25 May, 2010
Farm to Fork 2010Comments : 10 Posted in : Events, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez
This past weekend, I was able to attend Farm to Fork for the first time, an event I’d heard a lot about in the past couple of years. It’s basically a celebration of the restaurant-farmer relationships of the fantastic food scene we are blessed with in the NC Piedmont and of course, a fundraiser, too. Over thirty different chefs and bakers pair up with one or more farms and offer small samples of scrumptious food to the attendees with the proceeds from tickets sales and the live and silent auction going to CEFS and PLANT (I don’t know anything about them, sorry).
What happens at Farm to Fork? It’s held in a field, and wise attendees bring chairs, a table, and some form of umbrella to fight off the strong sun. I brought a chair, so I was a third of the way to a perfect afternoon. Luckily, this event was not crazy crowded, but as with all events that involve going up to stands and taking small samples of food or drink, it’s astute to arrive early so you don’t miss out if someone runs out of their food later. A great music ensemble played with a gypsy jazz feel while we all strolled around, grabbing food where we could. Both chefs and farmers were more than happy to talk about their offerings. The only way to spend more money than the $60 entry fee was to drink 3 Cups wine or Fullsteam’s beer. I’ve wanted to try Fullsteam’s brews forever, because I’m not a beer drinker, but how can I resist trying a beer made from sweet potato, rhubarb, or parsnip? I went with the Pastinaak Parsnip Ale as I was told it was the hoppiest, and I must say, I liked it. It still took me forever to drink a full glass (I’d like beer better in half portions), but it was nice and refreshing, especially on a warm day like Sunday.
Also great in the beverage department was the strawberry sangria with vanilla bean and Shelton Vineyards white wine courtesy of 18 Seaboard and McAdams Farm.
Other than wishing I could taste the brandy and triple sec more, it was so refreshing and sweet, and the vanilla bean added a great layer to the drink.
As for the food, there were lots of fantastic options, of course! I’ll just mention a couple of highlights for me, because this blog could (and still will) go on forever.
The strawberry gazpacho with cucumber and basil by Herons and Lyon Farms hit all the right notes.
There was a kick to it that I wasn’t expecting but just made the dish all the better. The strawberry flavor was nice and light.
The church supper deviled egg with pickled chard from Acme and DIG/SEEDS was fantastic, in large part because I had no idea that chard would taste so good in pickled form.
Plus, who doesn’t like a deviled egg at a picnic?
I almost couldn’t believe how yummy the purple top turnips were from Chris McKinley and Ben Whatley’s farm, in a toasted almond-parsley sauce by Neal’s Deli.
They are hiding near the toothpick in the back of this picture. So earthy and delightful to eat.
Celebrity Dairy’s goat cheese was all over the place at Farm to Fork, but it especially stood out for me with a paprika and garlic crust served simply on a slice of bread. It’s the front item on this plate.
The fennel gnocchi and vegetable ragout, in the cup in that same picture, were served in a delightfully creamy sauce that I’d liken more to a thick, luscious broth from Panzanella and Perry-winkle Farm.
The spicy napa cabbage kimchi served on a Carolina gold rice fritter from Farmer’s Daughter and Lil’ Farm was a lovely combination of flavors that seemed like they’d be at odds, but weren’t at all. They came together well to create a burst of too-fleeting flavor.
Also really good was the cornmeal-breaded fish on lacy cornbread with May pea puree from Watt’s Grocery and Walking Fish. The batter was getting a bit soggy at that point of the day, but the fish was perfectly cooked.
My favorite dish was definitely the BLT-inspired, house-smoked duck pancetta, arugula, duck egg aioli, Sunny Slope tomatoes, and Lindley Mills brioche open-faced sandwich from Il Palio and Duck Run Farm.
Oh my word, it captured the essence of a BLT perfectly without resembling one in the slightest. The smoked pancetta was awesome but the creamy tomato sauce was out of this world. Their candy-striped beet crostini with Elodie goat cheese on ciabetta was a close second for me.
It’s the bright pink delight on that plate, not the shortrib biscuit (also good) to its right. The beet crostini was a very simple offering, but what had it had to offer was divine.
Have no fear, dessert was also near (forgive me for that rhyme; I’ve been writing all day, and it’s taking its toll).
Crumb had three separate cakes on hand, and both the Barefoot Farms strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream and the Escazu chocolate cake with Big Boss beer and Celebrity Dairy goat cheese were thrust on me.
Somehow, I survived this force-feeding of cake. Escazu chocolate really is as good as everyone says, and frankly, the two cakes were a perfect match to eat together. Crumb’s baking chops are more evident in their cakes than their cupcakes, I would claim, because there is more real estate to appreciate how the cake is somehow dense, moist, and light all at the same time.
However, Lantern and Four Leaf Farm’s Carolina gold rice cream with rhubarb jelly was even better.
This ranking has much to do with how big a fan I am of rice pudding. The rice cream was nearly the same as rice pudding but, well, creamier and icier. The rhubarb jelly gave a lovely, fruit undertone to the rice cream. If they’d have added some cinnamon to the dish, I might have had to hunt down their stores and make off with any leftovers that were to be had.
So, was Farm to Form worth it? For me, no. But that’s because I think our restaurants do such a great job already of showing their connections to our local farms, mills, butcheries, etc., that I’d rather spend $60 eating at one of their establishments where I can also enjoy great atmosphere and a leisurely pace while I gorge myself. If you want to experience a range of what our restaurants can do with such fantastic source ingredients, then by all means, Farm to Fork is for you. Especially if you like eating picnic style and have a group of friends or family to keep you company (I was a loner this time). It is a fantastic opportunity to meet the chefs and farmers, however, so that may be reason enough to check it out next year. All I know for certain is that I needed that iced Ethiopian Harfusa coffee from 3 Cups just to make sure I could drive home (and watch the Lost finale) with such a full belly.
Here are a few more pictures of the event
, and as always, there are plenty more at our photo website for your perusing pleasure.