By Beth Banning
I was asked to cater the lunch at the Artposita at the Carpenter Ranch on Saturday, September 25. I welcomed the opportunity as I have catered for Artposia before and the crowds are always enthusiastic and appreciative eaters! I felt very strongly that I needed to select ingredients in keeping with the spirit of the Carpenter Ranch, the Colorado Art Ranch, and the artists-in-residence who were experiencing such a strong connection to our Yampa Valley. I sought out local produce from the Ranch and local gardeners in Steamboat and Hayden who had an abundance and hoped to plan a menu around my finds. This proved difficult as we had experienced some below-freezing nights in the past week and most had slim-pickens left. Additionally, deer had pillaged my garden just the weekend before.
My first find was a 10-pound zucchini from Betsy Blakeslee at Carpenter Ranch from which came Chocolate Zucchini Bread. (Always start with chocolate!) Betsy also rounded up and armload of beets, carrots, onions, garlic from Karen Gilroy's garden in Hayden. All but the beets went into a spicy vegetarian chili with the addition of lots of tomatoes, beans and chilis. My artist friend, JoAnn Baker Paul, was visiting a mutual friend and artist, Sue Oehme, one evening before the Artposita and called me saying that I had to come and cut romaine lettuce and spinach that was overflowing from her backyard garden. The lettuce was for the salad that included the beets, as well as beautiful mixed greens from JoAnn's garden. I managed to squeak out scallions and baby beets from my garden which also went into the salad, along with gorgonzola cheese and walnuts. I made a frittata with eggs from JoAnn's backyard hens, Sue's spinach and cherry tomatoes from my lone remaining plant that were dehydrated for intense flavor.
Dessert included Peach Vanilla Bars made with Palisade peaches. Of course, here in the Yampa Valley we can't subsist solely on local foods, so other items were included to round out the meal for these hearty eaters, but getting creative with local foods was a great way to showcase what we can grow here.