Patrick Martins: Fast-Food Foe
"The red delicious apple may dominate the market, but I want to save the other 2,500 varieties," says Patrick Martins. Darwin might not have approved, but Martins, 28, president of Slow Food USA (212-988-5146), believes that fighting for the survival of the unfittest is the best way to preserve North America's culinary diversity. After working for two years at the headquarters of the nonprofit Slow Food Movement, in Italy (the group formed there in 1986 to protest the opening of a McDonald's in Rome), Martins came home to Manhattan last year to bring the organization's slow-down-and-eat message to the birthplace of fast food, the United States. Between organizing tastings that showcase regional cuisine (like the ultimate American slow food, Southern barbecue) and promoting obscure heirloom crops and forgotten breeds of chickens and cattle, Martins still finds time to savor his favorite hometown traditions: authentic New York pastrami and pickles.
—Kimberly Y. Masibay

The Wine Brats: Grape Crusaders
For these heirs of leading Sonoma wine families, it was a little disconcerting to get to college and find that BYOB didn't mean "bring your own Bordeaux." So after a few years of ever-so-subtle attempts to coax their beer-guzzling and martini-sipping peers to switch to Cabs and Chards, Michael Sangiacomo, 31, Jon Sebastiani, 30, and Jeff Bundschu, 32, founded Wine Brats. Ever since, the Brats (with financial support from their family businesses and other big bottlers) have been organizing spirited, youthful gatherings meant to demystify the grape—like their Wine Raves, which somehow manage to combine fashion, performance art and trip-hop with wine education. Missed those? Then learn to live the Brat life with the trio's recent book, The Wine Brats' Guide to Living, With Wine. But even true believers (a group that includes F&W; we were so impressed that we're helping them throw their upcoming party, The Chefs w/out Hats—Disco Inferno Tour, which features young chefs cooking to a disco beat) might be given pause by one recent Brats seminar called "Yo Mamma's Grape Juice Never Tasted Like This" (877-545-4699).
—Gina Dell'Aquila

Carolin Young: Soiree Scholar
Carolin Young threw her first party at age 12: to welcome her mother home from an extended stay in China, she hired a brass quintet, filled the apartment with yellow roses and served poached salmon. In college, her fetes grew more elaborate. There was the stock-market-crash party staged in a setting done up as a 1920s speakeasy and the pagan Easter dinner that ended with skinnydipping in the campus lake. Young, now 32, has even invented her own job description based on her party-throwing prowess: dining historian. Her work tends toward the academic (she's currently writing a book on European dining rituals from the eleventh century on), but it's grounded in her belief that the customs surrounding food help give meaning to life. "Eating is biological," she says. "Dining is everything beyond that. It's what makes us human." True to form, her lectures on French dining history at Sotheby's in Manhattan (212-894-1111) are followed by time-traveling banquets that meticulously re-create the food, music, wardrobe and etiquette of, say, Casanova's seduction dinners or Talleyrand's foreign-affairs soirees. Not all of Young's events are quite so extravagant, though; the simple act of bringing people together is inspiring enough. "Sometimes," she says, "it's just nice to invite friends over for some stew."
—Susan Choung