Category Archives: CONNECT

Interview with Maria Schoettler + A Giveaway!

January 2, 2015

Happy 2015 Bellpeppers! We’re starting off the year right by connecting to California makers and celebrating their awesome work. Last week we featured Stephanie Bernstein from To Go Ware and today I have a special treat for you with an interview and giveaway with Maria Schoettler.

maria schoettler, 2015 calendar, local food calendar

You may have seen Maria’s beautiful watercolor paintings and seasonal calendars around stores in San Francisco such as the General Store, Bi Rite or The Gardener. I got to talk to Maria one gray morning in the San Francisco Ferry Building about how she started her art career, the beauty of connecting to local food and some exciting plans for the new year. Read on for a chance to win one of her stunning 2015 eat local produce calendars! 

Tell us about your art background:

I studied art in college, (oil painting) and I was interested in portraits. My work started getting abstract, but I relied heavily on using models. When I moved to Oakland I stumbled across a studio that happened to have live models, and I did that for a while. But I realized I was creating work only for myself, and that’s not what I wanted. I didn’t want to be in the gallery world, and be a fine artist that only the wealthy had access to. I wanted something more democratic. I stopped doing art for a time and just worked at a preschool and was getting my footing in being a young adult. I wanted to be working in food somehow, I had a trial day at one of Alice Water’s cafes and it was terrible (laughs). I just failed miserably, I didn’t enjoy it.

maria schoettler, local, calendar, watercolor

How did you get interested in local food?

At the time I was very inspired by Alice Waters and I equated being a self-sufficient adult with being able to cook really good food for myself. I wanted to eat the food that I grew up with, which was Italian but was also focused on eating good food together with family. I always associated food with a sense of home and comfort, and being in the Bay Area really inspired me to be a part of the local food movement.The Temescal farmers market is really close to my house, and I became a diehard farmers market goer. I would go every Sunday and just got excited about it.

How did the idea for your calendars come about?

I made a calendar of what was in season for myself and it was just one-page- a representation of what it means to eat locally in the Bay. I got a lot of good feedback from friends and family and realized that people might be interested in them and that I could potentially sell them.

A friend and I set up a table at the farmers market one day with a local calendars sign. The programs director of 18 Reasons came to the table and was like, “I don’t know what this is but I want to help you.” She to this day is kind of the person who made it happen, she introduced me to Sam from Bi-Rite, who was my first real account.

From there I just hit the floor and started trying to sell to more stores, some people completely blew me off and others were totally receptive. Each year its just grown and grown and its been a great way to meet new people and collaborate with people who have been passionate about the same things.

maria schoettler, local food, calendars, watercolor, 2015 calendar

Tell us about some of your recent collaborations

The one thing I don’t like about being an artist is that its super solitary, so collaboration has been my saving grace. And the kind of art that I make really lends itself to collaboration. A good friend of mine Molly, has a company called Ambatalia, and she’s all about textiles for a non-disposable life, which ties into my interests. She connected me to a lot of awesome people as well.

local food calendar

Any big plans for 2015?

I’m looking to do less products and more illustrations, and just branching out. I have a show at The Mill in February and doing mostly northern California landscape paintings which I’ve never done before. I thought I’d just try it out and I’m having a lot of fun with it!

How do you explain the importance of eating locally to someone new to the concept?

There’s something really beautiful about the specimens, which is an undeniable quality of what I’m doing. Even if you cant appreciate eating locally, then you can at least recognize the beauty in an apple, which ties back to the whole process. Its beautiful because its heirloom and fresh and grown 15 miles from here.

Food can also be fun: you can turn the practice of going to the grocery store more pleasurable if you go to a famers market and build community around it.  And you can make meals more fun- it’s such an amazing source of connection. No ones going to say no if you invite them over for dinner, you know? Eating is such a pleasurable activity that we all need to do.

maria schoettler, local food calendar, interview

What’s something you wish people knew about your work? 

I wish people knew that I’m not doing this out of some sort of trend, but rather out of a labor of love and commitment to eating well and shopping at farmer’s markets. That’s how it started. As a lifestyle.

What’s your favorite meal to cook?

