Someone requested I do a favorite food and drink list for 2013. Here it is:
Lobster tail parpardelle from A Bellagio Italian Restaurant in Campbell. I won't be blogging about this place because other than this photo, there were no good pictures of this meal. I highly recommend this restaurant though.
Scallops in Saffron cream sauce at Scoma's Restaurant in San Francisco
MOST CREATIVE DISHES
Raw oysters with swordfish marrow and pipettes of cucumber extract (left) and I forget what the yellow one is - DeWolf Tavern in Providence
Chilled soba in clam fortified dashi stock with pickled mushrooms and celery, radish slices and greens, and a hard boiled egg by El Chinito Group in San Jose
Lychee Lei with coconut water at Tower Cafe in Sacramento
The Famoso (the tall skinny glass in the back left): St. Germain, Prosecco, Aperol, lemon juice with a lemon twist at Campo Reno. St. Germain is my favorite liquer. Any drink with St. Germain stands a very high chance of winding up on my favorites list.
Iced dark coconut mocha at Chromatic Coffee in Santa Clara
MOST CREATIVE DRINKS
Watermelon, pineapple margarita with dehydrated cactus and lemon grass salt - from Malverde in Austin
This was photographed from a lamp at Dan Izakaya in Santa Clara. Post coming soon.
In 2012, I had a goal to focus the blog more on South Bay restaurants. It took 2 years to really feel like I accomplished this goal and now I can move on to the next resolution for the blog. 2014 will be focused on sustainable business practices and local food. You will still get price conscious, value focused restaurant reviews with pretty pictures from me but I feel the need to get back to my roots as a farmer's daughter and showcase sustainable agricultural practices and local food sourcing. Hipsters the world over are well aware of these foodie movements and phrases like "farm to table" but here's why I chose this as my resolution and why now.
This past year I was involved in 2 very educational experiences. The first was the IFAMA conference in Atlanta. The conference gathered large food producers and academic researchers from all over the world to discuss the issue of feeding the growing population by 2015 and how to develop future talent to meet these goals. In today's age, very few children dream of a career in food and agribusiness. Very few. Those who do usually have a strong passion for it and are met with many challenges in the industry. One of the purposes of the conference was to seek out and inspire students to enter food and agribusiness.
The conference was largely sponsored by Monsanto - the conglomerate embodiment of every farmer's mortal enemy. Suspend your bias and listen to this. The Monsanto's of the world and its predecessors came up in a time where the food challenges included producing and transporting enough food to feed different regions. Forget organic, forget local, forget seasonal. Some regions could not even grow enough crop to feed themselves let alone develop agricultural economies. Technologies that enabled mass production, weed and pest resistence, and that prolonged perishability for transportation were necessary. At one point in time, the genetically modified foods we eat were a necessity although now these advances in mass food production are harming our bodies and depleting our natural resources. We are spoiled here in California with our good weather and flexibility to grow different crops. Some states in the US have long winters with heavy snow and rely greatly on preserved foods - farmers markets are very much a luxury. I encourage anyone who thinks developing "farm-to-table" local sourcing is easy to consider the different challenges of other regions.
I am, however, still the daughter of a farmer. In Vietnam, my dad's crop fed us literally and monetarily. We raised and slaughtered our own pigs and I'm sure at some point, though I don't remember it, I may have ridden a water buffalo. I was born into a world where farm to table was not a fad but just a way of life. Then I grew up in America where the food world started to move backwards towards the kind of life I experienced in Vietnam. It is a bit sad to think that a developed nation looks to inspiration from a third world nation to solve its first world food problems. Look at the hole we've dug ourselves into.
The second experience was a course in Sustainable Supply Chain Design. While this class focused on sustainability in high tech manufacturing, many of the concepts in this course can be applied to food production. The main take away is that sustainability can be designed into the product and the supply chain, it need not come as an after thought to profitability. Sustainability can also be branded along the same vein as the phrase "Made in America" became synonymous with keeping jobs in America.
Small local farms are struggling. Community support is important but it is only one arm of a larger body. We need to convince large corporations and policy makers to be concerned with our problem AND that there is money to be made here. It is not just a fluffy idea, you can make sustainability a profitable business or at the very least, cut costs by using sustainable practices. This is why I've chosen sustainbility as my focus for 2014 and beyond. As the New York Times put it, social media is a megaphone to pressure the food industry and I just want to contribute to this megaphone. Money and power speaks volumes and we can try to use it in a better way for our health and the environment.
With this, I announce that the first local businesses to be featured on the blog in 2014 that align with my Sustainability goal are:
Kincao - healthy lunch delivery service based in Campbell
International Culinary Center - culinary school with branches in Campbell, New York, and Parma, Italy. They have an intensive course in Sustainability.