By Steve Peters
Last week I celebrated my two year anniversary of living in Vermont. When people ask how I like living here, the answer is easy: I love it. Why? For a number of reasons, but at the top of my list is the food.
If you’ve read this column before, you know that many factors are encompassed when discussing food in Vermont. We know it doesn’t just appear on our plates. It involves a number of dedicated and talented individuals – a combination that you simply won’t find anywhere else. Whether they are the farmers, chefs, bakers, or eaters, and the many folks in between, they have a role to play.
That’s why I’m excited for our upcoming fundraising event on September 15th – Twilight in the Meadow. While the event certainly helps us raise the necessary funds to continue pursuing our work in advancing local farm and food initiatives, at the end of the day, it’s really not about us.
Twilight is a celebration of farms and the folks who have the creative ability to take their high quality local foods and turn them into delectable masterpieces. We often discuss our local farms here, but if we also didn’t have creative minds taking foods to the next level, the world would be a slightly less exciting place – at least for me.
Sheri Sullivan, owner of Sheri’s Diner in downtown Brandon and catering company, Plan-It-Sheri, is one of those creative minds. When she isn’t running one of her two businesses, Sheri oversees the non-profit Dinners with Love, which works with area chefs and cooks to donate meals to hospice patients. I’m excited to see Sheri leading Twilight’s dinner menu this year and doing something rather smart with it – adding some Mediterranean flavor.
Also contributing to the menu are a number of other talented individuals, including French trained Chef, Jennifer Brenner, who runs the local catering company Olive Branch Gourmet; Sissy Hicks of the well-known Sissy’s Kitchen in Middletown Springs; and Tracey Medeiros, author of the acclaimed The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook. Our guests will enjoy the result of this demonstration of how food can be sourced locally while also possessing some worldly inspiration.
Their food stations will be set up around the tent and grouped according to country. Northern Spain, France and Italy will be found at one station, Greece, Turkey and Syria at another, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Libya at a third and Spain, Algeria and Morocco at the final. Guests will enjoy dishes such as pork with fennel, apple and potato; Syrian chicken with ginger and saffron; Libyan spiced pumpkin dip; Egyptian Kushari (lentils, rice, chickpeas and pasta); and chorizo stuffed dates wrapped in bacon.
Who would have thought all of that could be possible while our favorite high quality Vermont ingredients remain the highlight?
The evening wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include an equally delicious dessert course.
Local bakery Sugar Bees, run by Amanda Barrett, who can often be found at the Rutland Farmer’s Market and with items in area restaurants, will take our favorite autumn staples – apples and pumpkins – and use them to craft pielets – individual handheld pies. The fresh, local apples will be tossed in a salted apple caramel sauce while the pumpkins will be roasted, spiced and served with a sweetened whipped cream.
But I’m a firm believer that you can never have enough apple or pumpkin, especially in the coming months. Alison Briggs, of Trillium Fine Desserts in Chittenden and former writer of the column “Local Flavor” in the Rutland Herald will be contributing a pumpkin mouse with a maple drizzle. A Dozen Eggs Bake Shoppe in Mount Holly will bring pumpkin whoopie pies; apple spiced cupcakes and frosted sugar cookies, as well. Both Trillium and A Dozen Eggs take pride in their use of sourcing locally.
Can you see why I like living here, yet? And I didn’t even mention the number of Vermont cheeses, breads, crackers, sausage and beverages that will also make an appearance on September 15th. The list is a long one and will soon be posted on our website.
While I hope you’ll join us at Twilight, out on the fields of Wood’s Market Garden in Brandon, the good thing is, even if you can’t, you can still seek out and support any of the talented individuals and businesses I’ve mentioned. Or maybe on your next trip to a farmers market you’ll think about how to incorporate some ethnic flavor or construct your own desserts.
Tickets to Twilight in the Meadow, our online auction, and raffle tickets to win a chance for a balloon ride for two, can all be found through RAFFL’s website at www.rutlandfarmandfood.org.
Steve Peters is RAFFL’s food education and communications specialist. Contact him at email@example.com
Originally published in the Rutland Herald.