5 Easy Tips for Organizing Food Festivals

food-festival-breakout-eventsFood festivals are on the rise. Whether it’s cultural food, food truck rodeos, regional cuisines or specialty items like cheese (even mac ‘n’ cheese), food festivals draw in hordes of attendees. The appeal is obvious—everyone likes food and tasting a multitude of dishes in one spot is exciting and enjoyable.

But going from table to table outside in the elements, sampling different twists on the same ingredient can turn into a slog for attendees. Add variety with a breakout event—such as a cooking demonstration, a wine or beer pairing or even a sit-down, coursed-out meal. Breakout events offer a welcome distraction and a good way for attendees to recharge their batteries. A breakout event can also act as an additional revenue stream.

Before you add one to your festival, evaluate your resources and make a plan of attack. Treat your breakout like a completely separate event. This might mean relinquishing the organizing duties to a trusted crew member or bringing in a professional.

Once you figure out who’s doing what, it’s time to get all of the details in place.

Food Festival Event Tips

1. You’ll need a strong crew that can work independently to organize and pull off your breakout event. In other words, they need to focus on it, like it’s the main event. If you’re low on staff, this can be a challenge so consider this resource before committing to anything. Go over every detail and rehearse the event to work out the bugs. Expect issues to arise and have backup plans in place.

2. Promote, promote, promote. Festivals are busy, so be clear about your special breakout event. Get the word out early and pour it on. Ask sponsors, friends and other involved parties to promote via social media, as well as word of mouth. For event promotion advice, contact our promotions team.

3. Star power can help sell tickets. Reach out to local celebs—talk recognized chefs, radio or TV personalities, sports figures or government officials. Put together a proper proposal and send it to whoever fits with your event’s brand. Offer to include them in the official advertising efforts, include branding and logos, and announcement mentions. Don’t let speaking fees turn you off –partnering with a celebrity can boost ticket sales.

4. Consider the perceived value. When a ticket buyer is looking into your event it should be clear what they are getting for the ticket price—perks such as wine or beer with each course, exclusive access to celebrities, special tasting, take home goodies, etc. or anything else that can enhance the perceived value.

5. Don’t over complicate it. Find a solid and simple concept that your attendees will be familiar with, such as a cider or wine pairing. It will make your event easier to execute and for you to find people to help organize it. The overall concept should be simple, but you can spice it up with simple variations—just make sure your expectations and timeline are realistic.

Have a question about food festivals or breakout events? Chime in below or email me.

 

Event Tips >

How to Create a Suitcase Kitchen for Tours or Road Trips

Suitcase-Kitchen, Travel-KitchenLife on the road takes a toll on your body and wallet. Musicians, performers, traveling chefs and anyone living the van or RV life knows that. But it doesn’t have to. Bring in the Suitcase Kitchen and say goodbye to unhealthy hot dogs, burritos and instant noodles.

Cooking just one or two meals per week saves a fair amount of cash and benefits your mind and spirit—the better your diet, the more energy you’ll have for your gigs or sightseeing.

A portable kitchen doesn’t have to be a huge, costly project; you likely have a lot of this stuff lying around. The first item you’ll need is a clean, sturdy suitcase you don’t plan to use for clothes. I found a used one at a thrift store for $15 and it worked out great.

Consider your specific diet and the number of people you plan to cook for—the fewer the meals and number of people, the smaller and lighter the kitchen. As an exercise, cook your favorite meals for a day and write down everything you used.

Cooking Accessories

Select light-weight and multi-functional items that you know work well.
 Test the items at home to make sure they’re functional, so you don’t end up packing a can opener that doesn’t function.

  • Utensils
  • Tongs
  • Basting brush
  • Ladle
  • Cheese grater
  • Potato masher
  • Rubber spatula
  • Wooden spoon
  • Plastic spatula
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cups
  • Kitchen sheers
  • Cheese knife
  • Chef knife
  • Honing steel
  • Bread knife
  • Utility knife
  • Whisk
  • Can opener
  • Vegetable peeler

Cookware

Consider cookware carefully—you have to find the right functionality while keeping the weight of your bag down. It’s OK to leave items behind in favor for multi-purpose tools. Before you go, test your items with a favorite recipe on the burner you plan to bring. You don’t want to get stuck in a pickle when whipping up some grub for the crew after the gig.

