A couple of months ago I had a chance encounter with Dan Barber, the chef and visionary behind Blue Hill at Stone Barns. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Dan specializes in sustainable eating and farming practices, and is one of the pioneers of the Farm to Table movement. The Stone Barns Center, nestled in the pastoral rolling pastures of Pocantico Hills, NY, is a fully functioning farm and research facility, and the bulk of the seasonal menu at Stone Barns is derived from produce harvested onsite, and nothing goes to waste. I had the privilege of spending a few weekends at the facility, including an invite from Dan to experience what happens behind the scenes during Sunday brunch. I’m not sure if it was the intoxicating aroma of freshly milled wheat from the onsite bakery, or the panoramic view of the bucolic farm (and let’s be honest, the incredible wine cellar and meat curing closet…and basically everything I experienced there), but a rabid curiosity concerning local and sustainable eating flowered within me, and I’ve been on a deliberate campaign of culinary and personal discovery ever since.
Having been professionally entrenched in food and wine for years, to the point where chef’s knives and wine keys are basically an extension of my body, this exploration deviated from my normal gastronomic prowess in a myriad of ways. I was invited to reevaluate not only the way I eat, but the cuts of meat I find most appealing and why, the produce I choose, the manner in which I buy food (the never-ending grocery store vs. farmer’s market dilemma, coupled with local specialty shops, which are at times prohibitively expensive), and how much edible product I was actually wasting. I had a sudden preoccupation with where my fruits and vegetables were grown, and while the living conditions of slaughter bound animals has always played a crucial role in choosing the butchers from which I’d purchase meat, I now pressed for the dietary protocol of the animals; what were they eating, how were they fed and how often? The relentless questioning inspired an overhaul of not only my diet, but a creativity in the kitchen I had been lacking for several months.
I found myself experimenting with offal and entrails, vegetables I never thought to purchase were now staples in my kitchen (enter radishes and basically every green you can imagine), grains and dairy were no longer the forefront of my diet, my meat intake was cut by at least half, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I value the farmers in and around New York who painstakingly load their produce and haul their trucks into the city for the Green Markets.
Needless to say, the whole experience has left me aching to endlessly educate myself on the food world and its systems, and flex creative muscles in the kitchen that I didn’t even know existed; nose-to-tail and root-to-leaf eating was no longer unattainable. By no means does this imply that I’ve managed to create a system of sustainable eating that I follow everyday, nor have I turned my back on the wonderful world of coveted cuts of meat and speciality food items (crab claws, caviar, foie gras…they’re just so delicious) but more so that I’ve opened an avenue of cooking that encourages me to think outside the box and enjoy the culinary arts in a more responsible, sustainable way. The point of this blog is to share my experiences with food, wine and mixology as I continue to explore local and sustainable eating, taking you on my adventures in the kitchen, outside of the kitchen and during my travels. Food and wine for me, is and always has been, the story of the earth and the people who inhabit it. It’s goes beyond sustenance; it’s culture, enjoyment,love and celebration.
What you’ll find here are personal stories, recipes, cocktail creations, food and wine pairings, as well as a bit of culinary and wine history. You’ll also find my conversations with farmers, butchers, winemakers, distillers, chefs, sommeliers and pretty much anyone who helps breathe life into the beautiful stories of food and drink. This personal and culinary exploration has been a form of foraging in its own right, and I hope you come love food, drink and the people behind it as much as I do.