When I move to a new city, I have a little laundry list of things that I must get accomplished before I feel comfy:
First and Foremost, get a library card. Its free. They let you HAVE books and movies. Its a dope place to meditate and intellectually gorge yourself. I personally love to camp out in the childrens book section and read the REAL books; and I shave my head so that people mistake me for Shel Silverstein. I'm available for autographs.
Secondly, scout the local food and bev offerings. Liquor store with good beer, check. Killer local market with organic goodies, check. Restaurants, fine dining to greasy taquerias and spoons, check. I budget more money for food than anything, and it certainly pays happiness dividends by the bucket full.
Third, and I think most importantly for where we are as a culture now: I look for places that are bringing the community together, getting people good feelings and food, and are being proactive. Then I volunteer with them. Again, it's free. It boosts your good Samaritan factor exponentially, and it might even get you girls (or guys). Its like telling the "got attacked by a shark" story at the bar, except its the "I helped build a garden with little kiddos to feed a neighborhood today." HOT!
So I am working with a couple different groups here: Denver Urban Gardens (www.dug.org), Feed Denver (www.feeddenver.com) and the GrowHaus (www.thegrowhaus.com). They are all volunteer, and the latter two are in their infancy, but have LOTS of energy. DUG is a group that manages about 200 urban gardens in Denver, at schools, apartment complexes and for neighborhoods. They help the people get the garden set up, divided up and planted...and then, (in theory) the community takes it over. This is generally the case, though there are some that need a little extra TLC and some watchful eyes. DUG sponsors alot of community events and really keep their name and mission in the minds of the city folk. DUG works with volunteers, many of which are college students and/or members of the neighborhoods.
Feed Denver is a program that is starting up on the Urban Farm, a 27 acre farm that is close to downtown and has about 150 animals and such for kids in the area to learn about farming. The Feed Denver project is going to encompass the crop growing section of the farm, with large hoop houses and about 2 acres of row crops. They have some really cool access to the younger kiddos, and bring alot of great energy from kids that are working off community service hours, and want to help out with animals and veggies.
The GrowHaus is a really cool project begun by a friend of mine who is a food advocacy and empowerment soldier and then a fella who is big in the real estate industry here. He bought a HUGE old florist shop, (like 20,000 sq ft) in a neighborhood that is quite simply, a food desert. They don't have any places to buy food, (except convenience stores, and a Super Wal Mart that is 5 miles away) and they are really struggling with diabetes and other diet related illnesses. The area is all shades of brown, with so many rich food traditions that are being lost to processed, unhealthy food. The project is all about empowering the neighborhood and community to come together and share their food histories, and understand that the GrowHaus will be getting delicious, organic food to the neighborhood, from inside the neighborhood. All crops are going to be grown using Aquaponics and Vermiculture systems, and there will be an on-site market for the neighborhood.
If you're in Denver, come out with me sometime. If you're not, first, your life is worse than it would be here, and secondly, find some programs like this in your zone. Everyone is on the Locavore kick, and if they're not, they want to be. Start something small. My neighborhood is all about the little backyard/windowbox gardens, and I am anxiously awaiting the spring so that I can eat the bounty and garden in my little daisy duke overalls. Don't lie, gardeners are sexy. Alright, Im going to go cook something. It seems that everytime I write a blog entry, (which I know is not often enough) I punctuate the last sentence with a desperate feeling of hunger and I always go and cook something killer. Come eat with me....