Local food producers, Nevada County chefs combine to create culinary fare at Bounty of the County | TheUnion.com

Local food producers, Nevada County chefs combine to create culinary fare at Bounty of the County

This year’s winner of the Best Chef competition was Twelve 28 restaurant chef Zach Sterner.
Lorraine Jewett/For The Union

With all tickets sold out the week before, 500 lucky farm-to-fork fans who pre-purchased their tickets enjoyed the fifth annual Bounty of the County culinary extravaganza Wednesday at the Gold Miners Inn in Grass Valley.

The fundraiser featured small plate tastings, ranging from meatballs on baked eggplant to beef brisket with cabernet fig glaze.

Just prior to the event, organizers had asked 16 regional farms and ranches what types of produce and meat they had ripe and ready. That list was shared with 10 local restaurants, whose chefs created menus around those available items.

This year’s winner of the Best Chef competition, determined by guests who served as judges by voting for their favorite dish, was Twelve 28. It’s the second consecutive year the Penn Valley restaurant has won the coveted award.

“It was an honor to win again,” said Twelve 28 chef Zach Sterner, who served barbecue pulled pork inside Chinese steam buns with miso mustard, pickled plumbs, and micro radish. “This year I used three purveyors that I hadn’t used before, so it was nice to meet them and try their products.

“Moving forward, I’ll be working with them in our restaurant because of the experience.”

Second place went to Falafel Kis chef Alon Greenstein, and third place to Emily Scott-Arbaugh and John Arbaugh of Emily’s Catering and Cakes.

Adding to the festive atmosphere of Bounty of the County was a silent auction, live music, libations for sale, along with an art display.

The event was sponsored by Nevada County Grown, a promotional organization that supports Nevada County agriculture. The event raised approximately $10,000 before expenses, and the money will be used by the group to help local farms and ranches with marketing and community education, said Nevada County Grown President Debbie Gibbs.

“Nevada County Grown is helping create new approaches to sustainable agriculture and fostering economic self-reliance,” said Gibbs. “We hope to increase both local crop and livestock sales and restore the vibrant agricultural economy of the past. When local farms do well, the whole community benefits.”

Dodging occasional raindrops, Becky Olson of Nevada City joined friends at the event.

“It’s excellent local food prepared by local chefs with great wine at a great venue,” Olson said.

Debbie Wiederholt of Grass Valley agreed.

“It’s a wonderful event, with fabulous food and great entertainment,” she said.

The farmers and ranchers who donated ingredients said they were eager to hear what the chefs requested.

“It seemed like everyone wanted tomatillos,” said Aleta Barrett of Starbright Acres in Grass Valley. “We provided produce to four or five different chefs, such as bell, Anaheim, and padron peppers.”

Mike Pasner, a Penn Valley farmer who has operated Indian Springs Organic Farm for 38 years, provided tomatoes and garlic for Falafel Kis.

“Most of us do it to support local agriculture and get our name out there in a favorable, tasty message,” said Pasner, who has donated produce to Bounty of the County chefs for three years. “The event is synonymous with good, healthy food, plus it’s fun. We put our banners up, hand out leaflets, and get good P.R. for restaurants, chefs and Nevada County agriculture.”

For similar reasons, Lance and Gay Columbel of The James Ranch provided lamb to the chef of Twisted Ale Taphouse & Grille, a new Grass Valley restaurant opening soon on Neal Street. The James Ranch, near Penn Valley, boasts a farmstead flock of 200 sheep grazing on 200 acres of lush grass.

“It’s nice because the chef created chili verde lamb tamales and showcased the versatility of lamb,” said Gay Columbel. “Most people think only of lamb chops, leg of lamb, and rack of lamb. In that dish, they enjoyed shredded lamb that was braised and seasoned. He’s helping to open a lot of people’s eyes to the possibilities of lamb.”

That’s good for business, as is the entire Bounty of the County event.

“It’s a wonderful promotion and their efforts to showcase local farmers and ranchers should be applauded,” said Gay Columbel. “We’ve been here since 1981, and yet some people didn’t know about us. It gets your name out there. People now think, ‘Lamb? Oh, The James Ranch.’ People know there’s a provider of fresh lamb right here in the foothills.”

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.

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