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Posts Tagged ‘Teena Borek’

The Fall 2010 issue of Edible South Florida has a wonderful photo essay about the women farmers among us. Get to know Muriel Olivares, Teena Borek, Margie Pikarsky, Gabriele Marewski and Alice Pena.

The magazine is free at Whole Foods (look in the produce section) in Dade and Broward counties, and other locations around town.

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Pie…. ah, who doesn’t love pie. Fruit pie, custard pie, pie with whipped cream on top, pie with ice cream, pie with a light flaky crust. Pie! As much as I love eating pie, I haven’t had much luck making it. Have been thwarted by the most important step — making a crust that is light and flaky, not tough and rubbery.

Growers Teena Borek and Robert Barnum

The Cantankerous Chef aka Robert Barnum spent his summer vacation patiently working on pie crust. He was passionately in pursuit of the perfect light, flaky crust to use in his tropical fruit pies. He told me that I could get a taste of that perfection in his homegrown longan-walnut-‘bola raisin pie at the Slow Food Miami “Pie on the Porch” competition this past Saturday.

It was a great afternoon to hang out on the wide wraparound porch at the historic Merrick House while sipping lemonade. Kids ran around on the lush green lawn under the shade of huge live oak trees. A vegetable garden had been set up on a side lawn. It was round, with coral rock borders, and looked very much like a pie cut into four slices. Boy Scouts from

Little plants ready to grow.

Troop 4 tilled the soil, and starter plants provided by Teena’s Pride Farm were waiting to get planted into the beds. Slow Food Miami director Donna Reno explained this would be a historically accurate kitchen garden, growing foods much like the ones the Merrick family ate. The garden and pie competition are two of several events to  commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Merrick House.

By the time I arrived, the porch was packed with eager, hungry people. Serving tables were set up, but where were the pies? They were inside the house getting judged. The seven judges aka the Supreme Court of Pie, led by Chief Justice of Pie Hedy Goldsmith herself, were ensconced in the dining room of the Merrick House. They were seated around a large table, armed with scorecards, plastic forks and glasses of water.

The Supreme Court of Pie

In the adjoining kitchen, 23 pies were arrayed on the counter. The pies were judged one by one. Three thin slices were cut and brought out to the table. The judges sampled and passed around the slices, discussed them briefly, and made their marks on score sheets. The judges evaluated pies on overall appearance, taste, overall impression, creativity, regional ingredients, and name. It was serious, intense work.

Pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith goes eyeball to eyeball with coconut pie.

According to the competition rules, “All pies must be made with a fruit or main ingredient that grows locally.” The pies had to be homemade, using home grown or local, and non-artificial ingredients. The pies had small cards describing what they were, but contestants were not identified.

Once the pie was judged, a runner brought it out to the porch, where hungry guests were waiting for a taste. As a Slow Foodie began slicing and doling out pieces, people immediately mobbed the table. You’d think they hadn’t eaten pie in ages. “It’s a feeding frenzy out there,” the runner commented when she returned to the kitchen. I was intrigued by a green avocado pie and a salmon-colored mamey pie, but those vanished before I made it to the table.

The first pies to emerge from judging got mobbed.

Tracked down Robert’s longan-walnut-‘bola raisin pie and dug in. It was a pie of complex flavors and unusual textures. Am not a fan of fresh longan, but baking mellowed and sweetened its flavor, and it tasted more like lychee. Encountered chewy bits of ‘bola raisins made from dried carambola, and crunchy bits of walnut. The texture reminded me of mincemeat pie, but count on Robert to push a recipe and turn the familiar into something different. As for the perfect crust, yes, it was light and crumbly, as promised. (If you want The Cantankerous Chef to make you a pie, and maybe dinner to go with it, give him a call at 305-235-1768.)

Most of the pies that I tasted (but I didn’t taste them all) followed the competition rule that the predominant ingredient must be local — mango, avocado, mamey, passion fruit, guava, coconut and longan to name the ones I saw. Some were nowhere near local — apple, apricot, pecan, chocolate — but they sneaked into the competition anyway.

The official winners were blueberry (could be local, blues grow in Florida), chocolate pecan (not local), and papaya (could be local). Details are posted on the Slow Food Miami web site.

Robert Barnum's longan-walnut-bola raisin pie.

Robert’s longan-walnut-‘bola raisin pie won an Honorable Mention. His cantankerousness vanished for a few moments. “Yippee!” he cried out happily. “I’m in fourth place,” he kept telling me. Yes, indeed. Good to see his work receive public recognition on its merits alone. Good to see SFM inching closer to recognizing local food.

