Taste Trekker’s Conference

Accidental Locavore Taste Trekkers ShowAs 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?

Accidental Locavore Lamb DemoWe 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.

Accidental Locavore Slicing ProscuittoFunnily 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.

Accidental Locavore Proscuitto and MozzarellaAfter 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?



How To Taste Chocolate

by Anne Maxfield on October 21, 2013

Accidental Locavore Kallari ChocolateNow that the Accidental Locavore has her tasting partner, Julie Flanders, we’ve moved on from croissants to everyone’s favorite – chocolate. Spurred on by a wonderful selection sent to me from Kallari and a lesson in chocolate tasting at the recent Taste Trekkers conference (more about that soon), we decided to put some chocolate to the test.

For the sake of diversity (hey, that’s our story and we’re sticking to it) we sat down one morning with the three Kallari samples, 70% cacao, 75% and 85%, along with an organic Green & Black’s and the remains of the samples we had at the conference. The Kallari is also organic, and the company a farmer-owned cooperative in Ecuador.

What Tim Brown taught us at the conference was similar to tasting wine.  First, you smell the chocolate. Then, you break it in half, paying attention to the “snap” and smelling it again. After that, you let it melt against the top of your mouth. That’s actually the hardest part, since dark chocolate takes a while to melt and all you really want to do is eat that sucker.

Accidental Locavore Chocolate Tasting WheelMuch like wine, there are different flavor profiles:  buttery, floral, earthy, roasted, fruity, and subcategories within each of those.  There are a bunch of tasting wheels online, I printed this one from Chocolapolis.

Our results?  The favorite was the Kallari 70%. It was smooth and silky, with a toasty, fruity flavor. Compare that with the Green & Black’s 70%, which we found to have a paraffin-like texture and a harsh, citrus taste. The other 70% was the unknown type, left over from the conference. Possibly it spent too much time in transit as it tasted moldy and we spit it out.

Accidental Locavore Molten CakeThe other two Kallari types were probably better used for cooking. The 75% was a much more masculine chocolate, with an earthy taste. The 85% Julie described it as being “adult” and “strict” and I had to agree with her. It would probably be a great chocolate for cooking in something like my molten chocolate cakes.

My thanks to Kallari for sending the chocolate! Their website has links for ordering the chocolate. Try some and let me know what you think.

What should Julie and I taste next?