I’ve read about those beautiful farm dinners, and I’ve even been to one or two big outdoor dinners led by Alice Waters (who probably got the whole thing started), so when I got invited to attend a Dinner in the Dell, I said YES!
The dinner took place on the new farm of Tim Stark, who’s famous for writing about tomatoes (he’s the author of Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Grower), growing tomatoes, and supplying tomatoes to all the best restaurants in NY (anything by Jean George and Danny Meyer…). Tim, the “Farmer in the Dell,” is also a local Pennsylvania compatriot. The first time I met him, we traced back our history to a party on his parents’ farm during high school, at which my best friend and I got our keys locked in her car. I no longer drink and indulge in other things like that, but those were some good times. Now he’s a full-time farmer (not officially organic, but mostly) and sells his produce at the Union Square Farmer’s Market in NYC.
The meal was cooked and prepared and organized by my favorite local restaurant family, Erin Shea and Lee Chizmar, of Bolete. So I knew the food would be awesome, and it was. The kitchen at Bolete is a postage stamp that gets scorchingly hot at all times—especially in summer—so it was nice to see Lee out in the open, catching some fresh breezes while cooking.
The menu contained all sorts of local foraged food, since it was also hosted by Tama Matsuoka, who wrote the book Foraged Flavor. So the menu included things like daylily buds and tubers, lambs-quarters, and pineapple weed. Highlights included a local house-smoked Lancaster County Rainbow Trout and baby beet salad (with Swiss chard, spring onions, trout caviar, local oyster mushrooms, beet vinaigrette, and purslane). And of course, you can’t beat a giant platter of spit-roasted lamb from Breakaway Farms.
It was a beautiful night. I had a blast meeting a lot of new people. And a lot of work and effort went into making the evening glorious. What’s best is seeing it all come together—the people who grow the food, the people who prepare the food, and the people who enjoy the food, all on the land that supports the food. What a great way to connect everything together and celebrate a simple, happy Sunday!