Author Archives: Valerie Bilgri

Sustainable Eats: 9 Tips for Making Sustainable Seafood Choices

In part one of this series on sustainable seafood, we discussed how the good food movement has made significant strides in raising awareness about sustainability issues surrounding land-based food, but we’re still waiting for similar progress in the realm of fish and seafood.

Since it’s tough to navigate without any sustainable guideposts, below I outline nine practical tips for consumers to make more informed, ethical seafood choices – whether at the fish market, the grocery counter, or a restaurant.

1) Know Your Fish, Know Your Fishers: You probably already know that buying your produce and/or meat from the farmer’s market allows you to develop relationships with producers, as well as build trust about the quality, safety, and value of the food you’re purchasing. The same principles apply to fish and shellfish: the most reliable way to ensure you’re getting high quality fish, caught using sustainable methods, is to buy directly from the person who caught it. You can do this by participating in a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) or purchasing at a fish market that sources exclusively from local/regional boats. The short supply chain of direct-to-consumer sales reduces the risk of fraud and mislabeling that is endemic in the long and complex industrial seafood supply chain.

2) Ask Questions at Retailers and Restaurants: As ethical consumers, we care about where our food comes from and how it is produced. This gives us a responsibility to ask questions about our food and based on the information provided, decide whether or not to make a purchase. The essential questions to ask are: What species of fish is this? Was it caught wild or farm raised? and Where is it from? A retailer or restaurant that takes pride in their sourcing will be able to provide this information. Hesitation, vague or incomplete answers should be a red flag to the consumer. This applies whether we’re at a fish market, a grocery store, or in a restaurant.

I encourage you to also consider asking What type of fishing gear or aquaculture method were used? Who caught this fish? and Were they paid fair wages and treated fairly? The responses to these questions provide even more clues about how much a fishmonger or chef knows about their supply chain and, perhaps more importantly, signals a growing consumer desire for transparency.

3) Eat Seasonal and Regional, or at least USA: As is true for land-based food, the most sustainable seafood choice is usually to eat what’s in season in your area, harvested from local waters or the broader region. In the DC metro area, we are fortunate to be just 50 miles from the Chesapeake Bay and at the mid-point of the east coast, with many fisheries just a few hours north and south. Typical species from our region include: Blue Crab, Oysters, Clams, Perch, Croaker, Drum, Flounder, and Rockfish (also called Striped Bass or Striper). From the northeast, we can also get Lobster, Scallops, Mussels, Dogfish, Haddock, Hake, Quahogs, and Mackerel. From the southeast, we can get Mahi Mahi, Grouper, cobia, Monkfish, Amberjack, Swordfish, Sheepshead, Yellowfin Tuna, and several types of Shrimp.

If you want to keep it SUPER simple, just abide by one seafood rule: always eat fish and seafood from the United States, never imported. The United States has some of the best marine fisheries standards in the world, thanks to the Magnuson Stevens Act. Imported seafood is not held to the same catch limits, environmental protections, or labor regulations. Eating only U.S.-sourced products will help you steer clear of many of the sustainability issues around seafood.

4) Eat a Greater Variety of Species: On average, Americans eat 16.5 pounds of fish and shellfish per person per year, mostly from just a few species – Shrimp, Salmon, Tuna, and Tilapia – even though there are more than 100 species harvested from U.S. waters. Such narrow consumption puts intense pressure on those few popular species, which can result in overfishing and potentially, population collapse, as happened with Bluefin Tuna. Fisherman won’t catch what they can’t sell, so the power really lies with you and other consumers to diversify demand. The ethical choice is to expand your palate, try something different, and help create a market for a diverse range of fish.

5) Eat Lower on the Food Chain: As we move up the food chain, ten times more energy is consumed at each level between plant and carnivore (also referred to as the trophic scale). This means that predators at the top of the chain, such as Tuna and Swordfish, consume huge amounts of smaller fish to grow their body mass. Even medium sized Salmon are still voracious carnivores; the feed to food ratio for farm-raised Salmon can be as high as 14:1, meaning 14 pounds of smaller fish feed every one pound of Salmon filet sold to consumers. Given the intense amount of energy required to sustain large, carnivorous fish, a responsible consumer should choose smaller species lower on the food chain. Anchovies and Sardines are great choices. Filter feeder, such as Crab, Oysters, Clams, and Mussels, are even better.

