The Big Island of Hawaii

Big island of Hawaii

Big island in Hawaii

Hawaii is the magical place created by volcanic eruptions and shaped by gods and goddesses.

Legend has it that the Polynesian earth goddess Pele is responsible for creating the islands formed by these volcanic eruptions. She is now said to be living in the crater of Kilauea on the Hawaii island after traveling from island to island in the same order as the progression of volcanic eruptions.

Although the youngest, the island of Hawaii is the largest of all the Hawaiian islands giving it the nickname, the big island.

THE LAND

The mana (spiritual essence) is strong here. You can feel and see the island’s aliveness at every turn. The Hawaiians don’t just see land as something that can be bought or sold, they see it as life.

The Big Island of Hawaii
May be one of the many rock formations on the islands representing the ex-lovers of Pele frozen in stone.

Active volcanos, snow capped mountains, crystal clear water, tropical rainforests, sacred historical temples made of lava rock and some of the most epic waterfalls on earth make up the island. Climates range from hot to cool, to snowing in some areas. It is the only island in the world where you can find white, black and green sand beaches.

The Big Island of Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii

When driving across the island on hwy 2000 there are so many changes in landscape that you feel like you are driving cross country.

The Big Island of Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii

One minute you are amongst lush rainforests and the next minute all you see are scattered, tiny, neon green leaves sprouting up through black volcanic lava rock. Amongst the craters and dry desolate empty land you can sometimes feel like you are on another planet. Oh, and there are goats everywhere.

The Big Island of Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii

THE FOOD

The motto – aloha ‘aina, meaning to love and care for the land, is engrained in the culture here. Natural farming, humanly raising animals and sustainable fishing practices are revered and promoted throughout restaurants all over the island.

Hilo –

Hilo, Hawaii
Hilo, Hawaii

The Locavore Store – This store kicks ass. Read my review of it here.

Conscious Café offers fare for both vegans and meat eaters alike. Bowls, tacos, burgers and salads all made of organic produce, grass-fed beef and local line-caught fish. They also have an extensive booch bar offering a wide selection of Big Island Booch kombuchas and a tiny gift shop area.

Conscious Cafe
Conscious Cafe

Hilo Shark’s Coffee is a great place to stop for coffee, an acai bowl or a sandwich. They have a large covered outdoor patio if you are eating “in” and is a good place to grab some souvenirs.

The Moon and the Turtle, although closed during my trip, is said to be one of the best restaurants on the island from locals and visitors alike. An always changing menu of locally sourced food and cocktails with a bumping happy hour and great service. Reservations recommended.

The Hawaiian Style café was also recommended to us. Locals love their enormous portions of classic Hawaiian comfort food. There are locations in Hilo and Waimea.

Waimea –

Village Burger is a quick service restaurant in a strip mall offering parker ranch pasture raised grassfed beef burgers using fresh local goat cheese, fresh baked bread and produce from neighboring vendors.

Big island brewhaus – Besides craft beer you can find a menu loaded full of local fresh line-caught fish, grass-fed beef and organic produce. Their spent grain from brewing beer and food waste is used to feed local cows and pigs. They are a platinum level ocean friendly restaurant and the second restaurant on the big island to be blue zone approved. Simply put, their aloha ‘aina game is on point.

Merriman’s – Farm to table, high end dining in a cozy non-pretentious atmosphere. The Mai Tais are amazing.

Mai Tais at Merriman's Waimea
Mai Tais at Merriman’s Waimea

Waimea Butcher Shop – Mom and pop butcher shop specializing in sustainably raised and locally sourced meat and charcuterie. They are a nose-to-tail operation that cuts meat to order and has an extremely high standard in quality.

Waikoloa –

Daylight Mind Coffee – Na’auao is the Hawaiian word for enlightenment and literally translates to Daylight mind. This company chose their name because they say it “weaves together a love of scientific exploration with a deep respect for the wisdom and strength of its Hawaiian roots”. Although they use western techniques they draw from their culture to keep themselves grounded and stay true to the land. They pour local Kona coffee sourced from several different farms and offer breakfast, lunch and dinner menus with a farm to table sensibility.

Breakfast at Daylight Mind Coffee
Breakfast at Daylight Mind Coffee

Farmers markets line the perimeter of the island on a daily basis. They are a great way to learn about Hawaiian culture and sample foods grown locally. Click here to find one near where you are staying. I visited the Hilo farmers and although it runs daily the Saturday market is the largest all week.

White Pineapple
White Pineapple. So far I’ve only seen this on the big island.

SNORKELING

 The Kona side of the island is known for snorkeling. Crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches make access easy and inviting.

Beach 69, named after the mile marker it is located at is a local favorite for snorkeling in the Waialea Bay. The white sandy beach is covered with large shady trees and the reefs are full of beautiful fish.

Beach 69
Beach 69, called 69’s by locals
Beach 69
Beach 69

If you are looking for a snorkeling excursion by boat I recommend Hilo Ocean Adventures. You can arrange a private tour where you will have your own captain and snorkel guide to take you to all the best spots, prepare you snacks and take a video of your entire experience. You may even swim with sea turtles and have a school of dolphins riding along side the boat with you on your way out.

VOLCANOS

For a boat tour to see the lava flowing into the ocean go to seelava.com

Otherwise do what we did and take a self-guided tour by car through the Hawaii Volcano’s National Park.

The Big Island of Hawaii
Hawaii Volcano’s National Park

Here you will see Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano and mountain on earth accounting for more that half of the island’s land mass (most lying underneath the ocean). The mountain is constantly growing with its continuous stream of lava flow adding to its mass.

Mana Loa
Mana Loa

You will also see the shield volcano, Kilauea. Remember Pele? This is the volcano which has lava streaming steadily into the ocean. It is one of the most active volcanos in the world.

Driving around this park you will see volcanic craters, rainforests and hike over miles and miles of lava rock.

WATERFALLS

If you are in Hilo here are some falls you won’t want to miss…

The Wailuku river spanning 18 miles long is the second longest river in Hawaii and is so powerful can at times create flash flooding. It is also home to beautiful waterfalls.

Rainbow falls is an 80 foot waterfall that creates a rainbow on sunny days and a constant mist on rainy days. It is over 100 years old and pours from the Wailuku river in front of natural lava caves.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

Boiling pots is 1.5 miles above rainbow falls. They are pot shaped holes made of lava rock that fill the Wailuku river. During storms the river rises and water appears to be “boiling” in these lava pots.

