The Taste of Tomorrow
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  • November21st

    As readers of The Taste of Tomorrow will find out in April of 2011 (sorry for blowing the suspense), Detroit is not a great city for African cuisine exploration.  Chicago is slightly better.   It is just not easy, in America circa 2011, to properly explore the range of sub-Saharan African cuisines.   So if you’re not traveling to the big continent, or to London, your best bet is probably D.C.

    DC has the highest concentration of Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants in the states.  One DC neighborhood, Adams Morgan, feels like a quasi-Little Ethiopia.  And DC has Bukom Café, which is, in my humble view, probably the best place for an introduction to West African food. ( Not only does Bukom, fyi, offer consistent pan-West African food (Ghanaian, Nigerian, Sierra Leonean, Gabon), it’s friendly, spirited serves African ginger beer and beer-beer and has music most nights of the week.  (A must-try).  But I am even more convinced that my old home-town is the best place for African food after searching through Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide.   Cowen, economist,  uber-blogger, and regular NY Times contributors, also has a side passion for ethnic food exploration.  Cowen, author of one of my favorite statement ever “All food is ethnic food” has been eating-through DC’s ethnic option with Chowhound-like intensity for years, and he has surprisingly extensive coverage of sub-saharan African food.   Judging from Tyler’s site,  DC has a pretty good range of West African options —Ghanaian, Seneglasese, Sierra Leonean.  Most intriguingly, DC had a Cameroonian restaurant, the Roger Miller Restaurant, named after a Cameroonian football star (according to web report, Roger Miller is “relocating”) and a Sudanese place, called El Khartoum.  Not to mention African specialty stories.

    The TofT magazine will report back on the sub-Saharan African foodstuffs of DC during a fact-finding visit this February.   Also, fyi, good reading found:  extensive coverage of Ethipian restaurants and markets in the U.S.


     

  • November13th

    It’s such a simple, elegant, self-evidently brilliant idea that it caused an overwhelming sense of why-didn’t-we-think-of-that-envy in both of us.

    The Windowfarm is, quite literally, a mini-farm in your window.  It is moron-friendly hydroponic growing system, which allows people, who live in studio apartments in places like Battery Park City, to experience the thrill of DIY food production.  We love it because it gives people the chance to experience first-hand the type of recirculating agriculture (controlling inputs, varying light, climate) that we believe will be key to achieving sustainability and food security.  The motto of Windowfarm _- Know Your Food Source. Grow Organic Food in your window.

    You can try the Windowfarm yourself for as little as $140.  If you’re more comfortable in your shop skills, you can do it for less.  The Windowfarm site provides details on how to build your own home unit from scratch.

    We shouldn’t over-enthuse about the Windowfarm until we actually produce some home-grown  butter lettuce.

    BUT, another reason why we’re so hot for the Windowfarm. It’s a nonprofit AND it’s bsed on the open-source method of user-collaboration.  The Windowfarms Project web site offers friendly user forums to help newbie’s figure out the optimal way of using their kits. In fact, the whole Windowfarms idea was founded on the idea that crowdsourcing could be harnessed to solve environmental problems, i.e.:  R&D-I-Y: Mass Collaboration to Solve Environmental Problems

    “The ultimate aim of the Windowfarms project is not primarily to create a perfected physical object or product. Rather, the targeted result is for participants to have a rewarding experience with crowsdsourced innovation. The team is interested to learn from participants’ experience as they design for their own microenvironments, share ideas, rediscover the power of their own capacity to innovate, and witness themselves playing an active role in the green revolution.

    The TofT editors aren’t the only ones gone ga-ga over the Windowfarms idea — Martha Stewart is also an enthusiast.  We’ll keep you posted on our road test of the Windowfarm .

     

  • November8th

    As urban-farming geeks know, one of the most audacious-sounding vertical farm plans was for Toronto, Canada. 58 floors, costing $1.5 billion. It was to be a pioneering test of the idea that the key to food security is not to connect ourselves to nature, but to depend on technological systems.

    It also would bring locally grown, organic raspberries and bananas to Ontario in January.

    Now, I’ve always thought that most likely spot for the inevitable debut of skyscraper farming would be Japan or Dubai: places with a dense population, limited arable,  a strong economic rational for a SkyFarm.

    Still, the idea that the Canadians could lead the way in vertical farms made sense. Canada, the Great White North, has been pioneering indoor farming for years.  If you buy a tomato in Chicago in January, there’s a decent chance it’s coming from a hydroponic farm in southern Ontario.  And the British Columbia-based company TerraSphere, a one-time medical marijuana grower, has been on the cutting edge of using hydroponic technology to develop highly efficient, eco-friendly urban-based growing systems.   (Plus, there’s plenty of locavore foodies in Toronto and Montreal who would love the idea of locally, produced organic greens in February)

    But last month, Gordon Graff, the young architect who conceived the SkyFarm, told The Walrus (my favorite Canadian magazine) that he now thinks it’s extremely unlikely the farm will ever happen. The space in downtown Toronto, slated for the farm, is now home to the Toronto International Film Festival.

    Graff thinks the economic rationale is simply not there for the Gates-ian expenditure necessary to justify SkyFarm.  Graff believes that for vertical farming to happen there will have to be a stronger economic incentive to support locally grown produce He also believes that the economic viability vertical farms hinges on their ability to produce their own electricity. One promising technology: A new waste disposal method called plasma arc gasification would allow vertical farms to recycle solid waste into usable energy without producing harmful emissions.

    Graff says he’s shifted focus to smaller scale urban indoor farms.

    For more on vertical farming, take a look at Dickson Despommier’s Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century.  Despommier, a prof. of public and environmental health at Columbia, and vertical farming’s biggest cheerleader, provides details and schemata on how high-rise farms could work.   To go inside a functioning indoor farm, circa 2011, here’s a short tour through this English farm,  a pioneer of small-scale vertical farming, which grows produce for a zoo..