Cooks and growers team up for March of Dimes
You can’t throw a parsnip around here without hitting a menu that hypes “farm to table.” And nowhere was the buzzword more appropriate than at March of Dimes’ Farmer & The Chef South event last week at Millsboro’s Cordrey Center. You can’t get much more farm to table than the farmer standing right there at the table!
The lineup of gifted chefs and local growers drew a record crowd, and nobody left hungry. Attendees voted for their favorites. (See the Entertainment section for Molly MacMillan’s lowdown on who won.)
From my Nikon’s point of view, Eden Chef Andrew Feeley’s Green Eggs & Lamb stole the show. Using lamb, bee pollen and eggs from Loblolly Farms, Andy filled eggshells with a honey and mint egg custard topped off with the braised meat, bee pollen and garlic chive blossoms. When I asked him how he managed to trim the tops off of all those eggs, he looked a little shell-shocked and said, “After you do about 150 of them, it gets easier.” His efforts were not in vain - they were delicious.
Chef Brenton Wallace from Root Gourmet was paired with Bobola Farms. Their squash, corn and tomatoes joined tarragon, fresh crab and smoked tomato jam on top of a sweet corn johnnycake. Think silver-dollar pancake, but with a corny twist.
Mike Clampitt, the toque-in-charge at Baywood Greens, tapped Shepherd Hopes Farms and Fifer Orchards for his spiced, slow-roasted and pulled lamb topped with white peaches, fire-roasted tomatoes and thin-as-air radishes. The whole production rested on a homemade corn tortilla. The chef gilded the lily with Baywood’s signature Danish bread pudding (no, not from Denmark - it’s made with Danish pastry!). White peaches and caramel sauce orchestrated the perfect dénouement.
Dawn’s Country Market in Milton offered up grass-fed beef, tomatoes, corn and hot pepper jelly so Blue Moon’s Lion Gardner could adorn a jalapeño-cheddar biscuit with beef braised in Evolution ESB ale. A tomato, corn and arugula salad was lightly dressed in sherry vinaigrette and balanced precariously on top of it all.
Millsboro’s Blue Water Grill was represented by owner and Chef Josh Wiggins, who converted fresh squash from Parson’s Farm into delightfully autumnal dessert bars. Any Thanksgiving table would have been proud to hold a plate of these happy little squares, and few visitors could limit themselves to just one.
The smoked eggplant tostada with sweet corn salsa department was headed up by Ted Deptula from Nage Bistro. Evans Farms provided the eggplant and the corn, and Ted came up with the tostada concept. Pickled lime gave it a colorful burst of flavor. Pickled lime, yet. Leave it to Nage!
The Grand Poobah of Espuma and Cabo, Jay Caputo, was there in person to do Charlie Smith, Greer Stangl and the rest of the T.S. Smith & Sons crew proud with Cabo street corn sprinkled with homemade chili powder and Cotija cheese. Not to be outdone (few have tried to outdo Jay and lived to tell about it), the James Beard Award-nominated chef finished things off with a white peach and pistachio tart.
Hari Cameron, a(Muse.) boss, whipped up a smoky and buttery twist on traditional vichyssoise using Fifer’s potatoes and Lewes Dairy crème in a soup flavored with applewood/hickory smoke and an onion, fennel, parsnip and leek sachet. Of course, a crispy chunk of bacon didn’t hurt a bit.
Tomatillo guacamole with spinach chips (you had to be there!) accompanied a spicy trout arrabiata in a four-course extravaganza assembled by Abbott’s Grill Chef/owner Kevin Reading. Peppers and basil for pork sausage and the fruit salad on a stick (with watermelon!) were courtesy of growers Bob and Barbara Russell. Reading’s placement by the front entrance could have been a challenge, but the talent inside lived up to the bar he set.
Other participants included Passwater’s restaurant at the Heritage Shores Golf Club, the Mar-Del Watermelon Association (we took two home), Fenwick Wine Cellars and Dogfish Head. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll snag a ticket for next year’s event. I suggest you stop eating now so you’ll be ready.