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Welcome to Gardens to Tables
A Fleurishing Concept Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

NoFleurish flower barthing says Valentine's Day like flowers. For most that means the store-bought variety but for those who want to add the special touch of creating a bouquet themselves — or, perhaps, learn how to take the flowers from their own gardens and make them into beautiful arrangements, a visit to the new Fleurish flower bar in Brentwood, California, might be in order. The brainchild of Amy Marella, who also owns The Hidden Garden Floral Design and founded Fleurish with Allyson Arons and Alex Frost, Fleurish creates the space and offers the expertise (from tablet tutorials to professional floral designers on hand) to help people create custom bouquets using seasonal flowers. Beginners can start with the FleurKits, which provide a recipe card, vase, fresh flowers and other cuttings and all the tools needed to create a particular seasonal arrangement (below is the one I made from the Winter Solstice kit during my visit last Thursday), while those looking for more instruction might be interested in the beginner and intermediate classes or special workshops offered throughout the year. (Yes, there are Valentine's-themed events all next week.)

Fleurish arrangementThe Fleurish space is also available for private or semi-private group events, ranging from parties for "petite fleurists" (children over 7) to those celebrating birthdays or showers to corporate events. Groups are even free to bring in their own food and drinks at no extra charge.

For most of us, the garden(or farm)-to-table idea conjures thoughts of the herbs, fruits and vegetables we use in our kitchens but the truth is the garden-to-table concept can also be applied to flowers. As we all know, it's important to have flowers in our gardens to provide an environment that keeps the beneficial insects (including the all-important bees) happy but, the truth is, they also keep us happy. I have to admit that nothing brings a smile to my face like seeing fresh blooms in my garden, which range (depending on the season) from roses to poppies to lilies to chrysanthemums to zinnias. So what could be better than bringing that happiness to the table (especially in an arrangement we created ourselves)?

Happy Valentine's Day!

 
A Tasty Way to Explore Sacramento Print E-mail
Written by Lisa Armstrong   

Local Roots farmLocal Roots Food Tours was developed in 2010 with a simple concept: I wanted to share my passion for the great local cuisine found in the Sacramento area. After participating in several food tours across the nation, my husband and I realized that many of the dishes being offered consisted of ingredients from our own Sacramento Valley. As a gardener and a chef, I wanted to highlight the farm fresh food and inspiration of our local chefs -- so I researched restaurants offering local food and the history of some of the oldest neighborhoods in Sacramento.

Our first tour was the "Origins of Sacramento," a walking tour that ventures into Midtown's Sutter District and East Sacramento's Fabulous Forties. The tour showcases restaurants that provide authentic tastes from the diverse groups that forged our great city and created its agricultural dominance. I hand-select the establishments that have rich California history and support local farms by using fresh fruit, produce and meats.

Local Roots wineLast March we launched a tour in nearby Murphys, California. Aptly named the "Queen of the Sierras," the old mining town of Murphys is the perfect destination for a food and wine tour. Another new tour is the "Gourmet on K Culinary Walking Tour," which shows participants everything gourmet along one of Sacramento's most historic streets. Folks are guided down the city's original main street, exploring the beautiful architecture with many stories dating back to the 1800s. Locals and tourists alike enjoy this culinary excursion as it enlightens their views of the most controversial street in the city.

More tours are on the way. And, for those interested in more information on local food and history, my Local Roots blog is updated daily with recipes, events and coverage of Northern California "foodie" news. Along with the tours, this virtual table provides another opportunity to connect with fellow food enthusiasts, fostering that most intangible -- yet valuable -- result: a sense of community, right here in Sacramento. You can also visit our Facebook page or find us on Twitter @LocalRootsFood.

 
Maui Merriment: Cocktail Ideas from Ocean Vodka Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Ocean Vodka Cosmo

It's that time — time to start thinking about holiday cocktails, especially those that use local, seasonal produce. If you are looking for ideas, here are some from the good folks at Ocean Vodka. The first is the Berry Cosmo, which was part of our post on Ocean Vodka last year (below). This year, they're offered two more ideas, which follow. If you visit the Ocean Vodka website, you can also find recipes for many more cocktails, all featuring fresh produce. And if you find yourself on the island of Maui, they offer wonderful tours of the farm and distillery. The cost is only $10 and includes samples and a souvenir shot glass. It's also a wonderful way to see the beautiful Upcountry area of Maui — one of my favorite places in the world. Enjoy! And Happy Holidays!

Looking for a new cocktail for your holiday party? Ocean Vodka brings us the Holiday Berry Cosmo (pictured), featuring raspberries and red currants. In case you haven't heard of Ocean Vodka, it's made on the island of Maui using organic sugar cane and deep ocean mineral water, sourced from a depth of 3,000 feet off the Kona Coast of the Island of Hawaii. It's 100 percent certified USDA Organic — and it's gluten free. In short, a vodka you can feel good about on many levels.

