Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bits and Morsels

Getting a leg up at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

Our priority this week is supporting the Gulf Area. Hearing about the oil spill and its crippling effect on the local economy, I can only think of ways to help. It breaks my heart to see a wonderful city like New Orleans hurting, again. A few days ago I read on Twitter about visiting Loretta’s bakery down there. And they were raving about her sweet potato cookies. Sweet potatoes are a favorite of mine although I’d never had them in/on a cookie before, so I just had to order some.

The package from Loretta’s came promptly, and those sweet potato cookies – which come individually wrapped, and so they ship well – are possibly some of the best cookies I have ever eaten. They are moist, chewy, and the cookie's center is painted with a smooth dollop of sweet potato. For those of us who want to help in a small way, this is a delicious way to support their local economy. Click here for more information and to order, or call 504-944-7068.

How to get help, give help in wake of Gulf of Mexico oil spill (NOLA)

10 Things You Can Do to Help the Gulf Coast Clean the Oil Spill (US News & World Report)
Shipped from NOLA.
Loretta's authentic pralines.
They come beautifully wrapped.
A quote in every box.
Sweet potato cookie.
Sweet potato pie.
Sunday I took my digital for a tour of the farm at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. It’s located on the old Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills, about 30 miles from Manhattan. It’s easy to get to by either car or train. 

On the farm with 23 acres of pasture and 40 acres of woodland, they raise laying hens, broiler chickens, turkeys, geese, sheep, pigs and bees. All of the animals are free-range and grass-fed. Not only is this better for the animals but it’s better for the land.

The unfortunate image that often runs through my mind is of animals that are raised for food today from the movie “Food Inc.” Most are raised on hormones and grains in unsanitary, overcrowded environments. Not only is this an inhumane life for the animal, but it is also not healthy for us to be eating.
The entrance to Stone Barns Center For Food and Agriculture in the heart of Westchester County.
These stone barns were once part of the dairy that was maintained by the Rockefeller family. The Center was created on 80 acres formerly belonging to the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills by David Rockefeller and his daughter, Peggy Dulany.
The scene at Stone Barns could not be further from those deeply disturbing scenes. The shelters and fences where the animals reside are mobile, moved every few days so the animals can graze on fresh grass. The animals have ample room to breath and roam, and they seem happy. The fences that keep them from wandering too far are more for protection from predators than to keep them contained.

Stone Barns also grows fruits and vegetables without the use of toxic pesticides. There is a massive greenhouse that is functional year round with plants growing in every inch of it. Besides growing the usual, they also experiment and with different varieties of seed to see what grows (and tastes) best.
The 22,000-square-foot greenhouse.
Inside the 22,000 sq-ft minimally heated greenhouse.
Every inch of space is cultivated, even the floors.
Tomato plants hang from the ceiling of the greenhouse.
Stone Barns has a farm market on Sunday, and it was pretty busy on the day we visited. The crowd was a mix of people going to lunch at Blue Hill, and families with young children.

Blue Hill is a sit down restaurant that sources most of its ingredients from the farm.  Lunch and dinner are on the long side, so for a quick bite you should go to the Café. The café serves sandwiches and salads made from farm-fresh ingredients, perfect for a picnic lunch.
Just-plucked spinach to buy at the Farm Market.
The vegetable farm.
Imperial Star Artichokes.
An almost-ripe strawberry.
Apple tree in Dooryard Garden. The trees are sprayed with clay as it is a non-toxic barrier and insect deterrent.
My visit to Stone Barns was both inspiring and thought provoking.  Besides being a lovely place to peruse, it’s important to understand where our food comes from. It’s an especially good idea to go with children. 

Close to the city, it’s a perfect day trip. 

For more information about programs and visiting Stone Barns go to http://www.stonebarnscenter.org/
A perfect patch of grass for the Blue Hill Farm animals.
A lamb dining ...
Stella the sheepdog -- notice the lamb around her.
A pig resting. They are raised in groups of four.
Broiler chickens inside their mobile shelter.
Mobile hen house.
Laying hens hydrating.
Laying hens eating.
The Cafe Menu, which included (on this day) vegetable salads, vegetable frittata, housemade soups, quiche, and sandwiches.
Tuna and beet open face sandwiches.
My lunch: sweet potato pizza, green bean salad, and a tuna sandwich.
Last night the Central Park Conservancy held the "Taste of Summer" in the bandshell at Central Park. Some of the participating restaurants included Serafina, Rouge Tomate, Solo, and Quality Meats. BLT Market, SD26, The Central Park Boathouse, Maya, and China Grill. The event had a nice vibe and there was a silent auction and a lively dance floor, in addition to the food. The annual event benefits the Central Park Conservancy and its mission to maintain the Park.

For more information about supporting the Central Park Conservancy go to http://www.centralparknyc.org/
Confucius Chicken salad from China Grill.
Tuna Tostada from Maya.
Ribs from Asia De Cuba.
Tomato bruschetta with fried zucchini blossom from BLT Market.
Lobster Bisque and Foie Gras sandwich from Brasserie Cognac.
PB& J from the Peanut Butter Company on Orwasher's Bread.
Tuna sashimi from the Oak Room.
Black truffle tuna sandwich from geisha.
Fruit skewers from Park Avenue Summer.
Strawberry Trifle from Rouge Tomate.
Central Park Cake from Ivy Bakery.
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