Monday, November 20, 2006

Slow Food, Vermont, Leaders and Tea

Where to begin? I am brimming with joy and happiness at the future potential of Vermont on the food map. This state is filled with food warriors that are vehemently moving forward in their particular way. I wish there was a venue to celebrate ALL of them. This is my goal with Slow Food. Today I met with Susan Buchanan, co-leader of Slow Food Vermont, and am happy to report that we are entirely on the same page with where Slow Food Vermont needs to move in the future! She has wonderful visions of having fundraising events so that we can subsidize different grades of membership (ie a farmer class of membership, perhaps a chef class as well...), of hosting tasting events and dinners that don't cost $50 a person - I couldn't agree more. The point of food is that it is a commons that should be accessible to everyone, and further, the idea that is central to Carlo Petrini's original imagining of Slow Food - the convivial sharing of meals, tastes and culture of food - we should all be experiencing this. So, I feel very privileged to live in a state of leaders that are all so motivated to push forward their agendas, whatever they may be - in a time where people have a tendency to be apathetic, I feel that at least in the world of food there are folks that are very passionate, whether they be eaters, farmers or chefs. Susan and I met at Dobra Tea here in Burlington - a place I like to frequent for lots of reasons; there is never pressure to hurry up, free wi-fi, great tea and snack selection, inspirational music, terrifically inclusive menu, you get to beckon servers with bells and above all, they are dedicated food warriors! All of the devoteas here at Dobra are encouraged to travel around the world seeking out the world's best teas in order to support families, fair trade, and conviviality. They even support this little farm in the summer months by purchasing veggies from us for their babaganouj platter, and other veggie plates. Check out their website by clicking on their logo above. Better yet, treat yourself to a great pot of tea, my personal favorite right now is the Iron Goddess of Mercy - nice for cool November afternoons. Keep an eye out for some accessible and inspirational food events in your near future - I'll definitely keep you posted!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Food, Cleveland, Conviviality and Flying Figs

Well, so much has been going on! We had our Forum of VT Food Communities at the library last Saturday, which went terrifically! We had no idea how many people would show up or what Burlington demographics would be represented. It turns out that it was a modest showing, though all the demographics we hoped for were there. It was so much fun to chat about some ideas for having a large-scale event celebrating Vermont foods, as well as lots of enthusiasm for a regular monthly event at a singular location that people can plan for. What was most exciting was that folks were quite interested in remaining a part of this little group I formed, so we'll see how many people hang in there as this idea develops.

We jetted off the next day to Cleveland for a farmer's conference that we spoke at. The focus of the conference was niche marketing, and working towards goals: both things we're known for. It was a really neat fit for us, and we actually wished that we could spend more time in Cleveland - what a neat city! We were really taken by the big beautiful old sturdy houses, and all the green space in the city. It was a great city to drive around and take in - who knew?!

A really neat side effect of this conference was all the great food! We had wonderful meals together (us with the other speakers and conference organizers), truly in the convivial spirit of slow food. I tried my first ever taste of Berkshire pork in the form of pulled pork sandwiches. We also had local beef short ribs, which I immediately balked at, but once I tried them, I couldn't get enough! I have never liked ribs of any kind, but this was a phenomenal re-introduction to ribs. The farmers who farmed the beef were our hosts and I suspect that the breeding, the grazing and the wonderful preparation all played an important part. I can't believe that I now love ribs!

We also had a wonderful dinner at The Flying Fig restaurant in Cleveland, with a brief meeting with the chef/owner. She buys a large percentage of produce and meats and dairy needs from the local farmers markets, and it showed - everything was stellar and delicious. A really nice surprise was spending so much time with Parker Bosley, nationally ranked chef (Gourmet magazine rated his restaurant as #31 in the country!) and owner of Parker's New American Bistro. We were hoping to meet him, or at the very least eat at his restaurant; we never figured we'd be dining with him each night of our stay in Cleveland. It turns out that he is a manager of one of Cleveland's farmer's markets, as well as the Vice President of the North Union Farmer's Market association - the folks putting on the conference. It was such a rush to interact - AGAIN - with so many amazing farmers and chefs that get it - they really GET this food revolution and are committed to it full throttle; these are the people on the front lines; they are to be admired and their efforts need to be duplicated! It was an honor, and quite the rush to get re-invigorated by these folks; not that the glow of Terra Madre has worn off, but to see that even in Cleveland, they too have food warriors fighting the good fight! If you're ever in Cleveland, drive around a bit - it's a really nice city with spectacular markets and phenomenal food - who knew?!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Seven Days

