Exploring the Fish Pepper’s Deep and Delicious Roots

On March 30, more than 50 food and garden lovers reveled in the first signs of spring and lounged on picnic benches decorated with cherry blossom bouquets at Common Good City Farm, while SFDC Board member and local food historian Mark Haskell and Soilful City‘s founder Xavier Brown expounded on the incredible local history of fish chilies.

Attendees learned about the Caribbean heritage of these Slow Food Ark of Taste peppers, their connection to enslaved people of the Chesapeake, and why they are called fish chilies in the first place. Xavier also introduced his business and let us try his DC-grown and produced Pippin hot sauce using fish chiles — a varietal that honors Philadelphia-area artist, historian and health advocate Horace Pippin. We learned how Xavier’s program works with community members all around the DC area to produce these delectable hot peppers, which are made into a variety of small-batch hot sauces.

After the official talk, we all dove into a feast, including big pots of traditional Baltimore fish stew, featuring, of course, a healthy dose of fish chilies. (I think we all went back for seconds…because slow foodies know that the best way to preserve culturally significant foods is to grow and eat them!) What a beautiful, educational, and delicious afternoon.

Now that spring has sprung, be on the lookout for other outdoor events coming soon. Sign yourself up for our free monthly newsletter and/or follow SFDC on social media to learn the latest!

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

Feb 25: Celebrate with the newest Snail of Approval winners

Join Slow Food DC on Monday, February 25 to honor and celebrate our 2018 Snail of Approval winners! Thanks to your nominations, we’re recognizing 14 additional restaurants, producers, farmers, and distillers for their commitment to support good, clean, and fair food in our region.

Come out to enjoy delicious and seasonally-inspired food and drink provided by 2016 Snail winner Urbana Dining & Drinks, while you mix and mingle with others dedicated to shaping our food community. There will also be a silent auction featuring food-related items, and other surprises from our local food purveyors.

Tickets are available here, with early bird pricing through February 10.

Congratulations to this year’s Snail of Approval 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
The Salt Line

For more information on the Snail of Approval program, and to see a complete list of winners, check out: http://www.slowfooddc.org/snail-of-approval/.

Update on the 2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill passed was signed into law on December 20, 2018 – nearly three months after the last farm bill had expired. The farm bill, despite the name, actually covers nearly all things farm and food related, and affects each of us in some pretty big ways. One thing residents of the DMV might be excited to know is that the new bill creates an “Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative” competitive grants program with $10 million in funding. The bill also instructs USDA to create a new “Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Forms of Production” — a 10-pilot Urban and Suburban County Committee — as well as a community compost and reducing food waste pilot.

The farm bill affects how Americans farm and who has access to resources, nutrition and anti-hunger programs, farmers markets and local food systems, and so much more! Right now, however, we’re in limbo until the partial government shutdown ends. Once the government is back in business, USDA will start the rule-making and implementation phases – we know that sounds boring, but it’s actually very important! This part of the process is where stakeholders like you get additional chances to weigh in and shape things by submitting formal comments and recommendations. For new programs (like the aforementioned urban agriculture initiatives), this kind of engagement can be particularly important!

For the latest Farm Bill analysis, news, and engagement opportunities, we recommend these great resources: 

 

Seasonal Recipe: Winter Fruit Torte

This recipe, from the Bread and Beauty cookbook, celebrates the simple and subtle flavors of winter fruit. All 120 recipes in the book are arranged by season, reflecting the way local food is available and when it is most delicious. Each chapter includes profiles of the farmers, producers, and people who make the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve an active and meaningful place, along with essays on the Reserve’s issues and history.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 ripe pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 3 TBSP white sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sweet white wine

Cake

 

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 11 TBSP unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 10 TBSP sweet wine

Preheat oven to 325˚F.

Butter and flour a 9-inch springform cake pan. Wrap it in foil or set it on a jelly roll pan to catch any leaks. Set aside.

To make the filling, toss the fruit slices with the sugar, cream, and wine. Set aside.

To make the cake, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fully blended. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl to make sure they are completely incorporated. Fold in half of the flour mixture, then blend in the wine, and then the remaining flour to make a smooth batter.

Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan and spread the fruit mixture and some of its liquid on top. Spoon the remaining batter as evenly as possible on top (it will smooth and expand as the cake bakes) and trickle on the remaining cream.

Bake for one and a half hours, until the cake is risen, browned, and a cake tester comes out clean. Run a knife between the cake and the pan to loosen the cake. Let it cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes and then unmold.

You Need a Farmer Three Times a Day

“A guy was just trying to buy some organ meats. I figured he must be part of your Slow Food group,” smiled farmer Greg as he welcomed us to Rocklands Farm this past Saturday.

Around 10:30am — yes, on a Saturday morning! — 20 or so fans of local food gathered to begin a walking tour and introduction to the regenerative farming practices of the Poolesville area family farm. In a fun and engaging way, Greg gave us the rundown on his farm’s philosophy and practices. He explained that cultivating an appreciation for nature and a sense of wonder, and later a reverence for good food (even if it’s only one out of every 5 or 10 meals in our busy lives), will lead the next generation to become the environmental stewards we need to keep our planet healthy.

