Packing for a trip to Europe presents a challenge for any traveler, but what if you had to cook for more than 100 people when you landed? That’s the logistical mountain that Mile High City chef Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja, Ultreia, Bistro Vendôme, Stoic & Genuine, Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen) recently had to climb as she planned what to bring with her to the biannual Terra Madre Salone del Gusto festival— Slow Food Nations’ European counterpart—in Turin, Italy last month.
Not only did Jasinski have to convert her Italian shopping list into grams and kilos, but she had to figure out how to get Centennial State ingredients to the event. “I wanted to bring a lot of Colorado products with me,” she says, “but it was hard getting the food past customs.” In the end, Jasinski made—and successfully transported and served—Palisade peach preserves and locally grown Jimmy Nardello pepper jam, as well as Leopold Bros.’ Aperitivo, so Terra Madre attendees could enjoy a true taste of Colorado.
“I was there working on creating energy around Slow Food USA and hopefully getting more people from abroad to come to Denver,” Jasinski says. Representing Denver’s dining scene, she spoke on a panel alongside Slow Food USA executive director Richard McCarthy and celebrity chef Alice Waters about the mission behind the American outpost of the Italian-born food justice organization. “My part was to address what it means to me as a chef to have Slow Food Nations in Denver,” Jasinski says. “I love putting Denver’s restaurants, producers, and food community on the culinary map. We’re not just a flyover town.”
Jasinski brought Adam Branz, Ultreia’s executive chef, with her to Turin for his first trip outside the United States. Together, they cooked local porcini mushrooms with fresh ricotta and aged balsamic vinegar; an heirloom bean cassoulet with roasted chanterelles and duck prosciutto; basil-compressed watermelon topped with lobster salad and that Jimmy Nardello pepper jam; Palisade peach preserves and prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe on a pine nut semolina cracker; and a Lambrusco spritz made with Leopold’s Aperitivo, grapefruit juice, and soda. “The Italian attendees loved the porcinis especially,” Jasinski says. “They told me that they never see porcinis served that way and they liked the diverse approach.”
Branz and Jasinski also led a workshop in partnership with Meatless Monday, focusing on vegetarian versions of her bean cassoulet and watermelon dishes, demonstrating how to utilize every bit of their ingredients. “We used pepper scraps to make a coulis [sauce], and used the bean liquor [cooking liquid] inside the cassoulet,” she says. “No one is saying to not eat any meat, it’s just that if you make a little change, once a week, toward eating less meat and the right meat, it makes a big difference.”
Now that Jasinski is back in Denver, she’s more inspired than ever to bring what she learned in Turin to her restaurants’ kitchens and to brainstorming how 2019’s Slow Food Nations event can be even better than in previous years. “At Terra Madre, there are activations all across the city of Turin, at farms, and at historical landmarks,” says Jasinski. “I’d like to see [Slow Food Nations] do that too. We also need more local producers involved [in the event] to get their stories out so people can get over that disconnect between the cost of producing food and how much, say, chicken costs on a restaurant menu. People need to understand the cost of ingredients that are raised responsibly or made by hand.”