The vibe felt different this year.

It may have been the trio of guys singing John Legend and Kings of Leon ballads to entertain the guests. It may have been the surprise of the masked, dancing mime who twirled and contorted himself around the room as 120 people looked on. It also may have been the fact that the theme of the 9th Triad Local First Community Table was Modern Southern, and every aspect of the evening was indeed touched by this motif.

In the past, picturesque barns and farms on the outskirts of Guilford County provided the scenery for Triad Local First’s signature fundraising event Community Table. Battling the warm, wet weather and a ticking clock to feed hundreds of guests, long-revered chefs, cooks, assistants plated and their inspired dishes under dim lights. The scent of sweet haybales and the early-autumn breeze always marked the evening while dining under the night sky. This year, the breeze gave way to crisp, modern air-conditioning in a refurbished building adjacent to the vibrant hum of Center City. A fresh, young crowd gathered to celebrate local food, local businesses surrounded by patrons and consumers of the Triad’s bounty.

Dinner tables at Cadillac Service Garage (photo by Nikki Miller-Ka)

Eight area chefs created a cohesive menu using local ingredients as their muse and the Cadillac Service Garage as the backdrop. Featured chef Anders Benton, executive chef of GIA: Eat Drink Listen, gathered the group of relatively young, but very experienced culinary professionals.

Reminiscent of the Brat Pack or the late ’90s members of the Mickey Mouse Club, the chefs and restaurateurs looked like a determined, rag-tag group of young adults who are dedicated to their craft: accomplished culinarians bursting at the seams with talent, stamina and social media savvy to share with the world their skills. 

Sunday’s dinner began with appetizers provided by GIA, which included crispy chicken livers garnished with crushed peanuts, orange-soy peanut sauce and bok-choy slaw, and mango-tuna ceviche on butter lettuce alongside cocktails from Fainting Goat Spirits and GIA Distillery. The handcrafted drinks included: Fisher’s Mule — Fisher’s rye whiskey, apple cider and ginger beer garnished with a dried apple chip and the Semi-Charmed Life, which has Emulsion gin, pineapple and lemon juices, lemongrass syrup, Aperol and bitters. GIA also presented cocktails blended with Francesca Grappa and Solera aged whiskey.

A smorgasbord of charcuterie, pickled vegetables, breads, cheese, canape and sauces covered an 8-foot table during the cocktail hour before dinner commenced. Outside in the courtyard, a cigar roller and biergarten from Little Brother Brewing and Haw River Farmhouse Ales mixed up the formal vibe.

Dinner service began as long rows of tables were set with baskets of sliced bread from Bread Service, a microbakery owned by Jeff McCarthy in Greensboro, accompanied with wine from Raffaldini Vineyards and molded sticks of sourdough-fermented butter sprinkled with black smoked salt. Leading the charge, Benton, alongside Ryan Loftin of Ugly Dumplin NC, a pop-up supper club based in Winston-Salem, presented a Joyce Farms pheasant gallentine garnished with lacto-fermented figs and beautyberry from Sassafras Family Farm and jus. The whole bird is deboned, stuffed inside the skin and turned into a layered, chilled disk of fowl. The second course, created by Kevin Cottrell and Lydia Greene of Machete GSO, included a study of beets: diced and barbecued red, golden, white-and-fuchsia striped Chioggia beets rested next to a root vegetable slaw on a dill crème fraiche. The main course, presented by Chris Blackburn of Coast and Steak Street in High Point and Nick Benshoff of Bandito Burrito in Greensboro prepared mole-braised oxtail garnished with jerk-spiced pickles, crisped hominy gnocchi and jus. Dessert was a sweet corn macaron with freeze dried blueberries and soft florets of meringue from Brittany McGee of Humble Bee Shoppe in Winston-Salem.

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