Review: Taste of the Valley

by theelvee_w2oe3m
This year’s Taste of the Valley was the second iteration of the popular event that debuted last year from the great folks over at the Lehigh Valley chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local.  This year a few things went different, smoother, and generally nicer.  The first big difference was they were offering VIP tickets for $60 (tix were $30 in advance, $35 at the door) this year.

The VIP tickets allowed participants to get in an hour early, sample dessert wine, and have a dessert wine cocktail.  Based on last year’s sold out event I decided to go for the VIP ticket this year.  Last year the crowd was so jam packed that it was obnoxious to even be there so I figured if I could knock out as much as possible in the first hour I’d be in good shape.  How wrong I was.  Last year there was nary a seat in to be had and this year they were abundant.  I looked for, but didn’t see, and dessert wine tasting.  They were giving out the cocktails, which were good (more later).  Many of the participants weren’t set up for the early VIP people, so spending an extra $30 was pretty much a complete waste.  I was very disappointed I purchased the VIP ticket and won’t next year.  Crowd-wise it was way better than last year.  I don’t know if they limited the amount of tickets sold or simply didn’t sell as many tickets this year, but the flow and the amount of people there worked very well.

Oh yes, now on to the food (Menu below).  The “Pear Cup”, based on the English summer favorite, the Pimm’s Cup, featured local cultivator Subarashii Kudamono’s fortified (20%) asian pear dessert wine as a base.  It was tasty and light, perfect for a summer afternoon.  Balasia, which is currently undergoing relocation efforts, was serving up a butternut squash and curry soup.  Chef Wendy Landiak offered up mild and spicy versions.  Being the pepperhead I am, I of course opted for the spicy version.  It was a great kick in the mouth while still retaining it’s flavor.  More ballsier spice than most thai places do with their curry around here.

The Blue Orchid Inn was doing a cool corn chowder with heirloom tomato salsa, which sounds like it might be a mediocre summery dish but fell short in delivering anything palatable.  Another disaster lurked in the form of Pearly Baker’s offerings, a vegetarian spanish polenta with jalapeno mint fromage blanc and root vegetable salad with lime tarragon vinaigrette.  The polenta was sloshy, mushy, and mundane.  The fromage blanc lent only cursory notes on top of the mess, unable to save it with even with clever molecular gastronomy.  The root vegetable salad was a bland as they come, again with the topping of lime vinaigrette doing nothing to impress anyone.

It was a great day for Melt, however.  After last year’s embarrassing okra plate, this year they picked up on the seemingly unescapable pork rage and delivered one of the best samplings of the show.  Goat cheese and butternut squash topped off with herb oil and a basil sauce delivered such a savory, succulent dish it left me wanting an entire bowl.  The pork, a roasted loin, accompanied by garlic, greens, and a mushroom sauce lingered leaving a sweet, woodsy aftertaste.  Gorgeous.

Some other favorites:  Bolete‘s mini tomato hamburgers were awesome in presentation and taste.  A bit surprising was the sweet corn-bread-like burns.  Tasty!  Dolce Patisserie delivered, as they always do.  Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale chocolate?  Great.  Port wine chocolate with goat cheese inside?  Inspired.

After a day of stuffing my face full, I left Melt without many complaints.  Other than a few dishes that weren’t up to par, the event went way smoother than last year’s, so props to Melt and Buy Fresh Buy Local for improving.

