Tag Archives: food education

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!

Snail Winner Catoctin Creek is Raising the Standard of Rye, Locally and Sustainably

About 20 Slow Food DC members and friends took advantage of a warm spring evening on April 29 to visit Snail of Approval winner Catoctin Creek for an exclusive, hands-on cocktail making class and distillery tour.  The first distillery to operate in Loudoun County since Prohibition, Catoctin is making a big name for itself with its award winning craft spirits and community-driven approach.  Located in a former car dealership in the heart of Purvellville, VA, our group was warmly welcomed with a cocktail made from Mosby’s Spirit, Catoctin’s version of white whisky.  

This refresher prepared us for the distillery tour portion of the evening, during which our kilt-wearing guide Jonathan introduced us to the two stills responsible for producing all of the company’s spirits:  Barney and Ron Swanson.  Barney apparently gained his purple hue fromdistilling pear brandy and Ron, well, he’s just a whisky-loving type of guy.  Committed to producing spirits from locally sourced and organic ingredients, all of Catoctin’s whisky – as well as their gin – is produced using 100% organic rye. 

If you’re wondering how gin snuck into a rye whisky producer’s rotation, know that it’s all part of Catoctin’s plan to be a zero waste facility.  By redistilling the byproduct of the whisky making process (the “tails,” for you hard-core distillers) with traditional gin botanicals, such as juniper, citrus, and coriander, Catoctin produces a smooth and lovely gin that started from rye mash. 

After distillation, Catoctin’s Roundstone whisky is aged for just under two years in new white new oak barrels from Minnesota, lending the spirit a dark caramel color and deep flavor and aroma.  Whisky that is not barrel-aged is bottled as Mosby’s Spirit. Sustainability is in practice at this stage as well.  Each run through the still produces enough spirit to exactly fill one barrel.  Catoctin also readily supplies spent whisky mash to local farms, and sells used whisky barrels to beer distillers. 

After the tour, our group sidled up to the horseshoe-shaped bar where our bartender Chad gave a brief and illuminating history of how rye became the grain of choice in early American cocktails.  Although early settlers to the area attempted to grow crops they were familiar with at home, rye was one of the few that flourished in the warm, muggy region of Virginia.

Armed with jiggers and cocktail shakers, Chad then guided us through the process of recreating a few of these early American, rye-based cocktails with Catoctin’s signature Roundstone Rye and Watershed Gin.  Despite some shaky pouring skills, Catoctin’s expertly crafted spirits helpful guides ensured we couldn’t fail to make some superb cocktails. 

The next time you’re in Loudoun County, stop by Catoctin’s welcoming facility for a visit or even better, sign up for one of the distillery’s many events. We’re already looking forward to our next visit!

 

Why Do We Need To Support the Slow Food Movement?

Apr. 6, 2016

Slow Food USA

As children, we have all heard the proverb slow and steady wins the race, and enjoyed the epic anecdote that goes with it.  Speaking of childhood, it makes us nostalgic to think of all those lousy days when all that was required of us was to giggle with anyone and everyone, play around, and have our glass of milk.  Life was slow, but simple and happy. What went wrong?

Thank Heavens, there still are people who work solely to remind the world to sit back, have a glass of fresh milk, and enjoy good, natural food without a care in the world.  There are people who extend their unconditional love and care to the degraded, global south humans and other deploring species that share the planet with us; all this, by reviving faith in good, clean, and fair food. Slow Food, we owe you!

Operation Falafel and Slow Food’s share a mutual love for

  • preserving old age traditions
  • cultural food
  • sustainable food production
  • valuing grassroots constituents

It has brought the two together on this emergent global bereave.  The fast food culture has gashed numerous cultural strings which linked us to our purer, cleaner past.

As a prompt amendment, we must introduce to the world “Slow Food,” as a means of bringing humans together, conserving biodiversity, and transitioning our lifestyles from fast and furious to slow and steady.

Slow Food Movement is exactly the Good Samaritan our bruised Earth needed.  Present Earthlings better succumb to its terms and conditions and get in line to sign up if they wish to leave convivial home for future baby Earthlings. Why?

Here’s why:

It’s a Slow Movement

What is slow and gradual stays for longer.  We don’t ask for bloody revolutions to fill that hole up in the Ozone layer.  We don’t ask for fast paced internet lives to connect the world.

We ask for backyard food tastings and low-key meet ups where people from all ethnic and national backgrounds are invited to share their views on conserving biodiversity and defending bees.

Vegetable Soup

Slow Food is a Healthy Alternative to Fast Food

When you think of fast food, the daunting images of burgers, deep fryers, and obesity cloud your mind, don’t they?  As a solution to these nightmares, we suggest you move onto fresh farm food and traditional street food.  Not just adopt it as a lifestyle, but also promote and preserve it as a cause.

Vegetables

Slow Food Cares for the Earth

Dear planet Earth,

We, Earthlings, are extremely sorry for turning you into a trashcanAs a result, we humans suffer losses and near our extinction with each species we lose and each gallon on carbon we expel into the air.

However, we are working to fix that.  Slow Food is very vigilant about climatic havocs.  It is taking steps to improve industrial food production process, and curtail mindless exploitation and exhaustion of natural resources.

Root Vegetables

Slow Food is Animal Friendly

When we say animals, we refer to all species biologically considered animals and not just humans.

Slow Food ensures that all animals that contribute to our daily meals live and die with as little pain and fear as possible.  They are constantly shedding sweat, blood, and tears to get this ideology viral globally.

These kind people are raising their voices for a number of causes that interlink food and people.  Below are some of the many people’s problems Slow Food takes under its wing:

Garden
  • the land grabbing prevalent in global south countries
  • protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of family farms
  • bringing biodiversity through restoring the cultures and customs of indigenous people
  • registering concern and disapproval for GM food and GMOs
  • convincing EU into coming up with more holistic food and farming policies that, above all, go in line with the interests of the people and the Earth

Slow Food is Educating the World

A major part of all campaigns and conferences, Slow Food designates some time in making people understand how their food comes into being.  This initiative urges one to reflect upon how easily we cast away uneaten food as waste; the very food which was made available to us after hefty, tiring hours of cultivating, cooking, and processing.

Vegetable Basket

Not only do they make people realize this global fault, but also work towards seeking solutions for it.

Slow Food Knows and Respects the People Who Farm our Food

Food and Taste Education also specifically mentions where and by whom our easy, canned food was first cared for.  This helps develop a beautiful link among cultures and people, and shows how our food choices impact the lives of people living oceans apart from us.

Slow Food is among the pioneering world saver organizations.  Operation Falafel feels great pride in befriending this association of merry convivium working towards making this world a better place.

 Thankfully, we are somewhat doing our bit in saving mother Earth, are you?

(Photo Credits: Shutterstock)

Rachel Stinson

Rachel Stinson

Dubai

An avid reader and writer, love music and movies.

“I like cous cous, I like cilantro!” — Inspired food education in Southeast DC

Last weekend marked the annual Slow Food DC community potluck. In addition to the usual array of friendly people and delicious food which I’ve come to expect at these sorts of things, I had the pleasure of meeting a number of folks I somehow hadn’t crossed paths with before… one of whom warmly welcomed me to her preschool class to speak a bit about Slow Food and sit in on a food education session. Yes, food education classes for 3 and 4-year olds! I was intrigued, having never worked with such a young age group before myself. (You see, most food education programs, such as they are, begin with 3rd graders.) So this past Wednesday, I headed out to Patterson Elementary. What I discovered was simply fantastic.

After I introduced the idea of “slow food” — taking the time to share ideas over homemade meals — and encouraged the youngsters to share their favorite foods to make and eat with friends and family, Vera (or as she is known to students, Auntie Oye) asked the student chefs who’d helped to prepare the day’s snack of fruit salad and guacamole to name some of the ingredients. “Cilantro!” I heard. “Apples!” “Raisins!” “Yoghurt!” A 3-year-old that can identify cilantro? These kids were good. After snack, it was time for the day’s special guest, Chef Herb, who along with his technical work as a Nutrition Educator at UDC also happens to be a food sculptor.

I was as intrigued as the kids as he proceeded to show us a wide variety of animals made out of fresh fruits and vegetables: a pear parakeet on a grape and cantaloupe swing, a mango and orange squirrel, a kiwi fruit and kale bat. To my amazement, students collaboratively were able to name nearly every fruit and vegetable on the table. (None of that “can’t identify tomatoes not in ketchup form” for these smart young students!) Class ended with Chef Herb carving a watermelon rose right before our eyes. As he worked, students clapped, danced, and sang along to a song whose refrain was, I was tickled to learn, “I like cous cous, I like cous cous!” Some of the kids were really belting it out, too. As we chatted afterwards on our way back to Northwest DC, Vera insisted that the success of the program at the school was due in large part to the ongoing enthusiasm of Ms. Murphy and Ms. Pringle who work with the kids at the school, reinforcing the ideas and positive health habits daily.

I left with a big smile on my face, hopeful that folks like Vera — Culinary Storyteller and Nutrition Educator with UDC herself — can reach more groups like this. I should mention that she’s always on the lookout for guest chefs and speakers to help get her proteges excited about fresh foods and healthy living….