Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Still getting the hang of this blogging thing...

My posting is a little tardy, but it did take me a few days to recover from our first real day of getting our hands dirty. I have removed a fair amount of turf to start new gardens over the years and I have to say it is one of the worst jobs out there. I am glad it is over. Fortunately, I was able to recover the following weekend eating in NYC.

One the goals of our project is to explore the financial sustainability of our garden. I love food but I have to say I love business just as much so I am keen to know more about the financial reality of a small specialized market farmer. We have spread sheets for our capital investment and cost of goods such as labour, seeds and soil. In the end, we hope to compensate ourselves by selling the produce to Epicuria at lower than market prices, but I have to admit, we really have no idea what the outcome will be. Complicating this is the small scale of our project but hopefully it will yield some good info.

Last week, we shared a booth at Bon Appetit with Bryson Farms, and Stuart was more than encouraging. He urged me not to worry about yield and just enjoy the process, which is the other equally important goal of our project. We have worked along side Bryson Farms at Bon Appetit for six years and it is always a pleasure to come up with a new menu item featuring their produce. This year we served a simple slaw of Bryson heirloom carrots and golden beets along side a mini sirloin burger. It was a busy evening and we put out 800 mini plates in just over 2 hours. It was the fastest paced service I have done in a while and was most certainly the equivalent of moving 10 yards of soil into the garden.

A little about New York. In between hauling wheel barrows of heavy sod (Andre did not cut me any slack that day) and serving sliders to masses of foodies, I had the pleasure of eating at Del Posto, Bouchon and Gordon Ramsay in a span of 24 hours. I had no idea I was to be eating at Del Posto (which is a partnerhsip between Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and Joseph Bastianich), until I was stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel at 5:30pm and informed by friends that we had reservations at 6:00pm. Yikes. To say the least we raced, made our reservations and were seated in one of the most beautiful dining rooms to enjoy one of the most sumptuous Italian meals I have ever eaten. The highlight of the meal for me was the Insalata Salumi Misti with Erbazzone and Stuffed Morel as well as the Orecchiette with Lamb Neck Sausage, Morels and Spring Onions. I love pork and I love richly braised meats so I was in heaven . My husband chose two wonderful Italian wines which cost more than my horse's monthly board bill but despite the high cost of fine dining in NYC it was worth every penny.

While Del Posto has a large two story dining room, Gordon Ramsay at the London has an intimate and glamorous room with just 46 seats. We chose the Menu Prestige tasting menu with wine pairings to get the full effect of the dining experience. I did note that most guests we ordering the three course A la carte menu but I suppose when you live in New York and eat out all of the time you don't want to subject yourself to the rigours of a tasting menu. I made sure I had a light lunch that day at Bouchon but have to say when I sat down, I had doubts as to whether I would last eight courses. I decided to skip the champagne to start and by the third course of Pan seared black cod with pig's tails, Caraquet Oysters, celeriac and sweet garlic I was back in the game and ready for the Filet of Brandt beef with braised Kobe short rib, cipollini onions and baby beets. I credit the Kobe for my endurance that evening which later included several fabulous cocktails in several trendy clubs and bars.

Just one more bit before I sign off. On Thursday May 7th we participated in the first annual fundraiser for Arts Ottawa East aptly named ARTinis and Appetizers. The evening had a Latin theme and was a great success due to the extraordinary organizing skills of Sandra McInnes. Our station was a hit with our delicious pulled pork buns and grilled chicken skewers with paint brushed on sauces.

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