The fifth annual Buy Local Cookout at the Government House in Annapolis kicked off a week-long challenge for Marylanders to incorporate locally sourced foods into their meals.
"Buy Local Challenge Week" runs from July 21 to 29, and asks people to eat at least one meal that uses ingredients that were produced in the state, according to a press release.
Sixteen teams of chefs and local producers from around the state gathered at the Government House Thursday evening to showcase their locally sourced products and recipes.
Westin chef James Barrett said this was his second year at the event. He said the restaurant isn't doing anything special for buy local week.
"We're buy local all year," Barrett said. "Since we opened the focus has been on sourcing our food within a certain radius of the hotel."
Barrett made 24-hour slow cooked Roseda short ribs.
The buy local challenge was developed in 2006 by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, and it has grown into a statewide initiative, according to the release.
Gov. Martin O'Malley told the crowd gathered at his home that locally sourced food supports "local jobs and local economies."
"Could you imagine Maryland without farms? We wouldn't be Maryland," O'Malley said.
He ensured the crowd that thanks to truth in advertising laws passed by his administration, "no tomatoes snuck in here from Florida or California."
When consumers go to restaurants or suppliers in Maryland that advertise local products, O'Malley said they can be sure of where their food came from.
That's something that Chef Martin Saylor said he values greatly. The vegetables in his Eastern Shore corn salad and tomato jam came from Arnold Farms in Kent County.
"I know the Arnolds; they are super nice people," Saylor said. "I trust them, and I think that goes a long way."
Other food stations at the Government House included fried oysters, truffles, poached pears and goat meatballs.
The drink stations included locally sourced beer, coffee and Bloody Marys.
Ben Simpkins is the chef at Richardson Farms in Baltimore County. He said, "We're the only farm in Maryland that I know of that has a chef. We're literally seed to table. The farmers grow it, and I cook it.
He made a frozen Bloody Mary Granita with crab, bacon, celery root and shrimp.
Simpkins said of his drink, "first you dip, then you sip."
The evening wound down when the skies over Government House darkened. A change in the weather that O'Malley attributed to his singing. The governor sang and played guitar for two songs.
O'Malley said he still planned to enjoy more of the "calorie busting" food and drink even if he did bring on the rains.
Will you be taking the buy local challenge this week? Tell me in the comments.