Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Northstar’s New Zephyr Lodge Shoots For LEED

Monday, December 26th, 2011

zephyr ski lodgeIt’s been a dry winter in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and that must mean that Mother Nature must be telling us something. She’s telling us to go sustainable or no more snow. Maybe that’s an exaggeration but some resorts have begun to get the message. Some resorts (like Northstar) have built new projects with LEED certification standards.

We got a chance to check out Northstar’s newly opened Zephyr Lodge. The warmly designed building is shooting for LEED certification which takes a snowshoe step in the right direction.

We couldn’t help but notice the wood paneled interior and exterior which not only gives the lodge a cozy feeling but it does so in a sustainable way using reclaimed barn wood and tin from Montana.

The interior receives a notable amount of natural light from the large window wall that faces the mountains. To us, that design is a no brainer with a great view and tons of natural light.

Speaking of light, the lodge also offers high tech programming in the building so that lights only turn on when a lack of ambient light exists.

The bathrooms offer the ubiquitous low flow toilets and we love the high powered hand dryers. We just have to question why they have paper towel dispensers next to the hand dryers.

We sampled some of the tasty cuisine which supposedly offers a significant amount of either organic or locally sourced ingredients. We haven’t verified the menu ingredients yet. Stick around as we post more about the sustainable slopes in the Lake Tahoe region.

Aquaponics Outside PCBC and West Coast Green

Friday, June 24th, 2011

P1010675How could anyone not notice the small box of growing vegetables sitting atop a large fish tank sitting outside the zero energy house at the entrance to the PCBC and West Coast Green conference? Sure, this unusual fish and vegetable combination drew a lot of eyeballs but did anyone stop to ask what the heck this sea-veggie contraption does? We did.

For those outside of the land Down Under, most people remain unaware of aquaponics. Australian farmers continue to use this sustainable way to grow fish and vegetables due to their continuing extreme drought conditions.

The concept behind aquaponics can be explained rather simply. The water and fish poop from the tank move upward into the stone filled bed which feeds the plants. The hydroton pebbles, imported from Germany, have bacteria that absorb the fish poop then convert the poop to nitrites then nitrates which is fertilizer. Okay, we’re not chemists but when Kevin Warnock who put this contraption together using parts from Costco and a fish supply place shows us that the plants grow six times faster than in dirt and the fish grow twice as fast as in the wild we have to think that this may be a good idea.

Even better, consider the water that can be saved. Not only do the vegetables use about 1/10th the water of vegetables grown in dirt but the systems needs no chemicals to clean the water. Kevin only adds water (for the fish and fish food) but no cleaners, chemicals or pesticides.

People can put this contraption in their patios for about $1000 or so but it works an a larger scale in Oz. Sign us up a veggie and fish farmers because with a sustainable system like this we could get used to eating salmon salad.

Green Festival Rolls Into San Francisco

Monday, April 11th, 2011
Joey Shepp

Joey Shepp

The Green festival rolled into San Francisco this past weekend with less fanfare than in the past. Not that the participants, vendors and speakers didn’t have the energy of years past but this recent version saw a drop in vendors and also in the overall show days (from 3 to 2). Maybe the festival needs work on the “less is more” thinking and revert to the November only event.

The event did offer some notable and thought provoking speakers. We spent time to hear local Joey Shepp discuss social media for sustainable business. Even for people experienced with sustainable business ideas he certainly added some innovative ideas. We saw several business people typing notes madly on the Smart Pads. Some of the products and ideas worth mentioning include: the Fujitsu scansnap that quickly scans documents and business cards and the like quickly and efficiently. Of course he mentioned the world of cloud computing and how they will cut down on paper use. He mentioned that currently products will be about what the client wants not what the company wants (crowd sourcing) and that great sustainable ideas don’t have to come from angel investors or VC with organizations like Kiva, Kickstarter, and Crowdfire as outlets for people to start their own business. With so much info, he quickly rushed through his belief that Wikileaks will add truth and cause companies (or governments) to be more transparent. It adds truth, and what remains is education and creativity.

The other thing that seemed to be generating buzz is the GMO talk. Organizations may be angling toward getting mandatory labeling of GMOs on the California ballot because a high percentage of consumers want GMO labeled and because supermarkets, products and apparently are government don’t want to be transparent about what our food contains.

Upcoming Picks for SFIFF 2011

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Pipe_Quad_Full_PosterWhen the SFIFF finally released its 2011 schedule, a few films initially struck our fancy. The Irish documentary “The Pipe” takes a look at a grassroots effort to halt the construction of a oil pipeline through one a pristine area of a small Irish town. Not only does the community battle the behemoth oil company but a largely compliant state as well.

Sticking with the theme of energy, the “Light Thief ” caught our eyes as a local electrician known as Mr. Light finds himself in a dilemma when a politician embraces the idea of generating wind energy for his destitute town.

