BY JESSICA SANTINA

It’s a brand-new year at edible Sacramento, and we’ve got plenty of tasty news to share! In fact, there’s lots of new stuff happening here—first, this new blog and website! Welcome!

We’ve been the Greater Sacramento area’s go-to resource for all things local food and drink for 14 years running, and that’s already an impressive record. But things are about to go big around here. The folks over at edible Reno-Tahoe, one of the most successful Edible Communities in the country, have taken us under their wing!

 

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Read more: Edible Sacramento is Making a Fresh Start!

BY MARION NESTLE

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Edible Communities began in 2002 with the launch of Edible Ojai, a magazine that chronicled the rising interest in farm-to-table/local, organic and natural foods. Since that time, the organization started by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian has grown into a revolutionary, award-winning media network that encompasses over 90 independently-owned and operated magazines and websites across the United States and Canada. In 2011, Edible Communities was recognized by the prestigious James Beard Foundation as "the voice of the local food movement."

As the organization celebrates its 15th anniversary, Marion Nestle looks back at how the local food movement has changed the way we eat and how the world (especially the U.S. and Canada) can best ensure—via political action and other means—a healthy and sustainable food supply in the years to come.

Can it really be 15 years since Edible Ojai kick-started the Edible Communities contribution to the local food movement? Edible Communities has played such a vital role in the stunning changes that have taken place in the North American food world since the mid 1990s. At a time when global politics seems ever more intimidating and irrational, local food movements shine as beacons of empowerment and hope. By making food choices that support regional farmers and producers, we vote with our forks for healthier and more sustainable lives for ourselves, our children, our communities, and our planet.

I use the word "vote" advisedly. Choosing local food is an outright act of politics.

I am a college professor and I hear all the time from students about how much they want to find work that will give meaning to their lives and help change the world, but how pessimistic they feel about whether this is possible in today's political environment. They see what needs to be done, but don't know how or where to begin.

Begin with food, I tell them.

They are too young to realize how much the food movement already has accomplished: a lot. The food system has changed so much for the better since Edible Communities began its journey.

Here is my personal measure of its progress. In 1996, my New York University colleagues and I created undergraduate, master's and doctoral programs in Food Studies. Everyone thought we were out of our minds: Why would anyone want to study about food? But we got lucky. The New York Times wrote about our programs the week after they were approved. That very afternoon, we had students in our offices waving the clipping and telling us that they had waited all their lives for these programs. Now, just about every college I visit offers some version of a Food Studies program or food courses in fields as diverse as English, history, art and biology. Students see how food is an entry point into the most pressing problems in today's society: health, climate change, immigration, the –isms (sex, gender, race, age), and inequities in education, income, and power.

Some gains of local food movements are easier to measure than others. One of my favorites: The New Oxford American Dictionary added "locavore" as its word of the year in 2007.

The easiest to measure are those counted by the USDA, starting with farmers' markets. In 1994, there were 1,755; by 2016, there were 8,669. The USDA is mainly devoted to promoting industrial agriculture but has had to pay attention (if a bit grudgingly) to the growth of local and regional food systems. It reports that about 8 percent of U.S. farms market foods on the local level, mostly directly to consumers through farmers' markets and harvest subscription (CSA) arrangements. It estimates local food sales at more than $6 billion a year. This is a tiny fraction of U.S. food sales, but growing all the time.

More signs of progress: Since 2007, regional food hubs, which the USDA defines as collaborative enterprises for moving local foods into larger mainstream markets, have tripled in number. The USDA finds four times as many school districts with farm-to-school programs as it did a decade ago. It even notes the number of farms selling directly to retail stores or restaurants. As for what seems obvious to me—the increasing value of local food to local economies—the USDA remains hesitant (hence: grudging). It admits that "local economic benefits may accrue from greater local retention of the spent food dollar" but is withholding judgment pending further research.

The USDA partners with other federal agencies in a Local Foods, Local Places program aimed at revitalizing communities through the development of local food systems. These not only involve farmers' markets, but also cooperative groceries, central kitchens, business incubators, bike paths and sidewalks, and school and community gardens. This program may be minuscule in federal terms, but that it exists at all is testimony to how effectively local food movements have encouraged the development of home, school, community and urban gardens. The Edible Communities publications have both chronicled and championed all these changes.

One more measurable change: the increasing sales of organics. Organic production, of course, is not necessarily local but it is very much part of the food movement. Its growth is remarkable—from about $15 billion in sales in 2006 to nearly $40 billion in 2015. As the Organic Trade Association puts it, "Consumer demand for organic has grown by double-digits nearly every year since the 1990s." This has happened so quickly that the demand now exceeds the supply.

My last example: In the summer, even New York City supermarket chains proudly display locally grown foods, usually defined as coming from within New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, but still a lot closer than California or Latin America, where much of the city's food usually comes from.

