Thursday, November 18, 2010
Merle made a request for Barb and I to go on a food assignment. When I asked what I would be taking pictures of and tasting she replied, “Rice”. I am sorry Merle, did you say R I C E? Rice is one of my least favorite dishes and I typically push it aside on my plate. “Go with an open mind and don’t research about the company..just go. And Go we went to Lotus Foods, located near San Francisco. Our drive was about an hour and a half from Sacramento in the city of El Cerrito.
In the morning I hated rice. In the afternoon I LOVED Lotus Foods Rice! Have you ever heard of the company Lotus Foods or have cooked or tasted their rice before? This is no ordinary white rice out of a box that is starchy and grainy. No way!
We met one of the co-founders and co-owner Caryl Levine outside who gave us a brief history on the start and foundation of Lotus Foods. She explained how her and husband (co-founder and co-owner) Ken Lee wanted to become entrepreneurs.
In 1993 they planned a market research trip through China. They had one idea but they came back with 90. Within two years they narrowed their search and went ahead launching Lotus Foods and produced their first product in 1995.
Their trip in 1993 brought them to a remote area of China where they met a villager who sat them down with a steaming bowl of black rice. To these people it was known as “longevity rice” or “tribute rice”. It was given to their Emperors to ensure good health and longevity. Caryl and Ken trademarked this rice as “Forbidden Rice”.
Their first mission as Lotus Foods was to “keep biodiversity of rice alive while giving the poorest farmer the best possible price and fair trade value", said Caryl. These farmers never had an opportunity to be a part of the global market place and now they can be.
In 2005 Cornell University contacted both Caryl and Ken and introduced them to farmers who use the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). I asked Caryl to educate me in the simplest way about SRI versus the conventional ort. "In conventional farming the fields are flooded and the seeds are 30-40 days old. While in SRI farming the fields are kept moist like watering a garden and taking water on and off. The seeds in comparison are only about 8-10 days old. These younger seeds are very small and they are planted farther apart from each other. This allows the plant to produce more photosynthesis allowing stronger root growth. When roots grow stronger there is more organic matter in the soil allowing plenty of rice kernels to grow. Lotus Foods wants to support farmers who use the SRI and there is a chance we can change the world by the way we do business. How many companies can do that?”
Lotus Foods has many varieties of rice. One study showed their Forbidden Rice aides as a blood toner, improves circulation, invigorates the spleen, brightens the eyes, and the best part shows four tablespoons of rice equals one tablespoon of blueberries without the sugar.
Since 1998 their Forbidden Rice has been in the National Association Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) aka The Fancy Food Show. They have won awards in categories of Outstanding New Product and Outstanding Food Service Product to name just a few.
Forbidden Rice is just one of many products of which some can be purchased Organic. There's Carnaroli (a sort of Risotto), Jasmine, brown Jasmine, Jade Pearl (kind of like a sushi rice with a wildcrafted bamboo extract, Indonesian Volcano, Cambodian Mekong Flower and the one we had, Madagascar Pink and the one we had, Bhutanese Red.
Now that I got you thinking about Lotus Food rice you are probably wondering about recipes. For starters, Caryl said you can have rice every part of the day. For breakfast you can have porridge or rice cereal, stir fry for lunch, a side dish of rice pilaf for dinner, and for dessert rice pudding.
Remember, before I walked in the door of Lotus Foods I never went back for seconds nor finished firsts. Caryl prepared a Bhutanese Red Rice mixed with extra virgin olive oil, cranberries, orange zest, and onions that cooked for less than 30 minutes. What a surprisingly great taste! I actually visited the rice cooker for two more helpings.
I also felt relieved to know that my rice was prepared with an all stainless steel rice cooker another product Lotus Foods has designed. Forget about those rice cookers that have Teflon and are carcinogenic. Another great feature of their rice cooker is the steaming tray so while you are cooking your rice you can steam another dish. On the steamer tray you can prepare a secondary idea using shrimp, vegetables, fish, and even warm up tortillas.
For more recipe ideas and viewing their full line of rice visit their website at www.LotusFoods.com. They will also have a brand refresh in March 2011 with a whole new product line with SRI products.
For all my traveling friends, after Barb and I left Lotus Foods I had to make a short detour home to a State Park. We drove up Grizzly Peak Blvd and entered Tilden Park. Just like I never experienced great tasting rice I had never seen an unbelievable view of San Francisco Bay. Maybe just one day I will come back to one of many Tilden Parks hills overlooking the Bay, bring my Lotus Food Rice Cooker and have a rice picnic.