  • Stainless steel skillet
  • Non-stick skillet
  • Sauce pan with lid
  • Soup pot with lid (nothing too tall to be sure it fits)
  • Colander
  • Mesh strainer
  • Mixing bowl
  • Immersion blender
  • Light weight cutting board
  • Kitchen towels
  • Wide-mouth thermos
  • Tea egg
  • Coffee grinder
  • Small French press

Serving

Consider the pros and cons of disposable dishes. You will be creating extra garbage, which is a con for the planet. There are compostable versions of paper plates and silverware on the market however, most require a municipal composting program to avoid the landfill.

If you decide to use disposable serving items, I suggest only buying disposable plates, bowls and cups as needed and skipping the utensils and cups. Enameled camping bowls and plates are heavy side if you have more than a couple –they’re also durable and easy to clean. Tupperware or plastic are also valid options, but make sure they are durable.

Portable Stoves

I found that a butane burner is the most consistent heat source with the added benefit of being light-weight. If you’re flying, find a store that sells the butane when you get into town as flying with it is a no-no. If you try an electric burner include an extension cord long enough to reach outside your hotel room.

Most hotels frown on cooking in the room, so ask permission first or look for lodging with a kitchenette. When the weather is good, find a park or rest stop to cook at – many are equipped with grills and BBQ pits. Go old school—grab some charcoal or wood from the store. Always follow the safety guidelines.

  • Portable butane burner
  • Propane camp stove7
  • Electric burner

‘Tis the Seasoning for Travel

Buy the herbs and spices you like in the bulk section. This will help you buy less than what you need and also ditch the containers.

The containers that spices come in are made of glass and heavy, the ones that aren’t in glass jars tend to be the “Value” size which means that you will get more but it will be a lesser quality. I store my seasonings in snack-sized zipper bags to maximize space. I stash seasonings inside of other items in the case–I also use spice blends that I like, such as curries to save weight and space.

If you are adventurous, you can make your own seasoning blends at home–be sure to test out the mix first. Dried mushrooms and seaweed add a savory umami flavor to stocks, so I keep some in the case as well as instant potato flakes, which are a good thickener. If you use it sparingly, bullion cubes can add that extra something to a dish, but use it at the end it doesn’t end up too salty.

  • Salt
  • Whole black pepper (in a grinder)
  • Sugar
  • Cumin
  • Curry powder
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Dried onion pieces
  • Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Red chili flakes
  • Bay leaves
  • Dried thyme

Other Suitcase Kitchen Tips and Tricks

SuitcaseKitchen for Road Travel

Leaving on a jet plane? If you plan to fly with your Suitcase Kitchen, look at checked baggage rates. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly first class since you get three free checked bags. This will vary depending on airline, but if you work it right you can travel in style and save money.

Include a few jumbo garbage bags in your suitcase kitchen. Besides storing garbage, leftovers or even dirty dishes in a pinch, they can be used to line an empty suitcase and create a wash-basin.

I pack dish liquid and iodine into my Suitcase Kitchen for cleaning. These two are essential, but add your own personal favorite cleaning supplies. Bleach is good for killing germs, but it’s also caustic and somewhat dangerous.

At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what works best for you, and the way you like to cook and eat. It takes a little effort to put together a useful Suitcase Kitchen, but once you have it dialed in, it’s worth it. There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal.

Find this useful? You might also enjoy the 9-Step Recipe to Successful Cooking Classes.

Food & Drink >

A Day Down on The Side Yard Farm

TheSideYard-StaceyGivens-PortlandIngenuity is always on the menu in hip, scenic Portland. But The Side Yard Farm, an urban farm, supper club and catering company stands out even in this off-beat city. Located in the northeast Cully neighborhood, this unique space supplies fresh, local ingredients to area eateries. In addition, The Side Yard Farm hosts food events: brunches, butchery classes, bike-in movie nights, and cooking classes.

In the latest episode of Journey to the Center of the Plate, Stacey Givens, The Side Yard’s farmer/chef/owner talks about her passion for agriculture, cooking, events and teaching others about food.

