We had a fantastic time at the LongHouse Food Revival in Upstate New York the weekend of September 14th, with events and talks focusing on the Saffron Diaspora.
Longtime food writer and founder of LongHouse and cookNscribble, Molly O’Neill, and her team of scholars, sponsors and speakers, put together an interesting and seriously fun program for food writers, bloggers and critics from across the country. This was the Food Revival’s second year. As Katherine Alford from Food Network and Kathy Gunst from NPR both said, nowhere else can you get together with like-minded professional foodies in such an intimate setting and engage in real conversations.
Held in three barns on a former dairy farm in Rensselaerville, NY, the setting was beautiful and the weather was spectacular. The brief sun shower late on Saturday afternoon bothered no one.
Friday evening started with an intimate preview dinner for press, media, speakers, and sponsors of the event. Chef and educator Richard Miscovich from Johnson & Wales cooked an amazing dinner in the newly built outdoor brick oven. The meal was simple but delicious – duck from D’artagnan, fresh corn, shallots, fennel and potatoes, all roasted in the wood-fired oven and dressed with fresh herbs and tomatoes. As chef Richard said, “The smoke is the sauce!”
The program on Saturday morning consisted of visually arresting films, a demonstration of making jeweled rice, and an educational lesson on saffron. We learned that the best saffron comes from Iran, although Spanish saffron is good too because its origins are from Iran. This was followed by a panel discussion, poetry reading and further discussion on ''the next big story in food.”
Lunch consisted of delicious Ultragrain and gluten-free pizza, also made in the wood-fired brick oven. While we had been busy learning, Chef Magnus Duruji was busy barbecuing two goats for us in an open pit over a wood fire, constantly dousing them with his hotly spiced vegetable-based sauce. He offered me a taste of just the sauce while the goats were still roasting, and it was amazing. As a great additional touch for the event, the LongHouse program booklet includes all of the recipes we ate over the weekend and this one calls for 18 habanero or scotch bonnet peppers – for two goats. Magnus is from Nigeria and he doesn’t fool around with the spice!
Our day continued with two sets of round circle discussions centered on the future of food media and what we should be focusing on. I, for one, would love to use food and food communities to help foster tolerance in this world between warring cultures. And, with the large audiences many of the food writers and bloggers have, I think it is also important to bring more awareness to critical issues we face as a nation, such as childhood hunger and obesity.
Dinner kicked off with a cocktail hour and music from YoYo Ma’s Silk Road Project. A fantastic buffet was punctuated with the roasted goat, Iranian jeweled rice and Ethiopian flatbread called injera. The saffron ice cream to end it all was divine.
Sunday breakfast was presented with Nueske’s bacon and sausage, scrambled eggs, and waffles, fitting for the country setting. A Food Flea Fair concluded the weekend, with booths representing farmers and producers, media outlets and publishers, along with a round table discussion on branding. I was naturally pleased to see that topic being discussed, as it is my other field of expertise.
A great time was had by all. If you didn’t make it this year, put it on your to-do list for next!