In spite of threatening weather reports all week, yesterday’s Edible Food Fest in Orange couldn’t have had a more gorgeous day for the food-packed festival.
The Edible Food Fest, sponsored by regional food magazine Edible Blue Ridge, the local Blue Mountain Brewery and the Orange Downtown Alliance, showcased the central Virginia region’s finest foods, from farmers and food producers to local and regional restaurants. Two Chef Demo tents and a “Chat Room” offered cooking demonstrations and discussions throughout the day. I got to take in a demonstration of okra recipes by chef Curtis Shaver, of Charlottesville restaurant Hamilton’s at First and Main, as well as a discussion and tasting of “Ancient and Modern Grains” by Currey Fountain, of local catering company Beggar’s Banquet Catering.
Chef Shaver covered two delicious okra recipes, a charred okra salad with arugula, feta, heirloom tomatoes and a mustard-based vinaigrette, and an okra “maque choux,” a traditional Creole side dish to which he added beautiful purple Red Burgundy okra. (A caveat for the picture of his demonstration – it was taken before the demonstration began. By the time he’d cooked up these two yummy okra dishes, the house was packed!). The main point to remember with okra, he explained, is that it needs to be cooked quick and hot, or long and slow. Quick and hot, like pan charring or grilling, especially after marinating, will help keep the slime factor down. Long and slow cooking will let the slime from the okra mingle with other flavors and thicken stews or other thick types of dishes. I can’t wait to try out these recipes with all the okra I keep getting from my garden.
Currey Fountain’s discussion and tasting focused on the use of ancient and modern grains in menu planning. She started with a look at her food restriction list, which, 15 to 20 years ago, used to cover about four or five broad categories. Today, it’s four pages long and covers everything from gluten intolerance and/or sensitivity to Halal, Kosher and other religious restrictions, dairy intolerant, peanut allergies, etc. Since so many of the clients of her catering company were mentioning dietary restrictions, Currey decided to make menu choices that would be healthy, delicious and also accommodate the numerous dietary choices and restrictions that are prevalent today. She had brought pre-prepared dishes using grains such as millet and quinoa, and she prepared a yummy couscous dish during the session.
For lunch, I had a brisket sandwich from The Little Country Store, with sides of baked beans and coleslaw – so good!
Of course, my boys had to try the handmade, apple cider donuts with cinnamon sugar from Carpe Donut, and they quickly pronounced them “delicious!”
I also got to do a tasting of ciders from Albemarle Ciderworks. I’d tried hard cider before, but never had a tasting of multiple varieties, and I hadn’t realized how different the flavor profiles of different varieties could be. I also enjoyed the historical details about the ciders, like the fact that the Royal Pippin cider uses Albemarle Pippins, a descendent of Newtown Pippins from the North that Thomas Jefferson grew at Monticello, and which the ambassador to England in the early 1800’s introduced to the Queen. From there, they came to be known as Royal Pippins, as the Queen would order hundreds of pounds of them at a time to be shipped to England as her favorite apple to eat fresh.
All told, we had a great day at the Edible Food Fest. The event really touted locally-grown ingredients and local food producers, and yet it was accessible to all kinds of people (admission was only $7 a person and kids were free). It really made me wish the Richmond area would put on an event like this to showcase Richmond area growers, food producers, restaurants, food trucks, etc. I enjoy Richmond’s wide range of food events, but it sometimes seems like they are limited to only people who can afford to spend $40 or $50 on a beer or wine dinner, or $60 for a food tour.
I also realized that the Richmond region doesn’t have an Edible publication like Edible Blue Ridge. There are Edible magazines throughout the country, and the magazine and its various imprints have won many awards for their coverage of local food scenes. I’d love to work with anyone who is interested to try to bring about an Edible Richmond Region magazine.