What a fantastic week! Slow Food Congress and Slow Food Nation took place in sunny San Francisco August 28th - September 1st.
I was born and raised in San Francisco, and I have always gloatingly considered the Bay Area (specifically Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley) the culinary capitol of North America, and I now know it to be true.
San Francisco was the perfect location for the first Slow Food Nation.
My week began in attendance of the Slow Food Congress; 400 Slow Food USA leaders spent two days in discussion, lectures and workshops; day one with speakers such as Carlos Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement and President of Slow Food International, Joshua Viertel, Slow Food USA’s new President, Allen Katz, Chairman of the Board of Slow Food USA and Erika Lesser, Executive Director of Slow Food USA.
A lot of issues were discussed and voted on, such as dropping the use of the word ‘convivium’ in preference to ‘chapter’, all in the hopes of making Slow Food USA more approachable and less ‘elitist’.
After lunch on that first day I joined a very edifying workshop on bringing Slow Food to schools, something I would really like to pursue here.
That first night I attended a Slow Food dinner at Prima in Walnut Creek, which was a benefit for the young BALT, the Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust, an organization close to my heart having first hand watched the farm land of my wife’s native Brentwood be converted to housing development over the years.
My friend Peter Chastain, Chef and owner of Prima prepared an unbelievable meal using produce all from Brentwood farms, just on the other side of Mt. Diablo.
This epic evening ended with my first experience with Absinthe, one of which is distilled on the island of Alameda in the San Francisco Bay at St. Georges Sprints.
The next day was spent at Changemakers Day, attending more eye-opening panels, ranging from the definition of ‘Clean’ food to the future of farming (a list of sessions is here).
That same evening was the opening of the Taste Pavilion at Fort Mason. Oh my God! The Pavilion was so much more than I had expected, absolutely packed full of the best our country has to offer and staffed by the very artisans, chefs and farmers who provided it. Everywhere you went was an education. The biggest surprise for me, a father of two young children living on Kaua’i, was the amazing world of the new bar scene. The mixologist there were serving truly innovative cocktails using wonderful, clean products and ingredients.
Charcuterie was another particular favorite, where I was able to chat with Paul Bertolli of Fra'Mani.
The coffee area was a real joy for me too. I met Tony Serrano from Barefoot Coffee Roasters who took us through a tasting of three single origin coffees. Then I was served an unbelievable macchiato from Ritual Coffee Roasters’ own head barista M’lissa Muckerman (you may have seen her on the Feb/March issue of Barista Magazine; I pointed out to her that I had and was rewarded with a blush).
Saturday Morning we went to the Victory Garden and farmers market at Civic Center for an extended visit, talking with farmers and producers in-depth. Again, amazing.
And intermixed within all of this I still managed to dine at A 16, SPQR, Spruce and Sushi Ran and enjoy a macchiato at Café Lo Cubano on its second to last day before it closed its doors for good.
Even though I hold my hometown in such high esteem, I was blown away with the love and knowledge everyone I talked with had for their selected craft.
Slow Food may not be elitist, but it sure can be decadent.