Blue Hill at Stone Barns invited me to come up and visit the place. They said they’d happily send a car for me. It’s not the most environmentally sound way to get up to the historic former dairy farm near Tarrytown, but I agreed to it anyway.
Kari Naegler, who works on the food at Whole Foods’ Bowery location, was going too, and we live in the same neighborhood, so they sent the same car for both of us. That’s more environmentally sound, and it also made for a nice ride, because Kari’s cool and smart and told me that her store has keitan sushi. I had no idea (since my job involves eating in restaurants a lot, I have little need for supermarkets). We agreed on many things, such as the silliness of switching to dark chocolate because you think it’s better for you than milk chocolate. It’s chocolate; it contains high levels of sugar and fat. That’s okay because it’s delicious, but eat it because it’s delicious.
I didn’t realize I was going to Stone Barns to get a sales pitch about the facility’s classes on sustainable cooking, which it’s doing in conjunction with the French Culinary Institute, but I still enjoyed touring the farm and hanging out with Kari and Megan Steintrager (formerly of Restaurant Business, now of Epicurious). We were taken on a tour of the green house, and we got to see the pigs running around at what looked like a campsite. Sheep were baah-ing in a nearby meadow. Wild turkeys were wandering around.
Helping to lead our tour was Gabrielle Langholtz from the Greenmarket, which, in case you don’t live in New York, is the network of farmers markets in New York City. I’d never met her before, but I’d spoken to her once to complain about my local Greenmarket, the Grand Army Plaza one, which I have suspected more than once of giving us their leftovers because they know that my neighbors in Park Slope have so bought in to the whole movement that they’ll buy whatever garbage a farmer hands to them. That’s the only way I can explain the fact that at the height of strawberry season I’ve bought strawberries that tasted like golf balls. The poor quality of some of the produce — and the fact that apples are for sale year-round at all of the greenmarkets — I think does a disservice to the notion of local produce, which really ought to taste better than anything else. But of course if you keep an apple in cold storage for months it doesn’t matter where it came from.
My rant went something like that when I called her some years ago. For the record, this year I’ve had extraordinary strawberries from my Greenmarket, and I’ve never bought a bad grape there (no, they’re not in season yet, but Gabrielle says the first apples that actually are in season have arrived).
Anyway, I tried not to give Gabrielle too hard a time, because I liked her on the phone, I liked her better in person, and I think that farm-fresh food is a great idea. However I did point out that the tag on the canvas bag I’d been handed at the Greenmarket yesterday, when I bought some red and black currants, had an inaccuracy. The tag, with the unfortunately self-righteous slogan “Saving the world one bag at a time,” was printed with explanations on how plastic bags are bad for the environment. One of the bullet points said that paper doesn’t biodegrade in landfills, which of course it does. It takes awhile, but it does. I’m pretty sure they meant to type “plastic” instead of “paper.”
I mean, if you’re going to be self-righteous, find a decent proof reader. It’s a drag when you try to save the world through education and then fail to provide accurate information.
Anyway, I lunched with Megan and Kari on salad, which I think was $12.95 a pound, and then Kari and I were taken back home. We dropped Megan off at the Tarrytown train station.