So, first, I have to apologize for the delay, but sometimes with an event with a magnitude as great as this it takes a day or two to come down and catch a breath. I mean we were just blown away by the participation for our 8th annual Field Day and Customer Cooking Contest this year. We were even more thrilled that the concept of an ingredient based challenge went over so well. We will certainly be switching it up next year to another favorite or obscure Volante vegetable. Glad you guys really brought it with your corn dishes.
The popular dish seemed to be the cold corn salad, or Texas Caviar, as one contestant called it. While they were all beautiful and tasty their similarities worked against them and allowed some of the more out-there entrants to really stand alone, at least to our distinguished panel of judges.
Many thanks again to Mary Rolph Lamontagne who did double duty as EATS cookbook-signing author and cooking challenge judge for the day, Chef Dora Tavel-Sanchez Luz of The Farmhouse in Needham Center, and Chef Robert DeSimone of Spiga Ristorante on Highland Circle near the Needham-Newton Line. It is never easy to critique projects that so many aspiring chefs poured their passion into, but these three gave it their all. We also appreciate their very generous donations of time and prizes to the event.
So again, remember that key ingredient was Volante’s Homegrown Corn, and the judges were looking for Presentation, inclusion of Volante’s Homegrown Produce, and of course Taste. It was great to have some new contestants join our regular throng of competitors this go around. But top honors went to our always-a-bridesmaid challenger Ashley Hughson with her very unique Sweet Corn & Basil Ice Cream. This dish blew the judges away for its creativity, and well-balanced flavors, as well as getting high marks for presentation, each serving topped with a mint sprig and a Zucchini Cornmeal Cookie, which is a super treat on its own. We are really thrilled Ashley won this challenge, as one of her prizes is to move over to the judging panel next year and we can finally let her see what it’s like on that side of the table! Additionally she took home a bevy of other prizes including:
Not bad for a mornings work right?!
Here is the recipe for her Ice Cream and Cookie, it will also be available on the Recipe rack in the Farmstand along with the second and third place recipes plus other seasonal tastes to try out.
Second Place went to a very excited, and prescient contestant who attempted to make one of Chef Dora’s favorite dishes, without even knowing it it seems. It was a beautifully hued and spicy Green Corn Soup/ Sopa Verde de Elote. Mexican flavors really made this dish sing. the judges thought it was creative and well-flavored. The heat of the soup balanced well with the heat of the day as it turned out. Lauren Murphy, the runner-up chef, took home a similarly lovely prize package including:
Third Place this year went to Scott Kinder, for his Corn-ish Quiche. This struck me as the perfect breakfast food, so it was great having winners that consisted of three very different types of cuisine from breakfast, to appetizer to dessert. Good job for taking the challenge to incorporate Corn in such varying ways. Scott took home the following prizes for his efforts:
All contestants received a coupon to start their next homegrown produce project, a shopping bag, and gratitude from us for their gracious competitive nature.
Scott’s dish recipe follows:
Thanks to everyone for helping out and participating with the fun event. Of course your next chance at the fame and fortune that a Volante Farms Cooking Contest affords is this October 19th for our Annual Apple Pie Baking Contest. With several types of apples already available it is never too early to start honing your crust skills!
Seriously, the weather gets better and better. Almost hate to bring it up, with still one more big event to go this summer, but we have been so blessed to miss all the major storms in the area for all of our Dinners in the Field, and this Saturday’s had just about the most magical sunset yet.
The ambiance of the sunset and the early evening dragonflies and sunshine really book-ended what was a remarkable night of eating, drinking and conversation. Thank you so mush to all our guests for joining us in the field for what was hopefully a memorable experience. As I said Saturday to the diners, it is really a very special way for us to share what we invest our long hours and days and months working on with many of you on a more intimate level and to bring you out to where the bulk of the growing happens is so critical to our customers understanding of who we are. Volante Farms has grown and changed several times and in several ways over its 96 years, but we are still a family owned farm that puts a lot of energy into producing the highest quality and variety of vegetables in the area. Todd and his kitchen took another opportunity with this dinner to exemplify the quality and care that goes into this produce and it seemed from the chatter and sounds of enjoyment that they achieved their goal again.
The evening began as usual with a stroll down the gravel path to sandwich in between a block of corn rows and a field full of blooming flowers. As guests arrived and found their seats and met their table mates they enjoyed the first of several wines paired to go with the meal and presented by Kim from Majestic Wine Inc.
The Amuse arrived to meet the Cambria Pinot Noir and it was a beautiful bite to behold. A local Pork & Corn Cake with foraged weeds and grilled local peaches sat spiritedly on our new bamboo plates, perfect for the event as they helped make everything compostable at the end of the evening.
Dave once again welcomed the crowd and then introduced Todd to present the theme and menu of the night. While Todd explained his philosophy of everyday farm-to-table cooking and love for all the fresh vegetables presented to him weekly here at the farm the appetizer course arrived, A glorious filet of striped bass swimming in cucumber and beets. Actually it was perched atop a cucumber sauce, upon a roasted Chioggia beet. A Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc brought just the right light touch to the dish.
Then as we progressed to the salad course, which is ultimately a three course meal on its own, bowls of a dozen types of homegrown lettuce were topped with roasted tomato vinaigrette, which was such a hit it immediately made its way to the prepared food case shelves in the farm stand the next morning. There was a fresh salad of grilled summer vegetables, zucchini, and eggplant among them, with herbs and shell beans, and to my eye it looked like a fair amount of mozzarella as well. Likewise, in what Todd called the runaway hit of the night were the fresh harvested green beans with roasted peppers, Marcona almonds and olives. The salads were joined by a Carmel Road Chardonnay that had the heft to carry these cool summer tastes.
As we settled into the evening and we took some time to relax, baskets of fresh muffins made with our own corn hit the tables with sides of maple butter. These were the precursor to the in-house smoked local ham served with collard greens that began the entree course. A side dish with considerable standalone power then emerged, Oodles of Noodles, lovely cool Lo Mein noodles drenched in the flavors of summer and stir fried vegetables and herbs. This dish can be found in our prepared case as well this week and is the perfect light lunch or dinner side. To close out the entrees, our local partners in agriculture, Four Star Farms, provided a super creamy polenta to dress up our eggplant and Swiss chard. These dishes were all craving a pairing with a bit of bearing so they were served with a glass of Atalon Pauline’s Cuveé Meritage.
As food coma and sunset started to set in, the soundtrack bounced up a notch and dessert was paired simply with a little Bossa Nova vibe. Of course dessert, a perfectly pointed tart filled with Sunnycrest Orchards Peaches, topped with Crescent Ridge vanilla Ice Cream and a homemade pineapple sage syrup with candied ginger.
Then as mosquitoes finally got enough gumption up to start to be a bother, the night came to a pleasant close and guest meandered back from their field excursion. It was a pleasure as always to welcome you all, and we are already looking forward to our last one of the season on August 24th. I sent Todd a list today of what we expecting to be picking by then so he can start brainstorming and hopefully I can sneak a few things in at the last-minute again just to keep him on his toes.
If you wish you had an opportunity to join us in the Field and missed these opportunities, just a reminder that this Saturday August 10 we will have our annual Farm Field DAy with free field tour at 12:30, free face painting 11-3, our Customer Cooking Challenge at 11 and book signing and recipe tasting with EATS: Enjoy All The Seconds author Mary Rolph Lamontagne from 11 -1.