But the USDA has no idea how to measure the other critical accomplishments of the food movement. It is hard to put a number on the personal and societal values associated with knowing where food comes from and how it is produced.

Some months ago in the New York Times Magazine, Michael Pollan complained that the food movement is barely a political force in Washington, DC, despite its having created "purchase by purchase, a $50 billion alternative food economy, comprising organic food, local food and artisanal food." "Call it Little Food," he said, pointing out that "while it is still tiny in comparison with Big Food, it is nevertheless the fastest-growing sector of the food economy."

His concern was the need to consolidate these gains, join forces and exert power at the national level. Even in today's political climate, this can—and must—be done. I've seen local food movements in the United States evolve over the years to increasingly converge with movements for organics, and also with those for better access to food and for health, food justice, environmental justice, food sovereignty, living wages and gender, racial and economic equity. We need to keep doing this, now more than ever.

The congressional Freedom Caucus is doing all it can to revoke a long list of federal regulations, many of which deal with food. Its members want to do away with healthier school meals, the National Organic Program, food labels, menu labels and a host of food safety regulations. We need to do more than vote with forks to protect the gains of the last few years. We need to "vote with votes." This means doing basic politics. The most important strategy by far is to write, call and meet with our own congressional representatives or their staff. If one person does this, they might not notice. But if several do, they pay attention. If many do, they pay more attention. Get friends to help.

We often hear it said that "all politics is local." Local food movements prove that point. So much can be done at the local level to strengthen food systems and encourage community action. Real social change starts locally, and builds from there. That's why Edible Communities matters so much. They are a force for strengthening local food movements, supporting community development and taking political action for a healthier and more sustainable future. May they flourish!

Marion Nestle is the Paulette Goddard professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, and author of several books about the politics of food. For information, see www.foodpolitics.com and follow her @marionnestle.

BY COLIN GOULDING / PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREA THOMPSON

a cut above 1

When you walk into V. Miller Meats, the first thing you'll see is an impeccable case full of beautifully cut lamb shanks, freshly made sausage and oxtail the size of kabocha squash. Your first thought probably won't have anything to do with a breakfast in Brooklyn, but that is how the only whole-animal butcher shop in Sacramento began.

It was the ever-inspiring, smoky magic of bacon that started Eric Veldman Miller on his journey toward opening a butcher shop. And a common ethos of transparency in food production brought him together with Matt Azevedo, a magician of sausage, salumi and charcuterie. The duo worked for two years to realize the November opening of their shop in East Sacramento.

Read more: A Cut Above the Herd: Whole-Animal Butcher Shop Opens in East Sac

BY FRANK DOMPE

After four years of operation on 19th Street in midtown Sacramento, Preservation & Co. was burglarized in May. The list of items taken included cash, the register and electronics, as well as a few jars of the company's wares. They came for the valuables, and that included some of the good stuff: what was on the shelves.

If mere imitation is a form of flattery, larceny must be a higher form of underhanded praise. Preservation's founder Jason Poole reflected on the bumpy road to such recognition during a visit on November 14—National Pickle Day.

Read more: Time in a Bottle: Summer's Bounty Gets a Year-Long Life at Preservation & Co.

This is how the vast majority of Americans age wine: We buy it at the store, we drive it home, we open it, we drink it. In Sacramento, sometimes we buy wine in the foothills and take it to dinner the next weekend. That might be extended aging.

Which is why it sounds like advice from Mars when wine critics say "Hold a wine until 2027." First off, they're just guessing. More to the point, who keeps wine that long? Or remembers the exact time?

Some people do have deep, pristine cellars, but most of them will forget that bottle by 2027. (If you're someone with an actual cellar, or a vast wine fridge, you know. You've pulled long-held bottles, looked at the vintage, and thought, "Oops!"

For most people, storing wine is short-term— a week or two, a couple months, maybe a few years—and sometimes longer storage is an accident, like that bottle you were saving for a special occasion and just kept saving.

Still, when holding wine, even for a few weeks, there are a couple things to know.

First—and most basic: Store the bottle on its side. That keeps the cork moist so it won't shrink and air won't get into the bottle. Exposure to our friend oxygen changes everything: Think of a sliced apple on the counter—10 minutes and it's brown. Oxygen turns wine to vinegar. Consider it a reverse miracle.

If you've got a bottle for a couple weeks, don't worry about it. Any longer? Place it on its side, please. Nose down works, too. Cardboard wine carriers or case boxes are handy for that. Lots of stores and wineries will be happy to give you a box.

As for the conditions, think about temperature, light and vibration.

Temperature - The ideal temp for storing wine is 58° ... or 55°. There's some disagreement in the wine world. It's a long story. Anywhere near that range is fine, and if you're storing wine a couple months or less, just keep it under 70°.

If you're holding wine for longer, the most efficient way to regulate the temperature is to splurge on a wine refrigerator, which can run a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, depending on your demands. But a cool, dark, quiet closet is just fine because a consistent temperature is almost as important as the actual number. Wine sitting at a steady 64° will be happy.

