Sunny Meadows Flower Farm – Organic Flowers in Columbus

Not a stone’s throw from bustling downtown Columbus there lies a lush and verdant patch of pastoral idyll, where flowers bloom in rainbowed rows and spotted fawns leap about capriciously. Bluebirds sing merrily while baby bunnies roll around in puddles of honey, giggling with delight. Welcome to Sunny Meadows  Flower Farm!

Sunny Meadows is an “all natural” farm specializing in flowers and dabbling in some foods—“all natural” because while they are not certified organic, they grow using organic practices. Located just outside of Columbus, a town loaded with locavores, they provide organically-grown seasonal flowers for events, especially weddings. Why organic flowers? As it turns out, “many of the flowers sold by florists and supermarket floral departments have been imported from countries where the pesticide regulations are not as stringent as they are in the United States and Canada. As a result, many imported cut flowers have been sprayed with toxic chemicals to keep them cosmetically perfect, and those chemical residues are still on the flowers when they reach this country” (from The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers by Lynn Byczynski).

Not only is your mother’s day present loaded with potentially dangerous chemicals, they are often grown in less fortunate places where workers are paid unfairly and conditions are poor. Sunny Meadows hopes to educate the public, generally wise about organic and locally-grown produce, on the importance of organic and locally-grown flowers.

Neither Steve nor Gretel Adams, the owners and operators of Sunny Meadows, grew up on a farm. For Steve, gardening was a labor of love he only found when moving into his own place for the first time. Gretel was fortunate enough recently to inherit a 10 acre lot in Columbus, and they’ve since filled it with ethically-grown flowers, vegetables, and fruits. Gretel has even taken up soap-making using the ingredients they grow at Sunny Meadows. Both in their late 20’s, they are part of a burgeoning movement of young people concerned with local affairs, seeking to improve their community rather than be content to depend on foreign corporate conglomerates who standardize and commodify everything they can, whose bottom line is profit, and who suck communities dry of variety, quality, and anything resembling a local economy. Just the fact that small, organic farms can turn a profit and sustain themselves shows that there is a sizable market for high quality goods that don’t taste like that hydroponic greenhouse shit from the Sysco truck.

This is a beautiful thing. I have a dream; what if we lived in a world who didn’t act as if Walmart and Target were their umbilical cord? What if food was actually grown outside? In dirt? What if it actually tasted good, and was healthy, and was grown nearby? And was fresh, and only recently harvested? What if our produce wasn’t covered in poisonous chemicals? Why are these novel concepts?

By: Ben Britz

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New York’s Best Café: The Grey Dog Café

Grey Dog Café is an oasis among oases; in my opinion, the best food in New York City. Not the best as in the most fancy, but if you’re like me, and you like gigantic sandwiches on great artisan bread followed by perfect coffee and grandma-style desserts (Peach cobbler! Cookies of all kinds! Pie! Incredible pie!), look no further than 33 Carmine Street in the West Village, unless of course you’re nearer their second location at 90 University Place off of Union Square. In that case, look there—it’s the same food, same atmosphere, and the same (I swear) beautiful people behind the counter. Not that it matters, but everyone I’ve ever seen working the counter at this NY comfort food Mecca has a sweet smile and great bone structure; go see for yourself, I don’t lie.

Grey Dog’s Coffee is certainly something to write home about. They have a full coffee bar with all the usual espresso and coffee drinks, and you can even order from their website if you want to bring the brew back home. Apart from that, they have great teas, smoothies, and other drinks, as well as beer on tap and an affordable wine selection. HELPFUL HINT: After 9pm, happy hour kicks in and you can get decent draft beer (which rotates, but I’ve had Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn Lager) for the by-New-York-standards-cheap-as-hell 3 bucks a pint—real beer at PBR prices. That said, for the hipster purist, cans of PBR are available for, I think, the same price.

