Do you want to learn about the best wine pairings in Spain? Experience the flavors of Miami? Explore the geography of Greek food — all while savoring delectable samples and listening to international experts share their knowledge (in lovely foreign accents)? Then you won’t want to miss Taste Trekkers 2014 Food Expo coming to Providence October 3 – 5. It will be the chef’s, the foodie’s, the culinary tourist’s weekend delight.
I’d never heard of a “culinary tourist” until I spoke with Seth Resler, the mastermind behind Taste Trekkers 2014 and creator of the nation’s first food tourism conference, and realized I AM one. I’ll illustrate with an example.
The other day I was talking to my supervisor after work, and the topic of gelato came up. Without hesitation, I started recounting my all-time favorite flavors, beginning with Rhode Island hotspots and moving to international bests: Amarena Cherry in London on the West End; Hokey Pokey (a Kiwi original) from a place called Lick in New Zealand; and Panna Semifreddo from a tiny shop in Bassano del Grappa, Italy. After a moment’s pause, my supervisor said, “How do you remember all of this? I can barely remember what I ate last week.”
This obsession I have with food (and gelato) and traveling the world to eat it is what defines the culinary tourist. Apparently there are other people in this world who plan their vacations around where they want to eat — a special breed of foodies. But every foodie has his way. As Resler pointed out, “There are two types of foodies: those who cook, and those who dine.” This conference will satiate every foodie’s appetite, and anyone who’s interested in preparing food, eating food, or traveling to eat food won’t want to miss it.
Here’s the line-up:
October 3: Industry Day (sold out). This is for professionals (e.g., beer brewers, culinary students, food tour operators, chefs, food bloggers) to learn the ins and outs of the food tourism industry. Panel discussion and mini-talks fill the afternoon, and a networking cocktail reception follows at The Dorrance (a great choice for cocktails, if I might add).
October 4: Foodie Day! This is the day to remember! Log it into your calendars right now. There will be food. There will be passion. There will be wine. This main event takes place at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Providence and is open to the public. The morning is divided into three rounds of “Edible Sessions,” where experts will guide you on specialty cuisines, and you’ll get to sample them while learning about the history and traditions that surround them. And there are SO. MANY. OPTIONS. New Zealand, Peru, Greece, Spain, Cape Cod, Vermont, Maine, honeys, wines, lamb, ham, breads, pizza, cheese. To reserve a spot in your preferred session, purchase tickets in advance ($50; $65 at the door).
Following the sessions, everyone will reconvene to feast on dozens of food and drink samples from local restaurants. And if you’re anything like me (that person who insists on snapping pictures of her food), photos are encouraged! Tweet your favorites using #2014TTExpo. The day ends with extended hours at JWU’s Culinary Arts Museum.
Oct 5: Downcity Scavenger Hunt: Snap selfies at all the correct locations to win hundreds of dollars worth of prizes. Meet at noon at the Providence Arcade and grab a list, a group of friends and a camera to try to be the first to win. Prizes will be announced after a special showing of Farm-City, State at the Cable Car Cinema.
If you’re wondering, “Why Providence?” one good reason was that it was voted the #1 City for Food/Drink/Restaurants in America by Travel + Leisure in 2012. I also learned some history surrounding the event from Resler, whose name and voice you might recognize from his days at 95.5 WBRU. He’s a 1999 Brown graduate who created the social dining group, “Mystery Meet,” in Boston four years ago. It began as a flash-mob-meets-dinner-party and turned into a nationwide social gathering for adventurous foodies. (Strangers who share a love of food sign up to dine, but they aren’t given the location until 24 hours in advance, hence the “mystery” of the “meet.”) From there, Seth started the “Find Dining Podcast,” an interview series featuring chefs and food bloggers from St. Louis to Greece, helping listeners find the best places to experience local culture through local cuisine. He believes there’s an importance to understanding food within a place, and how that place shapes and informs food. This concept is evident in his execution of Taste Trekkers, which combines eating with informative, expert-led sessions.
I asked Seth if he’s always been so fond of food, and his answer involved a different kind of love. “I once dated a foodie. Her family would get together just to talk about food, and I was baffled. I had always been good at eating food, but not talking about it. I realized this is a passion for people, and I’ve always been interested in people who view what they do as an art.”
From master chefs to food bloggers to gelato enthusiasts, passion will meet pleasure at Taste Trekkers 2014.
To purchase tickets and find out more information, visit Tastetrekkers.com.