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Throwback Thursday: October Olives Redux

October 23, 2014

One aspect of the reconnaisance for projects in Greece included embracing and honoring past experiences. The place of foodways and cuisine in the narrative of lives can never be underestimated. The taste and aroma of a specific food brings back floods of memories, crossing the bounderies of time and space.

Visiting Laconia, the region in the Greek Peloponnesus that year after year receives accolades for both it’s olives and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) was in many ways like coming home. Coming home to family heritage, coming home to living in other olive producing countries and how we embraced those cyclical events that humans have engaged in from time immemorial.

In the village of Soustiani in Laconia we met Nikos Papadakos and his wife, after a 6 year hiatus, to again talk about their company, Lithos. In this region of olive excellence they form a cooperative of organic farmers, collecting the harvest into one source and both pressing the fruit into EVOO and packaging the olives in both jars and vacuum packed sachets for easy transport. Read more…

Phaidon Tribute To Chef, Author

October 23, 2014

110 Year old quail eggs, as served at Benu

On the occasion of his third star, and with no controversy related to birds as per his colleagues in France, congratulations are in order:

The Michelin Guide only began reviewing US restaurants in 2005, yet it has established a reputation for favouring places that, while conforming to certain old-world standards, capture the finest in American dining today.

So, we were delighted to learn that Benu, Corey Lee’s Benu restaurant, which opened in San Francisco’s SOMA district in 2010, was awarded its third Michelin star, the guide’s highest accolade, when the new ratings for the city were announced yesterday. Read more…

Wine In India, Historically Intriguing

October 23, 2014
Amphora shards have been found all along India’s western coast. Courtesy National Institute Of Oceanography

Amphora shards have been found all along India’s western coast. Courtesy National Institute Of Oceanography

As Spice Harbour’s restaurant, 51, looks forward to the day when it might serve a glass of wine with an evening meal, we look back in time for a bit of inspiration, thanks to our friends at Caravan:

…In August, I spoke on the phone to A S Gaur, a marine archaeologist at India’s National Institute for Oceanography and co-author of  a paper on ancient wine imports. Speaking from Goa, Gaur said he had recently discovered amphora shards at what appears to be an ancient shipwreck near Bet Dwarka, an island off the coast of Gujarat. Amphorae were widely used in ancient times for transporting liquid goods, especially olive oil and wine. According to Gaur, the amphorae near Bet Dwarka most likely date from between the second and the fourth centuries CE. It is difficult to analyse the residues found on the shards for a conclusive answer, he said, but trying his “level best” Gaur surmised the amphorae once held wine. “Roman wine,” he said, “was very famous in India during that time.” Wrecks and shards from the same period have been found at many other sites too. All over South India, Gaur told me, “many museums have amphora shards.”

Read more…

Bird of the Day: Black-winged Stilt (Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat)

October 22, 2014

Black-winged stilt by Sudhir Shivaram - RAXA Collective

For All Our Blacksmith Friends, A Tribute

October 22, 2014


Click the image above to watch an amazing short film. One of Raxa Collective’s contributors spent time apprenticing as a blacksmith, before realizing how amazingly challenging this craft is, and so we are happy to share this film for all those with the talent it takes, and those who may not have been quite aware of what it takes:

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

“I’m exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do.”

Migration Celebration

October 22, 2014

When I graduated from Cornell not too long ago, I drew a bird on my graduation hat. It was a stylized yellow-bellied sapsucker, a symbol I encountered almost every day in my four years as an undergraduate as I studied, worked and conducted research at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Lab shaped my undergraduate experience and inspired my love of science and multimedia. This past weekend I had the gratifying opportunity to give back a little and pass on the inspiration.

As the Autumn chill set in – which in Ithaca means grey skies and a constant drizzle of rain – the Lab opened its doors to the community for a day of Migration Celebration. It was a day to celebrate birds: their fascinating behaviors, plumages, songs, migrations, habitats and ability to bring together people from all walks of life. The event was mainly geared towards children, with innovative educational activities organized by all Lab departments:

“What’s your favorite bird? A sandpiper? Can you draw it? Cool! Now let’s put it on a map and look up where it spends the winter.” Read more…

Birds, Gastronomy, Cultural Heritage–Is It Entrepreneurial Conservation?

October 22, 2014

Michel Guérard, left, the chef of Les Prés d’Eugénie, and Jean Coussau, the chef of Relais de la Poste, are among a handful of chefs trying to bring the ortolan back to the restaurant menu in France. Credit Ulrich Lebeuf/M.Y.O.P for The New York Times

We do not link often to the countless stories of rhino populations being decimated due to poaching, not because they are depressing, which they are; but because there have been no breakthrough entrepreneurial conservation stories related to that tragedy. Ditto for elephants and other charismatic megafauna–overwhelmingly depressing and no solution in sight, with the rare glimmer of hope.

So, when we see an article like the one below, even though it focuses on charismatic minifauna rather than megafauna, we take note. We pay a disproportionate amount of attention to birds for reasons that should be clear to regular readers of these pages, so for now a question to all ornithologically advantaged readers: is the reference to the unpublished Canadian study at the end of the article real or bogus? If the latter, please share your knowledge through our comment section and we will provide the publisher a crowd-sourced, fact-checked update to the article.

This is one of the exceptional articles for which we provide full text because of its urgent environmental value, with the expectation that you will click through to the source to give proper credit, with thanks to the New York Times:

“The bird is absolutely delicious,” said Mr. Guérard, who recalled preparing ortolans for Mitterrand and his successor, Jacques Chirac, back when it was legal. (Mitterrand was said to linger over two ortolans in his last supper before his death in 1996, also consuming three dozen oysters, foie gras and capon.)

“It is enveloped in fat that tastes subtly like hazelnut,” Mr. Guérard said, “and to eat the flesh, the fat and its little bones hot, all together, is like being taken to another dimension.”

But the campaign has provoked environmentalists, who accuse the chefs of engaging in a publicity stunt to promote what they say is an archaic custom that will further endanger the bird, and that treats the ortolan inhumanely before it is killed. Read more…


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