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MARCELLUS | The air around Baltimore Woods Nature Center had a different aroma to it the morning of Oct. 4. The hint of pine and grass was still there, but it was complemented by familiar food fare.

The Bountiful Homegrown Brunch was the nature center's first attempt at a different approach of bringing awareness to the venue as well as to local agriculture and small business.

Baltimore Woods did not eliminate the Environmental Chef event, Executive Director Mary Kate Intaglietta said, which was the food-based fundraiser before the idea of the brunch ever came about.

"What's nice about this event ... it's flexible," she said. The 8 a.m. to noon run time was broken into two parts that people could purchase tickets for. "We want to encourage people to stop by any time."

The times accommodated those with morning weekend events: those attending church services, running errands or literally running — the trails are always open for the fast- and slow-paced exercising.

"People who are coming to this morning's brunch haven't necessarily been here in the off-season," said Stacy Drake, marketer for Baltimore Woods. "To come here in the fall, it may come as a surprise to see what's here."

She said the nature center sees a distinct and busy summer with all of the camps that take place. The breakfast and other activities, such as the upcoming Autumnal Fairy Festival, serves as a reminder that nature has an daily open-door policy.

Knowing that around 100 tickets were sold, the organizers could plan accordingly, dividing people comfortably into two grazing sessions. The pre-sale tickets were a good call. It gave the planners a good idea on how much food to potion out.

"There's enough food to feed 300 people," Intaglietta said.

The food provided came from local farmers and small businesses. To complement the generous gifts, Chef Joelle Mollinger of Joelle's French Bistro in Skaneateles served as the event's special chef. 

Mollinger said she's been associated with Baltimore Woods for more than a few years.

"I love to volunteer my time. This is great for the community," she said.

The chef and educator did prepare scratch, French-style food with takes on brunch favorites. Her fritatta and waffles proved to be crowd favorites. To top the pumpkin waffles, Mollinger provided an apple cider syrup. 

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With her students from Onondaga Community College, Mollinger prepared apple sauce and cranberry mini muffins.

Leslie Brooks-Bianchi, a Rochester native and hospitality management student at OCC, stood next to the past Environmental Chef participant. Part of her education requirement is to complete 400 hours of service, but doing what she loves doesn't feel like work.

"This is a great event for families, community and great conversation," Brooks-Bianchi said. It was her first time at the nature center, and she said she cannot wait to bring her family here.

There is an agreement that community is a great thing, especially for ingredients. From a chef and culinary student's point of view, they said they can taste a difference. Brooks-Bianchi said fresh and organic is how she cooks at home.

"It's important to use local ingredients when they are available," Mollinger said.

Besides the food making the event a tasty success, the support of the volunteers allowed the event to flow smoothly. OCC and Skaneateles High School volunteers greeted visitors, bussed tables, and refilled cups of coffee and cider.

For the pancakes, the Marcellus Volunteer Fire Department donated its rotating griddle. Volunteers and husbands of the staff, Mike Intaglietta and Dale Drake, flipped pancakes when they weren't turning over sausages.

The brunch attendees sat at community tables, and separate parties and strangers, if not familiar faces, were able to talk with one another. The center's executive director noticed the positive feedback.

To complement the mentality of Baltimore Woods and its programming, the winter farmer's market returns next month.

"It is starting the second weekend in November," Drake said. The monthly Saturday market will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. until March, which is the year of another milestone.

The nature center will celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, and Intaglietta said that it is at going back to its roots. Environmental Chef is one of those community events that will take place to engage old and new members.

She also mused about the possibility of bringing a brunch back for the spring.

"'Are you going to do this again?' is a question we've been getting," Intaglietta said. "This is the first time we've done a community breakfast ... so this is an inaugural event. We appreciate hearing feedback."

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Skaneateles Journal reporter Christopher Malone can be reached at christopher.malone@lee.net or 282-2230. Follow him on Twitter @Skan_Malone.

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