Pe’epe’e falls is to the left and upstream boiling pots.

The Kolekole stream produces some very impressive waterfalls as well. The most impressive is Akaka falls. At 442 feet tall it is twice as high as Niagra Falls. Kahuna and Uluhi falls are just downstream of Akaka.

Trail to Akaka Falls
Trail to Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls

ACOMMODATIONS

Since I have only been to this island once so far I only have one place to recommend. It is a wonderful VRBO in Hilo called The Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat with an east meets west sensibility.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
One of the many temples at Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

The property is full of meticulously manicured zen gardens, orchards and lily ponds.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

It also has a sweet little outdoor kitchen perfect for cooking all meals on site.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

The money shot however is the infinity pool and hot tub which overlooks the ocean lined with lava rock walls.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

Inside you will find local art, wood furniture and high end fixtures. The owner of the property Dan, has not forgotten any details large or small. He made my day when he brought me over a coconut and a drill one afternoon. Although far from town this is a wonderful place to stay. If you are looking for a little seclusion this is the spot.

Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat
Coconut palms at Hawaiian Paradise Ocean Retreat

If you are looking for a baller vacation rental check out the properties managed by Elite Pacific Properties

Like this one called Fairway #1 North located on the north of Kona.

Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental
Elite Pacific Vacation Rental

I look forward to heading back to the big island of Hawaii sooner rather than later. More recommendations to come.

SaveSave

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

How Eating Local Food Supports Your Health And Community

support local

support local

Eating local food is very important to me. When it comes to what I eat I try my best to select foods that are whole or minimally processed, organic and local. This practice results in eating seasonally as well.

Sometimes finding foods like these can be a challenge depending on where you live. Not everyone places this much importance on the foods they eat. If there isn’t a demand in a particular area there is often low availability. Cost and climate can also be factors. This is why if you have a farmers market pop up in your area or see local food in your neighborhood grocery store it is important to support it.

I believe eating local food is important for two reasons. It promotes good health and it strengthens your community. These are both very strong values of mine and something I encourage everyone to at least consider when buying food.

Eating local food for your health

This idea does not involve micro and macronutrients. However, food grown near to you, eaten soon after it has been harvested is more nutritious than commercially grown foods shipped from long distances. So, even though organic apples grown in California are just as nutritious as ones grown in New York, if you live in California and eat the locally grown apples they will be more nutritious because of the length of time between harvest and consumption.

Aligning yourself with nature

As I mentioned above, this idea is more than just getting the most nutrients out of your food. It is also a matter of aligning yourself with your environment or, living in harmony with nature. Eating local food ties you to the land you live on.

When I decided to leave San Francisco to move to Hawaii I had to prepare myself for the fact that my diet was going to change. Sure, I would no longer get to enjoy the bay area stone fruit season and Hass avocados but instead I would get to taste fresh lychees strait from the tree and make interesting dishes with breadfruit. I didn’t see it as a challenge or something I would miss but rather an exciting opportunity.

Eating for your climate

San Francisco in general has a very cool, dry climate. I would start every morning with warm lemon water, drink hot tea everyday and eat hot cereal, soups and stews to keep me warm.

 

One of the things that drew me to Hawaii was the climate. As a person who tends to run cold and dry, San Francisco’s climate was not a good balance for me. The warm humid climate in Hawaii already has my skin looking healthier and my immune system feeling stronger.

My diet has shifted here. I am constantly mindful of staying hydrated and regulating my body temperature using water and food. I now drink room temperature water in the morning instead of warming it first. I crave iced teas instead of hot teas. I eat more salads, fish and rice. I eat completely different types of fruit. I seek cold or room temperature foods as opposed to hot foods. I crave ice-cream way more.

Even though the weather doesn’t change as dramatically throughout the year, like the Midwest or east coast, San Francisco still has seasons that determine which fruits and vegetables are available. Hearty squashes and Brussels sprouts in the winter, asparagus and artichokes in the spring, heirloom tomatoes and melon in the summer are all examples.

Seasonality is significant because nature produces what will make your body thrive during that time of the year. Heartier vegetables keep you warm in the winter and lighter produce like lettuces, cucumber and stone fruit cool you down in the summer.

Giving your body what it needs in order to thrive in the environment you live in is very important for your health.

Balancing our bodies with food

Our bodies are constantly looking for balance. It is one of the reasons why we have cravings. All of the foods we eat have the potential to create warming, cooling, drying or moisturizing effects in the body. It is up to you to understand what you need in any given moment in order to thrive. This is the principal of yin and yang, opposite energies that compliment each other and create balance.

By being in tune with your body and environment you can choose foods that bring you back into balance. Alternatively, ignoring those two things can bring you out of balance with nature and have the potential to make you sick.

Eat with the seasons and let your climate determine diet. If you live in a warm climate and continue to eat foods grown in cold climates it could cause an imbalance. For example, a diet rich in red meat, high in fat and alcohol could overheat someone living in warm climate. However, if you live in a cold climate you need foods that pack more eat. Living off fish and raw vegetables may not keep you warm enough.

Here are some examples of foods that are cooling (ideal for warm climate) and foods that are warming (ideal for cold climate).

Cooling foods –

– Sweet spices (chai, fennel, elderflower)

– Mint

– Cucumber

– Lime

– Light proteins like chicken and fish

– Dark leafy greens

– Raw fruits and vegetables

– Chocolate

– Cabbage

– Watercress

Warming foods –

– Red meat, pork, duck

– Hot soups and stews

– Ginger

– Garlic

– Onions

– Oatmeal

– Winter squashes

– Peppers

Eating local food for the health of your community

Buying food from the local farmers market brings us closer to our community and environment, which results in a deeper connection to our food.

By buying your food from local farms and artisans you are supporting your neighbors and strengthening your local economy. This act unifies people, it keeps people employed and it allows you to really know where your food comes from.

Eating foods that are shipped in from somewhere else (at least on a regular basis) alienates us from our environment. You may not be physically equipped to consistently eat these foods and over time doing this may confuse your body and weaken your immune system. By doing this you are also supporting the excessive use of fossil fuels which is unfriendly to the environment.

Support local. Support community. Support your own health. It just makes sense.

For more information on how to eat local food in Hawaii check out my Hawaii Local Food Guide.

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Osprey, Your Local Seafood Market

Osprey local seafood market
Osprey local seafood market
Osprey Seafood in Napa, CA

Where is your local seafood market? Have no idea? Chances are if you are a seafood lover and a home cook you may have struggled with this problem before.

