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Eat Local Month comes early

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What: Eat Local Month

Where: Whatcom and Skagit counties

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WHEN: Aug. 1-29

Cost: It's free to sign up for the virtual Whatcom County Farm Tour, but those who donate $15 will be rewarded with freebies and discounts

Info: http://www.eatlocalfirst.org

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Warning: Don’t watch the promo video for Eat Local Month on an empty stomach.

I made that mistake, and then spent the rest of the afternoon jonesing for one of the giant salmon burgers Chef Cinnamon Berg of Cosmos Bistro fame makes during the course of the short recording that focuses on Sustainable Connections’ and Eat Local First’s annual celebration of farmers, fisherfolk and other purveyors of locally sourced goods throughout Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, and Island counties.

What happens in Chef Cinnamon’s kitchen during the shoot is enticing enough on its own, but when the lens travels to each ingredient’s origins—silvery salmon being welcomed aboard in Lummi Island Wild’s reefnets, vegetables in the act of being culled at Springtime Farm, and associated fare from Enfield Farms, Misty Meadows Farm, and Free Range Flowers—it crystalizes how freshness can make all the difference when it comes to flavor.

“As a mom it just makes sense to use the healthiest, freshest ingredients I can find. So as a chef, I’m in love with our local farmers,” Berg narrates.

“There’s something so special about having a relationship with the people who grow and catch our food,” she intones as she chops garlic scapes, slices dark-green chard, flips sizzling salmon patties and eventually plates the meal.

“When you taste locally grown greens, locally caught fish, or fresh, locally made bread—ingredients you know haven’t sat on a truck for days—it tastes like food is supposed to taste,” she adds. “Sometimes you forget until you try it again. It’s just that much better. And my dollars stay right here in our community, keeping our farmers in business—something we all care about. And the farmers love seeing what I create from all the goodness they grow, catch and cultivate, including the fresh local berries and flowers we use.”

But the real test, she says, comes when she puts the meal in front of a discerning diner—in the video, it’s a lucky kid whose eyes light up at the sight of the salmon burger before he digs in—and watches what happens next. If an empty plate is returned, she’s done something right.

I’m hoping I’ll soon have a chance to sample that same menu item at Cosmos Bistro and earn a clean plate award of my own, and with Eat Local Month just around the corner, it’s an even better reason to make my way back to the popular State Street eatery.

This is probably the time to mention that due to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, the celebration of locally sourced food will take place in August instead of September, and more than a few changes have been made to the lineup to promote the safety and well-being of the community.

The biggie is that the Whatcom County Farm Tour won’t occur in person this summer, but will instead be switched to a virtual event taking place at 6pm Thurs.,  Aug. 6 in the comfort of your own home (please note that the date was printed incorrectly in the print version of this article). After “visiting” featured farms such as Ashmore Acres, Cascadia Mushrooms, Free Range Flowers, Full Bloom Farm, Sumas River Farm, Pleasant Valley Creamery, Misty Meadows Farm, and Twin Brook Creamery, viewers will have a chance to ask questions and hear from local farmers about their joys and struggles.

That event takes place at the tail end of Farm Week, which kicks off Eat Local Month from Aug. 1-8 and also includes a guide to a Local Farm Loop featuring farm stands, U-pick locales, and pop-up markets open in August and September.

Restaurant Week will follow from Aug. 9-15, and in addition to exploring seasonal specials crafted with farm-fresh ingredients, diners will have a chance to find out from chefs and restaurateurs like Chef Cinnamon what it means to have access to so much gustatory goodness.

Market Week follows from Aug. 16-22, with a focus on visiting one or more of the many farmers markets and grocers who provide our corner of the world with fresh food, and also includes special offers and recipes to try at home.

Finally, Seafood Week concludes Eat Local Month from Aug. 23-29, with chances to meet local fishers, learn about our region’s plentiful seafood offerings, and get a taste of what they catch and sell. It will also provide yet another reminder than when it comes to eating local, we’ve got it covered.

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