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Food Revolution Day in the Nation’s Capital

23 May

After weeks of planning, the first-ever Food Revolution Day arrived last Saturday. Food Revolution Day is a global call to action for people to stand up for real food sponsored by Jamie Oliver. Jamie’s been very active in food reform in America — the show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution really got the ball rolling for me in scrutinizing the way that we eat in this country. My foodie friend (who I met while volunteering weekly last year with Brainfood–a culinary-skills program aimed at building confidence for DC high schoolers) and I were chosen as the two ambassadors for Food Revolution Day in DC. This meant that we were tasked with galvanizing the entire city and rallying the troops if you will. We had big ideas and even thought we’d meet the First Lady…

We spent time brainstorming ideas to get restaurants that support local sustainable agriculture involved, wrote letters to Michelle and Jill (we are on a first-name basis now), and worked with our friends at FreshFarm Markets, but really just used our planning sessions as an excuse to get together and eat well. Discussing ideas over dinner at Little Serow and Palena is hardly an effort.

In the end, while our grandiose plans ended up being slightly less grand, we had a fabulously successful Food Revolution Day at the H St. NE FreshFarm Market. The weather was perfect, we had delicious samples of a strawberry sauce with yogurt and granola, a super cool veggie scavenger hunt for kids (with an awesome prize — “I ❤ farmers” temporary tattoos), and an insanely talented balloon animal artist. I even made people at the market promise me that they would cook something that evening in support of Food Revolution Day.

Here is a picture of how bustling and crowded the market was on this perfect Saturday morning.

We had some of Jamie Oliver’s easy recipes printed off for people to get ideas for things to cook in support of the revolution.

The farmers seemed to really enjoy the scavenger hunt. We had the kids take around a passport, pictured above on the bottom left, with pictures of seasonal fruits and veggies. When they found one, the farmers crossed off the item. When all items were checked off, we gave them the tat.

Did someone say they couldn’t find strawberries?

The balloon artist captured all kids’ attention — young and old. And by old, I mean 26. I could have watched him make giraffes for hours. And did.

This special birthday girl got to go home with a balloon doll of herself — a pretty pink ballerina.

All in all, it was a great day and I can’t wait until Food Revolution Day 2013. Here’s to meeting Lady O. next year!

the happenstance gourmande


Sunny Sunday in the City of Brotherly Love

30 Apr

After a freezing cold Saturday (and resulting hibernation following working at the market), I woke up to a beautiful and warm Sunday morning — and a phone call from a friend with a tempting proposition — a day trip to Philly. I hadn’t quite put away all of my laundry, but I had at least finished it. And I had finished grocery shopping on Saturday, courtesy of the H St. farmers’ market (i.e., LOTS  of asparagus), so I decided to be swayed away from domesticity into adventure.

My friend and his boyfriend rented a Volvo Zipcar and we took off up I-95 around noon. After a discussion on eastern religions, reincarnation, and listening to Devil in a White City on tape, we arrived in the City of Brotherly Love a mere two and a half hours later. With no real plans in mind, we drove up the Philly waterfront and decided that we wanted to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. We parked the car and got moving. After wandering the streets that felt like a hybrid of Chicago and Boston, we walked around Independence Mall and spotted the Liberty Bell. As we did not feel like waiting in a long line of tourists, we did not see the crack.

After our journey through the historic quarter, we walked around the eclectic and slightly seedy (in the best way possible) South Street and peeked in through little shops. After stopping in at Jim’s Steaks, and deciding against the gastronomical distress that would be a cheesesteak, we took the recommendation of a hipster boutique worker and had an early-bird dinner at Stephen Starr’s wood-fired pizza joint, Pizzeria Stella. We stopped for a water ice on the way back to the car and after a couple of hours of listening to tunes and learning about my friend’s British noble family (and their gorgeous family estate in the English countryside), we were back in good ol’ D.C. by 9 p.m. A perfect day.

I particularly love the architecture of the city. Small streets with tiny rowhouses and brownstones dating back to the 18th century.

We stumbled upon this creepy little graveyard with tombstones dating back to the 1790’s.

Independence Hall.

Independence Mall is a great spot to lay out — I also love the contrasting architecture of the surrounding buildings bringing the modernism of the late 19th century Chicago school style juxtaposed with the 18th century Federalist style.

