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Hoe Down

Local farms party up in a big way



Time was when dining down on the farm was a potluck supper of fried chicken and cole slaw. Today, farm-to-table experiences taste more like a meal at New York City’s Rao restaurant. Fortunately, there’s no need to sidestep cow patties to find your way to fine dining at a farm table but there is a need to keep this adage in mind—the early bird catches the, well, ticket. Farm dinners have evolved into carefully orchestrated culinary events, where it’s nearly as difficult to get a seat at the table as it is to navigate a corn maze.

Dinners produced by Outstanding in the Field (outstandinginthefield.com), an organization that travels coast to coast, pairing local chefs with farmers to produce extravagant dinners, regularly sells out of tickets—at $220 each—the day dinners are posted online.

Those five-course meals are served to as many as 120 guests seated at long, communal tables set in verdant pastures with a chorus of crickets as musical entertainment and a twinkling of fireflies for the lightshow. Mosquitos are the only annoy­ances but there’s no waiting line, kids can play outside, and diners can linger until the cows come home. What better way to understand where your food comes from than dining at the source itself.

If you were not able to snag a seat at Outstanding in the Fields’ only Connecticut venue—Waldingfield Farm in Washington on September 16—don’t despair. Elbow room is still available for $85 a seat at the second annual Farmer’s Table held July 21 at Sullivan Farm (sullivanfarmnm.org) in New Milford to benefit the farm’s agricultural education program.

Like Outstanding in the Field, the Farmer’s Table is a roving feast. Each year a different farm in southern Litchfield County hosts the event.

Beyond the chance to taste good, locally produced food, the dinner “is all about creating community,” says Howard Rosenfeld, owner of The Smithy, a seasonal market­place for local produce and products in New Preston. Rosenfeld and his wife, Sheryl Leach, co-sponsored the first Farmer’s Dinner last July at their home, Renaissance Farm, in Warren. Guests enjoyed local wine, home-brewed beer, and hors d’oeuvres in the couple’s restored 19th-century barn before repairing to a three-course, sit-down dinner served on candlelit tables.

“The purpose of the dinner is to bring an awareness to residents and weekenders of the variety and quality of fresh produce and locally raised beef, lamb, and chicken we have right in our backyard,” Rosenfeld says, adding that the intimate dining experience gives guests an opportunity to break bread with more than 15 farmers and artisans living within a 70-mile radius.

Dinners at the Farm (dinnersatthefarm.com), is yet another farm-dinner series. Returning for its fifth year with eight dinners at $150 per person, Dinners at the Farm begins serving in September at farms along Connecticut’s eastern shoreline.

For impromptu dining with a down-home atmosphere, Motherhouse (motherhouse.us) hosts musical potluck suppers at the Cornwall Town Hall. Guests, children included, bring a covered dish plus a suggested donation of $5. After dinner, everyone is invited to dance to the music of a bluegrass band. The non-profit organization also offers agricultural workshops held in a cow barn and geared for newbies interested in learning farming skills. No pitchfork required.
 

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