Harvest season is almost here, Saratoga. And what better way to celebrate it than at the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival? Presented by the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), the two-day festival will once again feature delicious, local fare, wine and spirits at the Saratoga Spa State Park on Friday, October 4 and Saturday, October 5. In addition to bringing in a team of regional talent and internationally renowned chefs—including Diego Moya, Executive Chef of TriBeCa’s fine-dining hotspot Racines, and Austin Peltier, a specialist in Ayurvedic cooking—the festival’s creators have completely reimagined the Friday night schedule of events (don’t worry; the Grand Tasting, which will be on Saturday, is sticking around).
In keeping with the seasonal theme, the festival’s big, Friday night event will be a “forest magic”-themeed Farm-to-Table Harvest Dinner. The new nature-themed dinner, which will run from 7-10pm and feature a special VIP hour from 6-7pm, is being prepared by some of Saratoga County’s top culinary operators in the fine dining and party catering space, including curator Kim Klopstock of Ballston Spa’s Lily and the Rose, who will be collaborating with a crew of revered regional chefs such as Yaddo’s Head Chef Michael Blake; Dan Spitz of Fat N Happy LLC; and Kevin London, who co-founded the popular Farmhouse Restaurant at Lake George’s Top of the World Resort.
Though the farm-to-table menu is still being finalized, saratoga living recently sat down with Klopstock and London to get an exclusive sneak peek of the big Friday night affair.
Kevin, what are you and the other chefs cooking up for the big themed dinner on Friday night?
KL: We’re going to do a fairly elaborate spread for the VIP portion of the event, and we’re going to do a four-course, plated dinner afterward as well. Obviously, it’s still coming together, but I think we’re going to start with a crudo dish, which is being prepared by Diego [Moya] and Dan Spitz, and then move into a course that’s showcasing local vegetables, maybe a pasta or gnocchi course, and we’ll probably finish with duck.
Kim, tell us what we can expect the Harvest Dinner to look and feel like.
KK: Well, part of nature is food, and part of food is magic. The dinner’s [theme is] called “forest magic,” because we’re in the magnificent [Spa State Park]. So we’re bringing in components of nature into this beautiful dinner. The tables will be set with moss and rocks and birch bark, and there will be a lot of wild edibles. We’ll also be bringing water in from the park itself to serve our guests—maybe even some cocktails using the sulfur water, but that’s not certain yet.
What’s it like working with big-name chefs such as Diego Moya?
KL: It’s exciting! I’ve spearheaded the Fire Feast at Pitney Meadows Community Farm over the past couple of years, and in many ways, it’s a lot of similar chefs. So this is kind of a continuation of that event. Diego has come up from [New York City] the last two years for the Fire Feast—last year as the featured chef—and it’s great working with him. Saratoga has really gotten on the radar of some of these high-caliber chefs from New York City and Boston and even farther away.
Why do you think farm-to-table cuisine has gotten so popular in recent years?
KK: Thirty years ago, which is about when I started, it was only fine-dining restaurants using farm-to-table cooking. Of course, it wasn’t labeled that [way] back then. But now people want to know where their food is coming from, and there’s more demand for it.
KL: I think the importance of it is deeply rooted in what it does for our regional economy and what it does for people from a health and nutritional standpoint. The chef’s role in that, especially in this region, has really grown in the last ten years in reintroducing to the American palate how fantastic and easy eating locally can be.
What’s going to set the Harvest Dinner apart from every other farm-to-table meal?
KK: [SPAC’s President and CEO] Elizabeth Sobol originally came to me and said she wanted to shake things up a little bit this year. She really has her finger on the pulse of what makes Saratoga beautiful: The culture, the arts scene, the water and the food. She’s remade this incredible event for so many emerging and established chefs to donate their time and showcase what Saratoga has to offer as a region. We want the dinner to be very ethereal and as farm-to-table as we can be for the first year. So I think it’s going to be a huge paradigm shift for what SPAC is used to, and, frankly, I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg.