“A Taste of Freedom” Celebrates Culinary Diversity
What’s more diverse than the American experience? It’s reflected in our nation’s heritage, culture, and food. Over the July 4th weekend, eight regional chefs gave their culinary interpretation to the theme “A Taste of Freedom in the Blue Ridge”. Locally sourced ingredients were the menu stars as diners enjoyed the fresh air and scenery of charming Shepherdstown, WV’s Bavarian Inn Resort. As the first 2020 Root to Table event, the dining experience was produced with safety top of mind.
The Bavarian Inn Resort and Brewing Company proved the ideal location for a socially distanced dining event. The property sits on 11 acres overlooking the Potomac River.
Guests reserved their choice of socially distanced “dining bubbles” which were spread around the resort with plenty of fresh air. Guests, chefs, and staff used masks mindfully. Chefs were “Masks Up” and moved around the dining bubbles during the evening, answering questions and chatting with guests about the locally sourced food movement.
Tops Chefs’ Takes on “Celebration of Freedom”
A Root to Table dining experience offers not only the opportunity for guests to experience great locally sourced food. It also provides regional culinary talent the chance to collaborate. “A Taste of Freedom in the Blue Ridge” brought together four teams of creative chefs. Each Top Chef, ably assisted by a Guest Chef, offered his/her culinary interpretation of what freedom means at this point in time.
The four-course meal was fresh and eclectic while delighting diners with diversity. And knowing the stories behind the food – and getting to meet the chefs who prepared it – made the event truly unique. To accompany the courses, diners had a choice of wines by Oliver Lotterie of Vineyard Brands Inc. and beer by Bavarian Brother’s Brewing.
Cookouts and Picnics with a Twist
What’s more 4th of July than a cookout or a picnic? Two teams used these classic meal styles as menu inspiration. Top Chef Jeff Ault of The Bavarian Inn, assisted by Chef John Loeffler, owner of Inn at Gristmill Square, gave diners a Cheddar Bratwurst with those famous West Virginia Ramps in both a Slaw and Mustard and a Bison Slider, along with a Maryland Crab “Cigar”. “When I think of Independence Day,” said Chef Ault, “I think of backyard BBQ and fresh seafood with my family. It was always hot dogs, hamburgers, and a bushel of crabs from the shore.” The Cheddar Bratwurst was made with Hazy River IPA while the Slider featured ketchup prepared with locally harvested Chanterelle mushrooms.
“The theme, ‘Taste of Freedom’, drew me in immediately,” said Chef Loeffler. “Independence Day weekend is always one of my favorite celebrations, but this year it has special meaning. So many of us are social creatures by nature. I know I for one love to be around people, and that part of life has been missing. This event is the first chance to get out and make new friends, reconnect with old ones, relax, and have a good time.”
Purely American – Comfort Food
Comfort food was on the picnic menu courtesy of Top Chef Patrick Evans, owner of Dine One-One and Guest Chef Marvin Swaner of Aikens Group. Their offering included Briars Farmstead whole hog sausage with buttermilk sage biscuits and gravy, along with Freedom Ranger Fried Chicken. Fingerling potato salad with crispy farm bacon rounded out the course. “I believe we all have the same common goal in mind,” said Chef Swaner. “We want to bring people together and create memories with what is grown and produced by our friends and neighbors in this great community.”
Said Chef Evans, “I chose Briars Farmstead because I have known the family for some time. (They) are dedicated to raising animals responsibly and humanely and to the stewardship of the land.” Continued Chef, “After cooking for over 30 years and seeing many trends come and go, I feel that local food, farm to fork, Root to Table is the most important – especially now. As chefs and foodies, I feel we have a responsibility to get the word out about these farms and farmers and Taste of Blue Ridge is a great platform. I am honored to be working with these chefs.”
More Culinary Celebrations with “A Taste of Freedom”
Summer dining also means light, crisp, and cool dishes. Guests enjoyed a chilled corn soup paired with salmon tartare by Top Chef Jeremiah Brooks of Hamilton’s Tavern 1840 and Guest Chef Britt Shyrene. Chef Brooks explained his menu selections: “I chose the chilled corn soup because nothing is more authentically American than corn in the summer.” said Chef. “I also incorporated peppers more commonly found in southwest cooking (as well as Latin/Mexican) because it represents the woven tapestry that is our country. I chose the Salmon Tartare for its fresh summer flavor, earthy groundedness, and Jefferson County sourced wildflowers. Also, the bread for the tartare is from Bolivar Bread Bakery in Bolivar, WV.”
Guest Chef Shyrene has not only been a culinary fixture at Root to Table dining events, she is a passionate proponent of the locally sourced food scene. “For me, the Root to Table series has always been a movement,” said Shyrene. “It brings awareness to agriculture and community through food. We get an amazing opportunity to connect with the community through food and bring folks together from all walks of life to break bread and share knowledge, ideas, and experience around a table. That’s what makes it a movement.”
Another Veteran of the Movement
Also on the menu, created by Top Chef Steve Ferrell of Hillbrook Inn & Spa and Guest Chef Jason Von Moll of Paladin Bar & Grill, was spicy beef with crunchy grilled vegetables and a pickled shrimp on a corn cake. Chef Ferrell is the true veteran of Root to Table – he cooked at the first event in 2017. “I love the visual beauty of the Shenandoah Valley and having farmers in my backyard,” said Ferrell. “I love that we have four distinct seasons. As a chef, I get tired of cooking the same things all the time, so new seasons bring about new products and new cravings.”
Guest Chef Von Moll described his menu inspiration. “Going along with the theme, I was thinking freedom, 4th of July – make it spicy like a firecracker!” He continued, “The spicy beef and summer veggies showcase the high quality of local beef and summer vegetables in a different, fun, and exciting way.”
Chef Ferrell topped off the four-course celebration with a Cherry Almond Cake. In addition to his duties as Executive Chef at Hillbrook, he has become a very adept pastry and dessert chef.
What’s Next for Root to Table
Root to Table is committed to dining safety and works with partners committed to that goal. While monitoring current events, plans are in the works for an October dining experience. Check back for more details.