6) Pay for Higher Quality, Eat Less Quantity: You may have heard it before, but it bears repeating: cheap food is not cheap. That is, the true costs to society and the environment of cheap food are not reflected in the sticker price but instead, transferred indirectly to other actors in the system. We’ll use salmon as an example: farm-raised salmon from Chile costs $8.99/lb, whereas wild Alaskan Salmon goes for $19.99/lb. What’s the difference?

Wild Alaskan Salmon is harvested using environmentally sound methods in coastal communities by fisherpeople who are paid fair wages. In contrast, farmed Chilean Salmon has drawn criticism for using more antibiotics than some factory-farmed beef, and for situating huge, multi-million animal operations in pristine glacier areas. In short, the price of the Salmon reflects the true value of the resource.

Similar comparisons can be made between Chesapeake Blue Crab at $32/lb (exacerbated by work visa shortages) and its imported competition from Southeast Asia, India, and South America at $12/lb. Shrimp harvested from North Carolina or Gulf Coast waters typically fetches $15/lb, whereas major industrial operations in Southeast Asia that degrade mangrove forests and are known to use slave labor, can sell their product for just $10/lb. The additional costs of lost coastal livelihoods in the United States, the negative impact on the environment, and deplorable labor conditions are not reflected in the lower retail prices.

Rather than purchasing the cheaper (but costly to society) product, the ethical choice is to buy higher quality, even if that means consuming less of it. My friend and fellow seafood advocate, Kevin Scribner of Salmon-Safe, likes to ask “why are we willing to spend $5 for a latte but we’re not willing to spend $5 per meal, per person for the highest quality fish in the world?!”*

7) Don’t Be Afraid of Frozen: The technology for freezing fish has drastically improved in recent years. Fresh catch can be immediately processed and frozen at very low temperatures, often right on the boat. Some consumers still think that buying frozen fish sacrifices flavor or quality – on the contrary! Buying frozen fish from trusted sources is a great way to get high quality fish at reasonable prices.

8) Get Familiar with Seafood Guides: Reliable information is essential for informed, ethical food choices. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guides is an industry leader and provides easy to use guides for each region, including one for navigating a sushi menu and an app for your phone. But even with these tools, you as a consumer must still gather key pieces of information about the fish (as outlined above): What species is this? Where is it from? and Was it farmed or caught wild? According to Seafood Watch, species marked Red should be avoided entirely, Yellow means a Good Alternative (but there are some concerns), and Green indicates a best choice.

For consumers interested in learning more about the fish species that are harvested in their region, NOAA FishWatch is a good source.

9) Look for Eco-Labels: Lastly, consumers can look for eco-labels, though these should be considered an indicator, rather a guarantee, of sustainability. Currently, there are at least seven sustainable seafood certification labels, each with varying standards and criteria. The Marine Stewardship Council, which focuses on wild caught fish, or its newer affiliate the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, which evaluates farmed fish operations, are both good resources. However, consumers should be aware that even grocery store chains are creating their own seafood labels with claims of sustainability. Many do not have independent verification methods, causing further confusion for consumers about credibility and which label they should look for. As an ethical consumer, it is better to know your source than depend on a label or certification.

Stay tuned for the third article in this series next month, for a list of seafood retailers and restaurants in the DC metro area that Slow Food DC believes are sourcing most sustainably.

By Lauren Parnell, SFDC Board Member and Slow Fish Liaison

* 16 oz. in a pound and 4 oz. per portion of fish => 4 portions x $5 each = $19.99, the market price for most wild Alaskan salmon.

Class of 2018/2019 Snail of Approval Winners!

We had a fantastic time on February 25 celebrating our 14 new Snail of Approval winners! Thanks to all of YOUR nominations, this year’s winners were selected because of their commitment to Slow Food’s values:  Good, Clean, and Fair food for all. If you don’t already know these amazing makers, put checking them out on your to-do list! 

And a special thanks to Snail winners Urbana Dining & Drinks for the delicious bites, and One Eight Distilling for sponsoring the evening’s cocktail.

Congratulations again to all of our evening’s Snail winners: Aperto, Caboose Brewing Company, Centrolina, Chaia Tacos, Clagett Farm, Cold Country Salmon, Don Ciccio & Figli, Eat & Smile Catering, Kyirisan, One Eight Distilling, Owl’s Nest Farm, Republic Restoratives, Sally’s Middle Name, and The Salt Line.

