Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Foodie Weekends in the Capital District: Longhouse Revival, Part I

Thousands of regional foodies found themselves at various  harvest festivals, beer festivals, special dinners and so on this past weekend.  It's the Hudson Valley's season to celebrate our world class local food and drink. If you are new to the area or never thought about paying attention to all the corny-sounding festivals, don't miss out just because of a name!!! Watch the local news media and follow the foodie blogs and get in on the good stuff. Enjoy the glow of fine  local spirits and delicious locally produced food.

I went to a Hoptember Harvest Festival - Longhouse Revival sandwich over the three days. Yum!

My harvest festival season has begun with trips near tiny communities, or really just out in the boondocks. I drove into the sunset on Friday night until just about Rensselaerville and joined a few dozen invited guests for an evening that was all about olive oils and getting to know each other over dinner at the Longhouse Revival.

The Revival is one of the various educational activities of Molly O'Neill and her band of fellow travelers.  Her One Big Table organization provides instruction and networking activities for food writers through the Cook N Scribble branch, but the Revival is more magical than a mere educational conference. Once Molly starts inviting people to join in, a combination of talent and brains blossoms and creates a certain alchemy that doesn't occur in just any old workshop. The presence of all of the food, produced by rock star chefs, makes a significant difference. That element alone makes it easy to be extremely happy along the course of the proceedings.

For dinner on Friday I settled in beside Michael Twitty, author and blogger at Afroculinaria (http://afroculinaria.com) and took up an acquaintance we started at last year's Revival.  The dinner/tasting started by tasting the oils by themselves, then progressed to tasting the oils as they were mixed with foods of different kinds over four courses.

Eryn Balch walks us through our tasting with a background of the perfect upstate sunset.

Chef Alicia Walker designed a menu that would "showcase the differences between three basic styles of olive oil". Eryn Balch from the North American Olive Oil Association shared the stage with Alicia and they added background as well as details about the olives.  My dream of learning about food by tasting it among interesting and delightful people was fulfilled.

The lineup for the weekend was awesome - chefs, producers, writers, videographers and pretty much all  of them talented at telling stories.  This year's main theme was Chopstick Nation, The Chinese American Experience.

"including: Jonathan Gold (Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times), Da Chen (author of Colors of the Mountain and writer-in-residence), Kian Lam Kho (founder of RedCook.net and author of Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking), Leland Wong (street artist, biker, dumpling maker and photographer), Anne Mendelson (food historian), Michael Twitty (food scholar and historic reenactor), and Lucey Bowen (author and artist), among others."

Cosmic forces in the form of Zena, Goddess of Fire, led me further downstate on Saturday for beer, and what with that ceaseless curtain of rain on Saturday night, I wasn't able to muster the courage to go out on skinny little mountain roads up into the Helderburgs for a late dinner.

So I bounced out of bed on Sunday morning and got myself  back out there by 8am for the opening workshop which was simply mind expanding. Betsy Andrews (Editor at Large Rodale's Organic Life), Jeanne Baron (Broadcast Journalist),  Sara Kate Gillingham (The Kitchn) Amy Halloran (author and Pancake Queen Bee) and Simona Carini (writer, blogger, photographer and pasta magician) devised a presentation of interviews with discussion about how to make interviews into stories. Penny Delos Santos lent her ideas on photographing for stories.  They illustrated technical aspects  of story making in a clear and accessible way for participants, all while being extremely gorgeous.  It changed my life.  Now I hope it can change my writing!!!

After having my mind blown and doing a little wandering through the festival area I was buttonholed by host Molly O'Neill and introduced to Michael Schwartz of BAO Fermented Food and Drink http://www.baofoodanddrink.com We discussed the unfortunate developments regarding food over the last half of the 20th century and how we need to resume more health-conscious foodways. It's so nice to meet like-minded business people who have found ways to produce not only delicious food, but manage to also maintain the health and productivity of the soils that nourish it. But Michael not only makes good food - he wants to help others do the same, so he's involved in the Organic Food Incubator http://organicfoodincubator.com. The incubator helps food entrepreneurs get up and running in a supportive environment.

A rather magnificent breakfast that included Albany's own Amy Halloran's fabulous pancakes gave me time to try to assimilate all that the morning had inspired and to sit quietly in the emerging sun while contemplating the beauties of the rural landscape.

Then I re-immersed into the Revival  for the Food and Flea marketplace and was transformed again and again. Halleluja!

LorreBob sez: foodies, food bloggers,  local chefs, writers, writing students and creatives of all stripes who are into food should be at the Revival next September. Get yourself out there.


Deanna said...

I'm so happy you were able to make it out again, Lorre! It was lovely to see you, and hopefully it will become a more regular occurrence.

LorreS said...

It was a great time, wasn't it? You had all the best questions for everyone. We definitely should be in more frequent contact - preferably with a table of food between us.
[strictly for research purposes]