Wednesday, April 27, 2011

From Annie Pais' blog: a marvelous summary of why buying local is the best path to follow

Hi Everyone:

I'm encouraged to hear from so many of you who are growing food in your yards!
I have a wonderful garden this year and am sharing an abundance of veggies!
The benefits of edible gardening-sustainable agriculture are just astounding.
We have all of the ingredients for developing sustainable food production here.
Doing so would boost our economy in several ways and offer a very basic safety protection
for our county.

Just think about these many and varied benefits:

Our Health-
*Eating local and seasonally offers year round produce at the peak of its nutritional cycle.
*Eating fresh-local means you benefit from produce picked and eaten before the nutrients are gone.
Its amazing how different they taste! (I eat by color too- a creative way to balance nutrition!)
*Gardening is good for you- body, mind and soul. It can be a fun, family project to plant and grow a small plot, raised bed or even several large containers on a balcony or patio. Kids love it- and they'll understand where food comes from.

Saves Money-
*Organic is affordable when its local. Organic produce in the stores can be expensive- but its affordable at our many Farmer's Markets, U-Pick It farms and at Wards Supermarket. Organic is more important than we even know- and gardening organically is very doable- trust me.
*The increase in oil-gas prices is now really adding to the cost of the food-when its trucked in.
*Here's my latest example: Growing green and wax beans- for the price of 2 seed packages- approx. $4. I have been enjoying fresh, wonderful string beans and wax beans for weeks- and with no end in sight! Its actually extraordinary how many beans are being produced and how easily! The difference in cost vs what I'd pay for the same amount of vegetables is off the charts in savings.
(See my latest favorite recipe at the end.)

Sustainability is so smart-
Ok, here's the kicker- sustainability is power. Its powerful to be independent. Growing our ability to feed ourselves is one of the most aware, innovative things we can do. Being prepared to self-feed our county is something our leaders have been thinking about for years!
Everything we can do to support growing and eating local food is of prime importance.
This kind of local power should be and needs to be something each and every one of us is involved with.

Growing food, producing local food products, eating locally, developing and supporting restaurants that buy local, creating a permanent Farmer's Market store, using our yards to grow fruit and nut trees, edible landscapes and produce gardens is a way of making money and keeping it here- where it can keep cycling to support our overall, local economy.
This translates to dollars, jobs, and economic well being.
Check out and support Blue Oven Kitchens, a future incubator kitchen where we'll be able to rent a certified kitchen to produce products for use and distribution-

Culinary Tourism-
Eating out? Please choose a local restaurant that supports and buys from local farmers.
The more we patronize local restaurants that do buy from local farms- the more establishments will open and the more we'll become known for this delectable asset!
We just finished a preliminary study, (paid for with a grant from Visit Florida) on developing Culinary Tourism here in Alachua County. This is silly- its so doable! And dumb not to...
We have a year round growing season, we produce much higher quality produce, grass fed meat, free range poultry and eggs, nuts, citrus, etc, etc. than almost every other state. We should be tapping niche markets to bring visitors here by offering a wide range of culinary tours, programs, cook offs, and workshops!!! The culinary tourism market also merges love of food with culture-art, music and performance.
Think Tuscany or Napa Valley.

When kids garden, they are healthier. Not just during school hours but in their families and community. Not just physically but emotionally. And Not just for their school years but forever. Its a gross neglect that each of our schools isn't producing its own food on a large scale with our students fully participating.- and creating total curriculum around food production....powered by solar and watered by rain water catchment- etc.
Check out

Sustainability is so economically, environmentally and educationally smart.
Its also one of those essential indicators used by those we seek to attract here-
People now know to check out a community's sustainable initiatives, when deciding where to locate.

I hope I've succeeded in inspiring and engaging you.
For the month of May- during this eat local month-
We want your stories.
Send us stories about your gardens, your education programs, your favorite local products, your favorite local restaurants, etc.
Anything goes. We'll create ways to use your stories on our website and in materials.

Thanks Everyone.
Here's my recipe for Annie's Green Beans- two ways!
Send me your bean and summer squash recipes please!

I lb. green string beans or waxed beans
Snap the ends and steam for 3-4 minutes.

