Finishing the year with sweetness

In recent weeks we've been buzzing about our newest Local Hiver, NerdHaven Farms. NerdHaven Farms is the quintessential backyard farm in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles. It doubles as a bakery/confectionery/laboratory for cottage food operator and fellow Master Food Preserver, Diane Trunk. You may have sampled her products at a YLH popup, workshop, or event. We thought it was time to officially congratulate her on receiving her cottage food permit. Thanks to the California Homemade Food Act, she was granted her permit last month, and not a moment too soon!

At this urban farm, the family raises chickens, grows lavender, and lovingly tends to their fruit orchard and herb garden. Diane's palette of goodies is as diverse as her urban farm. Using mostly what she finds outside her kitchen door for inspiration, she creates fig and maple vinegars, pear, apple butter, rosemary-thyme mustard, persimmon chocolate breads and cranberry nut cakes, among other things. 

We have been giddy with anticipation for the day when we could bring you NerdHaven Farm specialties. You've heard it before, but we can't stop saying it, we love, love, love her soft Lavender Sea-Salt and Chai Caramels for their delightfully warm flavors, that leave out the corn syrup, and instead use honey from a local beekeeper. Since introducing them at popups, we've had a hard time keeping them on our mobile shelves. Make sure you stop by an event or two and get yourself a beautifully packaged box of caramels to savor with friends and family.

In the new year look for additional divine creations in the YLH assortment from Nerdhaven Farms!

A Reawakening at the Heirloom Seed Expo

September took us to the Heirloom Seed Expo in Santa Rosa, now in its 3rd year, and already established as one of the most respected and also awe inspiring food and farming conferences during the year. Farmers, artisan producers, food activists, seed savers, weavers, micro coffee roasters, 4H Clubbers and chefs all gather for 4 days of speakers, artisan and farmer trade shows, animal and vegetable competitions, delicious, organic food trucks and nonstop foot-stomping, jumping and jiving music. 

I also had the opportunity to stop in at the Seed Bank in Petaluma where Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. (also the sponsors of the Heirloom Seed Expo), has set up shop in an old downtown Petaluma bank, selling seeds, tools, farm and gardening books and artisan crafted foods. Great to see the business thriving! From there, I met Sow Swell  founder, Sian Seligman, and husband Todd, at Della Fattoria for a big hunk of Meyer Lemon Rosemary bread, their freshly made blackberry jam, and big bowls of coffee. Hadn’t been there in 5 years, and everything seemed to have gotten more delicious since then! From Petaluma, I made my way to Davis to stay with cousin, Sarah, who has started with her brother Tim, the rage popsicle business in NorCal, Popnation, working solely with local farmers for their fruits and herbs, and selling to co-ops and specialty stores while blanketing the streets of San Francisco and Davis with their mini ice cream trucks. 

Of course, I had to make a quick stop at the Collins Family farm in Davis, to taste their new figs they'll be using in their holiday jams this year. Can't wait to start selling those! I also visited our friends at Eatwell Farm in Dixon to pick up more organic Meyer Lemon, Rosemary, Lavender and Heirloom Tomato salts. I am all stocked up.

It was a very short week, but an intense and exciting one, reawakening in me the exhilaration of witnessing local, sustainable food production, from the ground up.

 

Introducing The Humble Cup

Yesterday I met with Leo Li and his new partner, Sonny Mediana, at Sonny’s recently opened coffee house, Taza, near the Santa Anita racetrack and down the street from the Arboretum in Arcadia. Leo and Sonny have just created The Humble Cup, which Your Local Hive will be launching on July 21st at our Donut Making & Coffee Brewing Workshop. Leo is a Q coffee grader, a barista at Cognoscenti in Culver, and in his spare time inspects coffee farms, coaches barista competitions, consults start-up coffee shops, and is now roasting his own micro lots of coffee. The Humble Cup is taking Leo’s expertise, choosing beans from small farms in Ethiopia, Colombia, Indonesia or Costa Rica, micro roasting the beans, and sealing them in mini vacuum packets, the size of instant cocoa. Each packet comes with a paper filter designed and copyrighted in Japan. Humble Cup packets are ready to rip open and are equipped with everything you need to create your own perfect pour-over! Seems like a brilliant invention for any number of coffee fanatics on the go; working in an office, camping in the Sequoias, out in your garden, driving up the coast, or away on business, or anywhere you might find yourself stranded without a decent cup of joe. The Humble Cup is not your Sanka of the past; its coffee that tastes so good, its as if it has just been ground in front of you, with notes of nutty, caramel, citrus, sweet, chocolate or hints of blueberry; everything we’ve grown accustomed to in our daily coffees! 

The Humble Cup Leo made me today had many of those tastes, and was a perfect cup; not too watery, not too bitter, and just as perfect as the Americanos he makes for me at Cognoscenti. I must admit though, the coffee tasting experience was also fully enhanced by the multi berry lightly glazed brioche donut, the three of us shared from Donut Snob, that Taza sells on weekdays.  OMG.  It's rare that I eat a donut, but these really got me ready and excited for Clémence and Malcolm Gossett next week! Guess I'll just have to pedal more miles!

