You may remember my post from around this time last year when I wrote about the fabulous experience I had with Kyle and my parents at the Minnesota version of Outstanding in the field. We were fortunate enough to experience the dinner once again, for what I can only hope is a newly formed tradition with Kyle and my parents.
This year, similar to last, my parents, husband and I packed into a four seater Toyota and travelled west into what I consider uncharted Minnesota territory. This time we were farther south, and stayed on a highway I was relatively familiar with, until we passed all the expensive Excelsior houses and spun around in a rural round-about. "How civilized" my mother commented. I was gathering excitement for our upcoming meal; wondering who I might know, how things would be different from the year before, and of course, what we would be eating. As we slowed to approach the would be dinner site (Star Thrower Farms) , I jumped out of the car to grab some pictures and cleverly ran into my lovely friend Kathy, who just so happened to be the woman who earlier this year introduced me to the wonderful world of foraging. Having not seen each other for months, we gabbed about how good it was to see the other again, until I realized I had all but abandoned my dinner guests to chat. I trudged along to meet up with the rest of the crowd and get my hands on some of the first treats of the evening.
First up, charcuterie compliements of celebri-chef Mike Phillips. His work at the Craftsman has been well regarded in the Twin Cities, but is about to partake in an new adventure called Green Ox, creating salumi for the masses (!!!!).
This year's event was notably hot and humid, compared to last years breezy, overcast and ultimately electrified experience. We stood around and chatted sipping on our aperitifs of Minnesota made vodka and refreshing prosecco. Jim Denevan (founder and ah-mazing artist chatted with us a bit, giving us a breakdown of how it all began. Soon there after we were introduced to farmers Deborah and Scott Pikovsky and took off to enjoy a tour of the farm.
The tour involved meeting some of their Icelandic sheep, their many rams, the milking room (including a not-to-be-messed-with guard llama) and my favorite: an amazingly well preserved old barn with gorgeous interior architecture. Finally, we headed down the hill towards the massive linened table set for 150. Jealous yet?
The guest chef this year was again Scott Pampuch, owner and chef of The Corner Table and the man behind the locally based Tour De Farm. His experience cooking with local food is quite extensive and it showed clearly throughout every course. Up first was a salad of grilled sausage and peaches, mizuna and kohlrabi purée with a sprinkling of lamb pancetta served with a Rush River Double Alt beer. The peaches were sweet, the lamb sausage earthy, the mizuna added a slight spice, the kohlrabi purée was smooth and creamy as silk, pancetta crunchy and salty and the beer bitter. Not a bad way to start off an amazing meal.
Up next was a lamb tamale made with Kathy's foraged black trumpet mushrooms and Riverbend farms cornmeal, dressed wtih greens, pickles and oh-so-hot hungarian wax peppers. Amazing. Gorgeous. SPICY!
The sun seemed to be lowering itself in the sky at an alarmingly slow pace, but fortunately two of the dishes were paired with rosé, my all time favorite way to beat the heat. Well. That and sitting in my newly purchased backyard swimming pool. But that's a story for another time. We followed up the tamales with a simple dish of grilled lamb, potatoes, baby carrot and onion. When well executed, the easiest dishes can beat the most extravagant any day of the week.
Nothing better to beat the head than a cool, tart palatte cleanser. This consisted of goat yogurt paired with ground cherries served on what were at one time the floor boards lining Chef Pampuch's attic. Absolutely stunning.
The palatte cleanser came in quite handy as the next course consisted of a rich and flavorful lamb loin, heart, kidneys (blech!) and tongue. I'm the first girl to step up to the organ meat plate, but the kidneys were way too much for me. I'll take liver any day of the week though and I wonder who got to eat the lamb sweatbreads? Hmmmm.....
At this point it was time for a break and some good digestion. Mom and I hit the Biffy's (seriously the nicest port-o-john I have EVER been in. It flushed! And had a pump for water! Very ooh-la-la in the land of portable toilets) and I became infatuated with OITF's vintage bus.
We rounded out the evening with some lovely desserts. We started with the best dessert of all: cheese, berries and honey. But soon enough the sun passed beyond the trees and the cheese had been consumed. A quick round of sweet corn ice cream followed, which we enjoyed as the bugs began their twilight assault and quickly devoured our legs. It was time to go.
Thanks to everyone who made that lovely Saturday night possible: The lamb, the farmers, the land, the chefs, the line cooks, the dishwashers, the foragers, the diners, the crop mobs, the organizers and everyone in between. It couldn't have happened without you.