This past Friday my husband and I had the pleasure of attending a farm dinner at Three Leaf Farm in Lafayette. Three Leaf Farm is owned by Lenny and Sara Martinelli, owners of Three Leaf Concepts, which is responsible for an array of great restaurants in Boulder County (Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant, Aji Latin American Restaurant, the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, Zucca Italian Ristorante, the Huckleberry, the Naropa Cafe, and now the Chautauqua Dining Hall). The farm was established to provide local produce to the Three Leaf Concept restaurants. But the farm doesn’t just grow produce — they have several goats which provide milk for cheese, a large number of chickens for eggs, several bee hives on the property, and even a newly built barn with farm-owned as well as boarded horses.

The same six goats in several pictures. Because I think goats are adorable!

The same six goats in several pictures. Because I think goats are adorable!

The farm tour is one of my favorite parts of farm dinners. I love hearing about the different tactics used to control weeds and pests without pesticides, and how Colorado farms deal with the dry climate. Farm manager Chase Morris shared a wealth of information as well as some pretty amusing anecdotes about the day-to-day operations at the farm. It’s always very cool to hear how passionate the farmers on smaller farms are about their product. And the chefs at each restaurant have really embraced the produce from the farm as well. I loved hearing about a day when there wasn’t enough time to harvest what the chef from Zucca wanted for that night, so he harvested it himself! And you truly can’t beat the opportunity to hold a pygmy goat! (The picture above is of one of the owners of the farm holding the goat. As soon as I got the goat into my arms, he took one look at my hair and said – hey! STRAW! – and began eating it, therefore not providing a good photographic opportunity.)

Gorgeous Appetizers

Gorgeous Appetizers

The chef for this farm dinner was Rachel Best, of Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant (one of our favorites in Boulder). The food began with some wonderful appetizers: Avalanche Lamborn Bloomers Cheese on Flax Crackers with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote, Raw Broccoli Shooters with Macademia Nut Cheese, and Raw Sweet Pea Hummus on Baby Red Romaine with Radish Sprouts. The cheese was unbelievably good and the broccoli shooters were fantastic as well.

View from my place at the table

My place at the table

After appetizers and the farm tour, we and our fellow diners moved to the table for dinner. The table was beautifully set, and there was even a trio playing live music throughout dinner. I’ve mentioned this before when reviewing various dinners we’ve gone to, but it’s always so fun to have dinner with a bunch of people you’ve never met before, to talk and laugh through dinner, and then find that three hours have gone by in what feels like half that time. The group where we sat covered a wide range of food topics, as well as the Midwest climate compared to Colorado, water rights, college majors and dining halls, and travel.

Looking down the table

Looking down the table

But on to the food! The first course was Zucchini Fritters with Carrot-Hempseed Pesto and Pickled Golden Beets. The entire dish was great, but I couldn’t get past how awesome the pickled beets were. Yes, they seem simple, but I really think they were the best ones I’ve ever had. Very, very thin, with the perfect vinegary taste.

Zucchini Fritters with Carrot-Hempseed Pesto and Pickled Golden Beets

Zucchini Fritters with Carrot-Hempseed Pesto and Pickled Golden Beets

The bread served was Gluten Free Teff Rolls with Colorado Honey Butter. The rolls were so good that I bought some teff flour the next day to see how easy it was to bake with (haven’t tried it yet, though). I’ve actually been amazed lately with the great quality of a lot of gluten-free products I’ve tried, and these rolls were great as well.

Gluten Free Teff Rolls

Gluten Free Teff Rolls

The salad course was Farm Greens with Quinoa, Haystack Mountain Cracked Pepper Chevre with Basil Vinaigrette and Tempura Pearled Onion.

Farm Green Salad with Quinoa, Haystack Mountain Cracked Pepper Chevre with Basil Vinaigrette and Tempura Pearled Onion

Farm Green Salad with Quinoa, Haystack Mountain Cracked Pepper Chevre with Basil Vinaigrette and Tempura Pearled Onion

For the main course we had Seared Trumpet Mushrooms, Turnip-Cauliflower Puree, Roasted Radishes, Sautéed Kale, and Rosemary Pistachios. I thought this course was especially attractive.

