As you may have realized, the Accidental Locavore was recently in Providence, Rhode Island. Part of it was work and part of it was more work, if you can call it that. I was invited to the first Taste Trekker’s Conference, which was being held there. The purpose of it was to tempt people who travel for food (isn’t that all of us?) with destinations and cuisines near and far. Why Providence? Travel & Leisure named it America’s favorite city for food and drink.
It was a three-day event, but I was only able to attend the Saturday events. It started with a welcome address from Providence’s mayor, who amazingly gave everyone not only his Twitter handle, but his cell phone number! Can you imagine Nanny Bloomberg doing the same?
We then broke into smaller groups for a series of seminars. The first one was watching a lamb being broken down (butchered). It was surprisingly educational to see where everything comes from and I’m always fascinated by professionals with great knife skills (yeah, I know — practice, practice, practice). As he worked, Chef Speidel also explained how he tries to mix the various parts of the lamb when he serves it, so there’s no waste. The lambs came from North Star Sheep Farm which happens to be on the way to my parent’s house in Maine, so there may be a new stop on our next trip.
The next seminar was equally interesting — a look at a local charcuterie producer, Daniele. Did you have any idea that somewhere in Rhode Island there are 250,000 prosciuttos (prosciutti?) aging? Along with the prosciutto, this family business makes a variety of sausages and salamis from family recipes brought over during WWII. All were delicious and well worth seeking out.
Funnily enough, my least favorite seminar was the most educational. Tim Brown told us about his adventures in Madagascar at the chocolate plantation. After more of a (boring) slide show about growing cacao and the people involved, I was regretting my choice until we started tasting the chocolate. Much like wine tasting, Tim taught us the proper way to taste and evaluate chocolate, a skill which came in handy when Julie and I did our tasting.
After the seminars, we got to mingle and feast on a large variety of food and purveyors. I was delighted to meet the owners of Narragansett Creamery (the makers of the amazing ricotta in the ravioli at Gracie’s). Speaking of ravioli, there was also pasta to be tasted from one of our friend’s favorite places in Providence, Venda Ravioli.
With all that food tasted, it was no surprise that I didn’t have enough of an appetite for a big dinner at Pot au Feu later. I’m hoping that this first Taste Trekker’s Conference was a success and can’t wait for next year’s! I’ll travel for food anytime, won’t you?