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Chef Series Comes to Falls Church Farmer’s Market

Unbeknownst to some, it was not just another day at the Falls Church Farmer’s Market Saturday, Aug. 29. It marked the kick-off presentation of the market’s new Chef Series. AimeeEDITUSED

Unbeknownst to some, it was not just another day at the Falls Church Farmer’s Market Saturday, Aug. 29. It marked the kick-off presentation of the market’s new Chef Series.

AimeeEDITUSED

Chef Aimee Suyehiro assembles grilled ciabatta with lemon-thyme ricotta. (Photo: News-Press)

Even the threat of rain couldn’t keep the crowds away from Park Avenue, bustling with activity as shoppers showed up early as usual. In fact, the first folks arrived before the 8 a.m. opening time, to get first pick at the fresh offerings of produce, meat, dairy and more.

The Brainchild of Kathleen Nixon, a longtime Falls Church resident, the new monthly Falls Church Farmer’s Market Chef Series program is a labor of love. Nixon is dedicated to using local and seasonal ingredients in her daily cooking and wanted to encourage the community to do the same and to eat locally.

“We were inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s book, ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ and we have really focused our eating to be based locally and seasonally,” said Nixon.

After frequenting the Farmers Market in Falls Church for years, Nixon observed that while many consumers liked the idea of eating fresh produce, many don’t know how to prepare the items offered.

“My husband and I spent almost every weekend at the Farmer’s Market and we observed the challenge that many people run into not knowing what to do with all the fresh produce,” said Nixon. If she could help people understand how to utilize the plentiful offerings, she thought they may be more willing to give eating locally a test run. farmersmarketbox

When it comes to teaching people how to cook, look for a chef. That is just what Nixon decided to do.

“We knew that we could draw upon all of the wonderful expertise of the great chefs in the area to provide the inspiration and recipes to show how to eat seasonally,” said Nixon. In keeping with her local theme, she hoped area chefs would be eager to participate.

The criteria she created for chefs to be considered was pretty straightforward. Nixon looked, and is still looking, for chefs local to the Falls Church area who are committed to local, sustainable and seasonal cooking.

Nixon explained the concept of the series. First, she wanted to bring new people to Falls Church and reintroduce “old friends” to the Falls Church Farmers Market. It was her hope to inspire people to cook at least one new local seasonal dish. Connecting the vendors with chefs and those chefs with the community was important. Finally, Nixon sought to give the community a fun, educational way to connect with local and seasonal food.

Approaching Argia’s restaurant was Nixon’s intuitive next step. She was already acquainted with its chef, often frequenting Argia’s as a patron. Chef Aimee Suyehiro, who opened Argia’s in 1999, was honored to be asked to be the premiere chef of the program. Suyehiro said she loved the idea of using local food and being more involved in her community.

“Chefs are typically in the kitchen and don’t get much opportunity to mingle with the public and their customers, so Aimee really liked that aspect,” said Nixon.

The Falls Church Farmers Market does more for Chef Suyehiro than provide lovely fare.

“I get very inspired to create new dishes when I see all the beautiful produce that the vendors provide,” she said.

Her “Summer Evening” menu, prepared last Saturday, featured two meals selected specifically to fit with the produce currently in season.

Opening with a red zebra tomato, cucumber and kalamata olive salad, with copies of the recipes available at the presentation, she made sure to note that the red zebra tomatoes came from Toigo Orchards, the red onions from Potomac Vegetables and the black merlot vinegar from Dragonfly Farms. Just to the right and to the left at the market, these very same vendors were just a few stalls away.

Suyehiro’s second dish, a grilled ciabatta with lemon-thyme ricotta and arugula, featured Atwater’s ciabatta, ricotta from Blue Ridge, zucchini from Tree & Leaf Farms and arugula from Endless Summer. The smell from the various loaves of bread displayed at Atwater’s, at a stall nearby, drifted over to the presentation table, offering its own fresh-baked scent to mingle with the chef’s offerings.

Of course, free samples were available of all the dishes prepared by Chef Suyehiro. Onlookers watched as the meal was prepared, listened to Suyehiro’s informative tutorial and then got to sample the fruits of Chef Suyehiro’s labor. If they liked the small bites, they could go to the stalls around them and buy the ingredients themselves, just steps away to replicating the meal at home. Everyone seemed very pleased with their taste of the freshly-created summer fare.

As for her favorite part of the presentation, Suyehiro said she enjoyed interacting with the audience and answering their questions.

“I also really enjoyed meeting the vendors early in the morning,” said Suyehiro.

Also, don’t fret if you didn’t make it to the previous Chef Series presentation. Future programs are already scheduled. Sept. 19 features Leland Atkinson from Sinplicity Catering, Oct. 3 brings Tracey O’Grady from Willow, Oct. 31 presents the Liberty Tavern and Nov. 21 will welcome Chef Bernard Henry from Open Kitchen.

Nixon was pleased with the result of the first presentation.

“The vendors saw increased traffic to their booths based on the ingredients being used in the recipes that Aimee developed, which was one of the goals of the program,” said Nixon.

Plus, according to Nixon, they passed out over 150 copies of Suyehiro’s summertime recipes.

In the end, Nixon hopes that this will be a case of reciprocal rewards.

“We were inspired by other volunteers that had done great things for the City of Falls Church. This program is a way for us to give back,” said Nixon.

As the saying goes, give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.

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