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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Our local, humane wedding

By far, I think the best part aspect of planning our wedding has been the food. It was a way to turn my passion for humane living into something real.

Here is a rundown of all the cool things we are doing.

Most importantly, our wedding -- and all of the noshing surrounding it -- will be entirely humane and vegetarian. We did a lot of research to find places that could accomodate these needs and vendors who understood why it was important to us.

Eat & Smile is catering our wedding. Oliver, the owner and chef, buys only local food from farmers markets in the DC area. We are not entirely sure what he is going to serve yet, but he gave us a list of food that is usually in season now. Whatever is fresh he will make. We absolutely loved his food during our tasting and cannot wait to eat at the wedding. Oh, and we will eat, contrary to what people say about the bride and groom not eating at their own wedding.

Whole Foods is catering our rehearsal dinner. Due to the fact that we cannot source the cheese there, we are doing a mostly vegan dinner. We are having southwest jicama salad, really garlicky kale, hummus dips, two kinds of tofu, garden hummus wraps and pasta salad. Check out Alex at our tasting:

The pastry chef there is using only Organic Valley milk, butter and eggs for any in-house dessert items.

Our morning-after brunch is being hosted by Rosemary's Thyme, an awesome restaurant in DC. I couldn't find a good breakfast place that was local, humane and affordable. But then I thought about Rosemary's Thyme. They always seem to be doing something cool. For instance, they host a free neighborhood Thanksgiving that includes a clothing drive. So I thought I would call and see if they would cater our breakfast using all local farmers.

They were more than happy to help, and it was so much fun going to the farmers market with Evin to have her meet the vendors and go over the menu. We are using Creekside Farm for eggs, Keswick for cheese, and milk and cream from Clear Spring Creamery. (We were going to use Blue Ridge, but they pulled their items once I asked about the farm they get their dairy from... More on that when I have time to write about something other than the wedding.)

Alex went on the hunt for local booze. We are getting local beer from Heavy Seas (Baltimore, MD) Flying Dog (Frederick, MD), and Port City Brewing (Alexandria, VA). Only some of the wine is local, and it's from Horton Vineyards in Gordonsville, VA.

And Alex made to sure to get as much of the liquor from union shops as we could, such as bourbon from Knob Creek, rye whiskey from Old Overholt, and rum from Mount Gay.

Stay tuned for pics of the awesome food!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Questions for Blue Ridge Dairy

UPDATE (1pm ET, FRIDAY JUNE 24th): I spoke with Ann at FRESHFARM and she told me the name of the farm. After doing some reading online, they appear to be a small, diversified farm raising dairy cows, chickens, and livestock. I emailed them to ask about tail docking, number of cattle on the farm and housing conditions. Will let you know what I hear back, but this is good news so far!

When I first started this humane food adventure, I was meticulous about asking all of the dairy and egg farmers at farmers markets a series of questions. In fact, it was roughly a year ago that I wrote about my first encounter with Blue Ridge Dairy, a cheese vendor whom I have grown to depend on for mozzarella cheese and honey yogurt at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market.

However, today I stumbled upon some unsettling information, or lack thereof. I was trying to tweet that we are serving their mozzarella at our rehearsal dinner. I went to their website, and noticed that it looked different than a year ago. So I checked it out, and read this under Our Process:

We produce fresh mozzarella the traditional Italian way. We start with the freshest jersey cows milk from a family farm in Carroll County, Maryland.

And that is it. No mention of the size of the farm, number of head of cattle, or the treatment of the cows. This is not what I remembered the vendor telling me at the farmers market a little over a year ago, so I called the farm.

The owner picked-up, and told me that the name of the farm was confidential. He did reassure me that it was owned by a nice family with four kids (heh... clearly he did not know that I could not be wooed by over-populution). When I pressed nicely for an answer to my questions, he became evasive and defensive.

So, I sent the following email to FRESHFARM Markets, the organization that manages Dupont Circle Farmers Market.

Hi Ann, Bernie and Laura:

I am writing due to a concern I have about Blue Ridge Dairy. The owner will not disclose the name of the farm he purchases his milk from for his dairy products. After reading the FreshFarm Markets rules and regulations (, it is clear that Blue Ridge Dairy is in violation of the Cheese and Butter Regulations (pasted below):

Cheese and Butter: FRESHFARM Markets accepts both farmstead (made from dairy from the producer’s own herd) and artisanal (made from dairy purchased by the producer from a local farm) cheese and butters. For artisanal cheese or butter, all milk purchased must be from regional farmers. The cheese/butter maker must provide contact information (owner, farm name, address, telephone number and directions) for the farms from which the cheese maker is buying the milk.

I am a vegetarian and try to only eat animal products that come from humane farms where I know exactly how the animals are treated. This is very important to me and the reason that I shop at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market.

One of the great things about the market is the transparency. Patrons are able to find out information about the farms or sources directly from the vendors. For example, Mel from Keswick is very open to questions and invites customers to come to the farm. Additionally,other vendors I have spoken to have not been defensive about questions concerning humane animal care, but are actually happy to see customers who share their values.

However, when I called and spoke to Mr. Stephan (the owner of Blue Ridge Dairy) he refused to tell me the name of the farm, which not only violates your rules and regulations, but is also not the standards we are used to at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market.

I would very much like to know the name of the farm so I can continue to fully source my food.

In advance thanks and I look forward to hearing from you,


Yes, I am concerned. But I also don't want to write-off a good vendor because he might have been having a bad day, or is not as excited about humane farm animal treatment as I am.

So I will be sure to keep you updated. I am certainly hoping that the only negative thing on this farm is the four kids, and not a farm full of cows whose tails are docked and packed into milking stalls standing in their own manure.