From the farm to the table
Vail CO Colorado
Even after a six- or seven-course dinner, there’s often one single bite that stands out from the rest. Incidentally, it was the first bite I took at a Colorado Proud farm-to-table dinner in Longmont on an autumn evening earlier this month that I’m still replaying in my head. It was a tiny, perfect, bite-size taco made by Mark Fischer, who owns three restaurants west of here – six89 and Phat Thai in Carbondale and The Pullman in Glenwood Springs. He served the Colorado striped bass taco as an appetizer for the dinner. Topped with a tomatillo and peach salsa and avocado crema and served atop a freshly fried flour tortilla, it was the perfect combination of sweet, salty, savory goodness.
Fischer was one of five chefs who cooked up a feast using Colorado-raised vegetables, fruits, cheeses and meats for the dinner, hosted by the Colorado Tourism Bureau. And they did it all outdoors under a blue September sky. The dinner was held at Pastures of Plenty, a charming, 35-acre, organic vegetable and cut-flower farm, perhaps named after the poignant Woody Guthrie song. Lyle Davis, one of the co-founders of the natural-food chain Alfalfa’s Markets, owns the farm and grows his own vegetables for his catering company, Big Bang Catering.
Thick trees provided a canopy for the stone pathway leading from the parking lot over a wooden bridge that crossed a burbling creek and leading to the open field, where one long table was set, decorated with bright-orange sunflowers. Two farm dogs – one with three legs and an overwhelming need for love – alternated between wrestling with each other and greeting guests. A handful of bees buzzed around a honeycomb sitting next to the Colorado cheese tray. The chefs worked over antique stoves and outdoor work stations, putting together passed hors d’ouvres, while a trio of Colorado booze makers – one distiller, one winemaker and one beermaker – served up cocktails from behind a small bar under a wooden pergola covered in vining flowers. A jovial fellow named “Moose” Koons, from Palisade’s Peach Street Distillers, poured the evening’s signature cocktail, a great fall sipper called a gingered pear. The drink combined the distillery’s aged pear brandy with ginger beer over ice; a thin slice of pear floated on top.
It was a picturesque setting and just what my sister-in-law said she’d envisioned when I invited her and my older brother to be my guests for the evening.
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I’ve been hearing about farm-to-table dinners more and more these days, but while the concept isn’t exactly novel anymore, it never fails to be tasty. And it’s good for Colorado. Which is exactly why Fischer decided to take part, he said.
“Anything to forward the cause of local agriculture,” he said. “The more people that embrace it can only serve to help its growth.”
Clearly, that was the point of the dinner – to seduce Colorado journalists with Colorado food and booze in hopes they’d write about it. And seduce they did. The evening’s stand-out dishes included chef Seth Bateman’s spinach salad, made with ingredients grown at the Smith Fork Ranch in Crawford, where he works.
“We are so fortunate to be in an area were we can access all our products locally as well as having a very productive garden,” Bateman said. “I wanted to showcase something from our garden at its peak of season. Even though it was a simple dish, a humble spinach salad can be something great if the ingredients are good and fresh.”
The other dish Fischer prepared, a milk-and-honey braised goat with foraged chanterelle mushrooms and truffled agnolotti (a type of ravioli) filled with goat cheese, not only blew away the diners, but the other chefs enjoyed it, as well.
“Lots of flavor and great utilization of the goat and its mothers milk to make the cheese for the raviolis,” Bateman said. “Again, very simple but amazing.”
As the moon rose, we scraped our dessert plates clean and silently offered up thanks –for the harvest, for living in Colorado, for good company and for fantastic food.
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.