Slow Food Chefs of Bloomington Dinner

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Well, here’s a belated report on a magnificent event last Sunday – the third annual Slow Food Chefs of Bloomington Dinner. I’ll try to keep this post shorter than the meal itself, which was as long and leisurely as a Slow Food dinner should be.

Just quickly, for those who don’t know, Slow Food is an international movement (in 45 countries including the US) dedicated to reminding people to resist the siren song of fast food culture and eat locally, seasonally, and convivially. Takes a little more work and time, but so worth it in terms of taste and enjoyment, not to mention the support it provides to small farmers and artisan producers. No down side, that I can see. Our local convivium is thriving. I’ve written about it here, here, and here.

Last Sunday at the Bloomington Country Club (a terrific facility for this event – brand spanking new, gorgeous kitchen and a lovely ambiance) seven local chefs gathered to prepare a seven plus course meal based on local ingredients and paired with wines, several of them local too, from Creekbend Vineyards.

There were over 100 people there, and first let me say that we more than met our fundraising goals. Thanks to everyone who attended, we’re going to be able to send our delegation of four farmers and one chef to Terra Madre in October, we’ve got Slow Fest covered (provided we can find a venue with room and shelter), and we can continue to support the Winter Market and the Summer Market Tastings, and the Slow Food in the Schools program.

So, the evening began with pass around hors d’oeuvre, made by all the chefs. They went by quickly, but I remember some pickled mushroom and blue cheese canapés that sound a little odd but were wonderful, some barbeque puffs, something luscious on a home made potato chip. Sorry I can’t remember details because these were worth reporting — next year I’ll take notes.

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The meal I’ve got down, however. Started with a mushroom soup from Tad DeLay of the Limestone Grille so beautiful I had to take its picture. Shitakes and oyster mushrooms from Steve Spencer at Homestead Growers. It was followed by a home grown salad of baby romaine, candied walnuts, and Traders Point Fleur de la Terre by Amanda Cash of The Story Inn, with a fantastic maple vinaigrette – sweet and tangy. Then Greg Hardesty, from Elements in Indianapolis,  presented us with a fabulous gnocchi dish, with mushrooms again from Steve Spencer and cheese from Traders Point. Like all of Greg’s food it was clean, simple, and delicious.

Then there was a pause to refresh our palates with an unbelievably good pineapple citrus sorbet full of every herb the Restaurant Tallent garden grows. Although my name is on the sorbet, my role was pretty much limited to saying things like “Ummm, think it needs a little more tarragon?” while Krissy Tallent did the real work. Like all her house-made ice creams, this one was smooth, creamy and exquisite.

And back to the meal. A confit of Swiss Connection pork, by Dan Dunville of Ruth’s Chris in Indy (don’t let the steakhouse venue fool you – Dan’s cooking talents are not confined to the grill), was served on fantastic crispy grits with garlicky swiss chard. Then a duo of Fischer Farms beef. Dave Tallent (of Restaurant Tallent) really outdid himself on a juicy grilled strip and melt in your mouth braised short rib, with tiny baby vegetables from Heartland Family Farm, with a Kentucky Bourbon bordelaise.

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The surprise of the evening was a spectacular cheese plate – the inspiration of the Country Club’s Alan Simmerman (the chef we are sending to Terra Madre, by the way.) He served a trio of Capriole Farms goat cheeses with green tomato chutney, a rhubarb pickle, a strawberry gastrique, and a house-made dill cracker. I had to take its picture, too. 

I don’t know what exactly made it so good, but if you are a cheese fiend like I am you know that sometimes the right condiments can lift an already good cheese to new heights. This was terrific.

Finally, a clafoutis made with fromage blanc by David Fletcher and Scott Jackman of BLU Culinary Arts. Swimming in sweet, Heartland Family Farm strawberries, it was the perfect light ending to an extraordinary meal.

The Chefs Dinner is always lot of work – not so much for me (I just worry a lot and write a little, both of which I can do without breaking a sweat) but for the farmers and the chefs and the amazing servers (organized this year by Dawn Concannon.) Bravo to all of them. This is Slow Food at its best.

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