In a roasting pan combine:
1 Florida Sweet Onion- large diced
4 cloves of garlic whole
1 pint cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes halved
(1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into bite sized pieces- optional but great.)

drizzle olive oil over the veggies and add salt and pepper to taste-
toss to coat fully-
Roast in a 400* oven for 30-40 min. or until tender and beginning to caramelize.

In a serving bowl combine the steamed green beans with the roasted veggies
and add 2-4 ounces goat, feta or parmesan cheese and shredded basil.

You can serve this two ways- hot as it is or cooled over salad greens with a simple vinaigrette dressing.

For much more information and yummy recipes, check out:
Hogtown Homegrown

Happy Eating Everyone and please do participate, support and initiate these great endeavors.

Aaonf_listserve mailing list

Note fine article on salt in todays Times

Note this fabulous article by Harold McGee in today's NY Times:

Monday, April 25, 2011


The late Dom Martino hailed from New Jersey and moved to Gainesville in recent years. A fine arts photographer, he put his full energies towards chronicling Paynes Prairie with his camera. I saw some of his work the other day in the Visitors Center of the park and was very, very impressed. While I never had the opportunity to meet him, my hat is off to Dom for his works of art that can only fortify a sense of pride and stewardship of those who love the Florida landscape. Rest in peace, Dom, the Prairie is better off because of you.

To view his photos, copy and paste this site into your browser:

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Pickled Pelican: An Excellent Dining Destination On the Dock in Cedar Key

What a surprise, when visiting Cedar Key with our friend Kathy from snowy western New York, to find an on-the-dock restaurant that knocked us out. Quality food on the dock has been on the wane for some years now and we were delighted with our discovery.

Pay attention. The Pickled Pelican Bar and Eatery is happening folks. Fine fresh food in a restaurant with a million dollar view has returned to the Cedar Key dock. Our prayers have been answered.

I grew up traveling over to Cedar Key to fish on the dock or have supper or lunch with my parents overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. I have a virtual catalog of memories to revel in during the drive over [I was taught to fish by a man with a peg leg]. My family dined there often and our meals ranged from the informal hamburger or fish sandwich to many more elegant seafood dinners.

In recent years, my wife and I have grown discouraged at the drop off in quality of the food options on the dock. Now that we have discovered the Pickled Pelican, we intend to go over a lot more often.

The Pickled Pelican is located at 360A Dock Street (352-543-5654). We climbed a flight of stairs to the second floor restaurant, we were greeted at the door and, after a short wait (it is quite popular) were escorted to our table that overlooked their outside deck and the Gulf.

Our kind host provided us with a brief overview of the restaurant that was a laid back form of a mission statement. It was obvious from our his welcoming words that they have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish, a perseverance at carrying it out, and the drive to leave their customers happy and willing to return over and again. These owners were on top of their restaurant and were giving their heart and soul towards providing a quality dining experience. They cared and it showed.

Basically, nearly all the food is fresh and cooked to order. Living on "island time" is how they put it. If a fish that they feature is not available they will serve a frozen portion of that fish, but with full and complete disclosure. The term "fresh" applies to all the side dishes as well. At night, they feature steaks that are hand cut. Everything is made from scratch. The sides were all delicious.

The owner, Dustin Messer, grew up around the restaurant business since he was 5 and is clearly committed to providing quality to his customers. Family recipes developed over a long time in the biz are featured. Their menu features a full page just listing their beers (51) and they serve wine as well.

We started out with a clam appetizer served in a fragrant broth which I brought home not wanting to waste a drop. It was heavenly. We each had crisp salad with a homemade dressing that was perfect. My wife and I both ordered the fried flounder (fresh) that came out crispy and golden, obviously cooked in very clean oil at the right hot temperature. Kathy ordered the crab salad on a pita and ooo-ed and ahh-ed about it throughout.

You know a good restaurant by its clientele. The two men seated next to us were obviously locals and they began to evangelize to us about the restaurants menu options. They reveled us on their order of fried green tomatoes that looked marvelous. It spoke volumes that these local customers love the restaurant and obviously eat their often. You can fool a local once, but not twice.