 Seared Trumpet Mushrooms, Turnip-Cauliflower Puree, Roasted Radishes, Sauteéd Kale and Rosemary Pistachios

Seared Trumpet Mushrooms, Turnip-Cauliflower Puree, Roasted Radishes, Sautéed Kale, and Rosemary Pistachios

By the time dessert arrived, it was so dark that I had pretty much no hope of getting a decent picture. So you’ll have to put some imagination into viewing the picture of the Brandy Custard with Apricot Puree, Lemon Pound Cake, Toasted Almonds, and Cocoa Nibs.

Brandy Custard with Apricot Puree, Lemon Pound Cake, Toasted Almonds, and Cocoa Nibs

Brandy Custard with Apricot Puree, Lemon Pound Cake, Toasted Almonds, and Cocoa Nibs

Three Leaf Farm has four additional dinners scheduled for this year. The price for the dinner we attended was $80, and included wine pairings for every course. This is considerably less than a lot of local farm dinners are lately, so was quite a great deal, in addition to being a wonderful time.

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A Farm Dinner with Pizza!

September 21, 2012

I love farm dinners, but they tend to be fairly expensive, so we usually limit ourselves to one or two a year. But when I happened upon a link to a farm dinner at Lone Hawk Farm featuring pizza baked in a portable wood-fired grill for just $40 a person, it seemed like a no-brainer – I immediately sent an email asking if there was still space.

Lone Hawk Farm is west of Longmont in a very picturesque landscape. Produce is sold at the farm, and space is available for weddings and special events, as well as horse boarding. It was in the 50s and rainy the evening of the dinner, but the hosts were gracious enough to let us dine in their home in a wonderful room with picture windows on two sides. The area is very secluded, so it feels quite pastoral (and the peacocks wandering by the window at one point certainly reinforced that feeling).

Crust Mobile's Wood Fired Oven

Crust Mobile’s Wood Fired Oven

The food was orchestrated by Crust Mobile, based in Nederland (but portable!), using several ingredients from Lone Hawk Farm and other local providers. A few of us headed out to look at the oven and talk with Dawn, the owner. The oven is a gorgeous clay creation from France, covered in copper from an artist in Maine. The temperature used for making pizza is around 750 to 800 degrees, and they fire it using hardwood, which burns hotter, cleaner, and for a longer time than softer woods. Dawn told us that most of the wood they would be using during the evening (which was a pretty small pile) was fruit wood, obtained from a friend who is a tree trimmer. (Great reuse!) They use Colorado milled organic flour, pepperoni and sausage made in Denver, and local produce when it’s in season.

Crust Mobile's Wood Fired Oven

Close-up of Crust Mobile’s Wood Fired Oven

After we headed back in, a stream of fairly substantial food appeared at regular intervals through the back door. We started with a nice bowl of tomato soup finished with olive oil – perfect for a cool, rainy evening.

Tomato Soup finished with Olive Oil

Tomato Soup finished with Olive Oil

Following that we had a salad of field greens with local cantaloupe, walnuts and orange thyme vinaigrette.

Farm Fresh Green Salad

Farm Fresh Green Salad

And then began the pizza courses. I think the unanimous favorite at the table was the Apple Bacon pizza with mascarpone, bacon, Lone Hawk Farm apples, blue cheese and maple syrup drizzle. The sweet mascarpone and maple syrup, the tart apples, umami blue cheese and salty bacon were phenomenal together.

Unbelievably Amazing Bacon, Marscapone, Blue Cheese and Apple Pizza

Unbelievably Amazing Apple Bacon Pizza with Mascarpone, Bacon, Lone Hawk Farm Apples, Blue Cheese and Maple Syrup Drizzle

Next was Adult Pepperoni: Il Mondo Vecchio hand-cut pepperoni, Lone Hawk Farm peppers, crushed tomatoes (canned at Lone Hawk), and mozzarella. Since it had peppers and pepperoni I started referring to it as pepper2oni (that was your bad math joke for today, and I apologize profusely (but I’m going to leave it in anyhow)).

Pepperoni & Pepper Pizza

Il Mondo Vecchio Pepperoni & Pepper Pizza

Third up was Squash-Room: Hazel Dell crimini mushrooms, herbed ricotta, Lone Hawk Farm squash, roasted garlic, and fresh thyme.

Squash, Mushroom, Mozzarella, Ricotta and Pumpkin Seed Pizza

Squash, Mushroom, Mozzarella, and Ricotta Pizza

And the final pizza was a simple, classic, and totally delicious Margherita with crushed tomatoes and basil from Lone Hawk Farm, and fresh mozzarella.

