Eat Mendocino

2 women, 365 days, 3,878 square miles


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Birthday Dinner at the Mendo Bistro

How August did fly! Summer’s trials are the inverse of winter’s; instead of putting all of our energy into searching for food,  you must deal with the overwhelming abundance of fruit, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes. I learned how to do a bunch of new things, out of middle-of-the-night fear that anything would rot in my home. I made fruit leather, compote out of every kind of dangerously ripe fruit I could get my hands on, lots of pie, fermented pickles, fermented beets, zucchini chips, gallons of goat milk yogurt, and shoved a bunch of stuff in the freezer. Yet, things did go bad, and I feel the weight of every un-canned tomato and un-pickled cucumber in my bones. When I don’t have time to process things, I frantically try to consume everything. Waste feels sinful when I think of last winter… I’ve been eating an entire melon every day and feel like a little sugarplum fairy. We are certainly putting on our winter coats for the sparer days ahead.

On the last day of the month, I celebrated my 30th birthday in the best possible way; by someone else doing the cooking! Nicholas Petti agreed to be the chef du jour and hosted my birthday dinner party at the Mendo Bistro. This has long been my favorite place to dine out on the coast, and truly, there is no better man for the job. The event required a week of collaboration and shuttling ingredients his way, including salt, apple cider vinegar, olive oil and goat milk. We met at the Mendocino Farmers’ Market the day before to shop for the produce and make some final decisions. A few days before, I actually felt guilty about putting someone else through all this work, and wondered if I should have just cooked the meal myself. Then I realized that I don’t even have a dining table, nor enough plates to feed ten people. And, that I wouldn’t have to do the dishes. Plus, that Nicholas is a CHEF and this is what he loves to do. So I decided to let it happen and enjoy. It certainly was five courses of love.

My parents arrived that afternoon, and I wanted to put them right to work in true locavore style. My mom insisted that we open presents first, and then we moved all the wrapping paper out of the way to make two batches of fermented pickles, chop fruit for a peach-berry compote and make lavender goat milk ice-cream for birthday dessert. Of course I wore my new red apron and sassy birthday hat all the while.

Birthday Menu

Broccoli Soup, Broccoli Carpaccio

Roasted Carrots, Carrot-Honeycomb Puree, Carrot Chips, Carrot Top Agrodolce

Zucchini pasta and Meatball

Roasted Beets, Grilled Kale, Feta Dressing, Beet Top Pesto

Poached Salmon, Mashed Potatoes, Dill Aioli, Braised Greens

Turning 30 doesn’t feel particularly significant, but it was a wonderful and delicious day. Click below to view a slideshow of the day in pictures.


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Locavore Potluck on Tuesday August 13th: Eat local with us!

Today I found out that we actually got the ear of the much discussed SF Chronicle writer, and she published a response to readers regarding her story, which includes a direct link to our post. I’m not going to comment on her calculated response; I have said enough!

I do want to invite you to have dinner with us. It’s about time that we did this. We are hosting a community potluck and everyone is invited to break bread with us. We will also discuss the upcoming Farm to Table Dinner at the end of August,, so if you’d like to volunteer it would be wonderful to have you there.  Pick something up at the Farmers’ Market, or bring something from your garden. Be sure to check out the rules, so that your dish is “legal.”

We will have local sea salt, herbs, chili pepper, olive oil and apple cider vinegar on hand in case you need some help in the flavor department. This will be a casual event with good food, good people, and possibly a trouble-making baby goat. Families are welcome!

Eat Mendocino Potluck

Tuesday, August 13th, 6:30 – 8:00 pm

Location has been changed to the Mendocino Community Center on School Street in Mendocino.

What to bring? Anything and everything local!