You can find a full list of all of our Snail of Approval winners, as well as details about our selection criteria here.    

Sustainable Eats: Applying Slow Food Values to Seafood

How well do you know your seafood?

  • 90% of the seafood Americans eat is imported.
  • We eat 16.5 lbs. of fish and shellfish per person, per year (compared to 89 lbs. of chicken, 54 lbs. of beef, and 50 lbs. of pork).
  • Seafood imports have quadrupled in the last 40 years, primarily from Asia and South America.
  • Most fish travels an average of 5,000 miles before reaching our plate.
  • The majority (55%) of the seafood we consume is from just three species:  shrimp, salmon, and tuna.
  • Meanwhile, over 100 species are commercially harvested in North America.

The good food movement has made significant progress over the last 25 years raising awareness about sustainability issues around land-based food, such as fruits, vegetables, poultry, hogs, and cattle. Thanks in part to organizations like Slow Food USA and local chapters like Slow Food DC, modern consumers are more conscious about where their produce and meat come from and how it is produced. We visit farmers markets, eat at farm-to-table restaurants, and take pride in buying local and regionally produced food whenever we can.  

Unfortunately, we have a long way to go — as individual consumers and the movement as a whole — to raise awareness and achieve similar progress on the local, regional, and sustainable seafood front. In fact, things have been going in the wrong direction in terms of seafood sourcing at many retailers and restaurants. As a result, U.S. fishing communities struggle to earn a livelihood while facing steep competition from cheaper foreign imports, which are often subject to fewer environment and labor standards.  

The United States has some of the best-managed fisheries in the world, thanks to comprehensive legislation like the Magnuson-Stevens Act (the fishing equivalent of the Farm Bill for agriculture), yet the majority of the fish and shellfish Americans eat is imported. To make matters worse, the effects of climate change are already negatively impacting U.S. seafood harvesting.

In April 2018, I attended the Slow Fish gathering in San Francisco to learn how we can apply Slow Food’s core values to the realm of fish and seafood. I spent the weekend listening to a range of small scale fisherpeople* from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Louisiana. While their boats, gear, and the species they catch vary greatly, all of these speakers share a commitment to the core values of Good, Clean, and Fair food.  

Good:  meaning fresh, delicious and seasonal fish that connects to culture and local identity.  

Clean:  meaning fish that is harvested and processed using methods that respect the environment and human health.  

Fair:  meaning fish sold at prices that are accessible to the consumer, and backed by fair wages that provide decent working and living conditions for harvesters and workers.

Last month, Slow Food DC marked two milestones that demonstrate our chapter’s commitment to incorporating Slow Fish values into our events and activities. On Monday, February 25, we hosted our Snail of Approval Awards Party and were joined by many friends and supporters in recognizing 14 area businesses that fulfill these principles of Good, Clean, Fair food. Among them, four businesses — Cold Country Salmon, Caboose Brewing Company, Centrolina, and The Salt Line — were specifically recognized for excellence in their seafood sourcing. 

And on Saturday, February 23, I had the honor of representing Slow Food DC at the annual Rooting DC urban agriculture and food systems forum, delivering a one-hour workshop on Sustainable Seafood:  Becoming a More Informed, Ethical Consumer. I’m delighted to report the session was well-attended by an enthusiastic audience, eager to learn more and apply their values to make ethical seafood choices.

Stay tuned for a follow-on article next month outlining the “9 Practical Tips for Sustainable Seafood Choices” covered in my workshop, as well as a list of recommended retailers and restaurants in the DC/MD/VA area.

*According to the World Bank, women represent nearly half of the global fisheries workforce.  Additionally, the contribution of women in both fishing and processing is an important and underrepresented aspect of the U.S. seafood industry.

By Lauren Parnell, SFDC Board Member and Slow Fish Liaison

Can Burgers and Beer Save the Chesapeake Bay?

With views of sheep and cattle grazing on verdant rolling hills, Slow Food DC shared samples of Chef Mark Haskell’s “Singapore Sling” burgers, topped with cabbage slaw and pickled habanero sauce, with hungry visitors at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF)’s Burgers and Brews for the Bay event on October 21.

The burgers and accompanying slaw were prepared using ingredients raised and grown right on Clagett Farm, a 285-acre working farm under the auspices of the CBF and a beautiful venue for this truly farm-to-table event for a great cause.

