I spent my Labor Day weekend up in San Francisco, trying to see how exactly one passes the message of “good, clean, and fair” onto the city that practically invented ethical eating. The result was Slow Food Nation: a gourmet food fair with a very important message—which was pretty well buried within wordy signs, handouts, and impossible-to-get-into speaker panels. That being said, it was a lively celebration of good food and the talented people that make/grow/craft it.
The three-day festival was separated into a number of different elements. The main focus seemed to be the Taste Pavilions—an event hall at Fort Mason with everyone from dairy farmers and tea importers to bakers and gin distillers handing out samples of their products in the context of Slow food. Sort of.
A cool $60 ticket got you inside, and earned you 20 “Slow Dough” to be exchanged for food and drink. The exact value of a Slow buck was unclear (two got you a few sticks dipped in honey, while three got you a huge plate of artisanal cheeses). The ticket price limited the demographic to what you would expect: mostly white, upper middle class folks who fancy themselves foodies, and what felt like a who’s who of the Bay Area food scene.
Among the vendors:
-A charcuterie station with some mind-blowing mortadella and sauerkraut.
-A collaboration of chefs, including the guys behind Oakland’s Pizzaiolo, turning out wood fired pizzas that put Mozza to shame. Seriously.
-An outdoor beer garden pouring close to 100 small-batch brews. For this, you should be jealous.
(Early on the pizza guys and the beer guys worked out a sort of mutually beneficial arrangement—all in the name of Slow Food I’m sure)
-About 90 more organic and biodynamic wines than was possible to keep track of. The massive selection kinda overshadowed the point.
-A pickle and chutney area offering up the spiciest pickle I’ve ever had. That’s one hot pickle!
Each booth within the pavilion was cleverly constructed using recycled materials and, was designed to be both cute and informative. But most of the volunteers didn’t know anything about the products beyond what was in the brochure. Ask a hard question, you aren’t getting an answer. It all reminded me of what it was like going to a public high school: If you were hell-bent on getting yourself a good education, it was there waiting for you. But you could also spend four years downing Mountain Dew in the hallway and still walk out with a three-point.
If you didn’t go out of your way to stop and read the signs or the paperwork, it would be hard to distinguish this from any other fancy food fair. …Granted, one with mud ovens and Oaked Arrogant Bastard and quite possibly the best pizza I’ve ever had. For reals.
Coming Soon: The Victory Garden, the Slow Market, and Slow on the Go. More pics below.
The line for the Best Pizza Ever. Mmmm…pizza….
A tiny excerpt of the beer menu. Mmmm…beer menu….