This is the quintessential time to be a North Carolinian. Aside from the mild weather gently assisting our morning jogs and breathtaking change in foliage on Japanese Maple trees – nothing seems better than outdoor family-style autumn dinners in North Carolina. Coats and scarves, crowded tables with big platters and full bottles of red wine, neighbors to strangers elbow to elbow with brisk breezes and boots.
Without a doubt, the Triad Local First Community Table annual dinner sets the standard for this kind of perfection. Last weekend, my friend Andrew and I layered every long-sleeved piece of our summer wardrobe to attend the 2nd
annual event on an atypical, winter-like October evening. Amidst the mist and chill, local owners of If It’s Paper, Sherrie and Harrison Stewart, welcomed more than one hundred of Greensboro’s biggest localists under the barn at their “Farm
off Church.” The breathtaking site of thousands of sunflowers and sips of local wine from Zeto’s kept us warm. Local leaders and elected officials tested their balance while carrying full glasses of red wine during packed mule-rides to a lake down the hill. My friend Andrew’s greatest accomplishment was not spilling wine on Councilwomen Nancy Hoffmann’s white coat. She laughed at his victory, while remarking the sunflowers reminded her of the movie “Field of Dreams.” With chills from the symbolism, I hoped the ghost of entrepreneurs-past would not walk out of the field to the dinner table.
Swiss born and French trained chef, Reto Biaggi, took on the challenge this year to prepare a sophisticated menu highlighting local foods and seasonal fare. Passed hors devours of Goat Lady Cheese and fried green tomatoes, local Rudd Farm pumpkin soup with warm spices, grilled pork tenderloin with tapenade, a tian provincial and seasonal apple tarte tatin were served family style at a long table set for the entire party. Donations from member organizations made the dinner possible, from large businesses – like Replacements, Ltd. providing the china – to independent food producers like Red Oak Brewery, Zeto Wines, Gallins Family Farm, Cafegency Organic Bean Coffeehouse, Loaf Bakery, and Babycake Sweets.
Chef Biaggi, wearing a cowboy hat and boots, in a Swiss accent shared the importance of Triad Local First. “We are all connected. My suppliers do well if I do well. I do well if my clients do well. When we spend our dollars locally, we support each other and the money stays in our community.” In the last two years, his business has created 13 new jobs while supporting local and providing healthy quality foods to this customers.
The dinner was also a time to honor local business owners like Art and Martha Nading who opened The Extra Ingredient in Friendly Shopping Center more than twenty-five years ago. As members, who have done battle with neighboring national competitors, they appreciate the camaraderie and strength in the cohesive message Triad Local First provides.
With monthly membership meetings, joint advertising plans and advocacy, the organization is increasingly making an impact on the health of our local business community. And, understanding that the creation of a vibrant community will ultimately will attract the innovators that can transform our community’s economy may literally make Hoffman’s “Field of Dreams” come true.
Reto’s Rudd Farm Pumpkin Soup with Warm Spices
• 4 tablespoons butter
• 2 cups yellow onions, minced
• 4 cloves garlic, minced fine
• 2 teaspoons red curry paste
• 1 pinch cayenne
• 2 teaspoons curry powder
• 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
• 6 cups pie pumpkin
• 5 cups vegetable broth
• 2 cups milk
• 1/3 cup brown sugar
• 1/4 cup cream
Cut pumpkin in quarters, remove seeds. Bake at 350°F until soft, about 1 hour.
Mince onions. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Add garlic, red curry paste, cayenne, curry, coriander, cook and stir for 1 minute. Add vegetable broth and milk. Peel pumpkin and add flesh to the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmer for 25 minutes, stirring to break up pumpkin
Transfer soup, in batches, to a blender, don’t overload the blender. Cover tightly and blend until smooth. Return soup to saucepan. With the soup on low heat, add brown sugar. Add cream. Adjust seasonings to taste.