Last year the ‘Shake the Hand That Feeds you Dinner‘ at the Flying J Farm was my first Slow Food Columbus event. It was a magical evening, eating al fresco by candle light with convivial company, food from the farm and a master chef working the grill. I secretly feared that the encore could not live up to my memories. I was wrong. Sitting at a candle-lit table overlooking the vineyard at sunset, it was as if we had been magically transported to the Napa valley.
It was not all smooth sailing. Planning a big event never is, but the locavore dinner had more than its fair share of obstacles and logistical complications. In the final days before the event the rain was relentless and the forecast was ominous. Luckily saturday was dry and after a blustery afternoon the wind died down at 5pm precisely and the tablecloths finally stopped threatening to fly away.
There may have been an element of luck with the weather but the fact that the dinner came together with such style is a tribute to Bear and Colleen and their powers of organization, creativity and persistence. The Winery at Otter Creek is a young operation located near Johnstown Ohio with a beautiful hillside setting and as well as providing a stunning setting they supplied a variety of their wines for the dinner.
We started with refreshments and amuse-bouche as we watched the chefs in action and admired the view. The heirloom tomato-water ‘martini’ was a popular choice.
The crostini was one of my favorite things of the evening, goats cheese, pesto, roasted tomatoes, simple but sumptuous, a perfect match of creamy and crispy.
While we were milling around, whetting our appetites, the chefs John and Ryan from Basi Italia were hard at work creating amazing things on the biggest Weber grill you have ever seen. They were cheerfully assisted by Andrew and Adrienne, who may not have realized what they had let themselves in for.
Above: Free-range Ohio pheasants, shot to order from Mill Creek Pheasant Farm crowding around a pan of spicebush scented sauerkraut with honeycrisp apples. Below: a riot of color – fall squashes, purple potatoes and beauregard sweet potatoes.
I will let the menu speak for itself. It was colorful, seasonal, delicious and a feat of outdoor cooking. The salads were plated but the main course was served family style and an ample supply of fresh bread, home made butter and rillettes added to the abundance.
As well as featuring a wealth of local foods, the dinner incorporated two foods that are both local and Ark of Taste: ground cherries in the autumnal tumble salad and garnishing the martini, and pawpaws in both cheesecake and ice cream form. I have a feeling that a few of the other foods would make excellent candidates. Purple potatoes, spicebush berries?
After the pawpaw festival I thought I might never eat pawpaw again, but these creamy treats enticed me back. I was responsible for the black walnut biscotti, using half of the nuts specified in my usual recipe. They were best dipped in some hot apple cider.
A Slow Food Columbus locavore dinner would not be complete without some pawpaw liqueur and so the more (fool) hardy headed to Flying J farm to set up camp, build a huge campfire and continue the festivities. Chestnuts anyone?
Although the dinner was the brainchild of Bear and Colleen, it would not have been possible without the help, generosity and kindness of so many others. As well as the thank you list below, there were many others who helped out on the night, collecting glasses, clearing plates and scooping ice cream.
Our chefs, John and Ryan surveying the contented diners. A job well done.
There are more photos on flickr, including shots of our fantastic campfire breakfast.