Farm-to-table dinner serves fresh ingredients

Fresh ingredients found their way from local farms to the lavish plates of guests at the Athenaeum Hotel parlor for the annual Farm-to-Table benefit dinner on July 23.

“They’re very creative,” said John Milos, member of the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees and Development Council. “The menu’s always very inventive [with] the pairing of the foods. There’s always an explanation to what we’re eating. There’s a lot of thoughtfulness put into it. So it’s a great event, and obviously, it’s a great way to have an interesting dinner and support the Institution.”

A summer highlight for many who annually support this sold-out event, this year’s five-course dinner served a crowd of 70 guests and raised approximately $5,000 to benefit the Chautauqua Fund, according to Fund Director Tina Downey. Downey opened the evening by welcoming guests and expressing gratitude for their support before inviting attendees to relax, enjoy and socialize.

Bruce Stanton, general manager of the Athenaeum Hotel, introduced each course as it was served and spoke of the collaboration with local farms and producers. Stanton gave a brief description of where the ingredients were sourced and how they were prepared. The meal began with an amuse-bouche of carrot ginger soup and local yogurt drizzle with a summer stone fruit sangria pairing, made from local wines, spirits and fresh farm fruit. Guests were then introduced to four subsequent courses with layers of flavor and local influence.

Travis Bensink, executive chef at the Athenaeum’s Heirloom Restaurant, oversaw the evening’s menu. He came out later in the meal to answer questions about the ingredients and menu. Bensink’s love of fresh, local ingredients was exemplified in the second course, where the smoked blackberry vinaigrette on a mixed summer field greens salad came from the blackberries he and his three children picked in his backyard. Bensink, in his second year at the hotel, loves the use of fresh ingredients because of the lifestyle he had growing up.

“I grew up on a farm, so I know what it means [to go] from farm to table and going back to my grandfather’s farm,” Bensink said. “We raised our own animals. We milked our own cows. We had our own gardens. We had everything. Farm-to-table’s my lifestyle.”