Are you up for the challenge of incorporating at least one local product into your diet each day for a week? Gov. Martin O’Malley and Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Earl F. "Buddy" Hance are encouraging Marylanders to support local farmers by taking part in the state’s “Buy Local Challenge" between July 23 and 31.
The challenge kicked off Thursday evening with a cookout at Government House, as crowds gathered despite scorching temperatures to taste the latest local flavors. As part of this year's challenge, O’Malley invited teams to submit recipes made with local ingredients. (See all 40 recipe submissions online here.)
The cookout featured recipes from 17 different teams of local chefs with farmers, watermen or producers from throughout Maryland.
Among those there was James Barrett, executive chef at The Westin Annapolis, who served chilled cantaloupe soup with cayenne coconut ice cream. The recipe featured eggs from Ivy Neck Farm in south county and cantaloupe from Sunrise Farm in Gambrills, among other ingredients.
“I’m trying to bring local to the hotel level and really purchase sustainably for the hotel,” he said, adding it can be challenging because of the difficulty of finding a farm large enough to provide fresh food for the number of guests at a hotel.
The event also featured grilled rockfish with bayou shrimp ragout from Chef Jake Lydon of the Annapolis Seafood Market and fusion bison tacos from Chef Ype Vong Hengst of Annapolis' Metro Diner Cafe and Silver Diner.
“I think we have tremendous potential as a state really to take agriculture into the next decade and do it in a way that is not only more sustainable but is also more profitable,” O’Malley said.
The event was also attended by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who met with local farmers beforehand.
“What we see here today is a great response to the need for economic development in rural communities, more profitability in farms, healthy food and a response to the obesity issue, and Maryland is at the forefront of all of those issues,” Vilsack said.
During the cookout, Annapolis Chef Craig Sewell received an award from the governor for his efforts in the local food movement. Sewell owns Maryland Table, inside the Annapolis Market House and A Cook’s Cafe in Greater Annapolis, but his efforts in the local food movement extend beyond that.
“It actually feels fantastic,” Sewell said of receiving the award. “I’m glad people are watching. We try awfully hard to make those connections ... where people know where their food comes from and they know what they're eating for a number of different reasons.”
Learn more about the Buy Local Challenge and local products available in Maryland here. Learn more about local seafood here.