Open Wide: June 2017 Edition

If I ever decided to print out the unabridged version of my running to-do list, it would probably require a dozen reams of paper. Sometimes, I take a look at that list and get incredibly overwhelmed––how is it possible I’ll ever accomplish all those tasks, attend all those conferences, network with all those people, if I want to meet my goals by a certain time? But I also get excited when I see all of my hopes and dreams written down and start visualizing my future and what success means to me.

Desk & Breakfast

Building an empire requires a hearty breakfast.

I often forget to reflect on the completed items, the things I set out to to do and did. When I look back at that log of checked-off items, I can’t believe how far I’ve come and how much closer I’m getting to creating the life I want to live and the career I want to have, becoming an expert in my field, and (hopefully) making a difference in people’s lives.

This week, I’ll purposely be carving out some time for reflection when I meet with two of my dear friends, who are also in the health and wellness field. These lovely ladies are part of my 2017 Board Meetings (a type of mastermind group). We meet every month, but this time, we will be at our half-way mark, allowing us to be grateful for goals we’ve met over the past six months, review goals not yet met, and revise any forward-planning items to realistically achieve whatever we can by year-end. Much like how the summer solstice signifies the time when days begin getting shorter and shorter, at this point in the year, we tend to sit back and put ourselves on auto-pilot, doing less and less, riding it out until the holiday season appears and telling ourselves we’ll just catch up in the new year. For my Board Meeting members and myself, June gives us the opportunity to re-energize and keep the momentum––and motivation––going for the next six months.

What successes have you achieved so far this year? What challenges have you had to face? Are you impressed with or disappointed in yourself? Have you been ignoring some of the more difficult tasks out of fear, lack of time, or another reason? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

If you’d like to be a part of our 2018 Board Meetings, please keep an eye out for an announcement here and on our Facebook page around mid-October. There is no cost to join, but you do have to attend monthly in-person meetings in the NYC area.

10 Steps to Shopping at Your Local NYC Farmers’ Market

Farmers’ market season is almost in full swing again! While many farmers’ markets are open year-round, truly the best time to shop locally is mid-summer to late fall, when most everything is in season and incredibly fresh. Learning how to shop for local produce at the farmers’ markets may seem a little daunting at first, but once you learn how it becomes autopilot.

union-square-farmers-market-photo-new-tork-city-cc

(Union Square Greenmarket image credit: http://www.jazzhostels.com/)

Shopping locally for your produce in the warmer months is simply the best way to get the most bang for your buck. Local produce is always in season, which means that the farmers have harvested their wares likely within the last few days. There are few, if any, grocery stores that can boast that their products are anywhere near this fresh. While most grocery store produce is harvested while it is still unripe (so that it may ripen and not spoil during transit), most market produce is left on the plant until it is ripe and then picked fresh, which not only allows for the best possible taste to develop but also allows the plant to plump up with more vitamins and minerals1.

June and July are the months that NYC farmers’ markets really kick off for the new season; but, August, September, and October in particular are the months when almost everything is in season and the prices drop––often even lower than the grocery store’s––as each farmer is trying to sell their food quickly since it’s all perishable. If you’re interested in canning, freezing, fermenting, or preserving food in other ways, those three months are the best time to buy.

In short, local food = tastier, healthier, and often cheaper!

Same as most other things, shopping at farmers’ markets is simple once you get a lay of the land. Here are 10 easy steps to guide any farmers’ market novice into becoming an expert.

1. LOCATION & TIME

First, find the nearest market to your house or work. This comprehensive map lists all current NYC markets (an updated map is usually released every July). Most markets in NYC are housed under the Greenmarket program, which is a part of the nonprofit GrowNYC, but there are other organizations such as Harvest Home and Down to Earth that host markets as well. Different organizations have slightly different models for their markets, so you may notice some variations among them.

Check the days and times to make sure you can make it. Most markets open early and close on the early side, too, so you might miss the entire thing if you wait until after work to show up. Arrive as early as possible so the farmers haven’t sold out by the time you get there.

