I recently joined Slow Food USA. If you are not familiar with the Slow Food movement, their website (here) says it best: "Slow Food is an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. Slow Food USA seeks to create dramatic and lasting change in the food system. We reconnect Americans with the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food. We inspire a transformation in food policy, production practices and market forces so that they ensure equity, sustainability and pleasure in the food we eat."
When you join the National Slow Food group, you can then connect with your local chapter, (there are over 200 chapters all over the US as well as many chapters all over the world), and take part in events in your area. My local chapter, Slow Food Oahu seems to be a very active one, especially since my friend Michelle, The Accidental Scientist, has become the Event Coordinator for the group and there are lots of interesting events planned for this summer. Although the events are open to non-members, being a member gets you a discount on the event cost and the dues support this worthwhile group.
My first event as a member was one of those amazing and unique experiences that don't come along very often. As a fundraiser for Slow Food Oahu, Jeanne Vana, the owner of North Shore Farms, graciously opened her farm to us for a luncheon in the tomato patch featuring local and sustainable food with wine pairings and an opportunity to do a little U-pick of some of their items after the lunch. North Shore Farms is a boutique grower of specialty crops, such as tomatoes, flowers, heirloom beans, squash and other items. I am a weekly customer at the KCC Farmer's Market, where they offer their produce, as well as fabulous products made with their bounty, (like their homemade pizza by the slice).
After a beautiful drive along the North Shore, to an area I had never been before, we ended up at their farm. They had set up tables and umbrellas right in the middle of the tomato patch so we had a gorgeous setting with the farm and the mountains behind. The tables were set up with bright cloths and an assortment of china. We brought our own chairs and drinking water, and everything else was provided.
The luncheon featured North Shore Farms products, as well as the best ingredients that the North Shore has to offer from other local purveyors, such as farm raised local Tilapia and North Shore Cattle Company Beef. In addition to the menu, some of the Slow Foods members made dishes using Jeanne's tomatoes and beans for everyone to try. It was basically a tasting menu with little portions of lots of things, and everything was served family style, off of big hand-painted platters.Our North Shore Regional Menu:
North Shore Tomato Sampler, Pickled Beans and Tomatoes, Tomato Preserves, (made by Debbie, one of the members), Mediterranean Pasta with Feta and Tomatoes, (Made by Kai using some of her own Kaiulani Spice mixes), Fresh Tomato Juice.
Chilled Roasted Tomato Bell Pepper Soup
Chilled Roasted Tomato Bell Pepper Soup
Sauteed Chard with Bacon and Pickled Onions
North Shore Cattle Co. Steak,
Grilled Waialua Vegetables,
Heirloom Shell Beans Sampler (made by Gayle, one of the members).
Green Tomato Pie with Macadamia Nut Ice-Cream
Waialua Chocolate-Dipped Tomatoes
The food was delicious, the company great, and the setting unbelievable. It was a slightly cloudy and overcast day with a breeze, making the temperature perfect for an outdoor lunch. After lunch we got to U-pick beans and other items.
I gathered up some bright tomatoes and a small cantaloupe about the size of a grapefruit, (Jeanne is experimenting with growing smaller melons--perfect for me!),
Then I picked some borlotti (or cranberry) beans.
Since I had such a time finding them several months ago for a Tyler Florence recipe, it seemed only fitting to choose them to pick!
There were plenty more bean varieties and other things to pick, but it had been a long day for me already with an early breakfast, and a quick dash to Waikiki for some last minute souvenir shopping before dropping my friend Rene at the airport and jetting out to the lunch, so with a full tummy and heart, I was more than ready to head for home.
Talk about "Farm to Table", eating locally and knowing exactly where your food comes from! This was a fun and educational experience that made the delicious meal all the better by seeing and understanding the work and care that went into it. It was a perfect afternoon!
(Unfortunately, my melon seemed to have a mini-cave in overnight and was not as firm and edible as I would have liked, but I will post what I make with the tomatoes and the beans.)