Moto-Foodie Meets Taste Trekkers

22 Sep

     Some will ride a hundred miles out of their way for a good meal.  At five in the morning with fog drifting across the big slab interstate highway I was dimly questioning whether or not  I should be one of them.  Taste Trekkers, the first conference for food tourism to be held in the United States, was taking place in Providence, Rhode Island and I was attempting to make it to the Providence Biltmore in time for the opening keynote address. 

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       Food tourism is finally being recognized for its economic importance and—like motorcycle tourism—is one of the fastest growing niche markets in a global industry.  For me the two go together since one has to travel to get to a foodie destination and when traveling one must stop to eat.  Food tourism is simply the flip side of motorcycle touring, but somehow very few people have recognized this symbiotic relationship.   

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     The opening address was by noted chef Matt Jennings, who has devoted himself to developing sustainable food networks.  His talk focused on community and paraphrased my old expression of voting with your wallet to that of voting with your fork.  Motorcyclists understand community and degrees of separation so it’s pointless to reiterate this new-found foodie wisdom.  It was after his presentation that the conference got down to “meat and potatoes” in a series of morning seminars.

     Taste the Terroir of American Honey was the first of my seminars.  It’s obvious when thought about: bees make honey from the nectar of different plants blooming at different times in different regions.  The honey produced during a Vermont spring is going to differ from that made during July or in Mississippi.  Since bees rarely venture more than three miles from a hive their honey is completely dependent upon terroir.  It’s also a food eaten completely raw and that doesn’t spoil, so understanding more about it seemed like a logical choice.

     Seminar tickets were issued and participants then had to trade them if they wanted to attend specific presentations.  Two of my three were traded, but the one I was reluctantly left with turned out to be equally interesting.  Tom Tew, a rum named after a famous Rhode Island pirate, is based on historically researched 18th century recipes and distilling processes.  Yo ho ho: from a foodie perspective, this rum ticked all the boxes.    The third was about an ice cider being produced in Vermont—and a bit more that included the Vermont Fresh Network and Black River Produce.  Since honey tasting, rum sampling, and pairing ice cider with food was very much a part of my morning activity, moving to the tasting pavilion was icing on the cake.

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     Imagine a ballroom filled with tables where New England chefs and food producers put out the best they had to offer.  Salads, cheeses, sushi, wines, beers, hard liquor, guacamole, charcuterie, and deserts made the tasting pavilion a real smorgasbord.  Certainly fun and filling, but also providing bit of education and certain presentations will impact my travel and tour-development plans for 2014.

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     Wrapping up with a panel discussion about food tourism in which more questions than answers were raised, left me feeling that Moto-Foodie had a unique approach that is worthy of further development.   However, in the end, I once again found myself back on the highway with two wheels heading north as the sun was setting and contemplating how this adventure would fit into my next.

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