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7 Tips For Finding the Right CSA

by Anne Maxfield on April 16, 2018

Accidental Locavore CSA LettuceThis is the time of year when we all start yearning for anything fresh.

A CSA or Community Sponsored Agriculture share is a great way to support local farmers and put plenty of great produce on your table.

While a few years ago, this was a pretty new concept, now there are CSAs for almost everything from fruits and vegetables to coffees and breads.

How do you pick the best CSA for you?

Accidental Locavore CSAThese were my criteria for picking one and while yours will probably be different, here are 7 tips:

  1. A convenient pick-up place, day and time. You need to think about where and when you want to have an abundance of produce. Do you cook and entertain during the weekends? Or will you use it mostly during the week? When will you have time to wash/prep stuff? Do you have fridge space?
  2. A reasonable share for the number of people in your household. If you hate wasting food and sometimes feel like the kitchen version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice–cooking as fast as you can, only to have a whole new box show up, you might want to split a share with a neighbor or friend. Some CSAs offer half shares or will match you up with other members who are looking to share the bounty.
  3. For some, organic is important; I’m more into sustainable practices, but if organic matters, only look for those farmers.
  4. A farmer/farm referral. Like most business relationships, it’s all about doing business with people you know and like. We originally joined Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s CSA because a woman farmer I knew was working there and I liked her and her agricultural point of view.
  5. Choice. One of the things I love most about PFP is the ability to choose from about a dozen or more weekly offerings. I can get carrots when I want them and skip the beets. They also have pick-your-own options which add herbs, berries and flowers to your share if you’re willing to go out in the fields. Over the years they’ve added the options to add a fruit share, coffee, meat and even a winter share to get you through the dark months.
  6. What foodstuffs you’re looking for (and can use up). When we joined, we were looking mostly for produce. However, there are many CSAs that offer meat, poultry, bread, eggs and other foods. A few minutes on the Internet should find you just what you need.
  7. Giving back to the community. This is more of an extra credit thing, but Poughkeepsie Farm Project is in the middle of an urban area and gives back through education and by providing produce to local families.

Accidental Locavore CSA shareWhatever you decide, a CSA is a great way of exploring new foods, while supporting farmers.

But act soon, many of the most popular may be sold out for the season!

 

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The Summer Fancy Food Show

by Anne Maxfield on July 11, 2016

Fancy Food ShowCan you imagine 840,000 square feet of food?

No, neither can the Accidental Locavore, even though I was part of it.

That was the recent Summer Fancy Food Show in New York.

Vast.

Overwhelming.

And delicious!

It made me glad to be just a casual observer, rather than a food retailer or someone who needed to really shop the show for business. Think about working your way through 180,000 products – in three days, that’s 60,000 a day!

Sensory overload went into effect after about five minutes and my objectives for the show – find local vendors for future pieces, identify potential clients for my consulting business and do some market research for a client – totally went out the window.

But what you want to know is what’s going to show up in the stores. Here are a few of the trends I noticed at the Fancy Food Show:FancyFood Show Coconuts

  • Chips: Made out of anything that can be flattened and fried or baked. Pumpkin, risotto, kale (old news), coconut. Flavors from savory to sweet, some of them more successful than others. Surprisingly Parmesan/garlic risotto chips made me run for something to take the nasty taste out of my mouth (Bulgarian feta worked very nicely).
  • Coconut: Probably the kale of 2016. Many different types of oils. More varieties of coconut water and other drinks all in about a thousand flavors. Yogurt made from coconut milk. Chips (see above). Just imagine all the things people have tried to put kale into and substitute coconut…
  • Coffee: Fair trade, local blends, local roasters. Hot, iced, cold brew. Recyclable pods. Composting pods. Flavors. DIY roasting, cold brew etc. kits. At least half of the incubator companies were coffee related. And although tea is supposed to be a contender, there was very little of it that I saw.

Fancy Food Show Sample SausageThere was a huge area representing Italy and pastas in all shapes and colors. Like rice noodles from Taiwan, not sure how you tasted them to figure out what was what.

Other countries at the Fancy Food Show included places like Latvia who had a surprisingly large area (lots of fish and dairy products, if you were wondering). I don’t know if I was projecting, but the aisles along the United Kingdom’s booths seemed eerily quiet.  Sad, if you had spent the money to come and exhibit and end up not knowing what future trade rules look like.

Overwhelming.

The most beautiful food there was a version of a Middle Eastern date bar, but by that point too tired to taste, photograph, or even get a card.

