Prior to the hundred or so miles that it travels to arrive at stores or restaurants, our locally grown food was cared for by farmers, the cultivators of land and animal who produce our vibrant, crisp vegetables and tender meats. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares and farmers markets provide opportunities to meet some of these farmers, but even so we still don’t know much about the farm. Upcoming local farm dinners will give diners a chance to witness the green pastures, the fields, the open sky, and the animals, and to spend quality time chatting with the farmers who make it all possible.
Outstanding in the Field
In 1999, Jim Denevan brought the farm-to-table experience to life through his Outstanding in the Field concept, which used farm dinners to “explore the connection between the earth and the food on your plate.” Simple, yet beautiful.
In 2008, Outstanding in the Field teamed up with Cedar Summit Farm, adding Minneapolis to the list of locations for their farm dinners. The locally sourced dinner set in the farm’s fields was orchestrated by two of the Twin Cities culinary luminaries, Lenny Russo of Heartland and Scott Pampuch of Corner Table. Pampuch describes Outstanding in the Field as a “truly organic experience… it’s as romantic as it gets — magical.”
With white linens, five courses, and a showcase of exclusively local foods (except for the salt, pepper, and olive oil) served family-style, the event is the “ultimate sensory experience,” says Pampuch. With every detail carefully devised — from the placement of the table to the absence of music which allows the silence of the field to resonate throughout the evening — Outstanding in the Field’s Friday evening dinner party is artistic, inspired, and, yes, comes at a cost ($180 per person). Outstanding in the Field will visit 54 locations in 2009, including Riverbend Farm near Montrose, MN on July 31.
Tour de Farm
Pampuch was so inspired by his experience with Outstanding in the Field in 2008, that he set in motion his own spin on the local dinner concept – an idea literally born in the dawning hours after the event. Tour de Farm is Pampuch’s “rustic/casual” approach of hosting events on the farm as Sunday suppers — a long-standing tradition of farm life. Four dates on four individual farms are planned in 2009 – each capped at 75 attendees for the $85 dinner.
Local chefs on the schedule, donating their time and services to make this possible, are Russo (Heartland), JD Fratzke (Strip Club), Mike Phillips (The Craftsman), and Scott Graden (New Scenic Cafe in Duluth). Each chef has creative control of the menu for their assigned event date. Menu details are yet to be announced, but Pampuch throws out the teaser that perhaps one will be a pig roast. Complementing each menu will be local beers — Furthermore, Rush River, and Lake Superior — and sustainable wines.
Pampuch explains that through Tour de Farm, he “wants the diner to think about [where food is coming from]. Although many people are eating more locally, we develop habits about what and how we eat [locally] — sometimes forgetting all that is locally available to us beyond milk, eggs, cheese, and meat.” These dinners, which will span throughout the summer, are “an opportunity for diners to experience the seasonal change and availability of the food in the Midwest.”
Wild About You
They say good things come in threes, and Slow Food Minnesota‘s Wild About You dinner is the event that rounds out these farm dinner experiences in our area. For the second year, the event, hosted at the Ralph Lentz Farm in Lake City, MN, will be a relaxed day filled with activities, foraging, and educational opportunities. Examples of last year’s activities were a milk tasting (cow, goat, and sheep’s milks) and scavenger hunt for the kids and walking tours and guided foraging for all.
The $30 price tag (kids under 12 are free) provides for the entertainment and a meal created by Chef Ron Huff, founder and chairman of Slow Food Minnesota, that will feature braised elk, wild rice, nettles, ramps, mushrooms, wild greens, and asparagus. Local beers by Flat Earth and Lift Bridge and local wines will be available; dessert is an optional pot-luck provided by guests.
Jane Rosemarin, Vice Chair of Slow Food Minnesota, hopes the event will “further the connection between what’s at the farm and in the ground to understand where this good, sustainable food is coming from and the importance of supporting the farmers.” Proceeds from this event will benefit Slow Food Minnesota’s fundraising efforts to send local farmers to the 2010 Terra Madre educational convention in Turin, Italy.
Outstanding in the Field: $180/person
July 31, 2009
Guest Chefs – Scott Pampuch (Corner Table), Mike Phillips (The Craftsman)
Riverbend Farm — Delano, MN
Tour de Farm: $85/person
June 7, 2009
Chef Mike Phillips (The Craftsman)
Hidden Stream Farm — Elgin, MN
August 16, 2009
Chef Scott Graden (New Scenic Cafe)
Grass Roots Farm — Saginaw, MN
September 20, 2009
Chef Lenny Russo (Heartland)
Cedar Summit Farm — New Prague, MN
October 4, 2009
Chef JD Fratzke (Strip Club)
Star Thrower Farm — Glencoe, MN
Wild About You: $30/person
May 17, 2009
Chef Ron Huff
Ralph Lentz Farm — Lake City, MN