Root to Table Wraps Up 2020 Culinary Series

Root to Table wrapped up its 2020 Culinary Series on October 11th with farmers, chefs, and diners celebrating the fall harvest at “Pickled and Roasted.” Despite the rain, diners enjoyed multiple courses from top chefs in a safe, socially distanced setup, while learning more about locally sourced food from area farmers.

The 19th Taste of Blue Ridge Root to Table event, held at Loudoun County’s Celebrations Farm, was an “agri-cultural” gala. Six regional chefs, including a Food Network competitor, were paired with farmers to showcase the Shenandoah Valley’s produce and protein. There was even culinary homage to the Chesapeake Bay. Farmers and chefs visited with diners to talk about the menu and the importance of locally sourced food. Live music and food demonstrations completed the evening.

All Good Things Pickled and Roasted

Pickled & Roasted Fall Vegetable MedleyUsing locally sourced products, talented chefs collaborated on a menu featuring two popular food trends, pickling, and roasting. The meal started with Chef Jeremiah Brooks of Hamilton’s Tavern 1840 in Harpers Ferry and Chef Patrick Evans of Winchester’s Dine One-One. Working with Lydia’s Fields of Wheatland, Young Harvest Farms, and Deliteful Dairy, the pair treated diners to a pumpkin soup shooter followed by an array of pickled vegetables.

This was the first time the chefs worked with Lydia’s Fields owner Robert Schubert. “It’s exciting because it opens up an opportunity for the future,” said Chef Jeremiah. “Taste of Blue Ridge is a great way to link up with members of the (farming) community and also link up with other excellent chefs in the area.”

“For me, it’s a great opportunity to meet other farmers and see what they’re doing and to talk about our challenges,” said Robert. And by meeting area chefs, “I get to see what they are doing, what they’d like (in terms of produce), and get a sense of what consumers want.”

Next up on the menu was a unique and delicious paw paw panna cotta with an early fall vegetable medley prepared by Chef Jeremy Thrasher of West End Wine Bar and Pub in Purcellville. Chef Jeremy also used produce from Lydia’s Fields while Mackintosh Fruit Farms provided the paw paws.

A Tribute to Virginia’s Seafood

Pickled & Roasted Scallop DishDiners then tucked into a seafood course from Chef Erik Foxx-Nettnin of The Polished Foxx. He plated fresh, tender scallops from War Shore Oyster Company onto crispy pickled green tomatoes with heirloom tomato jam, pepper pot aioli, pistachio gratin, and peppered lardo. David Lay Farms and Lydia’s Fields paired up to provide the produce.

Chef Erik and David have been working together for about a year and a half.  Said David, “Root to Table is definitely a way of networking with folks like Erik and other chefs. And it’s a cool way to market your produce.” Root to Table, said David, “Gets you in front of a cross-section of folks. The folks that are here are different from those at, say, a farmers market.  It puts your product in front of a totally different crowd.”

“That’s the beauty of it,” said Chef Erik of working with local farmers. “You find somebody you have chemistry with – the product is good, the idea (locally sourced food) behind it is great, and you’re able to share it with people who appreciate it also.”

Highlighting Local Beef

Pickled & Roasted Beef DishTo complete the entrees, Host Chef Jose Marty of Celebrations Farm treated diners to a braised beef dish with ginger roasted heirloom carrots and celeriac puree. Using protein from Luray’s Burner’s Beef, Chef Jose gave his culinary creation a twist by also adding a pomegranate demi-glace – a nod to his Puerto Rican heritage.

This was Chef Jose and Jared Burner’s first time working together as well. “I’m excited to have a long and prosperous relationship with him,” said Chef Jose. “Chefs and farmers should work together, As chefs, we’re most knowledgeable about the food and we take pride in serving the best quality food available. And the farmers are where you get your food from. We’re cutting out the middle people and going straight to the source. That’s why I think it’s important to work together and raise awareness.”

“The chefs working with local farmers accomplish two things,” said Jared. “The chef gets the freshest product and it’s a product from their environment that they can market to their customers. Just being able to put that meal on a plate, that experience, that story – it’s priceless.”

What’s for Dessert?

Pickled & Roasted DessertSalamander Resort Executive Pastry Chef Jason Reaves rounded out the meal with a triple threat of desserts. The Food Network Competitor paired up with Twin Ridge Orchards in Shenandoah Junction and Winchester’s West Oaks Farm Market. Guests had a hard time deciding which was best – the apple and honey cheesecake tart, the maple roasted squash Blondie or the bourbon peach cream puff.

Like other farmer/chef pairings this was a first for Mary Kathryn (MK) Robinson of Twin Ridge and Chef Jason. “Hopefully this will be a partnership that keeps going and moving forward,” said Chef. Concurred MK, “Meeting Jason was such a treat. And I’ve also worked with Jerimiah from Hamilton’s Tavern. It’s been great.”

