from sprout to spoon

cocktails, fall, gardening

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Co-Founder and Farm Outreach and Operations Manager, Meg Caley, giving me a tour of Sprout City Farms.  She, along with Jordan Gorrell, the Assistant Farm Manager, tend to this farm throughout the year.

It is amazing how quickly ideas or thoughts become reality, when you solidify a decision and choose to take those first steps in the direction of a goal.  In its infancy, an idea may seem completely unattainable, just as a tiny seed betrays its ability, in its small size, to grow into a giant tree.  I was recently able to see an example of this process in action, and to contribute to the celebratory fundraising dinner of a local farm, Sprout City Farms, located at the Denver Green School.  Their “Sprout to Spoon” dinner, held Sunday, September 30th, highlighted their two-year growth from a dusty, unused field into a thriving farm that provides fresh vegetables to the school cafeteria, hosts a CSA program and farmers’ market stand to the community, boasts a summer internship program, allows like-minded individuals to volunteer at the farm, and creates education programs for both youth and adults in the community.

Sprout City Farms is a one-acre farm, built on unused school property at the Denver Green School.

Sprout City Farms would not be possible without the germination of an idea, the utilization of talented and concerned individuals, and the collaboration of like-minded organizations, like the Denver Green School and Denver Urban Gardens.  As you may know, I cultivate vegetables on a four by 15 feet plot at the Ellis Elementary School community garden.  My community garden is one of about 90 community gardens, located in the city of Denver, funded by the nonprofit group, Denver Urban Gardens.  Meeting fellow gardeners from diverse backgrounds, sharing growing tips, catching up over a group potluck, and contributing to the community garden’s growth has provided me with unmeasurable joy and lifelong friendships. I would never have experienced this, had it not been for the common ground of people simply growing food together.

Hot peppers, bell peppers, and tomatoes thriving at Sprout City Farms.

At one of our garden’s recent potluck meetings, I spoke with our garden leader, Donna Baker-Breningstall, and she mentioned her involvement with Sprout City Farms (SCF).  I was intrigued with the idea that someone had created a large-scale farm on school property here in Denver, that provided the school and the local community with organic produce.  Donna, who serves as a board member with SCF, informed me of an upcoming farm-to-table dinner, benefiting the farm.  With drinks at the forefront of my mind’s thoughts these days, I  immediately offered my expertise to pair either cocktails or wine with the courses.  Unfortunately, that was not an option, since the farm is located on school property, and the dinner would be housed there, as well.  Undaunted, I decided to create some freshly juiced “mocktails,” that showcased the farm’s fresh, organic goodness, sans alcohol.

The day before the dinner, I selected the freshest ingredients that could quite possibly become components in a farm-to-table “mocktail.”  Meg, Jordan, and the volunteers had carefully picked the produce the day before I arrived.  I chose from what was available, and I let my creativity jump from there.

I am very fortunate to work at a restaurant that embodies these similar standards of locally sourced food, community, and sustainability.  I was thankfully granted the day off, so I could volunteer about 12 hours of picking, peeling, chopping, steeping, dicing, juicing, pureeing, and mixing.  Coohills graciously provided the necessary tools and supplies to prepare and execute these concoctions.  Working behind the bar there, I have created and paired cocktails with our organic, French-inspired cuisine. This experience has honed my skills to select, prepare, and mix almost any given set of ingredients, to produce a balanced melange, worthy of pairing with our menu items.  Not only do I enjoy the multi-step creative process, but I also relish the sense of seasonal connectivity.

Beautifully adorned tables, awaiting the guests’ arrival.  Farm volunteers picked the flowers and herbs that graced the tables and place settings.  The weather couldn’t have been more pleasant for the event!

The farm-to-table dinner sold out to over 65 attendees, boasted over-the-top donations, and provided a great and memorable time for all who participated, both guests and volunteers alike.

Freshly picked sage, sun choke blossoms, and corn blossoms filled Mason jars as centerpieces.
Thanks to all of the volunteers and donors, who make this farm and its reach possible.
Members of the local community, gathering at Sprout City Farms and reveling in one of Colorado’s famed Indian summer evenings, at the Denver Green School.
The finalized menu, featuring cuisine prepared by Chef Milan Doshi, of the Queen Anne Bed & Breakfast; organic kombucha from High Country Kombucha; farm-to-table mocktails prepared by Coohills restaurant; organic chicken from Cottonwood Creek Farms, prepared by Fancy to Fantasy Catering; cake from Whole Foods; cheese from the Truffle Cheese Shop; and frozen yogurt from BOOM Yogurt Bar.
Our virgin Bloody Mary, aptly named, the “Mojo Rojo,” consisted of tomatoes, bok choy, blanched carrots, garlic, grilled onions, and basil, with a smoky-herbaceous rim, prepared to our specifications by the Savory Spice Shop.
Our melon martini, the “Version Verde,” blended fresh honeydew, cantaloupe, apple mint, agave nectar, and a splash of soda, shaken with ice and served up.

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