Last night in an Upper East Side event space called the Coverings Showroom, Slow Food Miami's membership met for its annual conference. With a musical booth buffet orchestrated by Chef Kris Wessel of nearby Red Light Little River, the evening was less structured meeting and more pre-Thanksgiving pause. It was attended by producers, restaurant industry folk, and people who appreciate fair and fresh local foods who celebrated the movement's progress.
One supplier, Thi Squire of Green Railway Organic Workshop (GROW,) produced a wow moment when she arrived with an artful bushy microgreens tray covered by baby arugula and amaranth sprouting the Slow Food logo.
"It's about three days old," Squire explains. "I can turn around requests for events and parties pretty quickly, and the beauty of it is that in three days, it will be ready to harvest. I will give it to the chef and the greens will probably turn up on [Red Light] diners' plates."
Wessel stayed open for lunch on Wednesday, but shut down for dinner so he could pull off the 80-head meal.
After letting the sprouts grow about an inch more during the next couple of days, he says, he will snip and then sprinkle the plants atop quail salads.
"I've been buying weekly from Thi since she was at the open air market that now is over by Soyka," explains Wessel. "She's now at a warehouse space near the airport, still sourcing from local producers."
Wessel's down-home food was happily gobbled with whistles wet by wine and
champagne generously donated by Advisory Board Member and Wine News
Publisher Elizabeth Smith.
"In the three years since I took over, we've had great successes,"
beams Donna Reno, Slow Food Miami's Convivium Leader. "I think the
most important thing we've accomplished is bringing the producers and
the restaurants together through the food community, the people that
are interested in good food. We are the
And Wessel has been behind Slow Food Miami for a while now. "I had a soap-box moment at the end of the event when Donna asked me to speak -- you know it's really important for the Scarpetta's of the world to buy local when they come down here. I mean, I've worked in those kind of big operations, and know how easy it is to source from places like Chef's Garden in Ohio. But throw us a bone, you know?"
In his food, Wessel emphasizes both the product and the culture from which it comes. Take the goat. Hani Khouri, known for his goat milk cheeses, supplied the meat for the occasion. Then, recalling a goat dish once enjoyed at a Little Haiti grocery, the chef brought out the ethnic flavors of the area in his preparation.
An important business matter also came to pass: the signing of a petition Reno will soon ship to New York to support the upcoming renewal of the Child Nutrition Act; it ensures kids in public schools have increased access to healthy foods.Reno's daughter Hunter is also working locally by planting school gardens. She broke ground this morning at the Carrollton School in Coconut Grove. More on this initiative in posts to come on Short Order.
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