2. CHECK OUT THE VENDORS

If you’re looking for a specific vendor or food item, be sure to search online for the name of the market and its list of farmers, vendors, and food categories. This should give you a good idea what you can find when you get there. Some markets only have produce, while other generally larger markets also have meats, cheeses, bread, honey, wine, pastries, seafood, or even locally made lip balm, lotions, tinctures, salves, soap, and teas.

The historic, world-famous, and ever-popular Union Square Greenmarket has the largest variety of local products in the entire city2, and you can almost always find what you’re looking for there. The prices can be a little higher compared to other markets, especially in the outer boroughs, but the quality and value is excellent. This market is open year-round on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8am to 6pm, weather permitting. The Union Square Greenmarket also features constantly updated lists of the farmers and vendors that will be in attendance at the market each day, so visit the website on the day you plan to go for the most current info. Additionally, the Union Square market has an app for both Apple and Android mobile devices where you can also find regularly updated lists of vendors.

3. BRING REUSABLE BAGS

Okay, so this step isn’t entirely necessary, but it seems a little silly to go through the extra effort of purchasing food that is super healthy, flavorful, and more sustainable…only to carry it all home in incredibly wasteful and polluting single-use plastic bags. If you’re like me, you already have a plastic bag filled with plastic bags sitting at home that you hate even looking at, so why add to the pile? Instead, plan ahead and bring your own bags. I find that canvas tote bags are my favorite type of reusable bag. Although they aren’t quite as sturdy, I also really like this style of reusable bags from ChicoBag or similar companies, which can easily be stuffed into a neat little pocket and then clipped onto your keys, belt loop, wallet, or anywhere so you always have it with you. I find it easiest to always have a few reusable bags tucked into my daily backpack so I’m always prepared to avoid taking home those horrible plastic grocery bags. [Editor’s note: Be sure to regularly wash your reusable bags to avoid any cross-contamination or bacteria build-up.]

Caylee Market

4. VISIT THE MARKET

Now it’s time to actually head to the market––Go! Explore! Taste! Enjoy!

5. WALK THE ENTIRE MARKET FIRST

Unlike the grocery store where like items are usually placed together in marked aisles, at the farmers’ market, different farmers on opposite ends of the location may sell similar or the same products (e.g., eggs) and it’s up to you to find the best option and price. So, take a lap around the market first and compare what’s being offered that day, making note of prices (ask the vendor for the price if you don’t see it posted). Then, retrace your steps and purchase what you liked the most, but not before you figure out how you’re paying (see the next step). The same farmers generally come to the same markets all season, so, just as you’ve memorized where to find your favorite foods at your regular grocery store, over time, you’ll come to recognize the individual stands by name and shopping at your farmers’ market will become easier and easier.

Caylee Market3

6. HOW TO PAY

It’s easiest to bring cash with you to the market. Normally, $20-$60 should cover enough food for about 3 people, so plan accordingly if you need to buy for more people, or are shopping for a party or similar. However, if you’re the type that doesn’t carry cash, then know that you are usually able to use your credit card at the farmers’ market, but it’s important to know that most farmers do not accept credit cards directly. Instead, you should head to the “market information” tent where you will tell them how much you would like to charge to your card, and they will give you wooden tokens equal to this amount that you can then give to the farmers in exchange for their delicious wares. You can also use SNAP benefits in this same way. If you have a wooden token worth $10, for example, but only spend $9 at a farm stand, the farmer should give you the remaining $1 in cash. Farmers cannot give cash back for SNAP tokens, thought, so you’ll have to purchase exactly the dollar amount on the token. [Editor’s note: If you’d like to volunteer at a GrowNYC Greenmarket tent or other position, click here to fill out and submit an application. Help is always needed and appreciated!]

Caylee Market2

GrowNYC market information tent

7. GET FREE PRODUCE WITH HEALTH BUCKS COUPONS

It’s easy to get free produce from the market! First, check this map of all NYC farmers’ markets and locate the markets with a carrot symbol next to their name. At these markets, the NYC Department of Health and other organizations host cooking and nutrition workshops that are each about 20-30 minutes in length. At the end of each workshop, every participant receives a coupon called Health Bucks, which are worth $2 in produce. Take this coupon to any farmer in exchange for $2 in fruits and vegetables! There is no limit to the number of workshops you can attend.