Margherita Pizza

Margherita Pizza

Then, as if all of the wonderful pizza wasn’t enough food (there were second pieces had by all (thirds by some)), we finished with an outstanding apple cake made with Lone Hawk Farm apples.

Apple Cake

Apple Cake

If you’ve wanted to try a farm dinner, but have been put off by the steep prices, I highly recommend checking out a dinner at Lone Hawk Farm!

It wouldn’t be a proper foodie summer without a farm dinner. (It’s fun to see where you food comes from, and great to meet local farmers.) I perused the local offerings, and was intrigued by one that was to be put on by Five, a group of (five) superstar Denver chefs who put on events in different locations. This particular farm dinner was to be hosted at Two Bear Farms in Wheat Ridge. Two Bear produces organic eggs, so the dinner was to heavily feature eggs. Works for me – I rarely eat eggs at home, so bring them on! I signed us up, and on an evening in July that was providing some pretty menacing looking rain in Boulder, we headed down to Wheat Ridge.

Chickens at Two Bear Farms

Chickens at Two Bear Farms

Fortunately, the rain hadn’t yet made an appearance that far south-east, so once we arrived at the farm (which is quite tiny – but you don’t need as much room if you’re not growing a lot of crops), it was nice and dry. We walked over to the enclosure for the chickens, who were all out enjoying the early evening air. Well, honestly, I have no clue if that’s what they were doing – who can really get inside the mind of a chicken? But it sounds nice and poetic. Let’s just say they all seemed pretty relaxed, content, and were just walking around pecking at the ground. I always love to see chickens on a farm that truly has an open area for them to move around in. (Partly because sometimes one or two will just burst into a run for 20 feet, which I find highly amusing to watch (of course I’m sure people could say the same thing about my running style, but I digress)). Contrary to the aroma one might find at over-crowded chicken farms, the three smaller organic farms we’ve gone to which had chickens had pretty much no adverse smell.

Friendly Chicken at Two Bear Farms - Wheatridge, CO

Photo-Op Seeking Chicken at Two Bear Farms – Wheat Ridge, CO

The first food served was hand-passed appetizers. My favorite overall was the mini fried-egg sandwiches (made with quail eggs). Seriously – aren’t they adorable? And they were delicious, too. I kind of wanted about five of them. (Five? Get it?)

Mini Fried Egg Sandwiches

Mini Fried-Egg Sandwiches

I think the gorgeous award for the evening probably went to the red beet-pickled Two Bear Farms hen’s eggs with horseradish egg salad and golden beet caviar.

Beet-pickled egg with horseradish egg salad and golden beet caviar

Beet-pickled eggs with horseradish egg salad and golden beet caviar

The dining area was three long rows of tables under a tent (fortunately, since it did actually start raining later in the evening!). You’ll notice my currently open and in the process of being enjoyed bottle of Dry Lavender Soda. I normally don’t drink caloric beverages (opting instead for artificially sweetened ones, in brazen contrast to my bent on healthy eating), but this stuff had significantly fewer calories than regular soda, and really was quite good.

Dinner Table - FIVE Goes to a Farm - Two Bear Farms

Dinner Table – FIVE Goes to a Farm – Two Bear Farms

One of the things that I really love about going to various dining events is the people you meet. You might find yourself sitting across the table from the chef of a budding new restaurant in Denver, a couple who does design and planning for new restaurants, or a former contestant on Master Chef. It’s fun to talk about food with others who are as into it as you are. Even if your expertise only extends to dining out or being a home cook, you can still talk about foods you’ve tried, different preparations, or the food you are eating at the dinner. It’s also a great opportunity to ask someone who works in the industry questions you’ve always had about restaurants or catering, or what have you.

My favorite main course of the evening was Hosea Rosenberg’s Homemade Cavatelli “Carbonara” with Two Bear Farms Egg Yolk and Pancetta. Most of the courses were served family style, so I didn’t get quite as much pasta on my plate when I passed it down as I would have liked, but it was still very enjoyable. Rich without being overwhelming, it made great use of the farm’s eggs.

Cavatelli Carbonara

Cavatelli Carbonara

There were several other main courses, but unfortunately I didn’t get good photos of any of them. They included Pickled Colorado wild striped bass by Mark DeNittis, Chicken fried beef tongue by Samir Mohammad, and coq au vin blanc by Jenna Johansen.

