Hunt Country = Locavore Country

John Christensen The Chronicle-Express
More than 170 guests enjoyed the Twilight Picnic in the Vineyard with locally grown food and wine at Hunt Country Vineyards Saturday evening

The Twilight Picnic in the Vineyards, hosted by Hunt Country Vineyards and Italy Hill Produce, has become the premiere locavore event of the area. An increasingly familiar term, locavores are people who choose to eat food produced locally to improve freshness and decrease the fuel used and pollution created by the transportation of food over long distances.

This year’s picnic, held Saturday, Aug. 9 among the vines of Art and Joyce Hunt’s Hunt Country Vineyards, and the accompanying organic vegetable fields of Italy Hill Produce, was the largest attended, and many say the best prepared. Over 170 guests joined the Hunt family for a picnic to enjoy the bounty of Finger Lakes-produced foods, prepared by Jane Russell of Around the Corner Catering in Pulteney, including great locally-raised meats and fresh organic produce raised by Jonathan and Caroline Boutard Hunt, owners and growers of Italy Hill Produce.

In addition to the all-local food served at the picnic, Hunt Country has reduced the average travel distance of the food items they sell from 800 miles two years ago to 129 miles this year. The durable consumer goods they sell went from 1,500 miles to 162 miles; a measurable display of their commitment to the local economy of New York.

The hors d’oeuvres and outdoor wine bars served heirloom tomato bruschetta and grilled chard on toast, vegetables, herb dip local cheeses, including goat cheese with caramel apple jam, Hunt Country wine and grape juice, with bottled craft beers and soft drinks for sale in Hunts’ Locavore Room.

The picnic menu included grapewood smoked top round of local grassfed beef, chef-carved at the buffet and with horseradish sauce or Alchemy wine sauce with Italy Hill Produce mushrooms; smoky grassfed chicken legs with barbecue sauce; marinated and grilled vegetables, including green beans, neon eggplant, summer squashes; grilled sweet corn with red pepper butter; oven roasted red potatoes with garlic; midsummer leaf lettuce with chardonnay champagne dressing; cold dill bean salad; plus braided oat & wheat bread, corn bread and local butter.

Dessert was a warm cobbler of peaches & blueberries, enhanced with Hunt Country Dolce di Moscato and cinnamon whipped cream, and Keuka Lake coffee.

The Stick Mob, a 5-piece Washington D.C.-based acoustic band — fiddle, guitars, mandolin, stand up bass, including vocalist Suzanne Hunt, daughter Art & Joyce — performed accomplished folk and bluegrass music.

Pre-picnic activities included wine tastings, haywagon tours in the vineyards, and field tours of Italy Hill Produce organic crops. Jon and Caroline were joined by Petra Page-Mann of Fruition Seeds of Naples who uses an acre of Hunts’ land for growing heirloom, organic, open pollinated, regionally adapted seed, helping to build a network of diverse organic seed growers in the region. They join Jon & Caroline with the philosophy of “Know your farmer — know your food.”

Italy Hill Produce is available at the Canandaigua Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, and by subscription at Hunt Country. Learn more by e-mailing ItalyHillProduce@gmail.com.

If you missed the Twilight Picnic…

The 25th Anniversary Hunt Country Harvest Festival, held Oct. 4- 5, will be a perfect autumn celebration, with food, live music, free wine tasting, free winery tours, grape-stomping, special cellar tastings, horse-drawn vineyard rides, talented artists and artisans exhibiting their works, and cooking seminars by Chef Paul Mach, co-host of PBS-TV’s “You’re the Chef.”

If you missed the Twilight Picnic…

The 25th Anniversary Hunt Country Harvest Festival, held Oct. 4- 5, will be a perfect autumn celebration, with food, live music, free wine tasting, free winery tours, grape-stomping, special cellar tastings, horse-drawn vineyard rides, talented artists and artisans exhibiting their works, and cooking seminars by Chef Paul Mach, co-host of PBS-TV’s “You’re the Chef.”

25th Anniversary Hunt Country Harvest Festival