An artist and a chemist making soda and carbonated juices from scratch, using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Fresh draft soda - available at the Brooklyn Flea on the weekends & select bars & restaurants

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hello from various roof tops across Hong Kong

I spent three weeks late June/ early July in Hong Kong visiting family and friends, and trying to get some work done. One of the interesting trends that has picked up in Hong Kong, very dense metropolis of 7 million people, is the emergence of rooftop farms and urban gardening.

Antonio and I first met Michael Leung from HK Honey last year when he showed us his (hibernating) bees and the start of his rooftop farm in an industrial building in Kowloon. Through running workshops and working with an association of local bee farmers, HK Honey has made great strides in making the general population aware of urban bee-keeping and local honey. His background in design comes in handy too - high end stores like Lane Crawford have requested bee hive commissions.  Eight months later, and one typhoon in, I had the chance to visit his rooftop again and see how his urban farming project (which he started with Matthew Edmonsen & Glenn Eugen Ellingsen), HK Farm is going.
Here's Michael showing me the wonderfully strange planter that someone made them using discarded materials.

The bee hives (painted green) are happily situated between his planters that are currently growing everything from chile peppers to basil. And there's a funny feather duster that is in the lower right corner that is used as a scarecrow.
Michael had spent a couple of months in Brooklyn two years ago, working on Brooklyn Grange's rooftop farm. His zine was fantastically heartfelt.
It's hard to run any type of farm, and it's particularly hard to use rooftops in a city; the engineering that is required and the logistics involved are daunting. But it's fascinating to see how rooftops in industrial areas can be slowly reclaimed and used to their full advantage.

The next day I headed out to check out Project Grow which is run by a non-profit group. Their model is quite different from HK Farm - they see themselves primarily as community center, a place where the people in their neighbourhood can come and learn how to grow their own food. Project Grow is located in the incredibly dense neighbourhood of To Kwa Wan, a once bustling industrial area that has seen better days. Run by the Hong Kong Film Culture Center (which has their screening room and offices in the same building) they don't see themselves selling their produce to generate revenue any time soon, instead choosing to focus their energy on running classes and hosting regular talks & open days.

The view from the rooftop at  Project Grow

Old bed frames were repurposed for planters

No live chickens - but some nice chubby clay ones

Friday, June 8, 2012

Foraged flavors - Angelica and our foraged root soda

Foraged flavors of the week!

We've been working on a series of foraged flavors for the past couple of months and we're happy to announce that this Saturday at Smorgasburg we'll debut two of them:
- Angelica
- foraged root soda (a root beer-like soda using sassafras root, spice bush and wintergreen leaves)

Ingredients were sourced via Evan Strusinski, the noted forager who also supplies a number a of noted New York restaurants.

Angelica archangelica has a long history of medicinal use, specifically popular in Scandinavian countries where it grows quite easily. If the taste is slightly familiar to you, it's because it is used to flavor gins, Vermouth and Chartreuse. In this batch, Antonio used both the root and the stems (see photos below)

Our root soda uses all found and foraged roots which was a fun challenge for us.

Sassafras is a traditional ingredient in root beer - it smells fantastic - perfumey, sweet and earthly.
Spice bush (Lindera; check out the informative Wikipedia link here) - is aromatic, heady and spicy and a fantastic accompaniment to the more tanin-y notes in the wintergreen.
Wintergreen is a small waxy leafed plant with red berries that grows everywhere in the north-east.  Wintergreen extract is the main flavoring in almost all modern root beers. It's easy to spot in the fall or winter when it is one of the few green things poking through the fallen leaves or snow (we foraged this batch of wintergreen ourselves from the Catskills - see picture below)

We're excited to bring these roots and plants straight from the woods of the north-east to your cup of soda.  Be warned though - even though some of these flavors are familiar from root beer, they are usually balanced (or smothered, depending how you look at it) by lots of sweeter lighter flavors, such as vanilla. Here we are letting them shine on their own for the adventurous tasters to enjoy in all their earthy, bitter, herbal glory! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Foraged knotweed and our new production space!

The past month has been a whirlwind of activity - we finally finished our build out at our new production space over on Flushing Ave (on the border of Bed-Stuy and Bushwick). The building is pretty incredible; it is the pharmaceutical company Pfizer's former Brooklyn headquarters, and has been empty for a few years.  The 8-storey building is FDA approved and comes with a fully operational loading dock.  We are one of the first tenants in the building (along with Kombucha Brooklyn, Steve's Ice Cream and People's Pops) and it's been quite a journey to get our 1900 sq ft space fully operational.

(check out the recent NY Times article on this building)

Last week, we put down a new layer of epoxy floor paint, finished the walk-in refrigeration installation, paid the last electrician's bill and today our new steam kettle arrived (we are taking suggestions for affectionate names for our steam kettles).

And now for foraging news - this Saturday at Smorgasburg - Japanese knotweed and honey soda.  Knotweed is native to east Asia and grows wild on the east coast (it is sometimes classified as an invasive species). It has hollow stems, edible leaves and tastes a bit like rhubarb. We've been working with Evan Strusinski  the noted wild food forager who travels up and down the east coast, sending packages of foraged goodies to various NYC chefs and restaurants.

Antonio is particularly excited about the prospect of creating a root beer using mostly foraged ingredients - in the next few weeks we'll keep you updated on how our experiments with foraged Spice Bush, Sassafras, birch bark and wintergreen go.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Good Spirits Feb 28th

The end of winter is getting close - we can almost smell spring. And that means working on our new kitchen (1800 sq feet of space to house some new equipment) and preparing for a busy outdoor season.

Before all of that though, comes the annual Edible Manhattan's Good Spirits event. This coming Tuesday from 6-8pm, join a host of chefs, mixologists and spirit vendors for an evening of cocktail and food pairings. We'll be there with our signature Grapefruit, jalapeno & honey soda, and the crowd pleasing Apple & Ginger.

And of course, if you can't make that, you can always find us at our usual spot at the indoor Brooklyn Flea on the weekends (located at One Hanson Place in Fort Greene) or on tap at some great restaurants and bars (including the newest member of Danny Meyer's restaurant group, North End Grill).