Celebrate the height of Summer with Feast in the Field

July 28, 2017 // Cassidy Tawse Garcia

Local Chef Kalon Wall cooks in the “gaucho” style, having trained with the renowned Chef Francis Mallman.

Flames lick the sizzling meats; locally-sourced sausages, sides of lamb and beef roast away in the embers and flames. Near by, a curanto, an Argentinian word describing vegetables wrapped in cloth and buried under the ground to roast away to perfection, is at work.

The night sky twinkles; rows of tables are set, inviting guests to dine by—quite literally—the fire. This is Feast in the Field, a “celebration of local food.” Where Chef Kalon Wall of the Sunflower Restaurant prepares a five-course, locally sourced, Colorado-inspired meal, in the “gaucho” style of cooking hailing from the mountains of Patagonia.

In its second year, Feast in the Field is a fundraiser for Mountain Roots Food Project, Gunnison Valley’s own community food organization. The event, a brainchild of Chef Wall and Mountain Roots Board Members Cassie Pence and Sarah Stoll, is an evening that celebrates Gunnison Valley’s own “taste of place.”

According to Chef Wall, there are seven ways to cook with fire.

“Mountain Roots is so fortunate to be in collaboration with what is truly the finest restaurant in Crested Butte,” Says Mountain Roots Board President, John Meyer. “The Feast in the Field venue releases the Sunflower cast from the confines of the kitchen at 214 Elk and really allows the creativity to flow.”

Whether dining alongside a farmer that raised the greens on your plate, or watching the culinary drama unfold at Chef Wall’s fire pits, “the evening is about providing a storytelling experience,” explains Stoll.

Feast in the Field is no run of the mill “farm to table” dinner. Diners are asked to become part of the “local” experience, scribing notes on each course in their own take-home gift, a hand-bound and printed “Notes from the Field” journal created by local artist Stephanie White. Chef Wall trained with the world-renowned chef (featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table), Francis Mallman to learn the gaucho-style of cooking he brings to the Crested Butte event.

Tables are set with bouquets of locally-sourced flowers.

While the cooking style’s origins may be from around the world, the event is all about celebrating the bounty of Colorado. From serving Big B’s cider, to preparing beef from Gunnison Valley’s own Parker Pastures, to the quintessential summer ingredient of the Colorado peach, the meal highlights Crested Butte’s own backyard.

Gaucho is the Spanish word for “cowboy” and that is where the inspiration for the event comes from. Imagine the archetypical cowboy cooking by campfire. These are the origins of the gaucho-cooking style Chef Wall practices. “Colorado and Argentina both have a ranching heritage, and open fire cooking makes the most of that heritage,” explains Wall of connecting the two worlds of food Feast in the Field brings together.

Chef Wall elevates the cooking experience of the simple cowboy to one of a work of art, inviting guests to indulge not just in the taste of his dishes, but also in the skeptical of preparing them. “With the right tools, there are seven distinct ways of cooking with one medium, fire,” says Wall.

The fires, by which the entire meal is prepared, are begun days in advance. Wall himself will be stoking the flames at dawn the day of the event, to ensure the right cooking environment for his meticulously sourced ingredients.

And when it comes to ingredients, the foodshed of the Gunnison Valley has more than enough to offer. While the meal’s final details are not decided until the week of the event, thus ensuring the best local sourcing possible, diners can count on enjoying produce from Thistle Whistle and Rain Crow Farms in Hotchkiss and Calder Farm in Gunnison. As well as the special treat of Mountain Roots’ own farm-raised chickens.

As the event is meant to celebrate producers, diners will have the opportunity to enjoy their meals alongside the farmers and vintners themselves. New this year, the five unique courses will be paired with authentic Argentinean Malbecs and other varietals hailing from Catena Vineyards. The vintners will be on hand to educate on the truly special wine pairings.

Fires are started days in advance for the event.

Not to be out-done by the menu offerings, tables will be decorated with local flower arrangements from From the Ground Up flowers. Guests are encouraged to take bouquets home.

This year’s event will take place at the Kroft Ranch, just outside of the town limits of Crested Butte at the base of Gibson Ridge. The property is a historic ranch in the valley, and provides a link between the tradition of ranching in the Gunnison Valley and the current resurgence of interest in locally sourced food.

If you go: Feast in the Field takes place August 3rd at 5:30 pm. Tickets are $200 and can be purchased by going to mountainroootsfoodproject.org. All proceeds raised go to supporting Mountain Roots programming in the Gunnison Valley, which includes summer camps, cooking classes and farm operations. Dress is Crested Butte festive, and riding of bikes to the venue is encouraged.

This was a sell-out event last year. So, do not wait to purchase your tickets for the meal of the summer!

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