May 2010

"Yards to Gardens" Matches Gardeners to Land Owners

Yards to Gardens (or Y2G) might just the most benevolent site in the web universe. Essentially, it functions as a matchmaker between people who want to garden but don’t have the space, and those who have the space, but not the time. (It also puts people who want chicken manure in contact with those who have it, and gives room to shout to those who are trying to give away extra seeds and clay pots, but more on that later.)

I say it’s benevolent because the founders of Y2G know that it’s just not right to let someone suffer with an unfulfilled primal urge to dig in the dirt. (They just want to grow things!) The purity of their sentiment is matched by the other side of the coin: people who have yards and gardening space and just want to see it put to good use.

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The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove

Cathy Erway’s first memoir, The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove, is the kind that includes recipes at the end of each chapter. Well it might: Erway spent two years cooking nearly every meal she ate, avoiding both restaurants and takeout food, and recording her experience at her blog, Not Eating Out in NY. This memoir shares what she learned during those two years, intertwining kitchen discoveries and personal revelations and including a thoughtful assessment of the state of eating out in America.

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There's A Lot to Celebrate at The Black Forest Inn

Before I begin, I feel obligated to disclose that I’m writing this under the hypnotic effects of a deliriously delicious bratwurst dinner. Having said that, I’m here to proclaim that I am, once again, officially in love with The Black Forest Inn. I say “again” because I used to love The Black Forest Inn back in my twenties, when I had a gaggle of single friends and the thrust of a weekend day revolved around deciding where to go for a bleary-eyed brunch or an afternoon beer, or two or three. I have fond memories of wiling away the afternoon in the gorgeous beer garden at The Black Forest, drinking weiss beers and sharing crispy potato pancakes with my buddies, by turns immersed in the earnest debates, uproarious laughter or funky silences of post college life. And then I grew up. I moved away, got married, had some babies and moved back.

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For Beard Award Winner Alex Roberts, it’s All About Respect

Alex Roberts Photo by Kate NG SommersAlex Roberts Photo by Kate NG SommersChef Alex Roberts is a low-key kind of guy. He doesn’t yell or throw temper tantrums, a la Gordon Ramsay. He doesn't have the legendary ego of a rock star chef ("I don't feel that I'm the best at anything," he recently told the Star Tribune's Rick Nelson).

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Can Food Heal Spring Allergies?

May in Minnesota is off to a chilly and often cloud-covered start, but I do vividly recollect a too-hot-to-touch steering wheel in April and a stretch of 40-plus degree days in March that turned feet of snow to vapor. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, this is the first year since 1878 that nary a smidgen of snow has fallen during March, a notable anomaly considering that historically, Minnesota receives its heaviest snow during this month.

Not only has this phenomenon significantly affected our farmers, but it has also had a near crippling effect on seasonal allergy sufferers. The symptoms are formidable: fatigue, itchy and burning eyes, sneezing, headache, runny nose, sore throat, brain fog, nasal congestion, depression, and digestive disruption. As snow melts and the spring rains come on, the ground becomes muddy. If the earth is holding on to more water, then so too shall we, causing congestion and allergies for many folks.

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Environmental Working Group and Dr. Andrew Weil Announce 2010 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides

The Enironmental Working Group (EWG) recently released its 2010 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides. (Note: This guide is NOT for shoppers who want to BUY pesticides, but rather for those who want to AVOID them in their food.)

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Izzy's Ice Cream Uses RFID Technology to Tell You the Flavors

The words, “Ground-breaking Technology!” screamed out, in large, bold type, from the headline of an e-mailed press release I received last week. It made me wonder: What technological achievement was being heralded now? Was it one of those inventions that I would have invented myself if only I had learned how to write code? Like an iPhone that actually works as a phone? Or a content management system that writes 500-word blog posts? Or an “un-send” feature for the e-mails I shouldn't have written when I was so angry. (Or so tipsy.) No, no, and no. This was for something way, way better. Read for yourself:

"St Paul – May 20, 2010 –A moment more than one year in the making, Izzy’s Ice Cream is proud to announce the launch of an exciting, new service, Izzy’s Flavor Up!, that allows customers to subscribe to their favorite Izzy’s Ice Cream flavors."

It continues:

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A Very Prairie Cuisine

With the morning temperatures hovering in the mid-30s and a possibility of snow looming in the dreary sky, Susan Dietrich tried to keep her hands warm and her mood light as she set up her booth on the first day of the Mill City Farmers’ Market season. Up went the oversized chalkboard listing the artisanal fare handcrafted by Dietrich for Very Prairie, her nearly four-year-old local food company, while jars of specialty mustards, bottles of rhubarb ketchup and bags of granola were carefully arranged among rustic crates, sheaves of wheat and labels made to look like the slate tablets once found in old prairie schoolhouses. As she and her assistant Kristen Ophaug prepared for the start of the market, Dietrich couldn’t help but wonder: Was it worth the effort?

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Simple, Good and Tasty's May Bookclub Selection: This Organic Life

 The simple act of putting a shovel into the ground and tucking in the first seeds (or seedlings) without doubt means you’ve already decided to do things differently. Feeding yourself – with the efforts of your own two hands and contributions of a mostly organic nature – is an exercise in science, nature, tradition, history, politics and not just a little bit of faith. Not such a simple act, after all. 

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What's Been Cookin' with Jenny Breen of Good Life Catering?

When I was asked whether I was interested in doing a profile on “local legend” Jenny Breen, I jumped at the chance. I didn’t know who Jenny was, but with a name like that – so lyrical and fresh – I knew I wanted to meet her. Jenny Breen, Jenny Breen. She sounded like a lass some lovelorn Irishman might sing about. She sounded like a lady who might know her way around a garden, might even wear a tiara made out of snap peas and scallions, carrots and asparagus. Yes, I said. Yes, I would very much like to write a profile on this local legend cooking lady with a crown of veggies.

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