After a McDonald’s opened near Rome’s Spanish Steps in 1986, Carolo Petrini founded Slow Food, an international educational association tha has since drawn an international following and the support of a host of partners and advisers, including HRH, the Prince of Wales; star chef Alice Waters; and heirloom seed-historian/preserver, Gary Paul Nabhan. The basic premise of the Slow Food movement, as it’s sometimes called, is to urge people to savor foods slowly and sensuously and to recognize hand-crafted regional foods, high on succulence and tradition, and to support sustainable growing and humane production methods.
On Sunday February 26, two “Winter Food Fare” events take place: one at Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope, and at Tre Piani Restaurant in Forrestal Village. Regional Slow Food chapters will address both cravings with “winter-warming foods” and the Triumph event also will feature a beer tasting. A triad of slow food chapters is spearheading the events — Bucks County; Philadelphia; and Central New Jersey, headed by Tre Piani chef Jim Weaver.
Kimberly Kaufmann, head of the Bucks County Slow Food chapter and wine cellar steward at Rat’s Restaurant in Hamilton, says: “We wanted to create something exciting to do in winter. People don’t realize, there are still many regional foods to be enjoyed in this season.” Kaufmann is especially delighted that Melissa Hamilton, founding editor of Saveur Magazine, will contribute “a big batch of her legendary borscht from local beets.” Melissa comes naturally by her food credentials — her father is Jim Hamilton of Hamilton Grill in Lambertville.
Slow Foods’ 83,000 members seek to inform the world that meats, seafoods, produce, and beverages high in health benefits and taste are everyone’s heritage. The organization — which now has a university in northern Italy, offering programs in the science, history, and communication of foods — keeps a lookout for dangerous dimunition in plant variety and soils rendered increasingly infertile through chemicals and aggressive harvesting. A portion of the two February 26 events’ proceeds will support Slow Food initiatives, such as school gardens, which teach children, especially inner city children, about cultivating and savoring hand-grown vegetables, fruits and herbs.
At Triumph New Hope, director of brewing operations Jay Misson and executive chef Angela Shellenberger have cast their net throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, gathering brews and foods of impeccable origins and hand-crafted processes — the foaming best of local micro-breweries; artisanal cheeses; pristine, even rare seafoods; and the healthiest, heartiest of meats, says Shellenberger, a Culinary Institute of America graduate. “It’s all about winter fare. We’ll be doing cutting edge as well as traditional. Imagination is the key word in our kitchen, creativity a requirement.”
Misson has set aside something unique to mark Ben Franklin’s 300th birthday: Poor Richard’s Ale. “Its 300-year-old recipe is based upon Brewers’ Association research — malt, corn, molasses, and some extracts, as used in Franklin’s day,” he says. Other Triumph New Hope winter specialties include Honey Wheat, its 2005 Gold Medal Winner; Amber Ale, Pilsner, Oatmeal Stout, Bengal Gold India Pale Ale, and Scottish Ale. Misson provides a basic clue to Triumph New Hope’s success: “Well water.” Other breweries involved in the event are Flying Fish, Dogfish Head, General Lafayette Inn & Brewery, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Yards, Sly Fox, and Heavyweight.
Never having met a brewer, I ask Misson for a definition. “Well, in Germany, you have to be licensed as brew-master. In this country, though, it’s more likely in the family. I had a grandfather and a great uncle who brewed beer. So it became my senior chemistry project — at 16, it seemed natural. Then I went to work for a brewer up in Vernon Valley. He was Old School — organically grown hops, malt, barley — the whole route. He would only age in wood.” Since then, Misson has apprenticed with prominent brewers from San Francisco to Germany.
Chef Shellenberger eagerly describes the stations to be set up for the festival. “We’ll cook and carve right in front of guests,” she says. On the menu are Hillside Farms’ Bison Chip Steak from Hillside Farms of Telford, PA, and Griggstown Farm’s famous Poussin, otherwise known as spring chicken. Cape May Salts, Delaware Bay oysters rescued by Slow Foods’ Ark of Taste from the brink of extinction, are worth the admission price all on their own. Other vendors include Rieker Prime Meats of Philadelphia; Bobolink Dairies of Vernon; Valley Shepherd Creamery of Long Valley; A Taste of Philly pretzels of Doylestown; and Badger Bread of Trenton.
The Winter Food Fare event at Tre Piani in Princeton Forrestal Village will offer an array of delicacies including Griggstown Farms’ chicken pot pies, Cherry Grove Farm beef, pork, lamb, and eggs; Oak Shae Farms certified organic dried shitake mushrooms; Muirhead Farms handmade jams and condiments; ARC Greenhouses baby greens and herb; Village Bakery (Lawrenceville) breads and pastries; Valley Shepherd Creamery sheep and cow’s milk cheese and yogurt; Terhune Orchards cider; Hopewelll Valley Vineyards wine; and the Bent Spoon ice cream and handmade gelato. Jim Weaver will give cooking demonstrations, along with Mario Mangone, chef-owner of Chambers Walk in Lawrenceville. Entertainment will be provided by Straight Jazz with John Henry Goldman on keyboards and trumpet.
Above all, Slow Foods is dedicated to expanding diversity in an increasingly homogenized world. Being Italian, Slow Foods founder Petrini has never lost sight of his commitment to the sensuous, to living slower and therefore more harmonious lives. “Conviviality” is the watchword. A 19th century French publication, fittingly titled Le Gourmet, says it best: “Gastronomy is the joy of all situations and of all ages.”
A Winter Slow Food and Beer Tasting, Sunday, February 26, 1 to 4 p.m., Triumph Brewing Company, 400 Union Square in New Hope. Advance tickets $35; $40 at the door . Tickets are available at Triumph in Princeton, 138 Nassau Street, and Triumph New Hope, call 215-862-8300; or visit www.triumphbrewing.com.
Slow Food Winter Food Fare, Sunday, February 26, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tre Piani Ristorante, Princeton Forrestal Village, Plainsboro. Area food producers and restaurant chefs gather with musicians for the inaugural event.