Foodies of NE Winter 2014 : Page 44

44 Foodies of New England

Exploring the World of Food

Written by Kelley Lynn Kassa • Photography by Scott Erb and Donna Dufault

at Taste Trekkers

"You guys are going to be full by the end of tonight," Taste Trekkers organizer Seth Ressler told the nearly 250 who attended the inaugural food tourism conference. The event brought together world-renowned chefs, industry luminaries, product vendors, and food enthusiasts in Providence on September 21, 2013 to talk all things food. And to eat, of course.

The conference, held at the Providence Biltmore, started with the Mayor of Providence, Angel Tavares, welcoming the crowd to the city and reminding the attendees that Providence was recently named the number three U.S. city for foodies by Travel + Leisure.

Tavares also introduced Taste Trekkers' keynote speaker, Matt Jennings of Farmstead. Jennings is nationally recognized, with a list of accolades, and is known for both his artistry cooking with pork and his commitment to sustainability. "Serious food travelers geek out on the details," shared Jennings. "The when and what they will be eating and where."

Which gets us back to the actual food at Taste Trekkers. The conference consisted of 12 breakout sessions, many of which included food samples. The sessions ranged from demo of butchering a lamb to one showcasing the chocolate of Madagascar. One highlight was a session from Trace and Trust, an organization that helps chef know where their products come from, on how to share that information with their diners. The session was led by Gaspar Catanzaro of Trace and Trust, and featured Dave Johnson, executive chef of Local 121, and Ben Sukle, owner and executive chef of Birch. In addition to talking about the importance of provenance and using by-catch, they handed out samples of ceviche and pork sandwiches.

The breakout sessions were followed by a diverse two-hour adventure at the Tasting Pavilion. More than 35 vendors participated in the tasting, and attendees were offered cheeses from Farmstead and Narragansett Creamery, ceviche and pisco sours from Los Andes restaurant in Providence, honey from the American Honey Tasting Society, Backyahd IPA from Foolproof brewing, and much, much more.

"It was a fun time. The conference had practically every type of food and beverage group, and it really opened my eyes to what some of the local purveyors offered," said attendee Jeff Cutler, a foodie and blogger from Hingham, MA. "Some of my favorite sessions included the local prosciutto farmer and the folks talking about blogging about food. I think the best booths in the Tasting Pavilion were the ones that offered a unique perspective on food service and the food experience. And of course, everyone loves beer and cheese. "

Once attendees had their fill of food and drink, they headed off to the panel discussion on culinary tourism. The session was led by Gail Ciampa, the food editor of The Providence Journal, and featured Danielle Brodhagen from the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, Jose Duarte, chef and owner of Taranta in Boston, Cindy Salvato, president and owner of Savoring Rhode Island, Joyce Weinberg, owner of City Food Tours, Meghan Sheradin, executive director of Vermont Fresh Network and Sai Viswanath, chef of DeWolf Tavern in Providence. Chef Jose Duarte summed up food tourism: "Food tourism goes beyond just dining out at an ethnic restaurant. It's about understanding the flavors and the culture. It's about understanding the why of what you are eating."

Kristen Adamo, vice president of marketing and communication for the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau, shared her thoughts on the event: "We saw the Taste Trekkers Conference as another step in the evolution of Providence as a top culinary destination. The city has received national acclaim for the depth and breadth of our culinary talent, and we are home to one of the country's top culinary schools, Johnson & Wales University. Taste Trekkers allowed us to reach an audience that really understands the relationship between food and travel. The city of Providence embraces culinary tourism wholeheartedly, and we were pleased to host a group of like-minded thinkers. We look forward to the next Taste Trekkers."

What is food tourism? The World Food Travel Association defines it as "the pursuit and enjoyment of unique and memorable food and drink experiences, both near and far." Or, as Chef Jose Duarte of Taranta Restaurant in Boston's North End and participant on the Taste Trekkers's panel discussion on food tourism says," Food tourism goes beyond just dining out at an ethnic restaurant. It's about understanding the flavors and the culture. It's about understanding the why of what you are eating."

Sounds like your kind of food adventure? Taste Trekkers will be coming back to Providence on October 4, 2014.

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