I love making pizza, either in my oven or on the barbecue. It’s such a social and collaborative food to cook and eat, I love how playful it is and how many endless possibilities there are for topping innovation!

local food calendar, 2015, maria schoettler

What are 5 things you can’t live without?

I could not live without coffee. A community of like-minded friends. Access to good food is crucial to my well being. Weather warm enough to be outside. Colorful things.

Thank you Maria for sharing your story with us! And now for all you lovely bellpeppers, I’m giving away one of Maria’s 2015 local food calendars- enter below! 

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Interview with To-Go Ware + A Giveaway!

December 24, 2014

Today we have a really exciting interview with Stephanie Bernstein, founder of To-Go Ware. You may have seen these adorable packaged bamboo utensil sets in Whole Foods or REI, today we get the full scoop! I love meeting people who are making a difference in the sustainable food system, and while it’s not food, To-Go Ware is definitely making a difference. I got to chat with Stephanie on a rare rainy morning in San Diego about her inspiration for the company and how they’ve grown over the years. Stephanie is a mover and shaker in the natural products world and also happens to be my neighbor. Read on for an amazing story and a chance to win one of her utensil sets for yourself!

to-go ware, bamboo

Tell us where the idea for To-Go Ware Came From

When I was a student at University of Michigan, I went out to ice cream with my sister and they gave us the ice cream in plastic. I asked my sister, did we say to-go? I didn’t understand why we were getting our food in plastic when we were eating in. It was 1997, just when disposables got more prevalent. On campus we had these coffee mugs that we would carry around and get a discount, and I thought – why don’t we carry everything, everywhere and call it To-Go ware? I thought about that idea for seven years. It was a strong lightning bolt moment at the time, but I was a theater major and just had other things going on at the time.

to-go ware, bamboo

How did you go from Theater Major to Business Owner?

After college I moved to New York to pursue acting and also started paying a lot of attention to food and wellness. It was a strong intuitive thing. I did a yoga teacher training, I was a raw foodist for a while, I went to Maui to study- I was really enveloped in that. I met the founders of the yerba mate company (Guayaki) who quickly became mentors to me and led me into the natural products world. At that time I was eating organic and thinking a lot about whole foods, but I wanted to extend the idea of sustainability beyond food.

I moved to San Francisco to have a more balanced life, taught yoga there and wound up running a café that served all natural products, called Urban Forage. It helped me connect with the environmental community, as well as the natural businesses in the area. At the time PLA plastics (a biodegradable plant-based plastic) came into the market, which was annoying me because it was a step, but it wasn’t solving the problem. I kept thinking about To-Go Ware.

I accidently started my business by finding things piece-meal. The original utensil holders were made by a Burmese women’s co-operative that I found at a festival. I started selling them at some festivals, food co-ops and out of the back of my car. I wound up gaining a lot of experience and insight by working for a fair-trade import company, called World of Good, for a couple years in Boulder as I was growing my own business. The company was high-growth, mission-driven and the woman who ran the company was a genius and very inspiring. I learned a lot from doing that and ended up launching the business full time in 2007 when I moved back to San Francisco.

bamboo, to-go ware, disposable

Any amazing surprises along the way?

In 2009 we were featured on Oprah, which was insane. We were one of the featured products on their zero-waste Earth Day show. They had a ton of products on a table, barely said the name of any product, but at the end of the show they announced that To-Go Ware was offering a discount- and from that we got orders for months. We couldn’t even keep the website up, it was a crazy awesome thing. We were buried. It was amazing.

Any upcoming exciting projects?

We just launched a kids-version of our utensils and bamboo plates. We’re also trying to partner with more cause-based organizations like Teens Turning Green, Heifer International and Women’s Earth Alliance. One thing we love about the utensil sets is that they’re a very tangible concept for someone trying to offset their carbon footprint. Especially as a student you eat out a lot, so it’s an easy way to make a difference.

What would tell someone who’s trying to be more sustainable?

One of my favorite quotes is: “The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago. The next best time is now.” People think that we’re screwed. Just start. Just pick one thing. People get overwhelmed with what to do because it’s such a big problem. But just start with something, it doesn’t have to be everything. Start with the things you do every day- is it taking a shorter shower, is it going meatless on Monday, just doing things that have direct impact, because even small things have a direct impact. Also make it your routine and be constantly aware, develop a consciousness around it. Where did this come from? What is my impact? Those are two great questions that will ruin your life and also enhance it in a million ways.