There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of butcher shops, farmers markets or health food stores these days but even here in San Francisco I find it very difficult to shop for seafood.

Outside of dining in a high end seafood restaurant or purchasing seafood wholesale (the perks of being a professional chef) there really isn’t many local seafood market options in the bay area.

Last month I wrote about my favorite fishmonger in the bay area, Mike Winberg-Lynn. He is my number one trusted source here locally.

His market, Osprey Seafood, in Napa has an amazing selection and is amongst the freshest you can find around here.

What’s great about Mike is he’s been in the business a long time so he has good relationships with the fisherman and really knows his product.

I spoke with him recently regarding a few issues consumers struggle with when buying seafood. Here are his tips on how to become more confidant when selecting seafood….

Farm-raised vs. wild fish

I asked Mike what his opinion was on farm-raised fish. His take on this topic was simply this, “there is not enough wild fish in the world to feed everybody.”

He says “the argument with farmed fish has always been about the practices. The cleanliness, antibiotics, the amount of wild fish needed in order to feed farmed fish, fish swimming in their own shit. These practices took place in the 90s. The industry has evolved since then. They aren’t perfect but they are learning and their practices today are tons better than they were 10 years ago. Right now the ratio that they have to feed is 1-1. That’s 1 pound of wild fish to grow 1 pound of farmed fish. That’s even better than what it is in the wild. I visited a farm in Canada where the tidal flow was so strong and constant that I thought, there’s no way these fish could be swimming in their own shit.”

Although Mike agrees that wild fish is always the best option he admits that in places like the U.S., Norway, Scotland, Canada and Scandinavia they are producing respectable farm raised fish. He warns to stay away from fish farmed in South America where giving fish antibiotics isn’t regulated.

Basically when it comes down to it, if you took away farmed fishing it would tax the wild fisheries way too hard.

Which fish are sustainable to eat.

As you may recall from our last article together, Mike hate’s the word sustainable.

But to answer my question he said, “The United States is deemed sustainable, if you buy domestically or from New Zealand and Australia you can feel good about what you are buying”.

He says, “Every single domestic fishery has a managing group looking at everything it has found. (this is why domestic fisheries are so good). They count the catch to see how much volume they are bringing in so they can know when they have hit a maximum. Last year they were catching a lot of squid and the government stepped in and said that’s enough.

There’s no way to know how much fish is really out there. We can’t count them all, we have methods of maybe counting them but other than salmon, which we have a really good method of finding out how many are out there, we have no clue. Sometimes fish disappear because the water is too warm (like in the case of el nino). If you move 2 or 3 degrees your gonna lose a whole eco system.”

Mike says to stay away from buying fish caught in China and Japan who don’t always follow the rules.  And besides shrimp he avoids buying seafood from the gulf of Mexico because of frequent algae blooms due to high heat.

Seafood species found locally in the bay area.

Mike says that around summer and fall you can find rock fish, salmon, ling cod, petrale sole, sand dabs, mackerel and anchovies. Salmon season closes in October.

In March they hold hearings and decide when they are going to open salmon season and which salmon fisheries may be in danger. He explained that, “Salmon live their life in the ocean 5 years, give or take. At the end of that time period they go back up the river they came from to spawn. Certain populations of salmon will decrease. Right now the stress point where we are is the sacramento run. We try to stay away from all the sacramento river fish. As they started their migration back to the river we shut down areas to avoid fishing them. That was in July, no fishing in July because we want to make sure these salmon make it back to the river.

Sardines, anchovies and squid only show up during certain times, so sometimes you might get lucky and sometimes you may not. 

Most fish are seasonal meaning we get them just when they appear, like black cod. Its been a great year for black cod, but you will soon see that start to disappear. Albacore, same thing. We see them in the summer and that’s great but then by October they’re gone. But with El Nino everything flips. This year we didn’t hardly see any white sea bass.

Crab season starts mid November and lasts until early summer. There are times when the demonic acid levels are too high and they have to shut down crab season. This year it’s looking good.”

What to look for when purchasing seafood.

Mike thinks that in the bay area we do a pretty good job in general of offering good quality seafood. He says, “In the bay area the demand of quality is high. If you walk into a store and it smells like fish walk out. If it smells a little bit like fish give them a break it is fish. If it smells rank or overly bleachy walk away.”

Additionally, I would also say to look for clear eyes, firm skin and flesh and a nice vibrant color.

Local seafood markets Mike recommends. 

Mike says, “Besides Osprey Seafood in Napa I recommend, Monterey Fish Market in Berkeley, Hapuku Fish Shop inside Market Hall in Oakland,  Antonelli Bros in San Francisco  and even Whole Foods does a decent job. Programs like CSFs (community supported fisheries) are good. They will give you good fish. I don’t know if you want to eat as much sardines as they want to give you but they are usually using hook and line local fish.” An example of one of these would be Real Good Fish.

Favorite seafood restaurants in the bay area.

I asked Mike, when he goes out to dinner where are some of his favorite restaurants in the bay area for seafood. He said,Perbacco, Staffan (the chef/owner) knows more than any chef I have ever worked with, his knowledge of seafood and food in general is incredible, Gotts roadside, who is one of our accounts, their quality is very good, Swan Oyster Depot really knows their fish, Coqueta, Bottega, Hurley’s (just about any restaurant in Napa, really), Wood Tavern and Walnut Creek Yacht Club

Why I buy from Mike.

As I said before, I trust Mike over anyone else when purchasing seafood. I purchased fish from him wholesale when I was a chef in the restaurant business and I continue to purchase from him for my private chef clients and personal use.

Besides knowing the fish business inside and out Mike is a friend. He has a wonderful wife and family and has a wonderfully silly sense of humor.

Want to see just how knowledgeable and funny Mike is? Check out his educational video on oysters here. I laughed my ass off.

My favorite quote from Mike is this, “I had a fellow fishmonger say that when he retires he will be buying his fish from me. The reason is that we know quality and I love fish. My idea of a perfect day is to work with fish. I hate business. I am a poor business man, but I love working with fish. My brother Pat is better at the computer than me.”  Whenever I read that it makes me smile.

So where is your local seafood market? It’s time to get out there and take a look around. Help out the little guy. Support your community. And in doing so, support your own health and the health of the environment.

I would love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.

I also would love to invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavore, for my weekly newsletter. I am so grateful for this community, thank you for being part of it!

