Farm to Fork 101: Presents Seeds To Roots at the Stoop Kitchen
My family had a dear friend who had the most incredible garden while I was growing up. It took up a huge section of his backyard and it was his pride and joy (second only to his family). Visiting his garden and picking the fresh vegetables was something we looked forward to all winter and spring. Bringing home the vegetables and preparing them in new ways was almost as fun as getting to spend time with him! He would pickle and can the vegetables in the fall and gift them throughout the winter. Not only was he generous with his bounty, he would happily teach you how to pickle the copious amounts of green beans he grew each year. Seeing how much he loved his garden and the passion he had for all of the vegetables he grew made everything that much tastier. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have a friend with a garden or if we do have access to home grown vegetables, we may not know what to do with them once we bring them home. The various farmer's markets we have around Central New York can be a bit intimidating if you have absolutely no idea what to do with all of the local produce procured. This predicament is the inspiration behind Farm to Fork 101.
Mark Pawliw strives to make local food accessible by making connections between farmers and consumers. Not only that, he presents a variety of events in the community which teach individuals how to eat and cook locally. One he way does this is through the Farm to Fork 101 dinners. Chris and I met Mark at a local food event a few months ago and were immediately drawn to his enthusiasm about food and the local food movement. When told us about the monthly dinners he presents, we knew that we had to attend one. These events are hosted by a local restaurant and their culinary team is often joined by other chefs, farmers, and purveyors in the area to prepare a five course menu using all local and sustainable ingredients. In between the courses are instructional demonstrations by the food providers and chefs. Not only do you get to eat inventive dishes, you learn something new along the way. This month's event was at one of our favorite restaurants, The Stoop Kitchen. Sarah Hassler and her team always surprise and delight us, and discovering that Mario Gorea from Apizza Regionale (another restaurant we love) and Victor Ramirez from Madison Bistro (on our list our list to visit) were joining them made this an event not to be missed.
The evening began in the upstairs bar area where specialty cocktails were available, as well as tastings from Anything But Beer, Kemmeter Wines, and Hiwire Honey. Chris has been talking pretty much nonstop about Anything But Beer's blueberry with eucalyptus, ginger, and lime ale he tasted last week and it was nice to meet Logan Bonney and Brittany Berry to put faces with names. The fermented cider and ginger chai ale we sampled were fantastic! Chef Sarah raves about Kemmeter wines and meeting Johannes Rienhardt and his wife Imelda was a highlight of the event for me. I enjoyed their Pinot Blanc so much I drank it with my meal. We had the pleasure of sitting next to them at dinner and needless to say, a trip to their winery is in our immediate future! Lastly, we talked with Ray Lowe from Hiwire Honey in Lafayette. His honey was featured in the first course of the evening and we bought a honey bear to take home for our children.
We then made our way to the other side of the bar where there was an amazing cheese platter on display. I never met a cheese plate that I didn't like and this one did not disappoint. There were featured cheeses from Lively Run Dairy, Hillcrest Dairy, Danascara Cheese, and 2 Kids Goat Farm and venison sausage from Redmonds Venison, pickles, olives and turmeric pickled daikon. The owners of 2 Kids Goat Farm, Barry and Amy Sperat, were at the event and I had my "fan girl" moment when I got to meet them and tell them how we much love their cheese and enjoy it on a regular basis at home. Even our children are fans and that alone is a huge feat in our house! One of the best aspects of the upstairs bar is the open kitchen. Viewing the camaraderie and collaboration between the chefs, you could already tell that this meal was going to be special.
We headed downstairs to find our seats and anticipate the beginning of our meal. These events have such a convivial feel about them that you find yourself immediately bonding with the people around you as you await the courses. Mark does a fantastic job of engaging the crowd and making people feel comfortable. It really feels more like a spectacular dinner party with friends than an event. As an introduction to each course, one of the chefs gives a demonstration and fields questions from the crowd. Victor Ramirez shared how he made the first course of the evening: Chicken Fried Trumpet Mushroom with ancho red bean puree, apple celery root salad, and calabrian chili hot honey. Mushrooms are not on our usual rotation at home, but these chicken friend mushrooms were phenomenal! My husband is not a fan of mushrooms and I was a little worried we would lose him when it was announced that the dish was vegan and gluten free. However, there was not a single speck of food left on our plates and we couldn't decide which aspect of the dish we enjoyed the most. The mushrooms, provided by Fruit of the Fungi, were fried to perfection and incredibly flavorful. The crispness and acidity of the salad instantly lightened the dish, while the richness of the red beans and the spicy/sweet combination of the honey added the depth of flavor that took this dish to the next level.
Next, Sarah demonstrated how to plate the second course: Watermelon Radish 'Ravioli'. The dish was beautiful to look at and it was fun to see how we could create an aesthetically appealing dish like this at home. I loved the combination of the crisp radish and apple with the creamy chèvre and the added crunch of the walnut crumble. This dish will be one I try to recreate all spring long. Mario Gorea taught us how to make the sesame flax seed crackers that accompanied the Venison Tartare. The tartare was Chris's favorite course and I heard many of the diners marvel at how the dish managed to be both rich and fresh without the “gamey” flavor that deters people from venison. The fourth course was a sous vide chicken finished in the oven to crisp the skin with honey roasted shallots, pickled mustard seeds and sweet potato tahini puree. The sweet potato puree was enhanced by the sweetness of the shallots and the vinegar bite of the mustard seeds. The final course was a maple chevre coffeecake with candied bacon and coffee ice cream. The bacon was finished with a coating of baking soda and citric acid that definitely woke up our palate! We have enjoyed many of the different ice creams made at Stoop Kitchen and this one showcased the flavor of the coffee and made for a delicious ending to the evening.
One final shout out to the entire team and huge round of applause from the crowd and we were done! Our drive home was spent discussing the different courses and we raved about the event for the rest of the week.
The Farm to Fork 101 events take place monthly. Check out their website for more information. The next event will be hosted by The Mission and we can’t wait to see what Steve Morrison and his culinary team have in store for us.
We will definitely talk more with Mark and share some of his story and the inspiration behind Farm to Fork 101 with you in an upcoming post.