Monday, August 18, 2008

No Place Better to Eat - Farm Dinner - Prairie Fruits Farm

KennyZ, an LTHer really has my number. Not that long ago my wife and I went to a food based event presented by the Shriver Center that we learned of from Kenny. Kenny and I are also charter members of the Mado fan club. I had my first Mado meal with him. When Kenny told me about a farm dinner at Prairie Fruits Farm, I think he knew I'd jump at the idea. We had a near ideal dinner on the prairie the other night. (The night also very much possible by the gracious sitting of my parents.)

Prairie Fruits Farms is the off-spring of Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband. As they say on their site, they moved from urban and academic life, to life on the farm. They raise goats, producing farmstead goat cheeses, and they grow fruits including peaches and berries. They are especially committed to local foods. Beyond selling their fresh fruits, they are looking for ways to offer their produce year round through canned goods, freezing and perhaps drying. They also realized that nothing showcases local foos more than eating local food, and there is no place better for eating local food than feet from where it grew (at least some of the meal). Hence the farm dinners. I should also add that at this was a bargain at $65/BYOB.

The night began with very refreshing mason jars of tea made with the farm's peaches and black currents. The day started out cool, but near dinner time, it felt more like Illinois August. The tea fixed a parched throat. With the tea went assorted nibbles. They grilled cheese sandwiches of their Little Bloom on the Prairie goat milk cheese, then accented it with peach chutney and farm harvested honey. They fried squash flowers plus tiny squash, the blossoms stuffed with the freshest of chevre.

Our last pre-bites: corn cakes with andouille sausage from Stan Schute's Triple S Farms with a roasted green chili relish. This could have been a great dinner here.

Momentarily satiated, Wes took us on a small farm tour.

We all gathered around Wes's tractor pulpit including the hens that followed us and the goats that wandered in from their pasture, to hear about farm life and cheese production. That was interesting, but the highlight was Wes teaching us how to pick a fresh peach, about as good a taste as we had all night.

That's not to diminish at all the work of Alisa DeMarco, the farm chef.

I'm more of a fan of chunky gazpacho, but I cannot complain in the least of this pureed version, its strong tomato essence highlighted with a good kick of garlic and touch of hot pepper. Dinner came in large platters. For all the talk of slow food conviviality at the dinner, we went after the food with much gusto. Thus, I never got around to capturing the servings. Instead, see what my first helping looked light--I had much more of everything. We all loved the Country Cottage Farm lamb, but really loved the veg including eggplant agrodulce and roasted heirloom potatoes.

After dinner Kenny hit on the one flaw in the night (I have one other quibble, but I'll get to that in a moment). Our tables were oriented so that half the crowd, the unlucky half, faced the still blazin' prairie sun for most of the dinner. It was hot. It would have made more sense to face the tables the other direction. On the other hand, it meant we got to take in the blazin' prairie sun-set without craning our necks.

Of course there was cheese and then dessert.

We had three house cheeses in a range of ages, with little doo-dads of flavors along side such as currents in gin syrup and honey comb. The finish included their peaches and gelato made from their goat milk. My one quibble of the night, the only food touch that did not work for me; I did not much go for the bits of fresh herbs on the peach pie. Of course, I just picked them aside and ate away.

You all should be inspired by KennyZ's idea.

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