Are you a sustainable consumer or just the GARBAGE dweller….???

Ok, I’ll not be hypocritical and say I don’t visit a few fast food chains every now and then. I’ll also say that I’m sometimes suspect of where most of the food comes. Face it, most of us are swift to ingest and devour with such unhesitant greediness without giving any pause as to where the food comes from. We must satisfy the whimsical growl of hunger pangs at the whiff of fat in the air.

Hydroponic Arugula beds

Hydroponic Arugula beds

But alas, I shall not be critical less my house be burnt to the ground and then I shall be forced to live on a sustainable farm. Wait, that might be quite a healthy move. I recently took a trip to a sustainable farm in Homestead, Florida. Albeit, I wasn’t there to just poke around in the dirt and smell dainty leaves. I was there to film some additional footage of a project I’m working on. We visited Teena’s Pride in South Florida, a place that chefs visit, a place that grows fresh tasting food, an environment that practices sustainable farming. What the hell is that you ask? Yes, I’m speaking to the non-foodie or uninformed foodies. Seems it’s quite easy to say something cool like certifiable organic and we go nuts and bow down to the health gods because we think we are righteously making our bodies healthy. Sustainable farming is not just a method to plant food or raise animals. It’s a way of life and a commitment to great quality foods. Sustainability in all aspects embodies that of the artisan. At Teena’s Pride that means: how the earth is treated, how the crops are planted,  how the crops are grown, how the crops are cared for, how the crops are harvested, how the crops a packaged, how the people are with the food, and definitely how Teena is with her staff. Sustainability has to do with the extra care that goes into making each product the best it can be. All the seedlings are planted by hand even in all the hydroponic beds as supervised by the farm manager and Teena. Yes, sustainable farmed products cost more but frown not until you have tasted a tomato picked freshly from the vine that had no pesticides or animal manure anywhere close to it. Try doing that on a regular farm. Yes, belly hot madness.

eating fresh nosturshium leaves

eating fresh nasturtium leaves

tomato seedlings, planted by hand

tomato seedlings, planted by hand

heirloom tomatoes on the vines

heirloom tomatoes on the vines

Listen, this is not the first time I’ve been on a farm but it’s the first time I’ve been on a farm since becoming a chef. I grew up in a place where visiting various types of farms was the norm for me. As I got older though there was a marked change in the food and food quality probably because farmers were deluded into believing that you can’t get a great product unless you douse the hell out of it with fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and other ailing sides. Farmers got corrupted by the ease of bigger money because they could get bigger products and stuff that grew quicker and developed faster to bring it to market in record time. Do you know that it takes a chicken roughly 5 – 8 months to develop naturally? Here you can have that defeathered and plucked yard bird in less than 2 months, that would be 6 weeks y’all. Hail to the protein and genetic modifiers. I tasted a tomato, actually several tomatoes (Oh jesam, Tenna gonna send me a bill now) and I couldn’t stop eating the bloody things they were so good. Damn good I tell you. I was on the farm for over an hour listening to how things were done on Teena’s farm and devoured so much freshly picked leaves I felt like a goat feeding on fresh fodder from the pen. Hmmhm, I was a free range ram. I tasted things I hadn’t before and saw certain plants in their infancy. Chocolate and Pineapple mint are delicious. The leaves from that Nasturtium plant, oh my god somebody slap and call me Mariposa. Okay that’s a stretch. You on a diet and want some flavor while cutting the cheese from a salad? Blaze the Nasturtium I tell you. With her tangy, spicy and citrus notes, Pepper Jack may have a little competition I dare say.

nosturshium

nasturtium

I walked away from this visit thinking about my part as a chef in this crazy food chain. The way I am today as a person and as a chef is far different from when I grew up as a kid. When I went to the market with my mother as a child, I may not have known the vendors by name but I knew them by sight. Not sure if my mother knew their names either but she had developed a personal relationship with so many that often times she would leave me and the heavy bags with them. Yes, a personal relationship, that which most of us really have with the people who sell us our foods. Most chefs are really keying on that element when it comes to food purchases thus allowing them to bring you the best quality products possible. Chefs want to know how that pig was raised – fresh organic feed, mud holes, space to roam; that chicken – not ten to a cage;  that goat, know how that eggplant was grown; know the humanitarian aspects are of that farm – proper crop rotation, proper soil maintenance, even slaughter process must be  included. I may not be able to source products from vendors I know personally but I feel I must continue to be more vigilant  and aware of the products I use. Alas that may come with an increased price tag on your bill. But let me ask you this really quickly, what price are you willing to continue paying for some of the garbage we buy and eat? Make it a sustainable choice.

