Eat Responsibly Day at Bo.Lan

Each first Saturday of the month, the upscale, down-home Thai restaurant Bo.lan hosts a farmers’ market they dub “Eat Responsibly Day.” Located on Sukhumvit Soi 26 in Bangkok, chefs Duangporn “Bo” Songvisava and Dylan Jones’ commitment to slow, local, organic, and sustainable food shines at this market, which is held on the front yard of the restaurant.


Tawn and I visited in early April. We arrived shortly before 11:00 on a hot morning that threatened rain, midway through the market’s run, which begins at 8:00 and runs until 2:30. At least a dozen local vendors were present, selling everything from produce to prepared foods. Here is a selection of what was offered:

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From Samut Songkhram province, one vendor had fluer de sel (sea salt – left) and palm sugar (right). These are two staple products made in the smallest of Thailand’s 77 provinces and I had to chuckle a bit as the palm sugar comes from the sub-district where I used to volunteer as an English teacher. Every time I went down there, it was all I could do not to return home carrying several kilos of the palm sugar. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I could have repackaged it with a nice label and sold it as an artisinal product!


Another vendor was selling freshly-baked bread and jars of homemade roasted tomato relish. This relish was amazing, full of whole garlic cloves and cooked at a low temperature for several hours until the flavors combined beautifully. The lady who makes it brought the recipe back from Europe and has been making it for friends, who would wash and return their empty jars, asking her to fill them up the next time she made a batch. April was her first time at the market, and I certainly hope she returns.


Maarten Kaspersma runs a busines selling microgreens, evenrything from mustard greens to carrot, kale to mizuna. The business name is Mr. Maarten’s Microgreens and you can find them on facebook.


We bought a pair of trays. I recall that one was mustard but I don’t remember what the other was. They certainly make for an interesting way to spice up the flavor of salads or sandwiches. I could also use a pair of tweezers and artfully decorate a plate with them and charge an extra few dollars. (If I was charging for my food!)


Joe Sloane of Sloane’s Sausages made an appearance with his grill. Joe has gained fame around Bangkok as a purveyor of fine pork products. He doesn’t yet have a retail outlet so he informs his customers whenever he has purchased a hog or two (always organic breeds that come from up-country) and has more products for sale. In the near future, he hopes to open a proper storefront so he has more processing space.


Cumberland sausages and fresh chorizo. These were so nice, I see no further need for me to experiment with sausage making at home!


Homemade sauces and onion relish with which to tart up your sausages.


Fresh baguette from Le Blanc on Sukhumvit Soi 39 with a heap of onion relish, fire-roasted tomato ketchup, and a chorizo sausage. Heaven on a Saturday morning.


Accompanying Joe Sloane’s sausages was galangal porter, brewed at home by our friend Brian’s Happy Cat label. Hopefully, he will one day turn this into a proper business and make his fine hand crafted brews available for retain sale.


We stopped by the table hosted by Pattaya’s own Lulu and Daisy Goat Cheese company and bought two rounds of medium-aged goat cheese. Nice and tangy, we’ve been shredding this on salads for a wonderful, rich flavor and aroma.


Organic, free range eggs. Not sure if I understood correctly that these came from hens that live on the restaurant’s property. Perhaps I’m mistaken. They were tasty, though.


The restaurant does have its own mushroom hut and so we purchased mushrooms freshly harvested on-site. While it has been more than two years since I wrote a review on Bo.lan, at which time I found the food very tasty but the prices just a little dear, I have to commend the chefs’ commitment to local and sustainable foods. Quite an emphasis on quality!


When we returned home, Tawn whipped up an omelet using the eggs, mushrooms, goal cheese, microgreens, and tomato relish that we had purchased at the farmers’ market. Another Eat Responsibly Day will be held on Saturday, 5 May and will continue on the first Saturday of each month at Bo.lan restaurant, Sukhumvit Soi 26. I already have my calendar marked! 


How Does My Garden Grow – Pt 4: First Harvest

With the US Thanksgiving holiday just a few days away, it seems fully appropriate that I was able to recently celebrate my first harvest from my balcony garden.  It was a limited harvest – one beet, one radish, and two cherry tomatoes – but at least it is a start, right?  For those of you who have missed my videos, I filmed and edited a new one to mark this momentous occasion.


