by Alice Levitt
Slow Food Vermont's membership drive just ended with tiny Vermont among the top four chapters in Slow Food USA to attract the most new members. But that's not the organization's only big news. Local restaurants are going slow with a new designation and a series of dinners.
Last year, just before the biennial international food conference Terra Madre, in Turin, Italy, Slow Food Vermont announced it would introduce the "Snail of Approval" to award to Vermont restaurants. The first two have finally been chosen.
The symbol at right is used worldwide to denote restaurants that adhere to Slow Food's ethic of "quality, authenticity and sustainability." The first two restaurants in Vermont to gain the honor are Mary's Restaurant at The Inn at Baldwin Creek and Hen of the Wood—Waterbury.
According to Mara Welton, Slow Food Vermont leader and Slow Food USA regional governor for New England, the restaurants were selected using an extremely exacting process. "That’s the point," says Welton. "We’re not just handing these out willy-nilly. We spent an enormous amount of time vetting."
The process begins with a nomination from a Slow Food member. From there, a restaurant must apply in writing before members check out the site and interview the management to ensure that food is indeed "good, clean and fair."
Welton says that even in large cities, only a few restaurants a year are granted the Snail. The number in Vermont will depend on applications and approval. "It really is an award of excellence," she says.
Burlington restaurants Juniper and nika don't have Snails yet, but Welton and co. have deemed the locavore restaurants worthy of collaboration. In the next few weeks, each will host a dinner to raise money for Slow Food.
Next Thursday, October 24, Juniper chef Douglas Paine serves up a family-style harvest dinner featuring products from Weltons's Half Pint Farm as well as Vermont Cranberry Company, Adam’s Berry Farm, Hermit’s Gold Wild Edibles and Vermont Whey Fed Pork. Highlights of the $55 menu ($45 for Slow Food members) include Jerusalem artichoke soup, ice-wine-vinegar-brined pork loin and crabapple-and-fall-raspberry galette with honeycomb crème fraiche.
On November 6, nika's $50 dinner includes wines from Southern Italy paired with each of the five courses. Expect rabbit terrine, house-made sausage, swordfish with clam risotto and a duo of duck, before Welton presents her own special dessert.
Diners can enjoy the feast knowing it's all Slow Food-approved.