6 Tips to Better Farm-to-Table Events

0

carrots-farm-to-tableChefs are talking about it. Foodies are asking for it. These days, farm to table is on the tips of everyone’s tongues.

High-quality ingredients make a chef’s job easier since they are so naturally delectable.  Any respectable food lover will search for the freshest and most lovingly grown produce.  More and more, restaurant owners are partnering with local farmers to find it. In some cases, they’re cutting out the middle man and farming their own ingredients.

Any way you slice it, farm to table fundamentally changed the way we dine out.

Today’s food lover and farm-to-table dinners

Today’s food lover wants to know where it comes from, how it was grown, and if it will be around next time. Farm-to-table dinners allow food fans to get up close and personal to what they’re eating and hopefully, walk away with a greater appreciation for it. The term “farm to table” has to do with the process of growing, harvesting, preparing and consuming food.  However, many types of food and beverage events fit under this umbrella.  On the farm or in the restaurant, the slow food and farm-to-table movement puts the spotlight on the highest-quality, locally grown ingredients.

No need to overdress for these dining experiences, the focus is on the food. If you are considering hosting your own farm-to-table event, kudos to you. This movement will slowly re-school us on how vital and precious food is to long-term survival. Since farm-to-table events involve a lot of harvesting and preparing ingredients right from the farm, it’s smart to have a checklist for your event planning.

We know your farm-to-table event is going to be great, but the below tips will help make it even better.

6 tips to a better farm-to-table experience

1. If you are hosting an outdoor event, be aware of the experience you are building.  Once you have a realistic inventory of possible issues, you can address them one by one.  Ifcity-growers-urban-farming-benefit you don’t have access to a farm, reach out to some in your area. It’s a great way to build community.

2. Going to be outdoors? Don’t forget about pests. Bees, mosquitoes, ants, or greedy birds could throw a wrench in the works, so have a test dinner prior to the event.  Find methods for detouring/repelling critters without also repelling your guests.  Marigolds and other plants make good natural repellents that don’t overpower the senses.

3. Wind, rain and yes, too much sun can turn a picturesque dinner into a logistic nightmare. No one wants soggy biscuits, so have a second location planned in case it pours.  Follow weather forecasts and adjust accordingly.

4. Keep your dishes and décor simple and elegant. Minimalist décor offers a more authentic experience and frees up time and resources that could be put into the execution of the event. Choose simple recipes that highlight flavor; the best ingredients will taste amazing with little help. Make sure that as many ingredients as possible are locally grown by organic sustainable farms.  If you have a dish in mind and can’t source the ingredients, try a different recipe or variation.  This limitation will bring out your creativity and inspire your visitors to buy locally.

5. Make your guests feel at home on the farm. Ensure a great, homey ambiance by inviting people you know. Friends, family, or farm staff could make wonderful assistant hosts.  Allow plenty of time before, after and in-between courses for guests to take in the surroundings and chat.  If everything goes well, time stands still and memories are made.

6. Above all, relish the event and your company.  Confidence and genuine enjoyment are absolute musts to making your dinner a sweet success.  The impression from a great night will last a lifetime and keep diners coming back.

Calling all food lovers: Comment below with your fresh tips on food. Hungry? Find a farm-to-table feast near you.

(First photo from City Growers Benefit last month in New York)

Brooklyn Grange: Rooftop Farm Boosts Business via Events

0

Brooklyn Grange 1In 2010, a group of renegade urban dreamers gathered on a New York City roof. With bikes and cranes, passion and sweat—they built a farm. Then another. Then launched events. Today, Brooklyn Grange is the leading rooftop farming and intensive green roofing business in the US.

They operate the world’s largest rooftop soil farms, located on two roofs in Brooklyn (Navy Yard) and Queens (Long Island City) and grow 50,000 pounds of organically cultivated produce yearly. They distribute fresh vegetables and herbs to local restaurants. Globally, they provide urban farming and green roof consulting and installation services. They partner with local nonprofits to promote healthy communities. Egg-laying hens, a commercial apiary, and a nonprofit educational arm, City Growers, all contribute to Brooklyn Grange’s mission.

Farm events started in 2011 as dinner parties. Now their public events, in partnership with Brown Paper Tickets, vary widely—yoga classes, flower workshops, dinners, weddings, corporate retreats and film screenings.