Oh, but then there was the unbelievably delectable element of the dessert course by Jessica Scott. She made three desserts, but the purple velvet cupcakes with jalapeño cream cheese frosting were hands-down the best. I know that no description I give will do them justice. Yes, jalapeño cream cheese frosting might sound a bit odd, but having eaten and enjoyed quite a bit of gourmet chocolate with chilis, I knew how well that worked together. The cream cheese frosting had just the flavor aspect of the jalapeños without the heat, and for some reason, when mixed with the chocolate cupcake taste it was complete bliss.

Purple Velvet Cupcakes with Jalapeño Cream Cheese Frosting

Purple Velvet Cupcakes with Jalapeño Cream Cheese Frosting

I had to include a picture of the red and black brownies, because all lined up on giant serving trays, they just looked too pretty not to share.

Red and Black Brownies

Red and Black Brownies

Last weekend we attended a farm dinner at Aspen Moon Farm, an awesome little farm in Hygiene, CO owned by Jason and Erin Griffith. Several members of my book club belong to the Aspen Moon Farm CSA (Community Shared Agriculture), so we had inside knowledge about how great their produce is. (I’ve also bought things from them at the Farmers’ Market, and been very happy with it). All of my book club and their significant others attended the dinner, as well as some of the farm workers, other CSA members, neighbors of the farm, and other food aficionados.

Before we sat down to eat, Jason took us on a tour. The farm is only 5 acres, but they get an incredible amount and variety of produce out of it. They use sustainable, pesticide-free farming methods, and have a great respect for the land. They are working on achieving their organic certification, and are considering going even further to get biodynamic certification. One of the tenets of biodynamic agriculture is the creation of a largely self-sustainable ecosystem in which as few external resources are used as possible. There are a couple of practices that Jason and Erin discussed that struck me as perfect examples of this type of closed-loop, sustainable system. The first deals with water supply.  Aspen Moon sold their water rights to Left Hand Water so that they could dig a well on their property, and therefore obtain all of their water from the farm itself. The second is the use of their farm-foraging, egg-laying chickens to provide fertilizer. They haven’t yet attained the level of biodynamic, self-sustaining farming that they would like, but are always progressing toward that goal.

The orchestration of the meal was done by Terroir, a very popular Farm to Table restaurant in Longmont, which gets a large portion of its produce form Aspen Moon Farm. Terroir owners Tim Payne and Melissa Newell (Tim is also the executive chef) provided a wonderful four course dinner, cooked in the farm field with portable equipment. Paired with each course were some very impressive biodynamic wines provided by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.

Other people at the dinner took lovely pictures of the farm, the sunset and the full moon. I got pictures of the chickens. That’s pretty typical for me. I headed over to the large pen they were in between courses to take a picture, and they all came trotting over to me. I soon found myself trying to apologize to them and explain that I was just there for a picture, not with food. At that point I remembered I was in public, snapped a couple of pictures, and returned to the table.

The Egg and Fertilizer Crew at Aspen Moon Farm

The Egg and Fertilizer Crew

I did, however take pictures of the food (aside from the passed appetizers).  So without further ado:

The first sit-down course was a potato, poblano and sweet corn chowder with crispy bacon and grilled sea scallop.

Potato, Poblano and Sweet Corn Chowder

Potato, Poblano and Sweet Corn Chowder

The second course was a gorgeous spicy green salad with carrots, Japanese cucumbers, shallots, peanuts, soy beans, and cilantro with a ginger citrus vinaigrette.

Salad of Spicy Greens

Salad of Spicy Greens

The main course was a very lovely roasted cornish game hen served with Procencal ratatouille and pistou.

Roasted Cornish Game Hen

Roasted Cornish Game Hen

We ended the meal with a grilled Palisade peach with rosemary infused brown sugar syrup and almond nougatine. By the time dessert rolled around, it was fairly dark, so the picture does not do the food justice.

Grilled Peach with Almond Nougatine

Grilled Peach with Almond Nougatine

Dinner Groups

June 19, 2011

One of the most enjoyable things about food, is discovering other people who have the same fascination as you.  For the past couple of years my husband and I have gone to dinners put on by a ‘hush-hush’ dinner group in Denver.  We’ve also gone to a couple farm dinners.  Until we started doing this, I can’t say I’d ever had a conversation for more than a few minutes with anyone else in which past food experiences were shared – recommended local restaurants, food experiences while travelling domestically as well as internationally, cooking experiences with unusual foods that you don’t see every day in your standard supermarket.  It has been so much fun to discover that other people are into food as much as we are, and like to try new and interesting things.  We have met chefs, restaurant managers, as well as others who are just into good food.

