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Farm to Table Dinner to premier in New Albany

Down from the Hills festival to spotlight local accomplishments

Tickets are going fast for the Farm to Table Dinner to be served Friday, May 22. The dinner is a new feature of the annual Down from the Hills Festival sponsored by the Union County Heritage, and also coincides with this season’s opening of Biscuits and Jam Farmers Market.

The last decade has seen a growing awareness around the country of the nutritional and environmental benefits of consuming food grown locally. Its advocates cite the improved freshness of locally grown produce and its role in assuring a sustainable food supply for the county.

New Albany dinner to feature locally grown foods

Mary Jennifer Russell, the owner/operator of Sugaree’s in downtown New Albany, has been in the vanguard of efforts to make more locally grown food available in New Albany. She has been the prime mover in organizing and operating the weekly Biscuits and Jam Farmers Market held every Saturday morning, starting this year on May 23rd. This year’s Farm to Table Dinner is an outgrowth of her support for this aspect of community life.

“The farm to table dinner planned in conjunction with the Down from the Hills Bluegrass Festival and this season’s first Biscuits & Jam Farmers Market is a great way to showcase our region’s abundant produce,” said Russell. “I expect this event to draw a lot of local interest and become a staple event for our town.”

The meal will be prepared by Chef John Stokes of Water Valley, who was the head chef at Oxford’s L&M Kitchen and Salumeria. L&M’s was a pioneering farm to table restaurant specializing in house-cured meats and Mississippi sourced ingredients. It was there that Stokes began earning his now considerable reputation for creating gourmet meals from locally grown food.

Chef Stokes has announced the menu for the Farm to Table Dinner which features grilled quail stuffed with Delta Grind grits, baby Vidalia onions, and marjoram. Salads will include one made with Union County grown tomatoes, salt cured red onion, basil and sorrel. Crispy hog jowl potato salad will also be served, as will succotash made of butter beans and boiled peanuts.

Dessert will be provided by Sugaree’s. Local restaurant and area caterer Tallahatchie Gourmet is assisting with the production of the event.

Wine will be served with the meal. The New Albany Board of Aldermen approved a special authorization for wine to be served on city property at its regular May meeting earlier this week.

Weather permitting, the dinner will be served on the foot bridge that spans the Tallahatchie River in the Park Along the River. The space will be decorated by Emily Foreman of MODA designs and the lighting will be provided by local artist, Micha Foster.

Weather permitting, the Farm-to-Table dinner will be served on the footbridge in New Albany's Park Along the RIver.

Weather permitting, the Farm to Table dinner will be served on the footbridge in New Albany’s Park Along the River.

Down From the Hills Bluegrass Festival showcases local talent

Proceeds from the sale of tickets for the Farm to Table Dinner will be applied to the cost of producing the Down from the Hills Festival, presented this year on May 22nd and May 23rd. The festival will spotlight music, food and art of the north Mississippi hill country.

The Down from the Hills Festival has been held here for over ten years, and was sanctioned five years ago by the Mississippi Legislature as the official bluegrass music championship for the state. More than $8,000 in prize money will be awarded to musicians who travel from Mississippi and other states to perform.

“Preservation of the culture and music of our region is part of the mission of the Union County Heritage Museum. We want to showcase the talent and dedication of the youth and adults who make this music and keep the traditions alive,” said Jill Smith, the museum’s director.

The Farm to Table dinner is open to the first 100 ticket holders. About 75 tickets have already been sold, and tickets are still available for $50 each at the New Albany Tourism Office located in the UCDA/Old Post Office across from the courthouse. For more information, call 662-534-1047 or visit the event’s website at www.mississippibluegrass.com.

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