Farm to Table, Vermont Style

Posted: August 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Farm, Smolak Farms | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

The setting at Wednesday’s  Whim dinner could not have been more perfect for a visit from some of Vermont’s finest culinarians. Chef Tom Bivins of The New England Culinary Institute brought teachers, students, and expert gatherers with him to help put together a terrific meal at Smolak Farms. The apple trees were heavy with fruit, the pond was calm, the music was carefully chosen, and the food showcased the best Vermont has to offer.

We sipped a Rosenblum Cuvee zinfandel supplied by North Andover’s Wine ConneXtion while enjoying incredibly fresh butter from Vermont Butter & Cheese on slices of freshly baked baguette. We were then served hot corn consommé with mushroom glace, pan-fried daylily corms, and toasted wild onions. The sweet broth contrasted wonderfully with the earthy glace and the pungent onions, a great start to the meal. It was followed by a savory and comforting entree of grilled grass-fed beef strip steak, lobster mushrooms, madeira demi sauce, mashed potatoes, and sauteed summer squashes.

The daylily corms, wild onions, and lobster mushrooms were gathered by Nova Kim and Leslie Hook of Wild Gourmet Food. Kim said she and others in the Wild Food Gatherers Guild are pleased with the recent movement toward local food and eager to pass their years of knowledge onto the next generation.

The guild helps members market their wares and promote sustainable gathering (they prefer this term to foraging, which had a negative connotation in past times). “We don’t take everything in a given spot; we harvest it so it comes back again,” said Kim. Bivins said his interest began in grade school when his class read Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus. “At first when Nova and Kim brought me some of their finds, I thought ‘What am I going to do with this?’ but then I just went with it,” Bivins said.

A generous cheese plate featuring three award-winning Vermont cheeses was up next. We greatly enjoyed the Cabot clothbound cheddar, Bayley Hazen blue cheese, and Vermont Butter & Cheese Bonne Bouche (Bivins favorite).

The cheese plate included plums from Smolak, and the dessert included the farm’s plump blueberries. The berries were paired with tiny sweet Vermont blackberries and an outstanding shortcake moistened with milkweed blossom syrup and topped with elderberry flower cream.

The Whim series continues for the next couple of weeks. Chef Evan Mallett of Black Trumpet Bistro will prepare the meal on Wednesday the 17th, followed by Chef Paul Turano of Tryst Restaurant on the 24th. Dinners are $60 plus beverages and gratuity; tickets can be purchased through the Smolak website.

Smolak Farms
315 South Bradford Street, North Andover
(978) 682-6332
www.smolakfarms.com

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Marini and Christopher’s Table Team Up to Host Dinner on the Farm

Posted: July 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

One of our favorite things about this time of year are the local farm-to-table dinners that start popping up on the calendar. This year for the first time, Marini Farm is getting into the act, hosting a dinner on the farm event next Saturday evening, July 24.

The dinner will start with a complimentary signature cocktail on the front porch of the farmhouse, then diners will be transported by hayride to the dinner location, at the top of a hill overlooking the farm. There will be a five-course dinner and a cash bar featuring local Ipswich Ale from Mercury Brewing Co. and wine from Jewell Towne Vinyards of South Hampton, NH. Elm Street Blues, a group of local students from Governor’s Academy in Byfield will provide live entertainment.

Chef, caterer, and owner of prepared-foods shop Christopher’s Table in Ipswich, Christopher DeStefano is the culinary half of the collaboration. Serving the freshest produce is the name of the game, so much of the menu won’t be refined until he sees what looks good next week, but De Stefano gave us an idea of what to expect.

The first course will be a cold soup, most likely a farmhouse gazpacho, followed by a salad course, a vegetable tart, an entrée featuring local beef from Tendercrop Farm, and a dessert. “I’d be crazy not to take advantage of Marini’s great corn,” said DeStefano. “And peaches will be at the height of the season.” He also mentioned heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, beets, and herbs as possible ingredients.

Tickets for this evening of local bounty served at the source are $100 per person, and seating is limited. If you are interested in attending, contact Christopher’s Table for reservations.

Christopher’s Table
5 Depot Sq., Ipswich
(978) 356-6166
www.christopherstable.com

Marini Farm
259 Linebrook Rd, Ipswich
(978) 356-0430
www.marinifarm.com

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A Night to Remember at Cider Hill Farm

Posted: September 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Amesbury, Cider Hill Farm, Event | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

The weather did not cooperate this past weekend for the last of this year’s farm-to-table dinners, put on by Sarah Pike of Good Tastes Kitchen. But no one in the large, happy crowd seemed to mind in the least—we were cozy under the well-lit tent and enjoying the freshest, most delicious food and beverages imaginable.

We began the evening with a tour conducted by the farm owners, Glenn and Karen Cook. The Cooks could not have been warmer or more forthcoming, and before the rain began, we learned some astounding facts about the 145-acre Amesbury farm, including that they grow 70 varieties of apples, 20 varieties of peaches, and often have strawberries well into September thanks to an everbearing variety grown in stacked baskets.

When we returned to the dinner tent, the party was in full swing thanks to local vintners Turtle Creek Winery (Lincoln) and Jewel Towne Vineyards (South Hampton, NH), along with Mercury Brewing Company. We sipped the citrusy Turtle Creek Aurora and the Jewel Towne cabernet franc while sampling cheese dip served in pumpkins and vegetable sliders.

After being officially welcomed by Sarah, the meal began with a harvest corn cake topped with lobster salad and accompanied by tomato chili jam. The corn cake was dense and moist, the salad was lightly dressed, and the jam was intensely delicious. Each element was good, but when eaten together, the flavor was incredible.

Next up was a salad with greens and grilled peaches from the farm, goat cheese from Valley View, and a balsamic reduction. It was a perfectly balanced combination of sweet fruit, tangy cheese, and tart vinegar.

The main course was pork shoulder from Kellie Brook Farm braised in local cider and Ipswich Ale served over polenta and topped with sautéed apples, leeks, and carrots. This dish was comfort food at its finest, with the sauce from the pork soaking into the polenta to create wonderful flavor.

Dessert also hit a high note: a rich cake topped with spicy/sweet plums. (Sarah—would you be willing to part with the recipe?)

Between courses, we heard from an American Farmland Trust representative, the beverage suppliers, and the farm owners, each giving insight into their business and expressing their pleasure at being able to participate in such a lovely event. All of the diners we talked to felt the same way, and it was a diverse crowd in terms of age and location. Many of the participants were from the Amesbury area, but we met folks from as far away as Somerville.

At $80 per person with unlimited wine and ale, this meal was well worth the cost. The chance to eat in this setting (a bluegrass band played in a nearby barn in front of Karen’s beloved red hens) and gain a culinary understanding of peak-season produce combined with other local ingredients was priceless.

Glenn and Karen deserve many thanks for sharing their passion and making the evening possible. We hope that Sarah brings this program back next year, and we strongly encourage you to sign up for a dinner (or two) if she does.

Cider Hill Farm
45 Fern Ave, Amesbury
(978) 388-5525
www.ciderhill.com

Good Tastes Kitchen
(978) 518-5300
www.good-tastes.com

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