The harvest was a small one, but I was excited with it nonetheless.  On the left is a golden beet, on the right is a type of heirloom radish called a watermelon radish.  It is supposed to have a light green skin with a pink interior.  The skin was kind of a pinkish white instead.  Behind the two roots are my carrots which are slowly growing.


Raindrops on the leaves of my third tomato plant.  Once we hit the start of October – the end of rainy season – the weather rapidly changed.  We’ve had significant rainfall only two or three times since then and my south-facing balcony has been bathed in direct sunlight for about 7 hours a day.  The plants have definitely enjoyed the sun, although I’ve had to be diligent about watering.


One curious thing is that my tomato plants – both cherry and beefsteak – have had a problem with pollination.  So far only two fruits have grown.  I’ve not seen any bees around my plants but according to my online research, tomato plants are self-pollinating.  One technique recommended in some videos is to give the plants a good shake to encourage the pollinating.  So far that hasn’t seemed to help.  Plenty of blossoms come and go, but few ever become fruit.


And there they are, my two cherry tomatoes.  Organic, homegrown, and mighty tasty.  Now if I could just get a few more of them off my plant, which is nearly three meters tall!


Inside of the watermelon radish.  It had a nice flavor, less sharp than the conventional red radishes you see at the market.


Golden beet.  I have only seen red beets sold in Thailand so was very excited to have golden beets.  What I’ve decided, though, is that root vegetables are a poor use of limited container space.  I need to focus on vertical plants – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc. – where I can get more yield per square meter of soil.  Of course, I guess the tomato plants haven’t really panned out yet, have they?

Here’s the video of the autumn 2011 harvest.


The healthy salad I made from mostly store-bought vegetables and my few container garden vegetables.  The shredded golden beet is on top, some sauteed beet greens, and the radish.  Success!  Stay tuned for more gardening developments.

Previous entries on this subject:

How Does My Garden Grow – Part 1: Defying Gravity 
How Does My Garden Grow – Part 2: A Move to the Sunny Side
How Does My Garden Grow – Part 3: Back to Seedlings

Food Safety Enhancement Act Won’t Enhance Food Safety

sustain-ag-b The House of Representatives is considering HR 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, and it will soon come to a floor vote.  From its title, it sounds good, right?  Don’t believe it.  This one-size-fits-all approach will harm small farms and local artisinal food producers, the ones you like to support at your local farmers’ market.

HR 2749 does not effectively address the underlying causes of food safety issues in the United States, namely, the industrial food system.  Instead, it will give the FDA sweeping powers that will hurt exactly the type of local producers that are finally gaining support through the local and sustainable food movement.

Some examples of the impacts HR 2749 will have:


HR 2749 would give FDA the power to order a quarantine of a geographic area, including “prohibiting or restricting the movement of food or of any vehicle being used or that has been used to transport or hold such food within the geographic area.” Under this provision, farmers’ markets and local food sources could be shut down, even if they are not the source of the contamination.


HR 2749 would empower FDA to make warrantless searches of the business records of small farmers and local food producers, without any evidence whatsoever that there has been a violation. Even farmers selling direct to consumers would have to provide the federal government with records on where they buy supplies, how they raise their crops, and a list of customers.


HR 2749 charges the Secretary of Health and Human Services with establishing a tracing system for food. Each “person who produces, manufactures, processes, packs, transports, or holds such food” would have to “maintain the full pedigree of the origin and previous distribution history of the food,” and “establish and maintain a system for tracing the food that is interoperable with the systems established and maintained by other such persons.” The bill does not explain how far the traceback will extend or how it will be done for multi-ingredient foods. With all these ambiguities, it’s far from clear how much it will cost either the farmers or the taxpayers.


HR 2749 would impose an annual registration fee of $500 on any “facility” that holds, processes, or manufactures food. Although “farms” are exempt, the agency has defined “farm” narrowly. And people making foods such as lacto-fermented vegetables, cheeses, or breads would be required to register and pay the fee, which could drive beginning and small producers out of business during difficult economic times.


HR 2749 would empower FDA to regulate how crops are raised and harvested. It puts the federal government right on the farm, dictating to our farmers.


