Update: Great news! Chef de cuisine Molly Brandt, of 150 Central Park aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, will be joining us as guest chef! Of her dishes, including Curried Seminole Pumpkin Soup, Lobster, Cilantro Raita, Pappadum, and Tamale of Seminole Pumpkin, Golden Raisins, Cumin Crema, Chipotle, she advises MGFD wine director and sommelier Eric Larkee of the pairing, “Neither dish is going to be particularly hot even though the spices used imply that. Just a little heat, after all I am from Minnesota!” We can’t wait, Molly!
We’re about two months out from Slow Food Miami’s annual taste explosion on a single rare ingredient in an effort to save it from extinction called the Ark of Taste Dinner.
Michael, Hedy and our restaurant have had the privilege of executing these dinners for many years now. You may recall the pig-laden, banana-plantain affair that was the 2010 feast of the Hua Moa (successfully boarded to the national Ark in June.) I guarantee that our guests remember it quite clearly.
The event comes to The Kampong this year on October 27, and tickets are now on sale to the public as of this morning. As with all Slow Food Miami events, proceeds fund the installation of local school and community gardens. Fittingly, we’re warming up to Halloween by celebrating a special pumpkin native to Florida.
“We are hoping to harvest at least 120 pieces,” explains our forager, Farm to Kitchen’s Ali Lauria. “Delivery date will be two weeks prior to the event and the size should be aprox 7″ in diameter.”
Michael Borek has been growing the ingredient for us and Ali has been keeping tabs their progress on her regular pick-up runs to Teena’s Pride, including these reconnaissance photos. The St. Augustine Record recently shared their story:
Seminole pumpkins are an endangered variety of pear-shaped squash that once grew throughout our state and were widely planted by the various Native Americans and colonists who inhabited Florida, particularly along the banks of the Everglades. Botanist John C. Gifford named the Seminole pumpkin one of the five plants “essential to Indians and early settlers of Florida.” The Creek, Miccosukee, and Calusa people (who today we collectively call the Seminoles) prized their delicious flesh for eating, but also their hardiness in a state in which heat, moisture and pests can devastate many crops. Their hard outer shell makes them naturally mildew-, pest- and disease-resistant, while the fact that the vines like to climb helped those early farmers keep them off the moist South Florida ground where insects, foraging animals and rot often ravaged gardens.
The pumpkins are such good climbers, in fact, that the Creek word for them, “chassahowitska,” means “hanging pumpkin.” The natives usually planted them at the base of trees to allow their vines to climb and the fruit to hang like a Christmas ornament, ready for the picking. The pumpkins do require some space to spread their vines, but once they take hold, you will be rewarded with a plentiful bounty…
Natives in South Florida still value the squash so much that they include authentic pumpkin fry bread in many of their contemporary ceremonies. It’s even on the menu, along with other traditional dishes, at the restaurant in the Miccosukee Indian Village on the Tamiami Trail.
Seminole Jack-o-Laterns? Pumpkin pizza? Time will tell as we reveal more dinner details including the menu and some surprise high stakes raffle prizes… Boo! What do you think about the ingredient selection? Let us know in the comments below.