By Sherrie Norris
Dinner in the Gap was an event like no other. The farm-to-table gala on Sunday evening, Aug. 7, “celebrating the fruits of the farmer’s labor,” was a statewide collaborative with special emphasis on the High Country — and featuring a live auction with proceeds topping $8,000 for F.A.R.M. Café in Boone.
Hosted by BFR Meats on a tract of the Blake Brown family farm on Hwy. 421, in Deep Gap, the celebration brought together approximately 200 farmers, friends, food industry leaders and supporters from the sand hills to the mountains.
The picturesque setting provided a perfect backdrop for the event, headed up by Daniel and Alex Brown and Tina Houston, with well-known industry personalities in attendance.
Among the special guests were Michelle Grainger, Executive Director of the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission, (the event’s major sponsor, reminding us that the combined one-word title is now preferred); Kristi Maier, aka Triad Foodie, who narrated the five-course culinary journey, Linda Loveland, N.C. Farm Bureau Director of Communications, and Parker Phillips, auctioneer. Representing NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services were D. Kaleb Rathbone, Assistant Commissioner of Western NC Agricultural Programs and Small Farms, Jack Nales Marketing Specialist, and Beth Farrell, Agricultural Programs Specialist.
The dinner showcased local chefs Kyle Martin, current Executive Chef at Cafe Violette in Blowing Rock which he co-owns with his wife Sunshine, and partner Catherine Thomas; and Rob Strom, Executive Chef at the Beacon Butchers Bar in Boone. They were joined by Abby Tetterton, the new Chef and Food Service Director at Valle Crucis Conference Center.
The cocktail hour, featuring locally-brewed and distilled beverages, was enhanced with the first-course appetizers presented in impressive charcuterie fashion by The Scarlet Hen Catering using all locally-grown/NC food items, as were included in the successive offerings of hors d’oeuvres, the main course, sides and dessert.
A recitation of an original farm-related poem by Rocky Mount auctioneer, Parker Phillips, brought the audience to its feet with approving applause, followed by a live auction, “tobacco-auction style,” which generated much-needed and appreciated funds for F.A.R.M. Café.
Speaking on behalf of F.A.R.M. Café was its Executive Director, Renee Boughman, who expressed gratitude for the café’s inclusion in the event as recipient of the auction funds and for the continued support of local food purveyors.
Boughman specifically mentioned Daniel Brown and his family’s ongoing support of F.A.R.M. Café, and others who have helped provide nutritional meals to all who enter —regardless of their ability to pay.
Boughman shared with her audience a brief history of F.A.R.M. Café, and how in its location, (formerly Boone Drug Downtown), the café, “10 years old now” started as a pay-what-you-can restaurant to serve the area’s unmet hunger needs, while strengthening High Country community relationships, as a whole. Providing high quality and delicious meals produced from local sources, served in a restaurant where “everybody eats with dignity, regardless of means” is what F.A.R.M. Café is all about, she said. “We care that what we serve is high quality food that didn’t fall off the back of the truck. “
But, she stressed, it would not be possible without the continued support and contributions, both financially and in food supply, of the High Country community.” Boughman noted that 95 percent of the food used at the café is purchased, with about $25,000 a year spent on locally grown food.
Organizers of Dinner in the Gap are already planning for this to be an annual event, and as the inaugural celebration proved, word-of- mouth advertising was sufficient, as tickets sold out in record timing.
Tina Houston, owner of three of the area’s most respected food businesses — Reids Cafe & Catering, The Beacon and Betty’s Biscuits — said she was more “behind the scenes” on Sunday, orchestrating service, setup and flow while fine tuning the details.
However, throughout the entire process — from the idea’s inception, she added, “We all forged a much deeper friendship, which I hold dear.” Houston described “the cast of characters at the dinner” were from all corners, which made it so special. “It proves that no matter your views or your stance, we can come together to do good, because that is what matters, period. We are a unique and talented community working singularly and as a group, it’s unparalleled. Sunday night was proof of these actions.”
About the Browns, Houston had this to say: “Daniel and Alex are just the most giving of givers with endless energy. I wish Daniel would run for President, I love him to pieces.”
Houston shared how the idea for the dinner evolved, with Daniel reaching out earlier (in March) to her Executive Chef, Rob Strom at the Beacon in Boone.
“At that time, events were slowly beginning to pop into our minds and onto our calendars, a slow start to the spring season, but we knew it would be a different landscape than the previous two years. Daniel, Alex and the Browns began reaching out across the region to farmers, producers, vintners, etc., and once we had a list of ingredients beginning to take shape, Rob and Kyle, of Cafe Violette, and Abby from Valle Crucis Conference Center, created the beautiful menu.”
And from there, Dinner in the Gap was born and successfully carried out on Sunday.
“We will host this again, and now we have a little road map that will help iron out some of the kinks and raise even more money for F.A.R.M. Café,” Houston concluded.
In addressing his guests on Sunday, Daniel Brown expressed his appreciation for everyone in attendance, recognizing Houston for her tireless efforts to help bring it all together, and each of the many sponsors and their contributions to the event and agriculture, in general. “We are blessed to have all of you as part of this event and we look forward to seeing you back here next year where we’ll do this again even bigger and better.”
Live entertainment throughout the event was provided by Danny Whittington and Friend of Boone.
Welcome bags containing small gifs, including sweetpotato chips, beef jerky, recipe cards, miniature cutting boards and other sponsor-related mementos were given to each attendee.
To learn more about Dinner in the Gap and how you and your food/agricultural-based business can support the 2023 event, visit bfrmeats.com.
Scenes from Dinner in The Gap
Photos by Sherrie Norris