Whenever possible, I jump at the opportunity to attend farm to table events. Not only is the setting guaranteed to be magnificent but the menu is always designed around items picked from the field on the same day. The flavors burst with freshness and there is plenty to eat for those who are vegetarian or lean in that direction.
John Holzwarth, Chef and Owner of the Boathouse Restaurant
in Westport, moved his operation to Millstone Farm
, Wilton, on October 11, illustrating his deep connection and commitment to CT. farms. He designed the menu around available crops providing lucky diners with a feast of the seasons. The menu was posted in advance, making this a great opportunity for vegetarians to check out the scene. In my experience, chefs are willing to switch out a dish for those with dietary restrictions, so be sure to ask, in advance, if something doesn’t suit your preferences.
The riot of crimson and yellow brightened the long winding road as we made our way to the farm house owned by Betsy and Jesse Fink. Along the way, sheep grazed calmly in the fields as a llama approached the fence for attention. The raised beds of vegetables looked faded and ready to sleep for the winter but there is still plenty growing at CT. farms in mid- October.
The organic and highly efficient 75 acre Millstone Farm has the goal of seeing “ local food production become the norm rather than the exception.” They “pursue the best means possible to help good food take firm root in the soil and in the fabric of the community.”In order to pursue these goals in CT. and beyond , the farm team serves in many capacities: growers, educators, hosts, consultants and suppliers of ingredients to area restaurants that value the same ideals and the pure flavors of organic, freshly picked ingredients.
Master Farmer and renowned sustainable farming guru, Annie Farrell, led a small group on a farm tour before dinner. She walked briskly to keep warm and beat the setting sun, while explaining the history of the property, the challenges of organic farming and the importance of sustainability.
After wine and some crisp toast topped with a variety of treats, 60 guests moved to the large common room adjacent to the kitchen. Four long tables draped in crisp, simple cloths provided the opportunity to sit with 12-14 people for dinner. Spirits were high in anticipation of the first course. Introductions were made as new friends settled in for a couple of hours of dining adventure together.
Autumn Harvest Millstone Contorno was a trio of local heirloom apples, braised greens, and aged Gouda, dressed in a snappy vinaigrette that held up to the tart apples. Textures were abundant with crisp and thinly sliced apple juxtaposed against the deep green and earthy kale.
The Roasted Red Poblano Pepper was stuffed with whipped salt cod providing the perfect yin yang of sweet and salty. The plates were picturesque with the tomatillo and pickled onion, moistened with an 18 year balsamic vinegar.
Potato Gnocchi was made veg for me and my companion. A spicy and toothsome sauce of foraged mushrooms, kale and tomatoes stood up well to the simplicity of the potato gnocchi.
For dessert, buttery and rich shortbread enveloped CT. Bartlett Pears, Black Mission Figs and jewel like raspberries that Holzwarth assured me were the last of the season. I felt lucky to have one last taste before bidding them farewell until next year.
Farmer, Annie Farrell, was so right when she spoke a few words at the start of the meal and proudly proclaimed, “This is a very layered story. Every ingredient has a history and its own story.” A dinner like this one is truly a celebration of ingredients and the farm that grows them.
To learn more about events at Millstone Farm go to www.millstonefarm.org.
For more information on the Boathouse Restaurant go to www.saugatuckrowing.com . Holzwarth hosts an array of special events that are well worth checking out. The dining room has great views, and the 35 seat patio overlooking the Saugatuck River (seasonal only) is one of my favorite local spots.
Congrats to Chef John Holzwarth and his great crew for being named one of Zagat’s America’s Best Restaurants in 2011.