Forage with Strangers

I had the distinct honor of attending (in all honesty, crashing) a truly spectacular event, the inaugural “Forage with Strangers.”  It brought together influencers, connectors and innovators in Cleveland.  And we strangers bonded over a universal language: GOOD FOOD.

Let’s start with a little “behind the scenes” insight to how I came to be a part of this experience.  Over the course of the last year, I have been trying to immerse myself in the local culinary scene.  I’ve come to know some incredible people and eaten some spectacular food.  Social networking, no doubt, is a huge component of this.  So on Monday night, I started to see posts on Facebook and Twitter about this “Forage with Strangers” concept.  I was intrigued.  Being the intrepid reporter that I am, I started making some inquires.  And by mid afternoon, I was invited to join in.

I love people in the food world.  They just want everyone to have a good time and be well fed. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a microphone, or a a blog.  But I sincerely appreciated the willingness to include me in such a cool and intimate experience.

Here’s what the day was all about:  A creative thinker from The Adcom Group teamed up with Kalman & Pabst Photo Group to orchestrate a networking event connecting local food brand reps, with local farmers and producers.  The idea was to drum up business for everyone involved.  But for as long as I was around, no one mentioned dollars and cents.  Everyone was just talking about food and ideas.  So refreshing and so delicious.  Yet still so productive…and in the end, probably profitable.

The group started the event with a five course “pre-foraging” meal dreamed up by Dante Bocuzzi.  In my year as my station’s designated “food reporter” his name has come up more than anyone’s in the city as the guy you’ve got to work with, and whose food you have to eat.

forage with strangers van

The next morning, the group ventured out in a van to half a dozen locations to “forage” for ingredients that would be used for a catered feast that night.

forage with strangers bounty

Photos Courtesy Cristina Carosielli, Orlando Baking Co.

The 150 mile trek included Yellow House CheeseRittman OrchardsSpice AcresTrapp Family FarmOhio City Farm and Heinen’s.  The group gathered gorgeous fruits and vegetables picked at their peak, artisan cheeses and savory proteins.  In all, 40 bags were hauled back to the host site of the “Forage with Strangers” dinner.

forage with strangers happy hour

When I joined the party it was already time for happy hour.  Chef Bocuzzi and Chef Douglas Katz of Fire Food & Drink worked feverishly with a team of helpers to turn the day’s haul into tonight’s feast.

forage with strangers chefs working

Beer Master Sam McNulty of Bier MarktBar CentoMarket Garden Brewery and Nano Brew among the participants…as was Chef Adam Lambert, of The Black Pig and the upcoming Ohio City Provisions (a partnership with Fresh Fork Market).

forage with strangers table

The space was fantastic…full of natural light, props, and working kitchens for the commercial photographers at Kalman & Pabst to work their magic.

Forage with strangers cheese tray

We started with an impressive array of cheeses from Yellow House and Mackenzie Creamery and a charcuterie display to die for, courtesy of Chef Lambert.  I couldn’t stop myself from seconds and thirds of his chicken liver parfait, topped with Guernsey butter (from his own cows, and flavored with thyme and orange zest)

forage with strangers charcuterie

Wine was poured and conversation flowed among movers and shakers in the food world. I was eager to devour the details, and jealous that I missed all the foraging.

 forage with strangers diners

The inviting communal table set for 30 was soon filled with an incredible bounty.  Everything brought out family style, as you might imagine large farmers’ families do.  Even though the table stretched the length of the large space, there was barely enough room to set all the large platters full of farm fresh food.

tempura fried heirloom tomatoesforage with strangers walleye

Tempura fried heirloom tomatoes and Lake Erie Walleye with miso and radishes.

roaste beet-plum-goat cheese-salad  corn tomoato and cucumber salad

Plum and roasted beet salad with goat cheese.  Corn, cucumber and tomato salad.

Chef Doug Katzforage with strangers roasted chicken

Buttermilk fried chicken livers and Harissa roasted chickens by Chef Katz.  Plus hand made gnocchi ratatouille from the pasta master himself, Chef Dante.

Photo Courtesy Cristina Carosielli, Orlando Baking Co.

