The Slow Food movement is nothing new. Originating in 1986 when Italian Carlo Petrini protested the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant near the Spanish Steps in Rome, the Slow Food movement represents a response to the fast food lifestyle. With an emphasis on locally-grown ingredients and traditional, regional cuisine, the movement is responsible for some of the best dining experiences around the world.
Yes, the movement has a website and is well-organized, but in truth the Slow Food movement is less an association and more a philosophy. Eat simple. Eat authentic products. Eat traditional. Slow down. Enjoy. Promote local cuisine, small farms.
So, how can travelers explore and enjoy slow food?
1. Consider a small producer tour and tasting. Small wineries and other food and beverage producers are often family-owned enterprises and typically promote traditional methods of production.
2. Drink regional wines , beers, or spirits. Okay, so maybe you always drink Merlot or prefer a Coors, but take time to try the local vino or brew. You might just discover a new favorite.
3. Join a walking food tour. Walking food tours take private or small groups to local markets and neighborhood restaurants that focus on high quality, regional foods. The participants also learn about the culinary history of the area and the basic principles of the local cuisine.
4. Ask a local, your Soirée Travel Liaison, or hotel concierge for recommendations. These folks know where to find the best restaurants, coffee houses, bakeries on your itinerary. Tell them you’re looking for off-the-beaten-path spots that specialize in local production or regional cuisine.
5. Order seasonal specialties. Many authentic local restaurants adjust their menus to feature in-season foods grown, caught, raised, or otherwise produced locally. In fact, if waiters at decent restaurants tell this author what to order—and they do—it’s a done deal. Trust the waiter, or better yet, the chef.
6. Take a cooking class with a local. If time allows, choose a class that includes a market tour—you’ll probably pick up your ingredients in the morning and cook them up for lunch. Be sure the class features regional recipes and adjusts the menu for in-season produce.
7. Stay on a farm. Agricultural tourism is a growing trend. Farm stays allow guests to participate in the farm community to some degree, and to taste, eat, and purchase farm and local products. Don’t think farmhouse stays are necessarily equivalent to roughing it—some are five-star properties.
8. If your accommodations feature a private kitchen, shop the morning market. It’s that simple.