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?!

1 comment:

pbosley@adelphia.net said...

Hi Mara and Spencer,

Your many kind words about Cleveland certainly deserve a reply.

I'm so pleased that you saw the positive and successful efforts of Clevelanders who are really walking the walk rather than talking the talk.

I'd like to stay in touch with you folks. We have so much good going on here but often it is passed over.

Had there been more time for planning, our paths might have crossed during the Thanksgiving week. I was in Boston and did a side trip to Quechee, VT, to visit the Farmer's Diner and to have a chat with owner Tod Murphy. Now that's a great place to chow down--real food for real people. Yum!

On my return drive to Cleveland, I stopped at a farm in Massachucetts where they do on farm cheese. Theirs is a great story of how down-sizing has made them economically viable in today's farming.

Two stops in N. Y. state and a visit to the wonderful Ithaca farmers' market let me visit two more successful small scale farms.

I'd love to talk to you sometime about these success stories--and there are many of them--and how these kinds of farms should be the focus of organizations such as Slow Food.

Thanks much for all those great Cleveland comments.