Urban Farm in Portland

Fun fact: Givens is the 2015 Chopped Champion, so you know she has some major chops when it comes to cooking. Definitely a place the foodies flock to. View upcoming events at The Side Yard.

Food & Drink >

Peek Inside Sno-Isle, a Natural Foods Co-op

Natural Foods Co-op Hey there, I’m back with the most recent episode of “Journey to the Center of the Plate.” I hope you’ll dig this one as much as you did the first. In this episode, you’ll meet the friendly faces of Sno-Isle, a natural foods co-op in Everett, Washington.

Sno-Isle’s strong community ties and continued passion for access to fresh, local food products will inspire and uplift. A co-op is owned and governed by its members, people who use its products or services, or are employed by the business.

Inside Sno-Isle Natural Foods Co-op

Stay tuned, another episode is coming next month. For additional videos covering interests from food to music and everything in-between, find us on YouTube.

Food & Drink >

Premiering Journey to the Center of the Plate

PopUp-RestaurantsPop the popcorn. Dim the lights. Get comfy. Brown Paper Tickets is excited to debut a new video series on one of life’s most universal topics: food.

I am proud to introduce this series, which is my quest to find a better and more complete understanding
 of how food gets from the field to our plate. Journey to the Center of 
the Plate endeavors to discover amazing trends and the deepest roots of 
our regional food systems.

Each month, watch for a new episode. Travel with me, the Stone Soup Chef across the verdant Pacific Northwest from cities to the countryside, from pop-up restaurants to co-ops and ice cream shops.

Ready to watch? Episode one features Rough Draft, a Seattle pop-up restaurant.

  Ep. 1: Seattle pop-up ‘Rough Draft’

Feel free to pass this plate around; it’s meant to be shared. Link to it, embed it on your blog or social media and watch out for more next month.

Food & Drink >

9-Step Recipe to Successful Cooking Classes

Teaching-CookingClassesJust as there are tricks to the perfect sandwich (hint: fresh bread for one), there is a method to making your cooking classes rewarding and mmm-azing for both teacher and student. Not only can your class satiate your students’ thirst for new skills and knowledge, it can also raise money for causes.

Seattle’s El Centro de la Raza is a fine example. A simple tamale-making class evolved into a full curriculum of Latino and South American cooking classes. Eventually, these classes raised more than $50,000 to support bilingual community services.

As Brown Paper Tickets‘ Food, Drink and Farm Specialist, I coached and trained a group on teaching family recipes, sharing culture and traditions to raise funding for community services. My program takes excellent volunteer cooks from the community and turns them into teachers. I broke how to teach cooking classes down into basic steps below, so that anyone can start a volunteer-based cooking school and get community members to teach their family recipes. If you’re in Seattle, join me at my next class when I teach how to make paella.

Here are 9 steps to a well-organized, rewarding, fun and (hopefully) fundraising cooking class or program.

1. Become an Expert
You must learn to walk before you can fly. First things first, you need teaching experience. You must really know your stuff to organize others who have little-to-no teaching experience.

Try teaching cooking classes in your home with friends and family as pupils. This should be a free event to give you a realistic perspective of teaching. In addition to teaching your own class, try attending a few run by professionals. Ask a lot of questions and take copious notes.

2. Host a Volunteer Meet + Greet
Host a meet and greet for potential volunteers. Keep the mood light and offer food and drinks. Make it a fun social event where everyone can chat. Once everyone is settled in and socialized, announce the project’s goals and needs.

Have potential volunteers sign up on a free registration page through Brown Paper Tickets. The process is fast and easy and the link can be directly e-mailed. This allows you to keep track of attendees as well as easy communication.

3. Get to Know Your Group
Here’s an easy icebreaker. Gather everyone into pairs and ask them to talk about what they know best for a few minutes. Once they have had time to chat, ask each person to introduce their partner.

4. Teach What You Know

TeachingCookingClassesWe can all teach just as we can all learn. Three tips to better teaching:

Meet students at their levels. If someone asks you about how to microwave ketchup soup, don’t insult him or her, don’t laugh and don’t start showing off. There’s plenty to learn from less experienced people.

Be kind when criticizing. Being an “expert” (as you will be by the time your class shows up) means you know more than your students. That is why they are paying to be in your class. If you need to step back to go over remedial skills like safety techniques, do it. Check your schedule and note any schedule changes as things progress. But take the time to teach the skills your pupils will need at home.