If you receive SNAP benefits, for every $5 you spend in SNAP at the market, you will receive an additional $2 in Health Bucks to purchase extra produce. Using your SNAP benefits at the market in this way allows you to buy 40% more food!

8. TRY ONE NEW FRUIT OR VEGETABLE REGULARLY

The farmers’ market has an incredibly vast array of produce, much of which you probably have never seen or eaten before. Be adventurous! Buy a small amount of something new and ask the farmer how to cook it. Whether you opt to try Jerusalem artichokes, romanesco, purslane, ramps, papalo, or something else totally new, make sure you write down or take a photo of its name so that you can also look up recipes later. Many vegetables do well simply sliced or diced, then sautéed. Yummy and nutritious!

Romanesco

(romanesco image credit: http://puntdesabor.com/)

9. BRING YOUR COMPOST & TEXTILES RECYCLING

There are even more ways to reduce your carbon footprint at the farmers’ market. If your NYC neighborhood does not yet offer compost (food waste) collection, then you can bring your compost to the farmers’ market. Instead of throwing away food scraps where they will just end up trapped inside a landfill generating greenhouse gases, collect any and all unwanted food scraps and drop them off at the market. From the market, your food scraps will be taken to a facility where they will be allowed to break down completely and turn back into dark, rich, soil. Kind of stinky but also kind of magic, right? Find markets that accept compost here.

Also, you can recycle any old clothing or textiles at the farmers’ market. The average New Yorker tosses 46 pounds of clothing and other textiles in the trash each year3. Unwanted clothes do not belong in the trash, so give them a second life by recycling them properly. Find markets that accept textile recycling here.

10. ENJOY!

Go home and whip up your delicious, inexpensive, and local bounty into a mouth-watering meal!

Remember, the farmers’ market is local, which means you will never find tropical fruits such as bananas, mangoes, or coconuts, because those plants simply cannot grow in or near New York. And, since the market is seasonal, you won’t find peaches, berries, tomatoes, or other summer and fall produce in the winter or spring months. Often, there is confusion between actual farmers’ markets and other produce stands. If a stand has produce that isn’t locally grown or is out-of-season, then it is not part of a farmers’ market. [Editor’s note: For example, the carts you may pass on the street corner near your apartment or office building, or subway may sell fruit that is fresh, but not necessarily local or in-season.]

To conclude, I’d like to leave you with a list of some of my all time favorite farmers’ markets in the city:

  • Of course, the Union Square Greenmarket is not to be missed. At its peak, this market has more than 250,000 customers per week, and boasts more than one thousand varieties of fruits and vegetables4.
  • Another great market is the Jackson Heights Greenmarket in Queens, #128 on the map. This market has a wide variety of products, including meat, cheese, honey, and wine. They also host nutrition workshops where you can get Health Bucks for free produce. Bonus: There are nearby street vendors selling Mexican tamales that make for an excellent breakfast!
  • Finally, the 125th Street FreshConnect Farmers’ Market (#79 on the map) not only has a wide array of products, but also plays music and hosts events that celebrate the cultural roots of historical Harlem. In a quickly gentrifying area, it’s exciting to connect with the history of the area.

Happy shopping!

[Editor’s note: If you don’t live in New York City, you can learn about resources and programs in your state by visiting the Farmers’ Market Coalition website.]

References:

  1. Frith, K. (2007). “Is Local More Nutritious?” The Center for Health and the Global Environment website.
  2. Union Square, Manhattan. Wikipedia.com.
  3. Clothing Is Not Garbage.” GrowNYC website.
  4. Union Square, Manhattan. Wikipedia.com.

Caylee Clay Author Pic

Guest post by Caylee Clay, RDN. Click here to visit Caylee’s website or find her on Instagram: @eat_yer_veggies. All photos property of Caylee Clay, RDN, unless otherwise noted.

