Friday, August 13, 2010
Wilson Farms, Farm to Fork Dinner, Lexington, MA
My post last night referred to a Field of Dreams, and I have to say, my dinner at Wilson Farms was absolutely a Field of Dreams. For some strange reason I have always had a little dream that having a meal in a field of vegetables, but I must say, my expectations for what that experience would be like were so far exceeded that I cannot even begin to express it.
Wilson Farms, in a true, "If you build it they will come" fashion, have been contriving the idea of serving a multi course dinner among their tomato plants and flowers for several years. This summer, under the lead of head chef Todd Heberlein, they hosted two such dinners on their grounds in Lexington, the second of which was last night.
I cannot even begin to express how excited I was last night as we drove out to Lexington, and when the incredibly impressive fields spread in front of us, I almost bounded from the car while waiting to get into the parking lot. Luckily for John, I maintained my composure- sort of- and waited until we were safely parked. Before sitting down at the gorgeous table, we were taken on a brief tour of the farm where we were educated about how Wilson Farms keeps up with their produce as well as how they keep their pests away. Having been in business since 1884, Wilson Farms absolutely knows what they are doing from re using soil, to watching for a hatch of larvae that needs to be stopped. What this all means is that the produce you're buying from Wilson's is well maintained, as fresh as possible and as flavorful as possible.
Finally though it was time to dig into all that great produce. We sat at beautiful long tables amidst their tomato vines, and as a starter we were presented with baskets of fresh baked bread accompanied with a roasted eggplant spread that was absolutely delicious. To my eye it appeared to be simply beautiful eggplants, roasted with subtle herbs and then pureed into a spread. Utterly perfect- light and flavorful. As we munched on our bread, Chef Herberlein spoke to us about his method for the evening and his intent for our taste buds-clean simple foods, at the height of their season, packed with nutrients and flavor.
Our first course was described as Prosciutto and Melon- a dish I know we've all had a hundred times, but probably never in the way that Chef presented it last night. He had pureed the melon into a soup like consistency, and sprinkled on top was crisp Prosciutto. The texture variance was wonderful and made for a much more unique presentation than the traditional serving.
The second course was a called a Study of Beets, consisting of a melange of red, golden and Chioggia beets, including every section of the beet with the greens included. Chef had combined techniques with these beets, pureeing the red beets with just a bit of vinegar, salt and pepper, and pureeing the golden beets with Dijon mustard. The Chioggia beets he roasted and then tossed with his own, house made, creme fraiche mixed with dill. These he laid on top of the greens that he had sauteed with caramelized onions. He topped the whole thing with chopped pistachios, and crumbled blue cheese. I am not, generally speaking, a fan of beets, but this combination of flavors and textures was absolutely fantastic. The chioggia's were my favorite part, deep rich flavor, lightened with the creamy creme fraiche. The red puree were perfectly true to beet flavor, and the yellow resounded with a healthy kick from the Dijon mustard.
The third course may have been my favorite of the evening. A perfect corn and chorizo pudding was served, as bowls of Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho salad and grilled Athena Melon salad were passed family style. Everything about this course was amazing. The corn pudding had just the right amount of corn, meaty chorizo, and egg that kept it moist and held together with that great pudding feel. The Gazpacho salad was a fantastic tribute to the chilled summer soup-it contained all of the same components as the soup, but in their original form. The really amazing part about this dish was all of the different varieties of tomatoes that were blended together-every one with a different flavor, all perfectly complimentary. It was delicious. Finally the Athena Melon reminded me of a cantaloupe, and had been grilled so it contained not only beautiful char marks, but also great caramelization where the grill contacted the sweet fruit. This resulted the in the melon being both smoky and sweet, with a concentration of flavors in the grill area. The melon was paired with a greens salad that was dressed with a roasted tomatillo vinaigrette.
The fourth course was an incredible mix of flavors, and a really beautiful showcase of the produce that Wilson Farms grows. We were served two distinct salads, a Cranberry-Bean salad with corn, kale and collard greens, and a three bean salad with olives and roasted tomatoes and ricotta salata. Oh my-the cranberry-bean salad, or cold stew, was absolutely to die for. The fresh corn with the robust beans, and the sturdy greens- each flavor was perfectly layered. To move from that, almost earthy presentation to the deliciously salty bean salad was a perfect match. The green and wax beans were nicely cooked, still slightly crunchy and maintaining their natural flavors. The tomatoes with the concentrated flavor were a sweet and tangy match for them.
The final course was an absolute show stopper- dessert. What was served was a stone fruit tart, layers of flaky pastry topped with almond paste and nectarines (I believe -it was pretty dark at this point) with raspberries and blackberries decorating the plate atop a raspberry puree and a marmalade. The plate was further accented with a macaroon, and whipped cream topped with chopped candied ginger. I'm not entirely sure that words can do any justice to this dessert. Each different flavor was delightfully different, and awakened the taste buds to incredible changes in sugar, tang, cream and even a little spice from the ginger. It was a perfect showcase to the delightful bounty of summer fruits, and a perfect ending to the meal.
I cannot rave enough about what may now be known as one of the most incredible evenings of my dining life. The company, a fantastic mix of food writers and bloggers, as well as frequent shoppers at the Farm, delighted to see the store in a new light. The staff was utterly charming, adding to the rustic feel of the meal, and Chef Heberlein was amazing. During each course he took the time to explain exactly what we were enjoying and visited each of the three tables to speak to the guests and answer any questions we could come up with. As night fell, our stomachs were full, and listening to the laughter and the chatter around us of both new and old friends, I knew that it was safe to say our hearts were full as well.
Wilson Farms did state that they would be hosting more of these amazing nights next summer, I urge you all to keep an eye on their website and keep track. This really is an experience like no other.
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