31 Mar 2016, 5:11pm
Food
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Tracking Notable Bay Area Eateries

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A couple years ago, I started a monthly supper club. A few friends and I would get reservations at a trendy place and make a night of it. To figure out where we would go every month, I started a list of places I had been wanting to dine at in SF and asked the fellas to do the same.

We kept it up for six months or so. Ame (1-star Michelin), Atelier Crenn (2-star Michelin), 4505 Burgers & BBQ (change of pace) and some others made the cut. Since then, I kept returning to the spreadsheet to see if I had made any progress on checking things from the list. I shared it with friends, but never used it as a serious tool.

But then Megan’s sister came to town and we went to three Michelin donned “Bib Gourmand” restaurants. Then I discovered that the other lists (7×7’s “100 Things to Eat…Before You Die” and Eater 38) had some gems that I couldn’t miss. So I went big. I added the entire list of Michelin designations from 2016 down to 2013 (one to three stars and all of the Bib Gourmands). Then I added the Eater 38 from Winter 2016. Then started with the current Eater SF Heatmap and the 7×7 list. I updated with James Beard winners from 2016, 2015 and 2014 and finished with Michael Bauer’s Top 100 from 2015 list.

I found that separating by region was useful. I combined SF and East Bay, Marin and Wine Country, and the Peninsula and South Bay. Eventually, I broke out East Bay as it’s own tab. I’m keeping track of which I’ve been to and my grading of them in a separate sheet so that I could share something without personal bias or remarks.

So for folks who care as much as me, have at it. I’m expecting people to point out issues, mistakes, glaring exclusions (Heirloom Cafe? Bix?)

I’ll be keeping this up to date sporadically, and fixing problems. I’m also planning to hone in on an algorithm to stack rank the restaurants based on designations they have received weighted by the level of difficulty or honor bestowed with each. I expect this to be copied by foodies and others.

Finally, a one stop shop to find every restaurant that the most respected food journalists talk about in the Bay Area.

25 Apr 2012, 10:18pm
Food
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Aquaponics

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This week, I will be making my first equipment purchase for an aquaponic setup for my garage. I’m picking up a 275 gallon IBC tote from outside of Santa Rosa.

The plan

Fish waste is ammonia and solid waste with trace elements. Two types of bacteria are at work: one to convert the ammonia to nitrities (Nitrosomonas) and the second to convert the nitrite into nitrate (Nitrospira). Worms eat the solid waste and poop castings, which are nutrients appropriate for root uptake. If water is held at the right temperature and pH and the bacteria and worms are converting the waste into usable elements the fish and plants can survive.

My design calls for some interesting plumbing design, exploded clay grow bed media, a constantly running water pump with a siphoned return, two grow beds and grow lights. I wish I didn’t have to add the grow lights, but it’s in my garage. There isn’t enough room in my back yard for this set up, so it’s all I can do for now.

Why?

There’s something special about this concept from the beginning. It’s really a culmination of many things that humans have done: intensive agriculture, hydroponics, aquaculture/animal husbandry, biodome experiments, etc. By starting with a near complete system, one can add growing fish food, automatic fish population control, seed saving and seedling propagation operations to their setup to make things even more complete. The few inputs to the system: 5-10 gallons of water per week, light (could be sunlight), pump power (could be solar or more sustainable) and fish food. All of this sounds like doing aquaponics may be possible in countries with agricultural problems. I think so, too. My hope is that this personal experiment will lead me somewhere I don’t know exists yet. I’ll be looking for it and ready when it shows up.

References

  1. Aquaponics Community Forum
  2. Aquaponic Gardening Book
14 Nov 2011, 4:38pm
Books Business Food
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Vertical Farming and My New Obsession

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Every so often (more often than I’ll admit) I delve into a subject that captures my imagination and interest so much that it becomes part of my life for a long time. Most recently, it was the Criterion Collection and then business school and reading.  This time, I think it’s different.

Backstory:

The day I graduated college (December 17, 2004), I remember sitting on my bed and thinking: “now what?” I quickly glanced over the industry options that would put my degree to good use: defense, enterprise engineering, consulting, banking, industrial automation, electronics, etc. Nothing was really speaking to me. I went back to the drawing board. I realized that I had been on a journey to reach that day for my entire life. Now that I was there, I had no idea why.

Our basic needs are met. Our second level needs are met. Humans invented commerce, agriculture and written language. I took me five years of reading and searching to realize this. After realizing that my degree and any short term goals I had wouldn’t allow me to realize what I needed to do long term, I thought about what I would go back to school to study. Law? Too focused. Neuro-prosthetics? Not really on my moral compass as there’s too much potential to do harm. Ecology? I’d have to take 2 years of biology and chemistry before even applying to grad school. More engineering or computer science? That would only make me a specialist – and possibly not in a way that I’d want to be. Business? Hm. I could do one of the thousand things I was thinking about. And I can do it part time. That sounded like the best option economically and logically.

But it wasn’t a solid enough idea to convince the admissions board at Haas last year. I wasn’t ready to apply when I did the first time. I needed one more year to ruminate and self discover.  I’m ready now.

Dickson Despommier’s The Vertical Farm is just a book with a rather inspirational title. Most of what I took away from reading it was the idea. Taking the idea a few steps further, I came up with a list of engineering problems that I’d be interested in solving. I have the seed of a business plan in my head and in my new goals essay for admission to Haas. I think that I could cater to my personal goals of working in a city, in something to do with agriculture by owning a business that is executing specifically to the triple bottom line. I also think I can help solve one or more really big problems: job creation (here and elsewhere), feed the world, secure food, provide a viable plan for squatter cities, etc.

In school, I will want to focus on my business plan, building connections to help solve some of the engineering problems, learn about entrepreneurship, global business and continue doing research around helping the world. There’s a quite a bit of learning to be done and I’d like to keep this blog as a record of my progress. I won’t promise to update every week or month, but when I feel like I need to record something I will come here. My next post should be either the list of engineering problems I need help with or a high level framework of the business plan I will be working on. Hopefully we’ll get to see the evolution of that.

17 Jan 2011, 7:49pm
Honey
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BEES!

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I’ve been a terrible father. I’ve left my bees to their own devices for two months (ok, three?). Yeah, that’s not a good idea mainly because of disease control, swarm prevention and other issues that human interaction helps to eliminate. However, they are kicking ass this winter!!! This is especially surprising because I hear about a hive collapse in the Bay Area at least once a day. The winter is almost over, and flowers are starting to bloom. My bees have a full box of honey, brood laid, a healthy queen, pollen and all other good signs of a healthy hive at the end of winter.
I'M CUVERED IN BEES!
My next task is to manage the size of the hive in order to eliminate the chance that a swarm will happen this spring or summer. I’d like to get the parts to a second hive in case we need to catch a swarm. In the meantime, I’m going to sit back and enjoy the fact that bees are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. They are wild, after all.

13 Oct 2009, 1:04pm
Honey:
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Honey Harvest

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My friend, Anders and I raised bees this season.  We previously extracted about 4 lbs. of honey.  Last weekend, we had a full box of capped honey and extracted 2.5 gallons, or about 30lbs of honey.  That’s 40 1/2 pints of honey.  Christmas Presents = check.

Check out a couple pictures Anders took here.