Mike and Susan
Mike and his lovely wife Susan

Mike and his lovely wife SusanAs a physiological psychology graduate from UCSB, Mike looked forward to a professional future in the laboratories of the Bay Area. Newly married and with high hopes, he moved his family to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco only to find a hiring freeze up and down the peninsula. After several months of selling wedding presents to make rent, his life took one of those turns. Upon a chance meeting with a neighbor who owned the fish store across the street, Mike begged for any job at all. The neighbor, Peter Bird, hired Mike as a driver for $5 per hour. It was September of 1983 and Mike fell in love with the business from the very start. As he learned the day-to-day operations, his passion for fish and the people who worked with it grew. In December of 1986, Mike excitingly took the plunge and purchased a major share in Osprey Seafood. By 1989, Mike invested all he had in Osprey Seafood and became the sole owner. Since then, Mike’s goal to serve the entire Napa Valley area has resulted in the retail store at Wine Country Avenue. 29 years later and he still loves fish.

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Local Spotlight – Dave the Butcher

Dave the Butcher
Dave the Butcher
Dave the Butcher at Soul Food Farm

I am hoping that after reading this article everyone starts googling the phrase “butcher near me”.

David Budworth, also known as “Dave the Butcher”, is one of those butchers who has changed the way people have looked at buying meat over the last several years.

He runs a modest shop in San Francisco called Marina Meats, where he embraces the farm to table movement and relationships with his customers.

His colorful past and liberal opinions are both hilarious and inspiring.

Here is his story

Dave started his butchering journey in 1989 working at Ashbury Market in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Seeing the older butchers break down whole animals intrigued and inspired him. But as a self-proclaimed “fuck up” he was not yet ready to settle down in a career.

So, off to Australia to live and work in the jungle he went. This is where Dave worked on a farm for tattooed, bearded bikers picking fruit. He said, “I lived in a tent for 6 months and half the time thought these guys were going to kill me”.

But they didn’t. And instead they inspired Dave even more to become a butcher and more knowledgeable about where his food came from.

The bikers raised wild pigs on their property. Dave would help slaughter them with his boss, Weed, to sell the meat off to nearby neighbors. The first time Weed strapped on his belt of knives Dave’s eyes lit up. He thought it was the coolest thing he’d ever seen.

In the evenings Dave and the bikers would head out (highly intoxicated) in a pick up truck to hunt crocodile. He learned that in Australia there are wet and dry seasons. In the wet season it floods and in the dry season when things dry up tiny ponds form where crocodiles get trapped and have to live in until the wet season returns. They would find the crocs in these ponds in the middle of the night, shine a light on them and shoot them, bringing them back to the farm to slaughter.

When Dave’s outback adventure came to an end he moved back to San Francisco and landed a job at The Real Food Company on Sutter street (which is now closed) working the meat counter. By a stroke of good luck the manager was getting ready to quit and in a bind offered his position to Dave. Dave, still not really knowing the art of butchery, saw an opportunity and accepted the position.

In the following months he became Bill Niman’s (formerly of Niman ranch) first butcher shop wholesale customer. Up until then Bill had only sold his grass-fed beef to Chefs at high end restaurants. He also brought on farms like Atkin’s Ranch for lamb. He said that he would order meat from Bill Niman and Atkins Ranch and then ask them how to cut it. The farmers trained Dave on how to cut their own product. And little did Dave know, that at the time, he was at the forefront of a food revolution that would surge several years later.

But in pure Dave fashion he grew antsy. With a pocket full of cash from his manager’s job he took 6 months off and moved to Amsterdam to grow pot.

Upon returning from his sabbatical he found himself living in the east bay where he stumbled into what would eventually become his true butchery training ground, Ver Brugges.

It was at Ver Brugge Foods where Dave learned the true meaning of hard work and what it took to be a real butcher. He worked long hours, never got weekends off, would get constant shit from the older butchers and cut his fingers daily. During the holiday season he remembers cracking crabs until three in the morning only to come home, drink a couple beers and go back to work a couple hours later at 6am.

He was the youngest butcher at the shop by 30 years. He had to fight to get taught what they knew and would often get pushed off on to the customers while the older butchers did the actual butchering in the back.

He would ask the customers if they wanted anything special done to the cuts of meat they were ordering from the case, such as boning out legs of lamb or trussing chickens. As with most of his butchering career Dave’s skills were self taught.

But, what he did learn from the owner of Ver Brugges was how to run a profitable butcher shop. Which became immeasurable later in his career.

A big reason why the owner preferred the more seasoned butchers to break down meat was that he had zero tolerance for waste. He had to. It was all about his bottom line and if Dave cut steaks while still learning and produced a lot of waste it was money taken out of his pocket. It was there that the idea of “clean bones” was instilled in Dave who went on to take pride in butchering meat leaving no waste behind.

Although Ver Brugge was a great shop Dave longed for the days when he got to watch guys break down whole animals which was something that they did not do there.

Dave found a shop in Santa Cruz that was doing just that. He called them every week for months until Shopper’s Corner finally gave in and offered him a job. Dave came in on fire getting quickly promoted to assisting the assistant manager on what he calls the “main block”. The manager would cut meat and Dave would clean up his “trim”. All. Day. Long.

Dave kept up his relentless butcher’s schedule until finally burning out. Making a significant change in lifestyle he moved to Berlin, opened a yoga studio and became a certified coffee roaster.

Although he loved his new life and Berlin Dave had this constant nagging feeling of wanting to be behind a butchers counter. Alas, he found himself back working at Ver Brugges only three years later.

During his second stint working at Ver Brugges he got divorced from his wife, his dog died and his car got broken into and stolen twice. Feeling depressed and defeated he returned to Berlin with his “tail between his legs” to his old barista job.

He was there for 6 months. Life was easy. Too easy he thought.

Dave traveled to Spain where he says he “scared himself” to the point of returning yet again to the bay area.

He ran a shop called The Fish Lady in Santa Cruz where he re-did their meat, cheese and beer programs. He couch surfed and eventually landed back in San Francisco where his career had started.

By this point Chefs had made butchering whole animals trendy and accessible to everyday people. All of the sudden being a butcher was “cool” and farm to table was all the rage. What Dave had been doing for over twenty years and not getting any recognition for was now big business.

After a long awaited and much deserved recommendation from Ver Brugge, Dave settled in at a new butcher shop that had just opened in the Marina called Marina Meats, which he still calls home today.

Dave the Butcher
Dave the Butcher at Soul Food Farm

Dave the Butcher is born

2009 was an exciting time to be a butcher. The NY Times had just put out an article titled, Young Idols With Cleavers Rule the Stage and butchers now had rockstar status.

