This weekend marks the second annual Slow Food Nations, an international summit and fete filled with chefs, farmers, advocates and artisans helping make good, clean food available for all. Help your kids get in the spirit and learn about how food is grown, why it's important and who makes the stuff on their plate, by letting them get a taste of this unique event. Here are ten Slow Food Nations events and other weekend activities that will get your kids excited about local, traditional foods and cooking.
Have Fun at the Family Pavilion
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 14, and Sunday, July 15, Slow Food Nations hosts the Family Pavilion right in the center of Larimer Square (where Larimer Street between 14th and 15th streets becomes pedestrian-only for the weekend). The activities are free and include hands-on projects such as making bean and handprint art, as well as face painting, temporary veggie tattoos, farmer dress-up time and story hour. Young guests have the opportunity to view a real beehive, learn to make pizza and meet some of the chefs and food producers in the community. Plus, there's a version of Carpool Karaoke, which has nothing to do with food, but is loads of fun. Overall, it's a great way to get young people into food and to teach them how food gets to our plates.
Visit a Farmers' Market
Dozens of farmers come to town all week long, and it's not hard to find a farmers' market near you. Visiting one of these establishments proves the perfect fodder for talking about seasonal growing, what a farmer really does, and where vegetables, fruit, milk, cheese, meat and eggs come from. Some our favorites include the Union Station Farmers' Market (Saturdays from 9 a.m to 2 p.m.), the South Pearl Street Farmers' Market (Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and the Boulder Farmers' Market (Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m.). No matter which one you visit, make sure to sample what's in season and let your kid ask the experts questions.
Summer is a great time to teach kids about seeds, and what better way to do that than to make the ultimate bomb — a seed bomb, that is? Chef Chris Starkus of Urban Farmer will lead the Sunday demonstration from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in the Family Pavilion, using seeds from the Seeds Trust to make balls of pollinator-friendly seeds that can take root in your garden. Also on the calendar is the DIY Kitchen Herb Garden class, which kids can attend on Saturday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. This project is sponsored by Big Green, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping kids healthy by teaching them about real food through school gardens and food literacy. Also on Saturday is a hands-on demonstration by the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance. Kids can learn how to make paper, then create their own paper laced with marigold seeds so it can be planted after being used for art projects. Go to one or all the events; they're free for kids to attend.
Eat Ice Cream at Frozen Matter
Although this Uptown micro-creamery (530 East 19th Avenue; 720-600-6358) caters to a mature palate (think absinthe or lemon-lavender ice cream), there are plenty of choices to appease a picky child, whether a cone of vanilla or a decadent bowl of Valrhona chocolate ice cream. Yes, it's a treat for you and your family, but your kids can also learn about how ice cream is made. Owners Geraldine Kim and Josh Gertzen run the only ice cream shop in Colorado that makes and pasteurizes its own ice cream base, making it a slow-food teaching moment as well as a sweet weekend interlude. The couple starts by creating and pasteurizing liquid ice cream base using milk, eggs and cream, with different bases tailored to what will hold up best to chocolate, herbs, nuts or fruits. The ice cream kitchen is in full view behind glass, so you can take in the process while indulging in one of the "slowest" desserts in town.
Sample Goods at the Taste Marketplace
What better way to understand food than by tasting it? On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., some 75 fair-food companies and farmers will come together in Larimer Square to showcase good eats that you can sample and buy. Vendors include Amano Artisan Chocolate, Backyard Soda Co., Farmer’s Porch Heirloom Pumpkin Seeds, La Bonne Vie Cheese, Perky Jerky and many more.
Dine at Root Down and Edible Beats Street
Justin Cucci's Root Down (1600 West 33rd Avenue; 303-993-4200) has long been a pinnacle of good, clean food in the Denver dining scene, and it just happens to have a great kids' menu too. The ten-and-under crowd can choose from a bistro steak; country fried tofu with curried lime; macaroni and cheese with aged cheddar; and natural chicken fingers. Each $9 entree comes with broccoli, fruit, sweet-potato fries and organic ketchup. The main menu lists the purveyors Root Down uses, such as Rebel Farm, Moon Hill Farms, GrowHaus, Morning Fresh Dairy and more. Plus, the venue (and sister spots Vital Root, El Five, Ophelia's Electric Soapbox and Linger) use vegetables from the company's 4,000-square-foot garden located in the heart of the city. Cucci's Edible Beats restaurant company is also hosting Edible Beats Street (Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday in Larimer Square), a lounge and food station where adults can grab a beverage while kids can try an array of international foods — including insect elote! — made by local chefs.
Take a Field Trip to a Farm
You may not realize it, but plenty of urban farms are hidden among Denver's neighborhoods and suburbs, and even more farms are found outside the city. Close to home, you can visit the Urban Farm at Stapleton (10200 Smith Road; Monday through Thursday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) where you can see farm animals, marvel at the aeroponic towers and the aquaponics system, study real beehives and "ride" a tractor. Another good option is a tour of the GrowHaus (4751 York Street), an indoor farm and marketplace; tours take place each Friday and Saturday morning at 10 a.m. (reservations encouraged). If you want a more rural experience, visit Miller Farms (13912 Co Road 19 in Platteville), which has been operated by Roy and Dorothy Miller since 1949 and is a great place to explore and see how food is grown. Just be sure to call or email to let them know when you want to come.
Take a Break at the Pop-Up Bookstore and Story Hour
While your family certainly can't eat all the food this weekend offers, you can pick up a book and learn more about food and cooking, no matter your age. At Slow Food Nations this year, Tattered Cover will host pop-up bookstores in Larimer Square (Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and a story reading in the Family Pavilion (Sunday from 3 to 4 p.m.) for all attendees. Another great children's bookstore to check out is Second Star From the Right in Berkeley. While there may not be a dedicated food section at this charming shop, the helpful staff will gladly create a food-, farm- and garden-focused reading list for you.
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SHOW ME HOW
Wake Up With the Cool Colorado Quinoa Bowls Breakfast
Let the children take the reins at breakfast during this special free event on Sunday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in Larimer Square. Live Well Colorado and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment host this interactive meal centered on quinoa, an ancient grain grown in Colorado's San Luis Valley. Not only can the kids top off a hearty bowl of the grain with whatever fancies them, but they will also learn about quinoa and the area where it's harvested.
Learn to Plant and Grow
A great way to start a young person on the path to making good food choices is by teaching them how to grow food they can actually eat, and Denver Urban Gardens has the tools to get them going. The program has operated since 1985 and now runs nearly 170 community gardens in the metro area, with forty school plots. This includes the DeLaney Community Farm (170 South Chambers Road), a nonprofit farm that works with Project Worthmore to help support refugees through sustainable agriculture and community-building. You can visit that garden if you want, or take the plunge and get your little ones in the dirt at the closest community garden to you, something you can find out by visiting the Denver Urban Gardens website. Then simply sign up for a plot and get growing.