Celebrate mistakes. There will be messes, fallen cakes, burnt caramel. That’s okay. Be sure at least one batch of everything on the menu makes it to the table. Talk about the mistakes or failed dishes, why they happened and what to watch out for next time. Make a few mistakes yourself–laugh them off and talk about how to fix them. Many students are afraid to make mistakes. If you can teach people to accept mistakes and move on, you’re my hero.

5. Find Your Audience and Theme
Once you know what everyone is best at cooking, you can talk about how to turn that into a class. Map out who, what, where and why. Once each volunteer selects a subject, you can start finding the audience.

However, sometimes you find your students before you find your subject. If fans line up every evening for your amazing open-fire-pit pizza, then your topics are obvious. Dough, sauce, toppings, fire management and whether to fold or stack slices. However, if you don’t have a restaurant or bar, start by looking around at trends you see in the people you think may take a class.

Generally, you want to teach a dish or cuisine folks can learn in a couple hours to the degree they are confident to make it at home. There are exceptions of course. Take pickles, for example. You can’t really make a great pickle in a couple of hours, but you can certainly have samples, teach basic styles and techniques. Pick something that interests you and you’ll be a better teacher.

6. Know Your Subject Inside and Out

Limes, from teaching cooking classes

Pizza is a great example. There are so many styles; it’s mind-boggling. In the end, it’s just flat bread, sauce and cheese. But people prefer one style over another and that’s what makes it interesting. You don’t have to teach every style in your class, but know enough so you can answer questions. Remember, you’re the expert. If you can’t answer questions then you lose respect and sometimes, control of the class.

7. Include these Elements on Your Event Page
• A detailed menu (ingredients, descriptions)
• Chef or organization bio
• Allergy or restriction questionnaire
• Clear refund policy
• Price the class accordingly (be sure the price covers your food and labor cost)
• High-quality images of the dishes you will serve and cook (videos too)
• Spread the word to friends and consider a friends + family discount
• Information on attire, if producing a themed event
• Comp or discounted tickets for staff (training hours are expensive, this could help train your staff and make you a cool boss)
• Event start time and meet-and-greet time, if you want people to show up early
• Business hours
• A clear direction for your class. Make sure your event description is clear—expectations are hard to reset. If it is a demo, tell them so.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to extend the invitation to like-minded organizations and get to know other event organizers in your industry.

8. Practice, Practice, Practice
Go through the steps and write a lesson plan for your class. Practice it with friends. Scripting is a good first step, but don’t pass up the chance to show and tell with a buddy. Tape it using video if possible.

Type up your recipes and have copies ready for your students. Compare your recipe with two or more examples to ensure it is easy to follow. Include tips and secrets and absolutely provide your email address or website. Make sure you are realistic about the number of pupils you can teach
 at once. Start small and build from there. Also be sure you have enough ingredients to complete the menu. Striking a balance between size of class and courses is important.

Create an ingredient checklist and triple check it against your recipe or lesson plan. Do as much prep work as you can prior to the class, but leave enough work to share with your students. If you are cooking a more complicated dish or large quantity, pre-chop veggies. You can always demonstrate on a small quantity and have your pupils try it too.

Pre-measure your ingredients and have them ready to go in separate containers. This will help when you are cooking the dish and you will be less likely to miss something (check ingredients against recipe). Socialize with the class. Before you start, take the time to ease into things. This will relax everyone and make them comfortable.

Taste everything with the class as you go. When possible, eat your creations together at the end. A meal enjoyed in a group is a wonderful reward for a job well done. Make sure you have take aways and containers for the students to bring home. There are three types of take-aways: food, resources or value added. Food take-aways include leftover dough, ingredients or components. Resources would be things like worksheets, syllabus or directions. And value-added means marketing materials, like coupons, tote bags or branded goodies.

9. Attract Sponsors for Your Next Event
Now that you’ve decided to present an exciting new event or program, you wonder: How will I make all this happen with my existing budget? Building a presentation (or deck) and seeking community or corporate sponsors can close funding gaps for new initiatives. It can also help begin and grow future investment in your programs by your sponsors as they witness your work’s impact first-hand.

