The spectacular sunrise over East Orleans was our first good omen of the day. The bright sunshine and cooling winds when we arrived in Ocean Springs (a small town in the middle of the Mississippi Gulf Coast) at 7:30am this morning, our second bit of good luck. But the eight brand new Glossman Gas stoves and “Big Larry” grill waiting for us at the Ocean Springs Farmers Market? Well, those were just too good to be true.
Our chefs arrived with one directive, make some great food using the farmer’s ingredients…in other words they were charged with being the culinary entertainment for the day. Setting up a “kitchen stadium” at one end of the market, chefs were encouraged to showcase both the products being used as well as the steps by which they were going to tackle a dish. After a warm welcome from the town’s mayor, Connie Moran, they were off foraging in the market. When the first CulinaryCorps chef stepped behind the demonstration table, people pulled up chairs and made themselves comfortable for the “show.” And what a show it was.
For five hours straight our cooks cranked out dishes of amazing technique and creativity. Ricotta-honey mousse with figs, goat sausage, pepper and onion heros, grilled watermelon, elderberry soup, handmade pasta with eggplant ragu, marinated sirloin topped with grilled mango cheeks, goat stew provencal, fried okra, blueberry tea scones…and many more. Sampled with a smile to the hundreds of Ocean Springs market patrons who came out for the “Fresh Food Festival”, we received more thanks than we could count. And quite a few “yums”, “wows” and “where can I get that recipe?”
In fact, the dishes we created today will be collected and saved for a cookbook highlighting the SlowFood heritage of Ocean Springs and its coastal neighbors. A wonderful resource for the market and a fantastic keepsake for the group.
And if cooking straight from the vending booth was not enough of a rare treat, our chefs also competed in a cake decorating contest. As the bands played on in the background, the two teams of four had 25 minutes to create a cake with the theme “Reconnecting the Coast.”
Ocean Springs is excited to be having the bridge to Biloxi reopened in a few short weeks and the two cakes highlighted its more unique architectural features. In the end, only one team “won” but we all got to eat the cakes made by Diane Claughton – MI Slowfood President – so really, we were all winners.
As we said many times today, it was an honor and a privilege to be part of this first annual event. Ocean Springs is a community of amazing grace and hospitality…and some refreshing culinary curiosity to top it all off.
Thank you Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce for treating us to our over-the-top BBQ experience at The Shed. Many of us will never think about brisket the same way again.
And thank you farmers, market goers, press, organizers and volunteers of today’s “Fresh Food Festival”…may this be the first of many successful food celebrations!
For a brief overview of the day’s event, check out this article in the Mississippi Press.