In the past, SFM was chided about using (or not using) local food at its locavore events. With this pie competition, the group came one step closer to walking the walk. If the Holy Grail of a locavore event is that the ingredients (all, most, or as much as reasonably possible) are sourced locally, this event came a bit closer. However, pies made from non-local ingredients (for example apple, chocolate, pecan, apricot) should have been kept out of competition.

Foodies Naomi Ross and Brian Lemmerman enjoying pie bliss on the porch. They bicycled over from UM in the rain to taste something good to eat.

If you missed the pies, you can still visit Merrick House. It’s a lovely place, and one of the few structures that still remain from an earlier era. I’m glad I was able to visit it briefly, and want to come back another time to tour the house and grounds.

Merrick House
907 Coral Way
Coral Gables, FL 33134
305-460-5361, 305-460-5095

Kara Kautz, Historic Preservation Officer

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Roots in the City Farmers Market in Overtown

Just west of new luxury high rises on Biscayne, a row of white tents sprang up on the corner of NW 2nd Ave. and 10 St., smack dab against a patch of young collard greens. Underneath the tents, farm fresh fruits and vegetables were arranged on tables. The newest farmers market was launched on Wednesday in Historic Overtown, one of the oldest and underserved neighborhoods in Miami. If people couldn’t come to market to get much needed produce, well, the market was going to come to them. There hasn’t been an actual farmers market in downtown for decades.

Locals checking out and buying from Redland Organics.

Two local growers were at the Roots in the City Farmers Market. Farmer Margie from Redland Organics put out a colorful display of radishes and white Asian salad turnips, carrots and celery, Asian greens, loquats, canistel and black sapote. Under the next tent, farmers Teena Borek and her son Michael from Teena’s Pride Farm brought tomatoes, red bell peppers, white eggplant that looked like bowling pins, and bunches of greens.

John Lealand Laundry likes celery.

The market was open from 1 to 4, and there was a fairly steady trickle of curious neighbors wandering over. A lot of looking, a bit of curious sniffing and tasting, but mostly people were excited that a farmers market suddenly appeared on their street. People bought a few things, choosing carefully. One resident told me that there are several groceries in the neighborhood, including a Winn Dixie on the other side of I-95, but produce is very expensive.

Market tokens

Some neighbors paid with cash and some were happy to find out they could use food stamps. That was the best part, the most amazing thing. The Roots market is set up to accept food stamps (also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP). Even better, the Roots market has implemented a Double Value Coupon Program that would double the value of a person’s food stamp purchases. For example, if somebody bought five dollars worth of veggies, they would get that equal amount in tokens they can then use to buy more food at the market.

This bit of shopping ingenuity and the Roots market came about from the collaboration of many entities. The Wholesome Wave Foundation has set up similar “Nourishing Neighborhoods” programs at over 80 farmers markets around the country, and provided leadership, training and seed money. Health Services Coalition handled the actual SNAP transactions, acting as a go-between the farmers and the buyers, and is putting the word out in the community. Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink enlisted Margie and Teena, the first two local family farmers to participate, and helped with fundraising and promotions. And the Roots in the City community garden (which is raising nearby collards, and has two acres of garden in the immediate area) offered space for the market, and added its produce to sell.

People from HSC on hand to handle SNAP sales and manage tokens.

The Roots market will have a dedication ceremony in two weeks, on Wednesday April 7. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado has been invited, and there will most likely be other dignitaries attending. The market will run for four weeks, with maybe an extension for four more, and is scheduled to resume in fall.

Listen to Low-cost produce comes to Miami’s Overtown, the WLRN report by Joshua Johnson, here. The Genuine Kitchen has posted the press release (with lots of good information) here. And Mango & Lime posted her report on the market opening here.

Miss Sarah tells it like it is to the media.

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Bikes resting after a tour of farm country.

On a sunny, breezy Saturday morning last week, over 80 cyclists converged on Bee Heaven Farm for the Slow Locavore Farm Lunch, organized by Slow Food Miami (SFM). The Farm Lunch combined a 7.5 mile bike ride along Redland back roads, with stops along the way at several farms, and ended with a gourmet lunch prepared by Chef Kris Wessel and Chef Kira Volz served at Bee Heaven.

Donna Reno

Donna Reno, the leader of the Miami convivium (as the SF chapters are called) said she came up with the idea after going on a similar farm tour bike ride in Italy about 20 years ago. Farmer Margie (who has served on the SFM Advisory Board for the past year or two) was an active collaborator and gave that memory legs. She picked the farms, plotted the route, made suggestions for sourcing local food, and provided her ample front yard for the event.

