food

An Ode To A Butcher

From the now defunct DESIGN 21: Social Design Network, an online community that explored the connection between design and society. It was a joint venture between UNESCO and Felissimo. I was the resident blogger.

Shhh… don’t tell: I have a crush on my butcher.

Yes, once-upon-a-time vegetarian me, I have a newfound respect for the meat slinger down the street. Avedano’s Holly Park Market (in San Francisco, California) is a butcher shop and specialty market with great food and quality service. They are true-blue devoted to the sustainability rally cry “local food for local people.” And they curate their shop with cheeky humor and panache.

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Each of the owners brings her unique skills to the block. Tia, an Executive Chef, is the in-house butcher. In addition to trimming meats, she creates the rotating menu of seasonal prepared foods that are available for nightly take-out. Fellow “restaurantrice” Melanie, is responsible for procuring many of the hard-to-find items offered in the market. And entrepreneur and former cook Angela brings bookkeeping and management experience to the day-to-day operations of the business.

Cicero’s Meats formerly occupied the space itself, a family-owned market that opened in 1901 and served the neighborhood for nearly a century. Many of the antique furnishings and equipment live on and have been incorporated into the refreshed design. Even Cicero’s original neon sign glows to see another century.

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And like a fulfillment of my Alice in Wonderland childhood fantasies of secret passageways, I recently discovered Avedano’s private dining space in back, The Udder Room. Available for intimate events, It’s warm and welcoming, long and narrow, paneled by wood and lit up by original mod lamps that hang just so from the ceiling.

Everything in Avedano’s is exceptional: grass-fed beef, wild-caught and responsibly farmed fish, seasonal local and organic produce, and handpicked gourmet pantry items, like first-rate olive oil, artisan cheese, homemade jams, premium coffee and to-die-for gelato.

Bonus items for sale and perusal include Meat Paper, Secret Eating Society zine, and meat jokes galore: meat-shaped throw pillows and cookie cutters, “I love you more than pork” lapel pins, and an ever-changing interior marquee that now proclaims “Praise the Lard.”

I’m blushing.

 

Redesigning Real

From the now defunct DESIGN 21: Social Design Network, an online community that explored the connection between design and society. It was a joint venture between UNESCO and Felissimo. I was the resident blogger.

Food, food, glorious food! I love it, naturally, and deplore it, when de-natured by packaging, processing, and even partial hydrogenation.

I admit it. I’m a picky eater. I know I sometimes make fellow diners wriggle in their seats as I search the menu with a discerning eye (and appetite). Or when I make it a challenge for the chef by asking him or her to whip up something steamed, not sautéed; fresh, not fried. I’m a vegan at heart, but I’ve noticed over my lifelong relationship with food that I am more practically described as part functionalist, part sensualist. I like to eat to nourish. I also like to eat to taste, smell, see and touch. There’s nothing better than the vivid color, tangy aroma and invigorating taste of just-squeezed OJ. Or the velvety finish on a fresh peach. Likewise, when the stars align, there’s something seductive about pairing the right wine and combination of fresh herbs with, say, wild salmon or raw goat cheese.

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But here’s the catch of the day: I am how I am because I give a damn. (Aside from my predilection for coffee and dark chocolate), I won’t just shove something into my mouth because it’s available. I want to know where my food comes from. I want to understand the impact of my choices both for my body and the greater food ecology in which we live.

I’m taking the time to articulate personal standards here because I recently was on assignment with colleagues in the middle-of-nowhere-Indiana, where I was left with few food options when it came time to eat. Consensus ruled and we ended up at a popular fast food chain where beverages were artificially sweetened, cheese was full of fillers and even the salads had chunks of mystery meat in the mix. So while sitting uncomfortably at a plastic dinette with immovable chairs watching others eat nuggets and fries, I confessed softly that I was having a hard time with it all. In response, I got “Oh, c’mon! Embrace the real world.”

Real world? Real food? Really?

Truth be told, real nutrition is what I crave. But more and more, the options made available to the mass market are simply standardized, readily available and affordable semblances of food that have become accepted as viable food choices. How is it that in this day and age it’s acceptable to apply “real world” to food that isn’t real at all? These sad attempts at real-world offerings neither fuel the body nor feed the soul. They are incapable of tantalizing the eyes, the nose, our palettes. (Unless you consider the smell of grease a god-send!)

“Ninety per cent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat.”

—Victor Lindlahr

For me, if Bland on a Soggy Bun means “real world,” then beam me up, Chef Scotty! I level-headedly understand the role fast food has served and will continue to serve. But, please, can more of us join forces to rethink how it’s done? Can we take a moment to dream up some delightful alternatives to the menu of the day?

