Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Field to fork?
Pasture to plate?
Meadows to mosquitos?
OK. For now the sobriquet “farm to table,” must suffice even if it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. But it still best describes what Mainers have in abundance from the state’s fertile fields of farm fresh food.
Perhaps the ultimate recognition comes to us in “the barn supper”—a reaping of the local harvest celebration in many farm communities that open their doors to feed the dining public fare from the farm.
In the tight-knit society of North Haven Island, for example, this rite of passage occurs four times in the summer when the highly regarded Turner Farm puts on its own barn-supper extravaganza.
Before diners arrive, the assemblage of tables measuring over 100 feet are being readied at Turner Farm
Last Thursday evening this barn dinner was a fete of true showmanship as 75 well-heeled summer denizens assembled to feast off the provender of the farm’s 300 pristine oceanfront acres where cultivation is nurtured to exacting standards.
Nebo Lodge chef Amanda Hallowell was at the helm (in this case a giant barbecue grill) casting about her glorious culinary touch to a voracious crowd who couldn’t get enough of it.
Chef Amanda Hallowell at the grill
Diners who paid $75 a head for a 7-course dinner congregated in the barn’s Great Room at 6 PM sharp to drink Champagne cocktails and nibble on such hors d’ oeuvres as sugar-coated tempura bacon and napoleons of beets layered with minted goat cheese from the farm’s creamery. Since it was my last evening on the island, it was for me a fitting finale to a glorious week of eating local.
The diners congregate in the barn, coming in from a misty start to a chilly evening outside
Turner Farm is an historic spread that dates back to the late 1700s. It has for over a century lay fallow as a farming entity until financier and philanthropist Donald Sussman bought the farm in 2008 and brought it back to life with the help of long-time summer resident US Congresswoman Chellie Pingree who he married at the farm in 2011. (Note: Sussman is the majority owner of MaineToday Media, which publishes the Portland Press Herald and pressherald.com.)
Its revitalization helped nurture the growing farming community on the island resulting in smaller family farms proliferating, too. The overall goal on the island is to make North Haven a self-sufficient food source for the island population.
That evening Pingree presided as the unofficial hostess and mingled seamlessly amongst a crowd of mostly friends and neighbors.
The cocktail hour in full swing
Hors d' oeuvres of local beet napoleons layered with the farm's goat cheese
These sugared tempura battered bacon hors d' oeuvres didnh't last long on the plate as servers passed them around
Take a look at how this delicious gala unfolded.
Diners applauded even before the first of many courses arrived
A stunning platter of summer squash with lemon, Parmesan, pine nuts and mint accompanied by a salad of baby greens with sauce gribiche
Followed by sliced heirloom tomatoes, the first of the season
Served with the farm's home-baked bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil
One of my favorite courses was eggplant fritto misto and fresh herb aioli
A course of country style ribs cooked on the grill with green olive and roasted onion vinaigrette served over creamy polenta with roasted cherry tomatoes and pine nuts; followed by Turner Farm cow's milk cheese (Temme) , Marcona almonds and honey and finally an intermezzo of fennel and sweet vermouth sorbet (not shown)
For dessert, fresh raspberry pavlova with citrus curd and whipped cream accompanied (right) by fresh raspberry clover club
Guests lingering as dinner unwinds
The next morning a beautiful sunrise over the Fox Island ThoroughfareTweet
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.