The Liberty Bell — as spotted through a window with my reflection.

Along South Street, there are these AWESOME mosaics that weave the length of the street for blocks.

Here is the famous Jim’s Steaks…for a weekday vegan, that was FAR too much meat and cheese for me to even think about handling.

And of course I couldn’t leave you without pictures of the great food I had at Stella’s. We shared the rosemary flatbread with sheep’s’ milk ricotta and I had the pancetta pizza  — topped with wood-roasted red onion, pancetta, Tuscan kale, and mozzarella,  which was incredible.

the happenstance gourmande

To market: Opening Day of H Street NE FRESHFARM Market

21 Apr

I am so lucky to now be an official team member of the FRESHFARM markets in D.C. I have volunteered and done chef demonstrations of my recipes in the past couple of years, but today I started as the EBT Coordinator at the H Street NE FRESHFARM Market. One of the most important things to me in the past few years has been not only promoting my own health by eating fresh foods, but also promoting healthy habits for everyone. To be involved with a program that helps to ensure fresh and local food access to underserved populations is incredible. Read more about the program here.

With forecasts of strong storms hitting the eastern seaboard looming, I was a bit dubious of good weather for this morning’s opening. Luckily, it could not have been more perfect. We had sunny and blue skies, mild winds, warm temperatures, and as Flo-Rida/Avicii might say, woah, we had a good feeling.

neighborhood guy rallies for support for his petition

I cannot put into mere words how awesome the H St. NE FRESHFARM market is. It is the epitome of a community market. I would describe the vibe of the neighborhood as “community-all-hands-on-deck.” As we stood outside, the local shopkeepers gathered ’round (please note my use of arcane language because it is rare that in an age of Targets and Starbucks, local shopkeepers can actually gather ’round) to discuss the extension of our market into the street. Even the zone’s Councilmember made an appearance and was on board. They were friendly and chatty and welcoming and made me feel like I had been transported to another time. Or perhaps Canada (where I’ve heard everyone is very nice).

In addition to all of the gorgeous treats sprinkled around the market, Washingtonian Magazine’s rising star Chef Wes Morton of Art and Soul did a chef demonstration. He made a beautiful asparagus, sweet onion, and green garlic salad with a creamy egg Gribiche sauce, which I cannot wait to veganize, and taught me how to season my brand new (thus temporarily worthless) cast iron skillet.

eggs, green garlic, radishes, and asparagus from the market

Not only did I love how thoroughly engaged he was with the audience, especially the kids,

who says kids don't love their veggies? they loved raw radishes!

but he also introduced me to what will surely be my latest EVOO crack habit — Frantoia. This Sicilian olive oil has such a fruitiness that I have never tasted before — and blows my organic Californian right out of the water.

market welcomes shoppers of all breeds

I’d like to give a special thanks to Atwater’s Bakery for giving me an incredible vegan spelt loaf in exchange for watching his booth for 5 minutes (which I have devoured the better quarter of already), Blueberry Hill Farm for awesome veggies for my week, Full Cellar Farm for pretty tulips to brighten my days, and Quaker Valley Orchards for feeding my apple drug-like habit for the week (read: day).

my market bounty!

the happenstance gourmande

In Sickness and In Juice

20 Apr

Two evenings ago, I met a friend for dinner at my favorite D.C. restaurant, Palena. Since the two things that I love best about Palena are their burger (topped with a slice of truffled cheese — and the best ever or tied with Michael Mina’s in San Francisco that comes with duck confit fries ) and their perfectly wood-burning oven-roasted chicken over lemon-wilted greens, I realized that weekday veganism, at least for this Wednesday, would be going out the window. We began our meal with lovely house-baked bread and fresh butter, an asparagus and ramps salad with burrata (similar to mozzarella but has soft curds inside), split the burger and the chicken of my dreams, and finished with an incredible goat cheese sorbet with rhubarb compote. To say this meal was far from vegan is quite the understatement.

