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Getting Local Food, Locally Part II: Chipotle

20 Jun

Chipotle is a chain of Mexican Style fast food restaurants in the United States – and they don’t buy their pork from factory farms. That is only the start! While they are not 100% organic or sustainable yet, they have a fantastic “Food With Integrity” philosophy which includes “unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal” foods.

There is a great Nightline Segment from 6/16/09 all about this Chipotle philosophy with a cameo from Joel of Polyface Farms.

The craziest thing about all this is that I have not yet been to this restaurant! Fortunately, we have two in San Francisco. We sent an email to Chipotle asking about their produce and rice as this is not discussed on their website as much as their meat and beans. They sent us a great response!

“We have currently committed to buying 35 percent of one bulk produce item for all of our restaurants, when seasonally available, from local farmers. We’re looking to build on this program for the future. Last year, when we began the program, we sourced 25 percent of one bulk produce item used in each store from a local farm. This year we have upped our goals to 35 percent so we are making some progress.

We need a lot of ingredients. Unfortunately these better suppliers are more of a niche than a mainstream. Our plan is just to start small, just as we did with our naturally-raised meats, and to grow the program from there as supply increases to meet demand.

With our program, our produce is generally coming from within 200 miles or less of our restaurants. This might also be on a seasonal basis. As you might be able to imagine, it would be quite a challenge to buy certain items, such as romaine lettuce in Minneapolis, in the middle of the winter.

Unfortunately, I cannot give you specifics for rice, lettuce or tomatoes as different restaurant are focusing on different things that will work better for that region. However, we are really focused on making a difference. As part of our Food with Integrity initiative, we are trying to operate our restaurants in a manner which is better for the environment, better for the animals, and better for the farmers who raise the animals and grow the produce. We also happen to think fresh food tastes better. In this way, we hope it is also better for our customers.”


Getting local food, locally. Part I. Cafe Divine

7 May

I’ve been seeking out local restaurants that provide information about using local, seasonal produce. I hope that one day I will have a long list of restaurants to recommend, but for the time being. I intend to mention establishments as I have the opportunity to experience them.

Cafe Divine – North Beach, San Francisco

According to the Cafe Divine menu: “We Support Small Farmers And Use Sustainable Products Whenever Possible.” Situated at the corner of Washington Park in North Beach, Cafe Divine has big windows and a comfy, somewhat artsy, coffee shop feel. The service is pretty good (but not great) but the food is very good and fresh and a decent price. I was a bit disappointed the first time I ate at this restaurant. I believe we had brunch, something like an omelet with a fruit bowl. It was in the winter; the time of apples, pears and oranges in the bay area, but my fruit bowl was still full of out-of-season melon balls – even though the display case was full of the season fruit I mentioned.  It’s also a bit sad that they don’t feel confident enough to proudly advertise their support of local agriculture on their website (it’s only on a scan of their menu) but at least they do mention it.

Eaten by the Chronophage

22 Nov

It’s been months since I’ve written anything of any interest, and much has happened: Slow Food Nation, an unexpected move, the presidential election and the Green Fest. All of which I will touch on at some point in this post. It’s been a tumultuous 3 months and I now feel that I am finally settling down a bit and after some periods of stress and worry, disappointment and disillusionment, I am now feeling hopeful and more inspired. Thank goodness.

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The Search for Local Food: Roy’s Restaurant

10 Sep

A few months ago I started doing some research online hoping to find Bay Area restaurants that supported local agriculture and had seasonal menus. One of the restaurants that I found in my search was Roy’s, located in the Soma neighborhood of San Francisco.  With phrases like “a tempting combination of exotic flavors and spices mixed with the freshest of local ingredients” on their website, I was looking forward to seeing what the place had to offer.

Now if I had truly done my research, instead of having just a brief look on their website weeks ago, I would have noticed a couple of things.

  1. Roy’s is a chain with multiple locations in 10 different states.
  2. Their menu is decidedly more exotic than local.

I did not look at the menu until we were seated. The only vegetarian option on the entire menu was a green salad.  When asked, our server (who I will talk about in detail later) presented me with a completely separate menu for vegetarian dishes. I thought it was a bit strange that this menu was not automatically presented, but it was a pretty nice menu.

First, we ordered the Ponzi Pinot Gris from Oregon. A lovely crisp wine that went well with all of our dishes.