Here are a few photos of Leo and Sonny in Taza with The Humble cup, and then, of our celebratory lunch at 101 Noodles afterward.  A great way to discover the local hive of Arcadia!!

 

Rich in Vegetables at the 24th Street School Garden

In 2007, I was asked to join the Garden School Foundation Board, which manages the 24th Street School Garden, a ¾ acre LAUSD elementary school garden in the West Adams district of Los Angeles.  The garden had been in existence for close to 3 years and had turned an acre of hot sizzling blacktop, up for resurfacing, where the children used to play and faculty park their cars, into a growing, teaching garden for this underserved community and underachieved student population. Since then, the garden has been growing, growing, growing into a vibrant, vital curriculum-based teaching center, and now, footprint for 4 new upcoming school garden sites. 

Laurie Dill teaching 5th graders how to grow and cook with herbs at the 24th Street Garden classroom

Laurie Dill teaching 5th graders how to grow and cook with herbs at the 24th Street Garden classroom

Progress has been slow, gradual, but steady, and with a dedicated board, passionate Director, and her creative paid and voluntary staff on the ground, GSF seems to be exploding and advancing toward its goal of “providing an interdisciplinary program of education through garden based learning in outdoor living classrooms”

The tagline has always been:  “turning asphalt into ecosystems” and the standards based lessons and cooking classes have been brilliant in giving these often, underserved and underprovided for kids, those tools.

In 2008, I had the opportunity to develop the “Herb Project” there, with Nat Zappia, who was then Director, and is now on our GSF board.  We led a selection of the top, most motivated 5th graders, in a program of learning, through the study of herbs; building raised beds, planting and growing seedlings and seeds, studying herb origins and botanical names, cooking and creating recipes and then, sitting down together at a set table to share in the bounty of their labors and lessons. 

Each child was given a journal at the beginning of the session, without which they couldn’t attend the class, and they were required to record botanical names and observed notes from our plant discovery throughout the year, while taping herb cuttings on each page for identification and “study”.  I brought in Restaurant and Bakery owners who were clients of mine, to talk about the food on their menu, the life of a restaurateur and the business of food.  We grew and studied the herbs of each restaurant and “sold” them at the end of the year, in exchanges for goodies from their restaurant and bakery fare.  I gave them packaging classes where they created designs and packaging for the herbs that they were growing, so they would be “marketable” to their customers.  I brought in local artisan foods for them to see and taste and become inspired by in their creativity.  They were on fire with creativity!

They took home plastic buckets to bring back, with kitchen scraps, to fuel the garden’s compost pile, and conversations around nutrition and what’s on the table at night and for breakfast.

At the end of each Herb Project session, I would set a beautiful table in front of the shed in the garden, with cotton tablecloth and napkins, colored plastic cups and silverware, ball jars filled with garden flowers and baskets of fresh pastry from one of my clients.  We would all cook together at the opposite outdoor table, making herbed scrambled eggs and herbed sautéed potatoes for our meal and for showing off their egg cracking skills what they’d grown in the garden.

Invariably, each time, when napkins were placed on laps and students waiting eagerly for their garden breakfast meal, one of them would blurt out, “this is just like the rich; like the rich in a restaurant”; I would then say, “isn’t it great that we don’t have to be rich to eat this way? That we ARE rich; rich in food and ourselves?” And another student would always shout out, “we are rich, we are rich, we are rich in vegetables”.

Now the classes in the garden teach every student in the school and give them cooking, botany, science and math, literature, spelling and simple garden pleasures backed with lessons in food security and environmental awareness.  And they are learning with joy, and they feel rich!

 

The People of the YLH Popup Store

One of the most exciting aspects of creating a neighborhood popup store in a hip, but exacting coffee shop in Culver City, CA is the gathering or passing by, of the most interesting, diverse and eclectic group of people. Architects, tech folks, furniture designers, coffee fanatics, eaters, food foragers, like me; world citizens, all curious about delicious, beautiful, local food and the stories behind them. Most visitors arrive at Cognoscenti Coffee shop in search of the best coffee in LA, a different method of brewing it, or the nuance of the milk to the espresso taste in a bistro glass “cup”. 

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting an artist of Dutch and Indonesian descent who creates installation pieces and has written a theses around the curiosity and unfamiliarity of food, while teaching photography in one of the city colleges. And later the same day a young woman whose mother is Japanese and father Algerian, about to marry a musician and performance artist with a Mexican mother, and Egyptian father. Then there was the older Angeleno couple who float between LA and Florence, cooking, eating and writing cookbooks in between. I love meeting everyone!

Thursdays' popups often turn into an after hours dinner party of friends and neighbors drinking Martian Winery Grenache Blanc and fabulous Egyptian style beer from our friends up the street at Bar & Garden, along with takeout Hollywood Pies or Annapurna paneers. Saturdays bring in new Culver neighbors throughout the day, seeking out their perfect Cognoscenti cappuccino or single origin pour over. I always look forward to my next popup and the people I will meet.

 

After hours at Your Local Hive neighborhood popup store

After hours at Your Local Hive neighborhood popup store

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