Posts From December 2006
December 11, 2006
World-Class Restaurants Put Down New Roots
DECEMBER 7 2006, NAPA, CALIF.
Publication: USA Today
Napa continues to secure its place as a culinary destination with these hot eateries...
Have a look!
December 5, 2006
Heidi Swanson Book Announcment
December 4, 2006
In the February 2007 Ten Speed Press will publish the second book
by our talented and progressive friend, Heidi Swanson. This isn't
old material re-packaged. She's created an original we'll all want
on our reference shelves. In fact, if I were on your gift list, I'd be
glad to receive an IOU for this book.
To receive an e-vite to the party I'll host in her honor in Napa, send me a return e-mail indicating your interest.
68 Coombs Street, Ste. C
Napa, CA 94559
Mailing address: P.O. Box 670, Napa, CA 94559
VICTOR SCARGLE ON BOARD AT GO FISH
DECEMBER 4 2006, ST. HELENA, CALIF. - It's official. Wine Country comfort food maven Cindy Pawlcyn announced today that she has named 34-year-old Victor Scargle executive chef for her new Go Fish restaurant. Victor has been working with Cindy and her Go Fish team testing new recipes for two weeks now. On December 1st he formally took the reins.
A Northern California native, Victor says that simplicity, French technique and a passion for garden-related cooking define his style. At home in the kitchen from boyhood, he honed his talent at the stoves of: Aqua, the Grand Cafe, Jardiniere, TriBeCa Grill, Patria, and Pisces before moving to Napa in 2003 to assume the post of executive chef at Julia's Kitchen at COPIA. At COPIA, Victor and garden curator Jeff Dawson formed a seamless alliance between garden and kitchen. The two established a program that sourced 80 percent of the summer produce from the COPIA gardens and 60 percent the balance of the year.
Because of Cindy's well-established garden tradition at Mustards and now Go Fish, Victor looks forward to sustaining this practice. He hopes to expand the gardens and encourage diners to stroll through them before or after dining. "With Cindy, I believe I've found someone to work with who feels the way I do about food and about life," said Victor.
Go Fish has strong relationships with fishermen and fish purveyors that Victor hopes to enhance. He has a few producers he plans to introduce to the menu of meats. Among these are: Red Wattle Pork, Don Watson Farm Lamb and Liberty Farm Duck (Jim Reichert.) In essence, he looks forward to bolstering an already successful team with the skill and esprit de corps that have earned him respect in each of his previous positions.
Victor makes his home in Napa with his wife, Kimberly, who works for the Napa Conference and Visitor's Center, and their 16-month-old son, Camerone.
Editor's Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or
December 1, 2006
Thanksgiving's Moveable Feast
By CORBY KUMMER
A RECENT article in the Montreal newspaper La Presse quoted growers as claiming that within a few years Canada would be a larger producer of cranberries than New England.
That the article was written in French only pointed up the hurtfulness of the boast. Canada is already the biggest harvester of lobster, that other quintessential symbol of New England - even if the Pilgrims regarded it as little more than trash fish, unworthy of a place of honor at the original Thanksgiving table (the only sure items at which were deer and wildfowl, according to Kathleen Curtin and Sandra Oliver's "Giving Thanks"). Bad enough already that Wisconsin produces more cranberries than Massachusetts. Must we cede to Canada those too-tart, hard-to-love, health-giving remnants of a time when New England agriculture had national significance?
Well, yes. Cranberries and any number of Thanksgiving Day staples are probably headed north thanks to global warming, as Dr. Paul Epstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, told me recently. Dr. Epstein looks at the future, and it's not so hot for native foods, or at least not for those that grow in the United States.
The present isn't so great either. Many problems for food crops, Dr. Epstein said, are "nonlinear," meaning that we don't have to wait for permanent flooding of the Cape Cod cranberry bogs and the disappearance of expensive coastline. Long before that, salinization of groundwater from rising sea levels could make the bogs inhospitable to freshwater crops.
If you're one of those who puts cranberries and whole oranges into the food processor for foolproof homemade cranberry sauce, you can be confident that you'll still have access to United States-grown oranges, even if they don't come from storm-crossed Florida. The United States Department of Agriculture last month predicted that Florida, the country's largest citrus producer, would have its smallest crop in more than 17 years, because of recent hurricanes and hot weather. Soon enough Georgia might be changing the names of all its Peachtree Streets to Orange Groves.
The crust for your pie might principally be coming from Canada - in the same report, the Agriculture Department predicted a drop in wheat production, also because of weather - and the pecans for the filling could come from, say, the Appalachian forests of Virginia and Pennsylvania as they start to resemble sere Texas more than the rainy Eastern seaboard. Forests are in trouble, as snowpacks melt and stop nourishing them, and insect-deterring resin under pine bark dries up, leaving trees vulnerable to bark beetles, which now stay the winter, thanks to newly hospitable climes.
Sorry about the native chestnut, now making such a promising comeback in those Appalachian forests after decades of breeding with blight-resistant varieties to recreate an almost all-American strain. American chestnuts have a lovely, soft, floury texture - perfect for stuffing - and a sweet, delicate flavor. It'll be back to Chinese chestnuts, the mealy, low-flavor kind - unless you are able to find a source for Italian and French chestnuts, the ones with real flavor, and are willing to pay premium prices for them. But don't worry about the cost: they're probably doomed too.
Same for the pumpkin for the pie and the string beans for the canned-onion-ring casserole, as opportunistic weeds and pests move into disrupted climate areas and wreak havoc with growing cycles and yields.