All in all, we gave this restaurant a strong A!

Oh my goodness....I forgot to list Satchel's in my review of the east side

For weddings or parties, one always lives in fear that someone will not be invited. The omission is usually someone of the highest importance too and the resulting embarassment is painful. I have done it again.

Yesterday, my review of the east side culinary scene, failed to list Satchel's Pizza, the restaurant that we patronize most frequently. Satchel's is the cornerstone of the east side restaurant scene and I will focus on it soon in a review. Satchel's is our go-to restaurant when we have friends in from out of town.

My apologies to my readers, to Satch, and to Satchel's Pizza fans.

Don't tell my wife I left out Satchel's. She insisted on stopping there on her way to the Gainesville airport when she left recently for a visit north. She will probably want to stop there again when she flies in next week.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


We, in America, charicature people and things we love and admire. An example that stands out to me is Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a leader who should be seen for his multiple dimensions and talents, but is more often reduced to a few sound bites. This deification distracts us from the travails he undertook to serve and understand his God. His skill and inspiration goes way beyond the sound bites that we accept from the media. Take another look. I recommend Taylor Branch's series on the civil rights era.

That same sort of deification oversimplifies other public figures that we value in the South: Marjorie Rawlings who some now see as a Cracker Scarlett O'Hara; Robert Frost who is too often thought of as a beardless Santa Claus figure walking in the snow with twinkling eye;, Will McLean, who struggled within himself and, at the same time, produced the best songs ever written about Florida and its landscapes.

The deification trap should be avoided. Delve further into each of the above-named artists and you will be enriched and encouraged to make your own contributions. You will quickly realize the obstacles that they overcame are much like your own.

We do something similar with ethnic cuisines. Our experiences with these rich and varied foodways is more often the "sound bite version" sold to us by corporate restaurants. They, more often than not,"the greatest hits" and the full dimension of these varied cuisines is never available to the Gainesville diner.

Mega corporations provide us plastic imposters of the real thing in the form of Mexican, Chinese, African-American, and Southern restaurants that serve one-dimensional dishes and only a few examples of what, otherwise, are diverse cuisines. Much of our local corporate food venues food are about as exciting as a flat tire.

My recent readings of books like Lynn Rosetto Kaspar's SPLENDID TABLE or Diana Kennedy's loving portrayals of Mexican cuisine make this disparity between the "real thing" and the impostors all the more clear. We need to use the perspectives of these food writers as the benchmark of what we can and should expect from our restaurants. The food we are served by our corporate restaurants/providers misses the target big-time.

That knowledge makes a journey down Archer Road all the more painful. By our patronage, we have contributed to the construction of a comic book gallery of restaurants serving pseudo-versions of ethnic foods. Their offerings are not prepared by a chef in her kitchen, but rather in a factory kitchen that ships frozen, over salted, preserved food kits that are re-heated or fried to resemble real food. There is nothing local, fresh, healthy, or tasty in this style of restaurant management. Besides being mal-nourished by these pseudo foods, we have been indoctrinated that these are the limits of our options and that vegetables/meat/poultry that we consume can only come out of a box and not of our neighbor farmers' fields.

I live near University and 34th Street. When my wife goes out of town, I sometimes give up cooking. I love to cook, but for one it is a royal pain. As a result, I sometimes give in to convenience and consider going out for something in the neighborhood. I always come to the same conclusion as I survey the desolate landscape of west Gainesville food. Restaurants west of NW 7th Street just plain s%ck.

THE ANSWER IS TO "GO EAST YOUNG MAN/WOMAN". When you do you will find that the palette of Gainesville restaurants is multi-faceted and a pleasure to behold. The east side features any number of restaurants whose chefs cook in-house with fresh and local ingredients. Their dishes arrive at your table have that invisible "love" factor that we all seek in a meal.

A menu of my favorite restaurants in town includes: The Jones (my number one), Ruby's (African-American par excellence), East End Eatery (contemporary, lunch fare, Sunday brunch), La Tienda (primo-Mexican), Terrell's Ribs. The east side has other establishments that receive rave reviews that I have still not tapped into. The Top and Cafe C come to mind. More are opening. All are cozy, warm places with friendly service.

