By Miriam Axel-Lute
chefs turn to their neighboring farms to get ingredients beyond
Chez Sophie, a high-class restaurant in a converted diner
on Route 9 in Malta, there’s a lot to read on the menu. There’s
a full-page, small-font description of the history of the
restaurant. There’s the list of mouth-watering menu items.
And there’s an entire page devoted to a list of local farms
from which the restaurant buys much of its food. Roasted veal
chop from Skate Creek Farm in East Meredith. Pork from Flying
Pigs Farm in Shushan. Old Chatham Sheepherding Company cheese.
Sargo’s, the restaurant at the Saratoga National Golf Club,
also credits local farms on its menu. Even in the winter season,
they note that their lamb is “rubbed with Honey Bee Farms
‘Wild Flower Honey,’” and their organic-field-greens salad
features Sunset Hill Farms baby greens. Last week they were
serving a local rabbit dish.
Chez Sophie chef Paul Parker and Sargo’s chef Larry Schepici
are part of a growing network of chefs in the area who are
turning to the area’s farms for more of their ingredients,
from produce to honey to cheese to meat. They are also seeking
out organic produce, humanely raised livestock, and heirloom
varieties—all of which local farmers are glad to provide.
starts with the quality of the product,” says Schepici. “Nothing
beats something picked hours before you got it. . . . When
you get something that good you don’t have to add much to
it. Sometimes just a little sea salt, olive oil.”
In fact, the quality of local fresh foods makes enough of
a difference to chefs who in Schepici’s words “have a strong
commitment to cooking,” and enough of a difference to their
customers, that the chefs have made some big changes to the
standard ways of doing things to allow the local ingredients
to take center stage. First, they are learning to cook with
the seasons. At Sargo’s the menu changes dramatically each
season, and undergoes weekly tweaking based on what’s available.
True, come the middle of an upstate winter, they do supplement
with produce from elsewhere; “this is New York after all,”
says Schepici. But it’s not total. “You’re still going to
get your cheese, fresh eggs, hydroponic greens, rabbits. .
. . You can get beets if things are stored properly.”
And these chefs are also spending more time on the purchasing
side of their business than many of their counterparts. “Many
establishments can make one phone call to a local distributor
and get anything and everything they need delivered to their
door, including things that are out of season,” says Paula
Schafer, who works at the Cornell Cooperative Extension. By
contrast, Schepici works directly with 44 farmers, placing
individual orders and getting individual deliveries.
got to be a little flexible,” he says. “They don’t always
come with the exact amount that you want. Same with delivery
times. We’re a little lenient. The quality makes up for all
that.” He also knows that his farmers work on small margins
and makes sure they get paid quickly. In return, many of them
sit down with him and their seed catalog and let him pick
varieties he’d like to try.
Schepici is active in encouraging other chefs to try local
foods. He’s a longtime supporter of the Chef’s Collaborative,
a national group of chefs that “works with chefs and the greater
food community to celebrate local foods and foster a more
sustainable food supply.” What does he tell chefs who face
resistance from owners or managers who are used to the convenience
of buying from one big company? Take some fresh, local food,
“cook it, and serve it to your boss and say ‘What do you think
Restaurants are usually only a part of a family farm’s marketing
plan, says Schafer, along with farmer’s markets, community-supported-agriculture
programs, farm stands, and even Web sales for meat. But they
can be a complementary piece. Michael Yezzi of Flying Pigs
Farm specializes in rare heritage breeds of pigs, humanely
pasture-raised. He says when he and his partner Jennifer Small
started out, they sold only retail, but quickly met chefs
at farmers markets. Restaurants are now a quarter of their
To encourage more of this, Schafer and the Regional Farm and
Food Project have been facilitating some informal networking
between farmers and chefs. Schafer also coordinates the Farm
to Chef Express, a collaborative that helps farmers sell to
New York City restaurants. Schafer says she and RFFP are working
to establish a more formal business-to-business network, modeled
on the Berkshire Grown program in western Massachusetts. That
may include adding a local delivery day to Farm to Chef Express,
for example. RFFP is already at work compiling a directory
for interested diners of restaurants that buy local food.
The combined power of locally-minded diners and chefs provides
a big boost to a difficult industry. Sometimes chef demand
even starts a farm business. When Joann Tarbox retired six
years ago, she planned to spend a lot of time on her gardening.
At the time, Schepici was the chef at Troy’s Tavern at Sterup
Square, where her daughter-in-law was waiting tables. Schepici
was saying he wanted to find a local source of Swiss chard,
and Tarbox’s daughter-in-law made the connection. A partnership
was born. “I said to him, ‘You take my seed catalog and check
off what variety you would like and I’ll grow them for you,’”
recalls Tarbox, who lived only a few miles from the restaurant.
That was her introduction to heirloom varieties, especially
tomatoes, which now sell very well at her new roadside stand,
which she hires her grandchildren to work. The business even
brought in enough income to help her husband’s dairy farm
through the low dairy prices of 2002 and 2003. But she still
mostly sells to Schepici. The relationship is a good one.
