As a student at the Chef’s Academy, I have volunteered at many different events. Each event had been crafted with care and attention, but I think my absolute favorite was our dinner for the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market in June of this year. I was proud to be one of the dozen or so students that lent their talents to the night’s proceedings.
The dinner helped raise funds for the Broad Ripple Village Association, which has been working since 1969 to make Broad Ripple a truly beautiful place. Comprised of approximately 350 households and 500 businesses, the BRVA has been thriving for over 40 years because of the dedication of volunteers and the success of their Farmer’s Market. Running every Saturday from May 1st through November 20th (8:00 AM to 12:30 PM), the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market has 32 regular vendors.
One of the Market’s vendors is Ross Faris, who hosted the dinner and offered one of his scenic gardens as the setting for the event. Mr. Faris told me the story of how he began his garden. Twenty-nine years ago, his children (who were then very young) wanted to make a lemonade stand. Faris, who had been growing tomatoes for the summer, wagered his tomato stand would do more business than their lemonade stand. This went on for many summers until his children had grown up. By that time, Mr. Faris had started growing a variety of vegetables. When he finally retired from Eli Lilly, he dedicated himself to his hobby. He now has four acres of land devoted to his garden. He provides produce for ten restaurants and ten farmer’s markets, including of course the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market.
As the guests came into the plentiful, picturesque garden, they were greeted by not only my fellow chefs-in-training, but also some thirst-quenching beverages. Clay Robinson of the relatively new but up-and-coming Sun King Brewers donated his Sunlight Cream Ale, which won silver at the 2010 World Beer Cup. John Hill, owner of the Broad Ripple Brew Pub and co-founder of the BRVA, provided a lovely Hefeweizen. And Mallow Run Winery (located in Bargerville, just 30 minutes south of downtown Indianapolis) provided the evening with a delicious assortment of wine.
The night’s menu (featuring five decadent courses) was carefully crafted by Chef Greg Hardesty of the restaurant Recess. We began with Tomato Panzanella Gazpacho Salad. While it had the distinct taste of gazpacho soup, it also had the texture of panzanella (a traditional Italian bread salad). It was a delightful contradiction and a refreshing start to the meal. The second course was a tamale made of Indiana sweet corn. Topped with mushrooms, swiss chard, peppers and a spicy green onion cilantro salsa, the tamale was warm, savory and provided an overall nice transition to the third course.
Next, we served a wonderful summer vegetable soup. It was composed of turnips, cabbage and braised greens. With a drizzle of bacon oil for a refined finish, the soup was hearty and scrumptious. For the entrée, we grilled some tantalizing meat terrines with a beautiful red wine glaze. They were served with horseradish green beans and a roasted leek and new potato salad. To end the meal, the guests had a truly unique dessert. With the texture of cheesecake, the goat cheese panna cotta was topped with local fruit marinated in maple syrup. It was rich, delectable and a lovely conclusion to the menu.
As the sun began to set over the trees, all the volunteers were asked to come up to the front by the guests’ table. We weren’t quite sure what was going to happen next. Suddenly, we received a standing ovation from the very people we fed that night. It was extremely satisfying, not just that we were thanked, but that we used our time and talent to help a well-deserving organization raise money for their noble cause.