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Side Dishes: Chow down for Terra Madre — in Vermont

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If you’ve ever swooned over a rich Valencia tomato, dipped into a creamy bagna càuda at a party or marveled at how much local food your favorite restaurant has on its menu, you may have Terra Madre to thank, at least in part.

For the past several years, Vermonters have traveled to the biannual slow-food conference in Torino, Italy, and returned home with ideas that they seed across our landscape — from new varieties of heirloom vegetables to workshops on new ways to cook and taste (many of them organized by Slow Food Vermont).

This year, the five-person New England delegation to Terra Madre will include four Vermonters, including Hugo Lara of A Little Peruvian and chef Jason Tostrup of the Inn at Weathersfield. This Friday, August 10, the staffs of several Addison County eateries will gather at Lincoln Peak Vineyard in New Haven to cook up a feast to raise money for their airfare and other expenses.

“We’ll be there [at Terra Madre] to represent Vermont and learn what’s happening with the rest of the world,” says Lara, a member of Slow Food Vermont’s board.

The New Haven dinner will revolve around Italian, French, Peruvian and vegan tasting stations. Lara will serve up Peruvian potato dumplings called causas, as well as beef-stuffed peppers and ceviche. He’ll be cooking alongside staff members from Café Provence, Vergennes Laundry, Tourterelle and Three Tomatoes Trattoria.

“Terra Madre is an absolutely life-changing experience for people that care about the food in the world,” says Mara Welton of Half Pint Farm, who has attended three times and will be in Torino again this year as part of the Slow Food International Congress. She says her experiences there have directly shaped the choice of crops she and her husband, Spencer, raise on their Burlington farm, from heirloom varieties of beans and tomatoes to Gilfeather turnips. “Specifically, [we have planted] rare breeds that border on the ‘Ark of Taste’ for our region,” Welton says, referring to foods in danger of extinction. “There’s a responsibility to bring home what you learn.”

To reserve tickets for Friday’s dinner — $45 per person, including wine and beer — call Lara at 595-0058.

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