Locaventure…just outside of Gwinnett and turn by sustainable taste…Part 3

A single week's fruits and vegetables from com...

A single week’s fruits and vegetables from community-supported agriculture share: peppers, okra, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, garlic, eggplant, squash. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you wrap a series, it is a challenge to have that grand finale…the last act, of sorts. And I sure did try to find something fabulous. Something that could wow even the greenest goddess of Locavore legend. And as many of you saw in earlier posts, I hit the biggest brick wall of writers block.

So I shelved the good of the local food-to-table movement and set out to let the topic come to me. And it did, tenfold. While conducting my annual search of Farmer’s Markets, I extended my search since, as I joke, I have spent some time not just in glorious Gwinnett but at the country house (aka Walton Boy’s & his family’s places) in Walton County. I love having added local places to visit – especially farmers markets and farm stands since we are not in the urban fold of my residence.

While looking at Local Harvest I discovered a nearby farm, new to the area and trade. Wanting to support some new local agribusiness, I began searching the site and learning about their CSA practices and involvement with local agriculture and partnerships.

First, for all of you green to the CSA concept, according to Local Harvest,

Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers an amount of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products are included. Interested consumers buy a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

Cool, right?

So here are a few take-aways:

1)Always Support Local- and don’t forget your Farmers!
It is a no-brainer. You help support your neighborhood, your local biz, and keep one of our best resources, agriculture, alive and well. It’s a challenge out there. Our friends Amanda & Anthony who own White Tail Farm rely on the business locally in Carnesville AND through the many Farmer’s Market trips they make in Gwinnett and surrounding counties including Suwanee, Norcross, and other local-driven cities. However, times are tough. Every trip you make to the chain grocery store can impact the local farmer – so keep it in your head to try a market/stand first and reap the benefits of fresh Chem/processed free produce and more from the farm. Summer is a super time to try the locavore concept.

2) DIY Local Grown
Okay, so we all don’t have a green thumb. But I say TRY. You do not have to produce a garden out of Southern Living, but you can do small containers, a kitchen herb garden, or a small plot in the yard. Keep it basic or KISS. Even in my small no-yard patio apartment I grew some basil & tomato & oregano to keep me happy in summer with “instant Caprese” ingredients for dinners solo or friends. If you are feeling hopeless & garden green, you have a few resources in Gwinnett to learn or pick up a few tips.

A) Gwinnett Technical College‘s Horticulture program hosts spring and fall annual plant sales – students, faculty and staff sell and showcase their semester successes and your garden acquisitions will support scholarship and program growth at the College. Talk about a local win-win.
B) Georgia Piedmont Land Trust is truly one of the best Gems in Gwinnett. The Land Trust is located in the heart of Gwinnett in Snellville. If you have not visited, you are missing out on one of the coolest green spaces in the County.

(We were) Founded and led the conservation effort in Gwinnett County…a local, non-profit conservation organization, committed to the preservation of open and green space in the Piedmont region of Georgia.

Besides being one of the most unusual places to take the family, they host a plethora of garden treasures including workshops, lectures, and feature special guests (i.e. Master Gardeners) to better understand your own garden, the regional land and how the two co-exist and grow. For instance, one of my personal favorites is the resource and guidance they offer for understanding and planning your local garden, yard , etc. Vital, as you don’t want invasive plants or seedlings, which can inhabit or cause future long-term green space in Georgia. It takes out the guesswork of standing in the aisle figuring out what to grow. In addition, the partnerships they have with local landscaping and garden locals including Master Gardener resources! – makes your garden beautiful & valuable to the green world while benefitting local. Take the kids. Get ’em in the dirt and out of the video games. They are future gardeners of our world, you know.

