Ramble On

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Page County Grown Farm Tour - Teaser 2: The Farm-to-Table Dinner

As I have promised a couple of times now, I am going to put together a series of posts about the 2011 Page County Grown Farm Tour. For today, another “teaser” about those posts – I want to introduce the tour’s sponsors, and make a note of the Farm-to-Table Dinner hosted at the Mimslyn Inn after the tour was completed.

First, I have a reproduction of the menu from the Mimslyn. The quality may not be great, as I had to save this as a PDF and then translate to JPG, but it should convey well enough. 

Next, our hosts, in a photo outside of the Luray Train Station that serves as the Chamber of Commerce headquarters and tourism visitor center. Pam Flasch and Brianna Campbell are shown behind the welcome station where farm tourists came in for materials and a map. These folks have been involved with Page County Grown since its inception – they are part of the “incubator” for the concept, as Pam calls it.

After getting the 40+ participants under way, both of them joined the tour as well, making multiple stops with us.

Bracketing that tour kick-off is the conclusion – the farm to table dinner paired with Wisteria Farm and Vineyard vintages (Wisteria was also a sponsor of the dinner, and is a charter Page County Grown member). I arrived late to the dinner (I assumed it started at 7pm, but should have paid more attention to the brochure – it started at 5pm!); farmers eat early I guess, and I still retain city habits and schedules!

I have photos of three of the courses served, of the four that were offered – I forgot to snap a photo of the first one. I’ll post the description of each course with the Wisteria wine pairing below, and also will include the wines’ descriptions summarized from web sources with each, along with the summary about the farm that produced key ingredients for that course - these snapshots are taken from my post last week on the participating farms.
First Course: Tomato Plate

“A tasting of tomatoes from Khimaira Farm.” There were three samples included here, including: three spicy cherry tomatoes paired with a slice of a heritage green zebra tomato, complemented by a splash of a balsamic reduction; a sun-dried tomato tart; and a tomato sorbert - a surprise, and a big hit at my table. The wine choice was Wisteria’s Traminette.

Traminette is a hybrid grape, including Gewurztraminer as part of its heritage. It produces a dry wine with a fragrant aroma and floral taste – and the variety is suited to challenging climates. Lately, Wisteria has made an effervescent variety, which we’ve been enjoying around the Hawksbill Pines neighborhood for cookouts and visits. I hope it’s not a limited vintage, because it has really grown on all of us.

Khamaira Farm, the source of the tomatoes in this course, is a working dairy and meat goat farm, focused on sustainable agricultural practices. The family’s home is located just outside of Luray and dates from the Civil War era. Khimaira is also a popular wedding destination in the Shenandoah Valley.

Wisteria, which supplied all of the wines paired with the courses, is a local vineyard located near Stanley; it is also a working farm with a colorful flock of Romney sheep and free-ranging chickens. Wisteria’s current wine offerings include Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, Traminette, Seyval, Merlot, and Norton, as well as a semi-sweet rose blend – Velvet, and a dessert wine – Sweet Daisy.

Second Course: Roasted Chicken

Boneless Chicken Thigh from Public House Produce, served over eggplant risotto and oven-roasted tomato sauce, paired with the Wisteria Steel Barreled Chardonnay.

I take a little personal satisfaction in this serving, as I interned over there at Public House Produce this month; on Tuesday night I had joined David, Heather and their daughter to wrangle the chickens, which we took for processing on Wednesday morning and later delivered to the Mimslyn kitchen. Now, I had planned to go old school on the wrangling, using the Hookinator 2000, if necessary, but their daughter informed me they’d upgraded to the Hookinator 3000.

In the end, we didn’t use the device, which is more suited to chickens on the run; these birds were very cooperative with the process. During this course, David came by to personally reassure me that I had indeed wrangled the bird I was eating.

Chardonnay is a signature white variety with a French heritage. Wisteria produces a traditional oak barreled version, as well as the steel barreled version served at the dinner; Mary and I have become very fond of the steel barreled version.

Public House Produce is a family owned and operated farm located about one mile north of Luray. The farm’s produce is available at the Luray-Page Farmers Market and via their CSA. Over 80 varieties of fresh produce are offered, along with pasture based, heritage chicken and fresh farm eggs. Public House’s goal is high quality produce and poultry from a local source you can trust.

Third Course: Braised Beef Brisket

The brisket was sourced from Skyline Premium Meat in Luray; it was matched with sweet corn polenta, mushroom fricassee, and espagnole sauce. The brisket had been prepared in a way that made it as tender as a Sunday roast – earning compliments from Joan and Jared Burner (some of the family farmers at Skyline Premium), whom I joined at the table for the dinner. The wine was Wisteria’s Carmine.

At times during the dinner, Moussa and Sue from Wisteria introduced the wines that were served. Moussa noted that Wisteria may well be the only Virginia vineyard producing this grape, which is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carignane. It was developed to respond for cooler temperatures where the cabs don’t fare as well, and is described as offering an intense dark color, peppery aromas, and ample tannin flavors. In fact, after the dinner, I went looking for a refill of the Carmine, but alas, it was completely consumed.

Skyline Premium Meats is located just south of Luray on Business 340, where they emphasize humane management and safe handling practices to ensure a consistently high quality product. Skyline Premium’s approach specifies that no hormones, steroids or other chemical alterations are used; because of this, the beef has earned designation as “A Virginia’s Finest Product.”

Fourth Course: Cantaloupe and Cream

This refreshing dessert course, sourced from Willow Grove Farm Market, featured fresh cut cantaloupe and cantaloupe mousse, paired with Wisteria’s Viognier.

Viognier is a white wine with a French origin, although it is not widely grown there. Apparently it is widely popular elsewhere, including California, Washington, Oregon, and Virginia – and in Latin America, too. Viognier is known for a floral aroma, similar to Muscat, and it can be produced in a dry variety or a sweet, late-harvest dessert type. Our tasting was a sweet variety, but not a late-harvest version.

Willow Grove Farm Market was founded in 2010 on one of Virginia’s Century Farms – meaning the same family has been farming here for over 100 years. The market’s goal is to be a source of local and Virginia produced beef, chicken, dairy and produce, all foods that are less processed than those that are available elsewhere – foods that are good for you and support the local community and economy.

At the conclusion of the dinner, executive chef Chris came out of the kitchen for a round of well-deserved applause. The Mimslyn's web page talks about being pampered by his southern style cuisine - and advises "bring your appetite."  For another example of Mimslyn fare by Chris, which often feature local produce and meats, check out the menu at http://mimslyninn.com/lunch-buffet.htm.

Before I close the post, I should mention the music that was featured during the dinner. It was performed by a local quartet, CafĂ© Society, and featured renditions of classic jazz compositions. I’ll be on the lookout for more opportunities to hear them.

I will post my photos of the farm tour next week, so stay tuned!

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