Sep. 10th, 2008

figarofigaro1: (lobster picnic)
The Vermont Fresh Network Farmers Dinner at Shelburne Farms was amazing. We'd not ever had dinner there, just Sunday brunch. And while we'd heard good things about dinner, the brunch menu is just, well, rather ordinary. (Sorry, folks.) The setting and the grounds raise it to an extraordinary experience, but I wouldn't go to brunch for the food. If this dinner is any indication of dinners there, everyone should put it on their list of top Vermont dining spots.

The menu:

Two tasting plates to start: a shotglass of corn soup, and a breadboard of orange cherry tomatoes (the bottoms had had a sliver cut off to keep them from rolling).

Heirloom Tomato Salad
mozzarella puree, grilled watermelon, tarragon

Crispy Pig Salad
pickled watermelon, mizuna, brown butter gremolata

Farm Egg Tajarin
Vermont mushrooms, house ricotta

Shelburne Farms Lamb
smoked eggplant, house yogurt, frito misto

Shelburne Farms Clothbound Cheddar
cherry mostarda, house crackers

Raspberry Tart
Adam's berries, lemon marscapone, marcona almonds

If you are like me, you don't know what tajarin is. I looked it up when I got home. It is fresh egg-yolk-rich noodles of the Piedmont region.That dish was by far my favorite, even though you can't go wrong with crispy pig. The tomato salad was really tasty with that grilled watermelon.

All the wines were à la carte and not paired or even suggested. This meant that there was a constant flutter of waitstaff. They did an excellent job of keeping everyone's tabs straight, but I thought it ultimately detracted from the meal. I much prefer having wines paired with each course for a fixed price.

As usual, they had people talk about each course. Since it was all Shelburne Farms, they had the people who worked growing each course talk about what they do and "a day in the life," which was all very well done. The lamb guy did go on and on about how the lambs have a good life and all that. I think it is funny how conflicted people are about that, and yet they choose to eat meat. I remarked later, to the amusement of the table, I hope, how nobody made a fuss about them cutting the bottoms off those tomatoes, while they were still alive even! I guess if vegetables had eyes and screamed when we picked them, we'd be all conflicted about that, too. What about all those baby chickens we aborted to make the pasta? Such a violent thing, a meal.

B and I have a running commentary about how most of the things we eat are wombs. Most fruits and vegetables (other than the leafy ones and the root ones) are really the swollen uteri of plants, trying to reproduce. Think of that next time you are carving your jack-o-lantern or biting into a peach. Mmm. I had a good peach today that had sat for over a week and was all ripe. But I digress.

My other critique is that they served the clothbound cheddar on boards to share. Not usually an issue, but it was in little tiny hard-to-eat shards and in small portions compared to the amount of cherry goo they served. Now, I should confess that the clothbound cheddar from Shelburne is one of my favorite cheddars in Vermont, and maybe in the world, so I could have eaten what they served just on my own. But I thought that if they were going to dole it out in limited quantities like that, they should at least make individual plates.

Truly, the delight of the entire evening was the company. Tables were assigned, and we discovered that we were seated with S&M, a couple that we'd met several times. They'd been at some of the same dinners we had and even at the Mexican food party at M&S's house. We had a great time getting to know them more and also meeting S's mother (K) and her partner (N) who were also seated at our table. Turns out K is a knitter, so we had lots to talk about. We will be doing more with S&M, for sure.

Also seated at our table were R&R. The female R is on the board of VFN. (Note to my readers, I use initials more so people's names don't show up in search engines, not necessarily to provide anonymity. I also typically put the female's initials first for heterosexual couples.) We had met the female R before and were delighted to get to know her better and to meet the male R. They've already turned us on to a wine store in Waitsfield as well as a good breakfast spot. We will need to investigate both sometime.

The moral, of course, is that when you include S&M at dinner, be sure to also include a little R&R too. <rimshot!>

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