Although we enjoy seeing the green wave of films with an environmental slant, we also maintain a keen eye for good film so that means the Errol Morris film “Tabloid” about the bizarre 70s tale of girl gone wild Joyce McKinney.

We keep salivating about Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip” which we hear tastes like a food version of “Sideways”. We hope that it comes served organically.

Happy viewing.

Visit to Organic Apple Farm in Mendocino

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

applesWelcome to 2011 and while we took a hiatus, and a few road trips, we discovered a few things outside of San Francisco. In Mendocino many wineries and coincidently grapes exist (some of which have an organic or even biodynamic angle) but on one particular day our palates had a taste for crunchy apples.

We stopped in at one of those apple stands while driving along Highway 128 and being that they offered conventionally grown apples we asked them about what chemicals they used. One lady replied that she didn’t know exactly but that they did spray. However she kindly mentioned their neighbors around the corner who grew organic apples. Back in the car.

Only because the lady pointed out the neighboring organic apple farm did we manage to find it. Although a sign for the Apple Farm does exist on Highway 128, it would be easy to miss. Pulling up into the farm, we immediately noticed the difference between the apple stands along 128. and this one.

The Apple Farm items (crates of apples, bottles of apple cider, apple vinegar) sit in a self-service corner with a change box and slot for the payment. Yes, they operate on the honor system here. It’s even easier to honor the fact that the Apple Farm has been operating organically since 1984. Since this place functions as a working farm they don’t operate tours per se but they allow visitors to wander though the orchards or even have lunch on the grounds. Those who ask nicely (and can find someone to ask) may even pick some fresh persimmons from the trees.

Crunch on some Sierra Beauties for those who like tart, crunchy apples and don’t overlook the “free box” of overripe persimmons and apples as they make great additions to a smoothie. And stopping here will make a great addition to any green-minded road trip to Mendocino.

Directions: Take Hwy 101 North, exit at Cloverdale (Boonville, Ft. Bragg, Hwy 128) continue NW on Hwy 128 to Boonville, continue on through Philo, 4 miles past Philo turn left at Philo/Greenwood Rd (also road to elk) farm is 1/4 mile on left at bridge.

Rolling To The 6th Annual Gorgeous & Green Gala

Monday, December 13th, 2010

model-shotBetter than most holidays parties would be the Gorgeous & Green gala tonight at the W in San Francisco. Sure anyone can throw a holiday party but do they do it with a Green philosophy and fund-raising at the forefront? Holiday parties generally aim for drinking and merriment but do they also aim for zero waste? How many holiday events have models prancing around in eco-friendly fashion?

So, maybe tonight we too can be gorgeous but even we have our fashion limits. Even though the eco friendly fashion takes center stage (or rather center catwalk) much of the festivities revolve around like-minded people gathering for festivities.

The event generally brings a generous mixture of green-minded designers, celebrities, artists, politicians and the like. We hear that William McDonough will be in attendance, which would be entertaining and enlightening just to talk with him for a few minutes.

Even when not doing the green mingling thing or admiring chic models, we plan to distract ourselves with the 360 Vodka eco-cocktails (it is party right?), cocktail wines by eco.love, Korbel California Champagne with organic grapes (see a pattern here?) as well as organic wall displays and DJ Donavan beats.

Green fashionistas were not but we still have to get ready to roll.

Green Festival 2010 – San Francisco

Monday, November 8th, 2010

healthy home furnitureAlthough many great speakers informed, educated and inspired the well attended Green Festival in SF, a couple of us circulated among the vendor booths to check out the newest and greatest and not so greatest products.

Although not having a full opportunity to do our due diligence we did pepper some of the vendors with various questions about their products.

The Solar Lite caught our attention with the their hanging displays of flashlights (and the solar lantern). The light puts out a nifty 40 lumens which would come in handy for camping trips and the fact that it can hold a charge for three years makes it earthquake preparedness friendly. It would be great if the flashlight itself were made of something greener than plastic but the fact that it saves people from chucking batteries into the landfill makes it shine.

We only mention Bright Earth foods because the owner (more like a an alchemist) acted to passionately about his sustainability produced Noni and other superfoods that we have to give out props. After doing the Noni shot we did feel happier knowing that all Noni drinks are not created equal.

At the far end of the exhibits, we ran into (almost literally) the Green Bike Effect bikes. These folding and electric bikes recently came on the market from Alameda. One of us jumped on the bike which offered a quick giddyap and can reach speeds of near 20 mph. Unlike mopeds, these don’t cause CO2 emissions and cause less noise pollution as well. Although we would prefer if the bike itself weren’t made in China or if some of the bike components or even the saddle came from repurposed material, it still may encourage people to do the electric commute.