South Indian Butternut Squash and Curry Soup
 hot peppers -Red Earth Farm (Orwigsburg)
butternut squash – Little Peace Farm (Schuylkill Haven)
Blue Grillhouse
Grilled Bison Green Chili
bison – Backyard Bison (Coopersburg)
tomatillos – The Seed Farm (Emmaus)
sweet onions, green bell peppers, poblano peppers – Teprovich Farms & Bakery (Germansville)
Blue Orchid Inn
Cool Corn Chowder with an
Heirloom Tomato Salsa
corn, onions – Savidge Farms (Mertztown)
tomatoes, peppers – Meadowview Farm (Bowers)
Blue Sky Café
Butternut Squash and Habanero Soup
butternut squash – Suyundalla Farms (Coplay)
BBQ Tofu with a Cucumber Apple Slaw
organic tofu – Fresh Tofu Inc. (Lehigh Valley)
cucumbers, apples – Suyandalla Farms (Coplay)
Bolete Restaurant and Inn
Tomato “Burger” with Tomato Jam, Basil Aioli,
 Arugula, Bacon, and Pickled Shallots
tomato jam – Eckerton Hill’s Farm (Tim Stark)
basil, arugula – Liberty Gardens (Coopersburg)
flour – Rodale Institute (Kutztown)
eggs – Happy Farm (Kintnersville)
heirloom tomatoes – Teprovich Farms (Tamaqua)
shallots – 14 Acre Farm (Summit Hill)
bacon – Breakaway Farms (Manheim)
Curious Goods at the Bake Oven Inn
Marinated Flank Steak with Autumn Chutney, Goot Essa Smoked Cheddar, and Galen Glen Red Wine Reduction
beef – Hartman’s Butcher Shop (New Tripoli)
apples, pears, onions – Heintzelman’s Farm (New Tripoli)
fresh herbs, mesclun greens – Red Cat Farm (Germansville)
Galen Glen Cellar Red – Galen Glen Winery (Andreas)
Goot Essa Smoked Cheddar – Goot Essa (Lancaster)
DeFranco & Daughters Catering
DeFranco’s Homemade Sausage with Peppers and Onions
pork shoulder – Leidy’s (Quakertown)
peppers, onions – Reeder Farms (Easton)
Fresh Heirloom Tomato Pizza Rosetan
oregano, basil, onions, tomatoes – Reeder Farms (Easton)
Dolce Patisserie
Apricot & Vanilla Jam Tartlet
apricots – Suyundalla Farms (Coplay)
Two Chocolate Pieces:
Goat Cheese & Port Wine Dark Chocolate
Imperial Pumpkin Ale Milk Chocolate
goat cheese – StoneCroft Farm (Macungie)
beer – Weyerbacher Brewery (Easton)
Emeril’s Chop House
“BLT” – Braised Pork Belly with Heirloom Tomatoes, Microgreens, Baby Lettuces, and Black Truffle Aioli on Chophouse Focaccia
pork belly – being sourced
tomatoes, microgreens, baby lettuce – Liberty Gardens (Coopersburg)
The Farmhouse
Wild Rice Salad with Blue Cheese, Mixed Greens,
Grilled Corn, and Dried Cranberries
organic wild rice – Queen’s Market (Emmaus)
blue cheese – Klein Farms (Easton)
mixed greens – Gottschell Farm (Coopersburg)
corn – Teprovich Farms (Tamaqua)
Fegley’s Brew Works
Beer-Marinated Heirloom Tomato “BREW”schetta
topped with Lightly Seasoned Grilled Chicken
served on a Potato Crostini
heirloom tomatoes – Little Peace Farms (Northampton)
all-natural chicken – Freebird (Lancaster)
potatoes – Tallman Family Farms (Schuylkill Co.)
Flow Bar & Restaurant
Chilled Potato Salad with Four Different Heirloom Fingerlings
potatoes – Flow Farms (Pen Argyl)
Mac N’ Cheese with Orecchiette, Five Cheese Truffled Bechamel, Potato Crust, and Stewed Tomatoes
 heirloom tomatoes – Flow Farms (Pen Argyl)
goat cheese – Stonecroft Farm (Macungie)
Frecon Farms
Apple Cider
Glasbern Country Inn
House Smoked Pork Belly, Heirloom Tomatoes, Baby Romaine, and Roasted Garlic Aioli on a Chicken Liver Brioche
pork belly, heirloom tomatoes, baby romaine, garlic, eggs,
chicken livers – Glasbern Farm & Garden (Fogelsville)
Goat Cheese and Butternut Squash Fritters, Herb Oil
 and Micro Opal Basil
butternut squash  – Pheasant Hill Farm (Emmaus)
fresh goat cheese – Rabbit’s Run Farm (Quakertown)
microgreens – Mr. Mcgregor’s Microgreens (Shiloh, NJ)
Garlic Roasted Pork Loin, Wild Mushroom Cream Sauce
 pork saddle – Breakaway Farms (Manheim)
garlic, mushrooms – Lettuce Alone (Breinigsville)
Pearly Baker’s Alehouse
Vegetarian Spanish Polenta
 with Jalapeño Mint Fromage Blanc
fromage blanc – Keepsake Farm (Northampton)
Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Lime Tarragon Vinaigrette
root vegetables – Klein Farms (Easton)
Savory Grille
Warm Duck Confit with Citrus Vinaigrette
duck – Joe Jurgielewicz & Son (Schartlesville)
Quinoa and Goat Cheese Salad
goat cheese – Stonecroft Farm (Macungie)
tomatoes, herbs – Dragonfly Knoll (Macungie)
Sette Luna
Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
tomatoes – Meadowview Farm (Kutztown)
Heirloom Watermelon Gazpacho
watermelon – Piazza Farms (Phillipsburg)
Subarashii Kudamono
Freshy-Harvested Gourmet Asian Pears
our own Asian pears (Coopersburg)
Nashii Chiizu (“Cheese Asian Pear”) – Grilled Quesadilla
with Chopped Fresh Asian Pears, Caprice Cheese,
and Freshly-Picked Cinnamon Basil
our own Asian pears (Coopersburg)
caprice cheese – Rabbit Run Farms (Quakertown)
      cinnamon basil – The Seed Farm (Vera Cruz) 
locally-made tortilla shells
Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery
Sampling of Vynecrest Estate Bottled wines: Dry Riesling,
First Blush, and Cabernet Franc
Weaversville Inn
Purple Smashed Potato Sundae Bar with Bacon, Horseradish,
Chives, Cheese, and Sour Cream Toppings
potatoes – Chef’s Friendship Farm (Northampton);
 Padula’s Potatoes (Bath)
bacon – Baringer Bros. Meats (Allentown)
cheese – Keepsake Farm (Northampton)

Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Merry Monks’, Belgian style Abby Tripel

Setting up for the event

Marinated Flank Steak from the Bake Oven Inn. And that little guy on the side there? That's bacon popcorn. BACON POPCORN.

The Farmhouse serving up dishes

Wild Rice Salad from The Farmhouse

Another detail added this year: Iced water all over the place for attendees.

Frecon Farms dishes out apple cider


Pear's Cup

Savory Grill serves up some tasty duck


Weyerbacher serves up some Easton beer

Bolete's mini tomato burgers

Sette Luna with their always booze-heavy display

Melt's two fantastic dishes

Rows of delicious goods from Dolce Patisserie

Dolce's truffle dots next to Blue's grilled bison chili

Flow's staff serves up food to Taste-goers

Brew Works serves up one of my favorite bar foods, their "brewschetta"

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