Founded in 1967, the CBF is the largest independent conservation organization dedicated solely to promoting science-based solutions to the pollution degrading the Chesapeake Bay. Their motto “Save the Bay” defines their mission and commitment to reducing pollution, improving fisheries, and protecting and restoring natural resources such as wetlands, forests, and underwater grasses.

The role of Clagett Farm is wholly complimentary: to employ farming methods that are both economically and environmentally sustainable. The farm raises crops, beef cattle, and sheep, as well as supports a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and tree farm. Clagett’s farm manager, Michael Heller, also spearheaded the Maryland Grazers Network, which helps farmers transition from corn-fed to grass-fed livestock.

The CBF’s annual Burgers and Brews for the Bay event is also a way to highlight the success of the Clagett Farm’s sustainable approach. Chef Haskell’s ”Singapore Sling” burger featured 100 percent pasture-raised beef, as well as slaw ingredients picked that morning from the farm’s garden. It’s hard to get any more local than that.

Tents featuring the other guest chefs’ inspired burger creations, as well as regional craft beers, were scattered within easy walking distance throughout the farm, providing an opportunity to view grazing cows and sheep and explore this picturesque farm just 30 minutes from downtown Washington, DC. Along with the food and beer tents, educational stations were nearby to explain the farm’s sustainable practices and the vital work of the CBF.

With awareness and support being important first steps, we believe that burgers and beer can go a long way toward helping restore and protect the essential resource that is the Chesapeake Bay. Slow Food DC was honored to be a part of this wonderful event, and we’re already looking forward to next year!

If weren’t able to participate in this farm visit, please consider joining us November 3 at Snail of Approval winner Rocklands Farm! You can find more details and tickets here.

The Origins of Slow Food – Or How to Start a Global Movement with Pasta

Every two years, Slow Food members and supporters embark on a pilgrimage of sorts to Turin, Italy for the largest international event dedicated to food, Terra Madre Salone del Gusto. While it isn’t hard to imagine why anyone would journey to Italy for several days of celebrating all things gastronomic, there is less familiarity with the global movement behind the call to slow the fork down when it comes to our food.

In some ways, it’s only fitting that the global growth of fast food planted the seeds of the today’s Slow Food movement. In 1986, a McDonald’s opened near the historic Piazza de Spagna in Rome, just adjacent to the iconic Spanish Steps. Worried that the proliferation of fast food would threaten local restaurants and culinary traditions, Italian journalist Carlo Petrini organized a protest against the fast food chain’s entry into the Italian market. Instead of signs, Petrini armed protesters with bowls of penne, declaring:  “We don’t want fast food… we want slow food!”

While Petrini was interested in preserving taste (as evidenced by the protest penne), he also wanted to support and protect small growers and artisanal producers, as well as safeguard the environment and promote biodiversity. This ambitious agenda led to the creation of the Slow Food movement in 1989, with the goals of defending regional food traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure, and a slow pace of life. Aptly, the snail symbol chosen was chosen to represent the movement. As outlined in the Slow Food Manifesto, this translates into core values that aim to inspire individuals and communities to change the world through food that is good, clean and fair for all.

Some of these values naturally come to mind when we think of Slow Food, such as taking the time – ten minutes or a few hours – to enjoy our meals, or cooking and sharing meals with others. But the Slow Food journey is not prescriptive. Slow Food doesn’t necessarily mean organic food or a particular type diet. It’s food that is good for us, good for our environment, and good for the people who grow, pick and prepare it, and how those practices look can vary from country to country and from culture to culture.

Terra Madre Salone del Gusto – or Terra Madre for short – takes this concept to the big stage every few years. A food advocate’s playground, Terra Madre is dedicated to the promotion of artisanal, sustainable food and the small-scale producers that safeguard local traditions and high quality products. This year’s gathering will take place from September 20-24, 2018, and thousands of delegates will hear speakers on food production, sustainable supply chain methods, and food gastronomy. Attendees will also be able to tackle the “Gusto” part of the agenda at The Market, where exhibitors from around the word share samples of their country’s gastronomic diversity.

Like many things, food does not exist in a vacuum. There are strong ties between our plates, the planet, culture, politics, and each other. Our choices can influence how food is cultivated, produced, and distributed, and the growth of the Slow Food movement since the 1980s shows that millions of others agree. Today, Slow Food is active in more than 150 countries, and there are more than 170 chapters and 2,000 food communities in the United States alone.

