice in a pot with soy sauce and chopped onions and carrots. Whatever, just don’t believe a word of what those fools tell you.

 

There’s a society-upending movement afoot April 7, 2010

Does it have a name? I’m not sure. It’s part Urban Agriculture, part Back to the Land, part Slow Food, part sustainability. It’s all of those things wrapped up in a deep need by modern Americans to fix what has gone wrong with our food system. I would call it a Food Revolution, but Jamie Oliver stole that name for his new show.

Yup, Oliver’s new show is part of the movement too. It follows him as he attempts to repair the way people eat in one the fattest towns in America, located in West Virginia. In the first episode last Friday, he attacked the lunch system in the school by banishing sugury milk and teaching the elementary school students how to use forks and knives. He also tries to get a family to eat better. It’s a sad sight to see, as an obese mother weeps with relief when she finds out that her middle schooler isn’t diabetic. Yet.

The night before I attended a fundraiser for BK Farmyards, a new urban garden networks that wants to transform the way people in Brooklyn shop for and eat food. As I sipped spicy magaritas with my friend Anne, who works at Idealist, we watched films that all seemed to drive home one crucial point: “Agribusiness, you stupid motherf***ers, we are coming for you.”

Ok, the f-bomb wasn’t necessary. It was more peace and love, naturally. But what I saw in those movies energizes me. More than ever I want to dig my hands into the soil, and at the end of a season pull out a carrot. My very own carrot that I grew myself, on my own land.

One quote in particular got me, from the movie Garden Cycles:

I have kids who come to Middlebury College from the lap of luxury, and pay $160 thousand in tuition, and all they want to do is farm.

What this says to me is that more and more people are getting real pleasure and happiness from turning down that desk job and digging in the dirt. Another person in the film commented on the American myth that farming is one of the most undesirable jobs out there. Yeah, it’s undesirable if you are being driven out of business by massive industrial farming companies. But it can bring real satisfaction to bring home the bacon in a more than just a metaphorical sense.

Other tidbits picked up from this adorable little event:

  • Farmers Markets are the fastest growing part of the food economy, and are growing even faster than Wal-Mart
  • Almost half of New York City’s waste is food
  • “Master Composter” is an actual, honest-to-god title, with an education to go with it
  • My next volunteer opportunity should totally be with the Familia Verde in the bronx, who run a community garden in one of the driest food deserts in the nation

There is so much more on this subject. For starters, read a Michael Pollan book. Or read the latest, wide-ranging articles on the subject of real food here, here, and here.

 

Food Fraud: Maybe I should just give up April 2, 2010

Filed under: Food,news — Alden @ 2:18 am
Tags: , , ,

When I go to restaurants that serve fish, I’m always careful to choose responsibly. Chilean Sea Bass? No way!

Well, an article by Washington Post (sent to me by my  step dad, thanks!) describes the widespread substitution of one cheap food for another. It includes corn syrup for honey, catfish for snapper, even imported crab for one of my favorite foods: Chesapeake blue crab. Come on!

It’s just another reason why you can never trust what your food is or where it comes from, unless you can look your farmer or fisherman in the eye as he bags up your purchase.

 

Day 5 of the Clean Program: Am I clean yet? March 19, 2010

Filed under: experiment,Food — Alden @ 10:39 pm
Tags: ,

Ok, I’m not an all or nothing type of girl. Some people are. Take Scott, my boyfriend. When he says, “I’m not going to drink,” he means he’s not going to drink. Ever, anytime, no matter what the occasion. Me, when I say “I’m not going to drink,” it means, “If the opportunity for drinking doesn’t present itself, and I can easily find an excuse for not drinking, then, I won’t drink.

So you can see where this is going. The Clean Program is very stringent. One shake in the morning, a “regular lunch” (which isn’t actually regular, it consists of quinoa and vegetables usually) and a shake for dinner. With pills and powder.

I’ve been pretty good about it this week. I haven’t eaten anything against the rules. (Ok, I filched two quaker rice cake bites from my roommate.) But obviously I’m worried about this weekend. It’s easy to plan your eating schedule when you work every day. I make a shake for breakfast, pack a lunch, and wait until I get home to have a shake for dinner. And then I eat 5 tablespoons of almond butter and feel guilty. I did that three nights in a row, no joke.

Well, the tub of almond butter is gone, but I have the prospect of a weekend of parties looming ahead of me. I know myself, and I know that after 30 seconds of someone saying, “Hey! Why aren’t you drinking?” I’ll go grab a beer. In fact, I’ve already had three and it’s 6:30 on Friday. Yup, there was a work party on the roof and I had three beers. Not in the cleanse program. Maybe if I take some of those supplements it will negate it? Not likely.