I also discovered the woman who will probably always remain my favorite pastry chef in the world, Ginger Reynolds. The dessert she made for one particular dinner was truly a phenomenal, unparalleled creation. The description of the dessert, ‘cioccolato nocciola torta & crema espresso’ is almost insulting in it’s failure to encompass how wonderful it was. I was so full I almost felt sick, but told my fellow diners that I was determined to just ‘push through and finish’, because there was no way that I was not going to finish every single bit of that dessert.

HUSH is a mobile restaurant concept, formed to give chefs that aren’t currently the star at their places of employment a chance to show off.  After subscribing to the mailing list, you receive emails announcing upcoming events.  We have eaten dinners in a mod interior design gallery, a motorsports gallery, and on the roof of a luxury condo complex.  The most interesting and enjoyable dinners we have experienced with the group featured chef Ian Kleinman, formerly of O’s in Westminster, but now with The Inventing Room.  Chef Kleinman is a molecular gastronomist, which basically means he uses science to do weird things with food.  Like making exploding whipped cream with liquid nitrogen.  And Sriracha cubes – little gelatin like cubes of flavor.  And charcoal oil, which imparted a smoky grill taste to shrimp without requiring a grill.  And one of the best tasting items of the evening – coconut milk sorbet that took only 2 minutes to make with liquid nitrogen.   The menu follows, with pictures when we remembered to take them as opposed to just digging in.

First Course:
Grilled shrimp Carpaccio, dried chilies, carbonated citrus cells, charcoal oil, peeled cherry tomatoes and cilantro
Second Course:
Fried chicken consomme, buttermilk dippin dots, peeled and compressed celery, cornbread foam

Third Course:
Coconut milk sorbet with braised pineapple, strawberry champagne jelly and vanilla bubbles

Fourth Course:
Sous vide Tasmanian pepper encrusted sirlion in butter and tarragon, smoked milk pudding, sriracha cubes, candy cane carrots and demi glace caviar

Fifth Course:

Flexible white chocolate with nutella powder, liquid nitrogen malted ice cream, exploding whipped cream and peanut butter pop rocks

And then the farm dinners.  These are put on by Meadowlark Farm Dinners, which is a group that brings in their bus and huge grill, and prepares a multi-course dinner on the farm, using produce picked fresh from that particular farm.  For items that the hosting farm doesn’t supply, they work with other farms or ranches nearby.  We have gone to two of these dinners.  The first dinner we attended was at Cure Organic Farm at Valmont and 75th, and included a wonderful tour of their farm.  One of the highlights for me was the unique chicken enclosure, which was a pretty huge enclosure that included trees and grassy areas that the chickens could run around in when they were being kept out of the fields during fox breeding season.  Normally they are moved around in a mobile chicken coop for a variety of feeding areas.  I’ve never really seen chickens out running laps before, but these looked like some healthy, energetic chickens.  We also got to see the greenhouse, the re-purposed washing machine they use for washing greens, the quonset huts that the interns working the farm live in, and of course the pigs and piglets, newly added to the farm that year.

The next dinner we went to was at Red Wagon Organic Farm, also on Valmont.  The table was quite a hike from the parking area, but was set up in the middle of fields and truly gave you a unique experience.  The farm tour was quite interesting as well.  Aside from the fact that they have so many varieties of vegetables (I got very excited listening to all of the heirloom tomatoes they had planted), they are doing some  interesting work with row covers and ‘plasticulture’ in order to speed up the growing season and increase the health of the plants.  Row covers are basically a somewhat translucent cover that keeps the plants from having to fight the wind, and lets them enjoy some warmer temperatures.  They have some research information on their website about this, should you care to read more.  The food at the farm dinners is always quite good, but perhaps not the most creative or absolutely top-notch food we have eaten.  But given the fact that they are cooking on a grill and in a bus in the middle of a field, it’s pretty impressive.  And you simply cannot beat produce that was picked that recently, in that close proximity to the table at which you are eating.  My only complaint is that sometimes the bug spray just doesn’t fend off all of the mosquitoes that join the table after the sun goes down.

We have had some great conversations with people at these dinners, and have met nutritionists, farmers, and people who are just local food-loving, farmers’ market-attending foodies.  The picture  below is the view right across from me at the table while the fellow diner across from me was out of his seat.

My view at the Meadowlark Farm Dinner at Red Wagon Organic Farm

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