A Fall Farmers’ Market Feast

When I first read the description for Project Food Blog’s Challenge #3 – a luxurious dinner party – ideas and concepts started swirling around my head.  Ultimately, they all ended up coming back to one place. 

Having spent my summer working as the culinary intern and chef on a USDA certified organic farm, taking ingredients quite literally “from the farm to the table” became somewhat second nature to me.  Having since left the farm and moved to Virginia (one month ago today!), I have entirely transformed the way I shop for food and think about groceries.  Grocery shopping is no longer just one more errand on my never-ending to-do list.  Instead, it is a Saturday morning walk to the farmer’s market that I look forward to all week long. 

So as I sat down to plan out a menu for my Project Food Blog challenge dinner party, I realized I needed to let the market’s seasonal availability choose the direction of our meal.  And so our Fall Farmers’ Market Feast was born…

We were out the door at 7am Saturday morning, hoping to get the freshest selection and best pick of vegetables.

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Signs of OCTOBER were everywhere…

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These pumpkins were so cute, and I couldn’t help myself but bring home four of them.  I had something specific in mind…

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It’s hard to say whether I get more excited about fall fruit or fall vegetables.  Squash, corn, and pumpkin versus apples, pears, and plums?  Please don’t make me choose.

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With our mini shopping cart filled to the top, we headed home with our loot to start getting ready for a fun evening with friends.

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Casey and I spent our whole afternoon cutting, prepping, processing, roasting, and simply enjoying each other’s company and the delicious smells coming from the oven and stovetop.  Just before the guests arrived, we prepped our patio for for our first dinner party at our new house.

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I don’t know if it’s because of my previous stints working at Pier One and Crate and Barrel or what, but nothing says “fall” to me quite like pumpkin spice candles. 

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All set up and ready to go!

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Here is a peek at our final menu selections…

Buick Menu

For appetizers, we decided to go with freshly sliced veggies (all from the market), and a delicious spread for dipping.

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Served on these cute autumn leaf plates!

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One of my favorite things about entertaining is using creative serving pieces.  Even the simplest foods – like sliced vegetables – can seem fancy and luxurious if they are displayed artistically.

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White bean and roasted garlic dip – there is no better smell in the world than two giant heads of garlic roasting in the oven.  Mmmmm.

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And speaking of using creative serving pieces, course number two took things to a whole new level…

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These delicious little sugar pumpkins doubled as bowls and part of the main course – you got a little spoonful of pumpkin with each bite!

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Cooked inside each pumpkin, my favorite homemade vegan black bean chili.

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Onions, butternut squash, black beans, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika, lime juice, and vegetable broth.

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Clearly no chili is complete without a delicious cornbread companion.

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Jalapeno cornbread muffins that were one hundred percent out of this world.  Will you believe me when I tell you that they were both vegan and gluten-free?  It’s true.

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With giant hunks of jalapeno and corn on the fluffy inside.  So freaking delicious.  (Recipe coming tomorrow!)

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Ashley and Jorge were the very first friends we made here in Alexandria, so it only seemed fitting that they would be the guests for our very first dinner party.  Ashley reached out me through the blog way back when we were first thinking about moving here, and we bonded instantly over a shared love of Terri Walter’s Clean Food cookbook, perils of gluten-free cooking, and dreams of expensive, fancy cameras. 

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I ate every last bite out of my pumpkin, including most of the pumpkin itself!

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Even though we had all just eaten an entire pumpkin’s worth of food (literally), there was still one delicious course to go.  Continuing my mission to be as creative as possible through serving pieces, it seemed only natural to finish our meal with…fondue!

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Feast your eyes upon this vegan chocolate pumpkin perfection…

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Complete with farmers’ market fruits for dipping – Braeburn apples…

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And my personal favorites – Asian pears, mmmmm.

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And because you can’t have chocolate fondue without some sort of cake or cookie for dipping, we rounded out the selections with gluten-free ginger snaps. 

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A whole lotta chocolate with just a hint of delicious pumpkin.  The perfect ending to a delicious fall feast.

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From start to finish, our entire meal was vegan and gluten-free, but I guarantee you would have never thought there was a single thing missing.  What we did have was so much more important…

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Our dinner party was simple – a farm to table feast eaten outside in the sunshine on a perfect fall day.  To me, there is no greater “luxury” than good weather, great friends, and of course – fabulous food.

You can vote for my entry here!