It was a feast for the senses last Thursday as 500 supporters gathered at Saratoga National Golf Club to celebrate those who tirelessly work to preserve the rural character, natural habitats and scenic beauty of our county. Saratoga PLAN’s “Feast of the Fields” kicked off at 5 p.m. with a reception honoring this year’s Conservation Heroes: Joe Finan for Saratoga National Historical Park; Claire Haizlip for the Champlain Canalway Trail; the Open Space Institute and Joe and Amanda Cocozzo for the Cocozzo Family Farm in Stillwater; New York State, for transfer of the McGregor Prison land to Moreau Lake State Park; and Mark and Beth Sacco for the Wm. H. Buckley Farm in Ballston Lake. Each received a special birdhouse built by David Smith, and personalized by area artists, including Amy Brown, Jeanette Fultz, Michaela Kerxhalli-Kleinfield, Janet Oswald and Eric Schnitzer.
Following the ceremony, guests proceeded outside. Thanks to a stint of late summer weather, the clubhouse veranda and patio provided the ideal setting for an extraordinary showcase of culinary creations by some of the area’s top chefs, using fresh ingredients from 35 local farms. To start, Chef Thomas Gulbrandsen of the Saratoga Marriott Courtyard & Excelsior Springs had prepared a spread of local fruits, vegetables, cheeses, spreads and chutneys. Spotted mingling were board chair John Munter with his wife, Cindy, and board members Rick Higgins and Jay Arnold, also there with his wife, Alyssa. Others there included Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Tom Newkirk, Linda and Michael Toohey, Barbara and Charlie Hanehan, Caroline Burke, Heath and Jeff Ames, Aileen Ames, Jane Sanzen, Marne Onderdonk, Jess Schul and Julia Stokes, an Emeritus member of the board.
After testing the palate with these tempting appetizers, attendees could sample mini lamb gyros and potato latkes from Chef Heidi Hoyt of Parkside Eatery/Black Diamond Caterers, or enjoy braised Asian beef and ratatouille by Lily & the Rose’s Chef Kim Klopstock. Braised beef was also the feature of Chef Yono Purnomo, though his was accompanied by spiced kale and mashed potatoes. On a sweeter side, Chef Leah Stein filled apple, goat cheese and honey tartlets, complementing her Queen Bee honey cake, while Chef Vivian Brammer of Prime offered caramel apple cheesecake and a maple pot de crème. Druthers’ chef, Michelle Zawadzki, presented country fried goose with sweet potato cornbread, sausage gravy and kale chips, as well as wood-fired corn bisque accented with sheep’s milk crème fraiche, maple syrup and pumpkin seeds. Chef Michael Stamets and Chef Susan Hatalsk coordinated students from the Junior ACF Chapter at Schenectady County Community College to cook up a delicious coq au van with potato puree, complemented by plum crisp.
In addition to the standard event bars, tasting booths served beers, wines and hard ciders from Common Roots Brewery, Druthers, Saratoga Winery and Slyboro Ciderhouse. Juices from Four Seasons, Fresh Take Farm, Saratoga Apple, Whalen’s and Otrembiak Brothers Farm were also sampled.
The “Bee’s Knees” silent auction provided a diversion for those needing to rest their palates. Popular items included Red Sox tickets, Astis mittens from the Alpine Ski Shop and original Feast of the Fields artwork by LIS Design. Seen amid the tables in the auction tent were Lorri and Morgan Brooks, Martha and Jason MacGregor, Christina and John Brueggemann, Sam Bosshart, board member Jackie Hakes, Kathleen Fyfe and Saratoga County Supervisor Matthew Veitch.
Final figures are still being tallied, but coordinators estimate the night net $50,000. Maria Trabka, Executive Director of Saratoga PLAN remarked, “We appreciate the many volunteers, donors, and business owners who make this homegrown, homemade event possible. Saratoga PLAN raises about 15% of its operating budget through Feast of the Fields, turning the proceeds into permanently protected farms, public trails, water resource protection, scenic views, wildlife habitats, community conservation plans, advisory services for landowners and outdoor educational programs.”