As Greg spoke of his early experiences in Kenya connecting farming and community, he explained the philosophy of what they are attempting to do at Rocklands. Immersive regenerative agriculture is a step beyond sustainable farming: it creates more for the next generation, not just maintaining the assets of the land but leaving the land better. The Rocklands team utilizes the concept of bio mimicry — the way that plants and animals naturally interact and thrive — to graze cattle, sheep, and chickens using minimal infrastructure and capitalizing on animals’ instincts to roam, scratch, eat a variety of grasses or bugs, and stay in groups. The resulting land is lush and fertile, and just a single acre of the 70-acre farm can absorb a LOT of rainwater — 20,000 gallons, in fact, after a solid 1-inch of rainfall. We need more of these kinds of farms (and farmers) in this age of climate change, declining green spaces, and increasingly heavy storms!

After the walking tour, we were invited indoors to a feast of a lunch, sourced from Rocklands and nearby farms and inventively prepared by Chef Michael of Pizza Brama, accompanied by Rocklands’ own wines. While he apparently makes a killer pizza, our tastebuds were first wowed by Chef Michael’s seasonal appetizers including shaved radish, fennel, and kohlrabi salad with a honey tarragon vinaigrette; roasted brussels sprouts and carrots with sage and garlic; and a mushroom medley featuring lion’s mane, oyster, and maitakes tossed with parsley, arugula, and a sherry-lemon vinaigrette. The gustatory delights continued with a kale-arugula lasagne and a Rocklands lamb lasagne. As we nibbled, Michael waxed poetic about his love for quality ingredients and the relationships he’s built with local producers. “You need a doctor once a year, but you need a farmer three times a day. Think about that.” We did. And then had a second helping.

Some of us managed to save room for the apple spice layer cake, loaded with sauteed apples, mascarpone whipped cream, and cranberry preserves. As we poured a bit more wine and lamented that we hadn’t saved quite enough room in our bellies to eat an entire slice of the decadent dessert, we were treated to a discussion with Claudia and Ellen, who had put together a beautiful book based around their experiences at the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve. More than just a cookbook, Bread & Beauty traces some of the Reserve’s history, but also the contemporary challenges faced by family farms trying to establish a new generation, new farmers seeking land and markets, and the shared community efforts required to preserve this special place. Many of us left with signed copies of the book… and a plate of layer cake for the road. A delightful end to a wonderful event.

Many thanks to the team that put together this beautiful, informative, and delicious event! For more upcoming Rocklands events, check out their calendar here.

Seasonal Recipe: Pumpkin Curry

FoodPrints, the educational program of Snail of Approval recipient FRESHFARM, gets DC public elementary school students excited about growing, preparing, and enjoying fresh, local, healthy foods. What better recipe to celebrate all three – fresh, local, and healthy – than a pumpkin curry? We’re smack dab in the middle of winter squash season, which generally runs from October to December. Pumpkins are nutrient-packed, providing a healthy dose of Vitamins A and C and potassium, not to mention dietary fiber. And they are unquestionably delicious and versatile, as the star ingredient in recipes ranging from pie to this hearty, savory curry. This recipe appears in our November 2018 newsletter.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 medium sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive or coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 2 curry leaves if available (or use 1 tsp curry powder)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 oz. creamed coconut (this is not the same thing as coconut milk!)
  • 1/2 cup hot water

Directions

Peel and remove the seeds from the pumpkin or butternut squash. Cut into 2 inch cubes.

In a heavy bottomed frying pan, over a low heat toast the coconut until lightly browned. Put the garlic, onion, and toasted coconut into a blender and grind into a smooth paste.

In a pan heat the oil, add the mustard seeds and cook covered on a low heat until the seeds sputter. Add the curry leaves, spices, and salt.

Add the coconut paste and the pumpkin to the pan. Lastly add the creamed coconut and the water, bring to a rapid boil.

Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice.

Terra Madre Celebrates Good, Clean, Fair Food for All

First launched in 1996, Terra Madre Salone del Gusto is one of the world’s most important events dedicated to artisan and small-scale food and wine producers. The art of eating, however, isn’t the only focus of Terra Madre. The event is also an opportunity for producers, consumers, and advocates from across the world to gather together to exchange ideas, challenge preconceived notions, and unite around the common cause of good, clean and fair food for all. Terra Madre 2018 attracted thousands of delegates from over 100 countries across the world, not to mention hundreds of thousands of public visitors!

It was an honor for me to attend this one-of-a-kind event as a delegate on behalf of Slow Food DC. Though I had many amazing experiences, my two favorites were those that fostered a sense of unity and connection  – with both the food and one another. Coincidentally, these were also the first and last events of my Terra Madre experience! The first was a bike ride through Torino hosted by the University of Gastronomic Sciences (aka “Slow Food University”). On this culinary tour of the city, we had the experience to eat some of Torino’s best artisanal foods and meet the hardworking producers who make it all possible! It was also an excellent opportunity to learn more about the history of Torino and meet many other fellow slow foodies. 

The last event of my Terra Madre experience was a true honor: experiencing baru gong yang –a meditative way of eating with gratitude in the Buddhist temple – with famous Buddhist nun Venerable Jeong Kwan. By eating in silence and focusing only on the simple yet delicious food before us, this experience allowed everyone involved to fully digest their Terra Madre experience and all they had learned from Jeong Kwan about the intersection of food, faith, and meditation. 

To see photos from Terra Madre – including photos from the Torino culinary bike tour – check out our Facebook Album

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.