In the Beginning…
On a mild November evening in Avondale Estates, 70 strangers, 6 chefs and 5 local farmers joined together as a community of food lovers and locavores to celebrate Thanksgiving 100 Mile Dinner style. Held in a yet-to-be-leased store front in the Avondale Tudor Village, the simple space was dressed in local art and mustaches; a nod to the cause being benefited, Movember (a month-long charity in which men grow ‘staches for cashes to fight prostate/testicular cancer). Above the bar, the King of ‘Staches, 80’s icon, Tom Selleck of Magnum P.I. fame. Three long dining tables clothed in white with mason jars of Gerber daisies greeted guests who quickly began propping their chairs up; the polite art of saving seats at such affairs. Then it was time to get down to the business of eating and drinking! And so began a night filled with beautiful food, thoughtful libations and new friendships; and for some, food firsts.
Cocktail Hour and Tastes
Upon entering, guests were handed the first of five drinks crafted by Seven Lamps head mixtress and beverage manager, Arianne Fielder. This sparkly concoction of prosecco mixed with cranberry syrup and ginger liqueur, aptly named “Salvador Dali” after the curly stached surrealist, set the mood for the evening, joyous. The tastes by Daniel Chance of Campagnolo were equally as joyous with passed hors d’ouevres of east coast oysters with Mt. Apple mostarda and crème fraîche and stations which included 18-month proscuitto on cheesestraw lavosh, warm turkey rillette on a corn muffin with cranberry jam and pumpkin tortelloni with maple gastrique and fried sage. Mixing and mingling while slinging back oysters, nibbling on small bites and sipping on sparkle was just what everyone needed to end their weekend.
Setting the Tone
For many that night, it was their first community dinner, for others, veterans of such affairs, it was a night of networking and indulging, carefully enfolding the newbies into the mix. No one was left lost or uncomfortable. The chefs walked the floor, shaking hands and introducing themselves. The farmers doing the same while making sure to plant themselves (pun intended) amongst the diners at the tables in order to get to know their patrons. At 7pm, dinner service commenced with Rusty Bowers of Pine Street Market explaining the flow of the night, the purpose of the dinner and the chefs accompanying him: Daniel Chance of Campagnolo, Terry Koval of The Wrecking Bar, Kyle Griffith of Pine Street Market, Nick Melvin of Garden District, Layne Lee of Sweet n’ Sinful Bakery and Arianne Fielder of Seven Lamps.
Terry Koval kicked off the first course with an ingredient many had never eaten before, rabbit. A nervous anticipation came over some while others readied their fork and knife for a familiar bite. Presented was a perfectly braised Bullard Farms’ rabbit leg with sweet potato puree and persimmon chutney. It melted in your mouth. Audible gasps could be heard around the room as people savored every morsel. Delicious! Arianne paired this bite with a smooth yet lusty 2010 Rickshaw Pinot Nior.
Next Kyle Griffith’s salad of Burge Organic’s winter greens, Pine Street Lonza, pumpkin seed brittle and goat cheese with honey vinaigrette. The salad was light and flavorful, a refreshing palate cleanser from the rabbit before and the heavier course to come. A combination of ingredients that worked beautifully together, paired with Arianne’s “The Stranger”, blue coat gin, honey water, lemon, fresh blackberry pear cider and a nod to actor Sam Elliott’s ‘stach with a “kiss” of absinthe.
Meat n’ Three
The second course, or the meat n’ three, had Nick Melvin and Rusty Bower’s take on Thanksgiving served “family style”. A true community feel as each bite was passed by smiling faces in bowls overflowing with food. On the menu, crowned Gum Creek Farms‘ pork rib roast, grilled squash with mint chimichurri, roasted broccoli with brown butter cheddar mornay and fried shallots and confit goose and chestnut brioche stuffing. The pork roast, pure perfection. A generous portion of tender, juicy meat topped with pomegranate, devoured in seconds. All of the sides created a balanced plate where the star could shine while the supporting cast could each bring their own charms to the table. A crowd favorite was the confit goose stuffing. Moist and full of the flavors of Thanksgiving.
Arianne’s “Magnum P.I.” cocktail complimented this course with bold exquisiteness. Keeping with the hearty, rich tastes, she mixed Four Roses Bourbon with Dolin Rouge sweet vermouth, Southern Tier 2Xmas (spiced festive ale), vanilla-maple foam and whiskey barrel bitters topped with a Tom Selleck ‘stache. Brillance in a glass.
Sweet and a Little Sinful
Layne Lee’s tasty treats closed out the night in the same way it began, a joyous celebration of Fall. Beautifully presented in front of each guest, a platter of small bites which included Gruyere apple tart with salty caramel, pumpkin beignet with spiced crème anglaise and a maple and candied pecan custard. The tart was like popping Fall in your mouth. The beignet a little sexier all powdered sugar, spice and everything nice. While the custard brought you home to Granny’s house, comforting, sweet and full of charm. What better cocktail pairing than Arianne’s take on Hot Buttered Rum aka “Hot Buttered Chuck Norris”, Barcardi Anejo Rum, Mercier golden delicious cider, butter and round house kick of spice. A drink that allowed guests to sit back, relax and discuss the experience with new found friends around the table. (Apologies for lack of photo of “Chuck Norris”, by this point the writer was savoring every bite of this delicious course and lost her head in it).
It is finished.
Bravo to the chefs, farmers, mixologists and volunteer servers for a wonderful evening. With bellies full and hearts happy, guests were given a great send off into the holiest of food holidays, Thanksgiving. This day of thanks conjures images of family and friends, hearth and harvest but it is also about community, giving back, the giving of talents. 100 Mile Dinner’s “Give Mo’ Thanks” illustrated this point wonderfully with all anticipating the next time we will break bread together in January as a community of friends.