Community gathers at ‘The Farmers Table’August 27, 2018
By CANDY NEAL
HUNTINGBURG — Fourth Street in front of City Hall was transformed into an outdoor restaurant Saturday evening.
As the sun shined in the sky, diners mingled while sampling wines and craft beers, listening to upbeat bluegrass music and snacking on appetizers prepared by three chefs who were working under a tent nearby.
By nightfall, the diners had been through a salad, two main dishes and two desserts. And they all seemed to be full and satisfied.
“This is all very nice,” said Connie Nass of Huntingburg, who attended The Farmers Table dinner with friends. “What a wonderful idea, and a wonderful way to promote the local farming community by showcasing the goods they grow right here.”
Showing people that they can make amazing meals using foods grown locally was the main goal of Saturday’s dinner, said Sarah Flamion, executive director of Destination Huntingburg, the organization that sponsored the dinner. She and her staff of volunteers were excited to serve the diners and tell them all about the foods they were eating.
Eric Songer of Huntingburg noted that the people who attended were not all from Huntingburg. He pointed out people who live in Jasper, Ferdinand, St. Henry. They were all chatting and laughing and enjoying themselves, he said.
“A lot of different towns are represented here,” he said. “It speaks well of our community, that we can all come together, support our local businesses and farmers, and have a great time.”
The event’s 100 tickets were purchased beforehand; 87 of those ticket holders came out to enjoy the meal.
And it was a multi-course spread. As people arrived, they were invited to sample wine and craft beer, and pick up appetizers from a table full of selections. Their choices were grilled eggplant and tomato stacks, cheese curd herb spread, spiced farm eggs, Steckler grassfed cheese, Merkley slim sausage, cucumber corn salsa, and olives.
After Songer sat down with his wife and friends, organizers gave a welcome and a minister prayed. And then the group started eating.
The first dish served to the table was a mixed greens salad with herb roasted chicken on top and covered with a citrus herb vinaigrette. Songer dived in, and then shared his thoughts on the salad.
“It’s nice and light,” he said, “really good. With weather like this (the temperature ranged between the high 80s and low 90s), you wouldn’t want anything too heavy.”
All the dishes were made on site by chef Liz Wertman, Josh Premuda and Jordan Hughes of Brew in Jasper. The crew gathered their ingredients from Huntingburg Farmers Market vendors and used meats from local processors. While some things were prepped early on, a lot of the dishes’ elements were made and plated on site, from a tent sitting in City Hall’s parking lot. Diners could watch the cooks create and ask questions about ways to use different foods they may not be used to using, Flamion said.
The first main dish was served after the salad dishes were removed. Diners were treated to pork meatballs, homemade noodles in a garlic cream sauce, and potato fondant.
“The pork is very seasoned; it balances with the neutral taste of the pasta,” Songer noted. “If someone decided not to eat the noodles, they would probably say that the pork is too salty. Or, if you choose to not eat the pork, you may say the noodles didn’t have enough seasoning. You have to eat this together, because they play off each other and balance each other out.”
As for the potato, “They had a little bit of a crunch, which is good feel for this meal,” Songer said. “They need to be firm. Soft potatoes would not work well with this meal.”
Songer, who is a native of the city, admits he is not a chef. “I just like to eat food,” he said. “And I appreciate a meal that is well done, and the labor it takes create good-tasting food.”
He appreciated the second main dish that was served: ratatouille with a pressed turkey breast.
“It’s a good flavor,” he said as he tasted a tomato sauce-covered piece of zucchini from the ratatouille. “The vegetables are crisp. And the turkey is tender. I didn’t know we were getting another main dish. That’s a pleasant surprise.”
The meal ended with two desserts: an apple crisp in a jar and a bowl of blackberry ice cream. Songer was pleased with these dishes as well.
“The blackberry ice cream is amazing,” he said. “It wasn’t too seedy, which can happen.”
He also said he enjoyed the firm apples in the apple crisp. “They weren’t mushy,” he noted. “And it wasn’t overly sweet. It complements the ice cream very well.”
As he enjoyed his dessert, Songer talked about the past and his maternal and paternal grandmothers, pointing out how their cooking styles were different from each other. “One was steamed vegetables, and the other was creamed corn, creamed spinach,” he said. “It was such a dichotomy between them.”
But each made a dessert that he loved. One’s specialty was bread pudding, while the other made a mouth-watering banana pudding.
“If I could eat those again before I die, I’d die a happy man,” Songer said.
Diners shared any thanks and expressions of appreciation with the Farmers Table staff as they left the meal and Fourth Street Saturday night. Flamion was glad that everyone enjoyed themselves.
“I am super pleased with the way this turned out,” she said. “We will definitely do this again next year. And in our new location of Market Street Park, it’s going to be even better.”
Songer echoed the diners’ compliments.
“It’s been phenomenal, being able to interact with people to talk, socialize and share a meal,” he said. “It’s a credit to our community that we can all come together like this.”
The Huntingburg Farmers Market is open Saturday mornings from 7 to 11 a.m. in Memorial Gym’s parking lot.
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