The smell of roasting meat was in the air as the 2017 Local Wild Food Challenge took over the sun-drenched grounds of the FARM Institute on Sunday. The annual food competition focuses on using locally sourced ingredients to create a dish that looks and tastes unique. This year it featured educational workshops, demonstrations, and food and drink submissions from more than 40 competitors.
The event had the air of a well-attended family barbeque, and provided an opportunity for chefs and attendees, both local and not, to catch up after a busy season. Event organizer Bill Manson was thrilled at the festival feel of this year’s event, which had an expanded footprint with two large tents, three demonstration booths, and a dining area bordered by two trucks from the Food Truck.
“I want people to leave having learned something, and to catch up with the community at the end of summer,” Mr. Manson said. “The talent we have on this Island is exceptional, and the bounty is equal to that. We’re lucky to have these resources, and we need to protect, respect, and celebrate them.”
Attendees had the opportunity to watch the competitors cook and plate their dishes, taste the chefs’ creations, watch James Joyce and Albert Lattanzi carve a whole roasted pig, and witness a deer carving. DJ Ricky Prime, the Chandler Blues Band, and the Phil Darosa Project provided musical entertainment throughout the day.
The Charter School chef and owner of Lone Scout Cooking, Matthew Hayden, had one of the more dramatic booths at the event. Mr. Hayden won the wildest ingredient category for using raccoon in his dish (BBQ Raccoon, sweet potatoes, wild chicken and hen of the woods mushrooms, and homemade BBQ sauce).
In a flurry of energy, Mr. Hayden cooked over an open fire and offered much of it up for tasting, including frog legs, false albacore, and grubs. There weren’t many takers for the grubs, as they were presented live and wriggling. Mr. Hayden poured wine over the bowl of bugs, which stopped them from moving, but did not tempt many to taste.
As the shadows grew long, guests piled under the main tent in anticipation of the awards. Laurels are given in over a dozen categories, but the main winner for this year’s event was Doug Werther, who won the top prize for his Crispy Tautog (Blackfish) dish. Whole crispy tautog over tautog broth with seared bay scallops, local white potatoes, smoked hedgehog mushrooms, candied spicy local cranberries, and foraged watercress, finished with local herb ginger oil and seasoned with homemade sea salt.
The first runner-up was last year’s winner, Jimmy Alvarado, for his dish of “Along the Shore.” Special mentions went to Emme Carroll for her boxberry ice cream, and Penny Athearn for her Russian olive fruit leather. This year the nonprofessionals bested the professionals by taking home six out of the 11 winning titles.
“That goes to show that anybody can make a dish,” event organizer Sarah Manson said. “It’s not always the professionals.”
Grand Prize: Doug Werther, Crispy Tautog (Blackfish); whole crispy tautog over tautog broth with seared bay scallops, local white potatoes, smoked hedgehog mushrooms, candied spicy local cranberries, and foraged watercress, finished with local herb ginger oil and seasoned with homemade sea salt.
Runner-up, nonprofessional: Vicki Divoll and Mary Jo Goodrich; wild quince and Island wild cranberry skillet upside-down cake made with small-batch hand-ground Vineyard cornmeal, served with wild thyme whipped cream.
First runner-up, professional: Jimmy Alvarado, “Along the Shore”; local winter flounder stuffed with a scallop mousse, rosehip demi-glace, roasted Queen Anne’s lace carrots, a salad made of sea beans, foraged watercress, and rosa rugosa flowers.
Wildest Ingredient: Matthew Hayden, BBQ Raccoon, sweet potatoes, wild chicken and hen of the woods mushrooms, homemade BBQ sauce, cooked over an open fire.
Best Effort: The A Team from Germany, “A Walk on the Beach”; a stew of Edgartown squid and conch, Oak Bluffs seaweed, Menemsha little tunny and bonito, pumpkin and kale from Morning Glory farm, wild cranberries.
Best Story (Hemingway Award): Lisa Strachan, “Beach Plum Cordial.”
Best from the Water: John Thurgood, Menemsha Taug; taug with sea beans, foraged Chilmark rosehips, wild grapes, dandelion greens, purslane, clover, and pickled sea heather, served in a green crab broth with conch, mussels, quahogs and oysters from Menemsha.
Best from the Land: Albert Lattanzi, “Risotto con Funghi e Tartufi al Ignatius, Affumacato”; wild Island porcini and hedgehog mushroom risotto with local sheep cheese and shaved truffle.
Best Dessert: Gabrielle Chronister; raw vegan lemon and wintergreen berry “cheesecake” with autumn olive and rosehip swirl with a white oak acorn-flour crust, candied Irish moss, oxalis, wild mint, edible flowers, and local honey drizzle.
Best Drink: Caitlin Lewis, “Autumn Elixir”; wintergreen leaf Billy Boy Vodka, sassafras root–infused Sailor Jerry sassafras bitters, local olive, local apple and cranberry juice, agave and lemon, served in an Island-blown glass.
Caroline Johnstone Award (Most intriguing): Capece family, Joe, Heather, Lucia and Nicola Capece; local venison heart wrapped in local bacon with Mermaid Farm soft cheese. Cape Cod cranberries, Island apples, baked potatoes, venison demi-glace, and MV sea salt.
JUNIOR CHALLENGE WINNERS
Grand Prize: Ada Chronister, “Irish Moss Pudding”; seaweed from Squibnocket Beach, local honey, foraged Japanese knotweed with a sauce of autumn olive berries from Vineyard Haven and Mermaid Farm raspberries, garnished with homegrown mint.
Runner-up: Brooke Ward, “Martha’s Vineyard Fast Food”; rabbit “fingers,” FARM Institute homemade potato fries, and locally grown homemade tomato ketchup.
Best Effort: Zeb Athearn, “Surf and Turf”; bonito, watercress, wild onions, sunchokes, lobster, and venison.