A Delicious Evolution
The first FRESHFARM Markets Farmland Feast in 2003 was an intimate dinner for 70 at Ristorante Tosca hosted by Executive Chef Cesare Lanfranconi and restaurateur Paolo Sacco. By 2006, we moved the event to the Ritz Carlton in the West End of DC to accommodate the growing, sold-out crowd and to make room for the expanding roster of chefs supportive of the local food movement. 2007 marked the launch of our farm-centric auctions. Out went the gym memberships and tickets to the MCI Center (now the Verizon Center). In came items culled from our market farmers and producers, CSA memberships and tickets to a cheese-making class on a farm. We said goodbye to the usual choices of French, Italian and Argentinean wines and turned to Virginia and Maryland for local choices from our area’s burgeoning wine scene.
That was just the beginning. Along the way, we’ve added hard sparkling cider from Maryland instead of Italian Prosecco, gin made here in DC, and chocolates and dessert liqueurs crafted locally. More and more of the auction showcases local products, including our farmer auctioneer, and small family farms all over the United States. Our guest list has grown from 100 to over 450 and our local business partnerships are booming.
The biggest change has been the growing involvement of our local chefs. In the beginning, when farmers markets were scarce and the farm-to-table restaurant revolution had yet to arrive in the Chesapeake region, we had to fly the farm-to-table “giants” in from New York and California to round out the roster of 12 chefs. Today, the farm-to-table revolution is alive and well, and our region is known for the abundance of chefs and restaurants who feature local and seasonal food. In the beginning, we had a hard time finding local items that were unique and special to feature on our menus. Now our choices are plentiful, and our menus reflect a wide variety of choices including grains, dairy, a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as meat and seafood. All of which are being grown and produced close to home.
As we celebrate our 16th Farmland Feast on Monday, November 10th, our commitment to our core mission remains as strong as ever: to build a strong and vibrant agricultural economy in the Chesapeake Bay region by connecting local farmers and artisanal food producers directly to their customers. What began as an intimate dinner has grown into a grand and spirited evening that celebrates and showcases the delicious local food revolution.
Of course, the 2014 Farmland Feast will have some firsts. Joe Yonan, the talented and delightful food and travel editor for The Washington Post who is also a dedicated farmers market shopper, will serve as emcee. Guests at our “First at the Feast” cocktail reception will sip locally crafted beer and savor Rappahannock Oysters as they enjoy live music from Appalachian Flyer headed by Bluegrass Hall of Fame inductee Tom Gray, father of one of our farmers. Thanks to a special grant from the Farvue Foundation many of our farmers and producers will be joining us.
When guests bite into a Zoe’s chocolate, they will find a seasonal filling inside. Our centerpieces will be created by Tobie Whitman of Little Acre Flowers, a DC-based florist whose entire business depends on local flowers. The cocktails crafted by area bartenders Adam Bernbach (Two Birds, 1 Stone), Derek Brown (Eat The Rich), Lee Carrell (Urbana) and Gina Chersevani (Buffalo & Bergen) will all include seasonal ingredients as well as local spirits. Our sommeliers will be showcasing the very best from local winemakers. Our media sponsor is a homegrown publication, Edible DC. And our roster of now 16 chefs? They are from some of the top restaurants in the area handpicked by Chef Coordinator Brian McBride of RW Restaurant Group whose restaurants all source locally. Every single one of the Feast chefs are inspired by local farmers to craft their creative menus.
We’ve come a long way in the past 16 years. We are able to showcase the very best in local food, and most importantly, we want to share this continued excitement with you. You can purchase tickets here.
Can’t wait until November 10th? Mark your calendar for our first ever “First at the Feast” Kick-Off at Mockingbird Hill on Monday, October 13th at 6 p.m. Enjoy a discounted specialty cocktail and the chance to win two tickets to the cocktail reception in November. RSVP here.
We look forward to seeing you soon!
~ Ann Yonkers, FRESHFARM Markets Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director and Amanda Phillips Manheim, FRESHFARM Markets Director, Fundraising and Advancement