Chefs like Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats where becoming known for whole animal butchery and the farm to table movement was in full swing.

Having already had 20 years experience as a butcher, Dave was in a prime position by the time he entered back into the San Francisco scene.

Dave started getting approached left and right to do demos at festivals, “meet your butcher” dinners and butchery competitions. He was getting up to speak at large events about factory farming and supporting small farms. He joined forces with other local butchers to support them and build his brand as, Dave the Butcher.

Dave on labeling

Now that people were taking notice of butchers again and having a desire to know where their meat was coming from  more and more meat starting popping up in grocery stores labeled as “organic”, “free-range” and natural. The demand was now there.

So, what is the difference between, what butchers like Dave, are offering and the organic meat you find in a supermarket? Luckily for us one of Dave’s best virtues is that he does not hide his opinions or sugarcoat them.

I asked Dave how he felt about companies who label their meats as “all natural” and this is what he had to say…

“It’s a crock of shit. I think the organic, all-natural, free-range labeling is fucking bullshit. It’s a scam in a sense. They are all buzzwords.

I know farmers who go beyond organic, like Alexis at Soul Food Farm, but can’t afford to label themselves as such because of the cost of licensing. When Alexis was certified organic she had to source feed from Japan. The costs were threatening to put her out of business. Corporate factory farms have the money to pay the organic fees. For them it’s just marketing.

I look for animal welfare certification when I purchase meat because a company can say they have organic chickens but then go out and beat the crap out of them everyday. As long as they feed them organic food they can call them organic. “Free-Range” chickens? They leave the door to the coup open. Most of the chickens don’t walk outside and if they do its on to a four by four fenced in area. The pastured birds that I get for Marina Meats are certified heritage and pastured for 140 days and are what chickens should taste like.”

Dave on grass-fed vs. grain fed beef

I asked Dave if he has seen a shift in what customers are looking for as far as beef goes these days. For many years marbled, grain-fed beef was revered by chefs and consumers for providing  juicer and more delicious steaks. These days the promise of a healthier meat option is delivered with grass-fed beef.

Dave said, “There were no grain-fed marbled steaks before WW2. That all started with the industrial corn revolution. It’s what we were all raised on. That too was a marketing ploy.

All cows start out for their first year on grass so you can technically call a factory farmed product grass-fed. After a year it gets auctioned off and goes to a factory to live the rest of its life on cement. It was the industry standard. That was back when everyone trusted the government and the food industry not to poison us.

Five years ago people in their seventies would come in and scoff at the price of grass-fed beef. Now those same people are asking for it. It’s one of those things where if people vote with their dollars shit will change. That’s what is starting to happen now. Grass-fed is the new healthy trendy thing and people want to be told what is healthy for them.

Back in the 70’s we were told fat was evil and  everyone started buying diet this and diet that. Now it comes out that all that shit was a big scam, just marketing. With those ideas still engrained in customers brains they ask me for steaks with less fat on them. I tell them the fat is not the problem. In the beef I sell the fat contains a lot of nutrients. It’s the fat from factory farmed meat that you want to stay away from. It is there where all of the chemicals and antibiotics that were given to the cows are stored.  

There only used to be choice and prime labels for beef. When a carcass was run through the slaughterhouse the USDA guy looked at one spot on the carcass and if it was marbled he would label it prime. These meats were more rare so they were sold at a more expensive price. 

Now there are three choices of beef – select, choice and prime. Select used to be called “no roll” because it meant that it didn’t get rolled with the USDA stamp. It was non-graded meat, below human consumption level, but fine for dogs to eat. Safeway lobbied to have select become a grade. They re-labeled everything in their store as “Safeway Select” and turned it into a brand name that people now trust.”

The Philosophy at Marina Meats

The demographic at Marina Meats can change with the time of the day or day of the week.

Dave gets everyone from Italian grandmothers cooking old school classics like petrale sole and meatballs to busy parents looking for convenient pre-made products like crabs cakes and marinated chicken breast to the guy walking in on the weekend who just bought a green egg and wants to smoke a whole brisket.

Dave’s favorite time to work is the weekend. He cranks up fun music like disco or reggae and shoots the shit with the customers who are more relaxed and in a friendly weekend mood.

He says his philosophy and the philosophy of the shop are one in the same. To source humanely raised, non-factory farmed meat and support small farms.

He buys whole animals from several small farms spreading the love around.

But coming from a background such as working at Ver Brugge he has also learned the importance of making a profit. So because of that he tries to blend what he calls the “old world” with the “new world” butcher shop ideas.

He says, “the new world idea of only buying whole carcasses, supporting only small farms and doing everything in house isn’t completely sustainable from a financial stand point. You have to charge a lot and there isn’t much profit to be made.

So to get around that I combine that model with the “old world” approach which is to still offer cool stuff but to also bring in some pre-cut product at a lower cost.

Many “craft” butcher shops won’t sell things like boneless, skinless chicken breast. I’ll bitch and moan all day about selling it but at the end of the day it’s what many customers want and it makes us money.

Offering that boneless, skinless chicken breast gets people into the shop on a daily basis and allows me to build a relationship with them. I am then able to guide them towards purchasing other off cuts that they might not of ever tried before.

Instead of alienating those people I engage them. I figure if one in every ten people buys a pork belly or a beef shank or some off cut that nobody used to ever buy, sweet!

I may go through a ton of boneless, skinless chicken breast but I’ve also converted many people in the process. And that’s why I am able to afford to buy and butcher whole carcasses. It supports my business.

Instead of being snooty and telling people that they should just get on the “craft butchery” train right now, when they clearly aren’t ready, I just try to make the train more enticing. That’s my theory.”

The choice is yours. 

Living in the bay area I have to remind myself all the time that we live in a bubble. Not everyone across America has access to pastured meat or are near a small local farm.

But I know in my heart that if we stop filling the pockets of factory farm corporations it will make an impact on the kinds of foods that grocery stores everywhere sell. Like Dave said, when people “vote with their dollars shit will change”.

So go ahead, close out this blog and google “butcher near me”. You never know, there could be a Dave the Butcher of your very own working right around the corner.

What kind of meat do you want to eat and feed to your family?