We asked Brooklyn Grange’s Anastasia Cole Plakias, VP and co-founder, and Michele Kaufman, events director, how a diverse events program grew their business and strengthened community ties.

Brown Paper Tickets Q: Why do you exist? What is your vision?

Brooklyn Grange: When the team first met in the fall of 2009, we shared the goal of creating a fiscally sustainable, scalable, replicable model for urban agriculture that could thrive without relying on ever-diminishing ground-level space, or be crowded out by development. We were drawn to the environmental benefits of soil-based rooftop farming: from storm water management to reduction of urban heat island effect and diverting food scraps from the waste stream through composting, our farm supports the ecosystem of New York City by activating existing infrastructure as green space. Rooftop farming merges the benefits of green roofs with those of urban agriculture.

We’ve [recently] focused on growing our business and optimizing operations. We’re excited to return to our core mission of sharing the knowledge we’ve gleaned over the last four seasons by launching a new workshop series. From composting and seed saving to bouquet arranging and making natural dyes from plants, we’ve cast a wide net, and enlisted experts across urban agriculture, wellness and sustainability fields to help. (more…)

Beer Release: How to Host a Party

0

Own a budding new brewery? Successfully crafted brew for decades? Freshly minted nano-brewer? Share news about your latest hoppy libation by throwing a beer release, a prime opportunity to gain new customers and reward existing fans. Beer releases become market research labs. Tune into customer feedback and gain valuable insights into their preferences and tastes. Bonus: These events just might spur new beer batch ideas.

beer and brew releasesSelect a Perfect Venue
Beer release locations are key. If your brewery holds capacity for guests, this would make a spectacular location. Need a space? Reach out to some of the businesses you sell to. They will have incentive to help advertise new beer to sipping enthusiasts. A win-win. Pick a venue that fits your company or brewery personality and offers a setting suitable for coiffing your brew. Venues set the mood for your beer release. Provide the venue with branded swag and signage a few weeks prior to the event so the place can advertise for you. Note: Distributors often take care of this step for larger breweries. Don’t let this slip through the crack for your release.

Set the Mood
Keep your beer release simple. The fewer moving parts to an event the easier it is to engage your fans and enjoy the ride. After all, the main attraction is drinking beer. Arrive well before the event to set up, prepare for last-minute (or unexpected) logistics and be ready for loyal fans. Bring giveaways. Make sure you are open and available to speak with everyone. Attendees adore opportunities for face time with brewers and owners. Put your social game face. Beer releases where you circulate also open you up networking possibilities that could boost your business. Make sure a brew master or official representative who has intimate knowledge of the beer is there to chat with attendees. Prepare for questions about chemistry, ingredients or equipment. Chances are home brewers and beer geeks will attend and they are as passionate about the craft as the final product.

beer and brew release eventsEngage Your Crowd
Drawings interest any audience. Give away pint glasses or t-shirts and you not only give a gift, but the receiver can advertise for you every time the gift is used. Tasting together with your customers allows you to you add depth to your brew by giving insights. Talk about the different spices and ingredients. Point out key notes that your fans should be tasting. Themed trivia is also another way to captivate eager beer lovers. Study your audience over the course of a few events and bring back interactive favorites at your next beer release. (more…)

NYC Beer and Brewing History

0

beerweek2014mhedits33percentThis week on Foodie Friday, we have a guest blog from The Beer Wench, also known as Jena Ellenwood. Ellenwood is an Astoria, New York based actress, writer, bartender and beer geek. Jena is a graduate of The New School and is currently studying for her Cicerone License. She enjoys a good story and a good brew, and usually finds one leads to the other.

I am a beer geek. There, I said it. While reviewing the plethora of events for this year’s NY Craft Beer—dinners, tastings, parties—I got most excited when my eyes fell on Drink Local: NYC Beer and Brewing History panel discussion in Brooklyn. My sister Liz joined me and we hit the town.

Covenhoven, a cozy little taproom that opened March 2nd, was our host for the evening. Bill and Molly, the husband and wife team behind Covenhoven, were warm and welcoming, as was their establishment. One wall of the shop displays old kitschy beer trays, while the opposite wall is kept free to host rotating murals painted by local artists. In the summer the front garage doors will roll up, and the doors to the patio will be left open. Turns out they use to run an art gallery in the space, but after having a few pints and being inspired by other local beer centric joints–Bierkraft and Spuyten Duyvil–they decided to merge their loves of art, community, and beer to open a kick-ass little spot to merge all three.