For our part, Slow Food DC invites everyone who eats food – and we think that’s literally everyone – to join us in supporting more good, clean, and fair food and beverages in our region. Our band of merry volunteers aims to promote local artisans, local farmers, and local flavors through a range of activities, including social gatherings, farmers markets, educational programs, and food access awareness. We look forward welcoming you at future events, to share in the conviviality that is at the heart of Slow Food, and maybe even share a bowl of penne.

Until then, check out our Instagram page for updates from our own board member Reana Kovalcik at Terra Madre! 

How Can We Get a Good, Clean, Fair Farm Bill?

Part of the Slow Food mission is promoting good, clean, and fair food and farm systems in any way that we can. Typically people think about good, clean, and fair food in the context of eating, but you can also support the type of food and food systems you value though policy engagement and advocacy.

Right now the 2018 Farm Bill is being debated in Congress – the farm bill is a MASSIVE package of legislation that is renewed every five years and affects everything about our food system. Contrary to what you might think from the name, this bill impacts all of us – not just farmers! If you care about local food, family farmers, and healthy food access for all families, the time to get involved and influence the 2018 Farm Bill is now. 

Take five minutes to influence the next five years of food and farming in America. Click here and tell Congress TODAY that you want a 2018 Farm Bill that supports good, clean, and fair food!

  • Additional Resources:
    • Slow Food USA Food and Farm Policy Portal: Check out Slow Food USA’s Food & Farm Policy page to learn more about Slow Food’s priorities and actions on the 2018 Farm Bill. You can also find policy related highlights and check out a very cool, interactive farm bill policy map showing all House and Senate Agriculture Committee members, as well as Slow Food Governor locations.
    • The Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) is currently being considered by the Farm Bill Conference Committee. This innovative program would support vibrant local food systems, farmers markets, and help hungry families access healthy food. Click here to learn more about LAMP, and you can click here to look up your members of Congress if you want to contact them and tell them to “Light the LAMP for local food!”. 

Finding the Funk at 3 Stars Brewing Company

Tucked away off a busy street among several auto mechanics and industry supply companies, you’ll find a welcoming spot to enjoy some of the most interesting beer being brewed right in the District. With a recent win at DC Beer Week’s Battle of the Barrel-Aged Beers and celebrating their six-year anniversary on August 12, it’s evident that 3 Stars Brewing Company is shaping the landscape of the DC beer scene.

Once inside the brewery, visitors are warmly welcomed by the urban farmhouse tasting room sporting ten beers on tap, some of which are only available on-site. You can also wander out onto the brewery floor, where the growler tap, picnic tables, and games of corn hole invite hanging out awhile. This is where Slow Food DC members and supporters gathered on August 25 to get a taste of this Snail winner’s success.

We tried four beers currently in production, starting with the Peppercorn Saison, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale that’s the brewery’s most popular and best selling beer. Brewed with red, white, and green peppercorns, this beer is fruity, with hints of peppercorn and citrus, and very refreshing. This was the first beer 3 Stars ever produced, and it’s just as good now as ever.

Next up was the Ghost White IPA, bright and citrusy with a little bitterness on the finish thanks to the hops, but not overwhelming.  The Southern Belle, an imperial brown ale described as “not quite a stout,” uses roasted malt and chocolate to impart toasty notes of coffee and cocoa. Delightfully smooth!

And last we moved into the land of sour beers, where 3 Stars is known to dabble, tasting the Trouble in Paradise American Wild Ale that had light and tart tropical fruit notes (guava and mango) perfect for summer.

In addition to their regular lineup, 3 Stars has a number of different collaborations with area producers and restaurants. They make an Irish amber for the Dubliner Pub near Union Station. They have also undertaken a series of mixed brews, including a barrel fermented sour paired with mead from Baltimore-area Charm City Meadworks they’re calling Sabertooth Unicorn. Much like real unicorns, it’s almost impossible to get your hands on one. Keep an eye out for another collaboration with the National Arboretum coming soon: a special beer spiked with herbs grown on the grounds of the Arboretum.

3 Stars is a Snail of Approval winner for many reasons, including their sustainability practices. Spent grain is sent to farms for use as animal feed, and the brewing team makes generous use of old whiskey, bourbon, and wine barrels to age their beers and impart unique flavors. Much of this happens in the brewery’s “Funkerdome,” a room where sour beers are born and aged. The beers can be aged up to two and a half years but there are no hard and fast rules – the Funkerdome is all about experimenting and discovering new flavors.

