Monday, September 15, 2008
Food Lust Auction Dinner
Cascade Harvest Coalition is the type of organization that affects so many people in so many ways. Its campaigns range from seeking livestock and produce processing facilities for local farms to mediating between state organizations and local interest groups to large projects like the Puget Sound Fresh label found in grocery stores, restaurants (and the side of buses) throughout the region. They receive funding from state agencies and national grants, non-profits and small businesses. But one of the biggest sources of funding comes from the annual fund-raiser Food Lust at Fall City Farm. I’ve participated in the event for the past two years as the Executive Chef of Stumbling Goat Bistro, cooking Bluebird Grain Farm’s emmer farro with sea beans and asparagus in 2007 and preparing Bruce Dunlop’s Lopez Island Farm delicious pork this past year.
During the auction at this year’s event, a dinner for 12 was offered by Linda Neunzig of Ninety Farm in Arlington. Although this item was not on the auction sheet, an impromptu corralling (by Linda) of some of the chefs in attendance that night resulted in the largest fund-raiser of the evening. The plan was for myself, Tamara Murphy of Brasa, Autumn Martin of Theo Chocolate, Alison Leber of Beecher’s Flagship Program, and Gary Knopp of VineOne, under the “front of the house” guidance of Mina Williams, foodie-extraordinaire, to prepare a meal of farm products and scrumptious wine and cheeses for the lucky guests. Celebrating her birthday at the Food Lust that evening was Erin MacDougall, a King County Public Health official (and also foodie extraordinaire). Erin gave herself the birthday present of this wonderful dinner and invited 11 of her dear friends to join her.
The weather couldn’t have been any better – late summer sun shining on happy and hungry faces, followed by a full harvest moon rising over the jagged Cascade peaks. After a tour of the Ninety Farm property, including a demonstration of Linda’s corgi team in action while rounding up the sheep in one of the pastures, Linda brought everyone to the dinner table on the lawn between rows of lettuces and the horse corrals. The guests nibbled on and eggplant marmalade, Summer Gem tomatoes filled with gazpacho and pork (from Tamara’s pigs) and cranberry beans on crisp apple slices.
As the evening proceeded Tamara and I plated up three courses – a chanterelle and bread soup with chive crème fraiche, a raw salad composed of herbs, carrots, squash and lettuces that I’d picked from Linda’s garden only an hour before (part of our 20-foot diet we’re promoting ), and an entrée of Ninety Farm Katahdin lamb roasted in “la caja china” served with emmer farro, lobster mushrooms and braised garden greens and broccoli and sage. Each course was thoughtfully paired with wines from Gary’s collection that included a remarkable Zinfandel from Ravenswood and a 2002 Covey Run Late Harvest Riesling that poured like liquid gold.
Cheeses from Beecher’s and a fantastic molten chocolate cake with raspberries and herb-infused cream finished the meal. Autumn chose to bake her cake in the cutest little Mason jars and she showed her confectionary talents with a cocoa cookie and chocolate tuile as creative garnishes. Each guest parted with hand-made chocolates from the Theo shop in Fremont.
It is always a pleasure to cook a meal consisting of locally sourced products, but it is an even more gratifying experience when you’ve harvested the vegetables a few hours earlier and then transformed them into a delectable feast for guests who really care about this sort of thing. I am fortunate to Linda, Tamara, Autumn, Alison, Gary, Mina, Bruce and Jill for helping to put on this special dinner. But I am especially pleased that Cascade Harvest Coalition benefited from Erin’s generosity and deep regard for the local food economy.