(more…)

Foodie Friday: Leftovers and Writing Your Household Menu

0

6929927631_1368749976_bEating well can often be rather expensive. With our economy down and costs on the rise, more and more of us are finding less butter on the edge of our bread. Cooking a well sourced and balanced meal is always going to take a little investment no matter how you look at it. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t eat well through the entire week. By applying a little budgeting, careful planning, and stretching techniques, you can have your cake and eat it too. Then make cake lollipops with the leftovers.

Planning a weekly menu is something that requires a little more foresight than stopping by the store on the way home from work. It’s worth the effort! Carefully planning your weekly grocery shopping to coordinate multiple dishes will save you both time and money. Chefs do this all the time when planning for their restaurants with great success. Try starting your week by sitting down with a stack of cookbooks or using the internet to decide what types of recipes you might feel like cooking. After all, while sticking to a budget is important, it’s more important to like the food that you are eating.

When you approach your menu, consider ingredients and how they might carry over across all of the recipes you plan to make. If you are particularly fond of spicy recipes maybe garlic, onion, and chilis are purchased in greater bulk. When you buy things in larger quantity you can often find deals or coupons such as “buy one get one free.” These deals will help you save a dollar here or fifty cents there until, perhaps, you have enough for a bottle of wine to go with your meal. Purchasing in this manner gives you stability as well as frees up options for later in the week. (more…)

Boozie Friday: Cider – A Delicious Beverage and Ingredient

0

1086683117_c2f524cc8f_zLast Sunday, a wonderful event took place here in Seattle. The Seattle Wine and Food Experience packed the spacious exhibition hall at the Seattle Center putting wine, beer, spirits, food and cider in the spotlight. The proceeds from this marvelous event went to Les Dames d’Escoffier Seattle, a 501c3 non-profit organization comprised of female leaders in food, beverage and hospitality whose mission is education, advocacy and philanthropy. It’s wonderful to see this incredible organization supported by such strong attendance. The event sold out which undoubtedly put some decent funding toward their cause.

One thing that struck me at the event, was the growing interest in craft ciders amongst American food and booze enthusiasts. With the rise of artisanal products and the ever growing farm-to-table movement here in the United States, this old standard is back in fashion. Drinkers in England and other parts of the world have enjoyed cider for many generations. However, here in the United States, the temptingly tart/sweet beverage didn’t really enjoy the same success. Grain used to brew beer was cheaper and more readily available than the cider apple and the cost was the loss of a great libation. However, after prohibition, cider began to re-gain popularity and today you can find a fine craft cider in almost any bar, grocery store or liquor store. Even well established beer brewers like Stella Artois are making their own apple brew: Cidre. Based on what I saw at the Seattle Wine and Food Experience, larger companies definitely have their hats in the ring, but smaller, craft ciders seem to dominate the arena here in the Pacific Northwest.

Cider can vary in sweetness and be combined with other flavors for fantastic results. Some common flavors added to a good cider are berry, ginger and, of course, the flavor of oak barrels. In many ways cider can be treated the same as wine or beer in that it pairs well with food. Cooking with cider is also a fantastic option for the more adventurous chef and it can replace white wine in many situations. However, before attempting that, you should probably try some of the different cider on the market. Some of the tastiest and notable include Teiton Cider Works, Eaglemount Wine & Cider, 2 Towns Ciderhouse, and Woodchuck Hard Cider.  Of course, with hundreds of cider makers worldwide, this list could have easily gone on and on but you get the idea.

Want to try your hand at cooking with cider? Well, you’re in luck. Included below is my recipe for Roasted Pork Loin with an Apple Cider Mustard Sauce. Enjoy! (more…)

Foodie Friday: Waffle Club

0

Waffles

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But we don’t always have time in the morning do we? Sometimes it’s fun to have breakfast for dinner or as a group activity like snack time. Waffles have been enjoyed at any time of day since medieval times. Originally waffles were a variation on communion wafers, and over time have evolved into what we have now. We have certainly come a long way since then and the results are staggeringly delicious.