In fact, die-hard sour beer fans can sign up for the “Funkerdome Society” to get limited edition releases not available to the general public. Likewise, membership in the 3 Stars “Illuminati Society” will also net you limited edition beers throughout the year. If you’re interested in getting in on the action, Funkerdome and Illuminati membership sign-ups for 2019 will be announced at the end of year.

Know of other businesses that personify the Slow Food philosophy? Nominate them for a Snail of Approval award! Nominations are now open through September 30 and can be submitted through our website at: http://www.slowfooddc.org/snail-approval-nomination/. Cheers!

 

Eating the Joys of Summer at Snail Winner Garrison

While summers in the city can be very rewarding (no restaurant lines! no crowds on metro!), they can also feel a bit languorous by the time August rolls around. A mid-summer cool down was just the antidote to wake up our palates and celebrate the best of summer’s bounty.

On August 15, Slow Food DC members and supporters gathered at Garrison Restaurant on Barrack’s Row to sample some of the city’s best seasonal fare, prepared by Chef Rob Weland and his team. Garrison’s focus on locally grown, seasonal dishes, as well as their unwavering support for regional producers, are a few of the reasons Garrison is a Snail of Approval winner.

Chef Rob is known for putting vegetables front and center, and just a few bites of his inspired dishes will tell you why. Among the delights we sampled were stuffed squash blossoms with smoked provolone and Romesco sauce; One Acre Farm eggplant terrine with tomato and basil; and heirloom tomato gazpacho with Dijon mustard ice cream and basil seeds. These dishes and others were bursting with the flavors of summer, and gave the sudden urge to start planting our own urban gardens pronto.

In addition to the restaurant’s partnership with One Acre Farm in Maryland, Chef Rob keeps a garden at the restaurant and actively encourages guests to think creatively about vegetables. In a recent Washington Post article about what do with an excess of summer tomatoes, Chef Rob aptly shared: “I think the best advice is always buy a large variety and have fun with them.” We couldn’t agree more.

Know of other businesses that personify the Slow Food philosophy? Nominate them for a Snail of Approval award! Nominations are now open through September 30 and can be submitted through our website at: http://www.slowfooddc.org/snail-approval-nomination/

The Secret to Great Cocktails is Right in Your Kitchen

Mixologists across the United States have been incorporating herbal elements into their cocktail creations with great results, but how easy is it to replicate some of that goodness at home? On August 5, Slow Food DC members and supporters came to find out at our “Grow Your Own Cocktails” event! Our partners shared terrific, hands-on tips to help us start our own container herb garden that can serve as the basis for unique and delicious cocktail creations at home.

Armed with a selection of rosemary seedlings and ceramic pots, District Hardware’s co-owner Jarrett Conway gave us a great tutorial about how to keep our rosemary plants – and other herbs – happy and healthy at home.

A few takeaways: First, make sure the pot is twice the size as the plant. Most plants suffer from too little space and too much water. Don’t suffocate your herbs! Second, pay attention to the specific care instructions that come with the plant, particularly how much light your herbs will need. Third, consider using a pearlite fertilizer to add more nutrients to the soil to help your plant thrive.

Then we were ready to get our hands dirty! After filling the pots with soil, we created space for the plant by pushing the soil up along the sides of the pot. Upon removing the plants from their seedling containers, we broke up the roots a bit with our hands before planting in the pot. This helped the rosemary take hold in its new home, ready to receive nutrients and water.

Proper harvesting can keep your herbs growing all year long! For rosemary, cut the top 2 to 3 inches of each sprig, leaving green leaves and being careful not to cut the plant too close to the roots. Give the plant time to recover before harvesting in the same spot.

When our rosemary was planted, it was time to explore our cocktail options with One Eight Distilling’s events manager Cara Webster. While there are several ways you can incorporate herbs into cocktails, Cara demonstrated how to make an infused simple syrup, which is also easy to make at home.

Combine equal parts water and sugar in a small saucepan, along with a tablespoon of rosemary leaves (or a couple of stalks of rosemary). Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until all of the sugar is dissolved. There’s also the option at this point to steep the rosemary in the liquid for 30 minutes (off the heat) for a more intense flavor. Strain the syrup into a heatproof container, allow the mixture to cool, and then its ready for cocktail glory! You can keep the simple syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks for use in different types of cocktails.