Chef Sara Dunning shares her wisdom on “farm-to-table” gourmet at gymnopedie

3) Grow Local- Eat Local
You have your garden, you are visiting the farms, now you need a reward. How about a date night out? This brought a huge GEM into my life, a TRUE farm-to-table find located off Pulaski Street in Athens, GA gymnopedie – A farm-to-table experience. Walton Boy and I have known each other just about a year. I thought it would be fun to go out and celebrate. In my searches to find local markets, I saw a picture and write-up of this local chef from New Zealand who ingrained in the local “food-to-table” movement and was practicing it in Athens. I reviewed her site (and the many delicious recipes hosted) and was sold. We’re not practicing vegetarians so I knew Walton Boy was a little skeptical about this vegan/vegetarian place. However, knowing I was on an adventurous kick, he let me lead and plan the way. Only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (and by private event only some pre-reserved weeknights) I booked us for a Friday night at the 16 seat bistro. Upon arrival, we were a little early, and were instantly greeted by Chef Sara Dunning arms laden with bright vegetables and plates, as she was doing the cooking, serving, and greeting.  Her partner and fellow chef had recently gotten engaged so the restaurant is now working through some easy transition with schedules, as she explained to the table across from us. Two other tables were full, so we grabbed the long table and settled in facing the large chalkboard menu. She brought us cold water and sat down to talk with us about the menu. Four courses included all vegetarian based delicious options either a’ la carte or “tasting menu” – wanting the full experience we agreed on the tasting menu and then had her help as sommelier to choose our wine. The menu changes each month and you end up with delicious choices right off the farm or farmers market. Sustainable, organic, green, local – I knew this was going to be the final piece to my Locavore Series as this was encompassing the elements of a final pièce de résistance. And it was good. Really, really good. We were able to enjoy each course at leisure and converse in the quiet restaurant café. Think being at home with a few friends but a true gourmet feel, not stuffy. Just amazing food. A symphony really. We began with homemade pickled veggies and progressed to mixed salad greens, crisp shaved radishes, tangy vinaigrette and segue into long golden wax beans, and so much more – I know it was vegetarian but it had so much flavor and taste my brain and obviously my mouth were exploding from pure pleasure. Our favorite, and the Chef noted a retained menu item, was the Garden Lasagna. Thinly shaved zucchini ribbons layered with herbs, local tomatoes, basil-pine nut pesto, and cashew ricotta left us scraping the plate. Seriously. Dessert was petit fours (the rhubarb tart had sold out; so, get there early!) and we enjoyed a few of the Chef’s family recipes tweaked to be vegetarian-friendly. Walton Boy kept chatting it up even after we left – for a true “meat & potatoes” connoisseur, as he is, this speaks volumes past the norm.  You need to go and take your friends. And family. And your sweet significant other – trust me, the intimate setting is a great time to have that enjoyable lingering conversation you’ve missed once in a while from the busy confines of life’s marathon. Again, supporting local on so many levels in such a beautiful way. Tell them Gwinnett Girl sent you – she loved when I shared I was a local blogger or that I even thought to mention her. How could I not? This restaurant is unforgettable in that “walk-a-European-street-and-marketplace-to-dine-in-pure-culinary-delight.” Go on, make reservations so you can experience the awesomeness I’m so obviously enamored about with gymnopedie.

Locavore is something not just worth researching, and as I’ve discovered,  is truly a way to keep the backyard food cycle going. We get so enamored with the easy quick grab and go. C’mon,  you know you have that voice in your head that tells you just be “convenient” and hit the big chain and sling whatever in your cart.  This practicing local isn’t hard, if you work it into your life and it becomes a norm. Think about the benefits of shopping at a farmer’s market, or even taking a quick minute to stop at that fruit stand you whiz by going home from work.  You’ll have great food.  You’ll even make some new acquaintances – I love the idea personally talking to the person who can TELL me where my food came from – not a sticker telling me it came from “somewhere in South America.”  Plus, you and your family end up healthier, happier and win über points as a better community focused member. Pure and simple.

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Eating Local-Sustaining More Than Hunger- Go Local…Part 2

 

Local Food Cafes

Image by andy castro via Flickr

locavore:Someone who exclusively (or at least primarily) eats foods from their local or regional foodshed or a determined radius from their home (commonly either 100 or 250 miles, depending on location).

