Category Archives: Past Events

Past SFDC run events

Cultivating Coffee Appreciation with Vigilante Coffee

In addition to being pioneers of specialty coffee in the Washington, DC area, Snail of Approval winner Vigilante Coffee is also dedicated to increasing the coffee knowledge of both retailers and consumers.  Working from the perspective that coffee should never be intimidating, Vigilante has developed a special “Lab Series” designed to present the world’s most interesting coffees in an intimate, engaging, and comfortable environment.

During a special Slow Food DC Lab Series on July 23, local Slow Foodies learned all about Panamanian Gesha coffee from Ninety Plus Coffee, a single-origin, single-variety grower and producer in both Panama and Ethiopia. In addition to the rarity of this particular varietal, the Gesha coffee’s uniqueness also comes from the special natural processing methods Ninety Plus uses to emphasize and preserve the bean’s flavor and aroma characteristics.

Along with producing award-winning coffees, Ninety Plus is known for their ecological and sustainable cultivation methods, principles Vigilante Coffee also embodies.

Owner and founder Chris Vigilante explained during the event that he personally visits each and every producer the company buys from and when possible, imports beans directly from the source, allowing growers to recoup a higher percentage of profits.  This hands-on approach is also an avenue for encouraging and sharing sustainable business practices, enabling Vigilante to offer harvest incentives for producing higher quality beans.

Director of Retail and Marketing Austin Redington demonstrated four different ways to brew these special Gesha coffee beans, including cold brew, espresso, aeropress, and siphon.  Each method highlighted different aspects of the coffee’s unique flavor profile that participants could compare and contrast.

Lab Series participants were fortunate enough to take home their very own sample of Gesha, roasted during the class by Vigilante’s expert roaster Franklin Ventura.  Each coffee that Vigilante offers is specially roasted on site at their Hyattsville location, according to what level of roast will showcase the best of that bean’s flavor and aroma profile.

This special Lab Series was a great way to learn why Vigilante is known for their award-winning, single origin coffee and there’s much more to learn!

Vigilante Coffee offers classes at their Hyattsville location several times a week that are open to both wholesale partners and the general public.  Classes cover everything from different brew methods to coffee cupping to latte art basic.  Find out more on their website at:  http://vigilantecoffee.com/classes/.

Growing hyperlocal ice cream flavors with Cultivate the City

On August 16, Slow Food DC and Snail of Approval winning Cultivate the City held an ice cream making demonstration in a slightly unusual location: the rooftop of a hardware store on Bladensburg Avenue! This particular rooftop has been transformed into the home base for an urban garden center and CSA that is changing how we think about growing food in dense urban areas.

Cultivate the City is the work of many people in the community, with Niraj Ray running the show and Dan Weisshaar managing the farm. Their focus is on maximizing growing potential by implementing vertical gardens and building a steadfast volunteer force rooted in existing communities. Cultivate now has 25 gardens throughout the city, a full-fledged CSA program for both produce and seedlings, and they’re always trying out new things including growing plants from the Slow Food Ark of Taste catalog.

For our H Street Farm rooftop garden tour and frozen treat session, Chef/Farmer Dan introduced us to lemon basil and melon sorbet and chocolate mint ice cream featuring herbs from their garden, of course. The delicious cantaloupe melon had been a volunteer that sprouted in the compost pile from last season! We also taste-tested papaloquelite (a common Mexican culinary herb that tastes a little like cilantro) and bitter melon (a fascinating and unusual plant that’s also full of nutritional value) along the way.

Also on the rooftop were three greenhouses and an aquaponics operation: a closed loop growing system featuring basil, tomatoes, and tilapia sharing the circulated water. (Fish fry later this fall, btw.) Niraj emphasized that some people have misconceptions about hydroponics being less flavorful than soil-grown, but this is because the hydroponic tomatoes we usually have access to have been shipped great distances. Produce that is picked at peak when fully ripe and fresh — including hydroponically grown veggies and herbs — and served immediately, locally, has absolutely the best flavor!

One of the major goals Cultivate aims for is to help people understand farming, gardening, and cooking as viable occupations.  The H Street Farm aggregates produce from their 25 gardens across the city and distributes it to CSA clients, local restaurants, and locals who volunteer with them. The business also focus on working with the communities around their gardens to help locals learn to grow their own food, offering services such as a home consultation for just $100 or the option to work at the farm for discounted CSA shares and event passes.

The ice cream was tasty, the garden beautiful, and Cultivate the City is truly Good, Clean and Fair! Check out Cultivate’s upcoming volunteer opportunities and events here.

Preserved strawberries and ground cherries!

Feb 26: A Renaissance for Craft Spirits

Many thanks to Derek Brown, Michael Lowe, and James Rodewall for a fascinating panel discussion – and interesting follow-up conversations over cocktails – on The Craft Distilling Revolution earlier this week (part of the American History Museum’s After Hours series). I learned a lot, including the fact that I may actually like gin cocktails. Who knew?