What’s your favorite meal to cook?

I love cooking. I make these big Asian vegetable stews that I’m a big fan of. That or either some sort of raw treat with cashews and fruits.

5 things you cant live without?

My kids. A fine mesh strainer is really important to me. NPR. A bathtub. My yoga mat.

to-go ware, bamboo, utensil set

Looking to incorporate some more sustainable practices to your eating habits? Enter below for a chance to win a To-Go Ware bamboo utensil set!
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Interviewing Mark Bittman, New York Times Food Writer

April 8, 2014

Did I ever tell you guys that time I interviewed Mark Bittman? You know, the same guy who started the Minimalist column, has written several books including How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. You know, super casual right? 😉 (By the way I’m totally humble bragging bragging, but it’s Mark Bittman!!)

Interviewing Mark Bittman

For those unfamiliar with Bittman, I would highly recommend checking out his column in the New York Times where he writes mostly about food policy and investigative pieces about the most pressing food issues of our time. This guy is no joke, friends.

What I love about Bittman is that he plays no games. He tells it how it is, sometime to one’s own discomfort and I totally respect that. You could chalk it up to the fact that the guy is a New Yorker through and through, but whatever it is, we need more voices like his.

In this hour long interview (I would suggest listening to it while you cook this) myself and another Jewish Food Justice Fellow ask Mark Bittman questions about food stamps, sustainability and local vs. organic food. It was an incredible experience to be able to ask one of my food heroes some of the questions I’ve been thinking a lot about over the past few years, and I feel totally blessed to have had this opportunity. I hope all enjoy this video and please feel free to leave some comments below!

Thank you Mark for spending time with us and sharing your expertise and wisdom!

Community Garden in South Africa

February 21, 2014

Happy Friday Everyone!

South Africa, Community Garden, Farm, Food Justice

I received a friendly email yesterday from Justin Rose, a student in South Africa who made this short film about community gardens and food access in his home country. The video, 12 minutes of beautiful veggies, tells the story of three individuals learning to reconnect with the land, including one who used to work as a supply chain manager for McDonalds.

South Africa, Community Garden, Food Justice

I got the chance to ask Justin a few questions about his motivation for creating this film- his answers are below.

Why did you decide to make this film? Tell us a bit more about the process:

South Africa is a country of contrasts and divides in many respects with food being no exception.  Over-nutrition, under-nutrition and malnutrition are all common features, and connections between people and their food systems seem to be getting weaker and more remote by the day. While inequalities are everywhere apparent, Nature’s Happy Meal focuses on the positive actions that individuals in different communities are taking to help reverse this trend and reconnect people to the food they eat.   

South Africa, Community Garden, Food Justice

Ntsako and I were inspired to make Nature’s Happy Meal both because we are each keenly aware of the importance of sustainable food systems in South Africa, and also because we met three remarkable characters: 

Barry, whose life has completely turned around based on a renewed relationship with food; from managing the logistical supply chain for MacDonalds and KFC in South Africa, to designing and running a beautiful local farm that is the focus of an alternate community committed to healthy and sustainable living.

Daniel, a wonderful guy and among the most knowledgeable and capable agriculturalists I’ve met, was forced by his okra seeds to carry them with him on the journey from his homeland of Zimbabwe to South Africa.

Jackie, whose garden in Oceanview has become a real center of activity for the local community and provides a safe place for positive learning for many at-risk children in the Seven Sisters housing estate.

We hope you enjoy it!

Justin and Ntsako

 

Nature’s Happy Meal from Barefoot Workshops on Vimeo.

Thank you Justin for sharing with us! If you want to know more about the video, check out the film’s facebook page and the community garden facebook page.

Local Love: Lofty Coffee Co.

