Last Friday, on a perfect summer evening, I was one of the lucky forty one guests who scored a ticket to one of Spice of Life Catering's Plated Landscape dinners, this one held at my CSA Farm, Brunty Farms. Jeff and Mel, and many of the CSA members worked very hard to get the farm in tip top shape, including finishing some landscaping in front of the farmhouse, where we were greeted with a refreshing welcome cocktail of Blueberry Lavender Lemonade with Watershed Vodka (from Columbus, OH).
|Blueberry Lavender Lemonade w/Watershed Vodka|
While we were sipping our cocktails and waiting for all of the guests to arrive, spicy cold Carrot Ginger Soup shots were passed, and a delicious pork terrine with crostini and coarse mustard were our pre-tour appetizers.
|Ginger Carrot Soup Shots and Pork Terrine|
Jeff Brunty and Melanie Schenk led the group on a tour of the farm and showed us where the meat chickens were being raised in tractors in the pasture, where they are moved frequently after grazing on the grass and fertilizing the pasture.
|Chef Ben Bebenroth, Jeff & Mel|
We then moved on to meet the laying hens, who were getting ready to roost for the evening, and this poor lost lamb, who got separated temporarily from the flock and cried plaintively, until she figured out how to get back to the group.
|Mel and the Laying Hens|
We then trekked up the hill to the greenhouses housing the older chicks and baby turkeys, next to the the pig pasture. The pigs figured we might be bearing food, so they moved their way from the back towards us. This tiny red one escaped the farm for a few days, and Jeff and Mel assumed she'd met her fate at the hands of one of the coyotes roaming the park. Then there was a knock on the door, and a neighbor holding the wayward pig, who had wandered quite far from the farmhouse.
We then headed to sheep pasture, where a long table was set for dinner, flanked by tents housing Spice of Life's outdoor kitchen. The temperature was perfect, humidity low, and bugs virtually non-existent.
We were greeted with an appetizer of Brunty Farms Chicken Wings, fried, with some fiery spices.
|Table set-up in sheep pasture|
The first course was an earthy, chilled beet soup that was perfectly accented by a touch of tangy goat cheese. A salad course followed, which was perfectly balanced, which I forgot to photograph.
|Cold Beet Soup with Goat Cheese|
There was lively conversation at the communal table, as strangers became friends. Farm dog, Riley, fresh from the groomer, was transfixed by the band, whose cello rested on an unattainable tennis ball, and violinist kept taunting him with a 'stick' he wouldn't throw.
|Riley the Wonder Dog|
The tables were decorated with cattails and other greenery foraged from the farm.
|Farm Fresh Centerpiece|
The sheep grazed around the table, led by the feisty ram, Caesear, who, did indeed ram a few guests, but could be deterred with a firm shove.
|Sheep, wondering why we were grazing in their pasture|
The next course was amazing - Pappardelle made with Brunty Eggs and mushrooms from Killbuck Valley Farms.
|Pasta with Mushroom|
When I saw Ben Bebenroth manning the fryer, I was a happy camper. When the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Thigh with Garlic Gravy and farm fresh green beans was served, I was even happier. The thick delicious crust had a beguiling combination of spices that the Colonel could only dream of.
|Fried Chicken Thigh, Garlic Gravy, over Farm Fresh Beans|
As the sun began to set over the table, the final savory course, a Brunty Pork Loin, over ratatouille appeared.
|Pork Loin atop Ratatouille|
By the time dessert appeared, a creamy vanilla custard with cherries, darkness had descended, and the table was aglow with candlelight.
|Vanilla Custard with Cherries|
Each course was paired with a wine, and the pairings for the most part were spot on. My only criticism however, involves the wine service. There was only one stemless wine glass on the table per guest, and it seemed like every time I turned around a server appeared with the next wine before the last was finished. Putting out two glasses would have solved the 'dump or come back dilemma' and made the wine service seem less rushed.
|Jeff and Mel|
I've really enjoyed working with Jeff and Melanie the last few years. At 25 and 24, respectively, they have wisdom beyond their years, and the youth and energy required to take care of an astounding number of animals in a caring, sustainable way.
Everyone had a great time. I'd highly recommend getting a seat at one of Spice of Life's remaining dates if you can. And getting your hands on some of the most delicious eggs available locally, from Brunty Farms.