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Eggplant takes center stage this Saturday

Eggplant Festival begins at 9 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 1
By: Joyia Emard Loomis News Editor
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Loomis chefs will be slicing, dicing, grilling and pureeing during the Eggplant Festival this Saturday as they answer the age old question –how do you cook eggplant? Professional chefs from local restaurants will offer eggplant-cooking demonstrations during the Eggplant Festival held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Loomis Train Depot on Taylor and Horseshoe Bar Roads. Admission and parking are free. To kick the day off, the Loomis Fire Protection District pancake breakfast will be served at the Loomis firehouse from 7 to 11 a.m. Eggplant Festival organizers said visitors can enjoy rides, games, crafts, live entertainment, vendors, a farmers market and even scuba diving lessons for youth ages 8 to 10. The event offers up traditional festival food, but adventurous diners can try eggplant tacos, eggplant Parmesan, eggplant kabobs, eggplant hamburger and fries and grilled and fried eggplant. Chefs from High Hand Conservatory, Café Zorro, Randy Peters Catering, Alexander’s Horseshoe Bar and Grill and the Mountain Mandarin Festival will cook up some tasty eggplant dishes from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Café Zorro Chef Chris Barnum plans to create a triple threat eggplant dish that will include grilled eggplant, pureed eggplant and tempura eggplant during his cooking demonstration at noon in the Festival’s wine garden. “I plan on presenting three completely different flavors with eggplant cooked three completely different ways. I’ll be combining textures and flavors,” Barnum said. Barnum said he will be making a grilled eggplant steak, served over a over a bed of grilled eggplant puree with a balsamic reduction and topped with strips of tempura eggplant. Barnum joined Café Zorro July after attending the Culinary Arts Institute in Sacramento and working in restaurants such as 1022 in Old Sacramento. He said he has Zorro’s traditional favorites on the menu, while adding new items like an heirloom tomato salad and chimmichuri marinated flank steak and homemade sorbets, ice cream and other desserts. He also said he’s added three to six specials every day such as pan roasted white sea bass served with a Thai curry risotto topped with apple and cilantro salad. Besides the new menu items, Barnum expects that diners will immediately notice the elegant plating on all dishes. He said he is now cutting all meat himself, and the mozzarella is made by hand from curd. Barnum said his menu items are extremely seasonal, herbs are grown onsite and they use mostly locally grown meat, fruits and vegetables. Barnum graduated from Placer High School and lives in Auburn. He is a professional musician and was the drummer in a “jazz, metal fusion” band called Lapse and traveled in the U.S. and Canada. It was through his travels that he gained an appreciation for food and was influenced by Latin, New Mexico and Caribbean foods. “As a chef I know you’re not going to reinvent the wheel. But I like to put my own twist on dishes,” Barnum said. Eggplant attendees will see how Barnum puts his twist on eggplant during the festival. EGGPLANT FESTIVAL What: A celebration of all things purple, with food, games, rides, crafts, entertainment, vendors, farmers market, wine and beer. When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1, Pancake breakfast at the Loomis Fire Protection District firehouse is 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Where: Loomis Train Depot parking lot at Horseshoe Bar and Taylor Roads Cost: Admission and parking are free Information: 652-7252 or go to loomischamber.com