Most of these scenarios are fanciful, perhaps decades or even centuries away. But North American agriculture is being affected today, for reasons that don't get much attention. Winter and nighttime temperatures are going up twice as fast as overall global warming, making for prolonged growing seasons and heat that can give pests a foothold. Higher carbon-dioxide concentrations stimulate the growth of weeds, and result in higher carbohydrate-to-nitrogen ratios in plants, making insects devour more plant material to get protein-building nitrogen. Damage to crops from weather extremes, aggressive weeds and voracious pests is a fact of the present.
While we worry about our agriculture moving north or out, we often lose track of the real losers in the game of agricultural checkers - Africa and South America, where droughts give rise to locusts and aphids and white flies, which in South America are injecting viruses into staple crops like beans and tomatoes.
To the rescue come genetically modified seeds that resist drought and ever-more-voracious pests, and countries less squeamish than we about using them and the herbicides the crops will still need. (Namby-pamby organic standards will be a thing of the past, or relevant only for those even richer than consumers who can afford to support them today.) Let's hope that we have plentiful, side-effect-free drugs to counter the carcinogenic effects of increased pesticide residue. And that we can enact and enforce international food-safety regulations that will keep confined animals away from lettuce processors, so we don't get the everything-green panic that seemed certain to follow the spinach panic of last summer.
Politically correct food is one thing (and a good thing). Global-warming-altered food is another, and a concept to add to our worry list. Thanksgiving, that most food-centered and nationalistic of holidays, might be a time to think again about how food is being grown where you live and what you can do about it. You might even dip a finger into environmental advocacy - after, of course, buying a share in a community-supported agriculture farm near you, to help a local farmer get through one more long, income-free winter.
You could start by giving thanks that you can still buy Cape Cod (and, O.K., Wisconsin) cranberries, Florida oranges and the last of the season's romano green beans, the wide, meaty kind that seem to give a final burst of sweetness before giving up to hard frost. And that you have the reliable sweetness of buttercup and banana squash to look forward to all winter. . .
Oops! Forgot about maple syrup for the squash. Well, we like our Canadian friends, don't we? Enough to give them a monopoly when New England warms up? Be sure to look for grade B, the darker kind that makes any gathering truly sweet and adds character besides. Maybe enough, along with a sugar rush, to give those gathered new environmental resolve.
Corby Kummer, a senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly, is the author of "The Pleasures of Slow Food."
Guggenheim Study Suggests Arts Education Benefits Literacy Skills
By RANDY KENNEDY
The New York Times - July 27, 2006
In an era of widespread cuts in public-school art programs, the question has become increasingly relevant: does learning about paintings and sculpture help children become better students in other areas?
A study to be released today by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum suggests that it does, citing improvements in a range of literacy skills among students who took part in a program in which the Guggenheim sends artists into schools. The study, now in its second year, interviewed hundreds of New York City third graders, some of whom had participated in the Guggenheim program, called Learning Through Art, and others who did not.
The study found that students in the program performed better in six categories of literacy and critical thinking skills - including thorough description, hypothesizing and reasoning - than did students who were not in the program. The children were assessed as they discussed a passage in a children's book, Cynthia Kadohata's "Kira-Kira," and a painting by Arshile Gorky, "The Artist and His Mother."
The results of the study, which are to be presented today and tomorrow at a conference at the Guggenheim, are likely to stimulate debate at a time when the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind has led schools to increase class time spent on math and reading significantly, often at the expense of other subjects, including art.
Yet the study also found that the program did not help improve students' scores on the city's standardized English language arts test, a result that the study's creators said they could not fully explain. They suggested that the disparity might be related to the fact that the standardized test is written while the study's interviews were oral.
"We purposely chose to have students talk to us instead of writing because we thought they would show language skills, not purely reading and writing skills," said Johanna Jones, a senior associate with Randi Korn and Associates, a museum research company conducting the study over three years with a $640,000 grant from the federal Department of Education.
Ms. Jones said that the study, which graded students' responses as they talked about the painting and the passage from the book, found essentially the same results during the 2005-6 school year as it did during the 2004-5 school year. "We really held our breath waiting for this year's results, and they turned out to almost exactly the same - which means that last year's don't seem to have been an anomaly," she said. "That's a big deal in this world."
While it is unknown exactly how learning about art helps literacy skills, she said, "the hypothesis is that the use of both talking about art and using inquiry to help students tease apart the meaning of paintings helps them learn how to tease apart the meanings of texts, too. They apply those skills to reading."
The categories of literacy and critical thinking skills were devised by the research company with the help of a group of advisers from Columbia University, New York University and the city's Department of Education, among other institutions.
The Guggenheim program, originally called Learning to Read Through the Arts, was created by a museum trustee in 1970, when New York schools were cutting art and music programs. Since it began, it has involved more than 130,000 students in dozens of public schools. The museum dispatches artists who spend one day a week at schools over a 10- or 20-week period helping students and teachers learn about and make art. Groups of students are also taken to the Guggenheim to see exhibitions.
Officials at the Guggenheim said they hoped the study would give ammunition to educators in schools and museums around the country who are seeking more money and classroom time for arts education.
"Basically, this study is a major contribution to the field of art and museum education," said Kim Kanatani, the Guggenheim's director of education. "We think it confirms what we as museum education professionals have intuitively known but haven't ever had the resources to prove."
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company