Dumb.

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Chocolate and Salt-A Purist’s View

by Anne Maxfield on January 12, 2015

cioccolato fuso in tegame di rameIt might have been the Tasting Table article with chef Michael Anthony and the Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies (really?) that finally pushed the Accidental Locavore over the edge. Chocolate is a wonderful thing on its own. Ditto salt. And while they both play well with others, there are times when letting them be a solo act is so much more appealing.

Accidental Locavore Caramel Tart

These days it’s rare to find anything caramel that doesn’t have the word salted preceding it, but Dorie Greenspan dared to have a caramel tart in her new book Baking Chez Moi which I made (to great acclaim) for Thanksgiving. While anything Dorie bakes is usually great, this recipe was especially appealing because the caramel wasn’t salted (nor was there a garnish of some expensive hand-picked and tweezer-placed sea salt). The chocolate that coated the crust was simply chocolate. It made a fabulous tart, and as much as I don’t usually bake, this may make it into my dessert rotation.

Accidental Locavore Ultimate Chocolate CookiesSpeaking of chocolate, why can’t it be left alone? My mother has always had the unfortunate habit of adding coffee to her otherwise fabulous chocolate sauce*. And she’s not the only one. Try browsing through a selection of chocolate bars, from bacon to chipotle and beyond, and each has a flavor usually associated with savory foods. Sorry, but I don’t want my chocolate to taste like breakfast, lunch or dinner! That’s why when I made Nancy’s cookies I left the coffee out and they were amazing!

There are times when a little chocolate adds an interesting layer of flavor to savory foods. Mole comes immediately to mind (as does the unforgettable odor of roasting chocolate, custom blended at the market in Oaxaca). I’ve added it to coq au vin and when I remember, to short ribs or beef stews.

Accidental Locavore SaltsA small bit of salt does bring out the flavor of sweet foods, but the idea that salt now needs to be a major player in every dessert has long ago jumped the shark. While an occasional chocolate, salted caramel ________ is a treat, how about if we save the sea salt for what it’s best for, garnishing that perfect tomato in August?

 

*Sorry Mom, but you know the coffee thing makes me crazy

 

 

 

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Portland(ia) “Is it Fruity?”

by Anne Maxfield on September 15, 2014

Accidental Locavore Douglas FirIt’s been an awfully long time since the Accidental Locavore found herself in Portland. Back then, it certainly wasn’t a hip and cool place, just a small Northwestern city with no direct flights from New York. How things have changed!

While it may just look like the gathering spot for everything tattooed, pierced and enrobed in snarky black tees (or the ubiquitous plaid shirt) Portland is doing its best to live up to the hype. It may be that after you live there for a while, you grow immune to the things that struck me as quirky.

If you’ve watched the first episode of Portlandia, you may or may not be surprised to listen to an earnest discussion about the provenance of any ingredient put in front of you. What does surprise is an intense conversation about the flavor profile of that day’s “pour-over” (coffee made in a Chemex to the rest of us). The question posed to the barista was about the fruitiness of that particular type of African coffee. “It’s fruity, but not like a citrus fruit. More like a stone fruit – say black cherry or even nectarine.” If you weren’t into that particular coffee, or the pour-over method, you had your choice of at least three other coffees and an equal variety of preparations.

Provenance aside, there’s a lot of good food to be had in Portland. Sadly, I had only a couple of days to try to cram in as many meals as possible, but we made the most of it and managed to try a variety of places in many different neighborhoods. Highlights included Smallwares, billed as “inauthentic Asian” tapas style with lots of interesting and delicious small plates, and Louisiana crab hash, a great version of eggs Benedict served over a pair of crab cakes at City State Diner.

Accidental Locavore Fifty LicksFor me, the highlight of the trip was an ice cream shop called Fifty Licks. Their peach ice cream was nothing to sneer at, perfectly creamy and loaded with chunks of local peaches, but the chocolate brown butter was simply incredible! Without a doubt, the absolute best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had! As a matter of fact, it was so good that I Googled it the next morning hoping it might be open for breakfast, but sadly it wasn’t. They pack pints, but don’t ship, which is probably a blessing for both my waistline and wallet.

We never made it to any of the famed food trucks, which are permanently moored in “pods” scattered around the city. And not enough time to try Gabriel Rucker’s Le Pigeon, or Little Bird. A shame because I became a huge fan after a class he did at DeGustibus. Ditto Pok Pok Wings, and Beast. But hopefully there will be more trips to Portland in the future and I can explore further.

 

 

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