Eating for a cause! It doesn’t get much better than that. I was honored and excited to attend the annual Garden to Table Dinner event hosted by Independence Gardens again last weekend.  A first grade teacher with a dream, Sarah Allen, saw a need and took action. Her students (and thousands others) live in an area referred to as the “food desert” because of the lack of grocery stores within walking distance from their homes. The need for access to healthy foods and the knowledge of nutrition is real. When she heard about Independence Gardens and their mission she knew she had found the perfect partner. Independence Gardens was found by Chonnie Richey. Being a first grade teacher myself, I am well aware of the effect lack of nutrition can have on children.

The six course menu was inspired by the fruits and vegetables growing in the community schools gardens and each course was cooked by a different local chef. Unfortunately, the weather made it impossible to dine outside. Nonetheless, the team transformed the cafeteria into a dream and the student entertainment was topnotch.

First Course – Chef Jennifer Bajsel
We started with a wonderful, comforting Roasted Apple and Squash Bisque. I overheard someone say it “tasted just like fall”. They were right it did; with hints of clove, cinnamon and the freshness of the apple squash.

Second Course – Chef Braden Wages/Yasmin Wages
Next up was the Thai Tuna Tartare. The diced sushi grade ahi tuna was perfectly seasoned with herbs including mint from the school garden. The homemade sriracha sauce was good and spicy.

Third Course – Chef Amanda Bensley and The Colony High School Culinary Program
The Blue Harvest Salad with Rosemary Dijon Vinaigrette and Mini Beef Tarts were next in line. The salad was dressed but not soggy and the crispness of the apples and spiced pecans were a wonderful addition. I was happy with the blue cheese, but one bite of the fresh goat cheese in the beef tart and I was in heaven. Wow!

Fourth Course – Chef Kyle Jones
The fourth course was another feast for the senses with a Sausage and Cornbread Stuffed Quail with Golden Raisin and Carrot Puree. The rich sausage and quail were wonderfully paired with the cornbread and puree.

Fifth Course – Oscar Miranda
For our next course we were introduced to Chef Miranda’s Vegan Cajun Polenta. The spicy and richly flavored jackfruit was amazing. The polenta brought down the spiciness of the cajun jackfruit. I would put this dish up against any cajun meat dish!

Sixth Course – Chef Cesar Barachina
Lastly, we we dined on Roasted Carrot Spice Cake with Candied Pecans, Pineapple Salsa and Cream Cheese Cremeux. The spice cake was moist and flavorful. I don’t often think of pineapple as a fall fruit, but is was a wonderful surprise to the dessert. I found myself trying not to lick the plate it was so good. Manners….

I also got to spend the evening with the winners of our ticket giveaway and my daughter. Four current and former educators. In a world full of negative news it was good to know people are making a difference!

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