We definitely aren’t interior designers but we couldn’t help but stop and sit in the Exotic Green Furniture, which we talked with owner James Michaels. To be sure, he gets excited about his formaldehyde free furniture and the fact that much of the furniture utilizes other materials so it fits in with some of the cradle-to-cradle mentality. Some of his tables come from dormant coconut trees, which is a story in itself, and we will hit on that topic in a future post.

GreenCycler – Simple Composter at West Coast Green 2010

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

compost item

It may be a few weeks after West Coast Green 10 but we’re still digging out from various events, items and gadgets. Many companies offered products with fancy displays and high tech visuals. One of the gadgets that caught our eye also caught this piece of celery. The simple GreenCycler comes by way of Denver and offers a new take on compost.
We like to think of it as a trash compactor for compost. It basically condenses the compost then stores it in a fruit fly proof container before a human takes the ultra condensed compost, hopefully into the their own compost bin then eventually their yard. We realize that this item wouldn’t be such a great benefit for people who toss their compost into the large green city compost containers but for those who have their own compost bin then GreenCycler which mulches the food to a smaller mass which works to speed up the compost process.

We could see this item being a good seller for restaurants that compost their scraps, schools that show kids how do compost as well as people with their own victory gardens. Is the GreenCycler the great Green invention of 2010? Not really but it shows some innovation and some thinking outside the box.

Radius Sticks To Its Locally Inspired Theme

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

radiusWhen people talked about locally grown or produced they usually mean within 200 miles or so. That’s normally about how far we expand our blog radius. The radius of where things come from marks not only the name of this French California inspired café and restaurant but also the philosophy behind Radius.

This SoMa based café and restaurant doesn’t just plaster the name up as a marketing gimmick but the owners stand behind their idea. Their food, wine and even the building elements that make up the interior generally comes from within 200 miles.

Most people will point to their Tamales Bay oysters, Ritual coffee, Pt. Reyes Blue – Cow Girl cheese and Anchor Steam beer but we find the repurposed church pews (from a San Jose church) used for table seating and the reused display cabinets deliciously appealing. The owners sourced practically all of the furniture, fixtures and equipment from other places. All of the reclaimed wood from the floors to the tables gives the café and restaurant an invitingly warm feel.

Radius maintains an advantage of its location. The restaurant can and does source wine from Napa and Sonoma, seafood from just up the coast and organic veggies from the plethora of farmers markets. But the trick would be to open a Radius in say Des Moines. Sure, keeping within the radius to manage the Green building element would be doable but sourcing a food and drinks menu such as the one here in SoMa would present a sizable challenge. Hopefully, others will be inspired by the Radius philosophy and rise to the challenge of making things work from a local scale rather than from a globalized, generic world view.

DeLoach Biodynamic Wines (and Fresh Eggs)

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Mixing Pot for Biodynamic Brew

Mixing Pot for Biodynamic Brew

Just down the road from Inman, we made our way in DeLoach, a far larger operation then any of the small vineyards that we visited. However, large doesn’t mean that they don’t have sustainability in mind. DeLoach garnered organic status in 2008 and has upped the ante to biodynamic since 2009.

Like a true biodynamic vineyard, they grow and raise other crops, which they either donate to local food banks or during harvest season they feed the entire harvest crew three times a week.  Nice to see their social justice spreads to their workers and the community.

We could feel a buzz around the many acres. Normally, bees and the biodynamic honey symbolize two reasons why this vineyard appears so alive. However, the bees took a sojourn during our visit but the chickens made up for it. They use chickens to fertilize, and we got lucky enough to sample the über fresh pastured eggs (no cages for these chickens), which made the most delish poached eggs.

While most people relaxed in the tasting room, we got excited to see their biomass tank which acts like a giant bug jug where dirty water passes through a massive membrane then the water gets transported and irrigated into the fields. The biomass system cost about $1.2 million saves thousands of gallons of water each year but it will take many years for that system to pay for itself. In other words, DeLoach took the cost to be part of their long-term vision. Maybe not the most cost effective vision but a more sustainable one, which gets high marks from us.

Speaking of marks, we did sample some of the wines in their private tasting room that contains cabinets made from old wine vats and denim jeans insulation. But we didn’t just sit in the tasting room staring at the inside  insulation. We sampled a slew of wines with some of our faves being the  2006 Porter Bass Vineyard (Chardonnay), Pinot Noir 2007 Maboroshi Vineyard, and a tasty Zinfandel 2007 Forgotten Vines (which we didn’t easily forget).

The sustainability here doesn’t just come from the biodynamic cow horns and membrane that get stirred up in the preparations and the fervent vortex but the fact that DeLoach aims to create community, support workers and donate to organizations for others who may not be as fortunate.

The fact that DeLoach subscribes to the People, Planet, Profit mantra gets our vortex excited to visit again soon to see what other greenings they have going on but to sip some wine (and get a few eggs as well.)