Dave the Butcher
Dave the Butcher at The Eat Real Festival

Dave the Butcher

David Budworth AKA “Dave the Butcher” started his career in 1989 at the Ashbury Market in San Francisco. With the 2 words on a poultry box “Edible Feet”, he was hooked. He landed in the jungle outback of northern Australia where he worked on a farm for some bikers learning to slaughter and process wild pigs. He has since worked under many local butcher masters, cut meat at Avedano’s Holly Park Market and was the butcher for Fatted Calf’s weekly Pork Happy Hour. Dave is now the manager and head butcher at Marina Meats in San Francisco. You can also catch him teaching lamb butchery classes at the San Francisco Cooking School. Dave is a bartender of a butcher- full of facts, recipes and butcher lore. 

Learn more about David Budworth on his websiteAsk Your Butcher

Or visit him at –

 Marina Meats 

2395 Chestnut ave. SF

(415) 673-6700

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Local Spotlight – Eric Miller on a Cheese Mission

Local cheese

When you look at lists of America’s favorite foods cheese is always ranked way up there. In fact pizza lands in the number one spot on most polls.

Local cheese
Top left to right: Local cheese plate, Eric at Weirauch Farm in Petaluma, Cheese class at The Cheese School of SF, Eric competing at the Cheesemonger Invitational. Bottom left to right: House-made duck rillettes and quince paste, Eric at Preston Family Vineyards, Wheels of Pleasant Ridge Reserve at Uplands Dairy, Wisconsin. Photo by: Page Berteisen

That’s pretty interesting seeing as there are millions of Americans with a lactose intolerance.

So is it our obsession with cheese that’s making us intolerant and sick or is it the type of dairy we are consuming?

This week I sat down with Eric Miller, a local cheesemonger who promotes high quality cheeses made by local small farms.

We chatted about his top 3 favorite local cheese makers, Mission Cheese where Eric currently works and Makers Common, which is the highly anticipated sequel to Mission Cheese expected to open next year.

I couldn’t help but to think, if Americans ate cheese like the ones Eric promotes would we be healthier with less lactose intolerance? Not to mention the impact we could make by spending our dollars supporting small dairy farmers and cheesemakers versus the factory farmed dairy industry. And finally, what if we all ate artisan cheese made from pastured animals off of a plate with a fork and knife like civilized human beings instead of cramming commodity dairy processed cheese into our face with no thought at all?. Things that make you go hmmmmm…..

Makers Common
Recipe testing for Makers Common, left to right: Dutch baby with caramelized pears, Truffled egg toast, Focaccia with leeks and mushrooms, Fresno chili hot sauce, House-made coppa cotta and Llano Seco beans with poached egg. Photo by: Page Berteisen

How did you get interested in cheese?

EM: I’d have to say it was an experience eating Saint-Marcellin (which I loved) and Petit Livarot (which I hated – at the time.) I just started eating a lot of cheese, bringing cheese to parties, cooking with it at home. I won’t say I was obsessed but a lot of money was spent on cheese at home.

Do you have any formal cheesemongering education?

EM: I’m not sure there’s much in the way of formal education. I’d say most of the people I know started at a cheese counter or a restaurant that had a good cheese program. There are some great books like Mastering Cheese by Max McCalman, or Cheese Primer by Steve Jenkins. They’re good companions to the on-the-job training, which is going to be your best resource.

How long have you been working as a cheesemonger and how did you get into the industry?

EM: Eventually, work got to a point where I thought that it was time to get out of my industry and get into gourmet food. I started volunteering in the Murray’s Cheese classroom in New York as an assistant and spent over 100 hours there learning whatever I could. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the change at that time – nothing was available and I wasn’t ready to take the huge pay cut. A couple of years later it was time to make the jump and leave the cubicle behind – money be damned! San Francisco was the place and Mission Cheese is where I got my start. It really counts as my first job in food. I’ve been working with Mission Cheese for over five years at this point. I’m definitely a cheesemonger.

Do you make any cheeses yourself?

EM: I’ve only made a few fresh cheeses myself. Making super small batches of cheese is more complex than you’d think when you only have a five-gallon pot at home.

In your opinion, who are the top 3 cheese makers in the bay area right now?

EM: Such a difficult question! The Bay Area really crushes it on the cheese front these days. If I had to pick a few that are shining really bright at the moment I’d roll with Bleating Heart – they just took 2nd place at the American Cheese Society’s annual conference for Buff Blue. Barinaga Ranch who took 1st place in their category for Baserri. It’s bittersweet for the industry because Marcia Barinaga is retiring. And I was just snacking on some cheese from Garden Variety – it’s been a while since I’ve had any of their cheese and it’s still amazing!

What are they doing that makes them stand out from the others?

EM: Bleating Heart is really creative and making some truly inspired blue cheese that’s different from everyone else. I love the different blues they make. They really stand out. Barinaga and Garden Variety are some amazing farmstead cheesemakers that not only love their animals, but they love their land just as much. They know that if the land isn’t cared for you’re not going to have the best cheese.

What are your favorite cheeses of theirs?

EM: Right now, Buff Blue from Bleating Heart, Baserri from Barinaga, and Black Eyed Susan from Garden Variety.

Tell me about Mission Cheese.

EM: Mission Cheese is here to celebrate they amazing work of American artisan cheesemakers. The American cheese movement is relatively young in comparison to the industry in Europe and for years has been grossly underrepresented at cheese counters in America. The owners of Mission Cheese, Sarah & Oliver, have really made it clear that we’re here to support this industry in every way we possibly can. So we serve up beautiful cheese flights, grilled cheese sandwiches, and killer Mac n Cheese, and more. I started our pickling and in-house charcuterie programs several years ago and it’s been doing really well.

Do you carry any local seasonal cheeses there? What would be an example of a seasonal cheese?

EM: All the cheeses that I mentioned before would be examples of seasonal cheeses. Pretty much all of the sheep’s milk cheese we get is seasonal – sheep aren’t as cooperative at breeding outside of their natural cycle like goats and cows. There are a lot of cow and goat cheeses that are seasonal but probably almost as many that are made year ‘round.

Tell me about Makers Common.

EM: I’ve partnered up with Sarah and Oliver to open Maker’s Common and couldn’t be more excited! We’re going to take everything we’ve done at Mission Cheese and expand upon it. We’ll still focus on American artisan cheese, charcuterie, wine, and beer but will also have a full kitchen, and a dedicated retail area with a cheese and charcuterie counter and more.

We’ve already signed a ten-year lease in downtown Berkeley and construction will start in the beginning of November. The space is about three times bigger than Mission Cheese and will have a nice big outdoor patio. This will allow us to do family-style dinners, produce more in-house charcuterie, and increase our pickle production.

