Slow Food Columbus: Snails Slide South
Posted by cmh gourmand on November 13, 2008
At some time or another, a food blogger will beg forgiveness for not posting or not posting well. That time has come for me. (CMH Gourmand is a pro bono blog). I have been swamped professionally and personally – mostly for the good… I think : >, for several months. So I ran away to San Diego for the Food and Wine Festival to get caught up on my writing in between meals.
On November 2, eighteen members of Slow Food Columbus headed to tour Athens. The trip was coordinated by members Alyssa, Liesl, and Arlene. The symbol of Slow Food is a snail. So we called the tour “Snails Slide South”. I’ll take a little credit for the name. I have posted a lot about Athens. I must admit I have always been smitten with Athens, especially the food scene.
So what is Slow Food? A quick answer is it is the opposite of fast food. The general concepts of Slow Food are: knowing where your food comes from, knowing who is growing or preparing it, eating local and seasonal food when possible, and getting to know the people at the table while you enjoy as well as learn about what you eat. Slow Food links well with the Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan posts from a few weeks ago.
A picture is worth a thousand words, Slow Food deserves much more than a sound byte / bite, so I am going to show you my Snails Slide South photos to help explain what the Slow Food is about. We have a very active chapter in Columbus with over 90 members. Check out the Slow Food Columbus blog to learn more about upcoming events and how to become a member.
Another benefit of Slow Food is fine friendships. I have the honor to call the Columbus Convivium leaders Colleen and Bear Braumoeller my friends and co-conspirators. Colleen has started working at the Greener Grocer at the North Market which is a natural extension of Slow “Fooding”. See Colleen below doing some Slow Food / Greener Grocer field research.
My best Brit, Bethia, aka Hungry Woolf is a member as well. She writes excellent posts about many of the Slow Food events and eating adventures.
Our first Stop was Village Bakery (268 East State Street).
We started with brunch, basking in the sun on the patio of Village Bakery’s night time pizza place – Del Zona Pizza.
I opted for the Huevos Rancheros.
In between good food and conversation, we had the opportunity to hear from the people behind the counter at Village Bakery. We learned about their business, food philosophy and how they connect with the community. We were also able to ask questions and sample some of their baked goods. Village Bakery was packed with people waking up from Halloween the night before so our speakers alternated with each other so they could cover the kitchen.
It was a pleasure to met with Christine Hughes, the owner of Village Bakery. She is a prime mover in the Athens food scene. She is also growing the Green Plate Club to help improve school lunches and food education in Athens schools.
Christine then headed with us to Green Edge Gardens about 15 minutes outside of Athens for a farm tour. We toured the growing area for their multiple varieties of mushrooms (which are used at several of my favorite restaurants in Columbus). Christine helped us understand the connections between local farms and business.
We then moved on to see their microgreens (as seen with my Huevos Rancheros).
I encountered something I had never seen before, this plant with the colorful off shoots is called Freckles.
We wrapped up with a tour of the fields to learn about the variety of crops Green Edge grows as well as the innovative techniques they use to produce their mostly organic produce through Ohio’s often variable four seasons.
After the farm it was back to Athens to visit Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery, for a microbrewery tasting and tour.
Jackie O’s brewer, Brad Clark, poured through their microbrewed beers, offering samples of each and telling us the story of how each beer came to life, often with the addition of local ingredients.
We also had an opportunity to eat an example of Slow Food in action. Jackie O’s incorporates spent wheat used in brewing into their house made pizzas.
Bear, is our bourbon expert. He does not have much affinity for beer in his spirit world. However, he discovered a Bear friendly beer at Jackie O’s – Joe the Plum.
Hmm, looking at the ingredients it is easy to see how this beer has courted Bear’s taste. Joe the Plum is an excellent example of Slow Food in action. The wee comes from Village Bakery. The mix is soured with local micro flora. The 10.5% alcohol content might help a bit as well. However, I believe the key to the magic the brew brings to Bear is it’s aging process. And, the use of the barrel promotes recycling.
After sampling Jackie O’s selections, we were able to go behind the scenes and tap into the brewers knowledge of the beer making process.
At the end of our tour several of us walked to Casa Nueva for a sample of salsas and appetizers before hitting the road back to Columbus.
Many of the Athens restaurant owners and food purveyors grew their roots at Casa Nueva, which is an employee owned cooperative restaurant. Looking at the back of the “Casa” menu, there is a long list of local suppliers. The cooperative mindset continues after people leave Casa to start new businesses. These folks continue to work together to support each others ventures instead of competing for consumer dollars. This is how they are growing sustainable local eating one bite at a time.