For appetizers, we had a very interesting Kobe Beef wrapped around Dynamite Crab, Tempura Asparagus & Avocado and (from the vegetarian menu) a Wild Mushroom and Truffle Risotto. The risotto had shredded shiso leaves which gave it an amazing flavor.

My Entree was the Sea Scallops with Purple Potato Gnocchi and my S.O. got the Monkfish with vegetables in a curry sauce. This is where things got a bit weird. Though visually stunning and cooked to perfection, the flavors of both dishes seemed a bit confused. The scallops were wonderful and the gnocchi as well but they did not seem to work together as well as I had hoped. The monkfish in curry sauce was very nice, but the vegetables seemed to makes no sense at all.

The desert – a chocolate souffle – was wonderful.

The one really good thing I can say about this restaurant was that the service was amazing. Our server immediately told us that he helped with the wine selection and would answer any questions we had about any of their menus. I asked him if they had any local produce, meats or fish. The non “exotic” produce was local, but none of the meat or fish on the menu. I also asked him a couple of times if he could find out what some of the ingredients were and was happy to do so. The staff was very attentive, friendly and professional without being pushy. A+ on that!

So, based on the flavor of dishes, the variety of local food available and the service, I give Roy’s 3 Purkle Stars. I would visit this place again, but not on a regular basis! It is a bit too expensive, too confused and has a high carbon footprint – even for a restaurant.

The State of Food in San Francisco

7 Aug

As many people know, San Francisco is one of the wonders of the foodie world. With it’s melting pot population, coastal location, climate that offers year-round produce and upwards of 10,000 restaurants, foodies are spoiled for choice.

San Francisco Magazine‘s recent issue focuses on food in the Bay Area. Though it’s not my favorite magazine it did definitely have some very good articles this month.

To eat local, kill local With just one slaughterhouse remaining within 80 miles of San Francisco, we stand to lose not only our local beef industry, but our grazing lands as well. Now a thick-skinned herd of ranchers and environmentalists are determined to keep the cows close to home.

The State of the Plate When it comes to dining out, is San Francisco becoming a Valhalla or a Vegas with hills? Josh Sens looks back on a confounding 12 months of meals and takes the measure of a region and its restaurants.

Moth Class What the light brown apple moth—and the pesticide shower it nearly unleashed—taught us about the future of our fruits and vegetables.

Weapons of Moth Destruction How the Bay Area maneuvered to beat back an impending pesticide assault.

The Foodchain Project..

8 Jun

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Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market.

11 Nov

Today we went to the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. I have avoided this market for more than 2 years. The reasons are as follows: 1) I used to work in the Ferry Building.. and market days were chaotic! 2) the food is not what one might call  inexpensive 3) did I mention that market days are chaotic? So are lines for the bathroom. However, today I felt like properly checking the market out. One of the disadvantages of working during the market is that you never really have time to explore.

Here’s a list of what we bought:

  • at least 3 kinds of hot chili peppers
  • pea sprout pesto
  • almond maple spread
  • mixed, sprouted beans
  • pumpkin quark cheese
  • organic butter
  • fennel
  • purple radishes
  • almond butter
  • almond chocolate coffee brittle
  • a mossy turtle with a plant growing out of it!
  • serrano chili seasoning

Things I saw, did not buy, but will buy in the future:

  • organic, brown rice
  • jerusalem artichokes
  • various organic dried beans

So, as you can see, many of these things are not easily found at your average shop. I intend to make the FPFM an occasional supplement to my existing market diet. We also stopped by Mistral Rotisserie Provencale for lunch. One of the things I quite like about the restaurants and shops at the Ferry Building is that they are very much dedicated to using and selling local and organic food. The prices might be a bit high, and the atmosphere a bit upscale, but their hearts are in a good place. I actually know the owners of Mistral a bit and they are great people. And they make an absolutely kick-ass Morrocan Lamb Stew (Tagine).

So, in general, I give this farmers’ market a thumbs up. At least when it comes to variety and quality. However I find the customers rather rude. People are bumping into eachother all the time and, frankly, there’s less diversity. And more tourists. Also, I wouldn’t really call the atmosphere ‘relaxed’. Sorry Ms. Plaza, I’m not giving up Heart of the City Farmers’ Market any time soon.