Tending the Farm

I started the DishWithDina blog back in April 2005 (Happy Blogiversary to me!) as a way to remember all the yummy places I went to after I moved to New York City from New Jersey. In the transition from one platform to another and then integrating everything into this website, I think I lost a handful of posts along the way; but, I kept all the business cards and photographs (I was snapping pics of my meals before Instagram was even a thing) from every outing.

One of my rules of living in the city has always been to never visit the same place twice. With so much to do and see and eat, why not try something different every time you leave your apartment or venture in from somewhere else? Besides, you can’t ever guarantee your favorite places will be around long enough, so might as well check out as many as you can before they’re gone. (RIP, Benny’s Burritos and 7A.)

Sunday041705

Babies! (04/17/2005)

Such is the way with life, too, though. I don’t think any of us intentionally want to regret not doing something differently, not pursuing an avenue because it was unfamiliar, or fearing what would––or wouldn’t––happen if we ventured off our regular path. In that realm is where I find myself these days. It’s been over six months since I completed my year-long dietetic internship and I am still having issues recovering from the (albeit sometimes self-imposed) toll that experience took on my brain and body. But, as the seasons change and the year progresses and time between the “doing” gets larger and wider, I find myself reflecting on what could be instead of what should have been.

My grad school is finally letting up (one class left!) to a point that I see more flexibility and freedom in my schedule. I’m allowing myself to try new things, to remember what life was like when I would roam the streets of Manhattan, weaving in and out of each neighborhood, tasting and sampling the cultures and the livelihoods that awaited me. I went back to practicing yoga this week after a three-year-long hiatus. I bought hydrating facial masks and have been using them regularly. I met a friend for lunch and then went for a walk afterward. I find myself bolting out of the building and going for a run the minute a ray of sunshine peeks out from the clouds. For the first time in years, I’m reading books that have nothing to do with food, nutrition, or science and everything to do with helping me get back on track, refueling and improving my psyche so that I’m well prepared to develop and grow as each new season unfolds and new opportunities come my way.

In addition, I’ve met dozens of wonderful new people, after starting my private practice in October, who have donated their time and energy to help get my business up and running and now they’re contributing to and breathing new life into this blog. I look forward to sharing more of their contributions––and more of my own insights––with you over the year. And I invite you to share with us what rituals you enjoy, what goals you intend to pursue, and what old habits in your life you’re letting go of in order to make room for new ones.

How Convenient

I often tell people that I’m very busy and important––busier than Oprah, if that’s even a relevant reference these days. Starting a private practice while finishing grad school and landing a lovely little part-time weekly gig as an in-house prenatal nutritionist at an ob/gyn office in midtown east (NYC/Manhattan) has definitely put a lot on my plate. It’s been three months since my last blog post in which I wrote about a 10-day hiatus I was taking from social media. In that time, half a dozen holidays and other celebrations have come and gone as has an entire season. But, as busy as I get, there has always remained one non-negotiable in my schedule: meal-planning.

Regardless of how much work I have to do, how quickly school assignment deadlines are approaching, or how little sleep I’ve gotten, I always carve out about half a day on Sundays to grocery shop, prep, and cook my meals––or, at least, the ingredients for my meals––for the week. It’s what keeps me in line for healthful eating…and sane during the week when I’m exhausted and don’t want to so much as lift a finger to point at food I want to eat. In fact, a recent study1 showed that at-home meal planning improved diet quality, nutrition and food variety, and weight status in over 40,000 people who participated in it.

Even with planning ahead, though, there are times when I forget to schlep my pre-made meals with me or want to treat myself to something different. The ob/gyn office is located where convenience foods abound, but meals in that area can be a little costly or might not be as healthful as I’d like them to be. Enter Eatsa, a “futuristic power bowl automat” (according to Gothamist) that serves up a wide variety of delicious, nutritious, customized, plant-based lunches, all for the pocket-friendly price of $6.95.

