Golden Basket Awards showcases our amazing local food scene

Posted by Jamie Oberdick on 08/11, 2015 at 12:34 PM

Last week at this time, I was one of several judges at the Boalsburg Farmers Market’s annual Golden Basket Awards. Among the chefs competing included Jeremiah McClanahan of Fasta & Ravioli Co.; Mike Benjamin of Benjamin’s Catering; last year’s champ, Kirsch McMaster of the Nittany Lion Inn; Andrew Hufnagel of Zola Kitchen & Wine Bar; a new-to-the-area chef, Erin Snyder, Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks; and an established innovator in cuisine made with local ingredients, Harrison Schailey from Harrison’s Wine Grill & Catering.

I know, tough job, trying all this amazing food made by talented chefs, using the freshest of local ingredients. We chose Chef Harrison as the overall winner, he made us a remarkable grilled filet of beef, with au gratin potatoes from Clan Stewart farm and a fantastic arugula and fresh corn salad. He also made his famous gazpacho; if you’ve never had it, I recommend getting it at your next visit to his restaurant.

While I know that Chef Harrison can bring it with his local food culinary skills, Chef Erin also really impressed me. She offered up a Southeast Asian-themed meal highlighted by one of my favorite sandwiches on the planet, the Vietnamese Bánh mì. Now, some might not think of sandwiches as part of Asian cuisine, but in the case of the Bánh mì, this is another example of how colonization influences local cuisine. The French colonized Vietnam and brought baguettes with them, and Chef Erin used Gemelli Bakers baguettes as the foundation for her sandwich. She used ground pork from Over the Moon farm, along with cilantro, pickled carrots, and radishes, and topped it with a sriracha mayonnaise.

To accompany this remarkable sandwich, she offered quick pickles and, rounding out the Southeast Asia theme, did a local twist on rice noodles by using Fasta Pasta angel hair pasta with Asian flavors. I have to say, and I told her this, this sandwich needs to be on a menu, stat. Are you listening, Elk Creek Cafe?

Some of the other highlights included Chef Andrew’s remarkable polenta cake, flavored with Over the Moon chorizo. The spicy flavor of the Mexican sausage gave a nice kick that’s not normally found in a polenta cake. Chef Benjamin created a salad of fresh baby greens and cherry tomatoes from Jade Family Farm that was tossed in a lime vinaigrette, which I thought would be a winner on any summer dinner plate.

Chef Jeremiah made slender whole-cooked carrots from Jade Family Farm that were roasted to perfection and had the tip still on, which was a bit unusual. And while last year’s winner, Chef Kirsch, didn’t place this year, prepared a dish of sweet corn pancakes with Leigh Belle Cheese from Stone Meadow Farm, pork belly from Cow-a-Hen Farm, and cherry tomatoes that was all drizzled with local maple syrup. While not exactly an entree, we all decided it would make for a winning appetizer on the Nittany Lion Inn menu.

All this was good, and the bottom line here is the fact that you can make quite an amazing meal from stuff you can buy right at the Boalsburg Market. Love to cook? Well, they are open today (and any Tuesday) from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., so here’s your chance to hold your own Golden Basket Awards, right at home. I’m sure the judges (your loved ones) will declare the meal a winner…

{name} Author: Jamie Oberdick

Bio: Editor, Local Food Journey | Passionate about supporting local food in Central PA

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