Rocky Ford cantaloupes are sweeter and safer than ever this year
Photos by Natalie Gonzalez Chef Lee Reitz being interviewed by Diane Mulligan.
After last year's listeria scare that wrongly targeted cantaloupes from Rocky Ford, the now trademarked Rocky Ford Cantaloupe™ is making a comeback.
That's largely due to the efforts of the Rocky Ford Growers Association, which banded together to adopt new safety procedures, build a state-of-the-art packing shed, hire a full-time safety manager and adopt LeafTrack scan technology that checks each melon. The state also pitched in $175,000 for an image campaign, which included the Rocky Ford Cantaloupe™ Creations Cook-off on the 16th Street Mall on August 1, Colorado Day.
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The event featured a number of chefs cooking with cantaloupe, and offering free samples. "We really wanted to have some fun, especially after some of the situations that have happened with other cantaloupe," says Diane Mulligan, spokeswoman for the RFGA. "Not only do we want to get the safety message out there, but this is such a fantastic year for the sweetness of the cantaloupe. We really wanted the general public to have an idea of what we were doing and some of the cool things you can do with cantaloupe."
Safeway provided four craates of cantaloupe used in the specialty dishes and free samples.
The chefs definitely had fun creating their dishes. Chef Sarah Callaway from Panzano whipped up a cantaloupe sorbet in a light, crispy honey-tuile cone with toasted sesame and micro basil to top it off. The cool summer treat surprised the judges. "It was delicious, cool, refreshing," Marty Coniglio of 9 News pronounced. "The basil gave it such a nice balance. It took it to a different level."
Sarah Callaway from Panzano prepares cantaloupe sorbet.
Chef Chris Meier of Willie G's concocted a cantaloupe caprese salad dish with mozzarella balls, baby tomatoes, spicy capicola ham and, of course, Rocky Ford Cantaloupe™ drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. He then paired it with a cantaloupe consomme and carbonated cantaloupe for a deliciously decadent trio.
Chris Meier's cantaloupe caprese combo.