Later that night, I started to feel a tickle in my throat and woke up in the middle of the night coughing. Uh oh! This didn’t feel particularly like allergy symptoms but I couldn’t rule allergies out since my glands weren’t swollen. I finally fell back to sleep, and when I woke up yesterday morning, I had a scratchy throat and felt not great overall. I haven’t been sick with a cold since long before my cleanse back in March and I didn’t want to be sick for the weekend. Since cleansing, and learning how much what I put in my mouth affects my general well-being, I haven’t wanted to take any medicines. I have been trying to let my body heal itself. Could it be that all of the meat and dairy had made me exhibit cold symptoms??

gorgeous tie-dye looking juice

Yesterday morning, I looked in my fridge, saw that I had some random veggies from my lasagna making and from salads, and decided to juice. With hopes that a high dose of vitamins from all the veggies would cure my impending doom, I made a large carrot and orange juice for breakfast, and an enormous purple cabbage, zucchini, spinach, cucumber, lemon, and apple juice for lunch. After drinking my juices (and spilling some of my purple elixir on the carpet of the Macy’s dressing room–sorrrrry), I won’t lie to you and say that I felt magically cured. My throat was still scratchy. I ate an orange in the afternoon for more vitamin C and when I arrived at home I felt a bit better. I made dinner (seitan, pinto beans, and avocado) and ate a whole mango, followed by banana “ice cream”. When I woke up today, I felt 100% better.

This morning on the Today show, I heard criticism about a children’s book promoting veganism, and wondered how something that is obviously so beneficial for children ESPECIALLY could be looked down on. (I mean really, just take a look at Bill Clinton.) I’m not going to say that I will never eat meat — I am a girl who loves a rare filet with some sautéed spinach and a glass of Brunello or a creamy baked mac and cheese with some BBQ — but I will say that I am 100% sure that meat and dairy products don’t promote health and that plant-based foods do. I am not a nutritionist, and I’m sure that a nutritionist would disagree (because nutrition classes are based on USDA guidelines — and USDA promotes agriculture, i.e. the “A” in USDA), but I am a person who can feel the effects of plants vs. animal-based foods and I say bring on the veg!

the happenstance gourmande

Love the smell of a good market this time of year

23 Mar

Yesterday was the opening of the FRESHFARM Market near my office in Penn Quarter. I LOVE this market. It happens on Thursdays, has everything you could want (most specifically, my crack fix for anything from Toigo Orchards), and is conveniently located just a few blocks from my office so I don’t even have to think. After a rough morning/afternoon at work yesterday, I decided to go for a walk to visit the market, especially because it was so lovely out. In addition to my usual favorites, including Toigo (whose Honeycrisp apples, pears, and PEACHES will make you slap your mama) and Red Apron Butchery (who was taunting me with Facebook pictures of mortadella and fennel and citrus salami while I was juice-fasting), there were some new treats, including Gordy’s Pickle Jar, which I just HAD to try. They were amazing.

I am a REAL SUCKER for anything local. I can’t resist. Here are some pictures of the wonderful market.

Gorgeous poppies and tulips.

This bread smelled even more amazing than it looks.

Can’t resist Toigo’s apples. I picked up some of the Mutsu and they were awesome. Super crisp, sweet with a little bit of tartness, and just perfect for a warm spring day.

And here’s my bounty! A purple/green head of cabbage (for my experimentation with “Corned Tofu and Cabbage”), sweet pepper relish from Gordy’s, Mutsu apples, the facebook-stalking fennel and citrus salami from Red Apron (for my omnivorous weekends), and some great looking little red beets.

I love supporting our area’s farmers. I mean, what better way to eat fresh, eat clean, and eat local than at a farmers market, right? I love transparency in all of my food — knowing from where my pig came and where it was smoked, when and from where my eggs were picked, and that those apples were plucked just yesterday is a great feeling.

the happenstance gourmande

Teaching my shrunken self to chew again

20 Mar

March 20th not only signifies the start of spring but also the restart of my digestive system after a 10-day hiatus. I was terrified last night that I would wake up in the middle of the night and have to decide if 2 a.m. was an acceptable time to rev up my gustatory machine. Luckily, I slept straight through the night. I didn’t wake up to the sound of my stomach grumbling…instead I woke up to the sound of rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air.

Actually it was the sound of a CRAZY morning thunderstorm.

