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Location: The Finger Lakes, NY

Host(s):  Oskar, Lydiah, Charlie, Tom

Occasion: Bacchanalia 2014

Menu:  Grilled Shrimp With Corn, Grits and Tomato Chutney, Roasted Sweet Potato with Scapes and Octopus, Wild Rice Vegetable and Legume Salad, Sugar Snap Peas With Mint And Raw Almonds, Roast Pork Ribs, Peking Duck, Thai Larb, Fish Facos, Shrimp with Sriracha Butter, Roasted Eggplant, Charcuterie, Chocolate Coconut Macaroons, Praline Semifreddo With Bourbon  Caramel and surely a couple of dishes I’m unforgivably omitting….

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This past weekend I went up to the Finger Lakes and photographed a yearly cooking competition and dinner between two friendly wineries, the Hermann J. Weimer Vineyard and Milo Vineyards.  The dinner took place on the grounds of the gorgeous Milo Vineyard, a privately owned vineyard that sells its grapes to makers.  Weimer provided the wine, beautifully balanced Rieslings and crisp rosé and two teams of chefs, a mix of professional and amateur gourmets provided the food –  the goal to out do each other… the result – I couldn’t tell you who the winner was!  If you were in attendance and ate the food;  from Asian pork ribs, Peking duck, Thai larb, southern corn and grits with grilled shrimp and Indian spiced tomato chutney, roasted sweet potatoes with scapes and octopus, to homemade charcuterie and a melt in your mouth semi-freddo with praline (recipe), drank cold wine and soaked up the last rays of the summer solstice in the company of this magical group of people from all walks of life you were definitely a CHAMPION.

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It was my first time in the Finger Lakes region and it’s gorgeous.  An idyllic landscape of gently rolling hills carpeted with farmland and vineyards that creep right up to the water taking advantage of the micro-climate that surrounds the lakes which can reach 600 feet deep in parts.  A lot of the beautiful family farms are Mennonite so it is not uncommon to see horse-drawn carriages on the road day and night, which makes the locale seem very… very far from New York City in the best way.  The people we met were richly varied, our own dinner felt like a United Nations conference with so many different nationalities represented: Kenya, Uganda, India, Japan, Sweden, France, to name only a handful.  If we were running things it’s hard to imagine there wouldn’t be peace in the world – If only it were that easy to find peace –  to define borders, to end religious strife and violence against women, to bring home the girls who are still missing in Nigeria, to communicate, to understand one another.  But at least on this day, the longest day of the year, it was brilliant for that extended moment to bask in a utopian world at the edge of the water  sipping rose and bowing down through this meal to the beauty and grace all around us and within each other.

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