Scott will disapprove.

Anyway, knowing that we have dinner plans, I had a shake for lunch instead. It was so beautiful out! Most of my work stuff was on hold, waiting for someone else to address it, so I snuck out of the building and walked a couple blocks to the Energy Kitchen to grab a smoothie.

When I walk to and leave work, the neighborhood is almost deserted. But today, there were plently of people out in the sunshine. I walked past a young guy lounging in his open window drinking a beer while his friend chatted idly behind him. A gay man with gauges in his ears, leaning against a wall, complimented me on my necklace. Joggers passed me, cyclists whizzed by.

Long story short: I got the shake. I’m ruining my cleanse already, and whatever, life is good.

Happy weekend!

 

Another reason to not eat sugar March 3, 2010

Filed under: Cool sites,experiment,Food,shoutout — Alden @ 5:26 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I saw someone tweet about a new blog called “A Month without Monsanto.” That’s right, April Davila is trying to go a month consuming food that is “outside the grasp of Monsanto.” Dude, I admire this girl’s courage.

Do you know how hard it is to go a month without eating anything that profits Monsanto? If not, just read, say, two of her posts where she describes her herculean efforts to avoid Monsanto food, and you’ll get the idea. It’s not only fast food that contain GMO’s grown with Roundup. It’s even organic food, which is distributed by subsidiaries of Monsanto. In short, it’s almost impossible to know where that any of our food comes from. And that includes sugar, which is made from Roundup-ready beets and is found in products like Hershey bars.

This poor girl has been confined to eating:

Seaweed
Eggs from free roaming, grass and bug eating chickens
Wild caught fish
Organic dried fruits and nuts (except papaya, mango and melons)
Maple syrup.
Coconut meat/juice.

Really? That’s it? It goes to show how much our food decisions aren’t really our decisions. One of the takeaways from the blog, at least to me, is to hit up the farmers market, where you can look your farmer in the eye say, “So, where do you get your seeds from? Do you use Roundup?”

Just in case you are saying to yourself, “What is Monsanto? Why should I care?” Here are some links to reasons why you would want to avoid Monsanto:

Millions Against Monsanto

Suit Seeks to Bar Genetically Modified Sugar Beets

Ethical Investing on Monsanto

GE Alfalfa Threatens Organics

More US Weeds Found Resisting Monsanto Roundup

Growing Evidence that Chemical Agriculture is Killing US

 

An Conscious Consumer’s Manifesto January 30, 2010

Filed under: Food — Alden @ 12:56 am
Tags: , , , , ,

We, the eaters of the United States of America, hold the truths to be self evident (even if food producers think they aren’t):

That we have the right to know what is in our food.

We have the right to know what ingredients are in our food – whether it contains Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or nature-made organisms, whether the ingredients were engineered by a lab technician or grown by a farmer, whether the meat we eat has hormones or antibiotics or just meat, and whether plants we consume are coated with pesticides or just rainwater.

We the eaters have the right to know how that food was made – whether it was made in a kitchen or in a factory, whether it was fertilized by synthetic fertilizer or manure and sunshine, whether it was raised in a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) or on a green pasture.

We the eaters have the right to know from how far away that food came – whether it was shipped in a truck, train, the back of a trailer, or even in a horse and buggy. We have the right to know when the food was picked or slaughtered, when it was processed, and how long it sat in a warehouse, on a shelf, or in a truck before we get our hands on it.

We the eaters have a right to question, critique, and challenge outdated conventions about how and when food is served. We have a right to know all information, data, statistics, and findings on the health, safety, environmental and economic effects of the food we consume. We have the right to gather, learn, and disseminate this information free from interference by special interests and corporations.We have the right to rebel against unhealthy eating habits foisted upon us by others, or just politely say “No thank you.”

We the people have the right to understand all the ingredients that are on food labels. We have the right to be able to know what food ingredients are – without a degree in chemistry, or a constantly updated dictionary of food terms that are created by the food industry to mask its food engineering.

We the eaters of America, have a right to protect our children from misleading and manipulative food marketing, to not have to fight an uphill battles against the messages they see everyday, from the breakfast table, to the street, to the schools, to daily activities. We have the right to shape our childrens’ health without interference from those who seek to make a profit off of them.

Most importantly of all, we, the eaters of America, have the right to access fresh food from our own states, towns, neighborhoods, and neighbors, whether we are rich or poor, educated or laymen, liberal or conservative, urban or rural. We have the right to choose to buy food from our neighbors and our local farms, even if they do not conform to the safety standards designed with large scale food operations in mind.

All of these rights we hold to be self-evident, and the natural order of things.

Whether the food producers agree or not.