“If he finds something wrong he tells me,” she says. “If things
are exceptionally wonderful he tells me.”
Written All Over Their Faces
By John Brodeur
entrepreneurs turn advertising on its head—by advertising
on their heads
Americans—heck, as hu mans, even—we’ve grown accustomed to
how active and influential advertising is in our everyday
lives, whether we realize it or not. Even in the most rural
setting, billboards and other signage are omnipresent. Turn
on your car radio—someone’s bound to be promoting something.
Randomly flip through 400 cable stations and 275 of them will
be airing advertisements. E-mail spam, Internet pop-up ads,
that old warhorse direct mail. But, until now, advertising
has been the work of agencies and corporations.
Leave it to a bunch of punks to capitalize on, well, capitalism.
Thanks to eBay, some enterprising auctioneers have established
flesh as the new advertising medium. It’s a bit of a turn
for an auction Web site that had, until recently, dealt almost
entirely in goods, not services. And some sellers have made
quite a bundle by recasting themselves as walking billboards.
In January, Andrew Fischer, a 20-year-old resident of Omaha,
Neb., took a shot in the dark and auctioned off some prime
ad space—his forehead. The five-day eBay auction, in which
he promised to place a temporary tattoo carrying a company
logo on his cranium for 30 days, carried a one-cent starting
was gonna be a flop, or it was gonna be successful,” he recalls.
“And it was very successful.” To say the least. In the auction’s
final seconds, the bid skyrocketed to a whopping $37,375.
Of course, he had to actually walk around with a temporary
tattoo on his face for 30 days, but that’s a small price to
pay (or get paid for). With his newfound fortune came a bit
of celebrity. Within days, Fischer was being courted by radio
and television news programs from Good Morning America
to The Tony Danza Show, and was even invited to attend
this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony.
Of course, along with the celebrity came the copycats. A 27-year-old
Scottish woman offered “the top part of [her] cleavage (the
part which is legal to display)” in another such auction.
Not a bad deal, as she explained on her auction page that
she is “an ample size 42GG,” and “usually wear[s] low-cut
tops,” including pictures to back up the information. (The
winning bidder—online casino site www.golden palace.com—paid
£422, or about $633.) Meanwhile, New York-based businessman
Joe Tamargo has sold nine permanent ad tattoos through eBay
and his own Web site, www.livingadspace.com, earning him more
They’re not all in it for greed. Ana Torres, of Manteca, Calif.,
is afflicted with multiple sclerosis. She is confined to a
wheelchair about 40 percent of the time, and has to pay for
a number of medications and treatments. Her husband is also
disabled, and the couple have three children. Torres is currently
auctioning ad space on her wheelchair and car (plus a temporary
skin tattoo) to raise money for her family and treatment.
She’s promised to maintain the ads for up to five years, depending
on the bid amount. Plus, she’s promised to donate 10 percent
of her earnings to charity.
The odds aren’t necessarily in her favor, though. Chad Lawrence,
another eBayer trying to raise money to cover family and medical
costs, had no luck after three attempts at selling tattoo
space. Perhaps interest in skin ads is already waning.
But you never know. Golden Palace.com has been buying up uninked
flesh like the last barrels of Texas crude, and shows no sign
of stopping. In fact, Fischer’s noggin currently sports the
site’s logo. On this particular Wednesday afternoon, he’s
having his photo taken on the streets of New York City, holding
a grilled-cheese sandwich with the image of the Virgin Mary
that GoldenPalace.com snapped up recently through another
heavily hyped eBay auction. Gimmicks spawn more gimmicks,
Christian de Rivel, owner of SnoreStop, an anti-snoring-aid
manufacturer, couldn’t be happier with the current trend.
As the winner of Fischer’s headspace, the California-based
company rode a wave of publicity in the wake of the auction.
Rivel says that traffic on his Web site (www.snorestop.com)
quintupled in the days following the end of the auction, and
product sales quintupled as well. They’ve even spun the tattoo
tactic into a new marketing ploy: Their Web site now offers
a contest in which you could be the “next SnoreStop
forehead person,” and they include a free temporary tattoo
with every order, offering free product if you send them a
picture of yourself wearing it. On your forehead, of course.
While GoldenPalace.com recently paid to have its logo permanently
tattooed on the forehead of a daring Canadian gentleman, Fischer,
ever the smart businessman, says he won’t go quite that far.
He’s taken in just shy of $50,000 in less than three months,
enabling him to quit his day gig as a Web designer, and he’s
hoping to move to Hollywood to pursue a full-time career in
the entertainment business soon. He sure couldn’t do that
with a company logo permanently branded on his brow. He’s
tracking his exploits on his Web site, www.humanadspace.com.
Tamargo concurs. While he’s perfectly willing to blacken his
forearms with brand names, a permanent forehead tattoo would
be going too far.
Whether or not this can become a self-sustaining trend remains
to be seen—the whole thing will surely end once someone tattoos
the golden arches on their forehead—but for now, watching
how the pie gets sliced is fascinating.