In a nod to the DMV region, Cara designed a riff on the lavender-hued water lily cocktail by mixing One Eight Distilling gin, orange liqueur, lemon juice, Crème de Violette, cherry blossom liqueur, and rosemary simple syrup.

Once transformed into the “Water Lily on the Bay” cocktail, the Crème de Violette gave the drink a unique dark purple hue, with the cherry blossom liqueur lending a fresh and floral note thatnicely balanced the herbal rosemary.

Cara shared a great pro tip on making drinks for a group, which is to batch cocktails instead of making each separately. Simply pre-mix your ingredients in a large container that’s easy to pour from – could be a punch bowl or a large mason jar, if you’re traveling – and you’re ready to roll. Great for gatherings of all types!

We can’t thank our partners One Eight Distilling and District Hardware enough for this fun and informative event! There are many other herbs that are great for both container gardening and cocktails – we sense an opportunity for future events!

Full Belly, Full Heart: A Slow Food Nations Reflection

Whenever you attend a Slow Food event, no matter what part of the world you may be in, you know one thing for sure:  the food is going to be spectacular. At Slow Food Nations, however, the food was just one of many amazing experiences.

2018 marked the second year of Slow Food Nations, an annual event put on by Slow Food USA that celebrates all things good, clean, and fair food. Over the course of the 3-day event, there were 16 opportunities to gather together and enjoy a meal, six summits, 11workshops, one jam-packed Delegate Day, and over 20,000 total attendees. With so much to taste, see, and do and so many folks in attendance, there’s no doubt that everyone went home with their own unique takeaway. And although I have no doubt that for many folks the memory of the delicious meals they partook of will be what lingers most in their minds, for me it was something different. My biggest takeaway was this:  relationships move mountains.

As a Slow Food Nations Delegate, I not only represented my Slow Food Community (Slow Food DC) at the event in Denver, I also had the honor of presenting about one of my greatest passions – public policy. I know policy doesn’t sound that sexy, especially when you put it up against the opportunity to taste sample Okanagan Sockeye Salmon or cook with renown regional chefs, but to those of us who understand the impact policymaking can have, there are few things more exciting.

On the first day of the event, as part of the Slow Food Leaders’ Summit, I presented as part of a panel entitled, “Food Activism Beyond the Fork.” Led by former Slow Food USA Policy Intern, Taylor Pate, I joined Kevin Scribner (Forever Wild Seafood), Jennifer Casey (Fondy Food Center), and Fatuma Emmad (Groundwork Denver) in exploring policy, civic action, and grassroots initiatives that support a good, clean, and fair food and farm system. I was also fortunate to present at another policy panel during the main conference, “Intro to the Farm Bill”. This event, which was co-presented by Jeni Lam Rogers and Kelleen Zubik, was an opportunity to chat with the public and answer their questions about how the 2018 Farm Bill could impact their lives and what they could do to get engaged in the policy process.

Outside of my own events, I of course had many opportunities to connect with new friends, allies, and good food leaders. It was these connections, in fact, that I think were the most impactful part of the entire Slow Food Nations experience. Denver’s Chef Paul C. Reilly showed me what embodying your values in the food you make looks like, Matthew Koster of Corner Post Meats reminded me the value of the hustle and that you can accomplish anything if you put enough energy toward it, and Gailey Morgan of Tesuque Pueblo and all the participants from Slow Food Turtle Island reconnected me to the core reasons I do this work – we are not only the descendants of our ancestors, but the ancestors of our descendants. Good food, Ch’iyaan Ya’at’eehégii in the Diné language, is much more than just nourishment; it is also pleasure, culture, and identity.

I value events like Slow Food Nations because they afford us the opportunity to connect both with longtime friends, and also to forge new connections that will feed our personal and professional lives. I thank Slow Food USA for allowing me to serve on the National Policy Committee and to present for the second year in a row at this amazing event. And I thank everyone who presented with me, supported my efforts, and helped me to continue to grow. I hope to have the opportunity to meet many more of you out there working to make our food and farm systems as good, clean, and fair as possible. Perhaps at Slow Food Nations 2019, or if you’re in the DC area, maybe we’ll connect at a Slow Food DC event in the future!

To see Reana’s photos from Slow Food Nations, check out the album on our Facebook page.

– Reana Kovalcik
Associate Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Vice Chair, Slow Food DC