The cyclists visited four farms, beginning and ending at Bee Heaven, with stops and tours at Fancy Koi 2 fish farm, Going Bananas! nursery/grove, and Teena’s Pride farm, which is known for its large and lovely heirloom tomatoes. “It’s important to know your grower and visit the farm,” grower Teena Borek told me. These weren’t just pointless, picturesque visits but an opportunity for locavore cyclists to put their eats into a bigger context. The connection would have been stronger and easier to make had more local local foods from those farms been on the menu. But maybe I’m asking for too much? More on that later…

Chef Kira Volz, Creek 28

This bike ride/farm lunch was daring and unusual for SFM because it was held outdoors and was reasonably priced. Most of their activities are meals in upscale restaurants for hefty prices. It was good to see Slow Foodies get out from behind white linen tablecloths and ride around in fresh air and sunshine for a change. But wait! Most of the attendees were participants of spinning classes at Equinox gym, not just the usual Foodies. (Donna Reno explained that they got permission to hold an olive oil tasting at Equinox, using it “to reach out to the biking and fitness biking communities.”)

A few CSA members were also in the mix. Janet  and Larry Peterson said the ride was an great opportunity to visit farms that were “pretty impressive” that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. Janet explained she was inspired to seek out local food and joined the CSA after a group at her church, Riviera Presbyterian, read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. As she looked around Bee Heaven, she said, “If this kind of farming could take hold, it would be a good local food source and would stop urban sprawl.”

Lining up for seconds (and thirds) at Chef Kira Volz’s tent.

The printed menu had a clear, comprehensive definition of locavore.

It is part of the concept of local purchasing and local economies, a preference to buy locally produced goods and services. Those who prefer to eat locally grown/produced food sometimes call themselves locavores or localvores.

So, let’s look at the food:

Key West Shrimp Fattoush (Kira Volz), Hand Rubbed BBQ Ribs & Herb Tossed Home Fries (Kris Wessel), Who Do You Do Voodoo Chicken (Kris Wessel), Andean Restorative Salad (Kira Volz), Aunt Rita’s Key Lime Pie (Kris Wessel’s aunt), Strawberry Shortcake Bar (The French Pastry Chef), Going Bananas Bread Pudding (Kira Volz) washed down with limeade (Robert is Here), water, beer and wine.

Yet not all the food on the menu was local. (Expected to see tilapia, since Fancy Koi 2 raises those fish.) When I asked Donna Reno about it, she did admit that “the freeze affected availability and we didn’t meet our goals 100 per cent in terms of local.” She pointed out that the tomatoes were from Teena’s, the shrimp was from Key West, and bananas in the bread pudding and strawberries were local. She even pointed out that the organic beer, Monk in the Trunk, was from Jupiter FL. (A closer reading of the fine print on its label revealed that it was actually brewed in South Carolina.)

Three of the four growers featured in the tour. L to R: Margie – Bee Heaven, Don – Going Bananas!, Sharon – Fancy Koi 2. Photo by Nick Pikarsky.

Wait a minute! Call it Locavore Lunch but only a smattering of ingredients is actually locally sourced? My head is spinning! A completely local meal is not that hard to do. It’s been done before. Last year’s End of Summer Brunch over at Robert Barnum’s Possum Trot was all local food and drink. And Farmer Margie held a Mothers Day Brunch last year that was completely locally sourced except for maybe salt and pepper.

Donna was pleased with the event. “We’ll do it again, maybe next spring,” she told me. Good idea! That’s plenty of time for SFM leadership to scope out farms and groves and farmers markets to see what’s growing — locally and in season — and create a menu from local food, rather than build a menu and then look for some local food to fit. I’m certain that Chef Kris Wessel and Chef Kira Volz could have come up with delicious, creative dishes based on an all-local, post-freeze list of ingredients, had they been given that challenge. It would be fantastic if the group held more events that celebrated local, regional and artisanal food, as per their own principles and mission statements.

Chef Tim Rowan of Deering Bay stopped by to help out Chef Kris Wessel of Red Light. Filling in as his prep chef is his second cousin Mark Parkerson.

Locavore shouldn’t be just a foodie fad — it’s not about worshipping trendy ingredients or rock star chefs. The point is to connect the food on your plate with this place and these growers. They work very hard to feed us city folk, and have a tough time paying their bills. “The only way a small grower can survive is to sell directly to the public,” Teena Borek told me. Hopefully that connection or epiphany happened with participants on the bike ride. Our grandparents knew what food was about. It was so obvious to them but we’ve forgotten how. No farms, no food, no chefs, no locavores. It’s just that simple.

(For another take on the bike ride and lunch, check out this recent post on Mango & Lime.)

Strawberry shortcakes for dessert!

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