CAFO In the past few years, a lot of awareness has been raised about our food safety and the negative influence of factory farms, CAFOs (Confined Animal Feedlot Operations), and industrial-scale food production.  

They are bad for the environment, bad for communities and small farmers, and bad for our health.  They are the type of food operations that need better regulation, not small family farms!

Books such as Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and the recent documentaries “Fast Food Nation” and “Food, Inc.” have helped raise awareness.

Action You Can Take:

If you are a U.S. resident and are concerned about food safety issues and local, sustainable and small family food production, please contact your member of the House of Representatives.

This bill has been sent from committee to the floor of the House and will be voted on soon.  Please tell your Representative to vote no on HR 2749.

If you are not sure who your Representative is, you can go use the “Find Your Representative” feature in the upper left-hand corner of the House of Representatives website.

Thanks for your support!  For all of my non-American readers, I apologize for going into US politics today and hope that you will encourage your government to support small, local and sustainable food production in your country.


The Second through Fourth Days of Christmas

Technology is not entirely a foreign thing for our family.  On Christmas Day my grandfather fired up Skype and we had a video chat with my aunt and uncle and cousins in Seattle.  They were nearly snowed in and turned the camera out the study window so we could see the several feet of snow covering their yard, sidewalks and streets.  Was that really Seattle!?  That would be much more likely here in the midwest.


Friday morning we had family portraits down at the photo studio.  I think it takes a person with a very special personality to be a good family portrait photographer.  Not only a good photographer but patient, funny, and a child psychologist.

After the photo shoot, Tawn and I took Emily off her parents’ hands for a special afternoon with her uncles.  First off we headed to the Plaza, a nice shopping area down near the country club.  This is the oldest shopping district in town and is still a very nice place to visit.  Emily chose our dining venue for lunch: McDonalds.  Sadly, after several years of avoiding McD’s, I wound up eating there.


In the afternoon, we went to the book store to spend a gift certificate Emily and her sister received for Christmas.  At first, Emily tried to sell me the story that the gift certificate was only for her, but my sister clarified and so I insisted that Emily choose a book for her sister, too.

We stopped by the Gap and found a nice top for her on sale, something light enough that it can be worn into the summer.  Finally, we waited for uncle Tawn at Starbucks while he went shopping at a few other shops.  It took him a long time to return and after reading through all the new books together, Emily started to get a little impatient.

Saturday morning Tawn and I drove to Overland Park to meet one of the owners of the Gasper Family Farm.  They have a small, diversified family farm that runs in a sustainable manner and offers only 100% grass-fed, pastured cows, pigs, and dairy.  The more I’ve been reading about food safety and sustainability issues (Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma) the more I want to better understand what is actually available as far as sustainable, locally-produced food.

A few months ago I signed up for the Gasper Family Farm’s e-newsletter and decided that when I was back in KC I would buy some of their produces.  I emailed Susan, the “mom” of the farm, and placed an order for ten pounds of beef (combination of steaks, a roast and ground beef) and five pounds each of ground sage sausage and ground cayenne pepper sausage.


When I arrived at the designated pick-up point, one of her customer’s driveways on the corner of 80th Street and Hemlock, on a drizzly, freezing cold Saturday morning, Tawn thought it looked rather like a drug buy.  Sure enough, she pulled the frozen goods out of a cooler in the back of her Chevy Suburban, cash changed hands, and I bought a dozen freshly-laid eggs, too.

Back at home, I decided to put some of my sustainably made food to the test, baking a lasagna for dinner.  Mixing a pound of the beef with a pound of the cayenne pepper sausage, I had a nice bubbly lasagna ready a few hours later.  It was lovely. 


I still want to try the eggs, comparing the pastured eggs with the conventional ones my sister bought at the store.  I noticed that with the two eggs I used in the lasagna, the yolks looked much more vibrant than with conventional eggs.


Speaking of sustainable eggs, I was tickled to see that the eggs came out a rainbow of colors from pale pink to greenish-brown to beige to brown.  Emily and Ava thought this was pretty cool.

To accompany the lasagna, I did a roasted beet salad with a honey dijon vinaigrette.


Dinner was lovely.

In other news, here’s the video of our sledding last Wednesday.  With all the crazy weather we’ve had here, the snow was entirely gone by the day after Christmas and then a little bit of it was back by this morning.