Rappahannock Summer Solstice Farm Dinner
I treasure local seasonal produce, local farms, local farmers, local chefs and dinner parties that get us around the table for food, friends, conversation and laughter. You know that. So it should come as no surprise to anybody that I am helping to put together a fabulous dinner party for 150. It is to take place Saturday June 20, 2009 on the grounds of Mount Vernon Farm in Sperryville, VA.
Guess who’s cooking? Chef Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve in Old Town Alexandria – no less!
Although I provide cookery services for a fee through my business Laughing Duck Gardens & Cookery, Rappahannock Summer Solstice Farm Dinner is something I am doing pro bono, along with my friend Barbara Adolfi who runs The House on Water Street – a delightful vacation house in the village of Sperryville – and with Laura Overstreet, who heads the newly created Office of Tourism in Rappahannock County. We all believe in showcasing our local farm-fresh bounty and protecting our rural heritage! Last year we organized a tapa-style wine and food tasting event featuring our local restaurants and wineries; this year, we are taking another road, showcasing a few farms and wineries.
You can bet this Summer Solstice Farm Dinner is going to provide an extraordinary experience:
– extraordinary chef/ extraordinary food. Cathal Armstrong is an incredibly talented chef who does not need any accolade from me. Who does, indeed, when Tom Sietsema gives you 4 stars out of 4, Food & Wine designates you as one of the Hall of Fame 50 best new chefs, the James Beard Foundation names you one of the 4 best mid-Atlantic Chefs, and Marion Burros puts you up there with The Inn at Little Washington as one of the only few Washington DC area restaurants that can compete with New York’s finest? So, yeah, he does not need any praise from me for his cooking skills… but we are incredibly grateful that is coming to Rappahannock to create this feast in the field, using fresh local seasonal ingredients, quite a few sourced from Rappahannock farmers (Waterpenny, Sunnyside, Cherries-on-Top and Mount Vernon Farm). And, note that in addition to Restaurant Eve, Cathal, wife Meshelle and mixologist Todd Trasher (or – at they call themselves – Fry Cook, Boss Lady and Alchemist) have opened several other establishments in Old Town – Eaomonn’s, The Majestic and PX Lounge – all as classy as Eve in their own way, certainly as impeccably delicious and as fun! In addition to the field-fresh food, dinner will feature wines from Rappahannock county wineries, selected by Todd to enhance the meal. (oh! and whiskey too – from our own Copper Fox Distillery, the roof of which you can see from the dinner site)
– extraordinary setting: Rappahannock Summer Solstice Farm Dinner will take place at Mount Vernon Farm, an 830 acre farm that embraces and overlooks the small village of Sperryville (photo apove by Ray Boc). In the Miller family since 1827, the farm stretches from the Piedmont floor and the Thornton River to the top of Turkey Mountain and is heart-achingly beautiful. Current owner Cliff Miller raises cattle, lambs, and pigs (chicken to be soon added) on 230 acres of pasture land. Rotational grazing, succession in the field, guard lamas and other sustainable and innovative techniques, along with the use of conservation easement and riparian conservation practices (which earned awards from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation) really make Mount Vernon Farm a model – a la Polyface. We are planning the cocktail hour on the lawn under the shade of the stately trees surrounding the old brick house, while dinner will be “en plein air”, on a knoll just up from the house facing the Blue Ridge Mountains (and if you must ask, yes, the cows were moved out of that field several weeks ago and Cliff is keeping the grass short – “like a lawn” he says with a rueful smile). By the way, dinner will feature lamb, which has been raised on the farm. How much more local can you get?
– extraordinary beneficiary: Proceeds from this dinner will go to the Rappahannock County Farm Land Preservation program, a farm land preservation program run by our county that helps to ensure that our productive farms remain farms. Hence the pro-bono work being done by many of us including – but not limited to – the graceful hospitality from Cliff Miller, the generous contribution from Cathal Armstrong, the help from Mark Rheinhard, Bronwyn Jimenez and Mary Ann Dancisin . Other are also helping. By coming to this dinner, you’ll indulge all your senses and you’ll do good!
So, won’t you join us?
Tickets ($180 per person) – and additional information – are available on the GourmetRappahannock web site. We are looking forward to welcome you to our beautiful county, only 75 miles west from Washington, DC.