Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stuffing Myself for a Good Cause


Field to table. Farm to table. Plate and pitchfork. Outstanding in the field.

The table awaits.

I've been hearing those phrases everywhere this summer, and they pretty much all mean dining outdoors under the stars, feasting on fresh-from-the-farm produce and meats prepared by local chefs dedicated to seasonal cuisine. It goes without saying they're served with locally produced wines from some of the state's premier winemakers. Some of these events happen on actual working farms, some on restaurant patios, others on private lawns or at wineries.

Dinner in progress.

They're generally not cheap, costing anywhere from $100 to more than $200 per plate, serving from a dozen to a hundred folks at a time. Some are benefits for charity, others are for-profit businesses. But all of them have a interest in spreading the gospel of local food and celebrating the region's bounty.

Wood oven-baked fig and fennel seed flatbread.

Me? I'd never been to one, so when Zenger Farm asked me to attend their first-ever Farm Supper, I jumped at the chance. And not only because I knew the food would be fantastic, prepared by my friend, chef and Zenger board member Linda Colwell and the inimitable Mark Doxtader of Tastebud, with wine poured by Ben Thomas of Montinore Estate. It's because proceeds from the dinner, which totalled nearly $3,000, would go toward Zenger's work educating youth and adults about where good food comes from.

Corn spoonbread.

I arrived to find Mark hunkered over his brick oven, pulling out the perfectly browned fig and fennel flatbread and bubbling roasted peaches and cherries that would start the dinner. These paired perfectly with Ancient Heritage Dairy's Adelle cheese with its delicate ooze and creamy center, and the crisp pinot gris and Müller-Thurgau that Ben was pouring.

Tomato zucchini gratin.

There was a brief tour of the farm, which offered sweeping views over well-tended fields down to the green wetland, all of 16 acres along the Springwater Corridor. Then the twenty or so guests were seated on wooden benches lining an elegantly appointed table next to the farm's barn. The four, yes, four wine glasses looked really promising, and the first course of a bright pink Eastern European-inspired sour cherry soup (top photo) with Montinore's slightly dry, strikingly delicious gevurztraminer had me closing my eyes and sighing with pleasure.

Full plates, happy diners.

The second, main course was an explosion of summer on a plate with…get this…a large meatball-sized lamb kebab, wood oven-roasted corn spoon bread , a tomato-zucchini gratin and a frikeh, beet, carrot and purslane salad. Crazy! That was washed down with two of Montinore's premier reds, their Parsons’ Ridge and Graham’s Block 7 pinots, both insanely good, matching especially well with the smoke from Mark's oven.

Panna cotta with blackberry coulis.

I was already groaning when the dessert, softly oblique cylinders of panna cotta topped with Chester blackberries, came dancing out on sweet pastel-colored glass plates. As the sun was setting, Ben couldn't help but offer Montinore's completely over-the-top ruby port and watch as the whole crew swooned.

Tired but happy chefs.

To say the evening couldn't have been better would be true, but knowing that it benefitted this unique educational community center made it stellar. I'd highly encourage you to check their calendar for upcoming dinners and events that help support this great organization.

4 comments:

Peggy said...

Nice to meet you there - a perfect evening, outrageously good food and a fabulous organization -

Laleña Dolby said...

Thank you so much for joining us! Welcome to the Zenger family.

Ben T. said...

I'm glad you liked the wines, Kathleen. And thank you for the well-informed questions. They were great for stirring the conversation at the table. I hope you get a chance to come out to winery sometime soon.

KAB said...

Extend my personal thanks to all the folks at Zenger, Laleña, for all they're doing in our community. Awesome!

And Ben, I've been knocked out by Montinore's wines. Would love to come out sometime and see all that you've got going on!