Patisserie Angelica, Handline and Lowell's win the Snail of Approval from Slow Food Sonoma County

Sometimes it’s good to move at a snail’s pace.

Restaurants and farms were recognized for their Slow Food efforts at the Slow Food in Sonoma County Snail of Approval ceremony Feb. 6 at the Sebastopol Grange.

During the ceremony, each recipient had a chance to talk a little about what the Slow Food movement meant to them and shared some samples of their cuisine afterward.

“What strikes me is how important the relationships are in this kind of business we run,” recipient Natalie Goble said. She added that it wasn’t just knowing how things were done, but why it was important to her supplying farmers and her customers so she could continue the slow path.

Goble and her teams were awarded for Handline and Lowell’s restaurants in Sebastopol.

Slow Food isn’t just about farm to table. Recipients of the Snail were judged by their interaction with the environment, opportunities for employees and education outreach in addition to having local, organic food. This way, the whole process could be made sustainable, not just for the foodies, but for the people working and those who may be curious but didn’t know what the movement meant.

“Anyone is welcome to ask for a tour and see what sustainability means at Mateo’s,” Mateo Granado said.

Granado was recognized for Mateo’s in Healdsburg. He said growing up in a butcher’s family gave him good insight as to why educating the public about food is important.

Many of the restaurant owners include their staff in the education process as well. Sometimes a bit of cross-training is done, as servers and other restaurant workers go out and work on the farm for a week before getting to their normal duties. In doing this, employees learn the whole of Slow Food and can answer questions patrons have as well as the owners.

Sometimes sustainability means new blood. Tierra Vegetables Farm in Santa Rosa was one of the first two farms recognized in the pilot program at the second annual awards. Owners Lee and Wayne James have been working the fields for nearly 40 years, and they want to make sure Slow Food keeps chugging along.

“There are so many good farms and we’ve got to keep them active,” Lee James said.

Cloverdale’s Lantern Farm was the other farm to be awarded.

“Slow Food is like an extension of my arm,” Rebecca Bozzelli of Lantern said while accepting her Snail, adding that she was proud to be one of the first farms to be recognized.

Working right next to such a vibrant farm community isn’t to be taken for granted, either.

“It was awesome moving to this area,” Trading Post owner Eric Johnson said. “You can actually cook locally in the wintertime.”

Johnson originally hails from Boise, Idaho, where cold snaps can ruin attempts to source nearby farms.

One pair of recipients showed another corner of slow food that some might not think fits: a bakery.

Patisserie Angelica’s former owners, Condra Easley and sister Debbie Morris, said that finding organic baking ingredients can be next to impossible. However, watching a Monsanto video covering sustainable food changed their lives, they said.

“We knew we had to take it to another level,” Easley said.

So they scoured the market for the best organic, non-GMO ingredients available, sometimes sacrificing the easier bulk purchases for smaller-scale specialty products. Now, the new owners Gergana Karabelov and Jennifer Bice will continue these practices in 2019.

The ceremony wasn’t just to congratulate farms and restaurants on their past accomplishments, but a way to show residents where they can find Slow Food right now.

Zeno Swijtink is one of the selection team members with Slow Food in Sonoma County. He said the Snails can help foodies make decisions and find new experiences and also connect Snail winners with each other.

“The program should be of value to the recipient,” Swijtink said.

He said Sonoma County is one of the best places to find Slow Food in the country after looking at the programs in the rest of the U.S. Even still, he said they learned a lot about the selection process from other areas, particularly in recognizing farms, which was in its pilot year.

To learn more about Slow Food in Sonoma County or to get an application for next year’s Snail of Approval, click here.

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