October 30, 2013

LOCAL

In my broad effort to explore my new home, I decided a new series entitled Local Love would be not only fun but help me get out of the house and into the my new community. My first (lucky) stop was at Lofty Coffee Co. – a coffee shop a mere five minutes from my house.

www.localbelle.com/local-love

 

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I stumbled upon Lofty thanks to the lovely folks at Yelp, and I can honestly say their coffee is damn good. Up there with Blue Bottle in SF- and I’m a picky coffee drinker. What I love most about Lofty is there commitment to sustainability and quality goods and services. All of their coffee is fair trade and their pastries are all organic as well. They have a decent selection of gluten-free pastries, and drip coffee as well as espresso drinks.

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Lofty’s Slow Bar offers pour over, vacuum siphon or a slow brewed kyoto iced coffee. They offer a rotating selections of micro-batch roasted coffees, and if you want to gaze at this awesome coffee contraption- no one will stop you.

Lofty Coffee Co

Lofty reminds me of home. A cafe I can come to for quality coffee, a nice atmosphere and time to write, read or ponder. I’m a bit of a coffee shop junkie, but thankfully I don’t have to go very far to get my fix.

If you live in Encinitas, and haven’t been here yet- do go! The atmosphere is quite lovely. I’ll be posting on a weekly basis my favorite local spots- and if you have any suggestions please let me know! Happy Hump day y’all!

Food Heritage

September 2, 2013

What’s Your Food Heritage?

Yesterday I visited the National Museum of Jewish History in Philadelphia with some friends and my dad. The architecture was so beautiful and the exhibits were so robust and filled with really interesting information about Jews in the United States. Additionally, they had a whole floor dedicated to the children’s book author- Ezra Jack Keats, who was the first author and illustrator to feature an African American child in mainstream children’s books.

www.localbelle.com/food-heritage

One interactive exhibition was a video booth where you could answer a question. We chose the question: Does food influence your heritage? Heres the link to the video- check it out!

What do you think? Has food influenced your heritage? Is it a reflection of your culture? Religion? Dish it out in the comments.

Blog Her Food 2013 Recap

August 29, 2013

LocalBelle: BlogHerFood2013

New blogger friends- Jamie from CRAFT blog

Howdy Y’all!

That’s Texas speak for “hello everyone!”

What’s the southern twang about? Although the Blog Her Food Conference in Austin, Texas was about two months ago, I want to tap into that Southern charm and recap on what was a truly amazing experience.

I had an amazing time as a volunteer and found it oddly strange when I left the conference and the people around me weren’t total foodies, obsessed with kitchen products and couldn’t talk at ease about Pinterest, sponsorships and analytics. But alas, such is the life of a traveling food blogger.

I feel like I did a pretty good job of documenting myself while at the conference, so if you don’t already, you should probably be following me on twitter and instagram to see all the silliness live.

Recap

I got into Austin weary eyed early Thursday morning. Luckily, I was able to get in a quick nap before meeting the other volunteers at the Hilton for some pre-conference training. All the volunteers were really fabulous, and it was nice to meet them in person after months of interacting on our Facebook page.

In all honesty, the conference now feels like a really long blur of events. From volunteering as a live blogger, which I found out when I got there is not just tweeting during sessions, but actually writing word for word everything that was said in a panel; to meeting with the different sponsors in attendance, to networking and of course eating my weight in sweets- everything was a delicious blur.

Notable Moments: Keynote Address

I was really happy to see that BlogHer chose to use the keynote address as a time to discuss childhood obesity and food insecurity in America. As this is something I’ve been really passionate about in pursuing as a career, it was really assuring to see that discussion merge with my life as a food blogger.

Local Belle: BlogHer Food Conference Keynote Address 2013

The all-star panel included Anne Lappe, author of Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It and all star Food Myth Buster,Lea Webb- a food access and hunger activist and city council member, Michelle Berger Marshall from Feeding America and Elly Spinweber from Partnerships for a Healthier America.

These women spoke at depth about the crisis that Americans are facing. 1 in 6 people are food insecure. Meaning they do not know where their next meal is coming from. Furthermore, 1 in 3 people will develop a diet related disease (obesity, diabetes, etc.) due to the food we eat. This means that 50 percent of Americans will be obese by the year 2030 if nothing is done.

The numbers are scary, no doubt. But the panel was there not to scare us, but to inspire all food bloggers to get involved on these issues. There is amazing work being done- from more and more farmers markets accepting food stamps, to increasing urban and rural organic farms and much more.

