Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dining Close to the Source

Summer is fast approaching and the farm produce will soon be plentiful. A fun way to get introduced to what a particular farm has to offer is through a Chef to Farm Dinner. Last summer, I attended one at Starlight Gardens Farm in Durham, CT. The dinner was set outdoors among the tomato plants and featured chef Scott Miller from the Max Restaurant Group.

During the pre-dinner cocktail hour, we were given a tour of the field and greenhouses to learn about the tomatoes we were feasting on that night. And then we sat down to a seven-course meal, complete with a different wine for each course. Besides the tomatoes that were grown under our feet, much of the exceptional meal was created from ingredients that were as local as possible, such as cheese from New Jersey that’s so good it’s sold in a cheese shop in France!

Each course was also introduced by the chef so that we could fully appreciate the thought and care that went into preparing it. Some of my favorite dishes included the gazpacho made with heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and watermelon, and the quinoa pilaf made with sun-dried heirloom tomatoes and pea tendrils. It was a superb meal, right down to the chocolate torte with chocolate-covered sundried tomatoes! More mouth-watering pictures of the dishes are posted here.

The dinner was an opportunity to experience an unforgettable meal and meet new people who shared the in gratitude for the bounty of food produced right here in our state. I love the quote by Michael Pollan that says: “The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from the mere animal biology to an act of culture.” This meal absolutely inspired a sense of community and turned the evening into so much more than food consumption. It was a multi-dimensional nourishing of the soul and a galvanizing event.

In Connecticut, several Chef to Farm dinners are also held at Rosedale Farms in Simsbury. States throughout the country are also offering similar events. The best way to find them is to Google Chef to Farm or Farm Table Dinners in your state.

I hope you have the opportunity to feast on the local fruits and vegetables grown in your back yard this growing season and to share the experience with others who understand the value and gift we’ve all been given…

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