There’s a Workshop, There’s a Way
By John Rodat
innovations aren’t just confined to operation systems and
cell phones—in basements and garages, the inventor still toils
a better mouse- trap and the world will beat a path to your
door, they say. And since the implication is that the “they”
beating the path will come bearing those giant sweepstakes-sized
checks, there should be considerable appeal for a working
slob to capitalize on any native gift for tinkering and to
hang out a shingle as an independent inventor.
In the recent movie Garden State, a character becomes
a millionaire by inventing a silent type of Velcro for military
use (which, seriously, really would be a score), and in Envy,
the character played by Jack Black devises some kind of dog-poop
vaporizer and makes his own pile (sorry). And way back in
the days when America was a manufacturing force to be reckoned
with, back before humiliating oneself on a reality TV program
promised the quickest route out of obscurity and poverty,
it was an even more standard and convenient fictional path
from rags to riches.
Today, however, it seems that if you want to make the really
big money, it’d be far smarter to better program or market
an existing mousetrap than to actually make anything at all.
Steven Wozniak knew how to make a computer, after all, but
Bill Gates knew how to sell ’em. Furthermore, in the
minds of the hoards of cable-subscribers addled by late-night
infomercials, the must-have, labor-saving device comes with
a shrieking Australian pitchman—or Suzanne Somers. And, really,
neither figure inspires much confidence. The prestige of the
eccentric basement-workshop inventor, futzing obscurely with
flywheels, cogs, camshafts and/or flux capacitors has passed
out of vogue, it seems, and given way to the punk glamour
of the eccentric, tattooed and fauxhawked video-game programmer.
But even if you’re familiar with no code more sophisticated
than the one on your car alarm (which is going off right now,
by the way), or if you’re nervously awaiting the verdict of
the MGM v. Grokster case before introducing your software
that allows for the boosting, er, sharing of music directly
from the brain of the artist during composition (pre-copyright!
It’s brilliant!), you may still have worthy non-computer-based
ideas aplenty. People are still inventing actual, nonvirtual
objects, and improving old ones:
Like these, found at the Web site of local patent and trademark
law firm Schmeiser, Olsen and Watts: U.S. Patent No. 6,732,965,
which was awarded to Clyde Bascue Jr. for his Fly Fishing
Reel with a Device for Enabling or Disabling a Preset Amount
of Drag. That sounds useful. Everybody wants to control the
drag, right? Or No. 6,769,147, which went to Shawn Stubbs,
for his Multi-Use Broad Bladed Knife. You’ve got your Swiss
Army, your Leatherman, your Celtic two-handed broadsword—but
what toolbox would be complete without No. 6,769,147? Or the
Stake Impact and Removal System, which we can only assume
is something for the hardcore goth kids; or the Customer-Engaging
Food Merchandising Module, which must be, like, some kind
of Triscuit-pimping cyborg—which would be so freaking cool;
or the Covalent Attachment of Polymer to Cell to Prevent Virus
Bonding to Recepter. . . . All right, you’re probably not
up to that last one. But those others, that’s stuff you could
If you’re still not convinced, not sure that your idea is
worth the effort, you can go to the Web site of the U.S. Patent
and Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov), which has tons of info
designed to be helpful to the hopeful inventor, including
a list of what types of creations do—and do not—potentially
qualify for patents. Officially, the patent is given to an
inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for
sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States
or importing the invention into the United States.” In other
words, it is intended to prevent any Tom, Dick or Harry from
snatching your idea, cutting into your market and robbing
you of your well-deserved fortified manse in the hill country
of the Pacific Northwest.
You can get a patent for a process; machine; article of manufacture;
composition of matter; or for an improvement of any of the
above. On the other hand, at the moment, you cannot get one
for laws of nature; physical phenomena; abstract ideas; or
inventions that are “not useful”—like perpetual-motion machines.
(Yeah, we don’t get that, either. Impossible, yes. Not useful?
Must be a Cheney thing.) Nor can you get one for an invention
that is “offensive to public morality.” (As of press time,
we have been unable to get the list of patents denied on the
basis of moral offense—though we are really, really, really
Furthermore, your brainchild should be novel, nonobvious,
“adequately described or enabled (for one of ordinary skill
in the art to make and use the invention),” and claimed by
the inventor in clear and definite terms.
Given all these (somewhat vague) conditions, it is not surprising
that the site suggests—though law does not require—that you
get yourself a lawyer to help you with the process. But don’t
let that intimidate you. The site is chock-full of pointers
and warnings to help the unpatented avoid pitfalls and scams,
and get patented. There’s even a Beginner’s Kit in PDF, if
this is your first foray into the field.
And don’t let naysayers squash your ambitions. It’s true that
for every “better mousetrap” optimist there’s some cynic cautioning
you from wasting your time reinventing the wheel; but where
would that advice have gotten the holder of U.S. Patent No.
D488,281, which was awarded in April 2004 to Byung Duk Min—for
Bubble Gum. You’d have thought it was older, huh?