Monday, November 9, 2009

On the Scene at the Harvest Celebration

Posted By on Mon, Nov 9, 2009 at 6:39 AM

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Hundreds of supporters gathered at downtown's Central Station Sunday evening for Harvest Celebration, the Memphis Farmers Market annual fund-raiser. It was quite the culinary event: tasting stations from 20 of the city’s leading restaurants, lots of wine (thank you, Star Distributors and A.S. Barboro), and a unique auction for fun food stuff like pick-your-own strawberries, a party patio at Hunt Phelan, cooking classes with Tsunami chef Ben Smith, and backyard composters.

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The first tasting table by the entrance was manned by this happy crew from Whole Foods Market.

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They were previewing the market’s upcoming holiday menu. I loved the sweet potato casserole because it was made with scallions, roasted red peppers, and Stokes purple sweet potatoes from a family farm in Walnut Cove, North Carolina. (They really were purple!) This little guy, Finlay Graham (at left), liked his early Thanksgiving too. He’s with his grandfather, Gary Brashears.

I’m not a big meat eater, but I have to say my favorite dish of the evening were the braised ribs and cheese grits from Felicia Suzanne’s.

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By the time I made it across the room to the tasting station for Andrew Michael Kitchen, there was no more tomato garnish - made from the last of the restaurant’s kitchen garden tomatoes - for the meatballs. Did I care? Absolutely not. The restaurant’s chefs, Michael Hudman and Andy Ticer, combined veal, chicken, pork, and ricotta into the most perfect meatball on the planet.

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Helping out with the serving were students from L’Ecole Culinaire in Cordova. The students also made coconut macaroons. I ate four.

Everyone who cooked, organized, and staged the event were volunteers, which says a lot about how folks in Memphis love their local farmers and food producers. More than 65,000 people visited the downtown farmers market this year, which ended its fourth season October 31st.

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