It was summer, 2008. The farm dinner movement had just gotten some momentum and across the country, groups like Dinners At The Farm and Plate and Pitchfork brought fine dining to the source. Here in Colorado, the Johnny Appleseed of farm dinners, Jim Denevan swept through in his converted bus and brought together fine chefs, farms, wine, people in magnificent settings.
We made it up to Paonia for the fruit infused dinner, peach country up in them thar hills. Guest chefs Mark Fischer of Restaurant Six89 in Carbondale and the crew of Aspen's The Little Nell had a gorgeous extended table set up by Zephyros Farm's pond, but the skies had other plans. A mad dash brought the setting for one hundred-plus diners into the greenhouse, creating an intimate affair. Highlights.....Grappa-soaked peaches with goat cheese and honey, fried squash blossoms filled with lavender ricotta, lots of fresh local wine. Endless conversation with hardy adventurists from far and wide, all huddled around candles by hay bales and potting supplies. All appreciating the freshest possible delights set before us. Truly special.
A good night's sleep at a local inn topped off a perfect evening. The drive back the next morning through majestic McCLure Pass, took us through the mountain towns of Redstone ("Ruby of the Rockies") where turn-of-the-century craftsmen-era Swiss style cottages are still in use.
More modest Hotchkiss, Somerset and Marble (guess what they quarry here?) bring you right down to Carbondale, where some ill-planned construction added an additional hour to the journey back to Boulder.
But what fortune awaited us upon learning that the traveling band of gourmands were setting up another dinner at our local Munson's Farm. And the famed Frasca crew were on hand to bring their magic into the field. We were there!
A glass of wine and a tour of the farm started the evening. Jim Munson welcomed guests, then his sons Bob and Mike took over with explanations of crop rotation, irrigation, heirloom seeds, all kinds of things that are the daily concern of these noble, hardy souls. Our weekly visits to local Farmer's Markets can't reveal the true grit, real and figurative, that goes into churning out consistent, clean food that makes its way to candle-lit tables everywhere.
A late afternoon sun assured the crowd that storms were not to mar this event. The Munsons had taken out several rows of corn to lay a long, elegant table amidst towering stalks. Enthusiastic staff raced up and down the sides to rest large bowls of colorful fare, served family style. Frasca owner/sommelier, Bobby Stuckey kept glasses filled, conversation going, smiles lingering. A beautiful pasta with shards of summer squash and herbs anchored the meal but for me, this was the night I discovered Buratta. Huge pillows of this rich, buttery-tasting mozzarella-type cheese were set on plates amidst multi-colored heirloom tomatoes, basil, olive oil. No knife needed. A spoon pierced the thin skin releasing an ooze of fresh ricottoa-like cream to be absorbed by blocks of fresh bread. And dotted with basil bits. And tomatoes. And pass that plate back over here please. And again. Thanks!