Additionally, education is key to the success of a healthier America. And progress is being made. For example, in California- the Department of Public Health is working with nutritionists to offer cooking demos at farmers markets.

A startling fact that came up during the panel was that the food industry spends $2 billion per year to market directly to children. We need change on all levels. From food access, to changes in policy, marketing and advertising.

I would be lying if I said that this was not my favorite panel during the entire conference. Sure photo and video tips are useful, as are telling stories and history through food- but in my eyes, the most important aspect of food is making sure there’s enough going around, that it is healthy to our bodies and to the earth- and of course is delicious.

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For more information please go to my Resources page for books, articles, movies and more and learn how you can become an active member in the food movement! 

 

 

 

Healthy Eating From The Start- Guest Post

August 26, 2013

When thinking about my own path as a conscious eater, I always think about my childhood. While I ate junk food like any other kid attracted (and addicted) to sweets, my family never kept the typical American snacks lying around. If my brother and I wanted a “snack” – a meal was usually made. An omelette with some Israeli salad, a sandwich- something of substance. Going to my friends’ houses was always a treat- rice krispy treats! doritos! All the junk we didn’t have at home.

Today I’m so pleased to have Rivki, from Life in the Married Lane, guest posting about her farmer’s market adventures with her three young children. She gives us some insight and inspiration as to how families can begin the process of healthy eating for the next generation from a young age. Enjoy!

Teaching My Children About Healthy Eating

It didn’t seem like a likely place for a lesson in fresh food. Pulling past the tall chain-link fence dotted by determined weeds, we turned into the gray and gravelly parking lot in a vast space adjacent to the horse racing tracks. Surrounding us were the sounds and sights of hard urban living, with some very stalwart trees sticking it out amid the concrete. It wasn’t pretty, but here in the grit of the city is a chance for urban dwellers to eat local.

Like an oasis, six or seven tents glimmered in the sun, providing shade for the farmers and their produce. I unbuckled my kids from their carseats and strapped the baby into the stroller, my bags waving from the handlebars. We made our way to the center tent, where I would be able to purchase tokens for the vendors (I had forgotten to get cash before heading to the market). The women at the table/desk was fresh-faced and friendly. Sitting next to her was her young daughter, munching on a wholesome-looking sandwich.

As I signed the receipt, my boys ran around one pole of the tent, wildly giggling as they circled. After somewhat reigning them in, I gave my oldest the responsibility of holding onto the round wooden tokens, securing his role in this chain of food production and consumption.

Normally, I avoid shopping with all three of my kids like the plague. It’s not an easy task, and usually I end up forgetting some crucial item on my list because I’m more focused on refereeing or making sure no one’s running amok through the store. It’s a high-stress scenario.

But this farmer’s market is a different story. Here, there is space. Here, they can meet the people who actually grow the food. They can see produce that isn’t perfect and waxy, that is real and varied and fresh.

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I want my children to understand that food comes from somewhere other than refrigerated trucks (though at their young ages, refrigerated trucks sound pretty awesome). I want them to remember the farmer who generously let them try plums for the first time, to recall the stickiness of the juice as it ran down their chins onto their shirts.

Next year, G-d willing, we’ll have a garden, like our neighbors. Then my kids will be able to stick their hands in the dirt and watch as the cucumbers expand and the zucchini proliferate. I’m hoping that we’ll even get chickens, and fresh eggs will be the norm, not a luxury.

Right now, though, we have the market, and in Baltimore, there seem like a lot of choices in this area. Though the city may be harsh and grey, it just takes a short drive to find oneself surrounded by green pastures, lined with fences and dotted with grazing horses. One of the farms is only about nine miles from the race tracks (sixteen if you’re measuring by the roads). Food is close here.

Besides the market, there are two farms I know of that cater to families who want to pick their own produce. We went peach picking last summer, as part of a birthday party (fabulous idea). The boys carried their little bags and we held them high so they could pick the perfect peach. We showed them how many peaches on the ground were too ripe, and became mushy and not yummy to eat. After filling our bags, we headed to watch the animals and to look at the tractors (a big draw for my boys).