Here’s what to include in your presentation:

• Clarity of mission + vision
• Testimonials from past program participants and community stakeholders
• Clear description of program or event
• Your ask (arguably, the most important). Be very specific.
• Levels of giving/sponsorship packages
• Sponsor benefits or givebacks: What will your sponsor receive per giving level?
• Other donors or matching gifts opportunities
• Your contact information + organizational branding

Good luck and happy cooking. Feel free to comment with your own tips if you’ve ever taught cooking classes.

Event Tips >

2014 Urban and Small Farms Conference Inspiration

GrowingPower-NewFarmer, founder and CEO, Will Allen and his non-profit Growing Power are leaders in the sustainable food movement. Based in Milwaukee, Growing Power transforms abandoned and unused lots into year-round organic food sources and inspires young people in the community to learn to grow food for themselves and their neighbors. Farmers, community groups and others are joining the fun and the results are outstanding.

Growing Power recently held the 2014 Urban & Small Farms Conference: Building a Fair Food Economy to Grow Healthy People in Milwaukee.  The 3-day conference covered issues of our modern food system and how we can work together to change them.  It focused on community and inter-community teamwork to tackle crucial issues our planet’s food and water systems face.  The conference buzzed with palpable energy and a strong sense of community and global stewardship. Every farmer and educator involved was approachable and willing to give additional resources to those hungry for more information.

Workshops included Urban Farming, Urban Aquaculture, Food and Technology, Food Policy, International (Food and Farming Around the World), Land and Architecture. In addition to workshops, there were networking activities such as Makers Craft Bazaar, Growing Power Farm field trips, Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative (GFJI) and a chef’s gala.  To top it all off, a once-in-a-lifetime talk where Michael Pollan and Will Allen, two giants of the sustainable food movement discussed current food issues, took questions from the guests and ended the evening with inspirational visions for the future.

As a farmer, father and lover of life I feel this kind of movement is essential to our survival.  It was an absolute honor to work with so many passionate and involved members of our global community.  The memories and knowledge taken from this conference will fuel those in attendance to go out and make our food systems better.

Food & Drink >

20 Creative Ways to Use Your Restaurant Space

Restaurant High restaurant lease? Don’t fret. There’s more than one way to use your restaurant space. In fact, there are at least 20. Patrick Nelson, our Food and Beverage Specialist has helped thousands of event organizers all across the industry, from kitchens to restaurants, underground restaurants, gardens, small farms, breweries and distillers. Below, he imparts some ideas on attracting new customers and publicity with your restaurant space.

1. Teach Classes
Chop, dice, blend. Just as there are tricks to making the perfect bisque, cassoulet or grilled cheese, there are methods to making your class a rewarding experience for both student and teacher. Have a lesson plan and start small – teach basic dishes with limited ingredients. Create handouts students can take home. Be engaging and encouraging throughout the class.

2. Pop-Up or Underground Restaurants
It’s the latest thing. Chefs from all over the world are popping up shop in all sorts of places, from tiny dining rooms in Brooklyn to warehouses in Los Angeles. Eager foodies flock to these exclusive supper clubs to converse with interesting people and nosh on off-the-menu items. Many are private events and therefore, immune to the rules and regulations that normally apply to regular restaurants. Plus, they can be held anywhere with space for tables and chairs.

3. Pairings
Wine + cheese. Beer + bacon. Tequila + tacos. Whatever pairing party you choose, it’s a great way to partner and cross promote with local distilleries, breweries and wineries. 

4. Mix and Mingle
Fill your restaurant with professionals by throwing a networking event. Stimulate sales with free or discounted snacks and drink specials. You may also benefit: for example, if you had a distillers’ mixer, you might meet the right folks to partner with on other events.

Tip: Talk to people you know are well-connected to help organize the event. Professional event organizers could also help. If you already have a large mailing list, start with that. After a few events, the followers will start trickling in.

5. Trivia Night
Bring out the beer-drinking brainiacs. Host a trivia night and find out who among your customers are “Cliff Claven” types. If you lined up a trivia MC, you’re in good shape. The next step is building your customer base. Consistency is the key to developing return business, so have the event at the same time every week.

