Aspen Times Weekly: Made in the Roaring Fork Valley | AspenTimes.com
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Aspen Times Weekly: Made in the Roaring Fork Valley

by BARBARA PLATTS

GOOD EATS

Want to experience true farm-to-fork cuisine and see what local growers in the Roaring Fork Valley are working on? Then check out these upcoming events:

Aspen Saturday Market

Downtown Aspen

Saturdays, Aug. 27 through Oct. 10

9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

More information at aspenpitkin.com

Basalt Sunday Markets

Downtown Basalt

Sundays, Aug. 28 through Sept. 25

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

More information at basaltsundaymarket.com

Carbondale Farmer’s Market

Main St. and Fourth St., Carbondale

Wednesdays Aug. 31 through Sept. 28

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

More information at carbondalefarmersmarket.com

Harvest Festival at Sustainable Settings

6107 CO-133, Carbondale

Saturday, Sept. 17

10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m.

Tickets and more information at sustainablesettings.org

Crystal River Wild and Scenic Social

13 Moons Ranch, 6334 HWY 133, Carbondale

Saturday, Sept. 24

2 to 8 p.m.

Tickets and more information at field2forkkitchen.com

To schedule a private event with Field 2 Fork Kitchen, go to field2forkkitchen.com.

“Flavor is an event.”

That was the statement that started the meal. It was a fact so true that it seemed obvious upon its delivery, yet it was never something I had considered before.

“We brought you here tonight for flavor,” he continued. “If you leave without an epiphany, then we have failed.”

The talk continued, taking us on a journey from soil and seeding to flowering plants and tending to farm animals. It was practically a prayer; something that we said in celebration before a well-prepared, entirely locally sourced meal. The food prayer went on for about 15 minutes. By the end, when it was time to serve the first course, I was drinking every ounce of Kool-Aid the orator was selling. And the unlikely thing about that was he wasn’t selling anything. He was just telling it like it was.

“We have lost our way,” he said towards the end of the 15 minutes. “Fleeting fashions and short-term gains have tempted us. We have cut corners to reap unsustainable harvests. We’ve depleted the rich top soils you have given us. And we have lost sight of all of the life and its relationship to us. Please don’t give up on us. More people are coming to the conclusion that we need you and all of nature to live well.”

The man delivering the poetic pre-dinner prose was Brook LeVan, co-founder and executive director of Sustainable Settings, a Carbondale nonprofit with a working ranch and Whole Systems Learning Center. Sustainable Settings hosted the event, but the main chef at work behind the meal was Mark Hardin, owner of Field 2 Fork Kitchen.

I first heard about Mark and his locally sourced catering business when I was looking for a culinary professional to help smoke a pig for my birthday in June. I wanted to learn more about the art of smoking meats, but I also wanted to do it at a local level. A friend recommended a pig from Merrill’s Family Farm in Carbondale and said that Mark was the guy to smoke it. Despite the small size of my birthday party (Field 2 Fork Kitchen typically does much larger events that require a whole staff) Mark was excited to help. The pig turned out to be so big that we had to save half of it. Since none of us had any idea how to slice and dice the swine, Mark gave us a lesson, showing us the different parts of the pig and how to trim them. Weeks after the party, people were still telling me how much they enjoyed his butchering lesson. It was probably the most memorable part of the day.

Mark said lessons like that, as well as the event at Sustainable Settings, are big parts of his business.

“Our mission is to let people know what is out there,” he said. “Everyone hears about these farmers, farms and places, but we want to give them the chance to see it first hand.”

Mark started Field 2 Fork Kitchen in February. He’s been a chef in the valley for more than a decade, but he branched out to start his own business this year. When I asked him why locally sourced food was such an integral part of his mission, he referred back to his childhood in Ohio, where his family had a full garden that spanned over a couple acres and provided them with enough food to feed the whole family. He learned to upkeep the garden in the summer months and preserve the garden’s products when winter came.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but probably my parents got me into the local food movement,” Mark said. “I don’t even think I realized that connection until much later, after I moved away from home.”

Sourcing food locally for one’s business is not necessarily a lucrative practice. It takes time, effort and a lot of consideration. One has to use what’s in season and work within those confines. Mark is aware that his farm-to-table techniques aren’t going to reward him the big bucks. But, regardless, it’s how he wants to run his business; by spreading awareness about the foods we put in our bodies.

One of the ways Mark and his Field 2 Fork crew do this is by partnering with local farms such as Sustainable Settings and creating opportunities for people to connect with food. And, as Brook spoke before our meal, it became evident this mission extends past Sustainable Settings and Field 2 Fork, it’s a thriving culture in our whole community.

That evening at Sustainable Settings, our dinner consisted of four courses. The appetizer was pate with pickles, preserves and grilled bread. Next was a dish of fresh greens with shaved garden veggies, herbs and edible flowers that were almost to beautiful to eat. The main course was lamb that had spent the whole day baking in clay underground, plus carrot top and pursalane chimichurri polenta, cassoulet beans and braised Colorado greens. The dessert was a profiterole with dark chocolate ganache and Paonia cherries. Each bite, every taste, was truly an event.

Mark had a group of people and companies helping with the meal like Marble Distillery, Roaring Fork Brewery and even other chefs in the valley who have similar businesses. Flip Wise, the owner of the new company Open Fire Catering was one of them. From what I gathered talking with Flip, competition is nearly non-existent in the locally sourced food community. They are all working for the same thing.

“We are just so lucky to have so many ranchers and farmers around here,” Flip said of the farm-to-fork community in the valley. “Developing relationships, being a part of the community and providing delicious food, I think that’s what it’s all about. That’s what we have to get back in touch with.”

The evening at Sustainable Settings with Field 2 Fork Kitchen is one that will go down in the books. Not just because of the bombastic flavors and good company, but because it showed me the genuine passion and hard work going into our local food movement.

“The longer I’m out here the more conscience I am of what we have to offer and what it means to be part of the community,” Mark said. “Supporting everyone is a big part of it.”

Barbara Platts hopes to dive in more to the local food culture in the Roaring Fork Valley and bring you a few more stories about it. Reach her at bplatts.000@gmail.com.


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