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Category Archives: Friends and Farms

Joining the Fresh Revolution

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I have been pretty vocal about missing Friends and Farms. They were like a second family. I loved the concept, the execution, and the amazing vendors. I know that Phil is trying to establish a buying club, for meat and seafood. We have been early adopters, so to speak. Buying some lovely seafood for the Thanksgiving holidays.

We got another email today. To order meat, poultry and seafood for Christmas and New Year’s. Really awesome stuff for a very good price. A couple of pick up options or a delivery to home choice (but you have to be home to accept).

Link is here. Hope it works.

You could also email Phil to get added. His email is phil.freshrevo@gmail.com and he would love to add you to his growing list of people who loved what we received from the suppliers like Nell’s Butcher and Reliant Seafood.

In January they are holding a meeting to see if we can make this buying club permanent. There will be more information on the blog next month, but the meeting will be at St. Agnes in Catonsville.

If you would like to join us, we would love to expand the audience for locally processed proteins. And no, I get no monetary or complimentary perks from this. I just want to see it succeed, so I can continue to get quality foods from local vendors.

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Filling the Freezer …

… and the fridge, and the pantry. Fall is the season where my nesting instincts kick in. Where I put away preparations to carry us through the winter. Where I stock up on seafood, meat, and in house processed stock items to cook over the winter.

Today’s CSA was one of those major contributors.

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Yeah, there’s a large amount of stuff here that will be cooked and put away. Soup fixings. Staples. Root vegetables (which last for a very long time). The Thanksgiving week delivery is always like that. Including the “extra” that every CSA member got this week.

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The behemoth butternut squash. This time. Nine pounds. The smallest I could find in the bulk bin at the pick up site. This baby will make a pie or two. Maybe some bread. Maybe a reprise of my really excellent squash lasagna.

Add to that, the Fresh Revolution has arrived. Rising from the ashes of Friends and Farms, a small group of dedicated locavores builds the new version of a cooperative food buying club. We started with turkeys last weekend and seafood today.

I got salmon, shrimp, smoked salmon and scallops. The scallops were so good, they were dinner tonight.

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Cooked in brown butter.

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Anyone interested in joining us can email and be added to our mailing list. Let me know in the comments and I will add the email. For Christmas they will be offering meat and seafood to add to your freezer.

In Search Of

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Replacements. For my favorite restaurant and favorite food source.

I was pretty shocked and, for lack of a better word, bummed, when Bistro Blanc closed. It was our “Cheers”. Our local bar, where we could order a burger and a bottle of good red wine, not expensive. We could sit and chat with the locals. We could banter with the bartenders and the owner.

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We celebrated many special occasions there. My husband’s 65th birthday, with all the trimmings. Prepared to what I wanted, by Chef Diego. Paired with wines from my cellar. Surrounded by close friends.

I really hope Raj finds a new home soon, and opens again. But it won’t be walking distance from my home, like the old location.

Then, another hit.

Friends and Farms ceased operations. That was a real blow to us. We have been customers for 30 of their 46 months of operation. Phil and Tim created a friendly family style business. Personal service. Care for the customers. Some of the best meat and seafood we could buy.

I miss them greatly. That weekly visit to tease the staff, and pick up their specials. And my staples.

I know I won’t find another one stop shop to fill that gap.

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We did visit Local Homestead Products in New Windsor yesterday. They could satisfy my local cheese, dairy, egg and meat requirements. But not the seafood.

I have been buying at Annapolis Seafood when visiting my mom in her senior apartment. Good stuff there, but not the same as that freshly prepared fish from Reliant, that Friends and Farms provided.

Homestead sells beef, chicken, pork, lamb and goat. Once I work my way through my freezer, they may be my go-to source for meat. They also sell Pequea Valley yogurt, Shepherd’s Manor Sheep Cheese. Trickling Springs dairy. All sort of eggs, including quail eggs.

Yesterday we picked up some sausage, wax beans and ice cream. Just to try them out, and establish a baseline.

Those other really great products from Friends and Farms. Like the peanuts, the rice, the tomato puree, things we enjoyed and bought regularly. Now, back to markets and farms. No longer a one stop shop.

Why is it that we don’t support local businesses? Chains stay around, while good small businesses struggle. I suppose cheap does beat out quality around here.

Needless to say, it is sad we can’t keep the small places in business.

The rumor here. Dunkin Donuts will go in where Bistro Blanc was located. Great. Another chain to hurt K9 and Coffee next door to it.

An All American Dinner …

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… on an All American holiday.

Fourth of July. One of my favorite holidays. Mainly, because we relax. We grill. We watch the illegal fireworks out here in west county.

So, what did we do this year, in the cold, dreary, rainy weather?

We still cooked a meal using mostly local ingredients, and a local wine. But, we couldn’t easily grill. Besides, it was too damp and miserable to stand out there and grill.

We started with a local flair on the classic gin and tonic.

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Made with Catoctin Creek Gin. A fairly local distillery in northern Virginia. By the way, their rye is awesome for a classic Manhattan.

The last steaks from Friends and Farms, who unfortunately went out of business last month. Leaving us to scramble for a new source of outstanding meat and seafood at reasonable prices. More on that in a later post.

As for the side dish, enter my zucchini.

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Yes, friends, lock your car doors. It is zucchini season. We have zucchini many days of every week. This was simple. Baked with my onions and a can of diced tomatoes (I am finally out of tomatoes in the freezer). Served over Pappardelle’s pasta, picked up at Casual Gourmet.

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Highlight of this meal, the wine.