We’re still raising money through a Direct Public Offering so anyone in the state of California can actually invest. To date we’ve raised over $400,000 that has come mostly from the Bay Area. I encourage everyone to check out the Maker’s Common website and get involved. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

What is your role going to be there?

EM: Well, it’s a small business so it’ll definitely be some of everything, ha! But I’ll be taking the role of GM, Culinary Director, and Charcuterie Guy. Of course, the plan is to get someone on board that can take on more menu development and such but I’m working on the opening menu. I’ll also have to become a state certified Meat Processing Facility Inspector for our charcuterie production. Jealous?

That’s cool! Which local vendors will you be using at Makers common?

EM: We work with a lot of cheesemakers directly in the Bay Area but we’ll also use Tomales Bay Foods, Cream & The Crop, Food Matters Again, Chef’s Warehouse, and a few others for cheese and charcuterie. For produce we’ll do as much farm-direct as we can. For meat we have some great relationships with some of our cheesemakers that keep hogs but also look forward to working with Llano Seco as much as possible. We haven’t even gotten into the wine and beer side!

Tell me more about the charcuterie program you are developing for Makers Common. 

EM: We’ll have cooked items like pates, terrines, and such but for fermented items like salami or whole muscle cuts like a coppa I want to make everything we do transparent. It drives me crazy that there are still so many restaurants that make delicious meats but keep it all hidden from the inspectors – and the public! Having staged at Olympia Provisions as well as Trou Normand in production makes me want to make the best product I can make.

I hope to work with Llano Seco as well as some local farmers that will be able to hook me up with some of their hogs, lambs, and goats.

What is your favorite thing about working in the restaurant industry in San Francisco?

EM: I really love that every one I’ve worked with shares their techniques, recipes, and processes. This is how we all learn to be better cooks and producers. We’re all trying to up our game and you just can’t do that if you’re not willing to explore ideas with others. When you work in a vacuum you’re working with one hand tied behind your back. You need people around to provide inspiration.

After talking with Eric besides, being hungry for cheese, I was inspired. People like him and restaurants like these are the driving force behind supporting your community and farm to table foods. I am in love with Mission Cheese and can’t wait for Makers Common to open.

I know when I am in the mood for some cheesy goodness I would much rather eat a product that was made by hard-working people who take pride in their work and care about the impact they are making on our environment than something that resembles rubber and is made from sick animals. But hey, that’s just me.

 

Eric Miller
Photo by: Page Berteisen

Eric is the director of the in-house charcuterie program and cheesemonger at Mission Cheese. After escaping his former cubicle life, he is now creating traditional charcuterie with an American flair, along with pickles, and desserts, and other delicious items as part of his new project, Maker’s Common. A native New Yorker, Eric has spent numerous hours helping educate the masses about the art of meats and cheeses at the legendary Murray’s Cheese. As an enthusiastic transplant to the west coast, he’s always excited about bringing his New York know-how to San Francisco’s fresh food scene.

To learn more about Makers Common click here or shoot Eric an email at eric@makerscommon.net

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Clean, Natural and Healthy Meals From Your Kitchen

Notice in the title of this article I said your kitchen. Eating clean and healthy is not hard to do but you have to know what is in your food in order to do so. Even the seemingly healthy restaurants may sneak something in on you that you wouldn’t normally eat. The only way to really know what you are eating is to prepare it yourself.

The first step you should take toward better health is to eliminate the processed, pre-packaged and fast foods from your diet. The second step should be to learn to recognize and prepare clean, natural and healthy foods for yourself and your family.

Choosing to eat “clean” and healthy meals is not so much about restricting what you eat, but rather about making better choices and eating better quality foods. Starting with more natural foods containing natural ingredients and eliminating chemicals and additives. The fresher the foods, the better.

Simplify your foods and meals. Choose almost any package in the grocery store and take a look at the long list of ingredients, most are unrecognizable, and many are made in a laboratory. Clean foods have very few ingredients with familiar names. If you can’t pronounce it or have know idea what the ingredient is you probably don’t want to eat it. The simplest clean foods are in fact known as “single ingredient” foods like a banana, a carrot, quinoa or a chicken breast. These are the types of foods to incorporate into your clean eating recipes.

Eliminate refined sugar. Adding refined sugar to your food means consuming empty calories. Alternative sweeteners like stevia, honey and maple syrup are more natural, but use them sparingly as they too will feed your sugar addiction. In the end, sugar is sugar not matter if it has health benefits, like in the case of honey, or not.

Choose local and organic foods. When choosing ingredients for your healthy home cooked meals, shop your local Farmer’s Market and choose organic products when possible. These foods are more nutritious and don’t contain any pesticides, hormones and chemicals.

Cooking your own meals. Stop buying meals or entrees in a box, learn to cook meals from scratch. It is not no as hard as it sounds. Whole foods need little preparation other than chopping and sautéing to make simple yet satisfying, delicious meals you and your family will love.

Planning and preparing clean meals in the kitchen. Start with combining simple and delicious single ingredient foods as meals.

For breakfast try two eggs with onions and peppers served with sliced avocado and tomato. Or, plain Greek yogurt with ½ cup of home-made granola and fresh berries.

Lunch could include a spinach salad with apple cider vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil dressing, walnuts, goat cheese and any vegetables you prefer.

A sample dinner might be a brown rice bowl with roasted chicken breast and vegetables with a squeeze of lime and some sesame seeds.

Notice in these examples, the list of foods is also the list of ingredients.

Your kitchen doesn’t have to be the room of the house you dread being in. Keeping things simple and enjoyable will make cooking seem less like a chore and more like a routine that makes you feel and look great.

What are your easy go-to recipes for a healthy meal?

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Local Spotlight – Taos and Santa Fe

I’m sitting in what’s probably the tiniest airport in America. I’m one of five people here. The TSA checkpoint doesn’t even open until my plane arrives. The power just went out and I have to laugh because even with power back on wifi is, I’m guessing, not an option. No airport bar, no food, two rental car agencies, two airlines, one terminal. This is Santa Fe.

I have just spent five unforgettable days in New Mexico. To call this place “the land of enchantment” is an understatement. The history of the native American Indians, the adobe architecture and the endless works of art unique to this area are both humbling and powerful.

When planning my trip here I knew exactly who I wanted to take with me on my journey. My Mom. It took one phone call, no convincing and a couple months later we were landing here in this tiny airport.

This trip offered so many nutrients in these four areas of health – self-care, spirituality, local food and relationships. I was nurtured both physically and emotionally and will be reaping the benefits for years to come.

