Now in its fourth year, we've established a few traditions. The first, of course, is rain; every date we've chosen for this special event starts off with zero chance of rain and heads right into Thunderstorm Land by 11am. Thankfully, this year, as with years before, we got the downpour out of the way before guests arrived, cooling the grounds a bit. The sun was just beginning to set as people had a glass of Prosecco (with our homemade limoncello) and roamed the grounds before sitting down at table.
First course was almost ready, but first - a bit on what this dinner means from Chef Julia and Farmer Jay. "Fresh, beautifully grown produce is at the root of the farm-to-table movement and is a key part of the Nourish ideology. We're only just beginning to understand the science behind phytonutrients, but we do know that food that sits for weeks before being eaten loses its nutrient density at exponential rates. And your tastebuds can tell the difference too, as we're all about to experience." Avant Garden, indeed!
As the team placed the amuse on the table, eyes were alight and people were ready to eat! The warm sun continued to dip towards the horizon.
Featuring NC English Peas, Grape Leaves and Baby Leeks, Bell’s Best Berries Mint, Activated Charcoal
This first, colorful bite was packed with lovely local leeks in miniature, slowly caramelized to bring out their natural sugars. Freshly shelled NC peas made up the body of the cake and mint from the row of herbs right next to the table brought a brightness, with two tahinis swirled around them: beet and activated charcoal, both seasonings that aid in digestion.
Our ode to Saag, this green bisque combined a myriad of spring greens - malabar spinach, watercress, cutting celery, and more - topped with a squash blossom from The Bulb's garden network, stuffed with our friends Viva Raw's young coconut cheese.
A short respite as the sun dips lower in the sky - time to serve the second cocktail of the evening, our Tequila Moonrise. Watermelon water, lime simple syrup and tequila combined for a cool, crisp sip to complement our salad and main course.
Featuring Boy and Girl Farm’s Baby Turnips and Radishes, NC Cherry Tomatoes, Bell’s Best Berries Greens
As we fired up the grill, the rest of the team was slicing and plating one of the fun features of this course - a vegan hard-boiled egg! Along with preserved lemons from Little Sey Salt Cures and globe-sized green olives, our take on a Nicoise salad was well enjoyed.
Time for the main course! Chris and Dennis contiued to ply us with drifting, meandering jazz from under the great oak...
Featuring Anson Mills Heirloom Rice Grits, Viva Raw’s Parmesan Cheese, NC Heirloom Tomato, Rowland’s Row Silver Slicers, Urban Gourmet's Mushrooms
This year's main course featured King Oyster Mushroom Scallops from Urban Gourmet Farms, marinated and grilled, alongside rolled Lacinato kale leaves stuffed with our smokey risotto. On top, grated hard cheese from Viva Raw and a gastrique, or sweet and tangy sauce, made from heirloom tomato and muscadine. Stephanie's pickles also graced the plate, aged to savory perfection for over a year.
This was a course we were very proud to present, that reveled in the seasonal change from spring to summer, featuring elements from our network of local farms and artisans. It was also delicious!
Fireflies started to appear and the frogs started to sing their sunset seranade as the team plated the last course. Dessert was nigh...
Featuring Titan Farm’s Peaches and Strawberries, Bell’s Best Mint and Baby Roses, NC Pecans
So much goodness on one plate! Lemon-cashew cheesecake dotted with local strawberry coulis, ginger-candied NC pecan dust, and a scoop of Orange Sherbet, a sweet memory for any child of the 80s. It was warm, and the peach coulis and ice cream melted and melded into sweet summery perfection. On top, a perfect baby rosebud.
With full bellies and happy hearts, our guests were tempted further into the woods for the night's final performance: an aerial acrobatics act in a nearby glade. With a quick stop at our tea station on the way for digestive potables, they took seats on hay bales while Satarah, accompanied by Chris and Dennis on guitar and upright bass, performed in duo, hanging from silks suspended from a tree limb 40 feet above.
Thanks to our incredible kitchen and service team, our photographer Impressions by Emily Nicole, Robin and Jay from Bell's Best Berries, Viva Raw and Wild River Wellness, Little Sey Salt Cures, Urban Gourmet Farms, VTGCLT for our gorgeous place settings, and our guests, who trust that these dinners are worth the drive and the warm, buggy evening.
Hungry for more? Check out Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden's Farm to Fork Picnic this fall! We'll be there.