Julia’s Best of Boston

In the depths of summer, print magazines put together their “Best of” lists as a way to boost readership (and advertising dollars) during what would otherwise be a slow time.  While we don’t have those same dips and effects, we wanted to take the time to recognize the people and businesses that are doing good while doing well.

Best of the web

Best way to find a CSA: Local Harvest. At last count there were over 50 CSAs in the greater Boston area. How to find the right one for your appetite, schedule, price point and location? Local Harvest offers detailed profiles of each CSA in town, including lots of information about the farm itself, what to expect every week, and where you’ll find each drop-off point. All this means you can make an extremely informed decision, whether you’re looking for a small fall “academic” share for a student’s budget, from New Entry’s World PEAS, or a 20 pounds of meat a month from Stillman’s.

Best way to find farmers markets: Mass Farmers Markets. Their fabulous search tool lets you filter for the day, time and place you’re looking for, as well as any benefits and types of payment accepted. Once you’ve found your market, there’s a detailed listing of what you’ll find there and any other events to look forward to. They’ll even send you weekly reminders!

Best food system tweeters: Consider this our #ff.

  • Food policy: Food Tank. Serving up your hourly dose of news, studies and opinion on sustainable food issues, both domestic and international. Ok, they’re not local, but Dani Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson’s new media juggernaut is our first stop for getting a handle on the latest developments, from Farm Bills to fish kills.
  • Business and entrepreneurship: Business For Food. Does Rachel Greenberger ever stop tweeting? We hope she never does! Her note-taking via Twitter at every important food event makes us feel like we’re there, or at least that we’ve caught the highlights. Come for the director of Babson’s Food Sol program’s informed takes on entrepreneurship; stay for her wise, inspiring optimism.
  • Food in Boston: Edible Boston always knows what’s up, who’s making it and how it was made. Follow them and never miss another event, suggestion for this week farmers’ market, or heirloom piglet picture

Food and drink

Greenest restaurant: Flatbread Pizza Company has been growing deep roots in the Boston community. They’ve retrofitted an old bowling alley with a pizza oven, reclaimed wood for furniture, and blanket their dough with local cheeses and veggies from the farmers’ market across the street. They even source their alcohol locally, with 20 New England and New York craft beers.

Wackiest dish for the locavore: Cantonese lobster. It’s an exotic dish that stars New England ingredients.

Favorite farmers market vendor: Flats Mentor. We can’t get enough of their Asian veggies, and every visit is an education in the flabbergasting diversity of greens and herbs. I mean, look at this list of crops they grow! They’re all delicious.

Food delivery: Farmers to You takes about 99% of the work out of grocery shopping, making sustainable choices, and feeding a family. Sourced from dozens of Vermont farms, and then delivering directly to Boston families, Farmers to You is about as good as it gets. Not too bad for a service with no membership fee.

Best Sustainable Restaurant: Cambridge Brewing Company. Sustainable produce, meat and seafood. Plus, they compost and reuse the grains that go into their beer as animal feed! Too often restaurants toot how green they are as a marketing tool, but don’t always live up to their claims.  Here’s a pub that’s doing all the right things, because it’s the right thing to do.  And of course, they’re brewing very tasty beer.

Best CSA: Cuisine en Locale’s ONCE a week. There are so many great CSAs available in Boston for every budget, taste and schedule. But let’s face it –– and I say this having written the book on how to deal with CSA veggies –– it’s hard work to figure out what to do with the bounty of fruits, veggies and meat: it’s like competing in Chopped each week.  JJ Gonson and her crew do all that work for you, delivering a weekly share of delicious, fresh local meats and produce … already cooked! Does it get any better than that?

Around town

Best event: Boston Local Food Festival. The 2012 edition turned the Greenway into one big farmers’ market, taste test, concert, DIY preservation and cooking lesson –– attended by over 40,000 people. We think that’s a pretty solid vote of confidence for local food in Boston, and can’t wait for next October!

Best new organization: Slow Food Boston isn’t exactly new, but under the leadership of the new president, Jack Welch, the local chapter has a new energy and commitment to the Slow Food Principles. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter or join their meet up site, to see the exciting events they have planned.

Best new fundraising tool: Fresh Source Capital is a Boston-based investment firm focused on sustainable food and agriculture. Recognizing the lack of finance options for businesses rebuilding regional food supply chains, managing partners Dan Pullman and Lisa Sebesta set out to create a new one.  They source the deals, work with the entrepreneurs to structure them, and perform all the due diligence.  As an accredited investor, you just need to decide if you’re in or out.

Favorite city official: Edith Murnane. Behind every great food event and new development in Boston’s food scene… is Edith Murnane. Attending an event in the city? Look for the telltale sunhat and beaming smile! We’re in awe of the Director of Food Initiatives’ seemingly boundless energy and commitment to supporting each and every food entrepreneur in the city, from food truck to rooftop farm.

Favorite urban farm: The Neighborhood Farm. Inspired by WWII’s victory gardens, the Neighborhood Farm started out on a motely collection of backyard parcels in suburban Boston. They’ve grown into a powerhouse patchwork of several acres, have a sold-out CSA and

Most improved: Higher Ground. They’ve come a long way, baby! From wacky idea to starting the second largest rooftop farm in the world, Higher Ground’s John and Courtney have been relentless and creative in pursuing their dream, through red tape, zoning snarls, and over $20,000 of fundraising. We can’t wait to see how they’ve grown by this time next year.

Favorite social innovator: Future Chefs does a tremendous job of supporting kids who haven’t had a lot of opportunities to springboard into successful careers. They were recognized as a social innovator by the Root Cause Innovation Forum in 2011, and they’re making Julia’s list this year.

Who did we miss? Categories we should add next year? Tweet us @juliashanks!  

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