Category Archives: Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable, Local Farming Focus of Aspen Lecture

Noted ag author coming to Aspen to give free lecture.

Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin

I am a great admirer of author Michael Pollan, who brilliantly deciphers what is wrong and what is right on the American food scene. Joel Salatin and his Polyface,  Farm (Swoope, Virginia) were featured in Pollan’s New York Times bestseller and in the award-winning documentary, “Food, Inc.” The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, the City of Aspen Parks and Recreation, and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails are bringing Salatin to Aspen to give a talk, “Local Food to the Rescue.”

Joel himself has authored nine books on the topic of farming and sustainability where he passionately defends small farms, local food systems, and the right to opt out of the conventional food paradigm.  As ACES distills this critical issue, “For local food to be a credible part of the global food system it must develop six integrated components: production, processing, marketing, accounting, distribution and patrons. In this lecture Joel will educate our community on how to build a functional local food system, including economies of scale, collaborative food shed distribution, and meaningful volume.V

The talk takes place on Friday, August 7 at 7 p.m. in the  Paepcke Auditorium (1000 North 3rd Street). Click here to RSVP.

Resolve to Eat Better

Follow the lead of modern epicures.

ChefClipArtIt’s New Year’s resolution time, and Slow Food USA has some suggestions for the coming year. I don’t generally do soapbox posts, but I do believe these points are excellent and timely, as American chefs and American foodies have learned to eat well — for the body and the planet as well as the palate. Here’s what Slow Food USA reminds us, linking the resolutions to the upcoming Super Bowl (which I like most card- carrying Coloradans hope will be won by the Denver Broncos):

“It’s 2015! No longer are we nibbling at the edges of the century. We are now deep into another one. Look around: There is much to rejoice! Evidence of a promising new world is everywhere: Be it the birth of craft beer, the morphing of school gardens into a full-fledged farm-to-school universe, and consumer concern for fast food workers. However, so too do the embers of this old and faceless world glow. Consider the buckets of agri-money poured into state referenda to squash GMO labeling and animal welfare. Or, how is it possible to purchase pork shoulder for 99 cents a pound? Amidst such turbulence and transition, we must be ever mindful of the decisions we make individually and collectively to shape our future. So, consider a few New Year’s Resolutions that might inch you closer to the bright new world.

  1. Make a Resolution to Eat Better Meat: Serve your friends cleaner wieners and better burgers at the Nationwide Nose-to-Tailgate Super Bowl Party as we advocate for Better Meat in sports stadiums. Join the event and invite friends near or far to party with us for the cause.

  2. Make a Resolution to Eat Less Meat: After a Super Sunday night fixating on pigskin, tackle Monday, February 2nd head-on by planning a year of Meatless Monday menus.

  3. Make a Resolution to Eat Local: C’mon. Take the challenge. Channel the spirit of Jane Jacobs and her hunger for the principles of import substitution with your family, friends, and neighbors by taking the 10-Day Local Challenge.

  4. Make a Resolution to Serve Local: If you’re a restaurant chef, you possess a lot of power in the equation for the local flavor/local economy. We want to hear from you. Raise your hand now to help create the new Slow Food Chefs Alliance.

  5. Make a Resolution to Be Better Informed: Learn about the world around us. Study the Slow Meat playbook with these excellent coaches: Nicolette Hahn Niman’s Defending Beef, Patrick Martins’ The Carnivore’s Manifesto, Andrew Lawler’s Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?, Ted Genoways’ The Chain Never Slows, and Christopher Leonard’s The Meat Racket. My (re)reading list also includes some of the better food books published in 2014: Dan Barber’s The Third Plate, Paul Greenberg’s American Catch, Stefanie Sacks’ What the Fork Are You Eating? and William Powers’ New Slow City. And, of course, regular trips to the Slow Food USA Blog. Yes, I believe food is paramount, but it shouldn’t be all consuming. Explore economics, politics, music, art and fashion. The wider you explore, the more you’ll recognize common themes that link the food system to everything else.”

And happy, healthy, delicious 2015 to all.


Zeal Introduces A New Chef

Former Greenbriar chef tackles & tweaks “clean” food menu.

001Zeal, a downtown Boulder restaurant catering to health-conscious food enthusiasts, opened November and developed a following from those allergic or averse to certain foods or food groups. Vegetarian? Zeal has many dishes for you, including sustainably harvested proteins of various kinds. Carnivore? They serve only pedigreed meats from grass-fed animals. Gluten-free? The only gluten is in the beer and the little spelt-flour bread that is served. Avoid processed foods or concerned about GMOs, pesticides and chemical fertilizers? Zeal is the restaurant for you. On the Paleo diet bandwagon? It’s easy at Zeal. Interested in the Conscious Cleanse? Jo Saalman and Julie Paleaz, authors of the bestselling book by the same name, are hosting a three-course, $39 Conscious Cleanse dinner at Zeal on November 11.

