By: Kelly M. Freihofer
OSWEGO, NY – Upwards of 200 guests enjoyed a feast of locally raised foods at the Oswego County Harvest Dinner on October 18.
The dinner was held at The American Foundry in Oswego and the 2013 event proved to be as successful in showcasing Oswego County agriculture as it has been in the three preceding years.
The evening opened with appetizers and greetings from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County Executive Director Paul Forestiere who noted that the employees of Cooperative Extension are very much aware of the great things that Oswego County has to offer so.
“We do this program for you,” he said. “This event has become a gathering of friends.”
Forestiere recognized the dignitaries in attendance and, as throughout the evening, the 35 farmers who donated their harvest and agricultural products for the dinner were gratefully acknowledged.
“Farmers provide food for us three times a day,” Forestiere said. “If it weren’t for them, our lives would be significantly different.”
The appetizers included candied lady apples, chicken and sausage empanadas, tomato bruschetta, Cheddar cheese cubes, and assorted sweet breads. Apple cider was not overlooked for a seasonal beverage, served alongside local milk and cranberry juice.
As the six-course meal was served, course by course, it was introduced in detail – giving special note to where the ingredients originated.
A special tip of the hat was given to the Oswego County BOCES culinary arts department for their hours of prep work for the dinner. In addition, BOCES horticulture department was acknowledged for their decorative skills on the entrance topiaries.
The dinner menu was orchestrated by American Foundry Head Chef Eugene Batrak, with culinary contributions from Red Sun Fire Roasting Co.’s Executive Chef, Peter Belmonte.
The first course for the evening was a creamy, yet light, butternut/autumn cup squash soup. This was followed by an autumn apple salad with fresh greens, carrots, and onions, topped with a spiced maple balsamic vinaigrette.
Next the third course of apple cider braised beef was served, with two sides; sweetcorn/ green pepper succotash and potatoes with herbs.
A vegetarian course was next, in the form of leek and Swiss cheese quiche. Next to the tables came plates filled with lamb kabobs with yogurt sauce.
Last, but not least, the dessert course arrived – strawberry-rhubarb shortcake with blueberry syrup and real whipped cream.
Course after course, guests at the harvest dinner experienced foods produced in their own county.
This experience provided the perfect lead into the guest speaker for the evening – Chris Fesko.
Lynnette Wright, the Agriculture Economic Development Specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County and coordinator of the event introduced Fesko as a farmer, educator, award-winning video producer and owner of ‘On the Farm Discovery Center’ in Skaneateles.
She has spoken nationally and internationally and has been featured in Woman’s Day magazine.
Fesko began by encouraging the practice of buying local, and eating local – as the guests just had.
To expand the concept of eating local, Fesko encouraged everyone to read labels and to wonder about expiration dates – specifically how a packaged item, such as pudding, could possibly be considered ‘good’ a number of years after it was produced.
Fesko also encouraged everyone to wonder about the labels themselves – considering such advertisements as “100 percent natural” and “vegetarian-fed” on an egg carton; and to really think about what the wording actually means and apply some common sense to them, don’t just buy into the latest fad.
Next Fesko took time to bring the imaginations of her listeners into the cornfield to learn about the interesting, fascinating, typically unknown, and quite entertaining experience of the pollination of sweet corn.
To close, Fesko left a very pleased audience with these words of wisdom, “You are what you eat. You are what you touch. You are what you breathe.”
Drawings for the numerous donated baskets and items were raffled off. Sponsors were recognized, the chefs were applauded and the evening drew to close.
“What we are really trying to do here is showcase what you can do with Oswego County food,” Forestiere said.
All said, Cornell Cooperative Extension Oswego County did a fine job doing just that.