December 7, 2012 10:16:24 AM
STARKVILLE -- Planning for the Farm to Table dinner started months ago.
Not because it was going to be a difficult event to plan, but because the farmers involved had to know what Ty Thames, local chef and restaurateur, wanted to use.
Well kind of, anyway.
On Thursday, Thames drove through the third red light on South Montgomery, just past the fire station, to Bountiful Harvest Farms to select some produce ingredients for the Saturday night dinner.
It was that easy.
Not even two miles off Hwy 12, Thames and Sam McLemore, who owns and operates Bountiful Harvest Farms, walked the rows of cabbage and radish and other green, leafy sprouts, looking at what would be best for Thames' menu, which includes seven courses of appetizer-size delicacies -- everything from gourmet burgers to tiramisu.
Hosted by the Gaining Ground Institute at Zorbas, one of Thames' restaurants in downtown Starkville, Saturday night's "Farm to Table: Bites and Brews" will begin at 6 p.m.
All of the ingredients used will be locally grown, something Thames already tries to do on a daily basis at each of his three restaurants in Starkville: Restaurant Tyler, Bin 612 and Zorbas.
"It's really just about getting back to the roots of it all," Thames said. "If it's locally grown, it's going to be fresher, period. The product I got from Sam today, I am going to make a dish with tomorrow, and when you use products like that, the flavor is so much more crisp, so much more powerful than if it had sat in a truck or freezer for a week."
Thames said the uniqueness that locally grown food brings to the table is what really intrigues him. Big chains like Applebees or even McDonald's, thrive on consistency, no matter the location.
Thames is running from the idea of conformity.
"You can't even go to Oxford and have a Restaurant Tyler and you can't come here and have a City Grocery," Thames said. "No matter where you travel, you are going to have unique, cool things, and personalities are going to come out."
Saturday's event will be a small taste of Thames' personality.
The Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute hosted its first Farm to Table dinner in the spring. It was a much more formal occasion, according to vice president Mandi Sanders, with tickets costing $150 and the spread being much larger.
Tickets for Saturday night's dinner are only $35 in advance and $45 at the door, giving anyone with a limited budget the opportunity to see what local cuisine is all about. There will also be a bigger focus on Mississippi-brewed beer, something that was limited at the last dinner. Thanks to a craft beer amendment passed through the state legislature this summer, a wider selection will be available.
"We have such great resources," Sanders said. "In this state, we have this ridiculous capacity (for food production) and we are spending a huge percent of every dollar out of our state. Of course, we want them to grow it correctly, but we just want food around here period, instead of sending money out of our state that is so poor anyway."
All proceeds from Farm to Table go to Gaining Ground's general fund.
"Our main goal is just to connect the farmers to the consumers," Sanders said. "I think this is definitely headed that way."