The angry rain clouds finally parted and the sun came out in full swing this past Saturday, no doubt to shine bright on this most gorgeous of occasions, Homegrown Foods‘ Harvest Feast. What began four years ago as mere 50 person gathering has transformed into a mega foodie event with 500 hungry Hong Kongers showing their support. The tout-le-monde of the city’s foodie world was there, bused in from Central to enjoy specially crafted dishes by a dozen of the most talented & creative chefs in town.
Against the luscious countryside hills of the Northern New Territories lies Zen Organic Farm: a 250, 000 sq.ft. working farm- which Homegrown Foods (HGF) put on the map years ago when they first launched their CSA style weekly organic produce basket deliveries- that plays host to HGF’s annual celebration of locally grown organic food.
More on the food in a minute- first let’s start with the setting: it was an homage to rustic farm chic. Beneath a semi covered hall nestled amidst greenhouses and open air planted fields full of spring’s bounty, long wooden tables and benches were covered with white tablecloths, themselves adorned with pots of utensils, freshly baked garlic & lemon foccacia by Bread Elements’s Gregoire Michaud in straw hats cum-baskets and colorful centerpieces of vegetable arrangements from Zen itself. The rafters were covered in bright yellow paper lanterns, yellow parasols and giant yellow flowers twisted amidst vines- not to mention traditional Chinese birdcages filled with more yellow lanterns. The effect was one of sunny happiness: whose mood isn’t lifted when surrounded by that most joyous of colours, canary-lemon yellow. HGF’s team outdid themselves on the organization front!
In a further show of how perfectly organized the event was, guests were gifted HGF canvas shopping bags filled with fresh veggies, a Stephen James Organics raw pizza bar and an Italian malt beer- what a treat! Oh and no paper plates and plastic forks in sight: guests were given ceramic white plates, silver cutlery and proper glasses. A farm truck covered in HGF wooden crates and mounds of fresh vegetables as well as a honest to goodness scarecrow finished off the scene- that and the bluegrass band that serenaded guests all afternoon. Were we in Kentucky or Hong Kong? It was hard to tell.
On the eating front, it was a true foodie paradise. A smorgasbord of Hong Kong’s farm-to-table movement’s top players manned stalls where they prepared dishes to showcase their talents.
Chef Austin Fry of Mavericks & Roundhouse showcased a pan seared snapper with a gremolata crust and a bloody mary shooter with fresh horseradish.
Uber talented Chef Joey Sergentakis of Cafe Gray Deluxe was cooking up Tomini cheese agnolotti in a spring pea sauce with lime zest.
The Globe’s Chef Patrick Barrett proffered Scotch eggs made with organic eggs and homemade sausage, accompanied by a tangy tomato chutney he told us was a recipe passed down from his nana! Chef Herve Fucho of the Four Seasons served braised organic pork belly paninis with homemade kimchi and smoked cheddar alongside picked HGF vegetables.
The lovely Chef Peggy Chan of Grassroots Pantry treated us to wood-fire caramel popcorn with quinoa puffs and apple clusters and vegan apple smoked corn dogs with mustard mayonnaise, pickled kohlrabi and sauerkraut relish.
Stone Nullah Tavern/Linguini Fini/Posto Pubblico‘s Chef Vinny Lauria was holding court by what was arguably the event’s foodie soul: the giant roasted Wah Kee pig smoking up in the brick BBQ pit filled with applewood. He cooked up fresh homemade rigatoni with said pork meat and peach ragu.
Next to him was Restoration’s Jack Carson was serving up pulled pork buns with crunchy coleslaw. Little Bao‘s always funky Chef May Chow was plating sweet potato tempura with forbidden rice in a cilantro sesame dressing.
Dessert was Chef Tracy Wei and Chef Gregoire Michaud’s Breton shortbread with lemon curd, burnt mint meringue and fennel chips.
Kiddies had their own goodies: carrot cake and chocolate banana cake cupcake pots with a decoration atelier where they could make vegetable shaped toppings out of mounds of multi-coloured marzipan.
Also available were Lola’s Ice Pops in refreshing flavours like White Sangria, Dulce de leche with Walnuts & Almonds, Chocolate with Cayenne and Grapefruit Rosemary. We mustn’t forget to mention all the drinks: Young Master Ales had their locally brewed, unfiltered, unpasteurized craft beer on tap and Cuvees were regaling everyone with a handpicked selection of boutique, artisanal wines along with pitchers of fruity sangria.
All in all, it was a magical day for anyone who loves to eat and who is invested in where their food comes from. A relaxing, lazy (for the guests, everyone else was working so hard!) afternoon of chef chitchat, talent tasting and sunshine basking… a stolen pleasure of a day in our busy urban lives. Can’t wait for next year! Hats off to HGF founder Todd Darling and his dedicated team for creating this locavore zeitgeist and putting together this incredible Harvest Feast- absolutely not to be missed!
One last important detail: the event was dedicated to raising funds for The Organic Farmers Association and the hummingfish foundation, both wonderful NGOs that support sustainable farming and community-based ecotourism respectively.