Dinner at the Goat Lady Dairy

A lot of my dinners start off with chickens.

But never have I had a dinner that started off … meeting chickens.

IMG_7802

My friend Kate found about the dinner at Goat Lady Dairy, and told us about it and as soon as I read about it on the website, I was in.  Actually, all I had to read was “goat cheese truffles” and I was in.  So last night, Kate and Charlie, Anne and I (husbands were working, sadly) and Anne & Kate’s parents, Linda and Eddie, packed ourselves into the car and made the 50 minute drive out into the country (and it was indeed) to have dinner at the Goat Lady Dairy.

IMG_7798

Our evening started off, as I mentioned, in the chicken coop.  Steve Tate, one of the owners of the 15-year old goat farm, assured us that we would be better off not looking down at our feet while he chatted.  We happily complied.  Steve gave us a little history of how Goat Lady Dairy came to be, but more near and dear to my heart, he waxed poetic about sustainable farming.

If you’ve seen Food Inc, you know we’re in a tad bit of trouble – food wise – in this country.  And I’m not just talking about the stuff that I usually talk about – weight loss, obesity, health.  We’ve got totally disconnected from where our food comes from… and what our food is – and what that is doing to all of usThere’s a whole heckuva lotta stuff in the grocery store that your great-grandma wouldn’t even know how to identify, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.  Cheap food comes at a great cost.

Oops, guess who else can wax poetic about sustainable farming?  Sorry, I’ll just to keep myself in check here… Anyways, the point I was going to make is – I liked Food, Inc.  I thought it was informative.  But it was also a little bit IN YOUR FACE, YO and I know a lot of people had a hard time stomaching the film.  Steve was pretty much the opposite, but with the same message.  He spoke from a place of passion and purpose.  Here we all were to have a delicious farm fresh meal, and he had recognized an opportunity to minister to a captive audience about a simple idea: “Food is the problem, but food can be the solution.” (His direct quote, but I loved it.)   And we were a captive audience – indeed, we were in the chicken coop.  See if a bunch of us city folks can figure out how to work that pen latch.

Genius.  But genius delivered with a side of earnest, heartfelt truth about our food.

Oh and the food!  The food we had for dinner last night was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life.  Everything served came from the farm we were on, or a nearby local one.  Considering March isn’t exactly known to be the most generous garden month of the year, I was a little curious as to what we would be served up.  Here’s the blow by blow:

IMG_7821

A cheese tasting platter, all the cheese coming from the goats on the farm.  (They are, after all, a goat dairy.  Their cheeses can be found at Reynolda Farm Market year round, as well as I think the Krankies market in the summer.) 

The top cheese was a chevre mixed with carrots and a little bit of, I think dill?  It was called the “spring garden goat cheese.”  Amazing.  And then the next one was called “Farmer’s Cheese” – a bit similar to a feta.  The bottom one was called the “Smoked Round” which I will be buying in mass quantities to dollop generously on top of a tomato-basil-salad.  I bit into that piece of cheese and my mind went “mmmm, summer.”  The fourth one was a sweet chevre with honey and fig, and could pretty much have been dessert.

IMG_7824

Course two was a roasted sweet potato soup with a hint of thyme.  I hadn’t had enough wine to throw my manners out the window yet, or I’m certain I would have tipped the entire ramekin up and slurped it clean. 

IMG_7825

The third course was a cold kale (although previously sautéed?) salad with a sundried tomato lemon vinaigrette.  This wasn’t my all time favorite, but that’s because I’m still learning to like greens.  Not being a natural born Southerner, my palate still doesn’t quite know what to make of collards, kale and turnips.  But I want to like them – hello, nutritional powerhouse – and this was certainly a step in the right direction.  Fortunately Anne, Southern born and bred, finished off my plate for me.  I informed her that she had gotten her fair share of vitamin K and her blood would be clotting well.  “Uh huh, okay, but did you try the flower?  It tastes like PURPLE!” was her response.

It did, surprisingly, taste like purple.  (And yes, we checked.  It was okay to eat them.) 

IMG_7830

The main event was venison and pork ragu served over a bed of polenta.  Funny enough, we often had venison at my family Thanksgivings thanks to uncles who were handy with a shotgun and had a few too many Bambi’s in their backyard.  It amuses me that I now see venison on some nicer restaurant menus as a “delicacy.”  But, you can’t argue with good tasting meat right?  Right. 

