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Plow-to-Plate dinner celebrates fall harvest

On October 10, a crowd of 112 guests gathered at the Mount Nittany Winery as the sun set over the nearby Tussey Mountain to taste wine and enjoy the seasonal food of the first ever “Plow to Plate” dinner.

The winery is made up of two beautiful wood paneled buildings, with the smaller one housing their bottled wines. This building was the starting point for the tour of the winery that took guests through the entire process, including the separation of grapes from their stems, into the large holding tanks, and finally into the bottling and labeling machine.

Plow-to-Plate dinner celebrates fall harvest

By Tara Richelo

On October 10, a crowd of 112 guests gathered at the Mount Nittany Winery as the sun set over the nearby Tussey Mountain to taste wine and enjoy the seasonal food of the first ever “Plow to Plate” dinner.

The winery is made up of two beautiful wood paneled buildings, with the smaller one housing their bottled wines. This building was the starting point for the tour of the winery that took guests through the entire process, including the separation of grapes from their stems, into the large holding tanks, and finally into the bottling and labeling machine.

The larger tasting room was set up with five food stations, three of which had the chefs present and plate the food for each guest. Three tall standing tables, each topped with a festive pumpkin and assortment of flowers, were scattered throughout the space for the convenience of the diners.

In addition to the indoor tasting room, the attached porch provided additional picnic-style seating and another food station filled with freshly baked brick oven pizza, bread and olive oil. The back porch provided a spectacular view of the lake, side of the mountain and stretch of rows and rows of grapevines.

The dinner featured dishes prepared by local chefs using locally grown and raised produce and meat provided by the Boalsburg Farmers Market farmers, also referred to as vendors.

The event was organized by Tony Sapia, the co-manager of the Boalsburg market and chef at Gemelli’s and Nola’s Joint. Both of his restaurants are located on in downtown State College. The other participating chefs were Fasta Pasta’s Bob Ricketts, Harrison’s Harrison Schailey, Andrew Monk from the Nittany Lion Inn, Mark Johnson of the Elk Creek Café and Nate Brungart of Zola’s. These eateries can be found in Pleasant Gap, the Hilton, Park Ave, Main Street in Millheim and College Ave, respectively.

Sapia expressed his desire to host an event that would “celebrate local community [and] local foods.”

“What better way to have local chefs showcase the greatness that folks bring from the field, whether it’s meat, produce, breads or wine?” Sapia asked.

Jim Eisenstein, in charge of public relations for the Boalsburg market, worked with Sapia to organize the dinner.

“It’s nice for people to see what you can create from the market,” Eisenstein said. We also want an opportunity for customers in the community to talk to not only the chefs…but also the vendors.” Eisenstein hopes that the dinner will become an event the community can look forward to each year.

With the purchase of their twenty-five dollar ticket, the guests were given a tour of the vineyard and winemaking process. Afterwards, guests were able to sample a number of wines, including the popular Nittany Mountain White and Tailgate Red, before choosing a complimentary glass of their favorite to enjoy with dinner.

The money collected through ticket sales will fund future Boalsburg Farmers Market learning kitchens and made a donation to the area school districts’ learning garden.

Eisenstein explained the participating chefs visited the farmers market either a week prior to the dinner or the day before to ensure the ingredients were “as fresh as can be.”

Guests were welcome to sample as much as they liked, coming back for seconds or thirds of their favorite dishes. The chefs prepared an array of autumn dishes including butternut squash couscous, ginger and pumpkin soup, roasted gala apples, brined pork belly and ravioli.

As the diners moved from station to station, they were given the opportunity to speak with the chefs who had prepared each dish. In addition to the chefs, the vendors of the food were among the group.

The presence of the chefs and vendors allowed diners to track their food from plow to plate, giving them a better understanding of the entire process. Bill Callahan of Cow-a-hen farms explained to a diner that all of their animals are raised outdoors in a comfortable environment with fresh air and sunshine and are grass fed.

Kathryn Colby, a restaurant manager for the Hillstone Restaurant Group based out of Los Angeles, attended the dinner with her father, Bill. She had attended a wine tasting hosted by the Nittany Lion Inn a few years ago and sought out a similar activity because she said she sees the importance in “getting the community involved in where our food comes from and keeping things local.

“I think it’s good for the economy and good for your body,” said Colby.

While drinks, dinner and desserts were served inside the tasting room, the guests could mingle indoors or enjoy the beautiful view of the mountains and vineyard. Inside the tasting room, the guests were treated to the musical styles of Picker and Papa, an acoustic guitar and banjo duo.

Sapia has great hopes for the future success of Plow to Plate dinners.

“Hopefully the second annual gets bigger and better, then the third annual, and hopefully we’re all around for the thirtieth annual,” he said.

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