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Steamboat Magazine

Sensible Eating: Yampavore Dinner

10/09/2018 12:36PM ● By Alesha Damerville

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Pressure for some could be defined as creating a five-course menu for dozens of people in only a few hours. However, that isn’t the case for JJ Jenny, head chef at Harwigs in downtown Steamboat. 

For the last several years, Harwigs has hosted the Yampavore Dinner, a fundraising event showcasing the local producers who sell their products within the Community Ag Alliance. Jenny volunteers his time and cooks all the food, while the staff of both the CAA and Harwigs volunteer their time to prep food and serve the attendees. The proceeds help keep the CAA a viable resource for the community. 

“The menu is printed a few hours before the event,” CAA’s Heather Mantzke says. “We are still yet to receive all of the donations, so we couldn’t even begin to tell Harwigs what we are about to give them to work with. It works well for us that JJ’s so flexible.” 

They’re expected to receive beef, pork and lamb donations as well a ton of vegetables. “It’s all determined by the weather,” Mantzke says. “Last year there was not a salad course. We brought attention to the reason – it’s a reminder of what it is to eat with the season. We’re past salads; we’re moving on the heartier, leafier vegetables like kale. By the time the event happens, there probably won’t be any kale left to harvest.” 

The difficulty of creating a menu the day of the event might be overwhelming to some, but Jenny thrives under pressure.

“The most fun part of the Yampavore Dinner is the challenge of how to best utilize all of the ingredients you are given, showcasing the elements and qualities of each ingredient and how they’re unique,” Jenny says. “You use things differently that are grown here opposed to somewhere like California.”

“A large part of the challenge is showcasing the elements but also making it unique and different enough to where people don’t feel like it’s something they could do themselves from home,” Jenny adds. “Being creative is important, but also bringing out the best qualities of the bounty offered is right there with it.”

The CAA is a unique group of people who want to establish that link between the farmer and consumer, for next to no cost. For $25 a year, the CAA offers community members access to their farmers market. The CAA offers the opportunity to support local farmers and ranchers either by visiting their farmers market or their online year-round local found market. 

“People are returning to a place where they pay attention to what they’re eating and being more locally conscious. It’s important to showcase the different tools we have in order to facilitate that,” Jenny says. “The CAA is the main hub for all the local food. The most difficult part about eating local or farm-to-table is trying to establish a good connection with bee growers, producers and ranchers and having them be able to reach customers. You make friends through all of this – you’re helping your neighbor, who is also your customer, who might also be your dentist.”

“We’re trying to get different people to attend every year, so the exposure is a little bit different every year,” Mantzke says. “We’re trying to get the message on what the CAA is doing out there.”

Only four out the several dozen guests registered for the Yampavore Dinner are repeat attendees of the event. “Our goal is to fill all 50 seats, ideally with people don’t know that much about us, and use this an educational opportunity,” Mantzke says.

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