Yes, it does indeed have a chocolate note.

Yes, it does indeed have a chocolate note.

My bounty I escaped with

My bounty I escaped with

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Oh where oh where can I get a really good Burger…Damn it!!!

Alas, I must confess, I have been a lazy slacker. Dusting off the cobwebs from my blog as I write this piece. Well, what’s on the mind you ask? Well food of course. Specifically about feeling let down after hearing sweet nothings being whispered into your ears. You know what i’m talking about because I’m certain you’ve heard them too..”We have the best pizza – soggy dough…The best Calzone – damn where’s the filling…The best jerk chicken – Really, must I call upon Moses, the Nigerian slayer…World famous ribs – now that one there is a tickler for laughter. Poor bastards have probably never even left the city much less cross statelines…The best Mofungo – ahhm, I really have something to say about that one. Next time though. And of course the ubiquitous best damn burger in the world. My biggest gripe is that if you use those claims you better bring the pain, make it rain, make our palettes go insane or just flush it down the drain.

Okay, so recently I visited for the first time Le Tub in the Hollywood, Florida. Now I’m not reviewing, just recapping my afternoon experience. Okay, on with it then. My first impression, Le Tub is the Shangrilla of waterfront dives. Strategic placement of the red and blue commodes by the entrance, quirky but cool doesn’t hurt. Yep, they are just saying right away that we have no shame and have fun. Nope, I didn’t check to see if they were functional. It was a great afternoon out, sunny with a nice breeze. I took a seat under a green lush canopy from sea grape and rubber plant trees. There are lots of other funky plants and odd fixtures around. Wall sconces in the middle of tables, fun signs and even a few tables laid over bath tubs – Le Tub. Relaxing indeed.  Birds were swooping, preening, chirping and prancing across empty tables. This should be fun. Why am I at Le Tub you ask? Well, this unique spot got to be the reinvigorated bad ass when Oprah Winfrey visited and proclaimed the burgers at Le Tub were the best she’s ever had. So I’m here to rub a grub grub at Le Tub. From the artistically hand written menu, I order a plain burger medium no cheese with lettuce and tomato, a cup of chili, small fries and a Planter’s punch. Hey, I’m the boss damn it. Just to note, the only accompaniments for burgers are American or Swiss cheese so don’t go and asking for bacon, mushroom or Foi Gras. I get my drink and my chili and begin what is surely going to be the greatest afternoon of gastronomic and burgerdom proportions. Ummm!  Okay, the chilli wasn’t bad but a little different flavor than what I was expecting. The punginess of smoky cumin wasn’t whispering to me. No sweat, I reach for the red headed step child of condiments hated by most modern day chefs. Two squirts of ketchup and I was back in business. As I’m finishing the last bit of the Sirloin chilli, my Sirloin burger arrives…without the fries.  Ugghh!!! Let it go son. Right then. At this moment, my eyes light up like fireflies. Jumping Jehosephat, good frigging lord what a beast. All 13oz on a bun accompanied with a mammoth onion slice (too big if you ask me – #kissmenotlater), couple slices of really ripe tomatoes and green leaf lettuce. I am licking my chops at this behemoth. Ummm!!! Hold up, wait a minute. Y’all did hear me say I ordered a medium burger right?  So why is it I have a quckly forming raspberry bun? No bueno! I give a small benefit of doubt and cut my burger in two. A who go tell mi fi do dat to sclaaat!!! neahly mek man cuss two claaat tuh rhatid. I dont think I’ve ever had a burger that had five varying temperatures; well done on top, medium just beneath, mid rear next, then rear and mid-well on the bottom. Now that takes serious skills. Yep, I’m bothered…it has to go back. My server takes it back. What’s this, oh my fries have arrived. Now i’m really perturbed. As I sit there munching on the hot fries, I am reminding myself that I came here for THE BURGER and with love in my heart damn it, so I check my facebook, voicemail, twiddle my fingers, change my seat to get less sunshine. Even thinking whether or not one of these damn birds were going to crap on me or in my food. Now that would have really set it off for me. The burger is back, it’s medium and yes it’s the same cut burger I sent back. I’m eating but by this time I’m not really enjoying my burger. Pssssssssss, the steam has escaped. By far, this has been one of the biggest burger i’ve eaten. The best one? Ummm…not really. Where? I’ll have to think about that and get back to you. And where have you had your best burger?

