The Bon Appétit Blog

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In the Monterey Herald newspaper today, the Bon Appétit team at Monterey Bay Aquarium received well-deserved kudos for their "use of fresh, seasonal, organic and sustainable food items — along with heavy doses of creativity." Several culinary delights that impressed food writer Mike Hale and his "foodie" 16-year old daugther: Not-your-ordinary calamari: "Monterey Bay squid pieces share a panko dredge with Meyer lemon slices and shaved fennel bulb" Colorful, sustainable, flavorful char: "Pan-roasted, tarragon-dusted arctic char (a sustainable alternative to farmed salmon) with golden beet risotto, crisp asparagus, grilled ramps and orange"  Expand-your-seafood-palate shellfish: "Monterey farm-raised abalone with fava bean purée, braised vidalia onions, Meyer lemon and olive oil sorbet" That’s enough to entice any food-lover to stop by for a visit! Add in a beautiful ocean view and great service, Portola Restaurant is a ‘must-experience’ when you’re visiting northern […]

Did you know that the PLU (price look-up) code of produce tells you whether it’s organic or genetically-modified? * The PLU codes on fruit and vegetables contain four numbers (i.e., 4859).* If produce is organic, the PLU code is 5 numbers starting with a 9 (i.e., 94859). * If you see 5 numbers starting with an 8, (i.e., 84859), that means the fruit or vegetable is a GMO (a genetically-modified organism). Of course, you’ll see signs loudly marketing fruits and vegetables as organic so you probably won’t have to examine the PLU to figure that out. However, for those "quiet" GMOs that have found their way into the food system and consequently into our diets, here’s a way to keep them out! – Katherine Kwon, Communications Project Manager

"And for the category of Most Vegetarian- and Earth-Friendly Corporate Café, the winner is…Yahoo!" While movie fans eagerly await the verdicts of the (possibly telecast) Oscars this year, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) gave a standing ovation to the winners of their 2008 Proggy Awards. For five years now, PETA has recognized companies, leaders, products and organizations demonstrating animal-friendly achievements in 21st century culture and commerce. The Bon Appétit Management Company team at Yahoo! was highly praised for their great food and vegetarian-friendly options: "Yahoo’s various environmental efforts can be seen on Yahoo! Green, but the real measure of the company’s compassion can be tasted at its employee dining hall. The [café] serves more than 6,000 meals per day and features a variety of vegetarian options at each station, including an Asian bowl with Gardein or tofu, […]

Food is a climate change issue. It’s amazing to say those words now and not get the same quizzical looks I got two years ago when I first gave presentations on this subject. More people accept this big idea, but with acceptance is a growing number of odd notions about how the food system does, and does not, contribute to climate change. Here are some of my favorite ‘carbon food myths’ uncovered recently, which I hope will provide readers with some good questions to ask their food providers:  MYTH #1: Food transported in passenger-plane cargoes maximizes the use of a resource that is already there. This sounds logical at first, but it’s totally false. Food transported in planes of any variety add weight. Weight adds fuel use. Fuel use = carbon emissions. There’s no greater carbon emissions in transportation than […]

Nov. 10: Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the annual conference of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs in Rhode Island. What a delightfully high energy event that was! A wide variety of chefs, farmers, and writers attended my talk on whether climate change is going to redefine what we mean by "sustainable food." Two wonderful Bon Appetit chefs — Preeti Mistry of the deYoung Museum in San Francisco and Mary Soto of American University in Washington DC — joined me and gave practical examples to balance the more theoretical concepts I offered. When I give presentations, I’m always surprised that professionals and students alike assume that discarding disposables — paper plates, styrofoam containers, etc. — are the MOST important environmental issue in a dining hall. The perception of avoiding waste of recyclable materials has really become ingrained since […]

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Politics makes strange bedfellows and even stranger dinner plates. Amidst much controversy, the Farm Bill reached the Senate floor on Monday and created some unusual alliances. As the San Francisco Chronicle put it, “Seldom in Washington do such coalitions develop that unite the Bush White House and the group Environmental Defense on one side, and on the other, Senate Democrats and Republicans who have set aside their ideological hostilities to preserve and expand crop subsidies for a minority of wealthy farmers.” Michael Pollan’s op-ed in the New York Times, Weed It and Reap, does a great job explaining the state of the current bill and how “some nutritious crumbs” have been added “to ensure that reform-minded legislators will hold their noses and support it.” A little money for food stamps and “specialty crops” and we’re supposed to forget that the […]

I had the pleasure of speaking about sustainability to two very different groups this week. On Monday I addressed a set of business executives who work for companies that have signed the United Nations Global Compact – "a framework for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption." On Wednesday I took part in Santa Clara University’s Sustainability Day and sat on a panel with other Silicon Valley organizations interested in green business. The coupling of both events left me with a feeling of great optimism. The sustainability movement is burning the candle at both ends in a very positive way. On one end, the biggest of businesses, multi-nationals, are looking for sustainable business solutions. Are they doing this because they understand […]

An interesting poll from asks its readers about an environmentalist’s food choices. Yesterday, more than 1,500 people had voted and the results were as follows: "An environmentalist should be…" a vegetarian (12%) a vegan (29%) mindful but not rigid about diet (47%) concerned with things other than food (12%) I just checked back today and surprisingly, the scales have tipped a bit. Of 1,760 people, 35% thought that environmentalists should be vegan and 43% thought they should be mindful but not rigid. Although my vote is included in the mindful category (everything in moderation), I’m pretty fascinated by the poll results. No longer does "environmentalism" mean just "saving trees"; it also encompasses animal welfare, climate change, food. I think our Low Carbon Diet comes at an opportune time as more and more people connect food choices with environmental impact. […]

Someone has just brought me a lovely head of Traviso from her CSA box. This is one of my favorite greens and sadly enough the first thought that came to my mind was…how soon before this flavor disappears in California? At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, I’m afraid that we might be on teh edge of losing wonderful flavors like this from our plates…flavors that for years have been slowly brought back and nurtured through the small and creative family farmer. Americans are finally rediscovering what spinach or tomato or apples should taste like. The have discovered new flavors in greens like Deer Tongue, Curly Endive, Arugula and Traviso. Today, these flavors are being threatened by the magic of well intentioned but unbendable California Big Ag. The Western Growers Association recently implemented a uniform set of growing standards […]

Some months ago, we started toying with the idea of extending business opportunities for our small local farmers by encouraging the local processing of their harvest. Soon enough I ended up with several #10 cans of locally and sustainably grown green beans on my desk to the dismay of my peers and our CEO. The Director of Culinary Support has canned green beans on this desk? What gives? These beans were produced by Truitt Brothers in Oregon and the product had many of the right elements that are important to us: family farms, sustainability, low carbon foot print – except for the fact they were canned. I was lost as to how to approach this, being personally entrenched in our food philosophy that is deeply anchored in using fresh. At the same time, I know the reality that seasonal ingredients […]