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As part of our eco-gastronomic initiative to renew and restore America’s food traditions (RAFT), Slow Food USA partnered with several organizations to host 5 heritage foods picnics over the past three months. The goal of these picnics—besides good food and fun—was to introduce people around the country to some of their area’s delicious and endangered foods. The guests at the picnics all partook in eater-based conservation, and some picnic goers got to listen to Gary Nabhan—author and founder of RAFT–talk about the importance of place-based foods.


The picnic series kicked off in Shelburne, Vermont, in collaboration with the Vermont Fresh Network (VFN), and was held at Shelburne Farms. It was a beautiful weekend of VFN workshops and tastings, culminating in a walk-around dinner featuring fresh, local, seasonal ingredients prepared by 20 local chef and farm partnerships in Vermont. The dishes included foods from Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste(a list of endangered foods from around the country), like the Cherokee Purple tomato and American heirloom apples, and many foods documented as endangered by the RAFT project.

The next picnic was held on the Capitol steps in Madison, Wisconsin where a buffet featuring foods from the Ark list was prepared by Slow Food Madison and Chefs Collaborative members Justin Carlisle, of Harvest Restaurant, Tory Miller, of L’Etoile and Patrick O’Halloran, from Lombardino’s. Highlights included Slow roasted American Plains Bison over Carolina Gold Rice grits and a Sorghum BBQ Mulefoot pork shoulder sandwich.

Next up was Seattle! As the Slow Food Seattle invite explained:

“You bring the gear (plates and utensils, picnic blanket, etc.). We provide the vittles,”

prepared by the some of area’s finest chefs including John Sundstrom (Lark), Thierry Rautureau (Rover’s), Tamara Murphy (Brasa) and Fernando Divina (Tendrils). There was, of course, lots of sustainable salmon on hand including the Washington Marbled Chinook Salmon, and other Ark products such as Churro Lamb and Makah Ozette Potatoes. The cherry on the sundae? The musical stylings of the Squirrel Butter Old Time Variety Duo.

Finally, just a couple of weekends ago, Siler City North Carolina and Austin Texas joined in the fun. In North Carolina, our friends at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy celebrated their 30th anniversary with us at the Inn at Celebrity Dairy. Guests feasted on lots of meat, including Tennessee Fainting Goat meatballs, Buckeye chicken fricassee (maybe you read about the Buckeye and Chapel Hill chef Andrea Reusing in this month’s Saveur?), Pineywoods beef meatloaf and roasted heritage Black turkey. We finished it off with a lovely Stayman apple cobbler and Celebrity Dairy’s own goat’s milk ice cream.

In Austin, the American Grassfed Association (AGA), Slow Food Austin, Chefs Collaborative, and Edible Austin Magazine worked together to produce a lively and delicious picnic in association with AGA’s annual conference. Locally produced favorites included Thunderheart bison carpaccio with pecan oil, chasteberries and meyer lemon; Veldhuizen Bosque blue cheese, poached Bandera beef tongue, Toulouse goose pate with Mexican oregano, and Ossabaw Pork Fromage-de-Tete (that’s “head cheese” to you). Chef Jesse Griffiths prepared the delicious dishes that were washed down with locally-brewed root beer!

If any of this makes your mouth water, consider making a meal with endangered foods for your friends and family. For tips on making meal with Ark of Taste products, click here.