December 10, 2012 9:52:04 AM
During the peak hours of the Farm to Table dinner Saturday night, it was hard to move, but no one seemed to care.
More than 200 "locavores," gobbled snack-sized portions of elegantly prepared dishes and downed craft beer from nearby breweries amid a set-up that left Zorba's Greek Tavern in Starkville looking like a spread in a much hipper version of Southern Living.
Ty Thames, who owns Zorba's along with other restaurants and was the chef for the event, said the only disappointment was turning away several eager guests at the door. The ticketed event quickly reached capacity.
Thames said events like the Farm to Table dinner are a testament to the path some people in Starkville are taking to find more sustainable ways of living.
"It's up to people who have an interest in this kind of lifestyle," Thames said last week. "I think we have a great core structure, and this dinner is an example of the people that make up that core."
All of the ingredients for the seven food courses, from burgers to grits and rabbit grillades to a smooth tiramisu cheesecake, were obtained locally from farmers such as Sam McLemore, who was present Saturday night.
Mandi Sanders, vice president of the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute, which organized the event, said McLemore's presence at the dinner really illustrated how things should be in regard to the community.
"It provides a connection," Sanders said. "And you care a little more about your community if you know that your food is coming from here, and when you care about your community, you are willing to put a little more into it."
Thames agrees with Sanders and said it gives a greater sense of togetherness and solidarity as a community, because there is more mutual reliance.
"I have attempted the growing thing before, and I failed miserably," Thames said. "I rely on these people to do what they do, and Sam is great at what he does."
Thames also praised Beaverdam Farms and Rabbitman Farms for their contributions to the menu.
Sanders said Thames, who makes an effort to use local ingredients at his restaurants on a daily basis, was the obvious choice for the event's chef.
Earlier this year, Thames set up a field kitchen at the Gaining Ground farm to produce another dinner using only locally-produced ingredients.