IMG_7832

The next course (I know, right?!) was the infamous goat cheese truffles.  Oh my souls.  Goat cheese and chocolate?  Amazing. 

And then finally….

IMG_7834

Pound cake with dark chocolate sauce and an orange whipped cream.  I was too full at this point to actually eat much of the dessert, but I do love me some real whipped cream.  I now pledge this: I shall forever add orange zest to my whipped cream. 

The food was amazing.  I wish I could go back weekly, because the menu changes each week with whatever is in season.  The setting was perfection – simple, rustic and wholesome.  It’s obvious that everyone who works there believes in what they’re doing and why they are they, and it shows.

IMG_7796

And the goats!

IMG_7818

How could I forget to tell you about the goats?  Well, for starters, they were all pregnant.  Like, due any day now pregnant!  After our session in the chicken coop, we were introduced to the goats.

IMG_7811

I am quite certain Locke is going to have to buy his wife a goat this summer or else she is just not going to ever be happy again. 

Although, I believe she said she’d be okay with a few chickens, too.

SO!  If you live in Winston-Salem or Greensboro, make yourself a date with some goats and chickens and truly amazing meals.  Gather up some friends, bring a couple bottles of wine (it’s BYOW) and don’t wear your favorite shoes.

If you don’t live here, read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Watch Food, Inc.  Find a Farmer’s Market.  Cook seasonal.  Get a goat.  Do what you can do – I think a lot of people get stuck because they feel like if they’re not going to go 100% organic, local, whatever, then they shouldn’t do it at all.  I’m a far cry from eating “ideally” all the time (I’m certain the “Pirate’s Booty” I’m eating as I write this is neither local nor organic nor…gasp… nutritious…) but whatever small steps you can make towards eating in a way that supports your health and yup, the planet’s health, count. 

And I mean, if eating sustainably means eating goat cheese truffles for dessert from time to time, well I’m sorry, that’s just the price you’ll have to pay. 

IMG_7839 

Happy diners – Kate, me, Anne.

Food Borne Illness

Ingredients: Corn, Cellulose Gum, Mono- and Diglycerides, Lime, Chicken, Water, Green Bell Peppers, Onions, Zucchini, Carrots, Tomato Paste, Green Chilies, Citric Acid, Sour Cream Flavor, Maltodextrin, Red Bell Pepper [contain Citric Acid, Calcium Chloride, Water, Salt], Corn Starch, Chicken Base, Chicken Stock Flavor, Nusalt/Sodium Substitute, Salt, Seasoning, Cooked Rice, Water, Tomatillos, Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Skim Milk and Milk, Water, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Flavor, Enzymes, Artificial Color, Sorbic Acid [Preservative]Lactic Acid, Vitamin A Palmitate)Corn, Black Beans, contains 2% or less of Each of the Following: Green Chilies (contain Citric Acid)Dehydrated Sour Cream (Sour Cream Solids, Nonfat Milk Solids)Green Peppers, Red Peppers, Nonfat Pasteurized Processed Cream Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk, Cheese Cultures, Pasteurized Milk, Whey Protein Concentrate, Less Than 2% of Rice Starch, Salt, Cream, Sodium Phosphate, Whey, Lactic Acid, Flavors, Maltodextrin, Cellulose, Xanthan, Guar, Tara, and Carob Bean Gums, Artificial Color, Sodium Propionate [Preservative]Vitamin A Palmitate)Modified Food Starch, Condensed Skim Milk, Chicken Broth Powder (Maltodextrin, Chicken Broth, Salt, Flavors)Soybean Oil, Nonfat Buttermilk Powder, Salt, Mexican Rice Flour (Tomato Powder, Salt, Paprika, Sodium Diacetate, Whey, Spice, Flavor [including Spice Extractives]Gelatin, Beef Flavor, Smoke Flavor, Soybean Oil and Silicon Dioxide)Flavoring, Granulated Garlic, Chicken Stock Flavor (Chicken Broth, Flavors, Salt, Yeast Extract)Spices, Chili Powder (Chili Pepper, Spices, Salt, Garlic Powder, Silicon Dioxide, Ethoxyquin)…….

Hello, Hello! Please feel free to skip down here….

