Amazing Slow Food Congress

Joined May 14, 2001
I just returned from last week's Slow Food Leaders' Congress, and I had promised you all a report.

What an amazing, life-affirming weekend. My wife Kim and I began the weekend on Friday with a spectacular meal at Oliveto in Oakland (put the place on your "don't miss" list). Chef/co-owner Paul Bertolli prepares what many consider to be the best Italian food in the Bay area, and that's saying something because there is a lotof Italian food out there. Berolli worked many years with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse (more on her and that magical place in a moment).

Leaders from all over the country, nearly every Convivium, met at the Hyatt Regency on the Embarcadero, and were bussed to a GORGEOUS ranch in Bolinas. Now, Bolinas is probably the best kept secret in CA, and the residents there will probably hate me for telling you about it ;) . We listened to a natural historian tell us a little about the area, and had introductory speeches from Slow Food USA President Patrick Martins and Slow Food Intl. Founder and President Carlo Petrini. He is truly a dynamic speaker, even through a translator. Actually the two of them made an entertaining team.

The day progressed with open forum discussions about the direction the movement should take, how to protect our non-profit status (Slow Food is a 501-c3 educational organization) and where our priorities should be.

The number one priotrity of Slow Food USA, it was agreed, is education. This includes outreach to farmers and consumers in each convivium's area, as well as more formalized education in the schools.

Lunch and dinner were provided by Chez Panisse. Everything was locally raised and organic, just as you would expect from the great Alice Waters. We had a reception at Opera Point with wines from Mondavi and Matanzas Creek. There was Orchid watermelon aqua fresca, grilled corn with Niloufer's ajwain butter, croutons with anchoïade de croze, roasted almonds and olives.

Dinner was soupe au pistou; king salmon grilled in a fig leaf with pepper relish; spit roasted pigs stuffed with wild fennel, garlic and hot pepper; Warm Banana Fingerling potatoes with purslane; Mesclun salad; cheeses (including an awesome blue from Point Reyes) with walnu bread; Fruit tarts and lemon verbena ice cream.

Upon completion of this meal, my table was bussed by Alice Waters. This made me feel as if I were taking batting practice and Sammy Sosa was shagging balls in right.

The following morning we had a great breakfast at Hawthorne Lane, a beautiful restaurant off Mission St. ( This was followed by a stirring performance by author/poet/farmer/father David Mas Masumoto, who wrote "Epitaph for a Peach" among other fantastic books. He read from it and from "Harvest Son", then followed this with a very stirring poem he wrote about a hailstorm hitting his orchard just before harvest. Any of you who are farmers know that a hailstorm is just about the worst thing that can happen in an orchard. What made this very touching poem even more so was that he performed on the Japanese "Taiko" drums with his 15-year-old daughter, Nikiko, while he read the poem. In case you're unfamiliar, "Taiko" is an ancient form of Japanese drumming that is half music and half martial art - very dramatic. The pounding of the drums felt as if the hailstorm was there in the room with us.

To learn more about Mas, visit his website at But if you really want to know him, eat one of his Suncrest peaches, which he served to us that day, and are in season right now. The flavor, texture, and sweetness are unequaled in any peach, perhaps any fruit, I have ever eaten. All you pros out there may want to talk to "Roots and Fruits" in MN about ordering them. (

The Suncrest Peach is a Slow Food USA Ark product, and the Ark project is one of the items we discussed at length during the Congress. The Ark is probably the most important thing Slow Food does. It is designed to preserve food products that are in danger of extinction due to the indusrialization and standardization of taste. The Ark seeks to protect them from the torrent of fast food and genetic erosion by building connections between the farmers & artisans who produce them and the consumers who appreciate them. Here at Slow Food Iowa, we are working on including the "Hawkeye" Apple, predecessor of today's "delicious" (from back when it deserved the name).

The first Slow Food USA Leaders' Congress was a smashing success, inspiring all of us to continue the struggle, as it were, for the right to and defense of PLEASURE!

For those who would like to see pictures or get more details, the new edition of my newsletter should be up this weekend. I'll drop another note here under this heading when it is.

"We are all going tho the same place - why not go there slowly?" -Carlo Petrini
Joined Jul 31, 2000

Thank you so much for detailing your wonderful expreances at the slow food leaders conference.

I totally enjoyed reading about it and really felt your passion.

To be around so many people devoted to the pleasure of slow food,people concerned and united to protect the foods we eat must be incrdible,and to have Alice Waters bus your table must have been a little feather in your cap :)

Thanks for sharing.

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