A Perfect Day
The day was beautiful. Sky clear, warm but not hot, smell of apple juice drifting from the press, and two hundred people for dinner. All of this taking place at Sunswept Farm (http://sunsweptfarm.net/) right below Max Patch in Madison County.
We gathered to celebrate our local Slow Food Tradition, the celebration of local, sustainable food, great farms, chefs, bakers, and supporters. This was also our opportunity to raise funds to send 7 of our local food producers and farmers to the International Slow Food gathering for Terra Madre in Torino, Italy.
Why there? Every two years over 5,000 food producers, farmers, bakers, brewers, and artisan producers gather to share and learn from each other in a spirit of the farm-to-table-to-family movement. In the past we have sent local bakers, brewers, farmers, and restaurateurs to this meeting with the anticipation that they bring back stories of new culinary adventures.
We have received that blessing in abundance. From Hickory Nut Gap Farm & Meats, to Asheville Brewing, to Flying Cloud Farm, to the North Carolina Wheat Flour Project, to West End Bakery, these energetic farmers and producers have introduced new concepts, products, and culinary trends here in WNC.
This year we reached out to producers in Madison County, who wanted to expand their opportunities and learning. To support their travels they planned, provided for, and executed one of the finest feasts I have ever attended. The products all came from local farms, kitchens, and restaurants (see complete list at end). From Carl and Julie of Mountain Harvest Organics (www.mountainharvestorganic.com) we received fresh organic vegetables, from David Kendal (Madison County Extension Agent) we received truckloads of heritage apples, from Lady Spirit Moon Cerelli- she made incredible Cannoli (27 hours to make 200 of them!), from Dave Bauer of Farm and Sparrow (http://farmandsparrow.com/blog ) we received freshly baked bread, and from Dory and John Brown and their daughter Vanessa, we received not only their generosity in allowing 200 people on their farm and retreat, but they provided Wilbur-one of their pigs, 20 of their chickens, their beef, and bacon and generous support and love.
All this, combined with the culinary skill and experience of Mark Rosenstein (founder of the Market Place Restaurant) (www.thefrenchbroad.com), brought everything together for the perfect day. The event was months in planning and the cooking for Saturday’s feast started on Wednesday. I missed much of it, but many people attended the sacrifice of the 180 lb pig “Wilbur.” With soft fiddle music in the background, a tribute in the spirit of respect, the slow process of butchering, de-boning and brining the pork began.
Mark Rosenstein and friends did the unbelievable job of de-boning not only 20 chickens but the entire pig. He created a stuffing of beef and bacon for the chickens and bound each carcass with twine, except for the 6 that were destined as stuffing for the pig. This is called “Porchetta,” an Italian tradition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porchetta). Friday evening we stuffed the birds into the pig, corded the pig from head to tail, and readied it for the spit later that evening. Many stayed up that night to turn the spit and talk about what Terra Madre (http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/programs/details/bringing_terra_mad... ) had provided for them when they were in Italy.
Saturday morning found several of us in an old apple orchard that is part of Kanati Lodge (http://mountaininternetsolutions.com/KanatiLodge/ ), a wonderful B&B just below the rim of Max Patch (http://hikingthecarolinas.com/max_patch.php ). We quickly backed the truck under the apple trees and tried our best to shake apples into the bed. After about two hours, we had enough for over 30 gallons of fresh apple juice, for purchase and serving with the dinner.
Where are we going to park all of the people? I repeated this many times, as so many Slow Food supporters descended on us that afternoon. With over 150 paid guests and forty-plus volunteers, with musicians playing on the patio, with the serving tent stocked and staffed, the pig was then placed on the 6’ foot cutting board and the feast began. The servings were in several stagings, with breads and salads, special vegetable servings, then the Porchetta, and finally desserts.
Animated conversations, old and new friendships kindled, kids squeezing cider, calls for last bids at the silent auction, the evening sunset reflected the smiles and euphoria of a true farm-to-table-to-family-and-friends gathering. Best of all, we raised enough money to make sure everyone had passage to Terra Madre. I am anxious for their return, to hear their stories and to experience, for years to come, new culinary ideals, methods and products that will be inspired by their meeting the 5,000 Terra Madre delegates from over 150 countries. In two years, we will do this again and continue to nourish new food traditions for WNC.
French Broad Chocolate Lounge (http://frenchbroadchocolates.com/)
Roots Café and Catering (http://rootsfood.com/)
Laurey’s Catering and Gourmet To Go (www.laureysyum.com)
Jack of the Wood Celtic Pub (www.jackofthewood.com)
Early Girl Eatery (www.earlygirleatery.com)
Rosetta’s Kitchen (www.rosettaskitchen.com)
Curras Nuevo Cuisine (www.currasasheville.com)
Mountain Magnolia Inn and Restaurant (http://www.mountainmagnoliainn.com/)
Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian (www.vinniesitalian.com)
Ultimate Ice Cream Company
Biltmore Wine Company (www.biltmore.com/our_wine)
Flying Cloud Farm (www.flyingcloudfarm.net/)
Three Graces Diary (www.3gracesdairy.com)
Annie’s Naturally Bakery (www.anniesnaturallybakery.com)
Sunny Point Café (www.sunnypointcafe.com)
West End Bakery & Café (www.westendbakery.com)
Farm and Sparrow (farmandsparrow.com/)
Mountain Harvest Organics (www.mountainharvestorganic.com)
BEe Healing Apiary (http://beehealing.org/)