Craft Distilling: The Basics

A spirit must contain 3 things: yeast, sugar, and either fruit or grain. It generally starts as a beer or wine, then is heated to remove much of the water, and finally tinkered with via the addition of various herbs or aging to create delicate flavor profiles (or, in the case of my experiences with mezcal, something akin to a punch in the throat).

One of the interesting things that I learned during the discussion was that much like the confusion about what makes food “local,” there is no fixed definition of what makes something a “craft,” also known as micro-distilled, spirit. Beyond the fact that the distillery producing it can make no more than 100,000 cases per year, a craft spirit can be pretty much anything stronger than beer or wine. Similarly, “handmade” can be freely applied to a spirit label without any particular criteria – even something as seemingly obvious as needing to touch a human hand at some point in the process of distillation is not a requirement. As I listened to the speakers, I was indignant. Scandalized, even. But there is hope.

Read the Label

Beware of labels reading “bottled by” someone local – which is usually in tiny, scripted print somewhere on the bottle. Though there are some fine drink ingredients made all over the world, if you’re truly seeking the local booze terroir, you’re going to want to stick to those which are “distilled by” folks who are working in the greater DC area, some of whom even source their fruit and grains (or their wine and beer bases) from local farmers and brewers.

To be clear, I’m not saying you have to drink only locally sourced stuff, but rather that if that is what you seek you may have to do a little more work to find out the real deal.

The best way to learn about how spirits are made, where they come from, and what is in them is by asking questions. You can go to the interwebs and research, or, ideally, you can ask your neighborhood bartender who, if he’s worth his salt, can tell you all about his spirit wares. And here I thought I knew a fair bit about cocktails…. Seems I’ve got some more learning (and sampling) to do.

Want to Learn More?

Stay tuned for some upcoming spirit bottling, tasting, and touring events in coming months.

Get mashed

Many thanks to Brooklyn Brewery for bringing their beer-food-arts awesomeness back to DC for the summer 2014 edition of the MASH tour!

This past Friday, I had the good fortune to secure a seat at the Slow Supper, featuring four delicious courses cooked up by the ingenious Chefs Andrew and Jacob, and perfectly paired with limited edition Brooklyn Brewery beers. (In retrospect, it was tough to pick a favorite course, as they were all so good, but I’ve a feeling I’m going to be seeking out Brooklyn’s cuvee noire — the delectable, chocolaty brew we enjoyed with dessert and which I’ve been daydreaming about ever since.) Set in an airy warehouse space in the up-and-coming Union Market area of NoMa, more than a hundred other foodies joined me and fellow SFDC board members Amanda and Rob at the dinner that benefited our local Slow Food chapter.

The dinner marked nearly the end of a week packed with fun, mostly beer-themed events, ranging from farm tours to tastings to homebrew tip sharing all around our nation’s capital. See more photos from various MASH DC events on our facebook page. And keep your eyes peeled for the next time Brooklyn Brewery comes through town, ’cause it’s sure to be delicious….

Taking in the Sights and Smells of Union Kitchen

Last Sunday, March 30, Slow Food DC joined former Board Chair Kathryn Warnes of Taste of Place for a tour and demo of the behind-the-scenes activity at Union Kitchen food incubator.  Located in a 7,300 square foot warehouse in NE DC, Union Kitchen offers a space for over 50 small local food businesses to grow and thrive while limiting startup costs by providing shared space, equipment, amenities, and administrative services.  General Manager Mike Darman welcomed our group in to the building on a cold, rainy day, inviting us to enjoy the warmth and good smells of active cooks in the kitchen!  In the communal meeting area, Mike gave us a thorough introduction to the incubator, answering all of our questions about the application and vetting process and telling us all about the many supportive programs that they offer to their members – benefits of being part of a sharing community of food entrepreneurs.  He then led us on a tour of the warehouse where we could smell kombucha fermenting, watch chickpeas being roasted in garlic and rosemary, listen to the whir of mixers whipping up cupcake batter, see juice pulp being squeeze, and bask in the damp mustiness of a hand-made sausage curing closet.

From there were met up with Chris Johnson and James Brosch, owners of Cured DC, and their assistant Nick for an in depth one-on-one demonstration of how they make their Toscana sausage.  They walked us through the whole process from selecting the best cut of meat, then cutting, prepping, and grinding it to adding the right amount of fat, spices, and wine, encasing the mixture and preparing it to be cured slowly for many months before being ready to slice, eat and simply enjoy.  Which is what we did to round out our afternoon – slicing thin samples of spicy boar sausage and herbaceous pork Toscana.

We left eager to come back soon – perhaps a taste of Union Kitchen later this year with a sampling from each of our favorite Made in DC foods!

