Today has been a day of remembrances. I remembered where I was exactly on this day in 2001. I remembered that today was also the birthday of a good friend who died too young a couple of years ago. Facebook told me today was also the birthday of a good friend still alive. Google News told me today was the birthday of Mickey Hart (Blast from the past! My Proustian college memories were scented NOT of madeleines but of patchouli and clove cigarettes.)
This day 12 years ago hammered home that we, as humans and as a country, are vulnerable. That technology fails us and also connects us. That family and friends are always more important than political ideology. That there are heroes among us. That you should always keep your car gassed up. (Okay sorry, that was a joke. I was waxing too philosophical.)
I would like to dedicate this post to all of my friends and neighbors who I adore and love to break bread with. You are awesome.
This summer we held a big outdoor party featuring local foods from our region. Relay Foods spurred the idea when they reached out for hosts and hostesses in Maryland and Virginia to hold a house party and introduce neighbors and friends to their delivery/pickup service for a wide variety of regional food, including artisanal and specialty foods.
Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, Relay Foods collaborates with local farms, artisan food makers, and handmade brands. They gather vendors from all over the Shenandoah Valley, Maryland and beyond and deliver to urban locations (Baltimore, DC, Richmond, Northern VA.) Since I had ordered our organic, free-range turkey from them a few Thanksgivings ago, I was on their list for people to recruit.
As many of us in the neighborhood have CSA shares or shop at farmers markets weekly, I knew I’d be preaching to the choir. I didn’t have to do much to get people excited to come taste some new local foods. But this was an opportunity to introduce them to a service that would aggregate produce from several farms and also afford small producers of specialty meats, cheeses, desserts, breads, jams and other farm fresh products the opportunity to reach a larger market via Relay Foods’ digital hub and distribution system.
[Full disclosure: Relay Foods gave me $100 food certificate to spend online at their site for the party. I went beyond that and shopped on my own dime at their site and our local markets, including my favorite organic market, Roots Market
in Olney. All of my opinions and recommendations are my own and neither Relay Foods nor Roots paid me to plug them or sponsor this post.]
Some of the farmers and artisans featured on the menu:
- Sausage Craft: two guys in Richmond making handcrafted sausage the Tuscan way (wholesale only)
- Let’s Grow Local/Josie’s Homemade Foods–our own local Kensington girl (and god-sister to my son, Joe) making jams, chutneys, preserves. Not represented by Relay Foods (yet) but you can buy Josie’s jam and chutneys at Let’s Grow Local farm stands on University Blvd in Wheaton and in north Chevy Chase
I rounded out the menu with three vegetarian side dishes and several craft brews and wine, including a chardonnay I love from Barboursville Vineyards in Virginia.
In crafting the menu I was inspired by this Crostini party post by Honestly YUM. So many interesting flavor combinations and a really beautiful appetizer.
Ricotta crostini party from Honestly YUM inspired the appetizers. Photo credit: Honestly YUM
Lovely guests helped prepare the crostini. Displaying their handiwork!
Lovely local cheeses and black truffle salami.
Assorted ricotta and feta crostini with local fruit, vegetables, proscuitto, jams, corn chutney, preserves
Local cheeses with crackers and ginger, fig, and fruit preserves, black truffle salami
Assorted local Italian sausages, grilled with Vidalia onions and red, yellow and green peppers
Little hoagie rolls
Orzo with grape tomatoes, pine nuts and black olives
Watermelon with feta and pea shoots
Potato salad with garlic, olive oil and capers
Moorenko’s Ice Cream Sampler:
Red Hot Chocolate
Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip
White Chocolate Mint
Salted Caramel with Praline
I made homemade ricotta following the Smitten Kitchen technique using whole milk and heavy cream (recipe here) and a feta spread using domestic feta for the crostini (baguette slices brushed with olive oil, toasted in oven on both sides, rubbed with a garlic clove and lightly salted).
Art student, Sam, creates our Relay Food Deliciously Local Foods party menu.
On the Ricotta crostini:
- cucumber slice, fresh chopped mint, fresh dill
- sliced strawberry over Josie’s Homemade strawberry preserves with tarragon, drizzled with balsamic syrup
- sliced purple and white radishes with sea salt
- fresh blueberries over Josie’s Homemade blueberry preserve, drizzled with local Maryland honey
- Virginia Chutney Company Hot Peach chutney
On the Feta crostini:
- thinly sliced procuitto
- sliced grape tomatoes and fresh basil
- lemon zest and fresh oregano
- Josie’s Homemade chipotle corn chutney
For the onions and peppers to go with the grilled sausages, I sliced them, drizzled them with olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, oregano, and thyme and put them in a small square foil tray covered with more foil and placed them on the grill while the sausages were cooking.
When the sausages are done, take the foil off of the the peppers and onions and mix the grilled meat and the veg together with their juices.
For the ice cream course, I wanted everyone to get a taste of all 7 flavors so we kept it casual and gave each guest 7 spoons and passed the pint containers up and down the table. That probably wasn’t hygenic even with all the separate spoons, but at that point getting out tasting 17 bowls/cups was too much and it was too hot and sweaty–we wanted to enjoy the night and eat ice cream.
It was a fun night but there was no way I could have done it without the help of every guest.
Seriously, I always bite off more than I can chew (figuratively) when I throw a big entertainment. But fortunately for me, we have a crew of fabulous friends who love to pitch in, cook, decorate, serve, bring chairs, bring wine, spark conversation, and help clean up!
So shout outs to all of you and in particular to:
–the lovely girls who painted the menu blackboard and helped decorate and hang lanterns after swim practice
–our favorite art student who did the the chalkboard art menu for us (still have it–saving it!)
–my good friends Peter K, Allison B, and Charlie R for the photography
–Alyson K for executing the myriad trays of crostini toppings, drizzles, and garnishes
–Allison B, for the wine, beer, and ice run
–Tim S, for heading the grill and grilling hot dogs, vegetables, and sausages with aplomb (hope you got some of that)
-Josie K for all the homemade farm stand preserves and for beautifully styling the cheese boards
-Amy F and Maddie F for stuffing the Relay Foods goody bags for everyone
-Craig L for coming early to help set up tables and chairs outside, then move them all inside because of rain, and then outside again when the sun came out–rock star!
-John P for underwriting all of the hospitality and for having the energy to do the dishes before bed, love ya babe
Land ahoy! The Yachtsmen in the Palisades Parade.