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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for October, 2012

De Culinaire Werkplaats

Posted by Alex | October 14th, 2012 | Filed under Art, Design, Sustainability

When you eat vegetarian, do you see an empty spot on your plate?

If you grew up—as I did—grudgingly picking at the obligatory vegetables that garnished the evening’s meat and potatoes, an all-veggie meal has some serious cultural baggage to overcome. Through family dinners, church socials and neighborhood potlucks, we’re taught that supper is a piece of meat with two sides. The idea is so commonplace that we’ve even designed paper plates to the proper proportions.

Call it the “Chinet” approach to meal planning.

So what do you do with that big section of the compartment plate when you’re no longer working with meat? Is it a hole to be filled? Or an invitation to creativity?

These are the questions that animate De Culinaire Werkplaats (The Culinary Workshop), a conceptual test-kitchen in Amsterdam’s rejuvenated Westerpark neighborhood. Half design studio, half restaurant, it seeks to shake up visitors’ culinary lifestyle by redefining not just vegetarian cuisine, but by exploring the creative possibilities of food.

Where many vegetarian restaurants attempt to recreate the flavors and forms of traditional meals, De Culinaire Werkplaats seeks to create entirely new experiences by drawing inspiration from a wide variety of sources—from fashion to farmland, art to architecture. A springtime menu modeled dishes on the landscape of The Netherlands’ countryside; this week, a visitor can enjoy plates suggested by a visit to Shanghai. Cabbages, beans and water chestnut tumble together in the “Shanghai Laundry;” ask for “The Man in his PJs,” and you’ll get a dessert of dim sum, chocolate and tapioca.

And food is only part of the experiment. Founders Marjolein Wintjes and Eric Meursing have crafted wearable fashion from edible fabrics, produced vegetable and fruit papers and put on conceptual art projects. Even the bill challenges convention: while the drink card is traditionally priced, it’s up to you to decide what a fair value is for the five-course fixed menu.

Taken together, these experiments offer a refreshing approach to the challenge of living in a world limited resources: in the process of creating a new culinary language, De Culinaire Werkplaats are showing how imagination can fill an empty plate.

Learn more, and check out the week’s menu, at deculinairewerkplaats.nl. Open Friday for dinner, Saturday for Lunch and Dinner.

The Naked Truth about Nudie Jeans

Posted by leighann | October 9th, 2012 | Filed under Design, Partnerships, Positive Change, Sustainability

 Here’s to Nudie Jeans, our new Collective partner, going 100% organic. Check out their instragram contest and win a trip to Italy to see how premium organic denim is made.

Here’s a sobering statistic: it takes 2/3 pound of pesticides to produce enough conventional cotton to make one pair of jeans. Apply that fact to the over 450 million pairs of jeans that are sold in the US every year, and well, you get a few more zeros and a much more sobering statistic

That’s why, six years ago, Nudie Jeans—our new Collective partner— set a goal: to make their entire line of premium, high-quality denim using only 100% organic cotton by 2012. It was an ambitious goal. Entire supply chains have to be reevaluated, new fabrics developed, and old business practices reexamined.

We get it. We make these decisions every day. But for the Swedish-based company, they had to rethink everything—from design to manufacturing—in order to create premium, well-fitting denim that wouldn’t compromise their style or ethics.

Here’s what Maria Erixon Levin, Nudie Jean’s Founder, had to say about the company’s journey to organic:

“Sure, it has taken time, but we have maintained the courage of our convictions during a period that has seen a number of eco-trends come and go. For us, this is a question of lifestyle, and one of our core values. Since starting up back in 2001, we have remained focused on issues around sustainability and the environment regardless of the demands of the market or our customers, in a time when price has been a key factor. Prices have often been so low that quality, as well as organic and CSR-aware production have been sacrificed as a result.

We have chosen to work with organic cotton regardless of the trends of the day. We are often asked if our values are a marketing tool, or something requested by our customers. The answer is no. It’s a choice we make in the boardroom, and a choice we make during product development. We believe our commitment to organic production should be part of our pricing and quality profile.

In 2006, we invited all our material suppliers and laundry operators to join us in a discussion on sustainable development in the industry. And today, we are especially proud to say we offer 100% organic cotton across our entire range of rigid, stretch and selvage denim. This is a vital stage in the evolution of the Nudie Jeans philosophy. We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has been with us along the way.”

This season, we’re proud to partner with Nudie Jeans to bring you their first collection of premium denim crafted entirely from fine Italian and Turkish organic cotton. Clean, minimalist construction, classic European style, and none of the bad stuff.

Shop select women’s and men’s Nudie Jeans’ styles on nau.com, or find out more about Nudie Jeans on their website.

 

Postcard From Slovenia

Posted by Alex | October 2nd, 2012 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection, Who We Are

Slovenian Alps

“Excuse me, but why would Americans come here?”

By ‘here,’ my Italian bunkmate doesn’t mean the attic dormitory of the Valentina Stamca Hut; he means Slovenia. We’ve met in one of high refuges of the Julian Alps, a range of dolomite just across the border from some better-known Italian peaks made of the same stuff. But while visiting the Dolomites conjures up images of flights into Venice, hand-pulled espressos and lasagna dinners, Slovenia…well, where the hell is Slovenia, anyway?

A pocket nation of just two million people squeezed between Italy, Austria and Croatia, Slovenia secured its independence from Yogoslavia in 1991 through a ten-day war. Yet while that conflict was largely bloodless, Slovenia still bears the scars of earlier battles. As in the Dolomites, Austrians and Italians fought in the Julian Alps from trenches and gun nests dug into the mountains. It’s here that Hemingway wrote about in A Farewell To Arms, where mountain peaks were crowned in barbed wire, and where 60,000 soldiers lost their lives just to avalanches.

Today in the Jullian Alps, the vestiges of that war remain: crumbling stone barracks, rusting gun carriages, blunted barbed wire. But it’s not this that’s brought us here. It’s the paths: beautifully graded army roads and fantastically engineered high-mountain via-ferrata. Built to give access to the high mountains, these war-time paths established new ways of moving through the steep and exposed terrain. The result is that Triglav National Park offers remarkable access to some of the world’s most dramatic mountains. What once was used to make war now accesses beauty.

Outside the bunk room window, one such peak rears up above the Austrian horizon. I point, and smile. Sure, it may not have Italian coffee, but after a long day in these mountains the goulash is pretty darn good.