Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Locavores Come Out to Play

The words “local food” don’t just refer to stuff you eat. They represent a transformation in how we think about food: where it comes from, who raises and produces it, how it’s grown, and what’s required to get it to our table. It’s a revolution and a lifestyle. There’s a local food scene and a movement. All these aspects get their due at RIPE, a three-day, family friendly festival organized and hosted by the Cleveland Botanical Garden. From Sept. 23-25, a tent city and harvest heaven will spring up at their doorstep on the grassy swath of University Circle known as Wade Oval.

There will be a farmers market filled with seasonal bounty, cooking demos, wine and beer tastings, and a culinary competition. You can learn to smoke trout, raise chickens, make pestos, dry herbs, or turn your backyard into an edible landscape. Kids can try cidermaking and veggie carving. Food trucks are rolling in, and restaurants are setting up booths to be sure nobody goes home hungry. Lots of live music provides a soundtrack for the fun. Early risers should plan on showing up Sunday morning for the pancake breakfast. Everything you need to know including hours and ticket information is here.

Full disclosure: I was on the planning committee this year, the second for Cleveland’s Ripe fest. You could say that makes me biased. On the other hand, it means I know the huge effort that went into putting this together and feel sure it’s going to be something special.

Those with some serious money to spend ($150 per person, CBG members, $185 non-members) should make reservations for the kick-off benefit Autumn's Eve Dinner on Thursday night, Sept. 22. People are still talking about the last one, calling it magical and memorable. This time around the outdoor feast will include grass-fed beef from Miller Livestock, Amish farm chicken from Gerber’s, heirloom tomatoes grown by students on Green Corps Urban Farms, vegetables from Veggie Valley Farm, fruit from Greenfield Berry Farm in Peninsula, and cheese made by Middlefield Original Cheese Co-op. Chefs Douglas Katz of fire food & drink; Tony Smoody with Bon Appétit; and Ben Bebenroth, owner of Spice of Life Catering will be turning this local treasure trove into a four-course meal.

Everything happens rain or shine. Maybe we’ll be lucky and Mother Nature will beam down on this gathering of her locavore fans with a big bright sunny smile.

photos by Dave Brown Images, courtesy of Cleveland Botanical Garden

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