6. Beer or Beverage Release Party
Spread the word about your new brew. Whether you are a budding new brewery or have been successfully crafting for a decade, throwing a release party can foster excitement, awareness and some well-deserved attention. Get the scoop on how to throw a rockin’ beer release party.

7. Cook Offs
Top Chef,” “Iron Chef,” “Chopped” and others have made competitive cooking part of the main stream television diet. Bring the competition to your restaurant. Invite local aspiring cooks to try their hand and test their skill. Pack the house. Gain exposure in the food community. Create a one-of-a-kind trophy and title for the victor. The competition will get fierce and food might just fly, but keep things light and fun.

Tip: Turn the cookoff into a fundraiser and show your love to a local charity. Giving is not only personally rewarding, there are lots of wonderful causes that need help. And as a bonus, your good deed may result in added exposure.

City Growers Farm to Table Benefit8. Tastings
Go local. Put together special tasting menus that features local products, anything from wine to craft soda pop or cider. Or host your own whenever you update your menu or wine list. Mix it up – have your patrons vote on new dishes. Use the built-in market research to keep your menu current.

9. Private Events
You might already host weddings, birthday parties, but why not make it part of your business. Boost your value to customers by offering a catering menu and event registration support.

10. Tournaments
Pool, darts, bocce ball…when it comes to bar or restaurant tournaments, the opportunities are endless. Even beer pong is in play. Register your leagues and use Brown Paper Tickets to collect the dues.

11. Internal Training
Show newbies the ropes. Hold training sessions on food safety, etiquette, procedure and anything else your employees need to know in your space. This is also a great way to update their menu knowledge.

12. Holiday Parties
Dazzle your customers with your own soiree or arrange parties for customers. Offer event registration to make organizing the night a breeze.

13. Poetry Nights/Open Mic Nights
Host an open mic night and find the best minds of your generation. (If you get that reference, you’re well on your way.) Everyone wants to be heard, so open the floor to the community. If your space is small, you might not even need the mic.

14. Community Meetings
Offer to let community groups host meetings and functions in your establishment. Hold an appreciation event for one or more of these groups, offer food and drink specials or even a catering menu tailored to their event.

15. Customer Appreciation Night
Reward your regulars. Create a preferred customer program and show your appreciation for return business with discounts and the occasional appetizer on the house. Feature entertaining activities (trivia, bingo, raffles) and free snacks.

16. Industry Shindig
Get familiar with fellow associates in the food and drink industry by holding special functions for restaurant industry workers. Provide free snacks and drink deals with a valid food handler’s card or liquor license.

17. Singles Mingles
Fan the flames of love. Register attendees for your single’s night. Give out name tags and have plenty of pens and paper available for phone number exchanges. Create aphrodisiac-themed food and drink specials (Cupid Cocktail, anyone?) or line up tables and chairs to turn the evening into a speed dating event.

18. Game Nights
Drinking and gaming go together like beer and pretzels. Pictionary, Outburst, Apples to Apples, Jenga are all perfect choices for group games over drinks or snacks. Organize a large tournament and register players ahead of time.

19. Fundraisers
Pancake breakfast. Spaghetti dinner. Lobster lunch. Throw a charity dinner to raise funds for a good cause. Chat with your purveyors and ask if they will donate some of the food so you can maximize the funds raised.

20. Farm to Table

Go Green Acres. Invite local farms to show off their lovingly grown products with a special menu featuring their ingredients.

Whew. Got more creative uses for your restaurant space? Or have a question about food industry events? Comment below.

Photo credit, 1st photo: Martin Abegglen

Food & Drink >

6 Tips to Better Farm-to-Table Events

carrots-farm-to-tableChefs are talking about it. Foodies are asking for it. These days, farm to table is on the tips of everyone’s tongues.

High-quality ingredients make a chef’s job easier since they are so naturally delectable.  Any respectable food lover will search for the freshest and most lovingly grown produce.  More and more, restaurant owners are partnering with local farmers to find it. In some cases, they’re cutting out the middle man and farming their own ingredients.

Any way you slice it, farm to table fundamentally changed the way we dine out.