Burrito Bowl closed.jpg

The day I checked out Eatsa, I ordered the Burrito Bowl which packs in 25g of protein, 25g of fat (mostly the good kind), 89g of carbs (primarily complex), 17g of fiber (nearly 70% of a woman’s daily needs!), and only 9g of sugar (I’m assuming from the salsa and corn); however, the sodium was a little high at 1112mg (an issue for anyone with high blood pressure), and, at 653 calories, you’d really get your money’s worth as there’s enough food here to cover a meal and a snack for most people.

Burrito Bowl open

While I realize spending half a day cooking and cleaning in order to plan a week’s worth of meals might not be realistic for some folks, options like Eatsa are a wonderful––and affordable––alternative. Currently, this chain is only located in a few neighborhoods in NYC, DC, and California; but, hopefully, we’ll see an expansion soon to other places across the country.

And in keeping with the theme of another celebration that’s almost over, National Nutrition Month‘s “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” please check out the resources below to help you make the best decisions for times when convenience is of the essence:

References:

  1. Ducrot, P., et al. (2017). Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14(12), 1-12.

For the Love of Food

ICYMI, this past Monday, October 24, was Food Day, an annual national celebration headed up by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It was created a handful of years ago to encourage Americans to be more mindful about their eating habits and take ownership of their well-being, and to bring attention to policies—or lack thereof—regarding accessibility to healthy, affordable, and sustainable food.

To “observe” Food Day, one needs only to commit to making some sort of food-related change to his or her normal habits—anything from giving up soda to supporting farmers at the local farmers’ market to reading up on how Members of Congress voted on certain food policy issues. Some towns and college campuses put together big events to encourage their communities to join in on making these changes or identifying local food- and nutrition-related issues that need their attention. In doing so, they hope that these personal commitments and community-wide achievements last well beyond the one day once the momentum kicks in and everyone sees the positive results of what their efforts can make.

For me, food has played an enormous role in my life, starting from the time I was a child. Every Sunday, my Nonna Rosa would pick fresh herbs and vegetables from her backyard garden and, when I was old enough to stand on a chair and lean over the kitchen table, call me downstairs (we used to live above her in a two-family house) to help her prepare fresh, homemade pasta, hand-cranked through the heavy, metal pasta machine that had traveled with her on her journey from Italy to America. In that small kitchen, we cooked pounds of pasta al dente, served in an enormous bowl with the sauce—studded with heavy, hand-rolled polpette (meatballs)—that had been simmering in the big pot on the stove all day. Alongside the large bowl of pasta would sit a platter of sautéed spinach with fresh cloves of garlic or a dish of plump, stewed tomatoes with ceci (garbanzo beans), anchovies, fresh parsley, and basil. The aromas were enticing, even to the olfactory of five-year-old me!

Spending time learning and cooking with my Nonna Rosa remains one of my fondest memories of all time. Not only was there a sense of accomplishment associated with making our own food and feeding it to our family, but I became enamored and inspired by Nonna as she shared with me—in her broken English—stories about how she came to America, how she worked in a coat factory and saved up her own money, and how she was determined to be an independent woman in this new land, something unheard of for her generation.

Not too long ago, my dear friend and fellow Registered Dietitian (and foodie and blogger and New Yorker), Marsha, from SalutNutrition, interviewed me about the tastes and traditions of Italian cuisine. It was so fun, sitting with Marsha on a breezy, beautiful day in Central Park telling stories* about my family and my love of food. If you have about 15 minutes to spare, I invite you to watch and learn a little more about the food and culture of my family’s hometown in Italy:

Marsha launches a new YouTube episode each week on different foods and habits from across the globe. Click here to subscribe to her channel.

What are some of your favorite food memories? Are there any habits you have made, want to change, or looking to learn about? Please feel free to add your comments below and share this post with anyone you think who might love food as much as we do.

*VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: My mother had a chance to watch this video when it launched earlier in the week and yelled at me for forgetting to talk about the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” (an Italian Christmas Eve tradition). I clearly did not prepare well enough for this interview; otherwise, I would never have let this happen. Marsha denied my request to re-shoot the entire interview so that I could correct my error. Thankfully, I wrote a post about it a few years ago and you can read all about it here.

