Letter: Chefs, farms, volunteers: You did it!  

It was with trepidation that I accepted the task of organizing the food for the 2013 Taste of Rappahannock, one of the landmark events in the county, as any failure would be very public! I need not have worried too much as so many people stepped up to the plate to assist in this gigantic endeavor.

To all of you who had a role in food preparation, thank you. You ensured our guests had an enjoyable evening and — indirectly — you helped raised funds for the many student-centered programs of Headwaters Foundation. Not only does Headwaters Foundation thank you, but I also want to personally thank you for your assistance and skills; I learned so much working with all of you.

Prior Taste chair Terri Lehman proved an invaluable help in dispensing down-to-earth calming advice, being willing to share knowledge, ordering supplies not available locally (and making sure that much was donated) and making a dish for the event.

Chef Kurt Streu and the students of the high school’s culinary program were simply amazing. For several weeks prior to the event, they worked tirelessly at the school and then packed and delivered all the food at the proper temperature — and served it with dexterity.

They prepared and served creative and delicious Mediterranean-style passed hors d’oeuvres; they concocted a refreshing chilled peach soup; they made three kinds of bread from scratch, including rosemary focaccia. They plated the salad. They made and plated five different desserts including a simply luscious lemon tart, a berry gelato and a watermelon-lime sorbet.

So my thanks and hat off to Brittany Adams, Emily Allen, Ryan Athelli, Caleb Brown, Parker Critzer, Lily Endre, Ben Estes, Julia Estes, Katelyn Fisher, Colby Gaines, Alec Gomera, Christian Grimsley, Gary Jenkins, Maddie Heneghan, Samantha Keys, Shane L’Amoreaux, Kayla McGhee, Stephanie Nicholson, Paige Paul, Jon Streu, Nathan Strother, Nicklaus Strother, Caryl-Anne Taplin and Jessica Thorne. And my hat’s off to chef Streu, who not only orchestrated this whole effort but continued to teach throughout.

Trista Grigsby, director of nutrition services, secured permission for me to use the high school cafeteria kitchen after hours, and came to work with me once her day job was over. Anna Maher assisted both before the event and on the day of, doing everything from mincing parsley to mixing salads and bagging leftovers. Jason Ratcliffe of the Griffin Tavern was an able and dependable grill assistant, meat carver and kebab maker — despite a prior hand injury.

Finally, I owe a huge debt to chef Dayn Smith of Glen Gordon Manor in Huntly. Not only did he work with me prepping before the event (demonstrating a mastery of many techniques I can only aspire to!) but his cooking, people skills and knowledge proved invaluable at the on-site grill where the pork and Turkish-style kebabs were cooked. Both Keith Rowand and I thank you, Dayn!

Several businesses graciously prepared and donated dishes that worked well with our Mediterranean theme: Terri Lehman of Thornton River Grille Catering provided a delicious roasted salmon salad; Rachel Rowland of Griffin Tavern roasted San Marzano tomatoes that were just perfect — and a really yummy quinoa salad (and sent us Jason Ratcliffe for the evening); Marvin Swaner of Flint Hill Public House made a potato salad that had diners coming back.

Bakers at the Country Cafe provided their famous coconut cake while Brooke Parkhurst of Triple Oak Bakery baked baklava and gourmands — a decadent bite-size chocolate and candied orange truffle cake. Jennifer Aldrich, Gwen Bates, Kathy Grove, Dot and Richard Lessard and Juli Wimbush helped to secure food ingredients and transport them where needed. Ann and Pete Stenner donated spices that they brought back from their Istanbul trip, helping to make our kebabs more authentic.

And finally, we all owe huge thanks to the hard working people who raised the animals or grew the fruit and vegetables used for the dinner. The list is long — proving that farmers from our county and nearby counties are a generous bunch. This dinner would have been extremely different — and likely not as raved about — if it were not for them. The freshness and quality of the ingredients were stunning and commented on by cooks and guests alike.

Many, many thanks therefore to Mike Biniek and Susan Hoffman of Belle Meade Farm; Larry and Kathy Grove of Belle Ridge Farm; Lois and Doug Aylestock of Blue Ridge Meats of Front Royal; Kevin and Rachel Summers of Crowfoot Farm; Jennifer Rattigan and Sarah Moore of Farm-to-Table gardens; James Jenkins of Jenkins Orchard; Bryant Lee of Lee’s Orchard; Chris and Caroline Parrish; Dorothy and Louis Moore of Moore’s Orchard; Cliff Miller and Mike Peterson of Mount Vernon Farm; Roy and Janet Alther of Roy’s Orchard; Nick Lapham and Sean McDermott of The Farm at Sunnyside; David Schumacher and Wooz Matthews of Thistle Hill Farm (Hume); Rachel Bynum and Eric Plaksin of Waterpenny Farm; and Eddy and Karen Williams of Williams Orchard.

It’s a long list. But it takes a lot of people to pull off an event like Taste of Rappahannock. Thank you all.

Sylvie Rowand
Taste of Rappahannock 2013
Food Committee