I joined about 15 other winter weary souls Feb. 17 as we found our way out of hibernation to the glow of a special Zoom meeting for Veggies to Table’s first virtual supper club.
We listened as Petra Page-Mann, of Fruition Seeds in Naples, N.Y., wove observations of seed saving with personal reflections and poetry in an hour-long slideshow presentation.
Zoom boxes became windows into the dining rooms and kitchens of people from Lincoln County and beyond. We each prepared our own version on the theme of winter comfort food using as many local ingredients as possible to enjoy while Page-Mann spoke.
“I wanted to do this event to help break the winter blues,” Veggies to Table founder Erica Berman explained. The Newcastle-based nonprofit grows and donates organic vegetables and flowers throughout Lincoln County and offers educational programs and volunteer opportunities.
The supper club included a friendly cooking contest with prizes awarded for “best use of local ingredients,” “best interpretation of the theme,” “best recipe submission,” “best photo submission,” and a random drawing of all participants.
A diverse menu filled the chat box as participants typed what they made and where they sourced ingredients: poutine with Goranson Farm potatoes, Silvery Moon cheddar cheese curds, and homemade gravy; pizza made with leeks, mushrooms, and scallions from Rising Tide Co-op and homegrown parsley and garlic; braised pork cheeks from Broad Arrow Farm and mashed potatoes from the garden.
Chicken pie, a duck dinner, vegan red lentil soup, and chicken Marsala appeared, as well.
Merry and Les Fossel, of Alna, marinated a porterhouse steak from a cow pastured in their own field in a cabernet from Willows Awake Winery in Leeds. They cooked it in an antique spider in their fireplace.
They won a copy of Fruition Seeds “Rise and Shine: Starting Seeds with Ease” for “best use of local ingredients.” You can’t get much more local than your backyard.
But this category featured a three-way tie: Marion Mundy won a $50 Renys gift card for her hyper-local pizza, and I won an Oxbow Brewing Co. tote bag for my poutine.
Bonnie Berman won a Fruition Seeds “Across the Seasons: Perpetual Garden Calendar” for both the theme and best recipe categories with her chicken pie.
Erica Berman admitted she was maybe just a little biased, since she grew up finding comfort in her mom’s heirloom recipe.
Melissa Kane was picked in the drawing for a Veggies to Table market apron.
If anyone felt blue before the supper club, their spirits were lifted after 90 minutes of community, conversation, and cooking.
Two more virtual supper clubs are planned. Kirsten Lie-Nielsen will talk about homesteading in Maine on Wednesday, March 16.
Lie-Nielsen will discuss moving to Maine and becoming a modern homesteader, how homesteading can be accessible to all, permaculture, and her personal journey raising animals and food, and living off the land, according to the Veggies to Table website.
The theme for the March meal is “From Your Pantry, Freezer, and Root Cellar.”
Prizes will be awarded for the most use of local food, creative recipe choice, photo submissions, best use of theme, as well as a random drawing of all ticket holders.
Prizes include a $50 Renys gift card, two copies of Lie-Nielsen’s book “So You Want to be a Modern Homesteader,” a one-hour Zoom consultation with the presenter, and some of her dehydrated sourdough starter with detailed instructions.
Lie-Nielsen revitalized a 200-year-old Maine homestead, using principles of permaculture to reclaim an overgrown and abandoned 93-acre farm. She is the author of “So You Want to Be a Modern Homesteader,” and “The Modern Homesteader’s Guide to Keeping Geese.”
The April supper club will feature Irene Brady Barber, of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, speaking about native edibles for people and pollinators. She will introduce participants to native perennials to support pollinators.
The meal theme is “Spring Green and Local White.” Prizes will include two gift cards to Crossroads Coffee, a Veggies to Table market apron, goodies from Copper Tail Farm, and a Veggies to Table mini truck hat.
Supper clubs help raise money to support Veggies to Table’s mission grow and giveaway food to those experiencing food insecurity, educate, and offer volunteer opportunities. Tickets for each event are $15 for students, teachers, and essential workers, and $35 for others. Early registration and bundled series discounts are available. All proceeds go toward feeding community members living in the crisis of hunger.
Authentic Canadian poutine
Based on a recipe found at seasonsandsuppers.ca. Poutine is basically Quebec street food, and is just as easily – and satisfyingly – made with frozen French fries (hand-cut variety) and canned gravy. St. Huebert’s is best, but you might only find it in Quebec, so any gravy will do. Cheese curds are definitely key, though. Shredded cheese is just not the same.
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp water
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
20 oz beef broth
10 oz chicken broth
Salt and pepper
2 lb Russet potatoes
1 – 1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese curds
Prepare gravy: In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water and set aside. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes, until the mixture turns golden brown. Add the beef and chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Stir in about half the cornstarch mixture, in small increments, as needed, to thicken.
Season with pepper. Taste and add salt, if necessary, to taste. Make ahead and rewarm or keep warm until your fries are ready.
For oven-baked fries: Cut potatoes to fry-length, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 425°F for 20 to 30 minutes.
Assemble: Add fries to a large, clean bowl. Season lightly with salt while still warm.
Add a ladle of hot poutine gravy to the bowl and using tongs, toss the fries in the gravy. Add more gravy, as needed, to mostly coat the fries. Add the cheese curds and toss with the hot fries and gravy. Serve with freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.