TEDxManhattan (Sat, 3/7/15): Changing the Way We Eat

If you’ve been keeping track of my Twitter feed or are a part of my LinkedIn network, you know that my boyfriend and I will be hosting a viewing party of the TEDxManhattan live-streaming event “Changing the Way We Eat” at our apartment in the East Village, New York City, on Saturday, March 7, 2015. As I did last year, I’m opening the invitation to anyone who follows this blog.

OTHER INFO:

  • Food will be provided (menu still TBD), but you can BYO food or beverages, if you wish.
  • Kids are welcome.
  • We have cats in case you are allergic.
  • This is not a fund-raiser/there is no charge to attend.

The entire event is from 10:30 am – 6:00 pm ET. Since we have a teeny apartment, we are asking everyone to RSVP by Wed, 2/25 for their preferred session(s), noted below, so it doesn’t get too crowded. (I’ll e-mail you our exact address after you’ve replied).

Session 1 (10:30 AM – 12:25 PM)
Introductions
Nikiko Masumoto – Legacy of three generations of Japanese American family farmers.
Anim Steel – Food justice.
Ali Partovi – What’s the real reason organic food costs more? (Hint: It’s not because it’s more expensive to produce.)
Stephen Reily – How do cities build platforms to help the local food economy achieve sustainability and scale?
Film clip: The Meatrix, re-make and re-launch of the hugely successful 2003 viral phenomenon
Michele Merkel – What is legal is not always right: Fighting for justice in rural America.

BREAK 12:25 – 1:35 PM (webcast offline)

Session 2 (1:35 – 3:35 PM)
Marcel Van Ooyen – Scaling up local food distribution to take it from niche to mainstream.
Robert Graham – Teaching doctors about the importance of food to health.
Stefanie Sacks – How small changes in eating can make big differences.
Joel Berg – The only real way to end hunger in America.
Dana Cowin – The power of ugly vegetables: Why ugly, bruised vegetables are the future of food.
TEDxManhattan Award Winner – Stephen Ritz, Green Bronx Machine. School. Kids. Community. Food. The educational community center Steve is building in a school in the Bronx.
DJ Cavem – Health education through art and hip hop music.

BREAK 3:35 – 4:15 PM (webcast offline)

Session 3 (4:15 – 6:00pm)
Henry Hargreaves – How end-of-the-world doomsday preppers are thinking about their food.
Film clip: Anna Lappe, Real Food Media Project winner
Shen Tong – The impact of venture capital money and investment dollars in the food system.
Kendra Kimbirauskas – The rift between the good food movement and the explosion of factory farms in the U.S.
Film clip: Regina Bernard-Carreno and Alison Cayne
Danielle Nierenberg – Why the food system will fall apart without women farmers.
Danny Meyer – Fine dining and chain restaurants: The evolvement and overlap of the two.

END 6:00 PM (webcast offline)

We look forward to sharing good food and conversation with you!

If you are unable to attend, but would like to learn more about the event or watch on your own, click here to visit the official TEDxManhattan website. Please feel free to post comments below about what you thought after watching the event.

Take the cannoli

Even though we only live across the river, it’s rare the bf and I get many visits from our friends and family in New Jersey, so you can imagine how excited we got when my cousins came into the city a couple of weekends ago to spend the whole day with us.

What I love most when we have visitors (aside from eating with them) is getting to view our neighborhoods through their eyes. Rushing through the streets of Manhattan, as a resident is wont to do, I often miss out on the little details like sidewalk vendors and graffiti art on buildings. It’s only when I’m walking with an “outsider” that I manage to stop and take in these nuances.

Our tour was very haphazard; we zigged and zagged according to the traffic lights’ changing patterns. We started at our place in the East Village, then meandered over to SoHo, then pitched a hard left and shot our way toward the East River Promenade and South Street Seaport, which, while the effects of 2012’s Superstorm Sandy were visible, still thrives with everything from an outdoor trapeze school at Pier 16 to a food market where vendors’ wares are housed in individual shipping containers.

