Food lovers rejoice! The second annual Slow Food Nations returns to take over historic Larimer Square in downtown Denver, July 13-15, 2018. However, the three-day celebration is much more than an extravaganza for gourmands.

It’s both a delicious and educational weekend made up of more than 50 different free and ticketed food tastings, dinners, workshops and family-friendly events devoted to sustainably sourced food and drink under this year’s theme “Food for Change.” Slow Food Nations is for all ages, and kids and parents are invited to check out fun, free activities in the Family Pavilion.

This festival of flavor and exploration was inspired by Italy’s famed Terra Madre Salone del Gusto and is hosted by Slow Food, a global grassroots organization founded in 1986. The purpose of the group is to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life, and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, including where it comes from and how food choices affect the world. There are more than 150 Slow Food chapters across the United States, including five in Colorado based in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and the Western Slope.  

Here’s a quick look at five ways to plug into happenings at the 2018 Slow Food Nations celebration in Denver, a city that has become one of the West’s most vibrant centers for culinary creativity. 

Don’t Miss the Kickoff

At the opening party on Friday night, expect the best Colorado ingredients from the high country and plains to urban environments and the Southwest deserts used in tastings prepared by the state’s best chefs, artisanal brewers, distillers, cheesemakers and more. 

Indulge in Taste Marketplace and Eat Street

Both are free and open to the public on Saturday and Sunday. At the open-air Taste Marketplace, 100 exhibitors of good, clean and fair food will share their stories, offer samples and sell products. Eat Street is a pop-up bar and food court aimed at slowing festival attendees down by putting a fork in one hand and a beverage in another. Purchase craft beer and cocktails alongside tasty bites created by featured chefs and stick around for when Eat Street transitions into a music-filled lounge. 

Get Worldly

Saturday wraps up with the Global Street Food Social, an evening tasting event that explores artisanal street foods of the world presented with unlikely, but wildly delicious, global drink pairings. Guests roam Larimer Square between bites and sips.

 

Use Your Brain

Hands-on workshops and panel discussions will focus on issues that are impacting the world’s food system and feature speakers like Massimo Bottura, Deb Eschmeyer, Daniela Ibarra-Howell, John Ikerd, Raj Patel, Steven Satterfield, Alon Shaya, Woody Tasch, Poppy Tooker, as well as Colorado chefs Daniel Asher, Jennifer Jasinski, Sheila Lucero, Paul Reilly, Alex Seidel, Chris Starkus and Kelly Whitaker. 

Ticketed workshops on Saturday and Sunday include topics such as a guided tasting of American honey paired with local cheeses and breads, the ancient process of making traditional Mexican tortillas, a sampling of sustainably sourced oysters from around the globe, and cooking with heritage grains at home. Held simultaneously, a summit series is designed to take a deeper dive into the challenges and opportunities facing food in the 21st century with sessions such as The Buzz about Biodiversity, When Disaster Strikes, Farming for the Future, and Waste Not, Want Not.

This year’s festival theme, Food for Change, is intertwined with the learning sessions and aimed at examining how food is a victim, cause and solution to climate change. Slow Food Nations also presents delicious solutions regarding what people can do every day to make positive change that impacts the planet and connects attendees with rural producers, chefs and international guests. 

Plug into Family Style

The weekend wraps up on Sunday evening in true Slow Food fashion with a Zero Waste Family Meal served family style in a communal setting and using food waste captured at the festival. Taste the amazing possibilities of cooking with food that may have otherwise been thrown away. Another highlight is the Family Pavilion on Saturday and Sunday with hands-on activities for all ages like cooking, gardening and art.

“It’s really time to change the food system, which is responsible for great environmental damages and for a fifth of the emissions causing climate change. A real alternative is possible, and we want to show it at Slow Food Nations,” says Richard McCarthy, executive director of Slow Food USA. “We are thrilled to return to Colorado for our second annual event as the state has so much energy and commitment around slow food.”

For tickets and a complete schedule of events with times and locations, visit www.slowfoodnations.org