As the 3rd Fork It Over fundraising event for The Westport Farmers’ Market approached this past Sunday night, one could only wonder...what next? Market Director, Lori Cochran, and her team of chefs had served up 1) an old fashioned outdoor clam bake and 2) a 198 pound Pig, but what for round 3, and who would be the mystery chef?
The early Sunday morning email revealed a promising location (The Whelk), but more seafood? Not so. The Mexican straw hats and pinatas gave it away. We were crossing the border. The Whelk had been transformed into El Whelk and we were all in for a night of tacos, tequila, and tripe soup. [VIEW IMAGE GALLERY HERE]
You have to appreciate a chef who is game for a little fun, and with the help of Geoff Lazlo of The Whelk and Arik Bensimon of le Farm (or “La le Farm”), Chef Bill Taibe slid into his alter-Mexican ego for one very unique evening. Latin music played in the background as guests circulated around fresh guacamole, chili rubbed grasshoppers, and Ceviche with shrimp, lobster and Razor clams. Yes...you heard me right...grasshoppers.
Giant glass mason jar dispensers held pink tequila punch courtesy of Saugatuck Grain & Grape. “It took a week to make 5 gallons of the tequila punch, and it’s going fast,” said Jeff Marron. It’s no wonder given the care and thought Jeff put into this signature cocktail: Blanco tequila, watermelon puree (from Patti Popp’s Sport Hill Farm watermelons), Serrano & Jalapeno peppers, mint, cucumbers and the key ingredient, “Citrus Oleo Saccharum," or sugar stepped with citrus peel. [Find complete recipe below]
Other key players, aside from the taco fillings that started arriving on the Chefs Table Buffet, were the farms that provided the beautiful produce and divine Mole that provided the backbone of the menu: A big thanks to Sport Hill Farm, Mi Rancho, Beltane Farm, FortHill Farm, Riverbank Farm & Griselda Zosa.
El Whelk was packed to capacity, but the guests, placated by Sangria and punch, were orderly and amenable as they took turns filling their soft tortillas with Chorizo w/ burnt scallion, Blood sausage, Carnitas, Tongue & onions, as well as Smoked Brisket w/ Adobo. A richly satisfying Posole and Tripe Soup accompanied this first course. When the second course of Duck with Black Mole showed up, guests wished they had slowed down on those tacos. Falling off the leg bone, the duck was outstanding.
I left before the Churros hit the buffet, but guests report that dessert made a strong finish.
As we anticipate the final Fork It Over dinner occurring on October 20th, there is one last vendor who should be mentioned for their contribution to The Westport Farmers’ Market fundraisers. If you’ve taken note of the fine antique china on which these meals have been served, this unique service is from the folks at Something Borrowed, Vintage Rentals who supplied the wide array of vintage tabletop and silver flatware.
About The Fork It Over Series to Support The Westport Farmers’ Market
The Fork It Over fundraiser series is crucial to the sustainability of WFM. We work hard to keep the fees low for our farmers but that in turn means we have to raise money to afford our continued existence. We need to raise $40k to keep the market running year round, continue implementing the Gillespie meal program, further our work reward program with the Bridgeport Rescue Mission and install new programs like employing Gillespie residents during the Market to carry crates of food for our chefs that our buying local. Without the funds, we are not able to continue!
Saugatuck Grain & Grape's Punch Recipe
"Making punch is a laborious task. But, the end result is well worth it." said Jeff
1 1.75L Don Julio Silver
1 cup Simple Syrup
1 cup Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
1 Medium Sized Watermelon Juiced
1 Cucumber sliced
4 Jalapeños sliced
Lemon Oleo Saccharum* (4 Lemons)
Grapefruit Oleo Saccharum* (2 Grapefruits
2 cups Water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Peel the citrus fruit leaving as little white pith as possible. Combine ingredients in a sous vide bag. Rub sugar and citrus peel together to release oils from the rind. Vacuum seal and let sit at room temperature for a few hours until the sugar and oil combine. Place in the refrigerator over night. You can use a Ziploc bag instead. You just have to squeeze out all of the air to insure the sugar and citrus peels stay in contact. To expedite this process, you can place the citrus peels in a bowl with the sugar and muddle them until the beginto release their oils and then let them sit for at least an hour. When the sugar is dissolved, rinse the citrus peels in the punch bowl or beverage dispenser with two cups of water. Discard the citrus peels.