The local weekly, Seven Days did a great article on the Terra Madre. Just thought I'd pass it on to all you bloggers out there. In light of all our excitement about Slow Food, we've been able to get in touch with the players in VT and hope to have a larger event/celebration about Terra Madre soon. Check back here for updates, and enjoy the article!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Salone del Gusto

I've always been a big fan of food festivals, but when I heard that there was a food event that ran concurrently with the Terra Madre Conference called Salone del Gusto, where all the protected foods of the world would be showcased in one place, I knew that we had to go! Our Terra Madre delegate status got us entry. They showcased 3 pavilions of food - the first pavilion was designated the international marketplace, which had rows from most nations showcasing the amazing foods they produce. The second pavilion was designated for Italian foods and focused on the following: Garden and Spice Lane (fruit and vegetables, spices, aromatic herbs, vinegar, tea and infusions), Cheese Lane (cheese and dairy produce), Cured Meat Lane Oil and Condiments Lane (oil, condiments, pickles etc), Grain Lane (cereals, pasta, bread), Meat Lane, Sweet and Spirits Lane (desserts, chocolate, honey, jams and preserves, distillates and liqueurs), and the ever popular Beer Lane. Then they had the third pavilion, which is where we spent most of our time - this was for the Presidia. These are the endangered foods and food traditions from around the world that Slow Food has protected, there are nearly 300 foods that are protected by the presidia, and what an amazing place that was! We literally ate our way through the 3 pavilions, purchasing a few special things, but mostly just reveling in the tastes, smells and vibe of the place. We ate Ribera strawberries, cocomerina pears, white artichokes that you can eat raw, tasted black cherry wine, and heritage Piedmontese apples. With nearly 150,000 visitors to the Salone each day; it truly was a remarkable thing to be a part of; literally rubbing elbows with fellow food enthusiasts. I now have dreams of holding something like this in Vermont - a Taste of Vermont festival, bringing producers from around our amazing state to share their specific terroir. Let's taste blue cheese from Highgate, pork from Corinth, carrots from the Intervale, and potatoes from Starksboro! One thing going to the Salone did for me was make me realize what terrific food diversity we have here in Vermont - we have folks producing just about everything there is to produce, and it's all being done with an eye towards quality. If the Salone was a stage to celebrate all things regionally unique, we can certainly do that here - and we should! Now, for some great Salone pictures:

Here I am at the Neapolitan Pappaccella booth - a special pepper only grown in that region. I'm holding my 2 tools for sampling, a little spoon and a little fork. Every booth had something to sample, so we just reused the tools.

Here Spencer gets to sample Reindeer Souvas, which is basically like reindeer steaks. He said it was like reindeer sashimi - a taste from the frozen north!

One of the best things we did at the Salone was attend the Bagna Cauda workshop - this was a tasting set up with a panel of experts that grew each vegetable we tasted and then a bagna cauda expert gave the history of the dish, and there were 4 wines paired with the bagna cauda. It was a really neat experience, and offered us the opportunity to taste the cardoon, a vegetable related to the artichoke. We're pondering growing it next year! I particularly liked the Jerusalem artichoke.

So, here's the setup. There was endive, cardoon, turnip, jerusalem artichoke, black beets, that special sweet pepper, and a special French celery. The actual bagna cauda is a stew of anchovies from Spain, good garlic from your own fields, and olive oil from Liguria. What you do is dip your raw veggies into the oily stew of yumminess and dine away. It is a type of fondue that is indigenous to the Piemonte region. The wines of choice for a bagna cauda is usually a young Barbera wine. We are particularly fond of the Barbera d'Alba varieties.

Here's Spence tasting the bagna. We both really enjoyed it and are thinking of putting together a bagna cauda dinner with friends this fall. We'll keep you posted!

The sweets and spirits lane was such an amazing place with all the chocolates, cookies, and liquors that were showcased - and all use locally sourced ingredients, not to mention the mountain herbs used to flavor the liquors we sampled. We particularly enjoyed the ones that used the herb angelica. It tastes exactly like the air smells when you walk in the mountains.

There were so many honeys to sample. I've never tasted such a variety of honeys. I really liked how they held the tastings: each honey was poured into a wine glass, and swirled to emit the bouquet of honey, then you got to put your nose into it, and then they gave you a little taste of it on a tiny spoon. WOW! Every honey was an explosion of flavor.

Then, of course, there was the overwhelming abundance of prosciutti - ever wonder what part of the pig is prosciutto? Wonder no more - there were pig legs at every turn in the Salone. Man, they were all delicious, though!

