A group of 80 people gathered for one of the area’s most unique meals Sept. 21. Even before they sat down at the massive table constructed exclusively for the event, they could tell the Community Table dinner was going to be special.

Their table sat in the middle of the barricaded Main Street bridge in full late summer splendor with flowers and strings of lights brightening the atmosphere.

As they chatted over samples of local wines, a drone flitted overhead, capturing the first Community Table Dinner which featured a wide variety of locally-sourced food items.

The dinner was organized by a committee of local business people, representatives from the Yates County Chamber of Commerce, and the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center.

The brown paper-covered table was carefully set with napkins, menus, fresh grapes, and flowers. No, there were no plates or utensils. This night would feature foods suitable to enjoy by hand alone.

Guests were a little tentative at first, but before long, as the Fulkerson Gruner Veltliner, Fox Run Vineyards Semi-Dry Riesling, McGregor Vineyards Pinot Noir began to flow, and conversation picked up, they became more comfortable self serving the appetizers and eating with their hands.

Appetites were curbed by choices of local cheeses & charcuterie, pickled vegetables, harvest bread & rolls, infused butters, and six creative appetizers.

By the time large bowls of garlic herbed buttered potatoes and cobs of corn were dumped in front of them, there was no turning back. A few people used the wooden disposable forks to pick up the tender and sweet potatoes and corn, but by then, most were fully comfortable with the tactile nature of the meal.

Finally, as the strings of lights over the table stood between the darkened sky and the festive crowd, the entrée—a grilled Bostrom Farms Pork Chop with a Climbing Bines Maple Porter Glaze—arrived, six to a plank, and there was joy. Never more would there be worry about being told to not play with your food.

The final note was perfectly in tune with the late summer night—a square of Heidi Fecik’s Apple Pear Slab Pie for each.

The evening concluded with rousing applause for the committee, Chef Ben Comstock of True Roots Catering, his staff, and the many local businesses and farms that made donations for the evening.

Jessica Bacher, President & CEO of the Chamber of Commerce promises that another dinner will be planned for the fall of 2020, and the event will be expanded to accomodate 200 people. As photos of the event popped up on social media, it was clear that the event had created a buzz, with many people eager to participate in the next community table. 

Proceeds, yet to be determined, will benefit the Friends of the Outlet, the non-profit organization that owns and maintains most of the Keuka Outlet Trail.

Businesses and farms that contributed to the dinner included Bedient Farms, Big Mamou Organic Farm, Birkett Mills, Bostrom Farms, Climbing Bines, Esperanza Mansion, Fox Run Café & Brud Holland, Fox Run Vineyards, Fulkerson Winery, Heidi Fecik, Knapp & Schlappi Lumber, Lakeview Organic Grain, McGregor Vineyard, Penn Yan Plumbing, Simmons Vineyard, Smokin’ Pete’s, Staving Artist, Katy Wheeler Farm, Wager’s Cider Mill, Wegmans volunteers Tricia Personius and Mike Decker, and the Village of Penn Yan.

Committee members were Ben Comstock, of True Roots Catering; Claudia Milroy, of Refind Studio & Shop; Mike Lipari of Finger Lakes Economic Development Center; Teresa Hoban, of Hoban’s Spirits and Penn Yan Village Board; Jim Coriale; Jessica Bacher, Jody Tyler, and Katrina Wright, all of the Yates County Chamber of Commerce.