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Community gathers in spite of the weather

by Kristi Maier

| @triadfoodies

Months of vision, planning and sweat were finally realized this past Sunday as Triad foodie fans gathered to celebrate all things local. The 2015 Triad Local First Community Table went off without a hitch, albeit with a few weather scares. In the end, nothing was going to stop the organizers of the 5th annual farm to fork dinner, which raises funds for TLF’s Buy Local campaign for the holiday season.

Triad Local First’s Community Table 2015 was sold out with a 140-plus guest list who met at The Old Mill of Guilford in Oak Ridge for cocktails, appetizers, Pig Pounder Brewing beer and Wine from Zeto’s, followed by a four-course meal prepared by local Chef Tim Thompson. The event really represents community, as the venue, ingredients for food, decor and even china are donated or on loan for the event. Music was provided by Shiloh Hill.

With the last two weeks of rain and the grounds at the mill completely saturated, many wondered if the event would happen on its specified date. What with a stalled rain system over the East Coast that dropped at least 8 inches of rain on the Triad in 11 days, not to mention Hurricane Joaquin in the Atlantic churning up more rain and 25 mph winds. But the show must go on and no one seemed to mind it. Certainly the weather wasn’t about to keep away folks who’ve been waiting all year for this night. Everyone came prepared with their boots, hats and raincoats and settled in for deliciousness.

Committee president Mary Lacklen said, “We made contingencies and planned for them in our budget.” Organizers brought in mulch and straw and put up tents, lights, and then walls for the tents and added heaters in order to make sure everyone who attended stayed somewhat warm and dry.

Prior to the rain, the mill’s owners freshened up the exterior of their buildings, while Community Table organizers got to work on getting the grounds ready. Alan Odom said, “We prepped the land, cut, dug, gutted, edged, cleared out limbs, we’ve done a lot to get it ready.” And they worked until the last minute due to the weather. And when it was all over, it had to come down. In wind and drizzle.

Leading the “kitchen” of culinary professionals and students was Chef Tim Thompson, former Competition Dining Champion and current banquet chef at Twin City Quarter, which handles all banquet services for the Benton Convention Center and Twin City Quarter Properties in Winston-Salem. We found him grilling the oysters on the half shell, delegating tasks with bisque that he liked to call “porridge” and roasted vegetables, and staying on top of multiple pork loins provided by Massey Creek Farms. “It’s the best meal I’ve ever cooked out of an old tobacco barn,” he joked. Thompson’s sous chef for the evening was Chef Travis Myers, of River Birch Lodge in Winston-Salem. Next year, Myers will be the featured chef with Thompson at his right hand, or one of them anyway. The plan is each year the featured chef for the following year will get to be a part of the culinary team.

The event also gives TLF a chance to recognize a few key players who they say fully embrace the “support local business” movement. The Vibrancy Award this year went to local business developer, Andy Zimmerman who owns multiple properties in Greensboro, and more recently purchased and vowed to transform the former Lotus Lounge into a thriving area for business. Upon receiving his award Zimmerman said, “It’s rewarding to be a part of the local Triad community and I look forward to continuing to contribute.”

The Independent Business of the Year went to Recycles Bike Shop”” a bike shop that repairs bikes but also specializes in giving old bikes new life. Thompson, an avid mountain cyclist, said, “Owner Merritt White epitomizes everything we work toward at Triad Local First and Recycles does it too. Quite simply, he keeps you on the road.”

Several notable figures from all across the Triad enjoyed the evening including developer Marty Kotis, Garland McCollum of Massey Creek Farms and FOX8 WGHP’s Neil McNeill enjoyed the night with his wife, Wendy. “It’s our first time, but definitely not our last,” he said.

Support for the event as well as donations to make it happen were bigger than ever. Lacklen said, “It took vision to dream it, to plan it, build it and cook it. It’s been a historical challenge and in the midst of a hurricane.” When Lacklen thanked the supporters for attending, she said “When we looked at the Farmer’s Almanac a few weeks back, the forecast called for a ‘pleasant evening’.” And several seated guests declared, “It WAS!” Learn more about Triad Local First and its mission to help local businesses at triadlocalfirst.com. !

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