This is not the vocab list for a organic chemistry final, that’s the ingredients found in a commonly consumed food item that is, in fact, in my very own freezer. Even more disturbing, this item has the word “healthy” listed right in it’s name. There are 3,000 ingredients on the FDA’s generally-recognized as safe (GRAS) list, that are approved for us in everything from our breakfast cereal, to our ice cream, to our beverages to our supplements. 3,000 safe ingredients! The research on this safety of these ingredients can be sparse, confusing and misleading (often depending on the source of funding for said research), and the conditions under which they arrived on the GRAS list are often hotly contested.

I think it’s safe to say we all know consuming food and beverages with an ingredients list that requires a PhD is probably less than ideal for our health. We know that consuming foods with labels that read something more along the lines of “Ingredients: Apple” would probably do us a world of good. Yet, the lure to buy and consume processed and packaged foods, including many restaurant and fast food, despite their scary looking ingredients list is powerful and all too common.

In his exceptional book The End of Overeating, Dr. David Kessler, former head of the FDA, offers a suggestion for a new approach to looking at food, with a parallel to the cultural wide shift that was made around cigarettes. Forty years ago, cigarettes – while perhaps beginning to be recognized as harmful – were still commonly used and certainly not taboo. Today, I would guess that if we sat down around a table and I offered many of you a cigarette, the great majority would dismiss it, noses scrunching, brains reeling with the thought of “That’s gross. I can’t put that in my body.”

What would you say if I offered you a chocolate chip cookie, sitting at the same table?

Different story right? Even if that cookie’s ingredients list included more chemicals than farm-fresh eggs and butter, most of us would barely bat an eye before we’d take a nibble. We might be thinking of the calories, we might be thinking of our guilt, but we probably wouldn’t be thinking “This food might make me sick.” Yet that is, in fact, the very real story of MUCH of our American food products. And they are just that – products. They are produced, in a factory, a combination of molecules and chemicals coming together to be sold as a commodity that we ingest. It is very likely that the food industry is not going to change before the public demand changes. Which means, if we want keep shifting ourselves towards healthier beings, the burden is going to lie on us to make the choice about what we permit to go in our bodies.

Dr. Kessler’s proposal includes looking at some of these food products and literally declaring (aloud, or in your head, perhaps depending on your company) “This will make me sick. This food will make me feel …. This food is not edible.” Sometimes I even try to take it one step farther – for instance, a friend of mine is known for keeping Starbursts on hands at all time. In a mindless moment, I can find myself sitting in a pile of pink, red and orange paper wrappers before I even realize what I’m doing. Soon after, my teeth hurt, I’m buzzing on sugar and I’m wondering if I really wanted to take in 120 calories from Starbursts, when I probably could have enjoyed some really delicious food instead. My strategy came borne from Dr. Kessler’s suggestion. Each time I knew those colored wrappers were going to be in my presence, I began mentally chanting to myself “That is not food. That is not food. That is not food.” Overtime, the message seemed to sink in. That is not food, and for the most part, those little wads of sugar have lost their alluring grip on me. (I said for the most part, I’m only human, friends!)

This is not easy. I understand this. The lure of foods and beverages is as strong for me as nearly everyone I coach, and because I’ve fought my own weight struggles, I understand that food is more than just a combination of ingredients we put in our body. Food can be comfort, can be entertainment, can be celebration. Food can be mindless, it can be soothing, and most of all it can be addictive. Simple changes in thoughts are just a toe-hold on the radical shift that has to happen to create personal, and then public, changes in our health.

I’ve had a very compelling experience over the last two weeks that have made me think about the impact that food has our health in a very different light. About six years ago, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in remission for over three years, and for these last years, have barely given any consideration to the disease itself beyond my medical and mental well-being routines that I use to stay healthy. Ten days ago, I began to experience a flare. For me, the most immediate symptom of a colitis flare is the effect that almost all food and drink has on my digestive health. In the first couple days of my flare, I began to systemically cut out some of the more common culprits – coffee, pop, foods with a lot fiber (there goes my salads, apples, grapes…), and most animal products.

Three days into my flare, I was sitting on the couch with my husband, watching TV and I was staring longingly at his can of Fresca. “I want that,” I whined. “So have it?” he asked. “I can’t. It’ll make me sick,” I pouted.

The same thing happened a few days later. I was meeting a client at Starbucks, and the craving for a skinny vanilla latte hit me the moment I walked in. “I want one,” I whined again, internally. Again, a heartbeat later… “I can’t. It’ll make me sick.”