Super pumped to finally munch on something, I rinsed off a bunch of green grapes, sat down with the Today Show and a cup of tea, and dug in. Oh man…they were SO delicious. No wonder some of my juices had been so sweet…these were the most perfect grapes I could imagine. I  didn’t devour them by the bunch-ful as I normally would, but instead slowly chewed each grape for awhile before swallowing. I felt great. Until I didn’t. About 10-12 minutes after eating 10 grapes, my stomach was grumbling and gurgling like crazy, and I felt slightly food poisoned. My grand fast-breaking plan included a fruit salad for breakfast and a nice veggie salad for lunch and maaaaybe some roasted veggies for din. Brrrt. Guess again.

an ultimate spring kick-off luncheon

Today is shaping up to be a juicy fruits only kind of day. Not that I’m complaining! Also, I feel fine now. I think my stomach’s little freak out this morning was like starting up a car that hasn’t been touched in awhile — it might rumble when you put the key in the ignition, but pretty soon it’s purring down the highway.

As a final tally, I think it’s important to note that I have lost a grand total of…(drum roll please)…

9.2 lbs. since the start of the cleanse

15.2 lbs. overall since starting vegan

21 in. since the start of the cleanse (that is a measure of overall inches, including forearms, thighs, calves, etc.)

As a reward to myself, I booked a TWO HOUR-long massage at Nusta Spa for Sunday. Something called the Journey of the Senses massage. Here’s a description from the website:

The ultimate in relaxation, this massage ritual includes an aromatherapy steam treatment, emulsifying hand and foot wrap, hot and cold stone therapy, and your choice of Calm or Deep massage.

I am so proud of myself and cannot wait.

the happenstance gourmande

Pesky veganism and conscientious omnivores…(day 10 of the cleanse)

19 Mar

So I’ll have to admit…I am DYING to eat today. I should probably let you know that of all my 10 days on my juice cleanse, today I think I feel the worst. When I say “worst,” I still mean that I feel great but I’m thinking that today, or maybe yesterday, is my hardest day. As I mentioned before, I watched entirely too much Food Network this weekend, and it has just made me remember how much I love flavors and textures and the feeling of chewing food and the pleasure that comes from eating something amazing and feeling satisfied.

On top of me dreaming about food, and spending hours reading recipes, I made the mistake of only having one green juice yesterday, and no green juice today. The only greens that I have left in my fridge are cabbage, cucumbers, and kale…but I already have plans for a kale and white bean saute, cucumbers in a salad with avocado, and corned beef and cabbage minus the corned beef. By not drinking green juice, and only having fruit and more sugary vegetables in my juices, I think it’s making me feel slightly sluggish (in comparison to green juice days, not in comparison to my normal life). Instead of waking up before my alarm clock this morning, I snoozed once. Still a vast improvement from my usual pre-cleanse snooze for an hour…but definitely a difference.

Overall, I feel really amazing and am SO pleased with myself for making it 10 days. I will update with overall measurements and a final weight-loss tally tomorrow but I thought I’d leave you with a few lessons that I have learned while juicing:

  • I am able to listen to my body’s cues and tell the difference between hunger and thirst (and boredom)
  • If I ever feel like my eating has spiraled out of control, I know that a 3- or 5-day juice cleanse will get me back to normal
  • Juicing for 10 days has allowed my body to reset itself and I will have no problems resisting treats
  • I had more energy juicing than eating 3 square meals a day — and because of that, I could have worked out more to release more toxins from my body
  • The less I eat, the BETTER my body feels — it does not like to be stuffed with excess sugar and fat
  • I should definitely integrate fresh green juices into my life as many days a week as possible
  • My body thanks me when I am good to it and being good to it entails limiting dairy and meat
  • I really cannot stand the smell of cigarette smoke
  • I can probably do anything for 10 days if I set my mind to it

I am excited to wake up tomorrow and eat GRAPES and AVOCADO and BANANA. I plan to continue to be nice to my body by following what I’ll call a weekday pesky vegan and weekend conscientious omnivore diet — in other words, vegan plus fish during the week (pesco-vegan) and anything that I’d like on the weekend (still maintaining my commitment to eating good, clean food, free of hormones, pesticides, and GMOs).

Wish me luck finishing out my last day of just juice!

the happenstance gourmande