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Hudson Valley Bounty’s “A Taste Of” is like the chefs’ prom

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Hudson Valley Bounty’s “A Taste Of” is the epicurean event of the season kicking off summer’s cornucopia of bountiful harvest in Columbia County and the Berkshires. It’s the 6th year of “A Taste of” happening on Monday, August 4 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Columbia County Fairgrounds in Chatham. It’s an event when chefs pair with farmers to bring the best of the best in locally-sourced foods for the community to sample and savor.

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Bridging with chefs and farmers from the Berkshires seemed an intuitive move due to the proximity of the area and its wealth of natural resources. The interaction between farms, food producers and restaurants in the Berkshires and the Hudson Valley has been a longtime ongoing relationship.

To Local 111’s Restaurateur/Chef Josephine Proul (Jo), an original participant of “A Taste Of” and last year’s winner of its fourth annual Victoria Simons Locavore Award, it is “The Chefs’ Prom.” It’s the night that chefs ditch their kitchen garb for fancier finery. As Chef Proul puts it, “We are all on display, all dressed up and smoozing with each other, while our food is showcased at its very best. For new chefs, it’s a way to break the ice, meet the farmers, fellow chefs and food lovers. For all chefs it’s prime time to get feedback from their customers that they may not know so well and to converse with everyone without having a time frame. For the farmers, it’s a great way to connect with the chefs in an open platform and to cross-connect.”

“A Taste Of” promotes food culture, Proul explains. She goes on to say that it’s about educating the community about the abundant bounty in the countryside surrounding their towns. It is a great networking effort between farmers, chefs/restaurateurs and the community connecting everyone with one goal in mind – food education, which is very difficult. In order to educate, we need to know what everyone is doing.

Since she first started participating six years ago, Proul says each year the event grows with more people attending, more buzz, more restaurants and farms getting involved. Guests get very excited about connecting with their favorite restaurants, chatting with the chefs whom they normally don’t have much time to talk with and to learn about what’s happening ~ new foods evolving into delicious, unique dishes. Last year kale was the hottest produce seen on every menu. This spring it has been ramps and tarragon, which has been named the herb of the year by the International Herb Association.

As the new owner of Local 111 and Executive Chef for more than five years, Chef Proul has simplified the menu using all fresh, locally-sourced produce and meats with a menu that changes monthly. On the menu this month is fried chicken confit with cured kale, pecans and spicy aioli and lamb featured in many different dishes. At last year’s “A Taste Of,” Proul prepared Zucchini Bread with Crispy Smoked Ham and Hudson Red Herb Cream. Farms she paired with were Cool Whisper Farm, Twin Maple Farm, Common Hands and Ten Barn Farm. For her 2014 presentation, she and staff will prepare Lentil Fritters with Herb-Whipped Goat Cheese, a Summer Squash Salad and Cured Tomato, Crispy Ham Hock and Herb Pistou with Fried Onions. She will pair with Cool Whisper Farm, Miller’s Crossing and Ten Barn Farm.

The mission of Hudson Valley Bounty (HVB), a program of the Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation (HVADC), is to educate the community about the preservation of local farms through the purchase and use of local and regional sustainable foods and products throughout the entire Hudson Valley. The program also promotes and supports networking connections between local agricultural producers and culinary businesses. For information, visit Hudson Valley Bounty.

Advance purchase of tickets is recommended due to limited space. Tickets are $75 for adults, $50 for HVB members and $25 for children (12 and under) and can be purchased online at Hudson Valley Bounty or at the door.

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