Some of you may have read about a three-day conference that took place in Roanoke last week. Called City Works (X)po, it was billed as a “festival conference” for social entrepreneurs looking for great ideas that would revitalize their cities.
A good many people attended the conference, which was made possible by Roanoke businessman Ed Walker and his team. It featured speakers on such topics as knowledge and new media, arts and design, leadership and good government, outdoors and recreation, and local food. I’ll bet you can’t guess which of those topics interested me the most.
Yep, when I found out there would be a “locavore street fest” on Kirk Avenue in downtown Roanoke as part of the conference, I was mighty interested in checking it out. I scored my editor’s ticket and crashed the party to see what folks were eating.
First thing I saw was this:
Ohhhhhhh yeah. That right there is a 138-lb. hog from Sandy River Pork farm in Axton, Va. Josh Newsome (pictured), the manager/chef for Blue Ridge Catering, which catered the event, said he smoked that bad boy for about 12 hours. And boy was it good.
The next thing I checked out was this pickle bar:
Such a nifty idea! All of these pickles were made at Blue Ridge Catering using a lot of local ingredients. There were pickled carrots, onions, okra, the standard cucumbers and my favorite — shiitake mushrooms! I was told the shiitake mushroom concoction included Bluegrass Soy Sauce, which is made in Kentucky. This pickle bar was as pretty as it was tasty. I loved the jars, which look old even if they are not. See, even the pig is checking them out.
The pickle bar is symbolic of some area chefs’ attempts to use local ingredients year-round. The beauty of preservation like this, of course, is that they can break out a jar of pickled vegetables long after the fresh vegetables have gone, making locally grown goodies last through the winter.
Also on the food line but not pictured were herb-roasted potato salad (lots of veggies from Good Food-Good People in Floyd), vinegar-based coleslaw made with Virginia cider and Virginia apples, grilled chicken from Bramble Hollow Farm in Montvale, and chutney. It was very dark in that tent (you can’t tell from these photos but Kyle had to use all of the photography tricks to get anything decent in there), so when I got to the end of the line and saw these jagged pieces of stuff on display, I thought “Oh, lovely, it’s toasted flatbread or pitas or something.” So imagine my surprise when I bit into a piece immediately and realized it was brittle. D’oh!
Incredible brittle it was, too, with nuts and rosemary. The rosemary offered a unique twist. Also for the sweet tooth were little ramekins of apple crisp with goat cheese ice cream.
The bar was stocked with locally made brands, as well, including Starr Hill beer and Foggy Ridge hard cider, and even some Virginia liquors, such as vodka from the Chesapeake Bay Distillery and Catocin Creek organic watershed gin from Loudon County.
Overall, I was pretty proud to be a Virginian – specifically a Southwest Virginia native – at the event. I chatted with a few folks from out of town who were surprised by the bounty we have here, and I was a little surprised that they didn’t know what a great local food region we call home. I hope those who are not already looking for ways to support local producers in their towns and cities left the (X)po with plans to do so in the not-too-distant future.