Waffles come in many shapes, sizes, textures, and flavors. They can be topped with almost endless variations of different ingredients or served all on alone. There are waffle cones, stuffed waffles, and chicken & waffles just to name a few of the creative variations you might find. When concocting your batter make sure that you allow enough for a test waffle or two. This will allow you to taste and adjust your batter before you serve the final product. When following recipes don’t be afraid to make adjustments according to your own preference.

Around the Brown Paper Tickets headquarters office we have started a weekly waffle-based ritual. Each person that works on Sunday and participates, has taken a turn as the “Batter-UP.” When it’s your turn to bring waffles you are responsible for providing enough batter and whatever special toppings you choose for everyone. There have been some interestingly delicious creations rolling through so far and surely a great many more to come. Among some of the most interesting include but are certainly not limited to:

James – Classic Waffles, Cinnamon Waffles
Sam – Pumpkin Spice Waffles, Super Crispy Almond-essence Waffles
Megan – Ginger Waffles
Ashton – Smores Waffles
Kathleen – Chocolate Chai, with Pink Sea Salt and Whipped Cream/Chocolate Syrup (Gluten-free), Buttermilk Waffles with Ezell’s Fried Chicken
Susanne – Rosemary Ham and Gruyere/Chedder Cheese Waffles
Antoine – Oreo Waffles with hand-whisked Whipped Cream
Diana – Classic Waffle topped with Blackberry Preserve, Brie, and Basil
Patrick – Sourdough Waffles, Banana Chocolate Chip, Orange Waffles

Hopefully our waffle club inspires you to whip up a batch of crispy delicious waffles with your own twist added. It’s a lot of fun to make a group activity out of it, and I think we enjoy it immensely. Waffle day is a great way to bring a group closer together and get to know them on a level only reached through food. Sharing ideas and time together around the most simple of concepts is truly a joy. Waffle up! (more…)

Food Bank Volunteer Day

0

Brown Paper Tickets staff volunteer at Seattle food bankBrown Paper Tickets offers every employee 40 paid hours annually to volunteer. Today, several of us sorted, stacked and stocked shelves at a local food bank with bread, produce, meats, staples.

Seattle’s Ballard Food Bank empowers people while providing vital nutrients. 1,400 clients are served weekly. Shoppers cruise the aisle with carts and choose their own items. Unlike other food banks, this one offers plenty of organic food, gives people an option to volunteer in exchange for groceries and designed their warehouse like a grocery store. Bonus: Everyone gets fresh flowers.

It was heartening to meet people from all walks of life and an honor for Brown Paper Tickets to pay us to support our neighbors. Paid volunteer time is just one way Brown gives back.

Foodie Friday: Chocofest 2014

0

chocofest-14-flyer1Trying something new can be exciting, frightening, and even disastrous. This may be true, but you never know until you give it a shot. Ray Bradbury said “The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance – the idea that anything is possible.”

Valentines Day, for many, is a time dedicated to romance between two individuals and their shared connection. Romance can also exist between two ideas or creations. Such is the case for chocolate and beer according to Pike Brewing Company’s annual affair Chocofest. This annual event has been running for six years and continues to make attendees get all mushy. (more…)

Foodie Friday: Adventures In Cheese

0

IMG_4063IMG_4063Have you ever had a night that was so amazing you just wanted to live it over and over, again and again? That was my night at the West Coast Cheesemonger Invitational.

The Cheesemonger Invitational is a competition to see which cheesemonger is the best at their craft. The invitation went out to all mongers to compete and 35 mongers answered the call. Selling cheese requires more than just liking cheese and this is what this competition is all about.

For those competing, the event started at 9am and, for the top ten, went until late in the evening. Their day started with a written exam followed by a blind tasting, salesmanship contest, cutting competition and finished with the creation of their perfect bite of cheese. That is when the public came in. At 5pm the doors of Public Works in the Mission District opened and allowed cheese-lovers in.

I never thought I would say that it was almost difficult to eat 35 bites of cheese, each was better than the first and I always wanted to go back for more. Luckily my cheese needs were met by an amazing fondue bar and grilled cheese stand along with samplings that were available from some of the amazing cheesemakers and suppliers who attended the event. (more…)