Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 74

weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • It's not like selling handbags: For online food startups, a challenging recipe for success "Unlike groceries, artisanal foods are generally considered a niche market. They make great gifts, as well as delicious occasional treats, but most people -- even foodies -- aren't buying high-end truffle oil too often." (Fortune)
  • Men's fashion site Mr Porter has bridged their style into food with their "The Way I cook" series, like this one with model and cake enthusiast Sam Homan. Anyone looking to make a company video for their food product, take notes. (Mr Porter)
  • Hotels and resorts want a piece of the Farm to Table movement: "In May 2012, Hyatt Hotels Corp. required chefs at its 120 full-service hotels in the U.S., Canada and Caribbean to use at least five local ingredients on their menus. The rules define local as food grown or caught within 50 miles of the hotel." And the experiment is still going. (News-press)
  • Want to know which currencies are over or undervalued? You can find the answers through Burgernomics. (Economist)
  • How to drink coffee in space at zero gravity, explained to you, in this little video made by NASA. Because, you know, it could come in really handy if you find yourself in space. (Laughing Squid)
  • San Francisco style prediction: uni is the new foie gras, with a tour of some of their favorite uni dishes, from crostini to flan to snuggled up next to a raw quail egg. (The Bold Italic)

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 34

 weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • Some of our favorite images from Pinterest this week, above. Come on by.
  • "Smart aquaponics" in Oakland, California at Kijani Grows is using tech in new ways: "Gardens that can communicate for themselves using the internet can lead to exchanging of ideas in ways that were not possible before. I can test, for instance, whether the same tomato grows better in Oakland or the Sahara Desert given the same conditions. Then I can share the same information with farmers in Iceland and China.”
  • The New York Times OpEd Dirtying Up Our Diets argues that getting natural with microorganisms and unsanitized food might be just what the doctor ordered: "As we move deeper into a “postmodern” era of squeaky-clean food and hand sanitizers at every turn, we should probably hug our local farmers’ markets a little tighter. They may represent our only connection with some “old friends” we cannot afford to ignore."
  • The title might be inflammatory, but soem interesting points are raised in the recent Salon article Eating Local Hurts the Planet. How your food is produced really, really matters. Shipping is just the part of the food system that we can see. "Not surprisingly, it turns out that food miles can only be taken at face value in the case of identical items produced simultaneously in the exact same physical conditions but in different locations — in other words, if everything else is equal, which is obviously never the case in the real world."
  • Chef Marcus Samuelsson talks about his memoir Yes, Chef and his life in the kitchen on the radio show Fresh Air (audio link).

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 33

 weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • Another idea that we're excited about: Local Food Lab, a California based incubator and collaborative workspace for early stage sustainable food and farm startups.
  • Hands Off our Special Regions, says the European Commission to an American initiative calling for the unfettered use of what are currently protected food and drink monikers, such as Parmesan and port. How 'bout we put some creativity into creating new names. One of our favorites: Quady Winery's Starboard, a port-style wine made in California.

No Brand is an Island – Building American Regional Food Identities

this piece was originally published January 5 in Seedstock, the blog for sustainable agriculture focusing on startups, entrepreneurship, technology, urban agriculture, news and research.

Previously, we’ve looked at beneficial partnerships between artisans and farmers, and how cross-promotion and cultivating relationships with chefs and the community can boost the impact of a farmer’s market stand. With this theme of forging connections, we want to look one step further — to building new regional food identities in America.

The locavore movement has allowed us to think differently and more attentively about the foods of our regions. Like in times past, we are journeying again out onto available land and available cultural space (whether it’s an abandoned city lot or a dozen acres a hundred miles away from our friends and family) to forge new food systems and identities.

The phrase “agricultural renaissance” is gaining steam to describe the energy, excitement and activity in the good food movement. But just like the cultural renaissance in Europe took inspiration from classical sources to move the culture forward into something new, we need to find guiding inspiration in the past that will help us build food systems and cultures that are truly new and truly American.