Photo Courtesy Cristina Carosielli, Orlando Baking Co.

We ate and talked and shared ideas, and ate and listened and shared seconds, and ate and laughed and shared inspirations.  The meal ended with everyone reflecting on their favorite part of the day.

forage with strangers dessert

There was dessert…oh yes, there was dessert.  Dante made an apple tarte tatin, and Doug crafted a couple of spectacular ice creams with fresh fruit toppings.

I left the dinner table buzzing with ideas and tingling with inspiration.  There are immensely talented people in my city who believe they can change their world and yours with food and shared experiences.  I want in.  How about you? 

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Honey Glazed Grilled Stone Fruit with Mint Lime Yogurt Dip

When you get fresh organic produce delivered to your doorstep each week, it’s easy to get inspired.  Door to Door Organics has been supplying my family with beautiful fruits and vegetables this summer, and asked me to create an original recipe using their inventory.  There was so much to work with, that I actually created two!  The first I’ll share is a sweet app, or light dessert that my guests (and children) gobbled up.  It’s Honey Glazed Grilled Stone Fruit and a Mint Lime Yogurt Dip.  

I’m excited about this post because it is my first GIVEAWAY!  I have a couple $50 gift certificates to give away as part of my partnership with the online grocer, newly launched in the Greater Cleveland/Akron area.  Details and instructions at the end of the post.  Now, back to the business of recipe creation!

I love stone fruit.  Peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines…they’re all wonderful to snack on, and cook with.  And I was happy to discover how much my kids enjoyed them too.  But just slicing them up and serving them plain seemed boring and uninspired to me.  So I took a couple of items that arrived in a recent Door to Door Organics delivery and turned them into something pretty spectacular, and supremely easy.  That’s what makes me one of their #KitchenMavens,I suppose!

mint-lime-yogurt-dip

The dip is just a couple of ingredients, and can be altered based on what you have on hand.  I made it a couple of different ways to see which I preferred.  My first variety (and my favorite) marries just three ingredients:

-5oz.vanilla flavored Greek yogurt, a tablespoon of chopped organic fresh mint, the zest of half of an organic lime.  I blended those in a small food processor and refrigerated that while I grilled up the fruit.

Other varieties and variations that also worked for me:

-5 oz. plain Greek Yogurt, a tablespoon of honey, then the same amounts of lime zest and mint.

-5 oz. Stoneyfield Low Fat French Vanilla Organic Yogurt (available via Door to Door Organics) plus above mentioned lime zest and mint leaves.  This version was more runny, but less sour and I know some people take issue with the flavor of Greek yogurt.

julia-loves-yogurt

Bonus: this dip can also be eaten just like regular yogurt, as proven by my best taste-tester and recipe-approver, my 20 month old daughter.

The grilled fruit part is even easier.  Just work with whatever stone fruit you prefer.  I like peaches and nectarines best with this, but apricots and plums will also work.  Since the organic plums and apricots have been on sale and in season with my partner in this post, I used those.  (Note: the fruits hold up better when they’re less ripe) Slice them down the middle and remove the pit.  Then brush each side with some honey and place them flesh side down on a grill or grill pan.  Each piece of fruit only takes a couple minutes on the grill at medium/high heat, just enough to get those beautiful grill marks on them.  Remove them to cool, then slice them up.  And….you’re done!  

honey-glazed-grilled-stone-fruit

Double Bonus: Gotta put a Cheftovers twist on this, right?!   These can also turn into frozen yogurt pops.  I took the sliced grilled fruit and yogurt dip that wasn’t eaten, pureed it in a blender, poured it into Popcicle molds and popped them in the freezer for another time.  They were eaten just as quickly as the yogurt alone.  

  Now to this business of a giveaway!  Want to win??  Please do me the “flavor” of following my pals as Door to Door Organics,

 And my followers and friends will get $10 off their first order by using my exclusive  Cheftovers Coupon.

If you want $50 is FREE ORGANIC GROCERIES delivered to your doorstep, please COMMENT on this post.  I’ll be picking a winner at random.  (and if they don’t operate in your zip code, you can always send the e-certificate to a friend who could use it)