Take me where the sun and earth and water grow my food; where people have passion for harvesting and preparing meals; where communities come together to celebrate the bounty; where absolutely fabulous brunches and picnics and dinner soirées are the norm for one and all. Where options stretch beyond the dullness of drive-thrus, strip malls and convenience stores shelved with products that never expire.

I’m not a “return to Eden” delusionist. I wholeheartedly feel that healthy, sustainable and harmonious interconnectivity between the natural world and what we create from it (and ingest) is truly possible. I applaud those chefs, farmers, artists and food hobbyists out there who recognize this and are doing what they can to experiment in the fields, labs, orchards, kitchens and backyards. I also want to extend an invitation to any one of these creative folks (or combinations of a few) to collaborate with me on a food-related project to redefine and redesign what’s really real. And distribute it more equitably. And promote it more enthusiastically. And leave people licking their fingers, wanting more.

Anyone?

 

18: Marije Vogelzang

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In this episode I talk to pioneering “eating designer” Marije Vogelzang about meals, rituals, magic realism, and the rare privilege of showing shit at Milan Design Week.

“I use food as a connector between people and as a provocateur of memories.”

—Marije Vogelzang

Marije is the head of the new Design Academy Eindhoven Food Non Food department. She’s also a consultant to the food industry and a creator of provocative food-based installations that engage people with stories, memories, cultural traditions, social taboos and, ultimately, each other.

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Photos: Marije Vogelzang.


Music
Show Opener: Salt-n-Pepa, Pharrell Williams (with Justin Timberlake), Melanie and Kanye West (feat. Rhymefest)
Gotta Eat – Lupe Fiasco
Soul Food – Goodie Mob
Food – The Turtles
For – Nils Frahm
Show Closer: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Tricky, Dusty Springfield and Isaac Hayes

Reading List
Eat Love: Food Concepts, by Marije Vogelzang
Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies, by Laura Esquivel
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Harper Perennial Modern Classics), by Gabriel García Marquez

Watch List
Eat Love Budapest
Marije at PopTech
Marije at AIGA
Like Water For Chocolate

 

Clean Eating, Messy-Style

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It’s so true. Life is messy.

And no one celebrates the chaos of it all with more exuberance and joy than Mayi Carles, “a tiny Panamanian artist with a T-Rex heart.”

Her line of “Life Is Messy” digital products is growing like gangbusters – from downloadable whimsical day planners and an app-in-the-making to a wildly successful virtual boot camp designed to whip disorganized entrepreneurs into world-class form.

The latest addition is an illustrated cookbook, stuffed with cheeky illustrations, lush photography, mouth-watering recipes, and tutorials galore – soaking, blending, meal planning and more!

Mayi has poured every ounce of her monumental heart and soul into this mostly plant-based, gluten-free cookbook. Anything but dull, it drips with decadent creativity – kinda like her “Chocolate Caramel Sauce” (page 109) or “Clean Nutella,” found on page 99, made from real hazelnuts, maple syrup, almond milk and cacao powder.

Somehow, some way – pixie dust, magic wand, superhuman awesome sauce? – Mayi has found a way to make dense nutrition a total freakin’ blast. Tonight, I tried my luck, and ended up laughing my way to licking my plate, with the “Zucchini Fettucine” (page 193) and “Avo-Pesto” (page 195) because it was a wet and dreary San Francisco day. (And nothing says comfort like creamy vegan pasta.)

You’ll also find recipes inside for green “Hulk Waffles” (with sneaky spinach), flatbread with figs and “raw-cotta” cheese, cauliflower buffalo wings with cashew blue cheese dipping sauce, oven-top granola, energy bars, and gorgeous layered salads, crafted with mason jars in mind – ideal for lunches on the run.

It’s a treasure trove of goodness and I can hardly wait to make more of a mess, eating my way from cover to cover!

 

Bottega Louie

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When San Francisco had its most recent earthquake, Dan and I were down in L.A. (Phew!)

We stayed our first few nights at an Airbnb “Hollywood Bowl hideaway,” which was apparently built in the 20s for silent film actors. For the rest of our stay, we were at the newly opened Ace Downtown.

While at the very trendy Ace, once home to United Artists film studio, we had dinner at its gorgeous brasserie L.A. Chapter one night and headed out to the nearby Bottega Louie another.

Bottega Louie is a (mostly) Italian restaurant on the ground floor of the 12-story Brockman Building, a Romanesque Revival structure built in 1912. It has a lively ambience and decent food – we both indulged in pasta – but the real show stoppers were the pastries and pastel packaging at the take-out Patisserie.

We got the lemon tart to go. And while we waited for our pretty little box with satin bow, I snapped up some swoon-worthy evidence!

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