Monday, March 23, 2009

A NEW KIND OF VICTORY GARDEN

During the time I was at the White House, we maintained a small rooftop garden so the Presidents and their families could have the benefit of fresh produce. This last Friday it was announced that the Obamas have cleared part of the White House lawn to plant a full fledged vegetable garden. In the New York Times opinion column posted online, "Washington's Not-So-Secret Garden." Click on the link here. This is my entry on the NYT discussionblog in regards to the new garden:

The decision by the first family to have a vegetable garden planted at the White House is a welcome and overdue idea.

Besides being something that I’m sure the “foodie” community have been advocating for some time, a vegetable garden is a great source of wonderful and healthy produce for both the Obamas’ personal use and for the “nation’s table” at state and official events.

The garden will also be a fun and educational place for Sasha and Malia to work and play in with their parents and their grandmother.

It’s odd that this is the first vegetable garden in the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden during World War II. But in a way, it makes sense: Michelle Obama’s garden is a victory garden of a new era — one that champions responsible and frugal lifestyle choices in the face of some fairly daunting economic and global challenges and serves as an learning tool for people who are inexperienced in nutrition and agriculture. It raises the bar for all of America’s homes when it comes to using and supporting local and delicious foods.

As a former White House chef, I’m a little envious of the current chef’s cool new toy!



Monday, March 16, 2009

THE GETTYSBURG FESTIVAL

No Irish celebration would be complete without corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, Irish lamb stew, Dublin Coddle, and a few pints of Irish styled brews. If you happen to be in Gettysburg today, you will have captured the good luck of the Irish. Stop off at the Appalachian Brewing Company and help the locals celebrate Irish Fest 2009.

This summer I will be lending a hand in Gettysburg in a slightly different kind of celebration. The Gettysburg Festival takes place June 18 through the 28. The festival is a distinct cultural arts event that celebrates America through music, theater, art, dance, and culinary events. The American Bus Association has dubbed it "One of the top 100 events in North America for 2009." I look forward to seeing you there.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

BLUE HILL AT STONE BARNS

The new First Family has now been in the White House long enough to clear out the dust from the theoretical food debates that preceded their arrival. A whole lot was said about what should be eaten by the First Family and Americans in general. Idealistic rhetoric was abundant to be sure, but, there was little being said about restaurants and businesses that are actually employing the food to table philosophy. My next two blog entries will highlight two great examples of sustainable food businesses. The first one comes out of Westchester County in New York - Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Dan Barber, Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns summarizes the art of capturing food flavor, "If this is some kind of dance, it's the farm that is leading.
The more you work with the animals and even with the vegetables, the less you want to do with them in the kitchen.
It's unbelievable. It makes so much sense to me now. It is the most compelling way to teach an audience.
It is a sustainable food system in action." Chef Barber takes the animal welfare-land flavor connection very seriously. He has a full time livestock and vegetable farmer crew.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns cooks real farm feasts that are governed according to the daily harvest that is on hand. The end product rests on the foundation that exceptional meals begin with exceptional farm fresh ingredients. They are committed to growing a third of their own vegetables and almost 100 percent of their own meats. The results gives the diner a tasteful experience that is grounded in old world farm philosophy while still implementing the best modern agriculture technology. For example, allowing the livestock freedom to roam and planting corn the way Native Americans used to (in the company of beans and winter squash). All this stands to reason why Dan Barber is highlighted amongst the James Beard Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America.