I try to attend as many of the Slow Food Columbus events as I possibly can, as the combination of food (or drink) and company always guarantees an enjoyable experience. So when the Slow Food Columbus “Shake the Hand That Feeds You” Locavore Dinner at Flying J Farm was announced, I didn’t think twice before signing Paul and I up.
Which is both a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing, because from what I understand, all the seats sold out to Slow Food members before tickets were even available to non-members. A bad thing, because I didn’t realize that Paul had to go into work that night. Our mistake, though – and one that Colleen and Bear went out of their way to accommodate, thankfully.
As I said, this event is one that I’ve been looking forward to since it was pitched at a Slow Food brainstorming meeting a few months ago. Dick Jensen of Flying J Farm was generous enough to host the event at his farm and provide many of the ingredients used for the dinner. Dick is one of my favorite farmers at the Clintonville Farmers Market, I think I may have bought just about every short rib he had last year, and I think that’s why he remembered me this year. In addition to excellent grass-fed beef, he also sells a spelt flour that I absolutely love. Not to mention veggies as well.
His farm, about an hour outside of Columbus on the far end of Johnstown, is absolutely breathtaking – I wish I would have got there early enough for the farm tour. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked of the event – although other attendees, like Bethia and Colleen did. (I’m sure more accounts of the event will pop up on people’s blogs, and will update this entry as needed with links). It was nice to see many familiar faces (like CMHGourmand, Roland, Anne, Colleen & Bear, etc.) and to also meet new people as well (like the Rigsby’s who made great company at the communal table as my neighbors).
The evening, through my eyes, is extremely picture intensive, so click on through to continue.
Things were well under way when we arrived (Paul about an hour after myself, since he got turned around on the Morse Interchange and ended up in Pataskala). The farm tour was just ending, and Bear was serving up cocktails and other beverages – I tried the regular apple cider (crisp, sweet, tastes just like fall), the hard cider (a little less sweet, definitely hard), and at Bear’s insistence, I also tried the cucumber-infused vodka fizz (the cucumber taste was prominent, and smoothed the harshness that vodka typically has). I didn’t, unfortunately, have a chance to try the Chamomile tea. For appetizers, farm equipment became a makeshift serving table and they laid out Frittata (made with Flying J herbs and Scarlet Payne eggs) and a Roasted Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta (made with ingredients from Flying J).
The bruschetta was one of my favorite dishes of the evening, and I found myself drawn to it a couple of times. So very simple, but also simply delicious. Proof that good ingredients speak for themselves.
The finished table was like something out of a dream. Kind of like a big old communal table that goes on infinitely. Or at least 40-50 people deep. When I spoke to Colleen, she said it was just how she saw it in her vision for the event. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of hard work and organization it took to make that vision a reality.
And a closer look at the table:
Decorated simply with wildflowers, it was stunning.
Kent and Tasi Rigsby used Flying J’s flour to make these Honey-Whole Wheat Boules at their bakery, Eleni-Christina. It’s amazing to see what happens to quality ingredients in the hands of an artisan. The bread had a nice chewy crust, with a soft, flavorful crumb inside. The whole-grain flavor really stood out, as did the sweetness of the honey.
A closer look at the cut bread:
The bread would have been great all on its own, but paired with this butter made by Colleen with ingredients from the Ohio Organic Family Farm, I was in heaven.
Also dotting the tablescape at intervals of every few seats were these plates of cottage cheese made from a 1940′s recipe from the Ohio Organic Family Farm.
So, about the food. Let me just preface by saying that my camera sucks in low light. Really, really sucks in low light. So much so that I don’t even really try to get low-light pictures anymore. So you all will get a picture of the salad, but from there on out you’ll have to go by my descriptions of the dish.
About that salad? Wow. Amazingly fresh produce, from what I understand, picked just minutes before the salads were made. Brandywine, green zerbra and jewel box tomatoes, with fresh herbs and baby red and green oak lettuces, with Cold Rain Dairy (Pataskala) goat feta and a tomato vinaigrette. I believe all of the produce came right from Flying J.
Ohio wines were served with dinner – I didn’t partake since I was driving, but I understand that the Syrah served with the main course was a hit.
The main course came after nightfall (and unfortunately at about the time Paul had to leave, lucky for him Colleen and Bear saw that he had dessert early, and made sure he had a way to pack up his meal for the road – Paul says that even cooled down and in a “non-Slow” setting, it was delicious. Because it was already dark when they laid out the main dishes, we got our food by candlelight, very very carefully walking back to the table to avoid a misstep on the grass that would send it all flying.
The setting was perfect – just enough light to see everyone else around you, great conversation, free flowing wine, just a really laid back energy flowing that was really nice to be around. Everywhere I looked, everyone was helping everyone else – one person over here plating stuff, another person doing dishes, another volunteer lighting candles – it was heartening to see everyone come together to make everything flow smoothly.
The chef, John Dornback (of Basi Italia) did amazing things to a rather lean cut of ribeye – from what I understand, he rubbed it, and then roasted it with a layer of fatback on it, which made it mouthwateringly tender and succulent in the final product.
Everything that crossed my plate went perfectly with the steak – from the red and white potatoes (hash-brown style), to the braised and grilled Swiss chard with leeks and garlic, to the Grilled peppers with garden-path pesto, every bit of the produce for the dinner came from the farm we were eating it at – there’s no way to get any closer to your food than we did.
Dessert was all kinds of awesome – peach cake with two kinds of Jeni’s ice cream – her Maker’s Mark Butter Pecan and one created just for the event – a buttercup squash, nutmeg and mascarpone ice cream (Jeni or Charly, if you’re reading this, consider this an official request for you to carry it in your shops) – wow, the flavors from each just complemented each other so well. I normally only like ice cream in small doses, but I was ready to lick the bowl. Yum.
I did discover that I’m not crazy about pawpaws. Kind of reminded me of the banana flavored local anesthetic the dentist puts in your mouth right before injecting the Novacaine. Other people seemed to like it, though – and you guys know me – I’ll try pretty much anything once.
When I finally got out of there around 10:45 (thank you, Colleen for walking me to the car with the headlamp), all of the wine was gone and people were starting in on the pawpaw liqueur and the honey mead, and seemed to be *really* enjoying themselves ::chuckle:: It seems as if the majority of people spent the night (good thing!) camping and enjoyed a nice breakfast together in the morning before going their separate ways.
So a big thank you to Dick and Colleen and Bear and John and all of the other volunteers who put in so much work in making this a reality. Your dedication to the event truly showed through, and my hat is off to you all. Bravo! I think this event so very well defines the entire spirit of the Slow Food Movement, that it will be hard for future events to live up to it. But we can try, right guys?