Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Down on the Farm for an Upscale Dinner
I've been going out to Squire Valleevue Farm since 1971. Of course, back then, we never called it by that name. To us, it was The Pink Pig, a piece of country property owned by Case Western Reserve University out in Hunting Valley. The moniker came courtesy of a building that had a hog-themed decor honoring its past incarnation as a sty. We used it as our personal playground and private estate. Students, faculty and alumni have access to the 389 acres of forests, meadows, fields and ravines. Since my husband Barney is a CWRU grad, over the years we've gone there for nature walks, picnics, birthdays and gatherings with family and friends. I even spoke at a local food symposium held inside the former sheep barn in 2002 with Chef Parker Bosley and Darwin Kelsey of the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy.
For one night, August 24, anyone can enjoy this beautiful place if they purchase a ticket to Back to Our Roots, a farm-to-table dinner hosted by Cleveland Independents. The event is a celebration of the talent and entrepreneurial spirit that defines participants of this 90-member restaurant organization, and a way to give back to the community that supports them.The location is sure to be special, but the lineup of participating chefs is its own kind of draw: Andrew Dombrowski of Zach Bruell Restaurants, John Kolar of Thyme2, Matthew Anderson of Umami Asian Kitchen, Karen Small of Flying Fig and Jonathan Bennett of Red Restaurant Group.
The menu looks phenomenal and features some mouthwatering ingredients: corn crepes with truffled ricotta, beef and compressed melon tartar, Mackenzie Farm chevre with sauteed peppers and pancetta, grilled trout with edamame hummus and tamari pickled onions, prosciutto-wrapped black figs, grilled Ohio sirloin and ember-roasted potatoes, and to finish a milk chocolate cremeux, a sort of pudding with raspberries and a salted pretzel crisp. Libations start with sparkling Cava, cycle through two whites, a red and end with Moscato.
The $199 per person price might seem steep at first glance. But consider what those dollars buy — an absolutely unique, never-to-be-repeated meal, with five courses prepared by five different chefs, using as much local produce — some of it grown on-site, and other products from area food artisans. You also get entertainment from Ensemble Concertante, a chamber music trio, a splendid outdoor setting (with dinner served under a tent), and tours of the gardens, apiary and mushroom/root cellar. But that's not all. A portion of the proceeds will go to the University Farm School Visitation Program. The funds make it possible for schools to bring elementary-age students out to explore this working farm, learn about healthy eating and have lunch.
The food and service will be upscale. But leave the heels at home and dress casually and comfortably for an evening on the grass and under the stars. Advance reservations required. Seating is limited so don't wait. The fun begins at 6:30 p.m., sunset to follow.