Watercolor painting of the Noyo Food Forest


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An 8th grade English teacher made my week with this letter

My inner cup is flooded with joy and gratitude. What a week it has been. Beginning with the big article on Sunday, the week only got more momentous as it went on, which is hard to believe. Today’s major news is that I have negotiated a deal to expand the footprint of the Mendocino Farmers’ Market into a grassy field adjacent to the market, which will allow many new vendors to join with varied local products and will provide an open lawn where people can park their bikes and children can play and eat fresh strawberries. While at the market today, I got to visit with some of my favorite ladyfriends and felt so lucky to be part of something that is one of the last remaining forms of “the commons.” The farmers’ market is a truly beautiful hub of friendship, commerce and togetherness in a world where much of life can feel separate and fragmented. Also, these women and their squirrely kin are now the official models of the market!

FMladyfriends

Amidst the bustle, over 30 customers and farmers signed our postcards to Harvest Market, and I can’t wait to send all that local food love their way! I talked to a lot of people about the SF Chronicle article and was really moved by so many saying how much they appreciated the article, and to hear that organizations across the country have been sharing it to shine the light on Mendocino County’s outstanding local food efforts. This totally made up for all the late nights and keyboard weary wrists.

The real topper of this week, though, came unexpectedly. We received this message today from an eight grade English teacher in Fort Bragg:

Hi Sarah and Gowan,

I’m an 8th grade English teacher at Fort Bragg Middle School looking for some help. At the beginning of the school year we spend about 7 weeks reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and talking about food in the US. Towards the end of the book, Pollan writes about local, sustainable and do-it-yourself food. I was hoping that one of you, or both, might be interested in coming and speaking to my students toward the end of September-beginning of October.

Also, I plan on having my students complete some sort of multi-media project about farmers in Mendo County, and was wondering if you knew anyone who might be interested in being interviewed, photographed, etc. I have scheduled a few Farmers’ Market field trips so students can get pictures there, but I know when it’s busy, the last thing a farmer wants is to talk to silly 8th graders.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this – I hope we can work something out!

P.S. The recent SF Chronicle article, and your response, have now found their way into my curriculum!

This gave me goosebumps. And then I roasted a chicken to celebrate.

Roasted Free-Range Chicken

We have received a lot of invitations to speak at events or meet with school/community groups, and Gowan works with high school students every day at the Learning Garden in Fort Bragg. We know that education is a profoundly important part of the local food system and the schools are a natural link. But, this letter really got to me. First of all, I wish I had this teacher as an 8th grader. Lucky students. And I know the farmers will be really touched to have the next generation of eaters taking an interest in the farming life. Upon reading this, I could see all these different dots connecting at once and it finally registered that this project has reached new heights in impact and relevance, on an extremely meaningful scale.

The number of blog hits is only so important as to how many people actually give a damn. And, there are so many of you who do. You follow us daily (which is enough to make both of us blush.) You care enough to think in terms of miles when you look at your dinner plate, to ask questions, to talk about where your food comes from with your family or neighbors, to shop at the farmers’ markets even when it’s windy and foggy, to cook from scratch and to grow your own food… And, then there are some that try to make local food relevant (and even cool) to 8th graders – a tough audience at best. It’s totally goosebump-inducing.

To know that we have been able to elevate the discussion around local food, and to motivate others to create new relationships with food isn’t unforeseen, yet it’s still enough to make me take pause. Honestly, I would love to gather around the stove with Michael Pollan and writer from the SF Chronicle and make dinner and talk all night. In a way, that is what we’re doing. With different ingredients in different ways we are all cooking up the future of food.  Our story is making local food real and tangible right now, every day for our neighbors and people all around the country, and world. It’s so fricken’ cool (I am learning the names of new countries through our blog stats). It’s been a good week, and it’s not even over, yet. Now I need to sleep to get ready for a very full day at the Not So Simple Living Fair in Boonville tomorrow.


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Tell Harvest Market that you love local food!

Earlier this month, I was part of a groundbreaking meeting with the folks I love local foodat Harvest Market regarding the opening of a new local produce section at their Fort Bragg store. This is a really ambitious effort to work with many small local farms and get locally grown produce on the shelves. This will make local food a lot more accessible throughout the year, every day of the week.

