Jun 14, 2011
03:51 PMLife in the Tetons
I always get a slightly sickish panic just before a party that I’ve organized starts. I worry no one will show, and feel naked and overdressed at the same time. Because my friends are usually “fashionably late,” I really get myself in a tizzy dreaming up disaster scenarios that never happen. But last Friday night, when I pulled into the Wildwood Room parking lot in Victor at 5:03 pm (set-up duties responsible for my wet hair from a 4:50pm shower at my nearby home), the lot was filled. By 5:30 the cars were lined out to Highway 33. Fueled by a craving for local food, over 500 “locavores” came out of hibernation from both sides of Teton Pass to eat, drink, play, and reconnect with friends after a long, long winter at the 5th Annual Locavore's Night Out.
Our own rural version of a “food rave” (a term stolen from NYT article this week on a hot national trend), a Locavore’s Night Out was originally dreamed up with the help of Molly Bagnato from the Murie Center as part of a series of Earth Day events; we wanted to showcase local food producers and help them connect with customers. I had just returned from my first trip to Slow Food International’s Terra Madre and the Salone del Gusto in Italy, and suggested an event that copied the Salone model of a Farmers' Market setup but with free samples and a chance to talk to producers as the goal, as opposed to just selling food. We asked Bill Boney from Dining In to try to make a local meal—not an easy task in April. That first year we were impressed that he came up with a local beef burger and enough salad greens to go around. This year he could have started a new restaurant with his menu.
This year’s highlights? The diversity. There were over twenty tables of local cheese, beer, wine, breads, sauces and spreads, soup mixes, candies, supplements, Tram Bars, cold frames, beef, beef, and more beef, a whole side of rotisserie pork, CSA sign ups, greens, and raw milk. The six succulent choices on Bill Boney’s menu reflected this diversity. The “Aspen’s Market Spiedini”—sausage stuffed in lamb casing, rolled into a pinwheel, skewered then grilled and served with Cosmic Apple roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and carrots brought me as close to Italy as I can afford right now. My kids scarffed the “All Local Cheesesteak Sandwich” made with 460 bread, Teton Waters’ beef, Teton Valley Creamery’s alpine-style cheese, caramelized onions, and Snowdrift Farms salad greens. Sue Ciscero, chef at the Senior Center in Driggs, was assisting Bill and rumor has it she was the hand behind the vibrant, decadent green and red “Pasta Puttanesca” made with organic tomatoes, local garlic, HD Dunn and Sons beef sausage, Snowdrift Farm pork sausage, Cosmic Apple pepperoni, and Lark’s Meadow aged sheep’s cheese… and that was just half the menu!
This year’s Locavore’s Night Out was a kick off for the Slow Food in the Tetons’ Food Census , which is part of our new initiative, the Teton Food Project. Over the next month we will survey local farmers and food producers, consumers, chefs, and other institutions (hospitals, schools, resorts) to determine the current state of local food production and consumption, community needs, and level of commitment to change. We hope to use this data to guide our strategic planning process and compile a document that can be used by food business entrepreneurs, other government and civic groups (Chambers, business development, land use). Friday night we worried people might not want to take the time to fill out the long questionnaire, but they bellied up to the bar and there was plenty of furious scribbling. I like to think it was more than the promise of a free raffle ticket that was responsible for the enthusiasm. Everyone who eats is encouraged to fill it out and there are separate surveys specifically for producers and chefs. These will be available online or one can be emailed by contacting email@example.com.
If we stopped today, I’d say our vision of a diverse and vibrant food community has become a reality. But we are just getting started ...
Thanks to Slow Food in the Tetons/ Locavore’s Night Out Sponsors:
Grand Targhee Resort
The Jackson Whole Grocer
The Aspens Market
Yostmark Mountain Sports
Trail Creek Nursery
Snake River Brewing
Grand Teton Brewing
Teton Family Magazine