Ocean Organic Vodka Holiday Berry Cosmo
1 1/2 oz. Ocean Organic Vodka
1/2 oz. Chambord Raspberry Liqueur
6 Raspberries
20 Red Currants
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
Macerate raspberries and red currants in Chambord Raspberry Liqueur. Place berry mixture into a shaker and add simple syrup, bruise ingredients in a  shaker. Add Ocean Vodka and ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with red currants.

Ocean Organic Vodka Seasons Greetings
1 1/2 oz. Ocean Organic Vodka
1 oz. Pear Nectar
Splash of Fresh Orange Juice
Place all ingredients into a shaker with ice and bruise. Pour into a martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Ocean Organic Vodka Santa's Helper
1 1/2 oz. Ocean Organic Vodka
2 Basil leaves
8 Fresh Bing cherries
1/2 oz. Lemon juice
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
1 oz. Prosecco
Muddle cherries and basil in a shaker. Add Ocean Organic Vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and ice and bruise. Strain into a champagne flute. Top with Prosecco.

 
Exploring the Farm Towns of Turkey Print E-mail
Written by Scott Archer   

Turkey FarmA little more than 50 percent of Turkey's population is rural, where agriculture is the focus of life and the typical farm town is surrounded with land for agriculture. Usually in these towns, there is a coffeehouse, guest rooms, schools and small shops and the houses are built around a central place and include courtyards. If you are interested in visiting some of the farm towns in Turkey, here are a few that deserve to be explored:

Alacati: This Aegean farm town in Turkey's Izmir province is famous for its architecture and vineyards. The town's hilltop mound is covered in windmills, while it's entrance is guarded by a Selchuk barrel-house that dates back 800 years. As a result of the consistent, steady wind and crystal clear water there, Alacati has also become a popular destination for kite surfing and windsurfing. The town is also acclaimed for its hospitality and nightlife.

Assos: This small historically rich farm town is located in Turkey's Canakkale province in the Ayvacik district. A trachyte crag in the town has the ancient Temple of Athena built on top o it from where most of the surrounding area can be seen. There was a harbor in Assos that made it a key shipping station. The town features a mixture of ancient ruins and rural life, with travelers welcomed by the quay-front hotels and small stretch of sand at the fishing port below.

Ayvalik: This town is filled with the scent of apricots because the flat-topped houses have roofs that are blanketed with the harvest. The sound of drums can be heard in the distance at sunset and the sight of women baking bread in age-old rock ovens for the evening meal is particularly memorable.

Kalekoy: Simena is another name for this seaside farm town, which unlike its sunken neighbors is located right next to a rock. The town is so small that there is not even a street. The 300 inhabitants live somewhat on top of each other with a hazhazard series of paths weaving around them.

Sirince: Back when the Greek city of Ephesus was nearing its demise, this farm town was a Greek sanctuary. Today, a landscape of grape orchids encloses the town's dense hillside, where the ancient Greek houses are surprisingly well preserved, making it an ideal destination for archaeology enthusiasts. Travelers can also enjoy a bottle of wine at the old Artemis School House.

The farm towns are a must-see for those who want to explore Turkey's natural beauty, get a taste of its rural life and meet the farms and farmers who make up the backbone of the country.

Scott Archer is a passionate blogger who works on behalf of Turkish Visa. He is an avid reader and has been writing content on the web professionally on topics such as travel, education, technology and parenting since 2006.

 
Beyond the Farmers Market in Whitefish, Montana Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Whitefish Farmers Market

A great way to get to know a community is to visit its Farmers Market. The Farmers Market in Whitefish, Montana, located in Northwest Montana, is no exception. Held every Tuesday evening from May through September, there are booths with fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, baked goods, arts and crafts -- even soap made from buffalo tallow. Music is playing and it often appears everyone in the town has come out.

But Whitefish has taken the farm-to-table concept one step further and also provides a map to the farms and fresh food (including community and school gardens) found throughout the Flathead Valley, produced by an organization called FarmHands, which has as its mission "connecting people with working lands." (Note: they also offer a groovy "Who's Your Farmer?" bumper sticker.)

The map identifies 65 farms, plus seasonal farmers markets in Kalispell, Whitefish, Bigfork, West Glacier and Columbia Falls, a harvest calendar AND the names of local businesses -- restaurants, hotels and markets -- that buy from local farms. The map and the groovy bumper sticker are available at the farmers market and in businesses throughout town and at the FarmHands website.

The town of Whitefish is ideal for those who love outdoor adventure -- with summer offerings that include hiking, biking, kayaking, rafting and horseback riding, plus easy access to Glacier National Park, which celebrated its centennial in 2010 -- and for those who enjoy returning from those adventures to a great meal in a number of wonderful restaurants (that use local produce!). For more information, visit www.explorewhitefish.com

 
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