Roost Events: Setting the Community Table
We park our car by the large silo, early to the party, as usual. Wafts of spring vegetables sizzle off a distant grill and lead us down the dirt drive. “Welcome!” - A silhouette waves to us from the outdoor kitchen. We come to find a few guests already there before us, sipping drinks from vintage stemware. It’s no one Dylan or I know or would expect to know, either. This isn’t a private event, after all. This is a Roost Event.
A Roost Event gathers food and drink enthusiasts around the table to celebrate the fruits of hard work and the Vermont landscape. The beauty is each one is different; not only may the location vary but every dinner is curated around a particular Vermont product. Tonight we happen to be toasting the very contents of our glasses, Shacksbury Cider.
Samantha du Pont comes out to greet the guests. This young entrepreneur is the self-described “sociable farmer” behind the evening’s festivities. Du Pont is passionate about showcasing the efforts of farmers and purveyors. She came into the world of farming through a sustainable agriculture class in college and fell in love with the work. After graduation and a short stint in Brooklyn, the D.C.-born city girl hit the agricultural circuit working in vegetable production, livestock and dairy.
“Farming for me has been my most important community especially in my adult years,” says du Pont. “It’s really nice to land in a place and have a farming connection because the people that I meet through (farming) are always amazing, and hardworking.“ Her favorite part of a workday is gathering around the table for a shared meal but she found that overall there’s not a lot of time to celebrate the effort of growing food when you do it full time. Little time also means it’s hard for farmers to promote their own products, so du Pont’s decided to take on the task for them.
The first Roost Event was held in February of this year, featuring the fermented delights of Sobremesa, from Marshfield, VT. Next came a maple syrup dinner with Heartwood Farms, a small sugaring company based out of South Albany, VT. Du Pont has worked closely with Tessa Holmes of Blossom Whole Food Kitchen, to curate meals around each product. Tonight, Basque-inspired dishes, such as grilled steak served with spicy aioli, white bean and chard with picada sauce and tortilla Española, will showcase the versatility of the hard ciders with their bold and bright flavors.
Collaboration is a key ingredient to the evening. Kim Beaty of Shacksbury pours rounds of the first tasting while answering questions about the Shoreham-based business. Holmes and du Pont put the finishing touches on dinner platters while guests co-mingle with farmer Corie Pierce and Chris Dorman of Shelburne’s Bread and Butter Farm, where most of the tonight’s meal was raised, grown and is now being served.
The setting for the evening is postcard-perfect. But still, I find it hard to step away from the vista of the appetizer table. As I toothpick the addictive sweet and savory meatballs, my attention is finally diverted when a commotion sweeps the crowd. A rainbow has formed over the open field just in view of partygoers. Dylan is busy capturing it with the camera and I join the group collectively admiring the bow until our hostess invites us to the dining room.
Samantha du Pont is a triple threat. Skilled as a farmer and locavore events’ planner, she also runs an online vintage shop on the side. Her knack for style shines through at the table where no detail feels generic or forced. Vintage linens and mismatched silverware are the perfect touch for a chic family-style meal. I take mental notes on how to replicate the ambiance at my own table, whether I can pull it off so effortlessly is another story.
By now there’s a growing rapport among the guests. But as we sit at the farm table passing food this way and that, we get to know our neighbors a little more: a French-Canadian tourist on our left, a local Burlington couple across from us, and recent Middlebury grads to our right who now live in New York City. There’s genuine laughter and conviviality in the air but we never forget tonight’s guest of honor. Shacksbury cider is being poured in the old European style straight out of a barrel and we’re taught a Basque technique on catching the fermented gold mid-air. It’s serious fun, and grows more amusing with every glass of cider had.
When the time comes we bid goodnight to new friends and find our hostess who is busy answering questions about future events. With the glowing feeling that comes after a good meal, we congratulate du Pont and in gracious hostess fashion she credits everyone else involved, “it’s a collaborative effort.” Even still, du Pont exemplifies today’s grassroots entrepreneur who is synthesizing her own passions into something tangible and supportive of her community. At the heart of every Roost Event is the age-old coming together to break bread around the hard work and care that goes into a beautiful meal. And sometimes you even get a rainbow.
Photographs Dylan Griffin