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Willow Restaurant Opens Spring Run of Farmers’ Market Chef Series

276Spring has sprung for the Falls Church Farmers’ Market Chef Series, and once again market patrons will be routinely treated to demonstrations and samples from area restaurateurs.

276Spring has sprung for the Falls Church Farmers’ Market Chef Series, and once again market patrons will be routinely treated to demonstrations and samples from area restaurateurs.

Opening the spring season last Saturday were chefs from Willow Restaurant in Arlington, who invited onlookers to their take on salad – a mayonnaise-free concoction loaded with locally grown veggies tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. Debra Rubin and Tracy O’Grady were on hand to cook up the potato salad and take questions on the dish, their restaurant, and cooking and buying locally grown food.

“They really do walk the talk,” said series organizer Kathleen Nixon of Willow’s commitment to using locally grown ingredients. O’Grady said that, save for using frozen peas as the season is “just a week too early for peas,” all of the components of the warm spring potato and asparagus salad with goats cheese and lemon vinaigrette were purchased fresh from local vendors.

In fact, with Willow-provided recipe cards in hand, many dish samplers sought to purchase the ingredients at the market.

One such shopper was Meagan Thompson, of Long Island, who was in Falls Church visiting for the weekend and, as she just barely missed the last presentation of the fall series, was intent upon catching the demonstration during her visit this time

“There’s nothing like this in New York,” Thompson said, praising the open air market demonstrations.

“It supports people who are here at the market,” Rubin said. “They are selling all of their stock because of what is made here at the market.” Rubin, filling small cups with the dish from hot skillets passed to her by O’Grady, could point at different stands across Cherry Hill Park to where shoppers could find much of the produce used in the salad.

Thompson and her family ticked the ingredients off of the recipe, stopping by the booths manned by local farmers and, when her daughter was unable to find the two tablespoons of savory the dish called for, O’Grady was happy to supply a handful free of charge.

The team at Willow were inspired to make the salad because they wanted to serve those at the market a familiar dish in a different way. For O’Grady, learning to experiment with common dishes is an important skill in buying locally.

“It’s about learning to use what’s here, not just the same old stuff,” O’Grady said.

As passersby nibbled on their helpings of the dish, the duo discussed ways to change it for different seasons.

Market-goers enjoyed the salad and hailed the return of the series.

“I’m enjoying eating what they cook,” Jacqueline Bruner, of Falls Church, said. “I think it’s great. I think the whole market is great.”

But the shoppers weren’t the only ones enjoying the demonstration.

“When you’re in a kitchen all of the time, it’s fun to get out,” O’Grady said. Willow Restaurant is a chef series mainstay, returning again and again with different dishes for the public to try. O’Grady said that she often gathers feedback from the market and takes it back to the restaurant, and sometimes the dishes she cooks up at the market end up on the Willow menu in some form.

Nixon said that the series, for all that it offers chefs, has been very popular with local restaurants, and that the spring series calendar filled up in four days.

“Chefs are always amazed at the response they have here,” Nixon said. “Even on a raining, cloudy day, you get 400-500 people.”

For more information on the series, visit FallsChurchMarketChef.com.

The schedule for the rest of the Falls Church Farmer’s Market Chef Series spring season is, as of press time, as follows:

•May 21, Sinplicity     Catering
•June 11, Northside Social
•July 9, MadFox Brewing Company
•July 30, Rustico
•Aug. 20, DC Central Kitchen Culinary Training Students
•Sept. 10, Willow Restaurant
•Oct. 1, 2941 Restaurant
•Oct. 29, Liberty Tavern
•Nov. 19, Star Catering