Saturday, September 27, 2014

Field to Fork 2014

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The Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association invited us to the eighth annual Field to Fork event and dinner at St. Brigid’s Farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  The dinner raised money for a great non-profit, the Sassafras Environmental Education Center. The SEEC aims to teach how human beings can live compatibly with nature’s design. The center demonstrates how outdoor education integrated into the regional school system can enhance learning across various disciplines, such as Science, Math, Social Sciences, Language Arts, Music, and Art.

Festivities began at 4:00pm with a tour of the nearby Crow Farm & Vineyards in Kennedyville, MD.  The vineyard landscape design provides charming scenery and forever views along adjacent walking trails. A four acre vineyard was planted spring 2010 and additional acres were planted spring 2012.  We were greeted with a glass of 2011 Sparkling Vidal.  Made in the traditional Champagne style, the bubbly wine showcases tastes of grapefruit and kiwi, hints of baker's yeast and wheat on the palate. There is a distinctive nose of honeysuckle and tropical fruit. This dry style sparkling Vidal can be paired with seafood and cheese appetizers, and was just lovely. The Vidal grapes are grown at the Crow Farm, and the particular fruit we were drinking were hand harvested on September 3, 2012.  The same grape varietal was still on the vines, ready for the next harvest.

We then moved inside to the winery that houses state-of-the art equipment for crushing varietals and wine-making.  This small-scale winery is actually the only one in Kent County and has produced many medal-winning wines over the past couple of years.

After, we sat down for a Cabot cheese and Crow Vineyard wine pairing.  We started with a 2012 Vidal Blanc that captures the aromatics of ripe pear and nectarine. It was a super sweet explosion of fruit on the palate, enveloped with a soft confectionery finish that is reminiscent of powdered sugar.  The cheese paired with this sweet wine was the Cabot Premium Farmhouse Reserve, which had a bold and creamy sharp flavor.  This was Keith's favorite cheese.

With aromas suggesting strawberry preserves, white lilac, rhubarb, and apricots, we then sampled the delightful 2013 Barbera Rosé. It is well balanced with ample but delicate acidity, with lovely flavors of summer watermelon and red currant.  This rosé was a very light tint of pink.  I don't normally like rosés, so was pleasantly surprised that I liked this wine best of all the wines we sampled.  It was paired with the Cabot Premium White Oak Cheddar that is made with a traditional cloth bound formula.  It was an even-balanced cheese - not too sharp, not too nutty, not too creamy.  I would use this cheese for cooking.

Lastly, we sampled the 2012 Barbera, which was finely structured and garnet in color, with aromas suggesting Bing cherries, cedar, and cranberry compote with orange zest. The palate is very well balanced and has rich, refined tannins with flavors suggesting fresh raspberries and toasted vanilla with a pleasant lingering finish.  It was paired with the Cabot Premium Alpine Cheddar.  Made in the Swiss and Italian-styles and aged for one year, the cheese had a subtle nutty creaminess, and would also pair nicely with a pale ale.  It was my favorite cheese of the pairings.

After the Crow Farm & Vineyards visit, we headed over to St. Brigid's Farm, which was the main location for the Field to Fork dinner.  The 62 acre farm, located on the scenic Eastern Shore of Maryland, is planted in permanent pasture, comprised predominantly of perennial rye grass and clover.  The herd has grown to 200 animals consisting of milking cows, replacement heifers, steers and veal calves.  Milk from the outstanding Jerseys is marketed through Land O’ Lakes, where it is turned into cheese, butter, and non-fat milk powder. Each one of their cows produces about 2,250 gallons (19,500 lbs) of milk per year which is exceptionally rich in butterfat and milk protein.

We enjoyed cocktail hour on the grass, with more Crow Vineyards Vidal Blanc and Barbera wines.  Keith also tried the featured 16 Mile beers from Delaware.  A tasty non-alcoholic chilled pomegranate-apple cider was also available.  We nibbled on some appetizers of Roasted Fall Vegetables with Fresh Rosemary and an assortment of Chapel's Country Creamery Cheeses with Fig Preserves.  Then, we moved to the long rowed tables with strung lights overhead to dine along side community members and the farmers who grew the food for this showcase of local food.  Tonight's gourmet dinner had a German flavor featuring all locally grown/raised ingredients from the Eastern Shore.

Right before everyone sat down, they released the cows for the daily 'cow parade'.  It was so neat to watch them walk past us, with the sun setting in the background.

We all grabbed a seat and then were greeted by our hosts, Judy Gifford and Robert Fry (and their puppy, Brigid), of St. Brigid's Farm.  They expressed thanks to all the community farmers and merchants who contributed to tonight's event, and introduced the charity we were supporting.  They were very hospitable and down-to-earth, which set the tone for the enjoyable evening.

The meal started with Cabbage Leaves Stuffed with Winter Squash from Arnold Farms.  The stuffing also had rice and mushrooms, and was a great vegetarian course.  The tomato sauce was bright and had a sweetness that I did not mind.  I also enjoyed the Old World Bread from Evergrain Bakery, and dipped it in the extra sauce.  It reminded me of the Polish Golombki recipe that I've made at home.

The entrée was St. Brigid’s Farm’s Grilled Veal Sausage with Hot German Potato Salad and Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage.  Keith ate my sausage and stated it was intense with veal flavor - clearly distinguished from a typical pork sausage.  I liked the potato salad and the cabbage, which had a nice sweet and sour balance to it.

By now, the sun was nearly gone, which added to the lovely outdoor ambience.  Despite all the bugs, it was a very cool experience to be dining outside with 150 other people.

In European style, the entrée was followed by an Arugula Salad from Colchester Farm topped with apples, pears, figs and shallot vinaigrette.  The arugula pieces were some of the largest I've seen, and were so fresh and peppery.  I really liked the pairing with the sweet fruit and vinaigrette.

 Lastly, a Handmade Apple Strudel with Lockbriar Farms’ Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Drizzle topped off the German-inspired feast.

It was such a neat experience for city-folks like us to dine with the cows, on a farm, under the open sky filled with stars.  We even saw the Big Dipper overhead!  The Field to Fork dinner was a wonderful event, and we are so thankful to the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, Crow Farm & Vineyards, and St. Brigid's Farm for hosting us.  All of the food and wine was super fresh and tasty, and really exemplified the hard work by the community of farmers and merchants who support our local agriculture.

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