The fourth annual Farm Fresh Rhode Island Local Food Fest was held this past Tuesday evening and by all accounts it was a huge success in showcasing the amazing bounty of local food, culinary talent and delicious products that Rhode Island has to offer. Even the weather happily participated and it was a gorgeous night at Castle Hill Inn & Resort in Newport. There were over 20 farms, 10 food producers and 12 chefs offering food and wine under the tent and across the lawn at Castle Hill. Several hundred people attended the event, but because of the layout and aforementioned pleasant weather, the evening never seemed too crowded.
The clear crowd-favorite of the evening was Tallulah on Thames‘s Chef Jake Rojas serving Blackbird Farm Mini Beef Burgers with red wine onion jam, arugula, and Great Hill Blue cheese aioli on brioche. There was a constant long line of people at Tallulah’s table until they ran out of burgers (Rojas told me he prepared about 480 of them). Anyone who knows me knows I’m partial to Blackbird Farm’s beef and Rojas did them and himself proud.
I have to give high praise to Chef Champe Speidel’s Warm Soup of Four Town Farm Sweet Corn. When I walked over to Persimmon’s table I wasn’t enthused to see a warm soup on a 80+ degree day in Newport, but it quickly became my favorite dish. Yes, it was warm, but it was so light, almost airy. When I asked how it was done, Speidel told me to get a Vita-Prep, as if I didn’t covet one already. The wood smoked chanterelle mushrooms and zucchini just added so much flavor without overpowering the corn’s sweetness.
Special mention goes to Blackstone Caterers’ Fried Green Tomato with Braised Pork Rillette. Having learned to eat—and make—fried green tomatoes in the South, I’m always a little leery to see them in RI, but these were delicious. My only wish was that Chef Derek Jolie could have made them to order as I bet crisp, right out of the frying oil, they would have been even better.
Other food highlights for me were Chef Matt Jennings of Farmstead‘s Lamb Sausage with Red Planet Potatoes & Arugula and Chef Derek Wagner of Nick’s on Broadway‘s Bomster Scallops with a Cucumber-Tomato Salad. Dessert was covered by several people, but you had to get in line early for Chef Bruce Tillinghast of New Rivers‘ Blueberry Ice Cream with Barden Family Orchard’s White & Yellow Peaches. Chef Tillinghast hand cranks his ice cream! Unfortunately for me, The Cupcakerie was cleaned out before I had a cupcake, but Chef Jonathan Cambra of Castle Hill Inn & Resort had a “surprise” item of mini blueberry cream pies.
To find out more about Farm Fresh Rhode Island and their mission to grow the local food system please take a look here. Visit your local farmers markets this summer and buy some amazingly fresh and delicious food or, if this heat is too much for you, head to a local restaurant that gets product from Farm Fresh’s Market Mobile and see what the great chefs of RI are doing with it.Portions of this story appeared in edited form on GoLocalProv.