So, there it is - our picture trip through the Salone del Gusto. Stay tuned for our very own Vermont showcasing of food - it's bound to happen sooner than later, since we have products that rival even the most revered specialties of Italy. One last happy Spencer picture:

Monday, November 06, 2006

Terra Madre

Our journey to Torino, Italy began a year ago (October 2005) when I was obsessed with cookbooks and Italian food, having just had an amazing meal at L'Amante here in Burlington. I had recently discovered the library's incredible cookbook holdings, and had checked out several Italian cookbooks, amongst them one called The pleasures of slow food : celebrating authentic traditions, flavors, and recipes. It was here that I learned about Carlo Petrini's Slow Food movement in Italy - a movement to try and preserve Italy's food traditions, with the impending opening of the first McDonald's in Rome. What he found was that many other Italians agreed with him, and he quickly had an organization that quickly gained momentum in Italy and all over Europe. There are now 80,000 members of Slow Food worldwide, and more each day. I was so inspired by his movement, I started researching it, and discovered the Terra Madre conference that he organized - the first one was in 2004, and had such visionaries as Prince Charles, Vandana Shiva and Alice Waters. I learned that there was going to be another conference in 2006, and I immediately signed up. In order to be invited to the Terra Madre, you need to be a part of a food community. I was delighted that we had the Intervale community to draw upon, and once the application came, I made a case for The Community of Intervale farmers to be included in this meeting of world food communities. An invitation to the Terra Madre entails room and board and transportation in Italy to be covered - you just have to be a farmer or a chef and find a way to get there. So, Spencer, Abbey Duke (Sugarsnap farm) and I made plans, and before we knew it, October was here and we were suddenly transported to this amazing world forum. In short: 6800 delegates from 150 nations, representing 1600 food communities from around the world. It was overwhelming in the best sense of the word to be in the same space with so many people doing the same things we were doing. It was humbling to be surrounded by all of our world's food revolutionaries decked out in their national costumes, finding common language so that they could speak with other farmers from other nations. We attended workshops where we all had translation headsets, so that we could understand the workshop no matter who was speaking - a truly amazing feat of organization. We felt like we were on a high the entire time we were at Terra Madre - I actually had a very hard time sleeping since I had so much energy, I just wrote pages and pages of my impressions of this food revolution that we are at the center of, and in the end felt very hopeful for the future of farming. I have a very real sense that we are at an important crossroads here in the world of food, farming, and general health. This is a very real topic that everyone can sink their teeth into and understand - it's not esoteric, and it's not elitist. Food does not discriminate and everyone needs it - and everyone is sick of the unreal food culture that we have cultivated in this nation, and we're ready to stop being lied to by corporations and finally get the good, clean and fairly traded food that we all deserve, and that is essentially a central human right. Vandana Shiva was particularly inspiring to me with her work to maintain seed integrity, viability and availability to all (click on her picture to hear her speech). This idea that seeds are a commons and should be accessible to anyone and everyone that would like to grow, and more importantly, propogate seeds. I had recently gotten complacent in my following of the GMO seed issue and the fact that one company (Monsanto) controls 90% of the GMO seeds in the world. I'm so glad she mentioned it, because she has reminded me that I can help to bring back native seed diversity by simply reducing the amount of hybrids we plant and start using more open pollinated seeds and heirlooms - in fact, we can start rehabilitating our local native seeds. We've already started making lists of new/old seeds that we're going to grow next year with the help of the Native Seeds SEARCH and the Seed Savers Exchange. We're excited, motivated, and ready to start the food revolution here in Burlington. We are looking to start a Slow Food chapter here, and are starting with a meeting this Saturday, November 11th from 2-5 pm in the Pickering Room at the Fletcher Free Library on 235 College Street. If you are available, please come and help us to share our experience and our vision for the future of food. We're calling it Bringing Terra Madre Home: a Forum of VT Food Communities. You know, there was a total of 31 VT delegates at the Terra Madre conference - we were very well represented as a state and were definitely seen as a leader in the sustainable agriculture world community - something to feel VERY good about!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

New Blog

Welcome to our new blog! We're hoping that all who interact with Half Pint Farm - chefs, customers, friends and family will come here to see what we're up to. We were finding that we needed a centralized location where everyone could keep up with our farming lives and so we thought this would be the best way to share with everyone! We hope you check back often, and please feel free to post comments and thoughts about what we've shared with you. We already have so many topics that are reeling through our minds here at the end of our fourth farming season at the Intervale. We plan on sharing news about how our season went, where we've travelled, where we're speaking, and what we're planning on growing next season! We're glad you stopped in!