When I saw the announcement for this year’s Slow Food Columbus/Flying J “Shake the Hand that Feeds You” farm to table dinner (September 8th, save the date!) coming across my Facebook feed this morning, I was reminded of last year’s dinner and the fact I hadn’t written about it yet. Easy to overlook, sadly – not because the dinner wasn’t great (it was!) or memorable (very much so!), but because last year, when it was held in early August, I had only been out of the hospital for about three weeks and was still heavily dependent on a walker and wheelchair to get around. So I was a bit less mobile than I had been in previous years, tired a lot more quickly, and had to depend on Paul to be my eyes, hands, and feet as far as my participating was concerned. To say I was pretty much stationary for the event (when I managed to get to the table, I pretty much stayed there) would be quite accurate, but I still enjoyed the socialization (I hadn’t seen a majority of the people there for upwards of a year), the food and the time for quiet reflection in serene surroundings, which all did very much to renew my spirit.
August, despite being one of the hottest and most humid months of the year, is one of my favorites because many of my favorite things are in the midst of their seasons right then – tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers. But more so than anything else, nothing says summer like a sunflower. There’s such a regal beauty in that blossom – where every photo seems like a painting.
And there couldn’t be a more perfect setting for the dinner. Flying J Farm, less than an hour away from downtown Columbus in rural Johnstown, is Dick Jensen’s retreat and livelihood. From his backyard, where the dinner is held, you can see his pastures off into the distance. And this only one small portion of the property, where he farms and raises cattle to provide his farm market customers and CSA members with good, healthy produce and beef.
When kids attend events at the farm, they have a wonderful time checking out the animals and running back and forth across the footbridge. It’s these little nooks and crannies and places to explore that make experiencing a day at the farm both educational and fun for the little ones.
One of the great things about farm-to-table dinners is that decorations are both beautiful AND functional. These particular peaches came from Legend Hills, a nearby orchard . You wouldn’t believe the intoxicating smell – it is one of the scents I most closely associate with summer, and made me want to dive right in.
There was no shortage of wine at the event – several different ones. I’m not much of a wine drinker, but even I was able to find one that I liked. But that’s usually the case when Patrick and Connie of United Estates are doing the picking.
Wildflowers made up the majority of decoration for the tables.
And Columbus’ own OYO Vodka was used as the base spirit for some very special cocktails made by mixologist Nicoline Schwartz..
She infused the vodka with hot peppers, which made it a little too hot for my tastes, but my husband thoroughly enjoyed it, as did almost every single person at the event. The peppers were harvested right there at Flying J.
And the longer it sat, the hotter it got – but with this many peppers in the mix, is it any surprise?
The booze kept flowing, and by an hour into the event, most people were thoroughly relaxed and greatly enjoying themselves.
Basil (also picked at the farm).
And the food, oh my. Kevin and son Patrick Caskey (from Skillet, Rustic Urban Food) did all of the cooking, drawing inspiration from what was seasonal and grown on the farm.
The dish I enjoyed the most was this grilled cheese sandwich, which was topped with a slice of some of the most succulent and tasty tongue ever. Delicious.
More wine flowed…
…as did locally brewed Columbus Brewing Company’s Summer Teeth Lager.
Chapter Leader Colleen Yuhn recognized a lot of local farmers/artisans for their contributions to ideals that are extremely important and espouse Slow Food ideals. This one, which was presented to Warren Taylor of Snowville Creamery, was especially fitting.
The first time Slow Food Columbus had a pig roast, they underestimated the amount of time it would take to fully cook – this time around they still used the China Box, but adjusted the time for better results.
Like other farm to table dinners, this one also had a very long table that everyone sits at. We were sitting somewhere in the middle, so the table spanned this distance on both sides. Lots of work goes into making this event run smoothly, so kudos to those who volunteered time and offered donations. It doesn’t go unnoticed.
The bread was extremely hearty – in past dinners, the bread was provided by Eleni Christina Bakery. If this is not the case this year, please let me know – I want to make sure they get the recognition they deserve.
Integration Acres (from Athens County, Ohio) made a special batch of goat cheeses.
Other parts of the tablescape were both functional and tasty – these jars of pickles were opened and shared among everyone. I’m not especially a pickle person, but these pickles were downright addictive.
The roast pig needs to be flipped over in the box before it finishes cooking. I managed to snap a quick pic when the box was opened to do the flipping.
As good as the pork was, the beef brisket was hands down one of the most magical dishes of the night – I don’t know if that’s due to the high-quality beef raised at Flying J, or if it is the skill of the Caskeys in preparing food, or a combination of both. Either way, this brisket changed my mind about brisket.
Sides were fairly simple, like these roasted potatoes…
…a chard chopped salad…
…a lovely tomato salad (and have I told you all how much I love summer tomatoes? I have? Well, carry on) …
… and surprisingly, the kale and sweet potatos (who knew they went so well together?)…
…and some sautéed red cabbage.
Everything was so vibrant and beautiful – this dinner, which has become an annual thing, is truly summer’s last hurrah. I wish I could have gotten more pictures of the food, but by the time we all sat down to eat, it was too dark for pictures. But the dishes, here in their serving dishes, should give you a good idea of what kind of things to expect.
This year, the event is on September 8th. Tickets go on sale today at noon right here, and are $75 for Slow Food members, or $100 per person for non-members. It may seem steep, but given the quality and presentation of the food, it’s worth every penny. If you’d like to go, don’t wait to buy your tickets until tomorrow – historically, it has sold out very quickly, so get in while the getting is good. For more information, please check out the Slow Food Columbus site.