At this point i’m feeling really bloated and i’m thinking that now I should have had that fish sandwich damn it. Now I have to take my rotundus rear for a walk. I guess bigger is not always better. Funny enough though, this burger would be perfect after a drunken rage. Well, not me of course seeing as I don’t drink like that…in public that is. Dive bar, alcohol, burger, well hot damn. This must be an off day for me. After the burger affair, I spent the rest of the afternoon just enjoying my South Florida vibes. Enjoying the freedom of an entrepreneur in the mid afternoon with sunny bright skies by the water front… I kick back in the swing by the dock and watch seagulls diving for bits of food thrown in the water and the water taxis and boats of varying sizes cruise by…Hey, watch out for the manatees.

Food on fiyah!!!

Be bold and daring – New tastes next time you travel!!!

So if you’re reading this blog – subscribe I ask you kindly – I have a question for you, do you consider yourself a foodie? My whole premise of a professional foodie is based on two things: “when in Rome…” & enjoy food in a way that makes you happy. So here’s my glaring critique on anyone who calls themselves a “foodie”.  Man, sounds like I’ve written that someplace before. Well, I guess it must really mean something to me then. I have recently been travelling through Europe enjoying the sites and local foods whenever I could. When given any opportunity to try something new I am always game, for the most part anyway. I may not have to like it but I’m sure going to give it a go. Some things may take a little coaxing,  just don’t ask me to kill anyone though. Unless of course it’s…umm, nah, let me not go there, politics has no place in this blog today, it might become too volatile an issue. I’ll stick to the matter of food.

I grew up in the islands eating Herring. Albeit in a can and cooked already, I ate herring. We ate that canned herring with tomato sauce and steamed rice like it was a gourmet dish. I can just hear the ‘Topanaris’ dem now – my uptownites from ‘Yard’ that claim dem don’t eat such things…in public J. Don’t hate, you know you thinking of getting some now. Oslo in Norway was our last stop before Scotland and I tried an offering of herring three ways. All pickled and none cooked served with shaved onions, sour cream & chives, flat bread snaps and rustic bread. There was: 1.) Herring marinated in sour cream, onions and spices, this I liked. 2.) Herring marinated in coriander and other spices, like this a little. 3.) Herring marinated in Aquavit (Swedish Liquor) my least favorite of the bunch. For me, I came away with the knowledge that I’m not a big fan of pickled herring, especially a whole small filet but I gained a new perspective when it came to presentation and cooking techniques and for me that was worth the experience.

The very first time I had Escargot and frogs legs was on my first trip to Paris, France several years ago. This, Four years into becoming a chef. A very memorable New Years that was indeed. I would like to think that my bravery at the time gave me a passport to get a tour of the chef’s kitchen and meet the man that delighted all our palettes that night.

Another “Roman” tradition of mine whether I’m abroad or eating in a restaurant anywhere in or out of town is to meld my palette with a beer from that cuisine’s region. Needless to say, BitBurger (German), Carlsberg (Norway), Heineken (Amsterdam), 1664 (France) and others have been the source of hoppy delight during my trip so far.

So I have another question for you. Have you had the chance to travel abroad? And are you still a considering yourself a foodie at this juncture? Given that bit if information, after spending your well earned cash on plane tickets and hotel lodgings the solution to your food quandary is to poney up to TGI Fridays, KFC, McDonalds, Subway, Starbucks and Burger King? We should all just revoke your Foodie licenses right this very minute. What, not interested in expanding your culinary boundaries when you leave your country’s borders? Have you no shame? Yeah I know the US dollar sucks against the Euro if you are in Europe so spend wisely, cheap(er) cafes. If you have gone that far to get a passport and you are actually using it, leave the old life and embrace new ones, if only for the duration of your trip. If nothing else you will have had something to write home about, good or bad. Make the best of your next trip. Try something new for Christ’s sake whether abroad or back home wherever that may be. Invite me out some time J. Always remember though, Food is on Fiyah Baby!!!