Post contributed by SFDC board co-chair, Sarah McKinley

 

Know your tamales

Here’s a little something from SFDC board member, Mark Haskell, who led a tamale making class near Eastern Market this past Saturday:

“Aside from Mexico, many other countries in the western hemisphere have a tradition of preparing and cooking tamales during the winter holiday season. At our cooking class at the Hill Center on Capitol Hill this past Saturday, we prepared and ate a few of these types of tamales and accompanying sauces. New Mexico chicken tamales with red chile sauce, Mississippi Delta barbecued pork tamales, and Caribbean tamales, or pasteles which are made with a dough of pureed yucca, calabaza squash and plantains steamed in banana leaves. Tamales, and pasteles are a wonderful “community food”, that are economical, best prepared and cooked by a group, and when eaten like opening a present whether wrapped in corn husk, banana leaf or parchment paper.”

tamale_class_dec2013

Those who braved the winter weather were rewarded with a plethora of tasty tamales and went home with full bellies (and the recipes). For more information on tamales and other foods of the Mississippi Delta region, check out the Southern Foodways Alliance website and interactive map.

Slow Food DC Fundraiser at Open Kitchen

Say Happy Birthday to Open Kitchen, and help raise funds for Slow Food DC! Open Kitchen is a 2012 and 2013 Snail of Approval Winner, and is known for its contemporary American cuisine and passion for making, eating, and sharing good food with the community. Open Kitchen celebrates their four-year anniversary by giving back to its community that has made it so popular
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Don’t forget to celebrate!

What better way to wrap up an early autumn weekend than with a pig roast and handmade ice cream sandwiches? Add the company of good folks and you’ve got yourself the third annual SFDC Snail of Approval awards party.

Sometimes in the midst of planning and advocating and organizing, some of us forget to take a breath and remember what Slow Food is all about, so Sunday was a nice opportunity to kick back for a change and just enjoy exceptional food and people.

This weekend’s Snail awards party was once again a stellar affair. The beautiful weather and courtyard set the perfect scene for a delightful and laid back afternoon. Sure, there were the official words of appreciation and handing out of awards and group photo taking, but the bulk of our time was spent milling about, chatting with new and returning Snail awardees while sipping on specialty cocktails and Brooklyn brews, and nibbling on a delectable assortment of seasonal treats prepared by the culinary geniuses at Jackson 20. I myself had a lovely time hanging out with area foodies and the folks who run some of my favorite eateries, farms, and farmers’ markets around town. It was awesome.

Even so, I thought to myself as I went back for a second helping of lamb and winter squash tacos, there have been a few places I have discovered since Snail nominations closed this year — folks who have been bringing good, clean, and fair food (and drink) to the DC area that have only recently appeared on my radar. I hope to see some of their faces here *next* year for the annual gala. I do love to celebrate…. When do the 2014 nominations start??

 

Snail of Approval Party Update

seal2With under a week to go until the Snail of Approval Awards Party, we have an exciting line up of chefs, farmers, and artisans to add to the growing roster. This unique event is an opportunity to mix and mingle with the individuals dedicated to shaping our food community.  There will also be a silent auction with fabulous gifts from local shops, artisans and restaurants, some of which include items from Le Creuset, FRESHFARM Markets, and the Kennedy Center. So get your tickets while you can!

Chef Brian McPherson, the executive chef at Jackson 20, was the executive sous chef at Poste Moderne Brasserie, where we held the Snail of Approval Launch Party in 2010 and the first Award Party in 2011. Chef Brian and his team have worked to create a delicious menu utilizing locally sourced products including a whole hog barbeque which is donated by 2012 Snail winner, Longview Farm which will be accompanied by coleslaw and house made biscuits.  September is the perfect time of year for drinks and a pig roast!

MENU:

Appetizers

Vegetable Crudités
Charcuterie Board (house made by Jackson 20)
Assortment of Cheeses
Southern Field Pea Hummus with Fry Bread
Farm Fresh Deviled Eggs

Featured Items

Whole Hog Barbeque (Longview Farms)
Coleslaw
Biscuits
Late Summer / Early Fall Squash
Lamb, Goat, and Vegetarian Tacos
Garden Salsas

Dessert

Ice Cream Sandwiches (Moorenko’s)
Seasonal Cobbler

Beverages

Cocktails, Wine and Beer (Brooklyn Brewery)

For more information on the Snail of Approval program and to see prior winners please visit us at http://www.slowfooddc.org/snail-of-approval/.

A special thanks to one of our sponsors, Brooklyn Brewery  who will be in Washington DC  from Sept. 17-22 as part of their National “Brooklyn Brewery Mash” tour.   For information on the week long events, visit:  http://brooklynbrewerymash.com/washington-dc#!/event-88

“The Mash is an expression of Brooklyn art, music, food and the cultural links we see with many cities around the world,” says Brooklyn Brewery President & Co-founder Steve Hindy. “There is a revolution happening in the world of food and the world of beer, and we are happy to celebrate this revolution with our friends around the US.”

Join us to honor and celebrate the 2013 Snail of Approval winners!