Table-to-Farm Dining

By Nick Fauchald Posted October 01, 2007

“Look for the stupa on your left,” my directions said. I had driven up to eastern Connecticut last Friday evening to eat a field-side supper at artist David Brown’s Hay House Farm in Old Saybrook, which is probably (our fact-checkers are on it) the only farm in the world that boasts both a hemispherical Buddhist monument (the stupa) and a cottage made from straw and spackle.  

The dinner was the ninth of 10 such events hosted this summer by “Dinners at the Farm,” a series of outdoor meals founded by three Connecticut food pros: chef Jonathan Rapp of the River Tavern restaurant in Chester, Drew McLachlan of Feast Market in Deep River and Chip Dahlke of Ashlawn Farm in Lyme. Earlier this spring, the three partners outfitted a candy apple–red 1955 Ford F600 with a six-burner gas stove and a smoker grill and hammered out the logistics of feeding 150 mouths in a grass field, at night, with no electricity or plumbing (or wine cellar, or steam oven…).

They did a mighty fine job. It took some time to spot the stupa, so I arrived just as the sun and moon were swapping seats. An enormous white tent was decorated like a Hamptons wedding reception, with white linens, fresh flowers and gleaming place settings. The seven-course dinner ($85 plus wine, if you want it), served family-style, was one of the better-orchestrated meals I’ve had in some time, an impressive feat given the spartan conditions. The menu was based on ingredients from within a 30-mile food shed: Fresh eggs were lightly scrambled with bacon and sage for a creamy bruschetta; local pork was sacrificed for an amazing ragù served over pappardelle; fat fillets of Long Island Sound swordfish were grilled and served with a spicy eggplant sauce.

There’s only one event left this season—this Friday—but McLachlan assured me the dinners will return next year. "But we might cut it back a few dinners," he said. "The logistics behind one of these things are insane." 

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