This past weekend I had the extreme pleasure of attending Eat Retreat 2012. It was a jam-packed weekend in the woods of Los Altos, CA with 40 of the most colorful, friendly, and quality people in the world of food, who I’m proud to have forged friendships with.
The weekend kicked off with a lamb butchering demo by Andrew Plotsky, a butcher from Farmstead Meatsmith in Washington State, which we cooked for that night’s dinner. Ample supplies of David Scheidt’s great “Mastro Scheidt” wine and Jesse Friedman’s excellent Almanac Beer provided tasty social lubrication as we all got to know each other. Eat Retreat co-founder, Kathryn Tomajan, led us around the campfire for introductions, which segued nicely into a ceremonial Malort tasting by Rachel Adams. (Malort, that infamous spirit hailing from Chicago, easily comes through on its dual claims that “these pants won’t shit themselves” and “kick your mouth in the balls.” I cannot disagree with this assertion.)
The next morning, we kicked off with animal farmer/butcher extraordinare, Heather Marold Thomason, taking us through chicken butchering. This was one of the more profound activities of the weekend, since virtually no one at Eat Retreat had ever killed their meat, despite the vast amount of collective culinary experience in attendance. Knowing that you killed your own food certainly added a substantial layer of meaning and satisfaction to dinner later that night, when we ate our slaughter. From there, it was a back-to-back day of one great workshop after another, including:
- Salmon smoking the Chinook Indian way from Neil Davidson of Mission Gastroclub,
- Food media discussion with Bruce Cole (Publisher, Edible SF), Anna Roth (Restaurant Critic, SF Weekly), Clare Leschin-Hoar (Food Journalist), and Molly Watson (Food Writer)
- Olive oil making/tasting/science, by Sara Feinberg of the California Olive Oil Council
- Salt 101 with Spice Hound owner Tammy Tan
- Wine Tasting from David Scheidt of Mastro Scheidt and Samantha Buyskes of Simply Red Culinary Center
- Cheese Time with Emily Morgan of Cowgirl Creamery
- Food & Tech Talk with Will Turnage
- Coffee Class with Stephen Wade
- Pie making by Maggie Rice and Natalie Galatzer
- 3AM Grilled Cheese Masterclass by Michael Davidson, the one and only Grilled Cheese Guy
While there were activities and meals galore, the real value of this weekend was getting into the mix with the people. The organizers take applications in advance of the weekend and they somehow manage to build a roster of not just accomplished individuals, but a roster with great diversity and generosity. You can’t just come into Eat Retreat with accolades, you need to bring an original voice and the humbleness to give and take with others. This is the key to why the weekend was so successful.
How all of this fit into two days, I have no clue, but I’m glad that I walked away with the relationships with these people to keep it all going. It was a thought provoking and highly educational weekend, but the chances to bond and get into trouble with my fellow Eat Retreaters was what I’ll remember most. Like summer camp, the true value isn’t so much learning how to make a canoe, it’s creating a lifelong memory with the people that were in your canoe when it flipped over in the lake.
At Eat Retreat, the content takes a back seat to the camaraderie. And with that, I know that Eat Retreat won’t have to ever end. Can’t wait to see you guys again…and again…and again…
Full Photo Gallery via Flickr