September is a month of many great things: the harvest of your best eggplants, the slow swelling of beautiful winter squash, and the gorgeous matching colors of the last ripe tomatoes and the turning of the sugar maple leaves from green to red. If you're a fan of Italian cooking, it's also the last month in New York State and Zone 6a to harvest basil. If you're a fan of Italian cooking, it was also the month in which its American demigod, Chef Mario Batali, visited the New York Botanical Garden. Swoon on a spoon: after a three-season partnership with the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden, Chef Mario put together a fantastic 45 minute five course meal (a little kitchen magic on the Analon pans and Viking stovetop was required to pull that off) using ingredients both from the Family Garden and the FamGar's partnership with Whole Foods.
Why is Annie Novak so smiley? Because throughout his talk, Chef Mario (although he teased about eating the Family Garden's adopted rabbits) managed to highlight the vibrant pros of eating mostly veggies. From the "broom of the colon," Swiss chard, to the amazing fennel-concord grape pizza, Chef Mario wooed and won the hearts and bellies of those who came--and as Annie knows well, the best way to a better food system from field to fork is by pleasing the palate at the same time as educating the consumer. Fun-cational brunch? Yes, please!