We understand the complex web of interdependence in nature, but we don’t always appreciate it at a human and economic scale. Creating a web of interdependent regional brands is an ecosystem approach that can have an uplift effect on an entire region. The proliferation of new farms and farmers markets is just the beginning. We need a revolution that is not just broad, but deep. We need to knit brands together — in produce, meat, dairy, wine, beer and more — in ways that build up entire local economies. Economies built around food do more than just support food production. They support restaurants, markets, artisans, bed and breakfasts and agro-tourism. When a region is recognized as the source of many beloved products, it becomes a foodie destination and point of pride, linking the urban, suburban and rural communities that share in the experience.

What makes a regional food identity anyway? Agricultural regions across Europe have cultivated the idea of regional branding successfully for centuries. Take Normandy, a prolific region in northwest France boasting many stand-alone products that come together as a complete package of vibrant agro-tourism and celebrity chefs.

Normandy is a high profile producer of fruit, meats and dairy products that have come to symbolize the region. Normandy produces cheeses like Camembert, Livarot and Pont l’Eveque, not to mention fresh butter and cream from the Isigny region. Normandy apples and pears are known around the world for the ciders, juices and Calvados they produce. Lambs graze on the local salt marshes. Hogs are fed from the fruit orchards, ending up in famous charcuterie such as andouille. A regional cuisine has grown up that highlights these products and the ways they have developed to complement each other.

While there is a healthy dose of competition, the farmers depend on each other to anchor potential customers to the region. A collection of recognized products means chefs and world-renowned hoteliers, such as Relais & Chateau, have been able to open their doors, welcoming both leisure and agro-tourists. International cooking tours come to the Normandy region. Each player in this system produces something unique that they can be proud of, and by celebrating their shared Normandy identity, the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Crafting new American regional food identities is partly about getting in touch with tradition, and partly about making new ones. No one thinks of Kentucky and then immediately thinks of Asian ingredients, but Louisville is now home to an artisan soy sauce producer. Bourbon Barrel Foods is riffing off the Kentucky distilling tradition to create “microbrewed” soy sauce from Kentucky grown soybeans, sweetened with Kentucky sorghum, and aged in re-purposed bourbon barrels. It’s an unusual product (as least for what we think of as being traditional to Kentucky) with undeniable Kentucky terroir that ties together long-standing regional traditions, like bourbon and sorghum as a sweetener, into something entirely new.

The appetite is there. Chefs continue to build menus around regional offerings, diving deeper all the time to get in touch with the best traditional and new products of a given region. Beyond farmers markets, specialty food shops and farmer’s co-ops around the country are providing a strong backdrop for American appellations.

You can build a branded identity for your county, or even your town. You don’t need permission. American appellations are the Wild West. Napa is, after all, just the name of a county. If this sounds far-fetched, look to real estate. When agencies want to brand a neighborhood that never existed before, they make up a name and start using it constantly. A few banners get hung up, a reporter is coaxed into repeating the name, and in a flash — a new branded region is born!

Get a few farms together, reach out to your wholesale customers in the city, and go for it. What are the ingredients your area does best? What are the connections you see that are still to be explored? The more the individual components are called out, the better the picture that is created. For example, pigs that are fed leftover fruit from an orchard can be made into bacon smoked with apple wood from the same orchard, and then served at a restaurant with an apple compote. Cowgirl Creamery in Marin County, California, just north of San Francisco, is using this idea to create new seasonal cheeses. Their St. Pat cheese is made using milk from nearby Chileno Valley Jersey Dairy and is wrapped in the local stinging nettle leaves that grow wild in spring — and all this is all called out in the marketing of the cheese.

This is the time to build deep and lasting identities. We can decide who we want to be, and there’s no impulse more American than that.


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About Alisha & Polly’s company: Polish Partnerships


Polish is a branding and communications company for the new gastroconomy. By creating strong partnerships with food and beverage producers, hospitality groups and industry innovators, we go the extra distance, transforming hopes, dreams and expectations into tangible, sustainable and polished realities.