Light - Dark is good. Sunlight, even filtered, or fluorescent light will dull wines, especially whites with lighter-colored bottles. A British group of wine pros and technology experts called Wotwine examined 6,000 bottles in supermarkets over two years and found that light had dulled the flavors in 35% of them. Fluorescent light can damage wine within just hours.

The takeaway: Don't grab the bottle out in a store display, get one on the shelf and not the first in line. And the expensive stuff in supermarkets on the top shelf getting blasted by the lighting? Buy the darker bottles.

Vibration - Don't let the wine get much vibration— and that includes your refrigerator. (Wine fridges are designed to remain still.) Wine in any fridge for a week or so is no problem, but that's probably about it. Think of your wine like a sauce: too much action and it will break. Wines like calm.

All of this means wine racks anywhere in the kitchen are probably doing everything wrong: They're warm, bright and active. In fact, any decorative wine rack might not be great for more than a few days of storage, unless it's in a closet— remember, that good ol' closet is a fine place to store wine.

Probably 90° of wines in America are ready to drink when they're released— winemaking has improved vastly since most wines needed years to soften and coalesce. Some big reds can use a few years, like some Cabernet Sauvignons or Barolos, but none of them are cheaper, everyday drinking wines.

And the thing is, when wines age, they change. They get softer, but often lose some (or all) of the fruit and develop more gentle flavors of earth or wood or leather. Which means, if you're buying wine to age, buy it to eventually get these flavors.

So do you need a cellar or a wine fridge? Maybe. It depends on your wine buying habits and the volume you buy. A wine fridge can make life simpler and free up closet space, but it's easy to fill that fridge quickly. Then you're back where we started: Buying wine, driving home and drinking it. Like most of us.

BY BECKY GRUNEWALD / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT DUNCAN

back house press bistro

The Press Bistro describes itself on its website as a "neighborhood bistro" and "a place for friends and neighbors to meet for a drink, some bites or a full meal." The mental image conjured up by those words perfectly captures its cozy, clubby feel.

This ethos also gives you a clue to the menu, which is centered around rich pasta dishes and hearty cuts of protein. There are nods to seasonality on the menu, and the ingredients are well-sourced, but a meal at the Press Bistro is more about ordering that dish you already know you love than trying some foraged ramps that are in season for a handful of days.

Read more: Back of the House: The Press Bistro

BY AMBER K. STOTT

Local food blogger Garrett McCord's first cheese experience was very American.

"It was orange block cheddar from the grocery store," he says. "In fact, I have one in my fridge right now."

While McCord (a frequent contributor to Edible Sacramento) may still crave comfort foods from his childhood, his taste for cheese has expanded like the band of blue stretching across a chunk of Humbolt Fog.

October marks the release of McCord's first cookbook with co-author Stephanie Stiavetti. Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese is filled with reinterpreted recipes from the American classic. Yet, instead of orange block cheddar, these dishes rely on artisan cheeses like French goat cheese and smoked blue.

"Five years ago, I wouldn't have guessed I would be writing a cookbook, and I wouldn't have guessed it would be mac and cheese," says McCord, whose popular food blog, Vanilla Garlic, is filled with pastries, jams, Asian dishes and cocktail recipes in addition to cheesy creations.

Read more: Three Years in Cheese: The Making of Melt

BY AMANDA HAWKINS

kombucha

I was visiting my Aunt Susie a few years ago and noticed a large jar of liquid sitting on her counter. Something brown and flat floated on top of it. It was kombucha, a strange form of tea. The brown pancake thing on top was what kombucha enthusiasts called the "Mother," a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that feed on sugar. After a week or so on the counter the kombucha becomes bubbly and tangy and purportedly good for the gut.

Kombucha is as easy to make as sauerkraut – maybe easier because no chopping is involved. Every time a batch of kombucha is made the Mother makes a baby pancake colony, so even though you can buy a Mother online in starter kits, chances are there are baby Mother colonies near you waiting to be adopted.

Once you have a Mother, you just steep some tea, add some sugar, let it cool, and give that floppy Mother a little soak for a week or two in a warm, dark place. Of course, Aunt Susie also says everything must be "scrupulously clean."

Read more: Kombucha: One Funky Mother

BY BECKY GRUNEWALD / PHOTOGRAPHY BY RACHEL VALLEY

There isn't much of a "back of the house" at Maalouf's Taste of Lebanon because owner Adbul Maalouf is always manning the grill behind the counter, clad in his customary bright orange Maalouf's T-shirt and his rapper-worthy gold chain with a cedar – the symbol of Lebanon – on it. He is a bear of a guy with a soft voice, and he invariably admonishes me that it's been too long since he's seen me (even if it hasn't been that long).

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Read more: Back of the House: Maalouf's

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