By Shari Littan
On December 8, 2013, Slow Food NYC, along with sponsors Fare Trade NYC, Inc. and Astor Center, hosted its Third Annual Slow Food Show. The producers were all small-scale and hands-on entrepreneurs with businesses that operate in New York City and primarily source ingredients from the region. These producers use ingredients that are non-artificial and grown sustainably; and any non-local ingredients are sourced from fair trade distribution channels or directly from growers. The annual event brings together members of the New York community who enthusiastically promote food that is good, clean, and fair.
Fare Trade NYC, established about one year ago, is an alliance of artisanal food producers with more than 30 members. The group's primary goal is to share knowledge and help other food entrepreneurs navigate the many issues of starting a new enterprise in New York City. A key advantage that Fare Trade NYC can offer its members is its direct relationships with buyers who are eagerly looking for the next big concept. Monika Luczak, co-founder of both the alliance and Saucy by Nature, a caterer and condiment producer, explained that with their resources and relationships, Fare Trade NYC can help bring the right product from concept to shelf in as little as 14 weeks. Przemek Adolf, Monika's co-founder in both the Alliance and their Brooklyn-based business, explained that many food entrepreneurs transition from other careers. In search of passion along with profit, the goal of the alliance is to promote the talented people who may lack extensive formal culinary training or experience.
Courtney Feemster, the enthusiastic founder of Love Sweet Love Pralines, is astounded at how fast her confections, with the help of Fare Trade, have made it from conception to package and sale. Ms. Feemster explained that she bases her recipes on what she learned from her mom's southern traditions. For both taste and pride, however, she's replaced some of the conventional ingredients with carefully selected alternatives, including organic goat's milk. Similarly, Alex Boyd, head of Cocktail Crate, a producer of refreshing and innovative cocktail mixers, foregoes imported honey for carefully sourced local honey. For the producers showcased at Slow Foods NYC's annual event, it's the careful sourcing of ingredients that enables them not only to adhere to sustainable practices but also provide customers with clean, authentic flavors.
A common theme among these producers is their desire for tradition. Nafissa Camara, head of Nafis Hot Pepper Condiments, a start-up that is part of Hot Bread Kitchen's incubator project, uses the flavors of her African background and recreates recipes learned in her grandmother's kitchen. Michael Marino and Jorge Moret, representatives of Spicy 'n Sweet, explained that the company bases their Nonna's Sauces on family recipes direct from Calabria, Italy. Instead of imported tomatoes, however, they source their tomatoes directly from New Jersey farms. They prefer developing a relationship directly with farmers in order to ensure an adequate supply of quality tomatoes. The ability to visit the fields and interact directly with growers leads to a fresher and, at the same time, more traditional product.
Among Slow Food's members, there's agreement: better ingredients and traditional methods make a more delicious product. The artisanal ice-cream made by Luca & Bosco, a new Brooklyn-based producer, has caught the attention of Sam Adam's entrepreneurship program. Founder Catherine Oddenino noted that by using real ingredients, such as milk from Battenkill Valley Creamery, based in Salem, New York, she can use less sugar, and create an ice-cream with unique flavor intensity. Similarly Jin, of Jin's Journey, maker of artisanal jams and jellies, explained that with her background in urban farming, she can avoid the chemicals that are commonly used in comparable commercial products. Instead, her jams and jellies highlight the flavors of seasonal produce, fresh and locally-grown. Passion for integrity and taste drives these producers to bring ingredients that reflect their values to market.
Other producers at the event showcased sauces and condiments (A&B American Style Condiments, Saucey Sauce Company, Love of JoJo), as well as granola, bread, and delicious cookies (Granola Lab, Nuts and Bolts, Orwasher's). Each year in December, Slow Food's highlighted producers offer holiday gifts that are perfect for sharing with family, friends, and coworkers who appreciate the reinvigoration of traditional recipes made with integrity, care, and excellent taste.
Proceeds from The Slow Food Show benefit Slow Food NYC's programs, including the Urban Harvest program that promotes good-food education for kids at 17 New York City schools and a summer urban farm in East New York.
For more photos from the event, go to our Facebook page.
Shari Littan is a former Slow Food NYC board member and occationally writes about sustainability and food issues.