October Farm to Table Supper at Stauber Farm

“They bumped into one another and it was like a bolt of lightning struck.”

This, according to Mrs. Taft, is how the idea for our first farm to fork dinner in North Carolina came about.

The “they” were Harrison and Dr. Charles Taft. The two had always had the idea of a Stauber farm dinner in the back of their minds. And when their paths continued to cross when we arrived back to North Carolina we knew it was inevitable. A supper (as we say in the south) must be held.

For us, Stauber Farm is a dream. It’s a picturesque backdrop perfect for continuing the work we were doing in Vermont with our dear friends at Sandiwood.


So when Dr. Taft proposed our first farm dinner at Stauber, we let loose of our busy schedules and dove right in.

Charles and Lamar Taft are the owners and keepers of the historic rolling farmstead dating back to the 18th century and located just outside Winston-Salem. Since purchasing the Stauber Farm over 20 years ago, they have worked to maintain its historic integrity and keep with sustainable practices to preserve the land and home. They have also introduced heritage breed animals for breeding and market including St. Croix sheep which are among the American livestock breeds threatened by extinction. It is the hope that more breeders will recognize the excellent qualities of the St. Croix through their efforts and that they will produce them in greater numbers and the breed will have a chance at survival.

The Tafts were so warm in welcoming us into their world. Over bowls of lamb stew and candlelight we exchanged stories from Vermont, passion for sustainability and good wholesome food and a love for the community that only food can build.

As the hosts they pulled together a tremendous guest list of like-minded folks to share in this trial run. We watched the list grow from 10 to 20 to 30 and finally settle around 40 to be served. We were overwhelmed by the instant enthusiasm. We had a short window to plan and we were humbled by the generous support of friends and family who volunteered to “do anything” to help get this first dinner off the ground. We love you guys. Thank you.

In addition to supplying Harrison with freshly processed roosters and tender lamb, the Tafts shared sweet potatoes, kale, tomatoes and greens.

They also put Harrison in touch with other farmers including Issac at Harmony Ridge Farm and Cynthia at Billy Place Farm.

We used thick cut bacon given to us by Meadow Family Farms, earthy shiitake mushrooms from Myers Mushrooms, freshly baked bread from our good friend Jim Dumont of Bread Men, and roasted almond gelato from our girl Ciska over at Café Gelato. We also paid Lillian at West Bend Vineyards a visit for bottles of her perfectly paired wines.

A tremendous thank you to everyone for your contributions! We’re proud to say that everything on our menu, except for a few minor elements and a couple of Vermont cheese and butter favorites (we had to represent!) were sourced from within a 50 mile radius. And most of the ingredients were sourced straight from our supper’s guests.


The sense of community, a newly discovered community in North Carolina, energized us. And Lord knows we needed that energy on Monday as outlying winds from Hurricane Sandy foiled our cooking and setup plans. But it’s moments like those … you know when you are two hours out from your guests arriving and your dining tent is deemed unsafe ….or when the grill will not seem to hold heat to properly cook for 40 important guests…. that you really cherish that community that supports you. Everyone rose up and created the loveliest plan B – like it was always meant to be.

{Sweet Potato Galette with confit tomatoes, braised Stauber lamb, Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese & breakfast turnip}

{Kale Spanakopita with Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese, shiitake mushrooms, and ricotta}

{Sweet Potato Gnocchi with brown butter, sage, butternut squash, preserved lemon, crispy kale & Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen blue cheese}

{Butternut Squash & Apple Soup with nutmeg creme fraiche}

{5-Grain Oat from Bread Men}

{Smoked Whole Delaware Roosters with homemade green tomato & pear jam}

{Grilled & Roasted Stauber Farm Bone-in Leg of Lamb with a West Bend red wine reduction & mint gremolata}

{Pairing two classics: Braised Greens & Braised Cabbages with Meadow Family Farms bacon and sherry vinaigrette}

{Roasted Roots: sweet potato, beets, turnips, carrots, onion, radish & kolrabi from Harmony Ridge Farm, Billy Place Farm & Stauber Farm}

{Coffee Service featuring Krankies Coffee}

{Butternut Squash, Pumpkin & Salted Caramel Bread Pudding topped with whiskey creme anglaise & Cafe Gelato’s roasted almond gelato}

That evening, as the candlelight flickered and the platters were eagerly passed around five scattered tables snuggled indoors….

As friends hurried around the rooms with smiles and serving trays and worked back to back in the petite historic kitchen… we were reminded.


Warm camaraderie. Good Food. Big Laughs. Cherished Times.

This is what we’re here for. This is what we love to do.

Until we celebrate the community that food builds again,

a + h

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A Lesson in ‘Shrooms {Wild Branch Mushrooms in Craftsbury Vermont}

Yesterday marked 30 days until we leave Vermont. And believe you me, we’re soaking up every last minute of each remaining day.

This week we went trail riding and I saw a BEAR (Harrison did not. That’s what happens when you race ahead.) We both ran our longest runs breathing deep and powerfully through the cool woods (sharing a nerdy high five at the end). He slaughtered a couple of chickens at the farm (a first for him; a pass for me). We hiked and hiked and hiked up a super steep mountain and, just as I started cussing under my breath, we reached the summit to take in a 360 degree so-glad-we-pushed-ourselves view.

It was a pretty awesome week. Oh and he even went foraging for some wild mushrooms in the woods and proudly brought home these beauties.

Hello wild oyster mushrooms.

And that wasn’t our only mushroom encounter this week.