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 11

a weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food


  • Authenticity is the flavor of the new year, says NPR (and the rest of us): "What might be called urban neo-ruralism has apartment dwellers canning tomatoes, keeping bees and churning butter. The small farmer is the new gastronomic superhero, sourced on restaurant menus." Expect more craft butchers, more unusual meat (at least for Americans) like goat and rabbit, and more small batch distilling.
  • Southern farmers profiled in the New York Times describe "a thriving movement of idealistic Southern food producers who have a grander plan than just farm-to-table cuisine. They want to reclaim the agrarian roots of Southern cooking, restore its lost traditions and dignity, and if all goes according to plan, completely redefine American cuisine for a global audience."
  • Farmers forging partnerships is key to building regional food systems. "Food has really been the bridge that has healed the urban-rural divide."
  • Looking across to Italy, we see farmers carving out new economic niches to flourish, with women-run farms ahead of the curve. Some farms are even offering day care centers as part of the mix. "The involvement of women in multifunctional agriculture has helped society in important ways 'like food security, rural development and the safeguarding of the natural landscape.'”

Friday Faves — notes from the new gastroconomy, No. 10

a weekly round-up of our favorite finds from the front lines of food

  • In hospitality, Bill Marriott, who helped create his family's hotel empire, announced his retirement next year at age 80. He got his start in the kitchen and working as a soda jerk. In an NPR interivew, he talks about the business of the kitchen: "presentation is very important and the details are extremely important."
  • If you want to play restaurateur without losing all your money, try Marriott's game on Facebook where you get to make supply and staff choices and then found out how you're doing.

The New Gastroconomy: how technology is making a vibrant, inclusive urban food culture

Gastronomy is the study of food and culture.  The ethic should be universal, but the world of gastronomy has too often been elitist, stuffy. Now technology (from production systems to social media) is creating a new gastroconomy, breaking down barriers to bring the culture of food to the people.

New systems that are far less capital intensive are making it possible for the freshest ideas to emerge — and for people to build community around them.

The movement is cooperative, participatory, fast-paced and centered around connection — connecting people to each other and connecting people to their food.

Breaking the Barriers to market entry

Gathering around the table to share ideas has been an essential, organizing principle for creative exchange from the ancient world to the modern coffeehouse.  But for those with a culinary vision, finding the economic means to express their art has proven difficult. Now a young chef who doesn’t have access to the necessary funding to open a brick and mortar restaurant has options. He or she can start a pop-up restaurant concept, renting or borrowing space and bringing a spontaneous, performance aspect to the restaurant form. Or they can take their craft literally on the road with a food truck.  Social media and online word-of-mouth marketing make it possible for the chef to find an audience and for the audience to find the chef. This person-to-person connection is redefining what an authentic food experience is.


Artisans who are too small or too experimental for the established distribution system can sell their wares online and connect face to face with customers at temporary food marketplaces that are organized online and “advertised” through social media. When people can’t meet, QR codes attached to the products can take shoppers to a video or message about what they’re buying and who made it.

And amateurs — or even a mix of amateurs and professionals — can start their own gastronomic journeys through interactive projects like crowd-sourced cookbooks and underground supper clubs. Beyond attracting local participants, supper clubs are now tapping into online communities to invite tourists to attend for a real and super-local dining experience.


One of the worst side effects of modern urban life has been distancing people from their source of food. Food gets produced somewhere far away and comes to the city consumer-packaged and disconnected from its source. New systems of urban food production are bringing the farm to the people, along with a new sense of ownership that is transforming consumers into co-producers.

Small and unlikely spaces are being reclaimed for food production — from vacant lots, to alleyways, to fire escapes, to office building rooftops and even the roofs of school buses.  Professional and amateur growers are joining with their fellow citizens, from kids to seniors, to raise their own food at edible schoolyards, community gardens and urban farms. Innovations in vertical farming, hydroponics, recirculating tank systems, and simple hoop-houses have pushed the boundaries of climate and space.

The locavore movement is rooting people to their cities in new ways. By eating and celebrating the wild and farmed foods of their region, and by championing and supporting local culinary innovators, people are engaging their food with new enthusiasm, supporting their local economy, and building a fuller sense of place and identity.