Their goal is to launch soon, and I want them to know how much we – and you – love this plan. So, I created this little postcard for you to Print > Sign > Deliver. Change can be hard, and a little love always helps. Especially when it comes from customers who can’t wait to buy up all these local eats! So, click on the image, print it, write them a note in the empty space and sign your name, and drop it off in the comment box in the Fort Bragg or Mendocino stores.

I will also have a stack of postcards at my table at the Mendocino Farmers’ Market tomorrow from 12 – 2 pm, so stop by and pick one up.

Harvest Market Postcard


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Harvest Market forges the path to local food

Welcome to the first installment of the “Eat Mendocino Daily Report,” and the first day of the second half of this yearlong locavore adventure. There is no better way to start a Monday than with a hearty breakfast. I cooked up some breakfast potatoes and two of Gowan’s quail eggs, served with homemade yogurt. Quail eggs are adorable and delicious, but it takes a lot of these to fill a girl up. Eat Mendocino Monday Breakfast

Most homesteaders are experiencing egg abundance at this time of year and eating them with every meal. But, since I’m allergic to chicken eggs, and I have no alternative feathered fowl of my own, I have to import them.  I have run out of duck eggs, and sadly most of Gowan’s quail were killed by a skunk or raccoon recently. One of the complications of the carless life is transporting a few key ingredients from A to B, over long windy roads. I do most of my shopping at the Farmers’ Markets every week, but there are some missing items. The egg beacon is shining, and there will be a balance of power on the morning breakfast plate soon.

This afternoon I went to a monumental and exciting meeting with Harvest Market, our largest locally-owned grocer on the Mendocino Coast. The meeting had been initiated by owner Tom Honer who expressed an interest in getting more local produce on the shelves. This is basically a locavore’s dream come true. Today I sat down with these fantastic folks to talk about the nuts and bolts of making it happen. From left to right, Produce Buyer Jesse, Farm to Fork Coordinator Susan Lightfoot, and Manager Tim Bosma.

Harvest Market Meeting

We discussed the challenges to integrating locally sourced food into the grocery store and how to work strategically with farmers and consumers to carve out a niche for locally produced goods. The idea is to synchronize with the Farmers’ Markets and line it up so that farmers can make deliveries when they come to market. The hope is this expands into a year-round program. Main concerns were:

  • Keeping prices good for farmers, competitive on the shelves and not to compete with the Farmers’ Market
  • The need to feature the stories of the local farms and their products (especially rare and unusual produce items)
  • How to differentiate local produce from the two main existing categories in the market: Organic vs. Conventional – creating a whole new concept for the shopper.
  • Finding and sourcing products from local farms – we can certainly help with that since we have become food ninjas!
  • Signage to highlight local products
  • Creating a clear structure for local producers that walk them through what is required to sell to Harvest, learning from what other stores have done such as Ukiah Natural Foods Cooperative and the Westside Renaissance Market
  • Possible farmer demos to build direct relationships

This is a groundbreaking conversation that will establish a foundation for bringing a significant amount of locally-produced food on to the shelves at the grocery store. As a locavore, one of the greatest challenges is the lack of access to local food, and the outrageous inconvenience of having to buy things at many different locations, during very specific times of day. Plus, many Farmers’ Markets are seasonal and there are months where it is tremendously challenging to track down some local sustenance. Integrating the local food producers into our markets is an essential first step toward a local food economy that can work with our crazy lives.

As Susan said, we can use this opportunity to challenge the consumer to think about “local first.” Instead of going to the store with a list of exactly what you want, this is a chance to see what’s available and start there. This is how we have built every meal since January 1st, and it is no small feat, but it is part of shifting our mindset from what we want to seeing what we already have.

I am wildly excited about this burgeoning effort and highly optimistic that the right people are behind it to actually make it happen. This would be a great time to send love letters to Tom Honer and Tim Bosma and applaud their efforts. Of course, I promised that Gowan and I would be there waving our Eat Mendocino flag when they launch their new local food section, and bring all our fans with us.