One thing I learned this fall is that no one appreciates a good dinner party like a Corgi. The other thing I learned is that if you invite folks to come to a dinner featuring fresh organic and sustainably grown food from local farmers, they will come! They will come even if you tell them it is a fundraiser and they will need to make a donation to your cause!
In honor of National Organic Harvest Month, many of us on the staff and Board of NOFA-NY held harvest dinners at our homes across the state as a benefit for NOFA-NY. I co-hosted my dinner with Sharon Nagle of Firefly Farm at my home in Canandaigua on a beautiful September evening.
My initial plan for a small dinner for 8 grew and ripened like my giant Brandywine tomatoes to a dinner for nearly 30 people. Fortunately, Mother Nature smiled upon us and provided a late September Saturday where the temperature was 78, the breeze was light and the sky was perfectly blue. We were able to set up a big tent outside along with folding tables and chairs. Jazzy the Corgi designated it worthy of photo bombing.
A meal that took a few hours to eat was months in the making. The food at the table came from more than 12 different farms from Canandaigua to Mattituck. The fruits, vegetables, honey, and eggs, poultry meats and wine took months (and in some cases, years) of dedicated farmers’ time and skills to plant, nurture, harvest, age and ferment. It was my thankful task to simply gather the bounty. I was also very grateful for Sharon Nagle’s help as a farmer and co-party planner, for the culinary skills of local chef, Evan Schapp of Roots Café, who created an array of side dishes, and for my husband Chris, who manned the smoker that infused extra flavore into locally-raised turkey and Chris’s famous ribs.
Dinner started with an array of fresh vegetables and roasted acorn squash hummus from Sharon Nagle’s Fire Fly Farm located in nearby Canandaigua and delectable raw milk cheeses from NOFA-NY board president, Maryrose Livingston and her Northland Sheep Dairy in Marathon. Both created a buzz with guests, who quickly searched their smart phones to learn that these were foods not typically (if ever) found at grocery stores.
For our main course, Chef Evan Schapp created an array of sides with Sharon’s vegetables, including a velvety potato-leek soup in the French style, a medley of roasted potatoes with foraged white pine needles, and a fermented slaw of baby bok choy. Alongside was the most amazing corn bread, made with roasted white corn flour from the Iroquois White Corn Project in Farmington and raw honey and certified organic eggs from Browder’s Birds certified organic farm in Mattituck.
During the meal we discovered that there is nothing like Hampton tomatoes – and what a treat all the tomatoes were from Board member Phil Barbato’s Biophilia Organic Farm in Jamesport. We ate beans from the famous Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, fresh rosemary from Marion Gardens in East Marion, wheat berries from Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett canned heirloom tomatoes from Sang Lee Farms in Peconic.
Browder’s Birds honey also found its way into a signature Finger Lakes Fall dessert – grape pies made with locally raised concord grapes from Naples, NY. We also had wild apple galettes served with fresh organic cream, along with chocolates and ice cream from Rochester’s Hedonist Artisan Ice Cream and Chocolates.
As I explained all about NOFA-NY to my guests, the fragrance, textures, and tastes from so many different farms and regions of our beautiful State wafted around us. New York State is wooded, grassy, flowery, hilly, flat, rocky, smooth, salty, loamy, sandy, and if there is such a word, “clayey”. Each of these soils and micro-climates transferred a unique flavor to the food raised upon it. Some of my guests had never experienced this range of fresh, local organic and sustainably-grown food. Most had no idea the diversity and flavor available from their neighborhood farmers.
The sun set a red cloak over the Bristol Hills, the crescent moon rose up and the stars leapt out. Somewhere on a distant hill, a small town held a fireworks display. The food was amazing, fresh, and all local. The company was wonderful, and we made a number of new friends and some generous donations for NOFA-NY. Thank you all!
If you, too, would like to donate to NOFA-NY during our Harvest Appeal, please head to our online donations form, or if you have questions, contact Cecilia Bowerman at (585) 271-1979 ext. 512.