Katie: We need to get out soon.
Brandy: Agreed. How about Tuesday?
Katie: No can do, Bree’s got a meet. What about Wednesday?
Brandy: I’ve got a photo shoot.
Katie: Okay. Friday?
Brandy: Blake’s got a band thing. How about next Monday?
Katie: I have a hair appointment.
Still, as you and the rest of our readers can see, we do manage to get out occasionally. And on a very rare occasion, we are able to attend an all-day event. When that happens, man – do we milk it for everything it’s worth!
So a few weeks ago Brandy, Blake, Ella, and I were fortunate enough to attend the Fourth Annual Edible Fest in Orange, Virginia. Driving from Harrisonburg, careening through Shenandoah National Park, traversing the curves and mountains of Greene County before crossing into Orange County, home of Montpelier and Barboursville and punctuated by corn fields and kudzu dinosaurs, provided ample and much-needed time to talk and catch up with each other, to breathe and simply sit – restricted by the seatbelt from doing anything at all but sitting side by side. There’s something beautifully restful about a drive.
Once there, we parked and took a shuttle just a couple blocks to the site, right on Main Street in downtown Orange. Presented by edible Blue Ridge Magazine, the Orange Downtown Alliance, and the AV Company, the day-long festival includes Chef Demos with food tastings, a huge open-air market, live music, food trucks, beer and wine, DIY seminars, and kids’ activities. The whole time we were there, we kept saying, “Harrisonburg could TOTALLY do this!” and we really hope that happens soooon!
Here’s how it was set up: On one end were two large tents with a closed-circuit TV, a microphone, and about 100 seats in each. These were for the Chef Demos, and the two tents took turns so that patrons wouldn’t miss half of the demonstrations. Running at staggered times in a third tent were DIY seminars on topics ranging from making Kombucha to cooking with mushrooms to beer brewing. The chefs included Dwayne Edwards from Keswick Hall; Jason Daniels from Vintage Restaurant at The Inn at Willow Grove; Curtis Shaver from Hamiltons’ First and Main; Craig Hartman from The Barbeque Exchange; Ralph Brown from RBC Institute; Tucker Yoder from Eljogaha; Angelo Vangelopoulos from The Ivy Inn Restaurant; Pete Woods from Merrior and Rappahannock Oyster Co.; Ken Notari from Nude Fude; and Martha Stafford from Charlottesville Cooking School. The chefs’ demos lasted from 10:30am until 4:45pm, so if you wanted to, you could just scoot back and forth between those two tents and spend the entire day watching these incredibly talented chefs and sampling TONS of amazing food.
On the other end of the festival site was a covered dining area with plenty of tables and chairs and a bandstand for the three bands who played (Michael Coleman, John Kelly, and Erin Lunsford). Between the two ends (chef tents and dining area) were ZILLIONS of vendors of most anything you can imagine. Plus food trucks (nine of ’em!!) and a beer truck. I can’t remember all the beers offered, but Pale Fire was one of them, and I remained faithful!
And so finally getting to the story, here’s what we did:
First we saw Chef Dwayne Edwards and his assistant from Keswick Hall make a succulent watermelon salad with lavender, sea salt, chili flakes, goat cheese, heirloom cherry tomatoes, tangerine oil, oak barrel aged vinegar, fennel pollen, and basil. Mind you, I didn’t know what HALF those things were, at all, but this tattooed chef in his pinstriped apron narrated every step and it was quite educational. I learned a lot – a new way to chop up a watermelon (my way is pretty efficient, too, I must say, but his added a ninja element), a new way to choose a watermelon (I’ve been drumming on it like a bongo all this time, but apparently you should look for bumps on the “ground side” of the watermelon), and a crazy amount of information about all the different kinds of salt, and even the origin of the word “salary,” which appealed to the word-nerd in me.
Next in Tent 2, Chef Tucker Yoder and his assistant Angelo were whipping up Sprouted Grain Salad with Seasonal Veggies and Duck Ham from a local farm. All the chefs used locally-sourced ingredients in their dishes, and Chef Yoder makes most all of his sauces and spreads from scratch – a nice nod to sustainability and craftsmanship that’s usually absent in chain restaurants – resulting in fresh and vibrant flavors.
Back in Tent 1, Chef Jason Daniels and his assistant Anthony put together a Pan Roasted Pork Loin (dear gaaaaahhhhd) with Yellow Squash Casserole, Baby Spinach, and Blueberry Salsa. That dish smelled SO good while it was cooking I could barely resist climbing onto the countertop. The casserole included sauteed yellow squash, olive oil, butter, scallions and onion, salt and pepper, sugar, flour, a whole bunch of cheese and heavy cream. While that baked, he made the salsa from red onion, jalapenos, blueberries, garlic, mint and cilantro, and simple syrup – all smushed by hand. The pork sizzled in its skillet in brine. Then it all went together in a happy little cup. Unbelievable.
After that demo, we ventured out into vendor-land. So many products. So many samples. So much gooooood. I couldn’t possible list them all, but we saw insect repellant soap by Eastham Farms, Bloody Mary mix (three varieties) by Back Pocket Provisions. Their “Bloody Bangkok” is a throat kicker! Hot Jelly Pot brought 72 flavors of jams and jellies, including their number one seller, Pineapple Pepper. There were Wakefield Peanuts and Hickory (not maple!) Syrups. Mushroom spawn kits. Barefoot Bucha and culinary herbs. Beautiful wooden and ceramic products from Madeira and Lifeware. Tea for all occasions from Fairweather Farm Tea with names like “What the Fxxx Happened,” “Chill the Fxxx Out,” and “Calm the Fxxx Down.” No, I’m not kidding. It was awesome. Coffee, cheese, wine, vinegar, honey, produce, meat, pies, all of it!
We made it to the end of the marketplace and found the food trucks. We all found something refreshing and reviving and sat down together to enjoy the music. Kids who’d gotten a smoothie from Maui Wowi flashed blue smiles at each other, knowingly, like a secret handshake. Feeling rejuvenated, we decided to try to catch one more chef demo.
This time, it was Chef Craig Hartman from The Barbeque Exchange and his Sweet Corn and Bacon. It was after 2pm. People had been there a while and were relaxed and jovial. You could feel the excitement; the tent seemed hotter. We all clapped when he pulled out the giant slab of bacon; we cheered when he said “butter”! His biggest piece of advice when cooking the meat was to “control the flame” at all times. Don’t let the pan get too hot; don’t lose control of that flame. So it was especially funny when his towel caught fire. And when he handed out the sample of that sweet corn and bacon, it was like Oprah’s Favorite Things: “YOU get bacon! And YOU get bacon! AND YOU GET BACON!” People went crazy! Lots of laughing and clapping and yum-ing – what an awesome day.
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