It's amazing how food brings people together. About a year ago, I started hosting a Sunday dinner at my house. I can't always make it happen every week because of travel or races, but I make and effort. I didn't want to be alone. I wanted to forge a new family as I pieced my life back together.
Farm to Table Wellness Community. He sought to bring together influential, interesting people to share a meal and conversation, to elevate eating from a mechanical process all animals require to a cultural experience. He started this endeavor as an answer to a years-long battle with insomnia, which I can relate to all too well. He spent the sleepless hours researching, networking and planning, learning more about the farm to table movement and how industries are engaging with it. He also invited me to one of the dinners at Local Foods Chicago, a beautiful facility in a former warehouse that provides space and resources for a variety of vendors. The meal was enlightening to say the least.
Dinner was prepared by the chefs behind Handcut Foods, a school lunch vendor offering alternative menus featuring local produce and healthier options. What was unique about this particular engagement was that all the food, from the nonalcoholic drinks to the dessert and table decorations, everything we ate was foraged or unwanted food, often referred to as "seconds." It's perfectly acceptable food that is either cosmetically damaged or close enough to the expiration date that consumers would likely pass it over for other offerings.
The featured speaker augmented the theme: Zero Percent is an app that connects restaurants with food banks and charities that can accept food that would otherwise be discarded. By Thanksgiving, the app will have prevented 1 million pounds of food from entering landfills and instead, used it to feed those in need.
The food was incredible - we started with a broth that was rich and satisfying, moving on to perhaps the best salad I've ever had. It featured foraged hen of the woods mushrooms and a bread made of spent grain from Begyle (I usually use my leftovers from brewing for spent grain dog treats).
The main course featured kalettes (tiny little kale flowers), a delicious spent grain porridge and brined ham sirloin from LePryor Farm. It also had a carrot green pesto and pawpaw puree, rounding out an entree of foods I normally wouldn't encounter.
And the highlight of the meal (or any in my opinion), was the dessert. I'm a chocolate girl through and through, so this is an entree I wouldn't normally order. It was delightful. We had a Hewn Bread pudding with homemade raisins and candied citrus peel. It was absolutely amazing. The formerly stale bread melted in your mouth and the crunchiness of the citrus peel highlighted the creamy custard of the pudding. Basically a party in my mouth.
Beyond getting a great meal, I met so many interesting people brought together by a passion for food. Julia Child had it right: Food people are the best people.