Friday, December 31, 2010

My End of Year 2010 Farm-to-Table Summation, Updated 2016

The end of the year cannot come and go without mentioning some stand out companies and institutions I came across in my travels through the southeastern United States. The ones that come most affectionately to mind are a restaurant, a college, a community garden, several farms, and a few wineries.

The Floataway CafĂ© in Atlanta, Georgia is a remarkable restaurant that started farm-to-table practices years before it was trendy. They opened their doors over 12 years ago (with the help of Star Provisions), in the industrial district of Emory Hills. They get much of their ingredients from Summerland Organic Farm. And according to their current Chef de Cuisine Drew Belline the restaurant’s menu consists of about 75 percent local ingredients.

Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina changed its campus to an arboretum almost a hundred years ago. Five years ago Dee Phillips, Director of Dining Services, and Chef Craig Mombert started recycling their cooking oil. Phillips and Mombert continued their sustainability practices with the support of college President Tom Ross. Today Davidson has a campus wide sustainability project. They make their own mulch by combining kitchen waste (including meat) with used office paper and yard waste in a large composting machine. It takes three weeks to heat, combine and cure.

Phillips is so passionate about sustainability she has worked tirelessly to make sure the college dining services buys as much local as possible and sets up contracts with companies that abide by the three tenets of sustainability: social, community, and environmental. Mombert does his part by making most Vail Commons’ dishes from scratch (many with local ingredients) and grows much of his own ingredients in a kitchen garden during the warmer months.

Community Garden
Nearby the college was the Davidson Community Garden that started with the help of volunteers from the Davidson United Methodist church. Equipment was donated by local businesses, and seedlings were donated by the Huntersville Correctional Facility. They grew squash, corn, herbs, sunflowers, potatoes, zucchini and several other vegetables all with organic methods in raised beds. What produce the pests didn’t eat was given to the Ada Jenkins food bank.

The Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard (in Hendersonville) just south of Ashville, N.C. where I picked a bushel of honey crisp apples expecting to give some of them back to the farmer but getting my first lesson in food safety. He said I had to pay for and take every apple I picked.

The Elma P. Lomax Incubator Farm program in Davidson, N.C. teaches individuals, with no previous farming experience how to become certified organic farmers.

The conventional blueberry farm just west of Charleston, S.C. that had high bush blueberries filled with berries because it had been too hot to pick. The day we went the heat index got up to 103 but that did not stop me from picking at least two buckets of ripe berries.  I went through three liters of water in two hours to keep hydrated.

Worden Farm in Punta Gorda, Florida is an organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm owned by Chris and Eva Worden. They won the Small Farms Conference Innovative Farmer ‘s Award this year. And after visiting their farm I understood why. The Wordens are passionate about educating people on how to eat seasonally.

Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, is the only tea plantation on the continental United States. It grows tea using organic methods and hand weeding. I bought a first flush tea for only $15 a tin, a bargain by first flush standards.

Osceola Organic Farm in Vero Beach, Florida is redefining what it means to supply local produce. Owner Kevin O’Dare grows on demand vegetables and edible flowers for his many chef clients and CSA members.

Bluefield Organic Farm in Okeechobee, Florida that’s working with the University of Arkansas to grow thorn less blackberry bushes.

Lake James Cellars in Glenn Alpine, North Carolina has many varieties of wine. I tried practically everything on the list from chardonnay to cabernet sauvignon. The owner said she wished more North Carolina wines were featured on North Carolina restaurant wine lists.

Butterducks Winery tasting room is located deep inside Lane Southern Orchards (peaches, pecans, Indian River citrus) main retail shop in central Georgia. The wines were surprisingly good. I bought two bottles.

Henscratch Farms Vineyard and Winery in Lake Wales, Florida makes muscadine wines and has a u-pick-it grape farm. There are a lot of free ranging chickens at the winery that wander the grounds and hide under the wine tasting building. They rush anyone who drops a crumb onto the ground.

Rosa Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard in Bradenton, Florida, has several non-muscadine grape vines on its property developed and supplied by University of Florida. It also has several varieties of muscadine grapes developed and supplied by A and M University. It is a tasty place to visit.

I look forward to meeting and writing about many more interesting places and people in 2011.

Updated July 2016

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Food and Beverage Products for 2011 at 14th Americas Food and Beverage Show, Miami Beach, Fla.

Think wine, water, and energy drinks don’t mix then you should have been at the 14th Americas Food and Beverage show—organized by the World Trade Center Miami--held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Florida. Food has become the “hot” category in our depressed economy as witnessed by the 10 percent increase in attendance this year. There were many new products from new companies.
Over 7000 people in the hospitality food and beverage industry, from the Americas and around the world, came together for two days of workshops, business deals, and exposition displays. I was lucky enough to attend. Here are some of the companies of interest to me.


