Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Ramble

Today I went to the 68th annual Ramble garden festival at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. It wasn't too terribly different from the Mango Festival I attended there a while back. More arts and crafts and general ecological do-gooders and a wider variety in the plants for sale. Mostly the same food vendors though, which means I got to try some of the stuff I missed last time when I went to the Mango Brunch instead.

Here's some very nice Peruvian ceviche I had.

I'm of the entirely unsupported opinion that the best ceviche is sold at room temperature out of stalls without proper kitchens. It just stands to reason.

I picked up a bottle of Peruvian hot sauce while I was there, too. Ceviche is easy to make at home but you need the right condiments.

I also got a bottle of jerk sauce from another vendor. The bottle I picked up last time was disappointingly thin and chunky so it was hard to cook with. I hoping this will work a bit better.

I also got a couple new plants for the herb garden: sage and culantro. I haven't really cooked with sage, but I keep hearing good things about sage-butter sauces that I'd like to try. The culanto has the same flavor as cilantro, but, I'm told, is much easier to grow. It certainly looked far healthier than the cilantro the herb stall had on sale.

And I helped out at the Slow Foods stand, talking up the local chapter, handing out brochures and selling totebags. If any of you aren't familiar with Slow Foods, it's all about connecting farm to table and food to community, promoting heritage ingredients and techniques and the idea that food, both the production and the eating, is something important that should be approached thoughtfully. The totebags are attractive, roomy, and exceptionally sturdy with their extra thick canvas and double-stitched straps. I should have got a picture.

While I was at the stand we had a cooking demonstration by Begonia Tuya, owner and chef of Xixon cafe. I've mentioned occasionally before that that's my favorite place for tapas and Spanish ingredients but I didn't know that they were associated with Slow Foods at all. [I met Ms. Tuya a couple weeks ago when I was the first person to show up for the lunch seating. She talked me through the specials board. I've been slowly improving my Spanish vocabulary by ordering untranslated dishes there and seeing what shows up, but I appreciated the accelerated course.] She made gazpacho, which I would have gotten a picture of but I didn't get a good vantage point for the demo and was busy helping distributing the results. The recipe was quite straightforward--a good choice for a general public demo--and made use of ingredients that are grown locally, although I don't know if those were actually local cucumbers and tomatoes she use. Still, it was a good slow food-friendly choice. Lots of little garnishes in each shooter glass gussied it up nicely. I expected to like the fried serano ham bits best on general principles, but the little cubes of pepper actually did the most to elevate the soup.

Oh, nearly forgot, I also got a coconut. Free, of course. Coconut trees grow like weeds around here. Look at that pile.

What you pay for is for someone to open it up for you, but I want to try it myself. I've read up on the technique but the instructions usually say that you're going to screw up the first few. And that's with the proper tools; I haven't got a machete so I'm going to use my Chinese chef's cleaver. Watch for this exciting event a bit later.

Yeah, I know I didn't look at the art or the antiques or the gardening stuff so I missed out on most of what the Ramble is about. I assume so, anyway; I didn't do any research on the history of the thing.

I guess that's all I've got to say. It's still going on tomorrow (if you're reading this on Saturday). Worth a look-see if you're local.

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