Imagine. A community embracing local in their daily existence through live, work, and play. It sounded like a pretty cool concept to me. I am not an expert on going local or even knowing a ton of history on the Locavore Movement…however, I do believe I can support my own community by shopping, dining, and buying local as much as possible. When I wrote the first post in the Go Local series, it made me take a second glance at my own everyday routine and habits of living local. I issued a challenge for everyone to embrace a First Friday tradition and embrace dining, shopping, or supporting a local business on a Friday during the first (or whenever most convenient) of the month. Still consider doing this if you are reading the challenge for the first time, or if it escaped the Endnote entry or reminder list on your calendar. Indeed, I even followed my own challenge and even tried to do a little more. I brought my lunch to work using produce and food items bought at a local farmers market. When Walton Boy and I went out on the weekend, we chose local, independent restaurants and entertainment. I admit it is a little intoxicating to leave your meal or business knowing you supported your own neighbor. Walton Boy is learning to smile and listen as throw on my Wonder Woman cape & get on the soapbox about issues- even this latest local kick. And he challenges me too when I might get a little too self-promoting. Because after all, it was easier to swing through the Chick-fil-a drive thru on my way to a Chamber meeting, or run over to that big “corporate toy store” to find the right baby doll in pink instead of running to the local toy store across town. We have all been there. However, my own advice in the blog was to find a way to make local convenient and not a hindrance. So the next phase of the Go Local challenge is to focus on “living local” for a week. For some of you, the attempt may be whole hog- shopping, dining, living by local 24/7. (I get that-I may have faltered at organized sports, but I do know how to ‘win’ competitively). Others may find a way to “fit in” the local support, try a new market or go to that local boutique you keep driving by on your way to the mall. There is no right or wrong. I figure if we all embrace at least one week of “going local” in one small or even one big way, our own Gwinnett Neighborhood is going to benefit in a profound way by you walking in and supporting a business. I suggest making it a game with the family, friends, or colleagues- there are quite a few locavore/local/sustainable web sites and searches out there. Get the kids to choose a place they find online or with a coin toss. Entice your co-workers to choose a local restaurant instead of a chain known for its locavore attitude. Do a “date night” at home only utilizing ingredients from the farmers market or local bakery. Or grab your girlfriends and meet up at the local java or tea shop instead of the universal coffee stop. You would be surprised what is up the street in your “backyard.”. I would love to hear your story, quips, some of your successes, and the challenges you faced. Remember it is a marathon, not a sprint…Let’s Go Local!

    “Starting Line” Links – Making it Easier to Pass the Baton

Helpful Guidelines to Buy Local
Georgia Farmers Markets
eat well guide: finding & supporting local

First Friday Tradition- Go Local…Part 1

I made a mad dash today to one of my favorite stores in Lawrenceville today (and will mention Meg – aka Sparkle Queen) to take care of some gifts for friends and me…ok, quite a little cache for me…However, had a good time seeing familiar faces, awesome unique gifts, and of course felt some happy in my heart for going to my own town to support First Friday. As I shopped at Sparkle!, I realized that I really almost get a sense of guilty pleasure because I can actually get some goodness shopping “local.” The thing is I (and so many others) often get so caught up in ourselves and our busy lives that we sometimes make the decisions to shop ’till we drop at the big corporate monsters instead of taking a quick detour and going downtown to find something. You know how it is. You save the trip you determine to “go local” when there is a special sale, an event, or you are dawdling through. And inevitably you walk through that small shop, business, restaurant or cafe and exclaim “Wow! I should come here more often!” But we don’t. In fact, you probably fall back into behavior in the name of convenience. Now I know sometimes the big business is necessary just like small business. That debate isn’t for me to argue on this blog as some expert blogger on the subject will more than have that covered.
There are a million solutions out there, but here is my challenge to you- start and make a point to go “local” on the First Friday of the month- and spread the wealth, figuratively & literally. Take the family and shop for necessities or gifts (the local hardware store will have that missing gizmo for the thing- and some tips on making it work longer); the restaurant you visit will not only have some awesome cuisine but I bet they will remember you and your name- and even acknowledge your visit bringing you a sweet tea without request; and the farmers markets- hello happy foodies! I guarantee your dinner will taste even better than dining out. So many scenarios and so many reasons to integrate into your personal life. Take on the first challenge – if you didn’t do it yesterday then enact it today or next week. But get into the habit- trust me on this one, it will warm your heart and improve the soul.

Wait ’till you see the NEXT challenge.

Tell me a few of YOUR Favorite Places when YOU go “local.”

Gwinnett Girl 101

Hello, it’s 5am and I am finally doing this. After a year of posting on social media airwaves, we’re going to get down & detailed (and a little more personal). This is following lots of advice, encouragement, and downright guilty pleasure from awesome friends, colleagues, my well-intentioned parental units up in Michigan & one Walton Boy(more about him later) to “Just write it already!!” After all, I am the Gwinnett Girl.