I’m outside!

After our leisurely stroll through the south end of Manhattan, we realized how hungry we were getting, so we high-tailed it back up the busy streets of Chinatown toward Little Italy and decided to be super tourists by plopping down to dinner at the ever-famous, ever-infamous Umberto’s Clam House, now relocated down Mulberry Street a bit from its original Broome Street location.

While I took in the sights, sounds, and smells of our venture outdoors, I noticed something else: I was moving slowly and loving it. I sat on a bench for nearly ten minutes and stared at the Brooklyn Bridge. I watched people dressed in colorful leotards hurl themselves in mid-air on trapeze bars and then land softly on the net below them. I took pictures of things and nothings. I often joke that I don’t go outside (unless I’m on a beach) because I’m very busy and important, allowing pressing tasks or other priorities keep me indoors, but being out and about was a true gift that I would very much like to continue giving myself.

 

TEDxManhattan (Sat, 3/1/14): Changing the Way We Eat

If you’ve been keeping track of my Twitter feed or are a part of my LinkedIn network, you know that I’ll be hosting a viewing party tomorrow, Saturday, March 1, 2014, for the TEDxManhattan live-streaming event “Changing the Way We Eat.” This may seem like a nutty move, but I’m very trusting of my readers, so I’m opening the invitation to anyone who follows this blog. I’m not crazy enough to post my exact street address here, but I’ll say that it’s at my apartment in the East Village, New York City.

If you’re interested, please click here to RSVP and I’ll send you the address.

OTHER INFO

  • Food will be provided, but you can BYO food or beverages, if you wish.
  • Kids are welcome.
  • We have cats in case you are allergic.
  • This is not a fund-raiser/there is no charge to attend.

The entire event is from 10:30 am – 6:30 pm EST, but you can drop by whenever your schedule allows and stay for as short or as long as you wish; however, if you’d prefer to join us for a particular session, here are the details:

10:30 AM – Session 1
Brian Halweil, Editor, Edible East End; Publisher, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn
Peggy Neu, President, The Monday Campaigns
Kathy Lawrence, Program Director, School Food FOCUS
Michael Rozyne, Executive Director, Red Tomato
Tama Wong, Principal, Meadows and More
Megan Miller, Founder, Bitty Foods
Steve Ritz, Founder, Green Bronx Machine
Andrew Gunther, Program Director, Animal Welfare Approved
David McInerney, Co-Founder, FreshDirect
Dr. Lance Price, Professor, George Washington University
Bill Yosses, Executive Pastry Chef, The White House
David Binkle, Director of Food Services, Los Angeles Unified School District

1:40 PM – Session 2
San Van Aken – Tree of 40 Fruits, Artist
Stefani Bardin, Faculty, The New School
Matt Moore, Family Farmer, Artist, Activist, The Digital Farm Collective
Maisie Ganzler, Vice President, Bon Appetit Management Company
Regina Bernard-Carreno, Assistant Professor, Baruch College, CUNY
Ann Cooper, Founder, Food Family Farming Foundation
Sunny Young, Director, Edufood Consulting
Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch
Virginia Clarke, Executive Director, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders
LaDonna Redmond, Founder, Campaign for Food Justice Now
Alison Cayne, Owner, Havens Kitchen
Elizabeth Meltz, Director of Food Safety and Sustainability, Batali/Bastianich Hospitality Group
Nikki Silvestri, Executive Director, Green for All

4:20 PM – Session 3
Mitchell Davis, Executive Vice President, James Beard Foundation
Myra Goodman, Co-founder, Earthbound Farm
Kerry McLean, Director of Community Development, WHEDco
Saru Jayaraman, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United)
Cheryl Kollin, Founding Principal, Full Plate Ventures
Clint Smith, Educator, Parkdale High School
Peter Hoffman, chef owner of Back Forty and Back Forty West
Chellie Pingree, Congresswoman, U.S. House of Representatives (Maine)
Kenneth Cook, President and Co-founder, Environmental Working Group
Tom Colicchio, Chef, Restaurant Owner, Head Judge “Top Chef”, Cookbook Author

We look forward to sharing good food and conversation with you!