Look at their menu to find your own favorites. You can’t really go wrong. I love the Chicken and the Tuna Melt, the Turkey-Apple-Brie, and the Grey Dog Club as far as sandwiches go, but the Country Salad has the best homemade salad dressing I’ve ever had. Oh and try the Baja Fish Tacos—a little on the small side for the price ($11.95) but completely worth it. Their breakfast outdoes any New York Diner in comfort food satisfaction; try the Grey Dog Breakfast which has all the usual fixings—eggs any style, french toast or pancakes, & bacon or sausage, or ham. I recently had the Baked Oatmeal, which really is a cube of baked oatmeal made with cinnamon, brown sugar, raisins and is served sitting in a bath of hot steamed milk, perfect for those mornings where you just miss your mom.

By: Ben Britz, Photos By: Elizabeth Seward

Founding Farmers: Good Eats in Washington DC

When my Los Angeles-born-and-bred friend suggested Founding Farmers for our first reunion since she fled chilly DC for La-La land, I’ll admit I thought she had bought into the West Coast health obsession and was trying to convert me to the Church of Organic Bullshit. From the moment I stepped through the revolving doors into the downstairs dining room and was greeted by the precious hostess until the moment I wedged my overstuffed self out those same doors–any preconceived notions I had about organic fine dining were entirely dashed.

I really have to tip my hat to Founding Farmers’ founding fathers for their total commitment to the concept: they’ve managed to become the first restaurant in DC, and the first full-service, upscale-casual restaurant in the country, to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification. You would think that you’d pay dearly for their wholehearted devotion to farm-to-table and organic ingredients, but I’m happy to report that their prices were shockingly low. Small plates average about $7 each, but each decadent bite packs a punch that will leave you slightly daunted at the prospect of an entree. The main courses are similarly reasonable considering the hearty portions and willingness of the competent and friendly waitstaff to pack it up. Cocktails are on the spendy side, hovering around $11, but if the abstemious offerings are any indication, I’m sure every sip is its own special paradise.

I was pleasantly surprised when our server placed a large menu in front of each of us: when it comes to menu options, more is usually more, and in the case of Founding Farmers, there’s truly something for everyone. Fried green tomatoes were served with a signature “Green Goddess” sauce of avocado, garlic, and mayonnaise that tasted like it was prepared by Demeter herself. The lobster mac and cheese was so tart and rich that after three bites, we were each leaning back in our seats, rolling our eyes and moaning since the sheer hedonism had robbed us of our verbal skills. Each luscious word describing the drinks on the cocktail menu was intoxicating—I laughed out loud at the blurb below “Death in the Afternoon”: “‘Pour one jigger of absinthe into a champagne glass. Add iced champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.’ -Ernest Hemingway.” Were I not struggling through the second fortnight of a teetotalling month (cleansing myself of the indulgences of the month prior) I would have happily followed Papa Hemingway’s advice. At least Executive Bar Chef Jon Arroyo would have, as each alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink on the menu is made to order with all-natural ingredients. I opted for the hand-shaken iced tea sweetened with agave and brown sugar, while my friend chose the unsweetened version. We both agreed that mine was the better choice, and worth the $4 no-refill price tag for the perfect blend of fresh and sweet every time.

The decor was modern without being chilly, comfortable but never sloppy: soft light radiates from cotton-swathed cloud lamps and from white and black ceramic birds. I felt as though I had walked into an incredibly chic farmhouse, perhaps one that Anna Wintour would live in if Conde Nast acquired Town & Country. Recycled wood interior and silo-shaped booths absorb sound so even at capacity the noise was never distracting. Jarred fruits and vegetables line the walls both upstairs and down, but an especially sweet touch was the faux graffiti scrawled on the bathroom walls. Instead of the usual “Tiffany <3s Chad,” patrons of Founding Farmers can ponder rules of etiquette while washing their hands in a trough-like ceramic sink (fully automated, natch) or using the incongruous but totally appropriate cutting-edge hand dryer. Those wasteful paper towels are so very 2008, or hadn’t you heard?

By: Leeza Papalanis