Saturday, January 26, 2013

Briefing from NOFA-NY 2013

For the last two days I've been in attendance of the 2013 NOFA-NY conference in Saratoga Springs, NY. NOFA, the Northeast Organic Farmer's Association, brings these conferences together annually to provide a venue for education and networking amongst the region's organic farmers, farmer-curious and farmer-teachers.

Julie Rockcastle of Green Heron Growers in my own western corner of NY was part of the panel presenting "Forest Farming of Shiitake, Specialty Mushrooms and More" on friday afternoon. Laying out the process of cultivating shiitake mushrooms in detail, the workshop also gave the audience the opportunity to drill and inoculate their own shiitake mushroom logs ("bolts") to take home.
The long tools here inject the drilled logs with mycellium-infested sawdust.
I chose not to make one myself, to instead document the process. After all, I can go visit Green Heron Growers without much difficulty, and I'll probably be moving around a lot before the mushroom is ready to start fruiting like this (about a year):

Out of the 6 workshops I've attended so far, 5 have been excellent and one was just downright abysmal, but I'll say more about that later. The food has been great (and even the coffee!) and, for better or worse even the beer is organic.
Worse for the wallet, certainly, but tasty for sure!
Still coming up tonight are a couple films (one by Farmer of the Year Steve Chaskey) that I've got to hurry up and catch but I'll certainly be back to summarize and share some thoughts. A photo of me bestially devouring a large turkey leg may also come to light.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A new year, a new job?

Well, December slipped right past my blogging intentions despite the occurrence of many good meals. I kept busy; working on the beef ranch, splitting wood and helping with harvests, doing some carpentry. It's fortunate that I've developed enough community to find enough work to at least pay the bills. I'd be happy to keep doing the work I do, but I've decided that if I'm going to be able to buy land to start my own farm someday, I need to be pulling in a bit more income.

So today I went to a job interview for a cooking position at a local restaurant I happen to like. While it didn't go badly, my voice was pretty rough from a new year's eve party that turned into a raucous Journey singalong. Talking audibly took a bit of effort, but I did add a link to this blog, so I might as well take the opportunity to present my case a little more strongly.

Perhaps my biggest weakness on paper is the relative lack of visible restaurant experience, which mostly consists of my 15 months at the Tearoom. After all, many didn't even know it was a restaurant while it was there. The little laminated menus weren't terribly impressive. But from my perspective, those crazy shifts handling stacks of breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, salads, paninis and burgers all at once on nothing but two little electric griddles in the worst-laid-out kitchen in town while also running the register and making drinks must count for something? If I must toot my own horn about something, it'd have to be the ability to learn, react and adapt quickly in a food-preparation environment.

But of course beyond my time at the Tearoom, I've been refining my sense of food and cooking continuously for a couple years now, and with the passing of 2012, I'd like to review some of the highlights. 2013 should be even brighter, if for nothing else but being gifted a set of squared-off plates and bowls. I don't know why food looks so great on square plates, but it does... perhaps it appeals to my compositional sense from drawing and painting?

Anyways, starting from the most recent:

Simple Hearty Breakfast: fried egg, hash browns and roast pork heart

"Hoppy" Chowder: based around goat milk and frog legs. Hoppy because both critters like to jump a lot, right?

Chicken Gizzard Egg-drop soup

"Tuesday Night's Dinner" remixed to fit inside the squash, for breakfast.

Baked feta-and-herb stuffed lobster

Roasted Beef heart with braised radishes
While I'm sure these pictures do a great job of conveying my love for odd cuts of meat, I find myself wishing I hadn't passed up the opportunities to document a lot of the other meals I've made. I think the square plates should help, though. I genuinely don't like how food looks, in photos, on round plates. But sadly blue clam chowder, Salmon-squash curry, heart-and-tongue sandwiches and Harvest Pie didn't make it, among others.

2012 was a tasty year. Here's to 2013, whatever may lie on the horizon.

This post is part of Food Renegade's Jan. 4th Fight Back Friday