Met Derek Denckla : www.thegreenest.net at Chavalla's, satisfying a craving for their black bean soup (which I usually pair with ceviche de camarones... but didn't this time as Deena's admonishments against the shrimping industry are lodged in my brain... hey, what about the poor shrimpers livelihood?) Derek's asked us to blog about our process developing the apres farm tour pickling party we're doing as part of Farm City; part of the Crossing the Line festival (http://www.fiaf.org/events/fall2010/2010-crossing-the-line.shtml) We'll be feeding around 120 folks using produce and eggs from brooklyn farms, and we'll guide them to make refrigerator pickles to take home as a souvenir. I think, rather than buying canning jars I'm gonna start collecting and recycling nice jars with lids, so save me any good ones!

Over lunch we wrestled with how pure Communal Table should to be about using locally sourced ingredients... when we catered the FI:FA press launch- we used ALL local, but spent so much time foraging all over bklyn and paying top dollar for ingredients: we barely broke-even. This is a constant dilemma: how to not go broke while embracing urban agricultural and locally based artisanal product? For Farm City we're thinking of a ratio: 60/40-ish, positioning bklyn products and produce where they'll really make a difference- but not necessarily absorbing them into everything... this is not to say we won't continue to use mindfully produced goods for the better bulk of everything we do... it's just you have to strike a balance. It's a ridiculously complex equation: money + time + labor and equally as important: meaning. There're stories behind the goods and stories created with their consumption that affect experience and action- and this is the part Communal Table gets to play with!

A bulk of our discussion was about the shape of the party... menu of course is based on the farmer's dependence on sunshine and good fortune... but the feel of the party comes down to table arrangements and the materiality of the dishes. It's one show with waiters and trays to the strains of violin, another with an all-u-can-eat brass-band buffet and yet another if we set a long table down the terrace of the Old Stone House. So many hats to wear... forager, chef, designer, actor... it keeps this work engaging even when we don't break-even.

Later that same afternoon...
Preparing for the pickling part of Farm City I attended a canning workshop sponsored by http://www.foodsystemsnyc.org/
Guest speaker Sherrie Brooks Vinton http://sherribrooksvinton.com/ gave a wonderful demystifying demonstration that has me rearing to boil up a bunch of jars! I'm gonna try beets and plums and turmeric onions, and steep the last local strawberries in Vodka- all suggestions from Sherrie's book Put 'em Up!


I'm just back from eating my way through the Hawker stands of international Singapore where each nationality has it's own market and food court... Malaysian, Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Arabic... (also European, Australian and American.) The things I fell
most in love with were fresh fish congee loaded with ginger (an amazingly satisfying and inexpensive breakfast) and freshly squeezed limeade made with tiny Calamansi limes.

One of my favorite things in the markets were booths that specialized in flavored tofu and veggies including okra, eggplant and bitter gourd stuffed with tofu (one buys these by the pound to put into broth with noodles.) We made black chicken broth one evening which is supposed to be particularly nutritious. On the whole- sweating mightily in the heat left me feeling cleansed... and daily lap swims kept me feeling fit. Also an abundance of pineapple, mango, mangosteen, dragon fruit, etc.

On daily walks through different neighborhoods and parks I saw
monkeys, giant lizards (3 -4 feet long!) incredible flowers and a
host of amazing food stuffs I'd never before encountered! Also
spent 2 days snorkeling off Tioman Island off the east coast of
Malaysia- amazing coral and fish just right there below the surface. This has been my first trip to Asia and getting a glimpse of all this wildlife, so much culture, so much deliciousness, I feel my world has opened and expanded 100 fold! Can't wait for more!!


A lull in CommunalTable salon action filled by so much:
We donned shopkeeper aprons at Etsy's New*New NY spring sale in Williamsburg... baked our hearts out and had the pleasure of one-on-one interaction, but it seems impossible to get beyond break-even with this quality of goods- handmade peanut butter cups, all butter lattice top pies, pumpkin whoopie pies, Basque tartlets, layer cake with buttercream like from your dreams...
The exciting things that came from this were a connection with the Green Harvest CSA from the Farm at Miller's Crossing in Hudson, NY (we hope to do an event with them this fall) and a chance to firm up our friendship with the Fine and Raw Chocolate folks.  

We served their amazing truffles at FI:FA this past week at a press party to launch September's Crossing the Line Festival that Communal Table will take part in.
We'll be a part of Farm City, an event highlighting urban (particularly Brooklyn) agriculture, so for the launch event we went all out with a Bklyn urban agriculture/artisanal menu. 

Homemade wild yeast crackers, windowsill herbs, honey from local bees, Deena's pickles, L. I. Sound Brooklyn-style chowder, eggs from BK Farmyard's Crown Heights chickens, produce from Eagle St. Rooftop Farms in Greenpoint and Added Value Farm in Red Hook. Also Manhattan Special Espresso soda and Joyva candies: both 100 year old businesses that started with pushcarts on the Lower East Side. You get the drift! 

In September as part of the festival Communal Table will offer a pickle making workshop and feed folks with produce from several Bklyn farms!

The next event up... before we get back to our salon suppers (and we have some really fun suppers planned!!!) will be selling snacks at the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus, Bklyn on July 3rd, http://www.rooftopfilms.com
when Umami: food and art festival  will be showing food/art films on the roof top.