If you want good food at reasonable prices you can find it in Gainesville and, in most cases, you will find it east of NW 7th Street. There is hope on the west side such as Pho Hanoi and The Gengis Grill, but when I head east in Gainesville my options are many and I am never disappointed.

So, please patronize these fine restaurants. When someone produces a tasty, wholesome product and uses locally produced foods it is good for our economy, your health, and your community. Reward these food venues with your business and avoid the fast-food pseudo-restaurants like the plague.

In short, go east, buy local.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Greetings Earth Residents!

This week is Earth Week and Earth Day is Friday (, and we'll be outside exploring and enjoying what we have. Its also National Parks Week (16th-24th) with free admission to the National Parks.

On the local political front, Alachua County commissioners added two more properties to the Registry of Public Lands list. Sweetwater Preserve, and Watermelon Pond join Cofrin Park, Odum Preserve, and Lake Alto Preserve. What didn't get included this go around was Barr Hammock, Pfifer Flatwoods, Mill Creek, and NE Flatwoods. Something about needing to parse out road right of ways, and acreage for future county buildings. Of which I don't think was the intent of the Alachua County Forever Program that the voters taxed themselves and voted on. The last four parcels will come back for consideration within 60 days. Stay tuned.

We had excellent paddling at Cedar Key on Friday, along with magnificent moonlight on our Rainbow River paddle. And Saturday we did the Waccasassa River due to the high winds on the Gulf. Which made for a lot of water to paddle on. Got into some places that are usually not wet. The spring flowers continue to show off: spider lily, indigo, blue flag iris, lizard tail, swamp dogwood, and ti ti.

So this weeks offerings include:

Monday 4/18 - Ichetucknee River/Springs Exploration, meeting at the old south parking lot at 10 am. This trip will be a round trip, up to the head springs, and back on the Ichetucknee. That way we won't have to shuttle vehicles before getting on the water. This gives one a different perspective seeing the river twice, but from a different angle. We should be out around 3-4 hours, with stops along the way to take breaks. We usually see plenty of coots, white ibis, kingfishers, and herons. The wild rice has been putting out seed stalks, and we'll look to see what else is in flower. We'll pass by the site of the Spanish Mission from the 1600's, which we'll discuss. The Ichetucknee is one of our most pristine water bodies in the area, but its not without upstream problems. We'll observe signs of impairment and talk about the causes/effects.
Price is $40 per person and includes kayak/equipment, insurance, and guide. Own kayak owners: special! $5 per person this day only. There is also a $5 per person river/use fee for the park. This trip is a go, as I have two customers from out of state.
RSVP deadline is 5 pm today.

Thursday 4/21 - Hiking at Prairie Creek Preserve, meeting at 5:15 pm. We haven't done this trail in awhile, so I'd like to go out and see what is in bloom along this trail. It’s a mixed habitat of pine flatwoods, and mesic hammock. The trail leads to Prairie Creek.
FREE with RSVP by Wednesday 4/20 by 5 pm.

Friday 4/22 - Potano Paddle Trail Clean Up and Cookout - meeting at the park at 5 pm, set up, socialize, eat first, then paddle the edge of Newnan's Lake into Prairie Creek. Bring a potluck dish to share, your own eating utensils/plates/beverages, and I'll provide the charcoal, hotdogs/buns/condiments. If you want to eat something else, bring it, and I'll cook it. Then we'll get on the water around 6:15 -6:30 pm to paddle and do a clean up of trash along the edges of the water way. I'll have some bags, but you can bring your own. Our way of celebrating Earth Day. We'll stay out till sunset on this down and back paddle (round trip). Sunset is at 8 pm.
Price is $20 if you need a kayak, $5 if you have your own, helps cover insurance.
RSVP on Thursday 4/21 by 12 noon.

Saturday 4/23 - Lime Key Paddle, meeting at the launch site near Cedar Key at 3:30 pm. This island is on the west side of Cedar Key, and we'll launch taking advantage of the tides to paddle among interesting mangrove islands and shell bars. We'll also do our part to clean up litter along the way among the marsh grasses. This is a beautiful area that not many people get to experience. Visits to other island are also on the route. Out around three hours with stops to take breaks and observe wildlife. Optional visit to the state museum ($2) if you arrive early.
Price is $40 per person and includes kayak/equipment. Own kayak owners, $20 per person, includes insurance.
RSVP deadline is Thursday 4/21 by 6 pm.

