Last evening, I had the palatable pleasure to attend the 15th Annual Stowe Food and Wine Classic on the grounds of the Trapp Family Lodge. The setting was glorious atop the hills of Stowe, Vermont, and I was “Stowe”-ked to be in attendance!
The evening got underway with passed hors d’oeuvres created by the 5 talented New England chefs that were in command of the edible concoctions for the event. I have a glorious bite of peach salad with buttered croutons, a succulent sample of a scallop crudo with rhubarb dressing, and a bite of watermelon with goat cheese – all of which paired incredibly well with the Broadbent Vihno Verde. I was introduced to Tony Campos the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. A true outgoing character, Tony has a talk show called New England Cooks and is also the Vice President of Stowe Charities, the host organization for this New England premier culinary event.
I was also delighted to see Abby and Rogan Lechthaler – the owners of The Downtown Grocery. This sweet southern girl has the utmost charisma and a perfect blend of polish, ease and warmth for the hospitality industry in which she resides (Abby and me, pictured below)! While she and Chef Rogan are new parents to a beautiful son (who proceeded to restfully sleep amidst the controlled chaos), they are already successful parents to another child – their restaurant, The Downtown Grocery in Ludlow, VT, just outside of Okemo Mountain Resort. Ludlow is an unassuming town in the heart of Vermont ski country where a glorious gourmet restaurant has emerged and where Chef Rogan creates incredibly decadent and extremely creative dishes. He is a stellar superstar with seafood, but also succeeds with enchanting guests with nose-to-tail pork dishes. The Downtown Grocery sources their pork from Brown Boar Farm, a heritage-focused, local Vermont farm in Wells. In fact, his wife was smitten and enchanted herself with Rogan once they met over such said pig – roasting in a pit (one of Rogan’s many culinary claims to fame). I feel quite honored that Chef Rogan features his Wild Maine Shrimp Gumbo in the Ski Town Soups cookbook.
As the guests were seated for the evening, I was placed beside a gorgeous and gregarious couple from Boston: Molly and Greg Hanson were absolute gems! Off to an impeccable beginning, the portion of the edible evening commenced with a Spanish Mackerel that was garnished with puffed rice and pork cracklings in a semi-sweet sauce created by Chef Dino Giodano from 30 Boltwood in Amherst, MA. The bite was a perfect portion and the oily fish went very well with the bubbly brut rosé from Schramsberg. Always a wonderful evening to start with a bit of rosé!
The second and my most anticipated course was presented by Chef Rogan Lechthaler. After a trip to Japan a couple years ago, he has been dedicated to incorporating Asian flavors into some of his dishes. He and his wife savored some delicious, bouncy ramen in a local, Japanese streetside location, and he was captivated! So, this second course showcased some of these flavors in a Maine Crab ramen with local cat tail shoots, bright spring peas and scrumptious shell-on crab. This steaming bowl of perfection on a cozy, thunder-storming night had gorgeous, springy noodles and a lovely taste of ginger in the broth. After a sip of the Neyers Carneros Chardonnay, my table-mates and I were swooning with each spoonful of this magnificent dish!
The next creation, by Chef Steve Atkins, Chef and Owner of Kitchen Table Bistro in Richmond, VT, was a plate of roasted Vermont pork shoulder with crisp vegetables. The herbs were splendid and burst in my mouth with each bite of tender pork. I had a very good déjà vu moment, thinking about the Cochon 555 pork extravaganza I attended back in Vail a couple months ago! The Duckhorn Merlot balanced this dish very delightfully.
The final savory course was fashioned by Chef Cody Vasek, Executive Chef from Trapp Family Lodge. Our table was served perfectly seared beef filets that were garnished with the most incredible, spicy black peppercorn sauce. I prepared each bite with distinctive pleasure – making sure to get a foraged mushroom and some of the salsify (pureed root vegetable, similar to parsnips – a new taste for me) with each morsel of beef! This utterly flawless creation was paired with a gorgeous Capture Alliance red wine.
Fully satiated, I was glad for the intermittent fundraising and auction efforts to raise money for Copley Hospital and Vermont Foodbank. This provided a chance to create a little appetite for a dessert bite or 2. Upon tasting, the crisp, cool ice wine from Eden was immensely enjoyable, a perfect sweetness after a very savory and indulgent meal. This was paired with a presentation of Georgia peach ice cream surrounded by Valrhona white chocolate from Chef Shawn Calley, The Essex. Normally a fan of a chocolate or cake-type dessert, I was quite satisfied with this refreshing end to a memorable meal and evening!
I was thrilled to make new acquaintances in this fun-loving and joyful community nestled in the majestic Green Mountains. I have a new-found love of New England, and especially Vermont. I can see why this state is so incredibly proud and locally-minded … a very hidden gem, I must profess!