Native Vines Winery, a North Carolina based company showcased several award winning wines at the convention. Started in 1998 by Darlene Gabbard and her husband Nick, it is the first Native American owned winery in the United States. I particularly liked the sauvignon blanc wine.

Bellaforma Caribbean Wine, a Trinidad and Tobago based company, served three types of wine: passion fruit, pineapple, and red papaya. There was supposed to be a fourth—sorrel--but it got held up in customs. Bellaforma attended the Americas Convention for market research on the American pallet. The winery, started in 1991, was Laurence Saunders dream--be the first company in Trinidad and Tobago making wine exclusively from tropical fruit. The company is now run by his daughter Celise Bell. Pineapple was the show favorite. I preferred the passion fruit because the ripe fruit nose carried on all the way through to the last drop.


Aruba Crystal Drinking water--reverse osmosis (RO) desalinated saltwater--started back in 2001 when owner Marlon Martinez noticed the water of his home country of Aruba helped his wife with her morning sickness. Three years later the company was formed. This water has a pH at 9.2 (alkaline), because part of the filtration process involves coral. It was enjoyable to drink with little to no aftertaste.

Aquamare Purified Water, a Brazilian based company, claims their reverse osmosis desalinated seawater is the only one in the world to have a carbonated version as well as a flat. The saltwater is sourced by boat, one hour off the Brazilian coast and 35 meters deep. Ten years in the making including eight years research and development Aquamare says their water has 63 minerals and a pH of 7.3.

Once a year the people of Newfoundland, Canada are allowed to harvest ice from icebergs that drift into their harbors. Berg Water is one company profiting from this practice. They claim their water is made from a 25,000 year old iceberg. It tasted clean without any aftertaste.

Energy Drinks

Chillo Energy Drink—made by Chill Drinks an Austrian based company--is bright orange in color. Made with Swiss grown hemp, caffeine, and sugar it is a fairly new product in the United States. It was the most pleasant energy drink I tasted although it did not give me as much energy as I expected.

RAAW, is an aseptic processed (cool pasteurized) fruits and vegetables blended juice. Not really an energy drink but it does have a lot of nutrients according to Paul Gregg, Executive Vice President of Raw Foods International (RFI) the manufacturer of RAAW. The juice contains only non-GMO produce. It was developed in 2008 by Jamaican restaurant owners from the Brickell Avenue area of Miami. Their best seller is cucumber pineapple juice because it is, “refreshing,” according to Gregg. I agree. Two new flavors are expected in January: lemongrass and wheatgrass.

Most of the companies I talked to at the 14th Americas Food and Beverage Show said they hope to be available in the United States market early 2011.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival:Sucess or Not?

From a culinary night's out viewpoint it was a success.
Many restaurants, many wine merchants, many clubs, much free food in delicious combinations. There was even a Top Chef themed event between two Palm Beach County chefs and one Miami chef, with MC WPTV Anchorman Jay Cashmere.

From a locavore perspective it was not a complete success.
Even there were a lot of restaurants sourcing fruits and vegetables locally; they were the same ones as last year. And their source companies were the same as last year (Swank Specialty Produce and Farmhouse Tomatoes) without change. With the few exceptions of Echo and Top of the Point who got their produce from the Breakers Resort internal greenmarket.

The same restaurants that were not sourcing local last year continued this year giving the same excuses that it was either too expensive or they were too small to interest a farm.  

And even though there were many wine vendors including a new brand of organic wine called CalNatural in Tetra Pak packaging. There was still a sorry lack of Florida wine representation...actually there was none. I talked to several restaurants about this problem and they said they were not aware Florida had wineries.

Maybe next year the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival can be both a culinary success and a locavore including Florida Wines.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Brownies the Vegan Vegetarian Way at 4th Generation Organic Market, Boca Raton, Florida

My Holy Grail dessert is the humble chocolate brownie...humbly containing heart stopping levels of butter, eggs and milk. Its rich, creamy chocolateness calls to me at every holiday party. I resist because I am lactose intolerant and the after effects can be gut wrenching...literally. But eventually I give in, starting with a lick, then a bite, then a slice large enough to wear as a shoe. I pay the price but I pay it willingly because who can beat the flavor of a brownie.

But this year I have found a bakery/deli/grocery store that makes vegan vegetarian brownies meaning there is no milk in them. There are also no eggs, butter, or gluten flours in them. The place is 4th Generation Organic Market in Boca Raton, Florida.

With their slightly cracked tops, moist interior and melt in the mouth flavors, I could quickly drop into a chocolate coma and not care if I left the store one dress size larger.

Oh, they do have other desserts there like organic coconut cake which is equally delicious in its own category. But when life gets me down I turn to anything chocolate and now I have a delicious source of dairy-free brownies! Thank-you 4th Generation.