Dinners at the Farm: Great People, Great Food and a Great Cause

Me_at_the_wheel_2

That’s me behind the wheel!  I was having such a good time until my husband told Jonathan that I was better at truffles than trucks and that I probably shouldn’t be the one steering when they finally got the monster moving.  I love my husband, but sometimes he can be a spoil-sport.

Dinners at the Farm is the brainchild of Jonathan, the McLachlans and Chip and Carol Dahlke of Ashlawn Farm.  Carol, who is the roastmaster at Farm Coffee, stayed home, wisely – she’ll be having a baby any day now!  But here’s Chip, who, in addition to being the host of the dinners, started the wonderful Lyme Farmer’s Market:

Chip

The dinners, which kicked off in June (click to read about the first one, complete with thunder and lightning), are usually held on a local farm (Sunday night’s was the exception; it was held on the grounds of the Wadsworth Mansion, just after the annual open-air market pulled up stakes), always use ingredients straight from the area’s farms and always benefit a not-for-profit organization.  Sunday night, the proceeds from the dinner went to the local chapter of American Farmland Trust.

This time, I was at the dinner as a volunteer kitchen hand.  It was an outdoor dinner for 150 people and nothing was prepped ahead – it all happened on a bunch of plank tables under a tent and on the truck and it was a testament to what precision organization and a lot of talent can do.

Prep_list

Of course, it didn’t hurt that everyone was anxious to get their hands on the food – everything from the fruits, vegetables and fish, to the pork from Four Mile River Farm, was local and most of us knew all of the farmers personally.

When I climbed up onto the truck and gasped at how beautiful the food was, Jonathan said, “It’s impossible not to make beautiful food out of stuff this wonderful.”  Take a look at just a smidgen of what we had to work with:

Heirloom_tomatoes

Pepper_bowl

Herbs

Swordfish

There was a great sense of camaraderie among the team, which was made up of pros and volunteers, including my mates on melon brigade.  This is Steve Lapenta, who owns The Bridge, a tofu company in Middletown, and who just walked over and asked if he could lend a hand:

Steve

And here’s Christy Wilson, who in real life is from Santa Monica, but who came East for a spell to be an art director on Righteous Kill, the upcoming DeNiro/Pacino/50 Cent/Scorcese film that’s being shot in Bridgeport:

Christy

I couldn’t stay through dinner – we had to drive back to New York – but I was there to help get the pizzas ready for the grill:

Pizza_line_up_2 

and to plate the Charentais melons with smoked scallops, heirloom tomatoes, cilantro and a dressing of toasted cumin, lime, chiles and extra-virgin olive oil:

Melons_to_go

I wish I had a picture of the soup that went out before the melons – roasted corn with littleneck clams – but I was too busy picking parsley for the next course to grab my camera.

Here, though, is the whole menu, large enough, I hope, for you to read it and smile in delight:

Welcome_menu

It was terrific to be part of a community helping a community and I can’t wait to do it again.  And I will.  The Dinners at the Farm team will be in New York City at Farm Aid on September 9 and I’ll be there too.  If you’re around, come by, I’d love to see you!

Dorie Greenspan

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