One hundred and twenty three people at one hundred and eighty dollars each – a small farm near Mars Hill (www.townofmarshill.org), a chef from Asheville, and a dining experience that no one will soon forget!
It is a beautiful late summer afternoon at East Fork Farm in Madison County (http://eastforkfarm.net/visit_us.html). A friend and chef has invited me to join her at an event called “Outstanding in the Field” ()http://outstandinginthefield.com/) to experience a new culinary trend sweeping across our nation – dining on the farm, with celebrity chefs, with total strangers -family style! You may have read about this group from California that travels around the states, selecting family farms, local chefs, and preparing outstanding local food. They do this over 70 times a year! They have been featured in USA Today and other national media outlets and have developed quite a following. They were at Hickory Nut Gap Farm (www.hickorynutgapfarm.com) last year and drew a corresponding large audience.
I believe their secret is not only the outstanding fare, but the chefs and the atmosphere created by sitting under the beautiful sunsets, drinking outstanding wines, and providing an intimate interview with the farm family and the celebrity chef. The farmer, Stephen Robertson, his wife Dawn, and their daughters were the ultimate hosts, touring the crowd around the farm, showing where the trout were caught for the trout dip on toast we were just served, showing us their rabbit and chicken pens while their daughters explained their morning chores before school, and finally leading us to a large field on the hillside next to a noisy flock of sheep. There, snaking across the field was a long line of tables joined together in a rhythmic sway and covered in white linens and flowers.
The chef was William Dissen, the new owner of the Market Place (www.marketplace-restaurant.com) , located on Wall Street in Asheville. The Market Place is a well regarded restaurant with a nearly 30 year history of fine dining, established by Mark Rosenstein, a leader in the local and sustainable food movement. William reveled in the opportunity to take the products of East Fork Farm – the rabbit, lamb, trout, mushrooms; the goat cheese from Three Graces Dairy (www.3gracesdairy.com) along with local greens, bread from Wake Robin Farm (http://brwm.org/sbard/) , and small vineyard French wines from Pcomm Wines (www.pcommswines.com) in Asheville. His preparation was meticulous and each dish represented an honest tribute to the care with which the animal had been raised or plant had been grown.
The servings of wonderful wines, local salad greens, wild mushrooms, leg of lamb, rabbit gumbo, and pound cake with blueberries were served to an eager crowd. The food was excellent, the conversations were as if everyone was an old friend, and the evening passed much too quickly. I discovered that most of these folks had traveled long distances to join this feast, many had been to one of these events in years past, and all were looking forward to returning next year and were willing to fly to wherever it took them.
The wonderful part about this culinary adventure is that we here in WNC do not have to travel far at all! When you visit your grocery store, ask the butcher for lamb, chicken, or rabbit that was raised on East Fork Farm. When you seek a great dining experience, reserve a table at the Market Place in downtown Asheville. When you are looking for the makings of a great dinner, visit the local tailgate markets where you will find great bread from Wake Robin Farm and wonderful goat cheese from Three Graces Dairy. When you want the best, look around at all that we have in WNC and I think you will understand why so many people traveled from faraway places just to spend an evening and a lot of money to capture what many of us often take for granted!