The Saugerties Farmers’ Market has been around for 21 years, and for 14 of them, its primary annual fundraiser has been the series of Harvest Home Dinners held in private homes in September and October. Tickets are now on sale for the 2022 edition, and 75 of the 90 seats are already filled, according to organizer Diane Congello-Brandes. So, you need to move fast.
Originally, 12 dinner gatherings were scheduled for this year. The ones that aren’t already sold out will take place on September 8 and 30 and at two separate locations on October 1. The September 30 event and one of the October 1 meals will have vegetarian menus (although vegetarians, vegans and people with food allergies can be accommodated at any of the dinners by advance request).
The earliest iteration of the Harvest Home Dinners was inspired by the involvement of Café Tamayo owners Rickie and James Tamayo in the Farmers’ Market, according to Market co-founder Judith Spektor. Non-professional gourmets also stepped up to volunteer as hosts, but the organizers worried that attendees would all want to book the nights at the celebrity chefs’ homes. So, they decided from the outset to make them “mystery dinners.” You book by date, and who’s cooking where when remains a closely guarded secret.
Most years, the majority of the hosts have been amateur chefs – highly talented ones, with beautiful, gracious homes that they’re eager to open to groups of eight or ten diners who appreciate the value of the Saugerties Farmers’ Market as a public resource. But this year, says Spektor, “We have a couple of new hosts.” Of the total, “Eight are professional chefs. That’s different from past years.”
The price of the evening’s multicourse repast is a flat $65, which typically includes a fancy cocktail, but each attendee is asked to bring a bottle of wine to share. What makes these feasts magical, besides the talents of the host chefs and the company of interesting people, is the mandate that most of the ingredients be sourced from Saugerties Farmers’ Market vendors. “The host pays for all the products, bought mostly at the Market,” Spektor explains. “We want people to notice how good the food is, and then say to themselves, ‘You could do this at home.’”
Since the hosts absorb the cost of the ingredients, as well as volunteering their time, skills and home, “All the proceeds go to the Market.” The funds are required to pay the salary of the Market manager and the assistants who help set up and break down the booths each day. Also needing to be paid are the musicians who perform live at the Market each week and artist Anita Barbour, who provides a different arts-and-crafts project every weekend to entertain kids while their parents shop for fresh produce, cheeses, wine, spirits, prepared foods and condiments from local growers.
“The whole point of this is to keep farmers farming, while providing residents with food that is fresh and local,” says Spektor. You can shop at the Market, located at the Cahill School parking lot at 115 Main Street, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday through October 29 except for October 1, when the Garlic Festival is in town. To book your place at the table for one of the remaining Harvest Home Dinners, e-mail Diane Congello-Brandes at harvesthomedinners@gmail, text (845) 706-6715 or fill out the form at https://saugertiesfarmersmarket.com. You will be expected to send proof of vaccination against COVID-19 along with your check.