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As the late afternoon sun warmed the surrounding gardens, guests at the first annual Chefs in the Garden benefit enjoyed bountiful craft cocktails, samples of some of the area’s best brews and creative small plates from top chefs.

The event, held on the grounds of SHED Children’s Campus in Andover, a Reggio Emila-based learning center for kids from ages 1 to 15, benefitted the newly established Sydney Bialo scholarship fund, providing financial assistance to families in need. In addition to plentiful food and drinks, local musician John Plunkett entertained the crowd with his mellow acoustic stylings.

“I feel like it was a true eating and drinks event in a very special place,” says Matthew Morello, chef/owner of Elm Square Oyster Co., one of the event’s sponsors, who praised the participants for their engagement and creativity. “What made the event special to me was the amount of effort and how seriously all the participating chefs, bartender, specialty food venders and beverage craftsmen took their involvement.”

Cooking creativity was on full display, from the crispy, creamy feuilles de brick filled with kabocha squash, dusted with crumbled duck skin presented by Brian Miller from acclaimed Cambridge restaurant Hops n’ Scotch to the delectable truffled sliders created by Michael Dyer from Andolinis, Sauce and 15sx in Andover.

A rich savory smoked pork terrine with apples and kale was presented by the Elm Square team: Executive Chef Michael Sherman and Chef Eric McLaughlin. They also took advantage of the SHED gardens, planted and tended by students, to prepare two salads: a vibrant combination of kale, beets and faro and beautiful mixture of cured garden tomatoes with petit Globe basil.

Small and craft were also the watchwords for libations, with a free-flowing selection of brews from Portico and Wormtown, and thoughtful wines from Andover Liquors. Spirits lovers were treated to everything from a classic rum punch compliments of Privateer to a light fresh spin on a Negroni from 15SX, mixing house made rosé vermouth, gin, and an absinthe mist. Elm Square’s autumnal bourbon cocktail (featured in the October issue of Northshore) was a big hit, as was the earthy deep ruby beet martini compliments of LaRosa’s.

Linda Shottes Bouchard, executive director of SHED Children’s Campus says everything about the event was special. “It was truly a community collaborative,” Bouchard noted, “[bringing together] local chefs, vendors, alumni, community leaders, businesses…and families. [It was a] beautiful day honoring with great food, spirits and friends. Happiness was in the air!”