Every School Should Have A Garden

Grow Food Not Lawns - Every School Should Have a Garden

Love this graphic from Grow Food Not Lawns and it reminded me of a Miami Herald article I read earlier this year about Leewood K-8 Center public school in Miami.

Seventh-grade science teacher, Angela Holbrook, started the project with her class August 2012. They planted an organic food garden near their classroom, and students from all grade levels help with the tending and harvesting.

Holbrook taught her students how to irrigate plants by collecting rainwater in barrels and keep pests under control by bringing in ladybugs.

Fenced in using colorful wooden frames, twelve rectangular soil beds house the vegetables and fruits of the class’s labor – tomatoes, strawberries, cabbages, broccoli and several other leafy greens.

Produce from the garden is used in the school’s cafeteria or donated to the local food banks.

So if you agree that every school should have a garden similar to Miami’s Leewood K-8 Center, check out Grow Food Not Lawn’s Facebook page, and “like” the idea.

And if you know of another school in Miami-Dade that has its own food garden, send me an email or comment below. I would love to feature them in future blog posts.

An Evening at the Palms Hotel & Spa – USGBC Miami

This past Wednesday, I joined my fellow members of the US Green Building Council – Miami chapter – for “An Evening at the Palms Hotel & Spa”. Beginning the evening at the on-site Organic Chef’s Garden for a tour and tasting, we then convened in Queen Palm (one of nine meeting rooms available at the hotel) for the “Inspired by Nature” program. We ended with a tour of the hotel and spa.

The Palms, located at 3025 Collins Avenue on Miami Beach, was originally built in the 1960’s and purchased by Hans-Joachim and Ursula Krause in the early 1990’s, going through several name changes over the years. Still owned and operated by the Krause’s and their daughters, Nicola Meyer and Katja Janzon, the Palms underwent a 20 million dollar renovation in 2008 – 2009 that incorporated green features and a shift to green operational practices.

Their philosophy statement says, “Nature is what inspires everything we do at The Palms Hotel & Spa, from the décor to products & services offered to our core company values. Our commitment to preserving the environment and to care for the world we live is expressed in all elements of our guest experience, and beyond into the local community.” Tanja Morariu’s presentation illustrated how the philosophy is applied throughout the hotel.

Currently, 85% of the lighting has been retro-fitted to LED and they expect to have 95% completed by the end of 2013. They have also installed motion sensors for the lighting in administrative offices and other non-guest areas plus centralized lighting/heating efficiency controls. Next year, the east windows will be replaced with energy-saving engineered glass.

So far, one-third of their toilets are dual-flush and using grey water. The eco-friendly commodes have sinks on top of the tanks for hand washing. The used water then drains into the toilet tank for the next flush. The luxurious “rain” shower heads and faucets are low flow at 1.5 GPM. Guests also have the option to re-use their towels and linens during their stay, thereby conserving approximately 7 gallons of water plus electricity from extra laundering.

The hotel has recycling bins available throughout the hotel, including in all guests rooms, allowing for cardboard, plastic, paper and metal to be recycled. Batteries and light bulbs are kept out of the landfills; and the hotel allows employees to bring these types of items from home for proper disposal through the hotel.

The staff cafeteria uses no disposable items. When an employee is hired, they are given their own beverage bottle (which are also for sale in the gift shop). This initiative alone saves the hotel about $10,000 per year in addition to being great for the environment.

Hotel staff uses Green Seal cleaning supplies, no aerosol at all, and 100% post-consumer recycled paper with soy ink when available. Even the pens provided in the meeting room were partly made of recycled cardboard. Dry cleaning and laundry services are all green certified as well.

Attesting to their commitment to community as well as the environment, the Palms donates “mildly used” soaps, shampoos, towels, linens and paper items to Camillus House and http://www.cleantheworld.org/
The Palms also maintains the stretch of beach in front of the hotel through the Adopt-A-Beach program sponsored by the City of Miami Beach and ECOMB (Environmental Coalition of Miami & the Beaches), and participates in coastal clean-up projects throughout the year. http://ecomb.org/programs/litter-prevention/adopt-a-beach-program/

In 2011, the Palms Hotel & Spa won the Miami Chamber of Commerce Sustainable South Florida Award in the Green Practices Category. They have also been recognized as one of only 17 Miami Beach hotels to receive Florida’s Green Lodging Program designation and have achieved a 3-key rating through the Canadian-based International Green Key Eco-Rating Program. http://www.greenkeyglobal.com/default.asp

Tomorrow: The Palms Essensia Restaurant, Chef Julie Frans and her wonderful organic garden

Brazil Comes to Tuyo for this week’s Miami Spice

Yesterday I forgot to take something out of the freezer to prepare for dinner last night. What to do?

How about Tuyo, a fusion restaurant on the top floor of the Miami Dade College’s Miami Culinary Institute just a few steps from our downtown condo? I have wanted to treat my daughter to dinner here ever since my first visit last month.

Sasha cheerfully took our last minute reservations, and we arrived in time to meet Chef John Roberts on the front steps. After being escorted to the eighth floor dining room, we looked over the current menu which changes seasonally. As much as possible, Tuyo uses organically grown and/or locally sourced ingredients in all of its dishes. We could not resist the Miami Spice menu, though. I also decided to include the optional wine pairing. In the interests of full disclosure, I am not a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, which is exactly why I like the wine pairing feature at Tuyo.

After ordering our selections, we were served warm crusty rolls and the amuse-bouche – a delicate lobster croquette topped with a key lime sauce. Next, we both had the African adobo rubbed tuna and avocado salsita served over thinly sliced cucumbers. At first, I was disappointed that the tuna seemed a bit bland… then the after-bite kicked in. The spice rub was not at all over-powering but it had just enough kick to make it a good complement to the avocado salsita. The appetizer was served with an Italian wine – “Firriato, Grillo Altavilla Della Corte, 2009.” Not only was the selection a nice accompaniment for the dish, it was a perfect wine for me, a light white wine that was slightly fruity without being too sweet.

For the main course, my daughter ordered the “Coconut Milk Stew ‘Vatapá’ with Shrimp, Grouper, Cashews, Citrus and Cilantro” which was served over rice. Not being very talkative, she did not give me much of a description other than “yum.” She was clearly too busy eating every last bite.

I ordered the Churrasco de São Paulo a la Parilla with Chimichurri Rojo and oh my goodness was it ever delicious! It was cooked to perfection and for a cut of beef that is often on the tough side, it practically melted in my mouth. The flavor was fabulous, too. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I asked our waiter and he confirmed that I was enjoying organic grass-fed beef. Without a doubt, healthier tastes better!

The wine accompanying this course was “Owen Roe, Sinister Hand, Grenache, Washington State, 2009.” As I warned earlier, I wouldn’t know a Merlot from a Cabernet, but I can tell you that the Grenache was delish. We also had a good giggle over the label, which naturally includes a drawing of a creepy-looking hand. (I know what wine I will be serving at my October party.)

One of my daughter’s favorite sweets in flan; mine is anything with dark chocolate. Needless to say the desserts were perfection: a simple flan on a caramel sauce garnished with a bit of crisp coconut, served with two Brazilian coconut “Kisses” on a side plate.

Tuyo is not an inexpensive restaurant. Even with the reduced prices for the Miami Spice menu, it was a bit over $120 for the two of us. But given the impeccable service, the lovely atmosphere and the quality organic ingredients, I think it was well worth it. In fact, I may even “forget” to defrost something for dinner again next week so we can see what Executive Chef Norman Van Aken has cooked up for the last two weeks of Miami Spice!