Zeal owner Wayde Jester at the chalkboard where the changing menu and the popular grab-and-go options are posted.
Zeal owner Wayde Jester at the chalkboard where the changing menu and the popular grab-and-go options are posted.
Leslie White, who joined Zeal after a stint at The Greenbriar. Being able to accommodate both restaurants' styles shows his versatility.
Leslie White, who joined Zeal after a stint at The Greenbriar. Being able to accommodate both restaurants’ styles shows his versatility.

From the beginning, Zeal has used whole fresh ingredients, served as simple flavorful combinations. But like many a new restaurant, Zeal has experienced some growing pains. In addition to the service glitches common to new restaurants, there has been turnover in the kitchen. It is on its third chef in less than a year. Opening chef Arik Markus had left by June, and his successor, Sean Smith, was replaced about a month ago by Leslie White (that’s a he-Leslie), who has made a rapid shift from the butter-and-cream kitchen of The Greenbriar to the “clean” ingredients used at Zeal. I don’t know any details about these changes, except to speculate that since founder/owner Wayde Jester, a prototypical Boulder endurance athlete, comes from the real estate realm and though a cooking enthusiast, didn’t have restaurant experience, the owner/chef combination has taken a few tries.

Zeal hosted a group of foodies and food bloggers to sample a few of White’s creations, plus artisanal cocktails, other adult beverages and the sensational cold-pressed juices.

Super-fresh cold-pressed juices in a rainbow of colors.
Super-fresh cold-pressed juices in a rainbow of colors. Juicing is a two-step process that can be seen through a window in a back corner of the restaurant.
Thai-style shrimp and tofu cradled in an endive leaf.
Thai-style shrimp and tofu cradled in an endive leaf.
Spicy eggplant puree in a hollowed cucumber.
Spicy eggplant puree in a hollowed cucumber with carrot and red cabbage slivers providing additional color contrasts.
It may be fall, but this is Zeal's spring mix salad with spiced pecans.
It may be fall, but this is Zeal’s spring mix salad with shredded carrots, spiced pecans and dressing on the side.
Cute bundles of sweetness, on this evening some orange-flavored and others pumpkin.
Cute bundles of sweetness, on this evening some orange-flavored and others pumpkin.

Zeal is participating in First Bite Boulder but has not yet posted its menu — perhaps to busy serving breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and recently added happy hour ($2 off beer, wine and spirits and $5 small plates). In addition to the popular bowls and sandwiches, Chef White is presenting more large and small plates and has brought dessert-making in-house. Zeal is pickling and fermenting in-house too (think kimchee and kombucha). During the warm months, the restaurant closed for two hours for Movement Mondays or Trailblazer Tuesdays so that staff and guests could go on a local hike. The concept might soon be transferred to a climbing gym or other indoor venue. And then there’s the Zeal food truck, which debuted at the Hanuman Yoga Festival and most likely dispatched to Uptown Denver, where Jester hopes to open a second restaurant. Stay tuned.

Zeal on Urbanspoon

Denver Harvest Week Events

GrowHaus is the setting for sustainable meals & fun events.

EatDenverHarvestWeek-logoDenver Harvest Week (five days, actually) is back from Tuesday, September 23 through Saturday, September 27, with more than thirty of EatDenver’s restaurants hosting a series of pop-up dinner parties at the GrowHaus (4751 York Street).  Proceeds go to support the efforts of EatDenver and The GrowHaus. On the schedule are one brunch and four dinners, all cleverly themed, prepared by different chefs each event will be accompanied by hand-crafted cocktails, local brews and wines. Being sustainable and taking place in an indoor farm mean that guests must all bring their own place settings (plate, cutlery and wine glasses — a prize for each evening’s best place setting.

The party begins with passed appetizers and cocktails crafted by some of the city’s best bartenders.  Then, guests are be seated at large community tables. I’d be tempted to go because I love the GrowHaus concept and a number of the chefs/restaurants, but I am not one for enforced merriment. Personally, I am put off knowing that “Everyone is encouraged to join the fun with outfits to match the party’s theme,” and that “themes have been created to encourage guest participation and guarantee that a good time is had by all.” But don’t mind me. It’s a great cause for those who like themes and costumes.

The tug o’ war between wine and beer is the theme Tuesday’s “The Duel in the West.” Wednesday, it’s “GrowLove: Buddha’s Vegetarian Delight!.” On Thursday, the theme is “The Feast of Hunters and Gatherers.” A DJ spins ’80s music for Friday’s “Footloose & Farm Fresh.” The week wraps up with Saturday brunch themed “Egg-a-Hole Brunch.” Click on the link for each meal for details including time, participating restaurants, what’s included and cost.

Note: I have no idea why WordPress is crossing out all of my links. The seem to work, so do try.

Botantic Gardens Hosts Important Food Films

Documentaries focus on America’s foods, food crisis and hunger in this supposed land of plenty.

FilmReelDenver Botanic Gardens and  Denver-born Chipotle Mexican Grill present the fourth-annual Sustainable Food Film Series, which aims to raise awareness of healthy and sustainable approaches to the way we grow, produce and consume food. Four documentary films covering organics, sustainable farming, local foods and the seafood crisis are on the 2104 screening schedule, with a post-film panel discussion and food courtesy of Chipotle. The series takes place at the Gardens’ Mitchell Hall. Each screening and dinner from Chipotle is just $5. Dinner begins at 6 p.m. with the screening  6:30 p.m.