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Another Virginia product. This one a keeper. 2009 was an excellent summer here in the midAtlantic. Hot, mostly dry. Perfect for red wines. RdV is the best of Virginia. This bottle, bought at Bistro Blanc the night before they closed (what is it with my favorite places closing this year?), it was big, bold, a baby. It needs more time to develop.

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The meal?

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Pan fry the steaks. Add some steak sauce. Serve the zucchini-tomato-onion bake over the pasta. Open wine. Celebrate the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Regional and Seasonal

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Blurring those lines again.

And making decisions that give people more options for good food. While keeping their businesses profitable.

The old Community Supported Agriculture model used one or two farms, without all sorts of add on options. It was great in good years. Not so great when flooding, or drought, or extreme heat or cold, impacted the yields. We see now how two of our major food sources have expanded their horizons and brought in farms from farther away.

I can hear it now. “but it’s not local. Not from our state(county)”. Maryland is a very tiny state. 42nd in terms of area. You know, if we lived in Texas, we could be more territorial. Just for fun, I put my map on my iPad over the state of Texas. Moved the view to Maryland. I could make it all the way to SC if I put MD on top. Or all the way to upstate NY if we were on the southern edge of the page.

Thinking regionally is a good thing. It gives us access to fresh food from a surrounding area that may not have had all the rain we did.

Cast in point. Our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh is bringing food in for their wholesale business from farms south of us. When they need to meet demand in the CSA, they occasionally use that wholesale produce for our boxes.

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Like these collards last winter.

If you want a sense of what drives these decisions, read this interview with our CSA founder Casey Specht.

The refinement of our CSA model into a full service food delivery system is a remarkable journey in seven years.

Then, take a look at what Friends and Farms is doing. And excerpt from our latest newsletter. Phil’s Farm Field Trip

“With 14 days of rain in a row and little relief in sight, we decided to send Philip on an expedition to find both sun and spring produce among his many friends in the Carolinas. He finally encountered the sun in Newton Grove, NC, and the produce was not far behind. Burch Farms in Faison was busy at work harvesting leafy greens and a little further down the road, strawberry harvest was just wrapping up. But the real purpose of the trip was a little further South at the Farm of Chalmers Carr where the season’s first peaches were being harvested. Because our local harvest was decimated by the late winter storm, we are asking Mr. Carr to start shipping peaches to us within the week. We know it is early, but we can’t risk a “peach-less” summer. To top the trip off, Philip stopped by the Pine Ridge pecan orchard to visit what we hope will be a bountiful fall harvest of paper shell pecans. So far, so good!”

I can’t wait to order those pecans.

I have done quite a bit of my shopping from them, in addition to getting my protein and dairy bag. Just this past week.

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Checking out the refrigerated items. Picking up my favorite yogurt. A few cheeses. Not to mention the butter I normally buy from there, Trickling Springs butter. I do love how our food services add so many items from small farms and vendors to their inventory.

Food Safety

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Raise your hand if you were one of the millions contacted that you had bought possible listeria contaminated foods. That would include me. The ORGANIC edamame from COSTCO. Bought in 2014. Yep, it took two years for them to figure out they had a problem.

And people wonder why I stopped buying as much processed food. Why I run from my CSA to Friends and Farms to get most of the basic food we cook and eat. Why I do pick your own farm food, and process it myself.

We have seen three different recalls in May. CRF frozen vegetables and fruits from everywhere, it seems. Rice from Trader Joes and “pictfresh” veggies at Harris Teeter. Nature’s Promise at Giant Food. Around here these stores provide most of the pwople who live in the area with their weekly groceries.

I wonder why we have all these regulations driving our small local farmers crazy, while we allow mega producers to go TWO YEARS with possibly contaminated food.

Thankfully, that edamame didn’t make us sick. And, we haven’t bought grocery store frozen food in quite a while.

I have become convinced that the closer we remain to the source of our food, the better we have it. Since that “organic” label isn’t a guarantee that you get better quality, I think I will rely on knowing where my food originates.

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The Amish cooperative that gives us much of our food has that motto. Along with this philosophy.

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If we support our local farms and farmers, who feed their families with the same food they sell us, we wouldn’t have to worry about the industrial processing which may or may not contaminate our food.

It’s not as easy to take time to buy from small farms and producers, but at least you have a face to match to the food you buy.

Join a CSA if you want to take more control of the vegetables you get. Find a local meat producer to have fresher meat without hormones, antibiotics or questionable handling. Pick your own, at places like Larriland.

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And, by all means, don’t just assume because it’s organic, that it’s better. Farms around here take great care in growing food without undue use of harmful pesticides. They are an affordable alternative to mega-company organic stuff that costs more without being any better.

Mother’s Day Weekend

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Interesting and exciting things to do with mom.

Want to do something new? Not just that breakfast in bed thing?

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Look enticing? A Mother’s Day tea and scones social with the bonus of garden tours. At the Howard County Conservancy this Saturday. Sign up is here.

Or, a Sunday visit to a working farm. With an opportunity to make a flower arrangement, and take a hayride, and also, bring a picnic for the family. At Sharp’s Farm.

I suggest making this simple salad for mom, and bringing it to a picnic wherever you can.

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This salad is simple. Arugula. Marcona almonds. Strawberries. Berry vinaigrette. Pepper. The vinaigrette is from Breezy Willow. Arugula and strawberries from my Friends and Farms baskets. Almonds, Costco.

For other options to visit, there is always Brighton Dam, for the azalea gardens.

Or, the Sheep and Wool Festival. The largest we have heard of. We have to brave the traffic and visit the festival on Sunday.

Don’t just settle for a boring breakfast or brunch. Get out there and support local businesses and give mom something different.