Sunday 4/24 - Shell Mound Sunset Paddle, meeting at 5 pm. We'll finish off Easter Day and Earth Week with a sunset paddle among the islands of the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. This area is more remote than Cedar Key, and allows us the opportunity to see more wildlife. Possible sightings may include bald eagles, oyster catchers, kingfishers, and if back from their southern journey, magnificent frigate birds. Out around 2.5 hours on this round trip paddle, we stop along the way to take breaks on sandy beaches. Who knows, we may even find some Easter Shells.
Price is $35 per person and includes kayak/equipment. Own kayak owners, $15 includes insurance.
RSVP deadline is Friday 4/22 by 3 pm.

To reserve your spot of if you have any questions, get in touch with me soon. Please pass along to those that may be interested.

Thank you,
Brack Barker
Wild Florida Adventures



Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Latest News from Slowfood Gainesville

May- Take the Eat Local Challenge!
The 2011 Eat Local Challenge begins May 1st. I hope you all plan to
take the Challenge to eat local seasonal food every day either at home
or at a locally owned restaurants for the entire month of May. Here's
all the info

This year's Challenge will start with a Kickoff and Party at Kumarie's
Organic Garden on Sunday May 1st at noon. Music all day, cooking
demos with samples every half hour from 12-3pm, and food and garden
activities for children and adults. Kumarie will have wonderful vegan
and vegetarian food for sale and rafflle tickets by donation will
yield prizes including CSA shares. Check out the Facebook event

Cedar Key Clam Tour: May 7th (note: date changed from original)
To celebrate eating local and back by popular demand - we will be
hosting the second Cedar Key clam tour....Come with us to learn about
the sustainable and innovative Cedar Key clam industry. A brief
presentation at the FWS Marine Lab by Leslie Sturmer will be followed
by a tour of the clam facilities and a potluck at the home of Peg and
Russ Hall featuring this local delicacy. Bring a dish to share, and we
will cook up some local and delicious clams for you to try. We will
carpool and caravan out together. Meet us at the SW corner of the
Butler Plaza near Target at12:30PM on Saturday May 7th. Please RSVP by
April 30th so we have a head-count:

Food Donations
Last, but not least, we are still collecting non-perishable food for
use in a donation to a family in need in our community You can now
drop off your items to either 2530 NW 11th Ave in Gainesville, with a
note that they are for Slow Food Gainesville or you can drop them at
Henderson and Daughter's booth at the Saturday 441 market, also with a
note that they are for SLow Food Gainesville. Please note, the family
we are collecting for are vegetarian and try to eat organically.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Russ and Peg Hall, who live in Cedar Key, write about cheeses in NY state in their book, Summer of a Thousand Cheeses. They continue to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for cheeses in their blog:

Take a look and have a good read. If you have a chance to attend one of their presentations, you will not be disappointed.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Adams Ribs served some tasty chicken for lunch yesterday

Sometimes I go out to lunch when the fridg is empty of leftovers, but the options on the west side still leave me cold. Nothing appeals to me as the choices are mostly chains with corporately prepared foods trucked in frozen, then thawed, and served with equally tasteless sides.

I must say that, on occasion, I try Adams Rib though I have not yet tasted their barbecue meats. Yesterday, I had a chicken breast with their collard greens and potato salad. All were very good to excellent. The chicken was amazingly moist, unfairly moist. My guess is that it was brined first because the flavor was tasty and moist and the skin crisp. Perfect.

The sides: The collard greens were first rate, not quite as good as mine or Ruby's, but getting there. The potato salad was home-made and very good, a little on the sweet side, but I recommend it.

Adams Rib serves a fine lunch. Maybe I will try their meats soon.

Oven Braised Ribs article in Wednesday's NY TImes

Excellent article. I do something similar with my brisket. I smoke it for 4-6 hours and then slow braise for another 7-8 hours. Marvelous.

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