Some of you may be tuned in to farm to table events on the Shore. The farm to table movement is all about showcasing locally grown food combined with a meal prepared by local chefs. Given that most of the crops that are produced here are shipped elsewhere, these events are an opportunity to become familiar with local chefs, sample some of our finest Eastern Shore foods, and show our preference for fresh food from our own farms.
I recently signed up to attend the Chincoteague Bay Field Station’s (CBFS) annual dinner called Serving Up the Shore. This event raised $3,800 to support environmental education programs for local students. I had never visited the CBFS before and was astonished to discover that it has a full range of programs for adults and children including marine science summer camps, college courses, research programs and birding seminars. The problem, of course, is that it is over an hour’s travel from my home base of Cape Charles but it was well worth the time!
I attended the dinner because I knew that products from some of our lower Shore farms and companies would be served: Chatham Vineyards, Copper Cricket Farm, Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting, Quail Cove, Ballard Fish and Oyster, Co., and Bradford Bay Farms. I had not heard of Bradford Bay Farms and I was fortunate enough to sit across from Chris Bentley, who works there, during dinner. Turns out that this company is in Quinby and raises sea bass in tanks over an eighteen month period without growth hormones or antibiotics. They sell to stores and restaurants in the Washington D.C. area. Bradford Bay Farms provided the sea bass in the main entrée, Eastern Shore Paella with Saffron and Herb Scented Rice, Clams, Old Bay Sausage, Black Sea Bass, and Chicken with a Local Vegetable Mélange. The sea bass was tender, flaky, and white and the Old Bay sausage was nice and spicy. The rice mixture was fluffy and had small chunks of sweet potato in it that I imagine came from Quail Cove. This dish was conceived of by Rosie Moot of the Pico Taqueria in Chincoteague.
The appetizers started with fresh Chincoteaque oysters and an assortment of cheeses from Chesapeake Bay Farms, a dairy in Pocomoke, MD, and pickled cucumbers and beets. The highlight, though was the squash tart which came in a crispy phyllo crust filled with creamy squash and parmesan. This was followed by a spinach salad with caramelized onions, pecans, and crumbled cheese with a balsamic and honey dressing created by Gail Beard of The Farmers Daughter.
The desserts were created by Lisa LaMontagne, of The Inn at Onancock. My husband ate the lemon pound cake with local vanilla ice cream and a blackberry red wine sauce and local fresh blackberries and Chatham vineyards cabernet franc finished with Chambord. I ordered the Flourless chocolate whiskey cake topped with rich ganache served on crème anglaise. It was delicious!
This wonderful meal was accompanied with Chatham Vineyards Steel Chardonnay and beers from Evolution Craft Brewing Company in Salisbury, MD. Side dishes for the main course, eggplant caponata and a green bean cherry tomato saute, were developed by Matt Fenton, who works at the CBFS.
I know we have talented chefs here on the Lower Shore who are also able to produce creative and artistic meals from local produce. I see efforts at The Shanty, The Oyster Farm, Hook U Up, Cape Charles Coffee House, and Brown Dog Ice Cream to incorporate bounty from our farms in their meals. I also see national food distribution trucks like Sysco and US Food at our restaurants. I don’t know much about the restaurant business but I suspect that these food distribution companies help keep costs down for restaurants by providing one-stop-shopping. We seem to have lost our local distribution capabilities when middlemen entered the market place. I would be happy to see this trend reversed so that local products go to our restaurants and food stores so we can keep our money where it belongs: right here on the Shore!