Well, I could say how fabulously busy I have been, or that timing & web analysis had to be just right…but I can’t lie. It shows all over my face, trust me on this one, so truth is I was totally scared. Yup, fabu me with the good advice, the where to go, what to do, & who to know got a good case of the scaredy cat flu and spent a year – oh yeah, one pathetic LONG year hiding, starting & stopping blog entries, bugging friends for validation, & gifting myself a big old non-returnable complex that it wasn’t “good enough”…yet. Then this week it hit me. Somewhere around Sugarloaf Parkway & Satellite, I looked up and saw the lightbulb. (Not a cell tower or lights from NCR – a real A-HA moment) One of my biggest appeals isn’t just the advice, but who was behind Gwinnett Girl. the girl. Promise this is not one big self-serving dose of ego but really, why not SHARE amidst the stellar “Guide to Gwinnett,” a little more about who drives this weird pink & sometimes purple & green Cadillac of Divalicious. Some info on this Little (BIG) County I have grown to love in 4 awesome years.

I came up with “Gwinnett Girl” around 2009 and in what is now typical fashion, launched the “brand” via social media officially in 2010 in November. My real birthday month was a blur as I launched the logo, the fun, the party, Facebook page and a cool Twitter feed and began the dream to create the “Who’s Who, What’s What, and Why we love Gwinnett.” And it stuck. There are about 700 listeners & understanding fans out there who seem to think I have something good. (gee, no wonder I freaked out as a complex people pleaser) From the first day good friends dubbed me “GG” (thank you Sparkle Goddess, Earth Mama, StilettoMama, GwinnettBigSis and several other assorted Gwinnett Superheroes) I now spend my “free time” (for those who know me, stop laughing) posting about good things to do, where to go, & support of local businesses, events, people, and other sage advice because I decided one fine day that I was growing weary of hearing people say, “There is NOTHING to do, see, go, be, have fun in Gwinnett.” So.NOT.True. I tell people (and lucky you) when I moved here from a “Northern City of Brotherly Love” in 2007 1) never stepping foot in Atlanta, especially Gwinnett County for that matter; 2) knowing NOBODY and 3) “falling madly in love” with this crazy place, which took a hold of my heart and never let go. Fast forward to 2011 – am a little more than “connected” in Gwinnett and still residing as one of the biggest advocates and self-appointed cheerleader for this 800k plus melting pot extravaganza place I call home. So, I started the Facebook page and continued tweeting (@GwinnettGirl) and the fan base grew, and I started to get called on by people I expected to catch on and others who blew me out of the park. Encountered challenges, but made them opportunities – and gained advice from some awesome social media gurus on how to wrap my arms around this thing. Also, had distractions – good and unexpected but as many distractions do knock you in the head, necessary. I changed jobs, started writing again, adjusted some work/life balance & commitments, and met a guy- you will get to know him online as Walton Boy – who helped prod me along on this weird project despite my own internal self-conscious doubts.

But who am I? Well, I am an only child who is a former introvert turned extrovert (seriously – ask my friends in middle & high school), love eating banana peppers out of the jar, addicted to words & writing (hello, college English major), social media-savvy goddess, have a guilty love of scavenger hunts, skee-ball, stilettos (cute & functional, as I am 5’2), and using fabulous means to make the world über DIVALICIOUS (my “signature” term for something so ultimately cool you can’t resist it & must combust into spontaneous SQUEES of joy & rapture) Exactly. Some may find this too cutesy, or girly, or utterly mindless. Well, it’s me and although I am serious, stately, & refined – I save that for my day job and important GG professional matters but online, it fits me just fine. There is more.

For instance, why I love donning sparkly accessories or putting my best fashion foot forward while wearing my fave pair of yoga pants. Or those super suggestions to get networked or connected and survive another benefit, event, celebration, festival with panache. Or the “Gwinnett Gems” discovered in local shops, events, history, super fun locations, foodie/social media addictions and more. Or, how I wake up every day to save the world. (Truth serum: I really do)
But that is for another blog or two…I promise not to make you wait a year. In fact, I bet my “inner circle” of coaches and friends, who have finally come to after passing out with this published blog post, will now really light the fire under my stilettos. And I will write more.

Ready for this? Let’s go!