Explore the Root of the Matter: The Forest-to-Table Movement
There’s something romantic, mysterious, and enchanting when it comes to forests. Maybe it’s the shading of the trees, the way the light dances through the colors in the beams as they dapple down to the greenery below. And oh! The delicacies that hide beneath those boughs, ferns, and leaves. The forest-to-table movement is getting major attention this year, just in time for the 10th anniversary of Tree Pittsburgh! The Root Ball, a benefit gala, will be held at Fairmont Pittsburgh on October 7, from 6-10 p.m. With instructions to forage throughout regional forests for ingredients, the culinary team is preparing to deliver a unique three-course, forest-to-table menu.
As avid hikers and devout diners, we could not wait for a peek at the craftwork of Executive Chef Jason Dalling’s team. The dishes brought out for our photo shoot were sublime in their creativity, from the foraged origins, to the creative and colorful presentation, and the tantalizing taste of the earth. Sexy food with environmental implications. What more could we want?
The mushroom chowder, pictured here, captured every element with its grounded combination of leeks, made sweet from braising, delicately shattering potato chips, and porcini powder. That porcini powder did it for us, bringing us new, imaginative ways to use the bounties of the earth, even those hidden deep in the forest. The dish’s artistic display highlights its origins, as if the ingredients themselves are mimicking the forest. The menu’s other dishes feature black trumpet mushrooms, root vegetables, fennel powder, and pheasant.
“Tree Pittsburgh came to us with the concept of a ‘forest foraged’ menu for the Root Ball,” Dalling says. “As a chef, it’s always exciting to be given an opportunity to think creatively and challenge myself to deliver on a client’s unique vision.”
Tree Pittsburgh carries forth a noble mission: protecting and restoring the urban forest through education, advocacy, community tree planting, and maintenance. This year’s Root Awards are being presented to Martha Isler of the Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission, and the Urban and Community Forestry Research team at the US Forest Service. For tickets, visit treepittsburgh.org/root-ball.