Rewind back to a few weeks ago when Harrison joined the intern crew for a tour of Wild Branch Farm’s mushroom growing operation. That day he came home bragging about how insanely cool the whole process was. And I of course was then insanely jealous that I missed it. So the minute we heard about their burger/tour night, I was determined to get us back there. So last night we headed out to Craftsbury, Vermont to check it all out.

After we got our fill on feta and blue cheese stuffed grass-fed sliders loaded with homemade toppings like spicy sauerkraut, tomato basil salsa, fresh egg mayo, maple mustard and blueberry bbq sauce, we got off our hay bales and took a private tour around the farm with one of the owners, sweet Kris.


We learned that Wild Branch Valley Farm is a certified organic family farm located in the Wild Branch river valley of northern Vermont. There they grow a wide assortment of vegetables and flowers and raise grass-fed cattle, sheep and chickens.


And most notably for us, they also have their Wild Branch Mushroom operation on-site where they cultivate medicinal and culinary mushrooms inside some very impressive labs and grow rooms.

I have to say, after living in Vermont I’ve become pretty accustomed to touring fields and greenhouses. But the minute we stepped inside their filtrated lab room with Petri dishes, I knew that this was farming on another level. In the lab, we were able to see first hand how they grow cultures from the tissues of wild mushrooms (like those oyster mushrooms Harrison found earlier this week). From those cultures, mycelium develops. And through that mycelium, mushrooms are eventually born.

I had plans to walk you through the whole process in this post, but honestly, who am I kidding? I could barely keep up with all of the technical jargon flying around during the tour.  Pleurotus ostreatus. Substrate. Inoculation. Spawn. Seriously?

So instead, we’re redirecting you over here for a play by play from the experts. Or better yet, if you’re in the area give them a call and schedule a visit for yourself. Trust us. Farming can be mind-blowing folks –  a passionate marriage between science and art.

Until we have our minds blown again,

A + H

Three More Weeks {Adventures in Culinary School}

We kicked off this blog in June just as we had moved to Vermont and Harrison was venturing into a Culinary Arts program at NECI .  Fast forward to today and guess what -he has less than three weeks of actual coursework left!  In a blink of an eye the student will become an almost graduated intern.  Holy smokes.

How is he doing it so fast you might ask?  Well NECI offers this fantastic advanced placement program for “experienced industry professionals” (a.k.a. those who already pulled the back to back double shifts cooking their way through the school of hard knocks).  If you qualify, you have an opportunity to place out of courses through hands-on and written tests to speed up the process and get back to grind.  That option mixed with the school’s focus on sustainable agriculture is what sealed the deal for us.  One year (six months on-campus and six months interning in a working kitchen) and that nagging life’s goal will be checked complete.  Take that 30!

You know it’s funny. When I look back at our posts, I realized that we haven’t been giving you the inside culinary school scoop as planned.  Truth is, this culinary journey is turning out to be our chance to really grow in the kitchen together and learn more about ourselves as individuals along the way.  And you know what, it’s been eye-opening to say the least… in all the best ways.

But in an effort to keep you up to speed on what he has been learning and keep you in on this adventure with us, today we’re serving you up a big ol’ helping of some of his culinary school creations thus far (as translated by me) …

Baking

This is from the dreaded week of 5am start times where he learned breads, baked goods and pastries which were supplied to the school's public bakery. Holla' for his pretty challah bread.

You ask the guy to make you homemade cinnamon rolls and he takes it to another level. Seriously, I have never seen that many come out of a can.

Meat Fabrication

This was the 3 week period where I received random daily texts full of meat breakdowns and a thumbs up. The girl in the center shares my sentiments. Let's move on shall we...

Art of Cuisine

Don't let him fool you. He pulled this out of his catering bag of tricks. But nevertheless, it's a pretty cool self-taught trick, don't you agree?

Homework assignment: Create a fun to-go item for guests. He taught himself how to make fortune cookies and raided the local chinese spot for packaging. Voila. Your homemade fortune to go.

Assignment: His group created a colorful platter of fish terrines. For those not familiar, a terrine is a French forcemeat loaf similar to a pâté. Or as I like to call it "jellied meatfloaf".

 
 

Wow caviar. I wonder what I had for lunch that day...

 
 

The Notorious B.I.G. inspired dish: his take on t-bone steak, cheese, eggs and Welch's grape

 
 
 

Chocolate Port Sauce. Bayley Hazen Bleu Cheese. Candied Nuts. Sign me up for seconds.

 

 Mediterranean Cuisine

Assignment: Create a real dinner special to offer at the school's restaurant. Here is one of his, wild boar, which sold out one night.


Catering

Special canape for Sunday Brunch at the restaurant: grilled baguette with pear mostarda, goat cheese, lamb tenderloin and fried sage.

 

Taste and Flavor

Mmmm... right up my alley. Assignment: Pair drink and food with complimentary flavor profiles. A sweet, sour & salty mojito meets a sweet, sour, & salty taco.

 

Stuffed bouchees.

  

Seared Salmon with Brown Butter and Sage Beurre Blanc, Fried Capers, Horseradish Potato Croquettes, Braised Swiss Chard with Bacon Lardons, Cipollini Onions and Roasted Garlic.

 

 Plated Desserts

Happy Birthday Carolyn... whoever you are. Tres Leches Cake with salted caramel and creme fraiche ice cream.

 
 

Almond chiffon with raspberry filling with orange buttercream and candied orange peel.

 
 

Another view

 
 

One of my favorites. Doesn't it look so refreshing? Pomegranate sorbet trifle.

 
So there you have it.  One more course to go!
 
Until we dish it up again,
A + H