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Ten Farms in a Basket

September 18, 2017

Happy Monday! This week is madness. Rosh Hashana starts Wednesday night, so there will be no post on Thursday. I know that a day without Fussy is like a day without sunshine. Fortunately, we’ll have plenty of sunshine this week. So, crisis averted.

Saturday is an Official Yelp Event. We are having a Beer Brunch at Artisanal Brew Works in Saratoga Springs. But that name doesn’t quite do the event justice. Upstate Distilling Co. has signed on to participate in the event, so there will be spirit samples too, including bloody marys made from their vodka which is made in the very same building as the brewery. Also chef Jeremy Roosa is now in Saratoga Springs at Gaffney’s and doing great things with brunch. He’s going to be cooking a few of his favorite dishes at the event for us to try.

You should come. It’s free for anyone with a Yelp account, and as of this moment, there is still space. The link to all the details, including the button to submit an RSVP and get on the guest list, is here.

Last night, I had to miss Josh’s and Michael’s dinner at Peck’s Arcade. Some of you went. Now I’ll just have to hear the tales from those who got a taste. The story I have to tell today is from Saturday’s cooking competition at The Enchanted City in Troy. But there is so much to tell, that I’m going to have to break it up into two posts.

Today is the Pretty Woman part and tomorrow will be more like Chopped, or Hell’s Kitchen, or maybe more like 30 Minute Meals. For those who like pictures, you’re in luck. Today we’ve got a lot from some amazing vendors at the Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market. Because that was the source for ingredients in the Trial by Combat cooking competition.

Here’s how this worked. Yelp Elites Steve N. and Juliet V. joined me in shopping the market. We were given a thick wad of cash to fill up three bags, one for each competitor. All of the bags were to be identical, and each would contain ingredients for the chefs to create a dish.

The task for the chefs was going to hard enough on its own, cooking three portions of one dish in 30 minutes out of their tent in The Enchanted City. So these ingredients were selected to help make the job easier. They wouldn’t have to use all of them, but the more they used, the higher their score for “creative use of ingredients” in the final tally.

So, what caught the judges eyes and made it into the basket? Well, I’m glad you asked. In the end, there were ten vendors that made it into the sacks. Okay, technically they are not all farms. But most of them are.

The Berry Patch was the first to be added to the bag. Yes, it was the shisito peppers that caught our eye. We put a bunch of those in the bag. But some of the other peppers there also looked incredible. Cooking with colors is important so we wanted to make sure the chefs had plenty to work with.

Bacon. There had to be bacon. Well, maybe it wasn’t completely mandatory, but The Enchanted City is a steampunk festival, which leans heavily on some Victorian era tropes. So, I thought the food should have a little Victorian peasant flare. And bacon is part of that. Sweet Tree Farm had nice sized packages of the stuff. Yes, it was frozen, but given its size and thickness, it would thaw in time for the competition. Plus bacon is just delicious, and since ultimately the judges would be eating the food made from the ingredients we selected, there’s an incentive to stack the deck with foods we love.

Colors. Our Farm CSA at Spring Hill Farm really got our attention with their display of tomatoes. The small yellow tomatoes were calling our names, until the woman behind the table vouched for the deliciousness of the pinker ones. So we went with those. But we also picked up a few deep gold slicing tomatoes, cipollini onions, and eggs. The eggs were actually the last thing we put in our bags at the end of the day. We were hoping to spread the wealth and purchase from more farms, and we had hoped to find a vendor who sold eggs by the half dozen. But by the time 1pm rolled around at the market, Our Farms was the only game in town.

 

Cheese! Call me a creature of habit, since at last year’s Trial by Combat Cricket Creek Farm also made an appearance. Last year it was Tobasi, that Marla Ortega cleverly wrapped in bacon and then fried. Man, that was good. This year we went with Maggie’s Round figuring it was both assertive enough to be interesting, but delicate enough to be flexible and worked into a variety of dishes. We tried a few of the cheeses before deciding upon this, and it was hard because I really enjoyed the older version of this cheese, Maggie’s Reserve. However, while that one was great to eat on its own, using it in a dish might have been a challenge.

Happenchance Farm is aptly named because we just happened to spy these gorgeous and unique tomatoes at the corner of their table, and we simply had to have them.

The Placid Baker isn’t a farm, but bread is an important element for Victorian food. Last year there wasn’t much selection at the end of the market, and we were lucky to get some brioche rolls. Part of me thought about picking up the bread this year from Mrs. London’s since that Saratoga Bakery does such good work. But this is a Troy culinary challenge, with Trojan chefs. So if there was a made-in-Troy option, that would be better. This year, the Placid Baker had three loaves of this gorgeous herbed brioche. So we bought them all up. Sorry for those behind us who might have been tempted.

So far there are lots of colorful things in the bags like tomatoes and peppers. And we’ve gotten most of the staples, like bacon, eggs, cheese, and bread. But we’re missing a bunch of fresh leafy green herbal notes. Slack Hollow Farm to the rescue! Yes, they sell individual bunches of fresh herbs, but they also sell a composed herb bundle. We got three of those, so the chefs could have thyme, rosemary, and sage. We also gave them each a bunch of chives. And it was from this farm where we picked up the heads of garlic. It was tempting to get some of the other greenery as well.

Chefs in the competition had limited prep space and equipment. They had water, but washing dirty greens wasn’t going to happen in their 30 minutes of cooking. Fortunately we found the above bags of sunflower shoots from Lovin’ Mama Farm. We may have chosen a different tender green, but the supply was a bit picked over, and this was the one remaining where we could get three bags of identical greens. The fennel was also looking lovely, so we picked up three of those, and for good measure picked up some shallots too.

The bags were getting full, but we still had money in our pocket, and a desire to provide as many flavors as we could. So we went earthy with these gorgeous hen of the woods mushrooms from Mariaville Mushroom Men. These were more expensive than we had realized, but we had to have ’em. All that meant was skipping out on any kind of sweet seasonal fruit to add into the mix. And really, that was fine. There was just one more thing which was a must to include, and that was milk fat.

Man, the lines at Battenkill Creamery are long. Seriously, people are queued up to buy milk like nobody’s business. And after last week’s post about drinking milk, I chuckled when I saw a couple of people dressed up in full steampunk regalia chugging chocolate milk right from the glass half gallon bottle. However, for each of the chefs, we picked up a pint of cream to go in their bags.

Man, what a glorious basket of goods. I couldn’t wait to see what the chefs would do with all that goodness. But to get a sense of that anticipation, you my dear reader, will have to wait until tomorrow.

What I can tell you now, is that if you haven’t been going to a farmers market to get your produce, you’ve been missing out. There’s some amazing stuff out there now. It’s harvest season. Don’t miss it. Because soon it will be winter storage vegetable season. And that’s good too. But all of these tomatoes and peppers are incredible.

 

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