Wednesday, July 20, 2011

One Night [Farm] Stands

Over the past couple of years, the practice of dishing up fine meals out where the ingredients are grown and the animals graze has become a nationwide trend. The idea is to encourage people to eat locally by taking them to the source of their food and introducing them to the growers that live and work in their own backyards. Real chefs bring their professional expertise along with utensils, servers and place settings. Tables are arranged in meadows, barns or orchards. It’s restaurant dining without … the restaurant. The experience offers a new way to enjoy a dinner. It’s caught on in a big way here, and two area chefs are jumping on the hay wagon this month. They’re inviting guests to trek beyond the city limits for fun and feasting. The beautiful settings are provided by Mother Nature. Think of these events as fancy picnics where someone else does the work. All you have to do is show up, eat and watch the sun set.

The first of these forks in the field evenings happens on July 25 at Covered Bridge Gardens in Ashtabula County. Your hosts are The Prochko’s, Mick, Kay and their son Steve, who own the 160-acre farm, and Brian Doyle, a personal chef and caterer. Long an advocate for eating seasonally and locally, Doyle put a twist on his latest venture, Sowfood, an urban farm and CSA (community supported agriculture): He not only plants and harvests fresh produce for shareholders, he also cooks it. The dinner is a fundraiser for Autism Speaks, an organization that helps raise awareness of the prevalence of autism locally and around the nation. Cost is $95 per person and includes wine. The night starts with a tour of the farm. Freshly picked fruit, vegetables and herbs will inspire the night’s menu. 440-862-1682 for reservations.

Covered Bridge Gardens is also supplying produce for a July 28 shindig dubbed Dine with the Vines. It takes place right in the vineyard at Grand River Cellars, a winery in Madison, and owner/manager Cindy Lindberg will do a walk and talk through the rows of grapes and handle the wine pairings. Mick and Kay Prochko will be there to chat about what’s on your plate. Those plates, five courses worth, will be created by Jeremy Esterly, currently Executive Chef at Paragon, a bar and eatery in Euclid. The banquet style meal kicks off at 6 p.m. with Ohio artisinal cheeses and wines. $75 per person and reservations are required, 440-298-9838.

Seating is limited at both dinners. So don't dawdle. Get on the phone right this minute. But if there isn’t a place left for you, don’t be too upset. These folks are planning to do more dinners like this.

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