On Sunday, a group of Dartmouth students and I hopped in a van and headed to the Hartford High School gymnasium. No, this wasn’t some form of cruel and unusual punishment (high school gym was not exactly my forte), nor was it a 21 Jump Street kind of deal; we were, in fact, attending the 13th annual Flavors of the Valley event.
Flavors of the Valley is a celebration of local food from all corners of the Upper Valley, organized by Vital Communities and Valley Food & Farm. For an entry fee of $8, you get access to information about and, more importantly, delicious free samples from a myriad of farms, co-ops, and restaurants in the area.
Hundreds of people, clutching their own plates and utensils from home to reduce waste, milled about the gymnasium, weaving between rows of tables that held a variety of bite-sized foods. Each vendor and customer had one thing in common: a passion for local, organic cuisine.
There were a few familiar names: Morano was handing out sizable samples of their famous gelato; the Co-Op was advertising their cooking lessons with cheesy polenta from a crockpot; PINE at Hanover Inn (that place you make your parents take you when they visit because you can’t afford it yourself) was handing out pork buns; and, my own personal Kryptonite, the deadly King Arthur Flour, was debuting their new chickpea salad.
As an avid cheese-lover, a personal favorite was the Vermont Farmstead table. They were handing out fresh grilled cheeses containing their AleHouse cheddar, which contained subtle (and legal!) amounts of Harpoon Brewery’s Munich Dark and IPA. Similarly, Potlicker Kitchen’s booth distributed tastes of their creative jams and jellies, made from local brews and wines (“All of the taste, none of the buzz”).
Other stands offered vegetables like tomatoes and leeks from local farms intermingled with heartier options like fresh goat’s meat, sausage cooked on the spot, and biscuits in thick, creamy mushroom gravy.
By the end of the event, I was a little dazed and confused. How in the world had such tiny food filled me up so quickly?! How many samples did I eat!? When did I start double-fisting cider doughnuts?! I was sure of one thing, though: I’ll definitely be back next year, ready to conquer the samples yet again.
If there ever was a reason to return to high school, Flavors of the Valley is it.