Yesterday Slow Food’s Minnesota chapter hosted their second annual feast featuring seasonal, foraged foods on the Lake City farm of Ralph Lentz (above). The sunny, 65-degree day provided a carefree backdrop to the informal backyard dinner and guided tours of Lentz’s cattle pastures, stream, and woodlands.
Five brief observations from the day:
1. Elk meat doesn’t have to taste as dry as cardboard.
Ron Huff (left), internationally certified chef and the animated “voice” of Cedar Summit Farm, “classically prepared” the brown sauce stirred into the 45 pounds of braised elk used to feed the 100-plus guests. A stock of caramelized onions, celery, and carrots and a “raft” of beef shank bone wrapped in a mixture of ground beef and egg whites simmered for 36 hours. Meanwhile Huff melted two pounds of rich, delicious PastureLand butter with an equal amount of flour to make a thick roux, which he then added to the stock. More like a gravy, the sauce thickly coated the tender elk chunks, even seeping into the inner fibers of the meat, each bite bursting with an intense, supernova of flavor that only slow-cooked food can render. Lucky guests found a sampling of some of the eight pounds of morels that Huff dropped into the sauce.
2. The woods are a treasure trove of tasty morsels (left).
Event volunteers spent a full day “weed pulling,” as one Slow Food MN member fondly called it — foraging through Lentz’s woodlands to gather the greens and morels used in this year’s dinner. Among the foraged finds: stinging nettles (used in the wild rice pilaf), ramps, fiddlehead ferns, cress, garlic mustard, and chickweed.
3. Slow Food members and supporters are fabulous cooks.
This declaration is supported by the dessert smorgasbord that was provided compliments of the dinner guests. Among the sweet, homemade treats were: chocolate gingerbread, blueberry pie, maple-cream bites, banana bread, two rhubarb cobblers, peanut butter-chocolate bars, and, my favorite, a pudding-like sheet cake with a layer of sweet rhubarb jam running through it.
4. Forget Coleridge and Newton-John, from now on Xanadu shall be known for beer.
St. Paul’s Flat Earth Brewery makes a curiously tasty dark brew they call Xanadu. Brewer Jeff Williamson mixes Flat Earth’s signature chocolate malt-based Cygnus X-1 porter (“named after a black hole in a Rush song”) with an extract made from Cointreau-soaked oranges and orange peel. The result? Citrus-infused dark German chocolate that one could drink all day. (Also serving suds Sunday was Stillwater-based Lift Bridge Brewery.)
5. Farms are fun!
At Lentz’s farm, cows roam freely in their pastures. During the tours guests roamed freely amongst the bovines, even petting the week-old calves. Every summer should include a day like this.