Thursday, September 11. “A Place at the Table” (84 min) examines the American hunger issue through the lens of three people: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader depends on friends and neighbors to feed her, and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford. These are just three of the estimated 50 million people in the U.S. (and one in four children) who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush.

Tuesday, September 23. “GMO OMG” (90 min) asks questions about how GMOs affect our children, the planet’s health and our freedom of choice. Director and concerned father Jeremy Seifert tests the most serious question himself: is it even possible to reject the food system currently in place, or have we lost something we can’t get back? Seifert goes on a journey from his family’s table to Haiti, Paris, Norway and the lobby of a mega agricultural company, from which he is unceremoniously ejected.

Wednesday, October 15. Food Patriots” (72 min) was inspired by a teenager’s battle with a foodborne superbug. Jeff and Jennifer Spitz are both the filmmakers and the parents of the boy. They document their family’s struggle to raise backyard chickens, grow food and transform themselves into food patriots. The documentary features people from all walks of life who are trying to change the way Americans eat and buy food and educate the next generation of consumers.

Friday, November 7. “Fed Up” (92 min) from Katie Couric, Laurie David (Oscar-winning producer of “An Inconvenient Truth”) and director Stephanie Soechtig, this film claims everything we have been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is wrong. The U.S. government’s first dietary guidelines overlooked the role of dietary sugar in increasing risks of obesity, diabetes and other health issues, especially in children. The film examines how sugar consumption has greatly increased, obesity has skyrocketed and generations of children have grown up far fatter than their parents.

The Home Ranch’s Growing Organic Farm

Dude ranch with a difference grows its own.

Clyde Nelson in the greenhouse.
Clyde Nelson in the greenhouse.

The Home Ranch, located in the Upper Elk River Valley north of Steamboat Springs, is known for luxury, style and cuisine that meet the international standards of hospitality for Relais & Chateaux membership.

General manager and executive chef Clyde Nelson, has been performing culinary magic there for some 20 years, and for the last three he, his kitchen staff, master gardener Adele Carlson and her crew have created an organic farm to produce local, sustainable, high-quality vegetables and soon livestock to create gourmet cuisine for guests, enhancing the The Home Ranch’s position as a high-end Colorado culinary destination.

As the Ranch’s website explains, “the only way to eat here is to stay here; which is why some of our guests come just to indulge in the food. In spite of all the wonderful activities and adventures we offer our guests, the meals and conversation served in Clyde’s communal dining room are the heart and soul of the Home Ranch experience.”

Having grown up tending a big garden and selling home-grown produce at a roadside stand, Nelson learned to love fresh ingredients and nurtured a passion for quality that carried over into his career. Clyde’s Farm, long a dream, is now a reality.

Nelson wanted “to give our guests the experience of eating and dining with the freshest ingredients they’ve ever had.” Also, his objective was “to show guests how a high-country organic farm in Colorado can thrive with hands-on care and attention to detail shown by our and the chefs.”

Each morning, Carlson offers a tour of the farm, walking guests through the greenhouse, garden, orchard, chicken coups and potager, explaining the crops and why it’s so important for The Home Ranch to get back to the immediate farm-to-fork philosophy. Clyde’s Farm currently has 24 vegetable crops, 20 herb varieties, 54 chickens and six pigs. Next year, they plan to add lambs, goats and turkeys, continuing to increase flora and fauna over time.

Clyde’s Farm grew out of founders Steve and Ann Stranahan’s vision to support and sustain a local ranching and farming community with “an ongoing commitment to the stewardship of the land” and the goal for the next generation of the Stranahans to “nourish and foster the growth of ideas and sustainable businesses in the Clark valley, and to remain true to its founder’s vision.”

The Home Ranch offers a Harvest Week program called Wineries, Artisans and Chefs program from August 31 to September 7. The Home Ranch is at 54880 County Road 129, Clark, Colorado 80428; 970-329-4797.

Marczyk’s Fundraiser for Family Farmers

Family-owned, upmarket Denver grocer supports scholarship fund.

Marczyk-logoMarczyk Fine Foods and Niman Ranch are teaming up for their second annual fundraiser to support the Next Generation Scholarship Fund. All week, through Marczyk’s next Burger Night, both locations are accepting donations at the register, and also the proceeds from each burger purchased at Burger Night on Friday, August 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. go directly to the scholarship fund.

The Next Generation Scholarship Fund supports young people from rural communities who wish to attend college to study environmental and sustainable practices so that they can bring their knowledge back to the family farm. At a time when the average age of a US farmer is just over 58 years old, American agriculture desperately needs a new generation of young, passionate and educated farmers. 

Burger Night features Niman Ranch burgers from meat freshly ground at Marczyk’s and served on fresh brioche buns with all the fixin’s for $8.99. The evening includes a visit from the Brown Family from New Providence, Iowa. They raises happy, healthy pigs for Niman Ranch, and their son was a previous recipient of the Next Generation Scholarship