“One of the main reasons I like working with local farmers and getting more of a connection with them is it allows me to be more creative,” said Chef. “It’s very exciting to see products that are being grown really close by.”

More Than Just a “Farm-to-Fork” Dinner

Chef Jason and Steve talking with guests at Root to Table Pickled & RoastedA Root to Table culinary experience is more than a “farm to fork” meal. In addition to lively conversations with the chefs and farmers, diners were treated to a mini-workshop on pickling and canning from Linda Lay of David Lay Farms. Linda grew up canning and stocks her pantry with a wide selection from the family farm.

Armed with an array of canned and pickled items and the “Bible for canning” – the Ball Blue Book, Linda explained the difference between pickling and canning and encouraged diners to give them a try. “There’s so much you can do with your vegetables,” said Linda. She makes good use of all parts of her produce, even turning apple peels into delicious jelly.

In addition to being farmers, David and Linda are also renowned musicians with their band Springfield Exit. The pair, along with bandmate Darren Beachley, provided bluegrass and acoustic country music. Want to get your toes tapping? Then listen to “The Happiness of Having You” by Linda on YouTube.

And despite the inclement weather, Jared Burner showed how it’s done on the grill by preparing four different cuts of meat. Watch Jared’s video on the Taste of Blue Ridge YouTube channel and learn how to cook the perfect steak!

Some Very Special Root to Table Guests

Chef Jason and Steve talking with guests at Root to Table Pickled & RoastedIn addition to the featured chefs and farmers, diners also met Root to Table Ambassador Chefs Steve Ferrell of Charles Town’s Hillbrook Inn, Marvin Swaner of the Aikens Group, Marcus Repp of Lansdowne Resort, and Independent Chef Britt Shyrene. Other special guests included Bill Welch, Executive Chef of Salamander Resort, Beth Erickson, President and CEO of Visit Loudoun, Brenda Daesscher, Co-Owner of West End Wine Bar and Pub, and Jeff Ishee, Broadcaster for On the Farm Radio.

Social media influencers Megan Wilson of Sweet Sauce Blog and Andrew Sample of Northern Virginia Foodies covered the event. Also in attendance were Terri Dean and Harry Reif, owners of The Wishing Well. This luxury travel agency is putting together a series of culinary travel adventures next year, collaborating with Taste of Blue Ridge and Root to Table.

But the truly special guests of the evening were representatives Megan Day and Andrew Seibel from Virginia’s Future Farmers of America. With 300 different career choices, agriculture is the largest industry in the Commonwealth. Said Andy Seibel, Executive Director of Virginia’s FFA, “It’s important to expose students to the opportunities that are available. Marketing directly to the consumer is going to be the future of agriculture in Virginia.”

Thank You to our Host – Celebrations Farm

Celebrations Farm Manor HouseOriginally slated for outdoors at beautiful Celebrations Farm in Bluemont, VA, plans needed to be adapted due to rain. Owner Dave Weinschel and Executive Director Douglas Armstrong reconfigured the event by safely seating guests in several rooms throughout historic Whitehall Estate, on expansive porches, and under patio tents. Both chefs, farmers, servers, and guests were mindful with masks.

Throughout the event, guests commented positively on the safety efforts and expressed comfort in being at the event. And whether they had attended previous Root to Table dinners or if this was their first, guests were enthusiastic. Here are just a few of their comments.

Guests Rave About Root to Table

“We’ve been to several Root to Table events. It’s great to see the different venues – each has its own personality. And we like meeting the local chefs and experiencing dishes we would not normally order at a restaurant. We’ve created a lot of great food and wine memories.”

“Every time we come to Root to Table it’s unique. To see the chefs and farmers together is pretty awesome. We drive by their farms so it’s great to meet them. And it’s amazing to see the choreography between the farmers and chefs.”

“This is my first Root to Table event. It’s a birthday treat. Where food comes from is important to us. I’m a big pickling fan so it was great to talk with Chef Jeremiah. Pickled and Roasted was top notch – I’m ready for next year.”

Chefs and Farmers toasting after Root to Table's Pickled & RoastedThat’s a Root to Table Wrap

Perhaps the event’s MC Ginger Payne of Fortessa Table Solutions summed it up best. “Root to Table is a culinary community that exists nowhere else in Northern Virginia.”

Taste of Blue Ridge is making plans for the 2021 Root to Table culinary series. If you’re a farmer, chef, food artisan, or restauranteur, learn how you can be part of Taste’s locally sourced food movement. And if you want to stay in the know about the 2021 dining series, sign up for Taste’s newsletter.

Linda Lay presenting Pickling Demo at Root to Table Pickled & Roasted

Chef Jose and Farmer Jared talking with guests at Root to Table Pickled & Roasted

Tailgating Guests at Root to Table's Pickled & Roasted