As an avid food lover and an advocate for supporting our local farmers and sustainable food growers, I (Lunch Gal Julia) have been a member of the Eugene Foodies! Facebook Group for several years, since there were approximately 26 members. Being a member has afforded me a plethora of information from other members regarding the local food scene; like, which local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) offers a stellar variety of vegetables, or which markets carry specific local hard-to-find items, and even which restaurants offer the freshest foods, fastest service, best burgers, best french fries, best sushi – you name it, the list goes on and on.
Over the years I’ve watched the group grow from its tightly knit group of just 26 to what is now over 2,600 (2,861 to be exact, as of May 23, 2014), and I’ve learned a great deal while forming friendships along the way. When a celebration was suggested to commemorate the group reaching 1,000 members, everyone agreed on a potluck get together. With the groups founder and administrator, Chris Calise, at the helm, a date was set, a space was rented and plans were solidified.
Although I had planned on attending and writing about the Eugene Foodies’ first official celebration, my plans were derailed at the last minute and I was unable to attend. So, I turned to some of my Eugene Foodies friends for help.
The very gracious and kind, Sherri McCutchen (an active member of the Eugene Foodies Group), offered to step in and cover the event with the help of Marilee Reyes, another active group member, who has a background in journalism. Together they created this splendid piece about the event, and I am truly grateful for their contribution to my popular Local Lunch Gals column here on Eugene Daily News:
How does a Foodie Facebook group celebrate reaching 1000 members? They have a potluck, of course! The Eugene Foodies page was started by Chris Goodspace-Calise and his wife, Kathy Calise, in December 2009, as “A group of food lovers in Eugene, Oregon and surrounding areas. Dedicated to the local, sustainable bounty of wonderful food available in this area.” Despite a mention in a Register-Guard article in March of 2010, membership hovered in the 300 range for several years – by early last summer, it was up to about 500 members.
Then something happened, and Chris found himself adding members daily. By this January, it became clear that the group would reach 1000 members within just a month, which called for a celebration. Chris suggested a potluck to showcase the many good home cooks and chefs in the group, first suggesting the Lamb Cottage as a venue, then settling on the Petersen Barn Community Center.
Befitting for a group dedicated to food, it was decided that the potluck would also collect donations for the local non-profit organization Food for Lane County. The date was set for Saturday, May 3.
So what do devoted Foodies bring to a potluck? Some items would be recognized by any familiar potluck; for example, Egg Salad, by Kitte Knight. Only this featured eggs from her own hens, handmade mayonnaise also featuring those eggs, and fresh herbs from her garden. Was there Bean Salad? You betcha. But as envisioned by Marilee Reyes, this special bean salad also featured broccoli and other fresh vegetables. There was a corn salad made by members Joe and Mandy Jostmeyer, starring fresh, grilled corn – quite a task when made in quantity, according to Joe’s comment on the Foodies page.
That may be where the small bit of similarity to church basement potluck ended. Member Moose Joe Shaoui contributed Pork Rillettes, simmered in duck fat, covered with a wine gelee made from scratch; that is, he cooked down bones to make the gelatin. A play on Surf and Turf was provided by Chris Calise: Sausage Ravioli in a Shrimp Alfredo Sauce. An Offal treat was the dish shared by Ellen Brenner, who prepared what she called “Gateway Offal” (the “waste” parts of an animal, such as organs, head, etc.): Braised Beef Tongue (lengua, for Mexican food lovers) with all the accompaniments. Foodies also enjoyed Shrimp Ceviche from member BigDawg Occupy Occupy, a delicious Luau chicken (redolent of the flavor of coconut) from Rachel Martinez, and a fresh and bright Spinach Salad with strawberries, almonds, and homemade poppyseed dressing provided by member Kallen Korin. Desserts included Robin Scott’s Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake with chocolate glaze and purple pansy garnish, Kathy Calise’s “Better Than Anything” cake; along with, chocolate chip cookies made with whole wheat flour from Skyeanna Malito.
The several dozen foodies that gathered discussed food, of course, like favorite meals and recipes, Eugene area restaurants past, present, and ones we all hope for, farms and CSAs and plans for future gatherings. There are already monthly meet-ups at area restaurants planned on the last week of each month. Coming up is a meet-up at Plank Town Brewing in Springfield, May 30, at 4:30 pm. Subscribed dinners include Ox and Fin on June 26, and more exciting food-related events will soon be announced.
This Eugene Foodies event collected 105 pounds of donated goods for Food For Lane County.
While Eugene Foodies is a closed group to prevent SPAM (the non-food kind), all interested local food lovers may easily ask to join. There are great benefits to being a member, where food-related conversations about recipes and restaurants flow, advice is sought and given, and loads of events are in the making. Bon Appetit!
A little information about contributing writer, Sherri McCutchen:
As a native of New Orleans growing up with great cooks, I’ve been blessed to eat well my whole life; I knew what good food tasted like and appreciated it. Although I was the only one in my family of three girls who didn’t cook – when I started college the freezer in my apartment was loaded with Banquet TV dinners. I began to learn to create my own food, often cooking with friends. In the early ’70s ingredients for Asian food were hard to find, but we enjoyed making dim sum and Szechuan dishes and searching out new hole-in-the wall restaurants. After teaching for several years, I went back to school for an MBA in Hotel/Restaurant administration, met Chef Daniel Bonnot, began working in his kitchen at the Louis XVI Restaurant in the French Quarter, and never did get that degree. It was inspiring to cook with such now-famous chefs as Susan Spicer and David Kinch. I’ve cooked in a natural foods deli, a fraternity, an Italian deli, and a Mexican restaurant. Eventually settling in Colorado, I ran the café at Naropa, the Buddhist college in Boulder – my German partner and I received a four-star review for our little place. Being a mom ended my full-time career, although I catered for a while. Both my sons, now in their twenties, loved growing up with Peking Duck as a regular meal and are now quite good cooks who love experimenting with food. I love the variety of great food available in Eugene and the Northwest, and find lots of inspiration on the Eugene Foodies Facebook page, both for eating out and cooking in.