A Feast To Remember
It has taken me awhile to sit down to write this post. One, I’m new at this whole blog thing and haven’t disciplined myself yet at posting in a timely fashion but mainly because it has taken me some time to really process the experience I enjoyed Sunday, June 26th, 2011.
The setting was a beautiful rehabbed barn in Eureka, Missouri for Slowfood St. Louis’ annual fundraising event A Feast In The Field. Slowfood St. Louis is the local arm of Slowfood USA. As it states on their website:
Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes, and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Slow Food is good, clean, and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good, that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare, or our health, and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.
All of this was celebrated in a huge way as 17 local chefs came together to prepare a 7 course meal featuring ingredients produced on the grounds of the local and organic, Claverach Farm and Vineyard. The drive in to the farm was such fun. As you get to the picturesque start of the 1.8 mile gravel road that leads to the farm you encounter a “Private Road” sign and a bridge. As I started across the creek I couldn’t help but feel like I was going to the exclusive endangered species dinner at the secret location in the movie The Freshman.
Overseeing things at Claverach are Vineyard Manager Sam Hilmer and Farm Manager Joanna Duley. Together with their staff they produce local wines and produce that can be found at shops, markets and restaurants in the St. Louis metropolitan area. You can check out a list on their website. The amazing barn that has been fully rehabbed includes a wood fired oven, a full kitchen and is available for private events. They are also conducting monthly guest chef dinners with local chefs featuring items from the farm in a fixed price multi course meal. Lumber from the farm was used on the barn as well as another building that includes restrooms. They smell of fresh cedar, are truly beautiful on the farm and provided a great setting for the meal that was to come.
They Even Have A Disco Ball!
Sam gave us a tour of the farm and talked about the challenges of the St. Louis growing season and extreme weather.
Beer in hand, anticipation growing, it was time to find a seat. Open seating helped create a great atmosphere where you can’t help but wonder who you may sit with and where the conversation may go or what they may share. I was lucky in that I found a spot with some friends and they shared wine! There were some great local wines produced on the farm and guests were also free to bring their choices as well.
I’m getting more in to wine with food but am just now learning more about them. Can’t analyze these for you but I enjoyed them a lot.
Now it’s time for the meal!
Bread & Butter
Christy Augustine – Le Cordon Bleu
Roasted Claverach Farms Beet Brioche, Pain Au Levain Naturel, Semolina Sesame Loaf,
Walnut – Olive Rustic Sourdough
John Perkins, Entre – Carl McConnell, Stone Soup Cottage – Josh Galliano, Monarch
Fried Squash Blossoms Stuffed With Smoked Duck Confit Served With A Savory Sabayon And Pickled Beet Terrine And A Langoustine Banh Mi
Cary McDowell, Winslow’s Home
Winslow’s Jar Of Peas
Adam Altnether, Taste by Niche – Jamey Tochtrop, Stellina Pasta Cafe
Local Spring Vegetable Ragout With Prosciutto Consomme And Goatsbeard Farm Fresh Goat Cheese
Chuck Friedhoff, Persimmon Woods Golf Club – Tim Grandinetti, Overlook Farm
Applewood Smoked Mangalitsa Pork Belly, Corn Bread & Bacon Jam With Overlook Farm Radish & Vegetable Slaw
Chris Bolyard, Sidney Street Cafe – Rob Uyemura, Yia Yia’s Euro Bistro
Chicken Liver Mousse Potsticker, Carrot, Tomato, Pickled Radish Pod And Crispy Giblets
Anthony Devoti, Five Bistro – Clara Moore, Local Harvest Cafe
Claverach Farm & Vineyard White Wine And Garlic Braised Rabbit Saddle & Rabbit Rillette Stuffed Grape Leaves, Pickled Carrot & Shallot Salad
Steven Caravelli, Chef at large – Jimmy Fiala & Matt Abeshouse, The Crossing
Beet, Chocolate, Black Raspberry
Nick Miller, Harvest – Sally Sciaroni, Onesto
Carrot Cake With Baetje Farms Goat Cheese Icing
I am not a food critic nor do I aspired to be one. There are many more qualified people to analyze food from a culinary standpoint than I and there may already be some reviews of this meal in great detail. You won’t find that here but what I will tell you is in my humble opinion this meal was amazing! With each course my enjoyment level rose until I had full perm-a-grin going on. The presentation of each course being described by the chefs, the beauty on the plate, the amazing flavors in your mouth and the overall pace of the meal left me in awe. It was truly one of the best meals of my life. It was a true culinary experience. It’s so hard to talk about what was my favorite as I enjoyed everything so much. The olive bread was amazing. The beet terrine was beautiful. I wanted a huge order of the squash blossoms. The jar of peas with panna cotta was a textural dream. The spring vegetables were so fresh and flavorful. The smoke flavor on the pork belly is still in my mind. The crispy giblets surprised and delighted me. The rabbit saddle was tender and juicy. The chocolate dessert was like a decadent fudgesicle and the beet sauce was amazing.
While the food was the obvious focal point of the day it was the entire event that left me feeling full, warm and content. Slow food is a great thing. It’s meals and events like this that can remind you about more than the need to support natural and local food but it can remind you about taking time out to enjoy the people and things that make life great. Food brings people together and connects us to our environment and it can be a vehicle for creating and strengthening bonds between people.
At the table were two of my new friends I’m enjoying getting to know better with each meal. There was a gentleman I had never met who I ended up having friends in common with. He extended an invitation to his 4th of July party I just attended and several new friends were made . There were strangers we have never met and may never see again but we all shared in that moment, that experience. It was the food that brought us together and food was obviously discussed but as happens during a great multi course, slow meal, conversation lead to other things. We shared information about career, family, relationships and told our various funny stories and by the end of the meal new connections had been formed and current ones had been deepened.
We have such busy and hectic lives that slowing down doesn’t seem like an option to many of us and it’s a big part of what makes slow food a challenge. Slow down. Turn off the TV. Take a day off work. Walk through a field. Star at the stars. Start a garden. Cook a meal. Gather some family, friends and new acquaintances and have a great conversation over food.
As I left watching the sun set over the farm I couldn’t help but smile and think that this was a feast to remember!