Whenever my children ask for fruit as a snack, I feel like I’m making progress in the area of food choices. I know that once they’re in school, they will be facing a barrage of unhealthy choices, and all the brightly packaged food will be tantalizing and exotic. So while I have the chance, I’m using every opportunity to show them how delicious real food is, how it’s more than plasticy coloring (I’m thinking of you, fruit roll-ups) and excessive sugar (I’m thinking of, well, any processed sweet treat ever).

I expect my children to experiment with unhealthy food, but I’m hoping to lay the foundation for them to return to good food choices. The opportunities are there, we just have to take them.

~

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Rivki Silver is a mother, wife, musician and writer. She blogs at Life in the Married Lane, where she writes about motherhood, religion, music and relationships. She also enjoys writing and performing music, and is surprised yet pleased to actually be using her music performance degree. Her parents are happy about that, too. She lives in Baltimore with her husband and three small children.

New York Food Book Fair Recap

May 7, 2013

New York Food Book Fair Recap

A look at what the weekend was at the second annual New York City Food Book Fair, through the lens of my live tweeting skills.

  1. I know its been hard keeping up with me these last few weeks, but I promise to write more about that soon! For now I wanted to try this new way of creating a blog post using Storify, and taking a look at the tweets over this past weekend where I volunteered and attended the New York City Food Book Fair.
  2. Day One: I arrived to the book fair and essentially sat in front of this beautiful poster for a few hours, selling books, talking to the other volunteers and of course sneaking away to listen to Smitten Kitchen’s cooking demo. I also was able to sit on a panel discussion about Food + Technology with co-founder of Food 52 Merrill Stubbs, Jen Pelka- the food evangelist of Tumblr and Adam Salomone from Harvard Common Press and investor in food start-ups.
  3. Day Two: The number one panel discussion I wanted to attend was this one on Food Systems with Marion Nestle (NYU Food Studies Professor and author of Food Politics), Nate Appleman- the new executive chef at Chipotle and Jared Koch- the author of Clean Plates, which is now a mobile app too.
  4. “The healthiest people are the wealthiest and most educated- we need to reach the people who need health changes the most ” @marionnestle
  5. “Restaurants can promote health by making healthy kids meal as default and price breaks for smaller portions” @marionnestle #foodpolitics
  6. As a country we’ve given cooking up – society needs to start teaching people how to cook @marionnestle
  7. While I felt that the panel was a little strangely put together, some interesting topics did come up. Unfortunately, although the panel was titled “Food Systems,” the majority of the conversation focused on Nate and Chipotle, and in my opinion did not really convey the complexities of our food system. There was no discussion of labor rights, farming practices or environmental issues surrounding distribution of food.
  8. How do you change the food system without changing a food culture?
  9. Social movements have to start somewhere – great answer by @marionnestle on discussing #race and #class in the #foodsystem #FBF
  10. Nevertheless I was thrilled to be in a room discussing these issues, despite the apparent tension in the room.
  11. “It’s really hard to be an #organic farmer but there are small solutions were working on” @ModFarm creator Ann Marie #FBF #organicfarming
  12. The second panel discussion I was able to attend was on Modern Farming and included an all star panel of Maria Rodale, CEO of the Rodale Institute (in my hometown Philly!), Ann Marie Gardner, editor-in-chief of the brand new magazine Modern Farmer (picked up my copy at Omnivore Books in San Francisco last week!), and Keith Steward, author of the “Guide to Growing Organic Vegetables and Herbs for Market.” Pair that with Corby Kummer as moderator and I was officially star-struck.
  13. The panel was very interesting and discussed a lot of the issues that farmers are facing today including contract farming, organic seals of approval and regulations working against them.
  14. Ideal of being self sufficient is not the ideal unless you want to be lonely lol @mariarodale
  15. Overheard @foodbookfair : why do you need official #organic certification when labels are not always best and expensive
  16. Day 3: By Sunday I was so exhausted, but I was able to check out the Resource Fair and squeeze in one more panel on publishing a cookbook, and recognized chef Elizabeth Falkner (you might know her from Iron Chef). While I don’t see myself publishing a cookbook anytime soon, it was really interesting to hear about the process from the necessity of acquiring an agent to the working relationship with publishers. 
  17. All in all a really wonderful weekend! Thanks again for the NYC Food Book Fair team for letting me join in on the fun! Until next time– Belle out!

