In fact, after the Slow Food Nations tents are folded and the celebrity chefs return to their home cities and television studios, Slow Food USA continues its mission year-round. With that in mind, here are seven neat things we learned about food and Colorado during this three-day fete that will serve us well for the rest of 2018.
Colorado doesn't have vast expanses of saltwater with beds of oysters, but it does have chefs who have made a point of studying oysters and learning about the industry to bring the best shellfish to our state. The bivalves you're eating locally are sustainable, according to Sheila Bowman of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, who says eat them all, save for Eastern oysters harvested in New York. The rest, she explains, are in fact one of the most sustainable foods out there, since they clean the water as they grow and are raised in a natural environment, unlike other forms of farmed seafood. At Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar in LoDo, chef Sheila Lucero (who was part of the oyster tasting at Slow Food Nations) thoughtfully sources her oysters by making sure they're good for both the guest and the waters where they're grown. Jorel Pierce of Stoic & Genuine also takes care when purchasing his oysters, making this downtown hot spot another dependable place to stop, shuck and slurp. Because they're both bringing in farmed oysters grown in clean waters, they're helping wild species re-establish in previously polluted bays and estuaries.
Patrick Smith, founder of Farmer's Porch Heirloom Pumpkin Seeds, roasts nutrient-rich pumpkin seeds at his Boulder facility. Smith sources nutty heirloom Styrian pumpkin seeds from Oregon and roasts them with a variety of flavors, including ghost pepper, turmeric with lime and cinnamon with cacao. Styrian seeds are shell-less and rich in oil, so Farmer's Porch also offers pumpkin seed oil, great as a dip for artisan bread. Smith's seeds are bigger, meatier and more flavorful than standard pumpkin seeds, so they make for a fun snack and are also a crunchy addition to salads and charcuterie boards.
Slow Food Nations showcased a number of regional specialties from around the United States, including yaka mein, a traditional New Orleans Creole soup made with spaghetti noodles, beef, hard-boiled eggs and spices. It was showcased at Slow Food Nations by Linda Green, a Louisiana chef famous for her yaka mein pop-ups in her home town and for winning the Food Network’s Chopped "Pride of New Orleans" episode in 2012. Green learned to make the dish from her mother and uses green onions, hot sauce and a blend of Asian and Creole spices in her recipe. And if a trip to New Orleans isn't in your near future, yaka mein has now made its way to Denver, thanks to Kyle and Katy Foster's Julep, a Southern restaurant in RiNo. Julep's version is available Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., even when it's steamy outside. The heat, says Katy, doesn't deter customers at all from ordering yaka mein for lunch or brunch.
Honey stands at farmers' markets have become the norm around the Front Range, in part thanks to the efforts of Boulder's Highland Honey and The Honey People. But there's so much more. Chef Chris Starkus raises bees on the roof of the Oxford Hotel downtown, using the honey from those hives at his restaurant, Urban Farmer, right downstairs. Bee Squared produces clover, wildflower and alfalfa honey in Berthoud. Björn's Colorado Honey also produces honey in Boulder, including propolis honey, a product enhanced with propolis, otherwise known as bee glue, a sticky substance made of bee saliva, honey and whatever botanical compounds the insect is gathering. Proponents say it has stronger health benefits than plain honey, and it's also purported to help with allergies.