Last year my friend Kate shared some phenomenal photos of a dining experience she had in Portland, OR. She had visited a local farm and had a gourmet dinner out in the middle of the farm's field. Just looking at the pictures I was overwhelmed with a sense of calm at the beauty of the natural setting. I was delighted when I read about a local Chicago caterer, City Provisions that creates these same sort of farm dinners in the Midwest. This community-minded caterer sets its mission at educating customers about where their food comes from and prides itself on local, sustainable food. I'm glad I registered for the farm dinner as soon as I heard about it, because a story ran about City Provisions that same week in the Chicago Tribune and the dinners for the remainder of the season were quickly sold out.
I convinced my younger brother that he had to join me for this adventure and I think he's happy he did. It was a bit pricey at $125 a person, but it really was a full day experience. We left the north-side of Chicago from the caterers' storefront and boarded a biodiesel bus (because really on a farm dinner tour how else are you getting to the far burbs of Chicago?) with 40 of our closest friends. The time on the bus passed quickly even though the drive was close to an hour and a half. This is probably because we were eating and even drinking during the trek to our Elburn, Illinois farm. Drinking you say? Robyn? Yes folks its true. How could I be rude and refuse a cold Great Lakes beer...it is Cleveland's finest after all and I like to support my hometown. So a cold brew, a tasty BLT on brioche and a cool shot of a zesty gazpacho later this little lady was a wee bit tipsy and ready for a tour of the farm.
Heritage Prairie Farm prides itself on being a four-season farm producing not just one produce (corn or soy beans) as many farmers do, but creating a variety of items that can be harvested almost year round. The family was warm and inviting and it was a beautiful sunny day. This being a tour bus full of foodies everyone was snapping away with the cameras and I'm sure a couple of people were taking copious notes too.
A large table for all 40 dinner attendees was set on the lawn near the farm house. The head chef and owner of the catering company, Cleetus Friedman, had selected beers from Cleveland's own Great Lakes Brewery to compliment each of the courses. Little did I know that Great Lakes prides itself on environmental respectfulness. Owner Patrick Conway passionately explained each beers flavor profile and gave a brief history of how each was created. Very interesting, but I'm not really a beer person. I have a few sips and like I said above, I'm a tipsy girl. Tasty, but I need to be eating to support this drinking!
Lucky for me we had a 5-course dinner in store for us. Not so lucky was great food but small portions. I know you're all dying to read what we ate right? Well, you'll be happy to know that my camera is FINALLY working again and I was able to take my beloved food pictures ;)
1st Course: Green salad with sun gold tomatoes (these tomatoes are AMAZING - I have been buying them recently at the Green City Market and they are like candy)
2nd Course: Rainbow chard, baby leeks, currants and pine nuts over brown rice with crispy pancetta (this was far and away my favorite course of the evening and I scaped my plate clean -- no the presentation did not look particularly appetizing maybe that's why they put the pretty flower on the plate!)
3rd Course: Zucchini cake with micro greens and roasted baby carrots (micro greens seem to have burst onto the food scene recently -- basically they are baby plants that have all the nutrients that the adult plants do, but they're not as big and look more like sprouts).
4th Course: Delicious locally made brat with grain mustard, potato salad and green beans (this was probably the heartiest of all the courses -- the brat wasn't chewy like a Johnsville store bought one but was surprisingly tender)
5th Course: Pavlova with honey cream and peaches (the perfect culmination of the meal! I think I can make this at home as the base is just a meringue)
After dinner I was pretty much ready to call it a night. I had run 16 miles that morning, had eaten a delicious dinner plus beer and was ready for sleepy time. We stayed a bit longer though for people to drink more beer, stand by an evening fire and yes, roast some marshmallows. Truly a great experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for something different. If they've got this in Portland, OR and in Chicago, I'm sure they've got one in your city too.