If you are unable to attend, but would like to learn more about the event or watch on your own, click here or here. Please feel free to post comments below about what you thought after watching the event.

Brunch Bunch: The Pancake Edition

Not too long ago, a group of us were craving pancakes and met up for brunch at Café Orlin on St. Marks Place. The lines outside of this place are notoriously long and if there’s one thing I won’t do it’s wait in a long line. (I am very busy and important, plus, there are a gajillion places to eat in New York City and, if you keep me waiting, I will move on.) Thankfully, our party was seated quickly and I was excited to find out what the big deal was inside this place.

My first impression was, “It’s huge in here!” Exorbitant rents usually keep city food establishments from having more than a handful of tables and barely inches between them, if that. At Café Orlin, there was room aplenty and enough tables to accommodate a large family gathering, but it never seemed overwhelming. The dark woods and large windows made it feel warm and bright at the same time.

The restaurant’s fare is deemed “eclectic and international,” though it leans Middle Eastern with baba ghanoush and tabbouleh plates on the menu. Brunch, offered on Saturdays and Sundays, is your usual choice of eggs, pancakes/French toast, or salads/sandwiches, but Café Orlin puts such a clean and organic spin on everything that you’ll think you’re eating on a farm instead of at a bustling restaurant in the heart of the East Village. Everyone at our table chose a main omelet dish and then split a side of pancakes in order to sample as much as possible in one sitting. The verdict: delicious!

One of my rules of living in the city is that I rarely frequent an eatery twice because there are just too many places from which to choose and I want to try as many as possible, but, with Café Orlin, not only will I make an exception, I already did. My boyfriend and I loved it there so much that we invited his entire family out to join us one Sunday and they fell just as much in love with the place as we did. And I’m glad we went back because our first server was underwhelming where as the one we had during our second visit was extremely friendly and accommodating.

As mentioned above, everything in Café Orlin is fresh, fresh, fresh, including their freshly brewed coffee, which means refills are not free, but it’s a small price to pay for quality.

Meat, meet un-meat.

One of my favorite vegan spots, Peacefood Café, has recently opened in the East Village/Union Square area and I am thrilled! There are so many creative savory and sweet options to choose from there, mostly made with meat substitutes like tempeh and seitan, but there are also some whole food dishes, like roasted or steamed veggies, green salads, and that sort of thing.

For our meal the other night, my bf and I shared The Other Caesar Salad with tempeh “bacon” bits and a plate of deliciously spicy Chickpea Fries as starters, then he ordered the Penne Un-chicken Parmesan for his entrée and I had the PFC Un-chicken Basket (meat-substitute chicken fingers) served with a mild chipotle “mayo” dipping sauce on the side. I barely ate my meal since I couldn’t stop picking at my bf’s dish, so I ended up having it packed up as leftovers. Our dessert was a shared slice of peanut butter dairy-free cheesecake, which was a little on the gummy side; I might have preferred one of the monster cookie options instead.

The issue with vegan foods is that not everything is healthy, so, if you’re opting for one of the meat substitute dishes (which are, technically, processed) or anything that doesn’t resemble a whole or raw food, just be sure your tummy can handle whatever’s in the recipe—like deep frying, soy, or wheat gluten—and be sure to ask your server if you’re not positive about what’s in the dish.

For me, this kind of vegan eating is a treat as I have a very sensitive stomach, so I can’t overdo it; otherwise, it’s the same as someone eating a gallon of ice cream when she’s lactose intolerant. Since I’ve been on a liver detox cleanse the past two weeks, I probably should have waited it out before stepping into Peacefood Café, but I gave into temptation and, unfortunately, ended up paying the price for it—a sour stomach and a raging headache. Was it worth it? Probably, but I’ll definitely mix it up a little more next time and not eat something so heavy and processed in all three of my courses.