Summer Sizzles at Root to Table
A perfect summer evening, along with the sizzle of grills and their heady aromas, greeted guests for Root to Table’s culinary event at the Bavarian Inn Resort & Brewing Company in Shepherdstown, WV on July 18. Top regional chefs put their spins on the evening’s theme with six food stations of “Grilling & Chilling”.
Root to Table’s Grilling & Chilling
Grills are synonymous with summer. And so are cool, fresh dishes. Root to Table’s six top chefs did not disappoint. The evening was a hit with carnivorous foodies. Beef, pork, lamb, chicken, seafood – even duck were all on the menu. Completing the meal was a scrumptious dessert featuring farm fresh blueberries.
The station serving style allowed for diners to enjoy their favorites and strike up conversations with the chefs, as well as the farmers who provided their produce and proteins. And with the beautiful weather, guests enjoyed dining alfresco on the patio or inside the brew pub or Potomac Room. Even those spaces had the doors wide open so all could enjoy the pleasant weather.
Grazing & Sipping, Grilling & Chilling
On the Bavarian Inn’s lawn overlooking the resort’s infinity pool and nearby Potomac River, guests started the evening with two “grazing stations” of locally sourced cheeses from Deliteful Dairy, fruits, and breads; beer from Bavarian Brewing Company; wine from the resort’s cellar, and cold pressed coffee drinks from Black Dog Coffee. Completing cocktail time were a jazz duo and beautiful floral decor.
The main course – or courses – consisted of five stations of proteins paired with delicious sides. After feasting, dinner guests took a break to digest while taking in a demonstration on grafting fruit trees by Bill Mackintosh, owner of PYO Mackintosh Fruit Farms. Mackintosh, along with Twin Ridge Orchards, David Lay Farms, and Audley Farm provided much of the bounty for the event’s chefs.
The Farm/Chef Connection of Root to Table
Guest Chef and Food TV Winner Matt Welsh, owner of the Vagabond Chef, came over from Wheeling with summer soup beans and smoked pork shoulder, crawdaddy mac & cheese, and pickled ramp cornbread. Chef Matt grew up on a farm and is committed to locally sourced food at his restaurant in a big way.
“Most (people) think meat comes wrapped in plastic with a piece of styrofoam underneath,” said the Vagabond Chef. “They don’t realize that it’s a cared for animal with a life cycle. And it hurts a little to take him down. But he’s giving us the gift of life by giving his life.”
Assisting Chef Matt at his station was Chef Marvin Swaner of Winchester’s Hilton Garden Inn. Chef Marvin is a veteran Root to Table Chef and another “son of the soil,” having grown up on a farm as well.
During a break, both chefs agreed that growing up on farms has given them a more in-depth connection to the food they prepare. And both believe that events like Root to Table are an important way for farmers to develop relationships with the professionals who use their commodities.
Not Your Average Backyard Bar-B-Q
One of the things diners enjoy most about the Root to Table Culinary Series is the interpretation of the evening’s theme. And while the chefs were using the grills and the smokers, this was not your average backyard Bar-B-Q.
Chef Erik Foxx-Nettnin is one of Root to Table’s favorite chefs. Not only does he turn out great food, Chef Erik is always ready to talk locally sourced with diners. The owner of catering company The Polished Foxx worked with Black Angus beef from Audley Farm and served a grilled mole brisket with a gratin side and chilled beef tartare with black garlic aioli, capers, onions, and brioche crisp.
Not to be outdone by his fellow chef (and good friend), Chef Marcus Repp of Lansdowne Resort also brought out his grilling skills for Szechuan lamb chops with smoky eggplant Moutabel, bacon and leek potatoes and red chili lime. To cool the palate, Chef Marcus offered tea cocktail shooters to the guests.
Two Root to Table Vets – and a Newcomer
Continuing the evening’s theme, Taste Top Chef Steve Ferrell served an oak smoked duck breast with apple slaw, candied walnuts, fermented berries, ginger shrub, and honey gastrique. Chef Steve is one of the original Taste of Blue Ridge Top Chefs and another favorite with BRRT guests.
Formerly executive chef of Redbook Restaurant at Hillbrook Inn and Spa, Chef Steve will soon be opening his own restaurant, Firebox 55, in Martinsburg, WV. “The firebox is the heart of a smoker,” says the chef about the name of his restaurant. Chef Steve’s new place will feature smoked meats like brisket, pulled pork, and turkey. Expect mouth watering Bar-B-Q and tasty sandwiches paired with local brews.
Another Root to Table Veteran manning a station was Shepherdstown native Chef John Loeffler, owner of Waterwheel Restaurant at The Inn at Gristmill Square – a “farm to fork” restaurant in Warm Springs, VA. A veteran of both the Homestead and Greenbrier resorts, Chef John must have truly felt like he was returning home for this event as he spent the early part of his career at Bavarian Inn.
On this particular evening, Chef John lent an experienced hand to the Bavarian’s Executive Chef and Root to Table newcomer Chris Michanco. Chef Chris offered a lighter selection with his seafood ceviche and shredded chicken dishes. Freshly picked peaches were used, whether as a sauce, salsa, or vinaigrette. And fresh corn was served smoked and chilled, as well as made into a corn salsa.
Bringing the Farm to Root to Table
Rounding out the evening was another newcomer to the Root to Table dining scene. Chef Vincent Badiee of the acclaimed Restaurant at Potowmack Farm topped off the evening with a fantastic tasting (and looking!) blueberry yogurt cremoux garnished with praline oats.
“It’s all about seasonality,” said the Root to Table Top Chef. “The beautiful blueberries on the farm made me want to create this dessert in a more elevated and sophisticated way.”
Try a Root to Table Culinary Experience
Root to Table brings farmers and chefs together with those who enjoy great locally sourced food and fine dining. The venues are unique, the conversations are insightful and lively, and diners learn more about the area’s agricultural heritage.
So what brings folks out for a Root to Table culinary experience – and what keeps them coming back? “Every time it’s a new experience,” said one Root to Table veteran. “It’s the experiences, the conversations, the chance to try new things.” And as another guest said, “We sample things from the chefs of different restaurants and it makes us want to visit them afterwards. Root to Table has helped us learn more about the area’s restaurants.”
Interaction and interpersonal communication with the chefs are top reasons diners enjoy Root to Table. It’s learning the story of a chef’s recipe and its secret ingredients. Or even getting some helpful culinary advice on what type of wood to use for your grilled pizza.
And it’s also about honoring the farmers. As one diner put it, “I’m a farmer’s daughter and it’s important that an event like Root to Table is putting the spotlight on them and all the wonderful things a farm has to offer.”
What’s Next for Root to Table
Taste of Blue Ridge is currently putting together an October Root to Table with details coming soon! And be sure to put November 6th on your foodie calendar for Blue Ridge Sprouts at West Oaks Farm and Market. This one of a kind food festival is all about locally sourced goodness and the vibrant Shenandoah Valley lifestyle. Tickets go on sale in August.