I spend both Saturday and Sunday at the Good Food Festival and Conference in Santa Monica this weekend at the invitation of Susan Haymer. Huge thanks to her! Every single person I spoke with, from people raising milk goats and selling the cheese to a couple that were rescuing bee hives and harvesting and selling the honey, was intrigued by our Co-op and quickly understood how it can be incorporated into any community. Because we are not competing with the people selling their artisan preserves, as we don’t sell our products, and we are only sharing what we are growing, unlike Community Supported Agriculture, we are no threat to anyone. And the phrase that made everybody stop was ‘we are creating an alternative economy for sustainable living’. The organic, economical and environmentally conscious parts just naturally follow! A couple of students from Santa Monica High were really interested in the Co-op model, but I just had to show you their cute vests, or what to do with those nasty plastic 6 pack can holders and straws:
About a half dozen food trucks were there, but I found myself staring at the Cool Haus menu because – wouldn’t some of these be interesting preserve ideas? Blackberry ginger? There used to be quite a few blackberry bushes in the Hollywood Hills, on Woodrow Wilson and La Castana in particular, and when my boys were little we would go berry picking. Most have been removed, but I am on a new search now.
Several culinary celebrities were there doing cooking demos. Nathan Lyon was emcee’ing, so we had a chat and he is pro- Co-op now. It was great to watch Nancy Silverton (Osteria Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza) put together a group of three salads and hear her views on olive oil and cheese, but I will share with you her Big Tip. Not find a perfect knife, which I expected, but ‘find a spoon you love.‘ She has a metal spoon found years ago in the Paris flea market, and she carries it with her. And truly, you use a spoon all the time, it does have to feel just right in your hand. I was so looking forward to seeing Evan Kleiman (Angelli Cafe) bake a pie, as I am a devoted listener to KCRW’s Good Food and I have followed her Pie a Day with interest. So naturally I was right there to sample a taste of the pie she made, with fresh cherry tomatoes. But what a shock, the crust was thick and gluey in the center, with no toasty flavor or flaky bits, and the cherry tomatoes simply provided a squirt of hot acidic juice. Disappointment. I expected so much more, and was hoping for guidance in that area as pie crusts are my weakest dish. I have to see her again, because I know this must have been a fluke, she is just too brilliant. Cooking right next to her was Sang Yoon of Father’s Office and Lukshon, and he is mesmerizing, funny, insightful, and works in creative flashes. His sauce was sheer brilliance.
There were some very tasty things there, and I did sample everyone’s preserves. Interestingly, I did find one woman in Malibu who makes her marmalades in a very similar way to me, that is, she uses the pectin found in the seeds, membranes and pith rather than commercial pectin. Her label is Wallace Comestibles, and her preserves are intensely fruity and perfectly balanced. I also met the people who developed the mole recipes for San Angel Mole, and their black mole in particular was intriguingly nuanced with layer after layer of flavor, never overwhelmed by chili and with that tantalizing chocolate base. But one product really stood out for me, and I think it was the single best thing I tasted at the entire Conference: Hell Fire Pepper Jelly made by Jenkins Jellies. Ms. Jenkins lives in the Mt. Washington area and grows some peppers in her yard, both sweet and hot. She came up with a mixture of seven different peppers in this jelly, and it is just the right amount of heat with loads of aromatic flavor. She does use a simple base of commercial pectin and sugar, but her jelly has lovely colorful bits of peppers to give it color. But here is the genius, pictured: a friend of hers made mini-beignets (or doughnut holes) and filled them with a dab of the jelly. Wow! And I am not a chili-head or a doughnut person, but these were somehow both and neither. They disappeared nearly instantly!
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