Friday, October 17, 2008

Greenhouse Dinner at Local No. 98856

Ahhh, if only Twisp were closer to Seattle. Well, maybe the distant location is half of its appeal to me. Once I’m over the Cascade passes, the high desert hills, orchards, and fields of wheat seem to set my mind at ease. There is something about this landscape that lets me relax a bit easier, allows me to slow down my pace, and just lets me chill the f out.

It also doesn’t hurt the cause that some of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve even met are living over there. So last July, when I was visiting Sam and Brooke Lucy at Bluebird (in next town Winthrop), I was introduced to Tess Hoke, co-owner of Local No. 98856, an awesome roadside eatery (shout out also to Blue Star Coffee Roasters and Lost River Winery, too). Tess has a monthly guest chef dinner in the greenhouse at the back of her establishment. So, we looked at our calendars and figured out a date I could come back and cook dinner for the Twisp/Winthrop community. We set October 14 as the date and I spent all summer and fall looking forward to coming back to cook in Twisp.

When I arrived on Monday, Tess and I talked about the menu as she tended to the new secession of Tristar strawberries and picked the final brandywine tomatoes and dug out some gigantic leeks from the ground. A neighboring farm had put up some lamb earlier in the year and I scored some awesome fresh chevre from the folks at Pine Stump Farm. I had brought over some goodies that Jeremy Faber of Foraged and Found had procured for me in the Cascades earlier in the week – golden chanterelles, cauliflower mushrooms, fried chicken mushrooms, and hedgehog mushrooms. I had all of the makings for a fantastic farm dinner!

Before I get into the menu details, I’ll tell you I was excited by a sign I saw posted at Local on Monday afternoon. Scheduled for that evening at the Twisp River Pub (delicious fresh hopped IPA) was an event sponsored by the Methow Conservancy, a conservation and land-preservation group that cares greatly for the Methow Valley. The speaker was Mick Mueller, and ecologist and very knowledgeable mycologist from the US Fire Service. He gave a great presentation on the mushrooms found in Washington, the distinctions and classifications of the hundreds of varieties we can find when out for a walk/hike/ride through the woods. He brought about 15 examples of fungi as well as an in depth slideshow that enlightened the crowd of nearly 75 mushroom enthusiasts. Of course, I couldn’t resist showing him the goodies I’d brought over, and I wound up giving him a stray Matsutake that I had. He gave it a strong whiff and we both agreed that that mushroom isn’t for everyone. He had to leave the Valley the next day, so unfortunately, he wasn’t able to stay for the dinner at Local.

On Tuesday, I arrived at Local early and prepped by myself for most of the day. With some afternoon kitchen help from Amy (yes, my former sous chef, Amy!) and Linda, we cruised easily into the dinner hour and fed the 32 guests who had been sipping some fine Lost River Winery Merlot, Syrah and Community Red wines. The menu was as follows:

Cascade Mushrooms, Melted Leeks, Goat Cheese Croutons, Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Leg of Lamb, Emmer Farro Fries, Braised Cabbage
Roasted Seckel Pears, Local Honey, Concord Grape Sorbet

Yes, you read that correctly, I made farro fries for Twisp. You should have been there because they were the best ever! Amy made a really nice sorbet with the fresh grapes we had. And all in all, it was a successful local Local farm dinner. I can’t wait to come back next year!

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