Sunday, September 23, 2007

i left my heart in south kakalakee

This post is long overdue, but chronicles the weekend I spent observing what's so great that it could draw my two friends away from NYC, possibly for good. It turns out that life in Columbia, South Carolina is full of lovely surprises, and it's hard to begrudge anyone's decision to leave the grit and grim and trade it for smiles and sunshine--I mean, if you're INTO that kind of thing.

Some food and farm (and other) notes from my travel:

1. Free refills of seet tea. it turns out they aren't kidding around with the "sweet" part (yowza!), but isn't that kind and generous? Eternal free refills offered with a big ol' grin?

2. Coca cola with ice, sitting by/in the pool. The pool right outside your apartment. Your big apartment, the one with a guestroom and room for your surfboard. The one with parking spaces out front for both of your cars. In South Carolina, no diet Coke, only regular coke will do.

3. Lizard's Thicket. A local breakfast chain that you cannot visit for brunch at 1 pm, because they stopped serving breakfast ages ago. And all the well-dressed church ladies, eating a late lunch will look at you sweetly, shaking their grey heads. But a bright and early brekkie of sausage, cheese grits, giant biscuit and eggs is a really marvelous thing. Cheap, too, i bet, but I have friends who are too generous to let me know what a "bill" in South Carolina looks like.

4. Chicken Salad. Apparently cafes around here are competing for the best chicken salad. Embrace the mayonnaise--you're in South Carolina now--and you might not regret it, 'cause this stuff is pretty tasty.

5.The farm. My hostess had the brilliant idea that Labor Day could best be spent visiting her new CSA farm outside the city. We drove to Five Leaves Farm, a very small and lovely operation run by a husband and wife named Kristen and Ben Dubard. Ben took time out of his day to give us the tour, ripping japanese cucumbers off the vine and breaking into crisp green chunks for us to eat, nipping basil leaves for us to smell, and grabbing one of the last of summer's melons for us to take with us. it's amazing to see how much food can be produced from a small plot of land, and it was cool to see the very soil that Cerry and Ethan's fall food will come from.

Come fall, they'll be all settled in, and here in NYC it will become gray and cold, and there, in South Kakalakee it will be bright and sunny. It might just be heaven on earth...

Monday, September 10, 2007

do any of us even know where we are?

My friend directed me to a bar I hadn't heard of, on Leroy and 7th ave, friend said. Leroy, yeah, I thought to myself, I think I know where that is. After all, I have lived in NYC since the first minute of my life. I know every inch of it like the back of my hand. Leroy, right.

I took the train from work to West 4th, planning to head downtown on foot. A flash of doubt: maybe Leroy is over there with Horatio and Jane, having a wacky name party up there in funkytown. I'll head uptown. Or not? I'll stop and ask someone.

"Hi, which way is Leroy?" I ask a young man smoking a cigarette.

"Who?"

I cross the street and hit the ATM. Inside, a cute, likely gay for crying out loud, guy.

"Hi, is Leroy uptown or downtown?"

"To be honest...I'm not sure."

I leave the bank, tentatively head downtown. I see a couple standing and waiting for the light.

"Hi, I'm looking for Leroy--is it uptown or downtown?" They look up and down, then down then up.

"Uhhhh...."

What the fuck? Why do none of these people know where the heck they are??? Why don't I??? My last hope, a middle aged guy and his daughter. They look like they live here, right here in ye old West Village. They are not tourists, not NYU students fresh off the bus.

"Hi, I'm looking for Leroy. Is it up, or down?" The father points downtown, and I walk about 4 or 5 blocks, just enough to find myself about THREE BLOCKS FROM MY NEW APARTMENT. A humbling moment for the native New Yorker, mitigated only by the discovery of a new, wonderful little bar, Little Branch, hidden behind a small, unassuming door at the corner of Leroy and 7th Avenue South.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

je ne sais quoi

It's hard not to sound snobbish when you talk about "terroir." First of all, it's French-y sounding, and second of all, a lot of people don't know what it means. "Terroir" is a bit like "je ne sais quoi:"

I love this cheese, it has a certain je ne sais quoi.

Get a load of this honey, what is that I am tasting? A little...je ne sais quoi?

That sort of thing. Only, in truth, terroir is a way of discovering what exactly that "I don't know what" is. Terroir is the geography of a food, its location and environment that gets expressed through its taste. The je ne sais quoi in that cheese, is in fact the diet of the goat/sheep/cow that produced the milk for it. The je ne sais quoi in that honey are the flowers that the bees pollinated before going back to the hive. How cool is that?

Last Monday I attended a honey tasting at Jimmy's, an adorable basement bar on 7th street, that was hosted by Cecily and Amy. I had the pleasure of tasting an assortment of local honeys--the most interesting to me was to taste three batches of Roger Repohl's honey, harvested in a community garden in the South Bronx. Now you might think that the je ne sais quoi in South Bronx honey would be guns and grime, but noooooo, it's elder flowers and linden and all kinds of things, depending on what month it is. I tasted a honey from October 2006, from July 2007 and August 2007 and they were three distinctly different colors and three distinctly different tastes. Same bees, same location, diferent flowers. Terroir!

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