Friday, March 18, 2016

Farm Bulletin: A Farmer and Chef Collaborate

Portland is known as a city with a vibrant farm-to-table scene, which can mean anything from a few seasonal specials on the menu, to the chef buying select ingredients at a farmers' market, to a stream of farmers pulling up to the restaurant's door on any given day. And while some chefs may boast a list of favorite farms on their menus, there are few that have the collegial collaboration that contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm describes below.

Once again, Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene's (above) and his staff will host an "Outstanding in the Field" dinner on the 10th of July. The brave lad has to impress a very long table seating about 150 hungry and discerning guests. Fearlessly, as he has proved up to it two years ago. The venue is at Ayers Creek and, if you want to see how these talented impresarios fit the table, bedecked by white linen and an astounding number of wine glasses, into our landscape, tickets are now available.

As with most of the chefs we work with, Joshua and his staff know the farm starting at the soil, not just as a mere delivery service. The staff at Ava Genes—the whole restaurant from prep staff to the service staff—have taken the time to understand the process of growing the food we deliver by visiting the farm and peppering us with questions. This familiarity makes a tangible difference when you are a farmer. Next year when the "Ave Bruma" melons make their public debut, another dimension of the relationship will be revealed: Ave Gene's staff worked with us in selecting desirable culinary traits for this storage melon. McFadden's staff will be visiting the farm next month for a refresher and to give new members a view from the ground.

The meal will bring together the fruits, grains and vegetables that you are sitting among onto the plate as orchestrated by Joshua and his staff. Another familiar face at the farm and to Ramble visitors, Sarah Minnick, will be working our fruit into the dessert. Sarah is also the inspiration for our newly hatched "Sarah's Hay" project, incorporating the complex flavors of the Trigonellae as a vital ingredient of the Pacific Northwest. An active participant in the Sarah's Hay project, Myrtha Zierock, will be on hand to showcase her family's wine from the Dolomites of Italy. Her family has been instrumental in reviving the Teroldego grape of the Trentino-Alto Adige. 

Despite the fact that at the last event our forklift driver (nameless, of course) almost moved one of the toilets with a staff member inside, Outstanding in the Field has decided to return a second time. Having Joshua and his team to cook the meal provides interpreters of the farm's efforts who understand and respect the dialect and idioms of the ground we cultivate. It will be a good evening and we appreciate their confidence in us.

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