The week has trickled on like this. This past weekend I spent in Montauk with my girlfriends from college, at the wedding of our one of best friends. There were simple things that were triggers – all the bridesmaids gathered together at a nail salon on a rainy Long Island morning with cups of coffee huddled in hand. “I want one,” that voice chirped again. A bridesmaid luncheon with a beautiful tray laid out with baguettes, brie cheese, fig spread and strawberries. The presentation alone was incredible (and I of course, photo documented it) but the lure to dive in, just based on appearance alone, was absurd. Boston Creme Pie, passed around the reception? The champagne toast? Omelets and tall steamy mugs of coffee on our way back out of town the day after? Check, check, check. The “I want that” bug was in overdrive. Each time I’d be tempted to taste, nibble or sample, I’d be reminded “no, that will make me sick.”

This experience was, for me, an epiphany moment in understanding how even though we know there are many foods out there (perhaps even including my favorite vice, diet coke) that may make us sick, the lure to eat them is more than the knowledge of what they are. Our eating choices are intricately wrapped up in experiences (my Saturday morning at the hair salon), in habits (walking in to Starbucks), in presentation and social cues, and even in just visual cues – seeing someone else eat something. These factors are well documented and studied by those of us who study eating and weight loss behaviors, and they help explain why we continue to reach for foods that may, on some level, be making us sick.

So what can we do about it? If you feel strongly, as I do, that the ingredients in our foods are partially responsible for the diminishing health that we’re experiencing as a country, change will have to start with you, personally. Choose one food in your pantry – maybe the one with the longest ingredients list, or the one food that leaves you feeling horrible (the way my Starbursts did) and begin to systemically change your perception of it. Every time you look at that food product, practice your new thought “That will make me sick.” Sit down with the food product and start googling the ingredients in it. Men’s Health has produced a great resource called “Eat This, Not That” which includes a glossary of many different additives and preservatives and their known and suspected health links. Research a healthier swap – one with fewer ingredients, fresher ingredients, or a version you make at home.

You don’t have to go on a pantry overhaul in one day, and it is important to recognize that many of the choices we make are bundled up with those other factors – habits, experience, emotion, social cues – that will make change a journey of three steps forward, one steps backward. This step can be very challenging, but remember, being in charge of YOUR health means, ultimately, being in charge of YOUR food. Know what you’re putting in your body, and take the steps to protect the health you’ve been blessed with or that you deserve.

Ingredients: Apple

Ingredients? Just one.

Reynolda Farm Market

When I lived in Capitol Hill, one of my favorite Saturday morning excursions was to Eastern Market. Before green-bags were even remotely adorable and trendy, I would go with all my ugly canvas bags gleaned from 5k races and pharmacy techs and load up on my week’s worth of produce – gorgeous ears of corns, blueberries that still had a little bit of farm dirt on them, and zucchini that would roast to such perfection you could cry. I may or may not have a love affair with vegetables. The cheese vendor – oh the cheese vendor. I could have married him for his sage spiked cheese. (If you are reading this and live in DC, GO NOW and get you a hunk.)

I have always been a Farmer’s Market girl. There’s something that just feels right about handing over your money to the person whose hands may have actually been responsible for planting the seed or turning the soil where your broccoli came forth. Call me a agro-romantic if you will, and I’m sure every Farmer’s Market vendor isn’t the bushel and peck stand I’m picturing but HEY. I like to eat off the land my zip code is remotely close to, what can I say?

Today I took my mom and my sister to Winston’s newest spot for locals who like locals, and I was in produce paradise. I started getting twitchy the moment we walked up and there were just piles of big ol’ honeydews stacked outside.


The Reynolda Farm Market is open in the space that used to be Pink Mink (Reynolda Rd, across from The Children’s Home) right in front of the Krankie’s Airstream. (The airstream should be a pretty good reference point – there aren’t many retro-rv’s-turned-coffee-shops are there?) They just opened this weekend, but the goods were plentiful already.

I walked out with a big bushel of peaches, a bag full of teeny mac apples (I love little apples), and a huge bunch of broccoli. I know my husband is super excited about that last one. They also had tons of bread and granola from Ollie’s Bakery, fresh coffee from Krankie’s, goat cheese and chicken from a nearby farm. And even, get this, 5 cent candy pieces. I mean, come on. Play on my nostaglia a LITTLE more.

I dare you to click on this picture and make it full screen.

Tonight’s dinner menu: 2 mini apples, a hunk of broccoli with cilantro-lime ranch (that I made, not from RFM), a peach and a big chewy slice of olive oil & sea salt bread from Ollie’s Bakery.