There are so many reasons to love the Local Wild Food Challenge. It’s a great way to really celebrate the local foods of Martha’s Vineyard in the Fall, and as always, this year’s event was full of interesting foods.
Though the location was the same, the Rod and Gun Club, the event looked a lot different. People have finally caught on that this is an awesome time.
So, there was a whole different way to enter the event. Though technically free, there’s a suggested donation of $10 — which is a steal.
Then there was a little lounge area for you to have a drink and relax a bit since it’s a long event, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Past that was the new kitchen set up for those entering the challenge. This is quite different from the pop up kitchens that were sort of all around the property last year. Now there was one spot, and you could watch these purveyors of local treats work their magic.
Also new was the option to buy food. Loco Taco had a booth set up where you could purchase their tacos which happen to be chock full of local ingredients. This way, you didn’t go hungry.
Of course all this food would make you thirsty, so it was a good thing Peak Organic was there to sell beers, there was also a nice selection of wines available.
Yes, there’s a lot of food being prepared, but there’s not a vast quantity available to sample. The contestants make their food, have it photographed, and then it goes right to the judges.
The judges sample, and chat. Then the remainder (sometimes people prepare more) is brought out to the tasting table where a couple of volunteers cut it into samples.
I am always so surprised at some of the ingredients people come up with to use for their creations. Things that I wouldn’t even consider as an option for food in any way, shape, or form.
With each passing year, people get more and more creative and inventive. That’s why I love this event.
Perhaps in your backyard you have an assortment of maple tree leaves. Did you know that instead of raking and composting them, you might want to try Tempura Fried Maple Leaves?
I certainly didn’t know that, and never thought I would eat one, but I did. Seriously, tempura fried maple leaves with a beach plum glaze. They were delicious, but I think I would like almost anything with tempura.
“A” for effort. This got a lot of oohs and aahs from onlookers and tasters.
This dish actually won the Surprise Ingredient category. I think everyone just loved it.
How about silverside fish? Those fish you’ve been catching for the derby all month can be fried up for a tasty treat.
The chef from Port Hunter, Jeremy Davis, did just that. He said he’s too busy to fish or hunt, but loves working with local food. So, what’s a time-starved chef to do?
Take a net. Catch a bunch of bait fish, and turn them into delicious Fried Silverside Tacos with slaw.
They were yummy, not my all time favorite but they were good. I never even knew that they were tasty. A bit fishy, but totally edible.
Another fun thing I got to try was samphire — a type of edible grass that grows in marshy areas along the coast. This type of samphire just happened to be used for a type of slaw.
I didn’t get to try the slaw, but I ate a lot of the samphire. It tasted like pickles, and had a great texture, which makes sense because it’s sometimes referred to as sea pickles.
How great would it be to have this to add to your apps for a dinner party, perhaps right next to the olives.
How about Atlantic Mole Crab Bisque! Yes, those little crabs you can dig up all Summer long on many of the beaches on the Vineyard can be used in such a capacity.
Once again, who knew? Now these little guys aren’t huge, so it took a lot of them, which were harvested at Quansoo. Though interesting, I am more of a lobster bisque kinda gal.
However, I do love the fact that these were used for something so savory and perfect for Fall.
The Local Wild Food Challenge is also open to children, and boy can kids on the Vineyard get creative and cook. You wouldn’t believe it but watching them, there was no denying these kids could kick my bum in the kitchen.
In addition to the kids cooking, there were a lot of kids there with their parents having a good time too.
I watched Quinlan Slavin pan sear pork belly that made your senses dizzy with want. Junior judge, Jamie Hamlin was quite impressed.
I was there when she tried it and got a piece soon after. Perfectly cooked, well seasoned. Amazing.
How about Violet Cabot who made her own bread, her own mozzarella cheese, used wild turkey her father caught to make turkey paninis? What? how’s that even possible?
Well, her mom, Nicole, said the hardest part was finding all the ingredients, from Grey Barn to Cronigs, to Vineyard Grocer.
However, it was beyond worth it. Violet won most creative use of ingredients and scored herself a sweet fishing pole and tackle box and it’s a big thing that she does with her dad.
They spend months trying to figure out what they want to make. Her dad entered a turkey dish as well and it too looked pretty tasty.
That’s why the Local Wild Food Challenge is so much fun, the local proteins like duck, venison, turkey, pork and acorns, cranberries, sassafras, then all the inventive items, like mole crabs and beetlebung berries, yes there’s such a thing.
The sense of family and community with this clever event is wonderful. And what people come up with — it never ceases to amaze me.
And The Winner Is
The Grand Prize Winner is . . . Tyler Gibson for his dish titled “Around the Island.”
Smoked bacon fat seared Bonito with a play on ‘Clam Chowder’ sauce with torch flamed wild Oysters & fresh baby Scallops, pickled Jerusalem Artichoke & foraged watercress salad with peashoots, accompanied with muddled Autumn Olive soaked in Champagne – wow, what a list of ingredients!
Around the Island is the perfect name for it because there was at least one wild ingredient from every town on the Vineyard.
Thanks for reading the On Point Blog. You can learn more about the Local Wild Food Challenge – Martha’s Vineyard on Facebook. Don’t forget that this challenge is held all over the globe!