This past weekend, was the 6th annual Local Wild Food Challenge Martha’s Vineyard. The call of the wild came to Oak Bluffs, where the Portuguese American Club hosted the event for the first time.
For event founder, Billy Manson, the fun is the unknown — not knowing what creative local ingredients are and who and what is going to truly impress the judges.
This year’s judges, Juli Vanderhoop, Albert Lattanzi, and Dan Athearn, had a tough job. Since it’s the 6th Challenge, people are really stepping up their game.
Though people may have missed the view and exclusivity of the Rod & Gun Club, the PA Club proved to be a great location for the event. With plenty of parking, contestant prep space, plenty of great outdoor seating to enjoy the gorgeous day, and even space for dancing with Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, things got pretty wild in Oak Bluffs.
After signing in, I realized that this was my fourth Local Wild Food Challenge. Each one has been so different, fun, and even inspiring. What local chefs, restaurant pros, home cooks and even those who are a novice in the kitchen can create with unique local ingredients is awe inspiring.
Well, sort of. One of the contestants whose creation I sampled was MV Smokehouse, and it won Best Effort. Run by Gus Leaf and chef Nathan Gould, I was delighted by their smoked yellowfin tuna spread. This sushi grade fish makes one damn good spread. I am not a big smoked bluefish fan, but this stuff was so good.
Gus caught me red-handed going back for a third sample. A winner for me, I can’t wait to see what else these guys are creative with in the world of smoked seafood.
Remember at the end of iconic movie, The Christmas Story, the family has dinner at the Chinese restaurant? Well, I now have had a similar experience. I’ve decided it would be in all of our best interest to not add my pic of the roasted goose picture. It was the whole bird, just like in the movie.
In addition to the most interesting food visually, JP Catered Creations had the most amazing spread — local root veggies, parsnips, carrots, leeks, beautifully roasted with local rosemary, sage and thyme, and local goose prepared with stuffing made with local wild oysters and Island Shitake mushrooms. Beautiful, seasonal, and delicious. I had seconds on this one too.
Though it was a wild sight to see the goose in such a way. It’s a reality and the dish was delicious. I had a serious helping. I liked the goose. It was reminiscent a little of duck but was a bit more gamey. Needless to say, JP Catered Creations won for Best on the Wing.
I love seeing what Island kids create for their entries. There is such thought and enthusiasm involved, and this year’s did not disappoint.
First I met with Quinlan Slavin, who made a beautiful sassafras tea. With hint of a root beer flavor, which sassafras can be a component in, it was quite nice, and refreshing. Quinlan won Best Effort for his locally crafted beverage. He was so proud of his tea. It was a great moment to be a part of.
Violet Cabot and Madia Bellebuono (MV Chefs) made homemade ravioli with homemade ricotta and a watercress salad with beach plum dressing and roasted squash. Sadly I was on my way out of the Challenge when I ran into Madia and Violet and her mom Nicole and dad Ben. So, I only got to feast with my eyes and was not able to sample for myself.
You could tell that both girls were really excited for their entry and they should be. They won Runner-Up in the kids category.
With the kids entries, it’s tough for the judges, Annie Foley and Craig Decker, because as with the adults, it’s not only the flavor but how creative the ingredients are. If you made a delicious dish, with typical locally foraged ingredients, you’re not going to win. The key is to be creative and make a tasty dish.
The students of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. They really impressed the judges with their Summer’s Bounty Salad. The salad is not only gorgeous but represents so many amazing ingredients from all around the Island.
Nicely done team MVPCS!!! Thanks for the photos Billy. Sadly I wasn’t here for this entry, but boy is it impressive!
It was great to have volunteers grill delicious Morning Glory Farm corn and then having homemade sriracha butter. The little local burgers that were also being grilled up were tasty treats as well.
Peak’s Organic beer was on hand with their organic beer, and to share a bit about their beer. I have to say that I was impressed with the Fresh Cut. I usually don’t like a pilsner but this one had some nice hop notes to it.
Also, one of my favorite things was watching the son of JP Catered Creations, Jack. He was helping pass out cookies he helped him mom and dad bake. He was so adorable.
All of this for a $20.00 admission fee which benefits Island Grown Schools. This is one of those Fall events I will never tire of.
The interesting food, running into friends, and just the whole experience is something so different.
Thanks for reading the On Point Blog. You can learn about the Local Wild Food Challenge on Facebook. Did you know that this event is hosted in amazing places all over the world? Italy is next! What an honor it is to be on the list of destinations.