Kitchen Visit: Cohen’s Deli – Jerusalem, Israel

April 17, 2013

Last week (before leaving Israel- more on that later) I had the pleasure of sitting down with Shimon Cohen, owner of Cohen’s Deli– a small cheese shop in the German Colony/Katamon/San Simon neighborhood in Jerusalem (I never really understand where each neighborhood ends, but FYI it’s on Hizkiyahu HaMelech St.)

I met Shimon as I would pass by his shop every single day on my to and from work. I would stop in for coffee, try new cheeses and constantly bother him for new recommendations for cheese.

In an adorable deli that reminds you of a Parisian café in a residential area of Jerusalem, where the owner knows most of his clients by name and supports Israeli products: I thought it would be a perfect fit to feature Cohen’s Deli on Local Belle.

cohensdeli outside 2

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I was born in Jerusalem, actually here above the store. I lived here above the store. It was my grandfather’s store- since maybe 1958, maybe earlier. He bought this place and it was a grocery store. He also sold cheese, bread and wine.

So my background- I was here in Jerusalem until I finished my army (a long time ago), then lived in Los Angeles for a couple of years, traveled all around the world for something like 10 years. And then three years ago I came back to Israel, I was living on a kibbutz studying Jewish philosophy, and then six months ago we decided to open the store and do what my grandfather did. Me and my brother run this deli together.

shimon- Cohen Deli

Why cheese?

Actually, my father had two restaurants here in Jerusalem. Since we were children, he would always bring us back cheeses from his trips to France and Italy. Since I was little I’ve had a love for cheese. We thought that in Israel it’s not so popular (these types of artisan cheeses)- so we wanted to open a cheese, bread, and wine shop- that was the concept. And here we are today (laughs).

innajam

olives

wine bottles

What makes this deli unique?

What I sell, you can’t find in the supermarket. All of the products are boutique- you can’t find any of these wines in any big market. The bread also- it comes from Dekel bakery and I’m the only one who sells this bread. There are some other places who sell it in shuk Machane Yehuda or in restaurants. Also the Israeli cheeses, you can only find them here. The guy who makes the cheese is a well-known cheese monger, his name is Shai Selzer. He’s never sold to anyone else- he makes his cheese in the Sataf- the Jerusalem mountains.

The other cheese maker, the farm is called Shvil Izim, he has a little restaurant where he sells his cheese and then only here.

I think they like this place and the concept. It looks a little French or Italian, and you cannot find a lot of places like this, especially in Jerusalem. It’s very expensive cheese, so they were looking for a place with a select clientele.

I have a lot of cheese that I import from France and Italy. But aside from the cheese, all of the products are from Israel and are boutique. We support Israel- we wanted to sell Israeli products. There are good things from Israel and if you want to buy them you have to drive up north and I thought it would be nice to help them sell within Jerusalem.

sundried tomatoes

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outside looking in

Whats the best cheese here?

We have a French brie with truffles, its very hard to find even in France and its very expensive. About 800 shekels (about $250) for a kilo- kind of like gold :)

3 wines

What would you eat it with?

Oof- with nothing! (laughs) – Just good red wine, and something a little more sweet like a Shiraz.

Are you vegetables organic?

In the beginning all of our vegetables were organic, but now they are all “baladi” which loosely translates as being grown in the forest- it grows naturally. Its not organic- its something different. I go every morning to get the vegetables, and pick the best every morning in the shuk.

Wine and Cheese Pairings brought to you by Cohen’s Deli:

Hard goat cheese: White wine- Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc

Soft Cheese like Brie and Blue Cheese- with red wine like cabarnet

Strong Cheese like moncheggo: pair with a sweeter wine like Shiraz

In between cheese, not soft or hard like Gouda: dry white wine

And of course all the cheeses are fantastic with cheese!

5 things you can’t live without:

Cheese, Wine… It’s a hard question! There’s a lot of things but only five? Ok lets see.. A woman (laughs).. books– I really love books. Last one? I don’t know, I think there is only four.

shimon outside