The Huckleberry Press enjoyed the distinct pleasure of attending the New Crop Scholarship Farm-to-Table dinner this last weekend at the Davenport Memorial Hall in Davenport, Washington. The scholarship provides start money for local 4-H and FFA students who are looking to expand their agricultural experiences through new projects.
Most everything on the menu was locally sourced and prepared. The man who puts the magic behind the recipes is Chef Aaron Fish. Aaron and his crew come to the Farm to Table dinner from the Eat Good Group in Spokane. This was his sixth year as chef for this event.
In light of the unseasonably cold weather for this year’s event, they moved everyone to the Davenport Memorial Hall. In the past, it’s been held at a restored old, red barn outside of Davenport. While the barn lent itself to an authentic, agricultural ambiance, I’m sure all the participants were grateful to be warm and dry for the evening.
Walking into the hall was a definite warming experience. Long wooden tables provided by Spokane Farm Tables spanned the length of the hall, decorated with antique dinnerware, supplied by Nic Nac Nell’s Vintage Rentals, and lit with strands of cafe lights. “Bob and Ernie” provided the musical background for the night…folksy acoustical music that set exactly the right, uplifting and relaxing tone for the evening. The tables, room and lighting were clearly set to encourage a remarkable dining experience.
The first course was supplied by Gourmet Foreagables and Quillisascut Farms. A well presented plate of crispy mushrooms, whipped garbanzo, chevre and fresh pita launched our culinary journey. The crispy mushrooms were in fact, crispy and mouth-watering. Quillisascut’s chevre provided a nice, sharp note without being overpowering. While the whipped garbanzo was a clear crowd pleaser, overall the first course utilized a delightful melange of flavors.
Tolstoy and Renegade Farms set the second course with a pickle plate of cauliflower, carrots, beets, fennel, rhubarb and rye crackers. The fresh baked rye crisps offset the bright notes of the pickled rhubarb and carrots. The rhubarb, dipped in the accompanying jam, was reminiscent of rhubarb pie. The cauliflower was blessed with a smoky undertone and a sharp finish. The pickled beet bridged the warmth of summer with the earthy comforts of fall.
For the third course we were treated to butternut squash and pear soup blessed with chile oil and whipped coconut. The chile oil enhanced the nutty flavory of the soup. The whipped coconut delivered a decadent touch to the recipe. A surprising combination that blended well. The third course was courtesy of New Heritage Market Farm, Vets on the Farm and Renegade Farm.
The fourth course salad, laced with black lime vinegrette, was the perfect follow-up to the previous course of hearty soup. It was a bold and refreshing mix of greens, seeds, vinegrette, chilies, green onions, cilantro and mint. Again, Renegade Farms played their part, as well as Vets on the Farm and Well Grown Farms.
The intermezzo’s green apple sorbet cleansed the pallet and soothed the mild heat of the salad’s chile. The sorbet deliciously communicated the sensation of freshly crushed and frozen green apples. Kudos to Harvest House of Mead for harvesting such generously flavored apples.
The fifth course employed a lot of hands. Scabland Farms, New Heritage Farms, Renegade Farm, Tolstoy Farm, Ax Farm Ranch, and Mother Herbees all contributed to the selections in this course. We enjoyed two choices, both satisfying and filling. The pork belly, fried couscous, butternut squash, sunomono with chili soy glaze was substantial, yet light and flaky with melt-in-your-mouth goodness. The cous cous was cooked to tender perfection. The other choice was kafta beef meatballs, parsnip puree, poach shallots and pickled horseradish. The meatballs were smoothly seasoned and brightened the palate surprisingly well for a meat dish. The pickled horseradish was a beautiful accompanient to a dish full of textures that complemented each other well.
We ended with a peach dessert replete with pie crust, whiskey glaze and smoked ice cream from Big Batch Brewing & Bodacious Berries and Dry Fly Distillery. There is nothing like a warm and gently flavored peach dish to close a meal and this dessert brought it all home. The smoke flavored ice cream gave an otherwise safe dish a touch of the extraordinary.
The environment for the evening was thoughtful, warm and thoroughly channeled the engaging spirit of the Farm-to-Table experience. Everyone knows that food prepared with love tastes better. What really set the evening’s experience apart was the careful attention to the impact our local community had on the meal. Many of the people who grew and produced the ingredients were present and introduced themselves.
I shared the table with Jill and Paul Knittle, the proprietors of Scabland Farms in Davenport, Washington who supplied the pork belly. Most often we blindly accept whatever food is set before us, without any thought to it’s origin. In contrast, I got to know the trials and triumphs of the Knittle family’s work as farmers. The Knittles have to be masters at all aspects of running a business, while being masters of animal husbandry, farming and any number of daily chores they find both fulfilling and overwhelming. Farming is apparently not for the faint of heart.
We left the dinner inspired. Inspired by the up and coming farmers the New Crop Scholarship supports. Inspired by the intentions and hardwork of Carey Guhlke, Tammy Merril and Angie Stiles-Nichols, the fundraisers who organized the evening and brought everyone together. Inspired by the hardworking, successful farmers who supplied the raw ingredients for the meal as well as the volunteer staff who prepared it.
We highly recommend the Farm-to-Table Dinner, presented by the New Crop Scholarship. They have mastered a comphrehensive experience that connects people to their locality and community in unique and enriching ways.
Visit www.newcropscholarship.wordpress.com for more information, and to find out when next year’s dinner is. Mark your calendar!