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mercredi 27 avril 2011

Being Local Abroad: From Northern California to North Carolina

I am so ashamed that this is my first blog post in over a month! I refuse to believe that my absence is due to the fact that I've taken an almost-full-time day job and will blame my blocked writing instead on the fact that I have been either sick or traveling (or both) practically this whole month. But I'm back now, and I'll try to squeeze in as many articles as I can before April comes to an end!

While I was traveling from coast-to-coast in the U.S. this month, I experienced the familiar pangs of travel, the missing of home along with the looking for a home away from home.

I missed my balcony garden, which was starting to grow like crazy and I also missed cooking in my kitchen during this excting moment of the season where courgettes and spring veggies start showing up at the coop. What was missing above all were all things local since, by definition, you can't bring local with you. But you can find other people's local while abroad, and thanks to some good friends and good luck, I was able to peak into local scenes in other people's neighborhoods, from San Francisco, CA to Southern Pines, NC.

Locavores shouldn't have to give up their principles while on the road and I regretted not availing myself more of guides to being local while en route, incidently does anyone have suggestions as to where to find this sort of guide? In appreciation of these guides and traveling localites in general, here are my contributions to the list of ethical pit stops to include in your travel itinerary.

My friend Carlo, who is the head chef at Comstock Saloon in San Francisco, took me out to brunch while I was visiting the city. I knew that as a chef, and pretty much the coolest person I know, Carlo would have a great idea for a place to eat so I hopped in his car and trusted that he would take me somewhere pretty great. Blind faith rewarded, we ended up at Bar Agricole, a cool and quiet restaurant that is completely sourced through local organic and biodynamic farms. The bar is also stocked exclusively with biodynamic and fresh ingredients.

The cocktail list at Bar Agricole reads like an alternate universe Sex and the City episode, offering an opprotunity to get excited about indulging in drinking fancy and exotic-sounding cocktails (like the Rye Cocktail with Hibiscus bitters or the Brandy Fix with local honey to name a few) without feeling like a cosmopolitan sipping douchebag. I started my brunch with fresh squeezed orange juice and biodynamic champers, and Carlo had the alternate universe Bloody Mary, which was called something totally different, but had all the elements of spice and veg, with lovely pickled radish on the side.

Bar Agricole is fresh and simple, and perfect for sharing with friends- both the space and the plates are comforting and cozy. The food and drinks menus are both delicious and palpably political in it support of local farmers and producers.

Bar Agricole also has a patio seating area, where raised flower beds house the herbs they grow on site. When I saw the growing parsley I felt a twinge of homesickness and thought about how my mint must be growing out of control in Paris. The sentimentality subsided once I realized how reassuring it is to see these Californian cousins of my little urban garden growing and accenting San Francisco cuisine.

Bar Agricole is located at 355 Eleventh St. in San Francisco. They are open from 18-22h during the week, 18-23h on weekends, and serve brunch every Sunday from 11-14h, make reservations at 415.355.9400.

Though it's far more likely that you'll be wandering the streets of San Francisco than following the train tracks to Southern Pines, NC- it is not impossible that some of you have Grandparents that live in this wooded region of the state. If you ever find yourself dropping by (and in doing so reducing the average age of the county by about 20 years) and are dying for some real coffee and under-retirement age company, I suggest you stop by Swank where you can get a little of both, and then some.

This cafe cum artisan craft show provides a refreshing retreat from wicker and porcelein ducks, offering in response screen-printed t-shirts, hand-made camera straps, totally wearable jewelry, and lots of little things you didn't know you needed.

Swank functions as a cultural center, lending space to local artisans and welcoming community members with the smell of fresh and locally roasted coffee and a schedule of events and classes that allow anyone who is interested in doing someone with their hands to have the opportunity. This inviting environment and openess to the entire community results in a local address that happens to be not too far from a college, but doesn't seem to owe its existence to that fact.

Swank is located at 232 NW Broad St. in Southern Pines, N.C. and is open 7 days a week (check their Facebook page for hours).

So there you have it, a few of the souvenirs I brought back from my trip. I'd love to hear about any places you've discovered while globe trotting, or any new places you love in your very own neighborhood!

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