Friday, July 31, 2009

Caterpillars and A Masked Chef

Trying to decide where to go out to eat, on the rare occasion that my wife and I have a babysitter, can be harder than one would imagine. I always think to myself, "Okay, the two of us only go out a few times a year, lets not squander this chance with a mediocre dinner." I can say from past experience that when you plan to go out weeks in advance, the night finally comes, you get to the chosen restaurant and the service is poor, the food is bad and you leave wondering where your money just went...that is not a good feeling. I have had this bitter reality more than once from dining in some local establishments. Fortunately, this past weekend did not leave me feeling that same way.

With out much discussion about where to eat we decided to go to Moshi Moshi in downtown Northampton. The wife and I both love Japanese and Korean food and are always searching for places to find it prepared well. I had heard good things about the place and know a few people who eat at the sushi bar regularly so we decided to give it a try.

We got there at about 6pm on a Friday and the sushi bar was already full with boisterous customers laughing at something the chef was doing. As we discussed where to sit one customer offered some unsolicited advice to us to "Try the caterpillar roll. It's AMAZING!" She explained. Feeling a little overwhelmed we decided to venture upstairs for a table. The chef was apparently doing a good job of entertaining the crowd downstairs with both his food and comedy act. After navigating the narrow spiral staircase we were both surprised with the upstairs space. It was small but had a nice view of downtown so we sat right next to the window overlooking Rt. 9.

We were both very hungry and wanted to order a lot of food, and we did. We ordered the oysters on the half shell special, vegetable gyoza, kal-bi ribs, beef yakisoba and two glasses of white wine. The gyoza came first, to my surprise, and they were delicious. They were clearly made in house and had a bright green filling that was visible through the thin and crispy wrappers. I was happy they weren't the same frozen gyoza every other place in town seems to serve. They were served with a "tempura sauce" that was made with soy and scallions. It was pretty standard but good.
Next our server brought us our miso soup and salad that came with the entrees we ordered. They were both good, the mixed greens seemed fresh and the miso was hot with plenty of wakame, tofu and scallions. It's pretty hard to go wrong with that.

While waiting for our next round of food my wife and I both realized how horrible our wine was. I don't remember what the name of the winery was or where it was from but it was the only white they had by the glass, probably a sauvignon blanc. We both agreed we were happy we hadn't decided to get a bottle, which we had discussed, because it tasted like a $4 bottle. I think we paid about $6 for the glass.

Next our entrees came out. At this point I realized we still hadn't got our oysters. I started to get a little frustrated when our server quickly sprang up the stairs with them. It seemed an odd point in the meal to eat raw oysters but I'm not one to shy from their cold, oceany goodness. They were topped with a fair amount fish roe, ponzu and scallions which slightly overpowered the oyster but was still good.

The kal-bi ribs were served on a cast iron platter with rice and broccoli. The ribs were charred nicely and had a light glaze on them that was pleasantly spicy. Not as spicy as some I've had elsewhere but they were tender, moist, fragrant and delicious. I was more than happy.

The beef yakisoba was served on egg noodles with mushrooms, carrots, scallions and broccoli. In the few bites my wife decided to part with I thought it seemed really well done. Crunchy vegetables, tender meat, sweet/spicy sauce. She apparently agreed because she inhaled the whole bowl in what seemed like seconds.
At that point we were stuffed and passed on desert. We already had other plans for desert elsewhere, good beers from the Dirty Truth. What? That's considered a desert in my book.

Overall the food was good. The prices were a little high, I thought, with the ribs costing $20 and the wine was horrid for $6/glass (which, yes, is cheap but still, come on...) but we were both very satisfied with our dinner. Next time I'd stick to the Saporo or maybe some sake. As we came down the stairs excited about our upcoming "desert" the downstairs was still full of customers and laughs. The chef made a point to ask how the food was and to wish us a goodnight while wearing some kind of creepy mask. I was a little confused but it was pretty funny, I can see the draw of sitting at the sushi bar. Good food and a little entertainment.

If you've never been, go. The Valley Bowl RECOMMENDED.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The REAL "Bitter Reality"

The Boston Globe Magazine ran a perspective piece two weeks ago (I just got around to reading it yesterday) by Tom Keane about why locavores are bad for the environment and the economy. It was easily the worst article I have ever read about the subject. I honestly think it made me angrier than watching Glen Beck or anyone else on FOX "news". It kept me up all night thinking about the blissful visions he portrayed in his piece about industrial farm complexes. For me it was nightmarish visions of futuristic feed lots with thousands of pigs stuffed in cages, the foul, overwhelming smell of sulfur from massive lakes of feces and the dark cloud of flies that darkens the sky all day. Oh wait, that was the farm I saw somewhere in Ohio while driving to Chicago last week...

Mr. Keane's main points were:
-"the local food movement is "based on bad logic and bad economics, one that, widely adopted, would actually harm the environment and potentially impoverish millions."
-local products cost more because small, local farms are not as efficient as factory farms
-that self sustaining local economies are "rediculous" and "irrational" because "the hallmark of civilization has been specialization."
-farmers in New England should specilize only in things our region is "good for" like fishing and producing cranberries, maple syrup, and cheeses
-only buying locally will hurt Columbia and African coffee growing regions
-that to "to buy merely because something is local smacks of nativism and protectionism"

and my personal favorite...
-"local food is not greener food".

This is the link to his piece..."A Bitter Reality", you should read it.

Here is what I wrote in a letter to the editor and may have possibly sent directly to his personal that appropriate?

To the Editor,

I recently read Tom Keane's perspective piece in the Globe's Sunday Magazine on June 28th and I'm sure I'm not the first to email about it. Unfortunately, the "Bitter Reality" is that he doesn't know what he is talking about. If he would take the time to talk to a local farmer he would understand how much peoples renewed interest in local foods has helped them. He mentioned items like lobsters and cranberries, but here in New England we are capable of producing a lot more than that. If we do not to support local farms who grow things other than cranberries (which don't grow throughout New England, the same goes for lobster too) small farms will not exist here in the future.

With Mr. Keane's logic, why would we buy potatoes from anywhere but Idaho? Or peaches that aren't from Georgia you ask? While it may be true that some climates are ideal for certain food production, to expect our farms to survive on cranberries, lobster, corn and tomatoes is ignorant. He clearly has no understanding of how food production works. To think that mega factory farms are "greener" than most local, small farms shows his total lack of understanding of basic farming concepts. It is these monoculture farming techniques that are destroying the farm land across our country. Depleting our soils of any nutrients while pumping if full of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides that will pollute them a generation.

Mr. Keanes's coffee growing country logic can work in reverse too. To buy a potato simply because its cheaper from Idaho rather than the one grown down the road and sold at the farm stand hurts the small time, local farmer. I don't think they can afford us not to purchase their goods either. I suppose they could pack up there tractor and drive out to Falmouth and trade it in for some lobster traps or a bog.

Further, Mr.Keane's microchip factory analogy is ridiculous. Clearly he gets some hot, sexy feeling from massive industrial farming complexes but has no real understanding of their implications. His comments on the "hallmark of civilization, specialization", has proven itself really well all across our country from Detroit to Gloucester. From cars to cod and everywhere in between.

Mr. Keane's article does nothing but continue the long held beliefs in this country that trade and the "market" are always what's best for the economy and our food system. If it is than why do people continue to starve around the globe, why are small farms closing everyday, increasing our unemployment, hurting our communities, and why are we one of the unhealthiest developed countries in the world? Something is clearly wrong with our entire food system and it is NOT caused by people who eat locally.

Adam Corriveau