Monday, October 15, 2007

A Butcher's Dinner

With the previous weekend off, we were fresh and ready for this week’s dinner. Our site was only a short jog down the road from Outstanding in the Field headquarters in Santa Cruz.

Everett Family Farm, had hosted an Outstanding Dinner this time last year and Rich and Laura had invited us to their farm again. Jim and Leah visited the site a few days beforehand and Jim was excited to see a fallow row about 14 feet by 170 feet, perfectly wide and perfectly long enough for the table. The row was lined with a beautiful variety of greens and flowers and several rows over were two horse-trailers-converted-chicken-coops, which definitely added to the atmosphere. It was going to be a gorgeous setting with the table.

On Saturday morning we headed over to Everett Family Farm, giving ourselves extra time to work on cleaning off the chairs. After being in the wet field out at County Line a couple of weeks ago we knew they would need a little attention.

Despite the rain earlier in the week, getting everyone excited, the day had turned out beautiful: cloudless skies and a comfortably warm temperature. The farm had been washed clean by the rain so even the chicken houses looked bright and fresh in the field.

It’s hard to believe, but this was going to be our last table set up until the foraging dinner in December. After 15 dinners (including a couple of private events) in 18 weeks, there is going to be some withdrawl.

After scrubbing down all the chairs (thanks to Cindy and Wrenna, our new staff!) and letting the field dry out a bit more we started spreading out straw bales into the vacant row. In less than an hour, the table was set and the field transformed into our restaurant without walls.

Andrea Gentl and Marin Hyers, photographers from Conde Nast Traveler, jumped into the cherrypicker and lifted themselves high into the sky for an aerial shot of the table. They were at the dinner trying for a cover shot for the March issue of the magazine, which will include a “Farm to Table” feature article. The cherrypicker proved to be a great novelty later on in the dinner for others who wanted to see an overhead view of the scene – almost like a carnival ride!  Here's a shot by Jim's photographer friend Patrick Trefz to give you a taste:

Up at the welcome area, guests had begun to arrive. Christine Slatter from Hunter Hill Vineyard and Winery poured her 2004 Estate Merlot from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Hunter Hill is literally over the hill from Everett Farm, just off Glen Haven Road in Soquel. Chef Justin Severino of Severino Community Butchers had prepared platters upon platters of crostini that were set out on the mesh-top greenhouse tables: bresaola with tea-soaked prunes, ciccioli with pickled cucumber and beef salami with apricot mostarda.

Justin is familiar with Outstanding in the Field dinners, as this is his third – second at Everett Farm. Justin and his wife Hilary operate Severino’s Community Butcher, which sources pig, beef and rabbit from local farmers. They sell the sausages, pates and cuts of cured meats at farmers markets in Felton, Santa Cruz and Campbell. Unfortunately for Santa Cruz, Justin will be relocating back to his former home of Pennsylvania in a few weeks time to begin anew in Pittsburgh. We are very fortunate to have him join us for this Outstanding dinner in Santa Cruz and look forward to the possibility of visiting him next year in the Northeast.

After appetizers and wine, Rich and Laura Everett, along with farmers Teresa Kurtak and Michael Irving (UCSC CASFS graduates), led everyone on a tour of the farm: from the market stand to the fields, to the persimmon and apple orchards. Afterwards, guests meandered back towards the table and collected their plates displayed on hay bales. We poured Hunter Hill’s “Double Barrel” (a Roussane and Viognier blend) and then presented Justin’s savory watermelon soup with proscuitto, charred tomatoes and goat cheese. See his full menu here. It was an educational evening, with everyone walking away having learned at least two new Spanish/Italian terms for different pork preparations. Justin created an amazing menu, sourcing almost every vegetable/fruit ingredient from Everett Farm. The meat came from Devil’s Gulch Ranch, the fish from Hans and Heidi at H&H Fresh Fish and the bread from Big Sur Bakery. Dessert was prepared by Marg Clemens. The guests enjoyed 19 beautiful apple pies which were made with the Newtown Pippin apples from the Everett’s orchard.
After dessert was served, Justin and his kitchen crew came out to the table to say goodnight and the rowdy crowd gave a high-spirited ovation. With the comfortable weather, guests lingered into the night.

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