Today’s food lover and farm-to-table dinners

Today’s food lover wants to know where it comes from, how it was grown, and if it will be around next time. Farm-to-table dinners allow food fans to get up close and personal to what they’re eating and hopefully, walk away with a greater appreciation for it. The term “farm to table” has to do with the process of growing, harvesting, preparing and consuming food.  However, many types of food and beverage events fit under this umbrella.  On the farm or in the restaurant, the slow food and farm-to-table movement puts the spotlight on the highest-quality, locally grown ingredients.

No need to overdress for these dining experiences, the focus is on the food. If you are considering hosting your own farm-to-table event, kudos to you. This movement will slowly re-school us on how vital and precious food is to long-term survival. Since farm-to-table events involve a lot of harvesting and preparing ingredients right from the farm, it’s smart to have a checklist for your event planning.

We know your farm-to-table event is going to be great, but the below tips will help make it even better.

6 tips to a better farm-to-table experience

1. If you are hosting an outdoor event, be aware of the experience you are building.  Once you have a realistic inventory of possible issues, you can address them one by one.  Ifcity-growers-urban-farming-benefit you don’t have access to a farm, reach out to some in your area. It’s a great way to build community.

2. Going to be outdoors? Don’t forget about pests. Bees, mosquitoes, ants, or greedy birds could throw a wrench in the works, so have a test dinner prior to the event.  Find methods for detouring/repelling critters without also repelling your guests.  Marigolds and other plants make good natural repellents that don’t overpower the senses.

3. Wind, rain and yes, too much sun can turn a picturesque dinner into a logistic nightmare. No one wants soggy biscuits, so have a second location planned in case it pours.  Follow weather forecasts and adjust accordingly.

4. Keep your dishes and décor simple and elegant. Minimalist décor offers a more authentic experience and frees up time and resources that could be put into the execution of the event. Choose simple recipes that highlight flavor; the best ingredients will taste amazing with little help. Make sure that as many ingredients as possible are locally grown by organic sustainable farms.  If you have a dish in mind and can’t source the ingredients, try a different recipe or variation.  This limitation will bring out your creativity and inspire your visitors to buy locally.

5. Make your guests feel at home on the farm. Ensure a great, homey ambiance by inviting people you know. Friends, family, or farm staff could make wonderful assistant hosts.  Allow plenty of time before, after and in-between courses for guests to take in the surroundings and chat.  If everything goes well, time stands still and memories are made.

6. Above all, relish the event and your company.  Confidence and genuine enjoyment are absolute musts to making your dinner a sweet success.  The impression from a great night will last a lifetime and keep diners coming back.

Calling all food lovers: Comment below with your fresh tips on food. Hungry? Find a farm-to-table feast near you.

(First photo from City Growers Benefit last month in New York)

Food & Drink >

NYC Walking Tours Make Brooklyn Shine

Whether you are traveling to New York City to see local sights or want to become a tour guide yourself, we know a guy. Meet Dom Gervasi, owner and event organizer of Made in Brooklyn Tours. After being laid off, he transformed his career into tour guide and found joy and community in the midst. He sets up walking tours as events to sell more tickets and boost his revenue.

Brooklyn is packed with tons of local makers and Gervasi reveals that borough’s crafts, foods and goods. His walking tours focus on the history and current movement of manufacturing around Brooklyn.

madeinbrooklyntour2Brown Paper Tickets: How did you get into guided tours of local Brooklyn makers?

Gervasi: Like many, I got laid off. I was in high tech for many years doing sales and business development. At the start of my career I worked for manufacturers—an “outside salesman” visiting mostly financial institutions throughout the New York metro region. By the end of my career, I was inside mostly and my company was going bankrupt. After losing my job, I took time off and explored Brooklyn with fresh eyes. I wondered why manufacturing left and then discovered Brooklyn’s dynamic maker movement. How cool would it be to apply my business development experience with local makers—especially small businesses and start-ups? That’s how I got the idea about doing tours where the stars of the show are makers.

madeinbrooklyntour1

Brown Paper Tickets: What is it about Brooklyn that fascinates you?

Gervasi: I’m fascinated with all aspects of Brooklyn’s maker movement. It has many layers. For example, there are the “old school” and “new school.” The “old school” is typically a family business that began decades ago primarily serving an ethnic community. They’ve been at it for generations and are very good at what they do. The “new school” is composed of individuals and start-ups that have a unique approach. What they may lack in experience, they make up for with their creativity.
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