Taos

Our trip started by driving an hour north. Miles of uninhabited desert dotted with shrubby green bushes as far as you could see, casinos after casinos, the run down town of Espanola, plateaus, arroyos and finally we drop down into the town of Taos surrounded by desert, lined with mountains, dark grey clouds in the distance.

We arrived at El Monte Sagrado Resort just in time for dinner where I had my first plate of New Mexican green chile enchiladas and Mom had her first experience of eating elk.

El Monte Sagrado
El Monte Sagradon

Self Care. The following day I had one of the most extraordinary spa experiences of my life at The Living Spa in the resort. It started with using their steam room, sauna and taking a hot bath in a Japanese cedar tub.

Then I went in for my treatment which started with body brushing followed by an application of clay enriched with sage, cedar and juniper essential oils to my entire body. I was then tightly wrapped  to promote

The Living Spa
The Living Spa

sweating allowing the clay to pull out and trap toxins. While I was wrapped the massage therapist placed Staurolite crystals indigenous to Taos all along my chakras, applied reflexology to my feet and treated my face with exfoliation and the same clay mask. I was then instructed to shower and return for a thirty minute full body massage. The session was complete with a glass of cold coconut water. I felt f-ing amazing.

Lampert's
Lampert’s

Local Food. Taos has a quaint downtown filled with shopping aimed to tourists. We had a lovely lunch at Lambert’s of hummus, tabouli, pita, feta, olives, grilled local trout and vegetables.

For dinner in the evening we enjoyed regional, organic fare at The Love Apple. The lamb albondigas, red chile tamale and blue corn cake baked and served in cast iron were smoky, rich and provided some serious aromatherapy.

Spirituality. The next day we explored the Taos Art Museum at The Fechin House, the Taos Pueblo, the Rio Grande Gorge and visited the Earthship community – a completely off the grid community of homes built from recycled materials, dirt and adobe.

Taos Pueblo
Taos Pueblo
Rio Grande Gorge
Rio Grande Gorge
The Earthship Community
The Earthship Community

Local Food. We also visited two farmers markets where we found organic cherries, yams, garlic, apricots, squash, eggs and greens. What I also noticed is everywhere we went herbs such as Echinacea, lavender and sage grew wild.

Local New Mexican chile powder and piñon
Local New Mexican chile powder and piñon
Local yams
Local yams
Red Willow Farm
Red Willow Farm
Local Garlic Scapes
Local garlic scapes
Wild Lavender
Wild Lavender
Wild Echinacea
Wild Echinacea
Desert Sage
Desert Sage

Self-care. Before heading down to Santa Fe we decided to indulge in a little hydrotherapy at the sacred Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs. Ojo Caliente is unique in that it is the only hot springs in the world that offers four different types of mineral waters – lithia, soda, arsenic and iron. Each pool offers different therapeutic properties at different temperatures. Lithia offers relief from depression, soda relieves digestive issues, iron supports the immune system and blood and arsenic relieves arthritis, is good for digestion and heals skin conditions. They are all good for toning the skin and detoxing. There is also a mud bath which is made of clay. The idea is you slather yourself with mud and then lay out in the sun to let it harden on your skin which to extracts and traps toxins from your pores.

Santa Fe

New Mexican Lamb at Geronimo's
New Mexican Lamb at Geronimo

Local Food. We hit the ground running with a fine dining experience at Geronimo restaurant. House made sourdough and flatbread dusted with spices and sesame, seared foie gras with local cherries and roasted strawberries, Asian pear salad with blue cheese toast, arugula, endive and cashews, New Mexico “four corners” rack of lamb and Durham Ranch roasted chicken. We even went all out for dessert with banana cream pie accompanied by cinnamon chocolate ice-cream, a feather light orange “creamcicle” reminiscent of tres leches cake with lemongrass ice-cream and espresso and tea with star anise cookies. Wines too were fantastic. As was the service.

The hotel we stayed in, La Fonda on the Plaza, hosts a live band every night of the week. Music has always been an important part of our lives. A great way to end the night, which we did on both nights of our stay.

Avocado Toast at Pasqual's
Avocado Toast at Cafe Pasqual’s

Local Food. Santa Fe has a ton of shopping, museums, art galleries and restaurants that surround a central plaza. Cafe Pasqual’s was on point for brunch with their more healthy approach to New Mexican fare. House-made whole wheat toast with avocado, poached eggs, house-cured bacon and a seed and spice mixture called dukkah was a stand out. Their more traditional chile relleno and vegetarian tamale with black beans, jicama and cilantro rice were also exceptional.

Georgia O'Keeffe
Hawaiian flowers – Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Spirituality. We went to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum where I was mesmerized by her iconic artwork and passion for New Mexico.

Self-Care. Off the beaten path we discovered Milagro Herbs. They forage local herbs, make holistic skincare products and herbal medicine. They also have an extensive assortment of medicinal teas, clays and essential oils.

Local Food. Just down the street from there is Kakawa Chocolate. They make ancient recipe chocolate elixers, truffles and ice-cream. Smoky red chile finds its way into all three. Pinon (pine nuts), a commonly used ingredient in this area, were used in delicious caramel chocolate truffles.

Kakawa Chocolate House
Kakawa Chocolate House

Local Food. The Cayote Café is another worthy restaurant just off the plaza. Their tuna poke was fresh and vibrant with the addition of diced watermelon and avocado. I had the salmon with house-made cavatelli, chard and English peas. Mom had a decadent pork osso buco with Israeli cous cous. Marsala-tomato sauce and apple salad.

Santa Fe Municipal Airport
Santa Fe Municipal Airport

 

On the last day Mom flew home early back to San Diego. I went for a swim at the hotel, sat in Cathedral park and had a delicious Salmon nicoise salad at La Casa Sena. As I drove back to the tiny airport I took in the desert for the last time. The adobe homes, the squatty green bushes, the majestic mountains and the dark clouds, always in the distance, never once over me.

It was monsoon season in New Mexico but it never rained once.

Travel for good health

This trip fed my soul and promoted good health in so many ways. The vast deserts, local Indians and culture offered an amazing spiritual experience. The healing power of mineral baths, clay, massage, essential oils, reflexology and the warm sun re-energized my body. The local organic food nourished me.

Relationships. But the most rewarding aspect of the trip hands down was the quality time I enjoyed spending with my mom laughing, eating, getting pampered, exploring, talking and sharing. Deepening our relationship and connecting with new experiences we had offered the most nutritional benefit of all.

Me and Mom
Me and Mom
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.