Monday, April 30, 2012

A Feast for the Senses

Have you heard of Feastly? No? You will.

Don't worry, I am obsessed with all things local food and I only learned of the underground supper club myself a month ago from my friend Grace, who is buddies with the founder. I was intrigued, soon after to be talked by Grace into hosting a Feastly dinner within a few weeks. Well, it took a little convincing, as I hardly have the capacity (or silverware) to host a proper dinner for folks other than a handful of friends or family at my tiny apartment. Certainly not anyone paying for a meal. After a talk with my friend and fellow foodie, Carina, we decided to co-host a dinner. But since her living situation also presented some large-dinner-party-hosting challenges, and because we wanted to include an educational component to the meal -- Carina is also a food educator, heading up the second year program over at Brainfood -- we decided to hold it at our favorite urban farm in town. It happened this Saturday, and it was great. A little cold. A little damp. More than a little exhausting. But great.

Since it's springtime, we decided to focus on spring herbs. Hence the menu:
  • Deviled quail eggs with tarragon, garnished with micro mustard greens, pickled asparagus and turnips
  • Cucumber almond soup with dill (truly a bike-powered feast... you'll see)
  • Fresh bread with homemade herb butter (nice mashing, dinner guests!)
  • Risotto with asparagus, shiitakes, and crumbled sage
  • Mixed greens with strawberries and fresh herb vinaigrette (not too shabby on the mixing, dining friends!)
  • Spring carbonara with spicy greens and duck confit
  • Honey lavender icecream and ginger spice cookie sandwiches (hands down the crowd favorite)
  • Handmade dark chocolate truffles with lavender, cardamom, and orange zest (yes, dessert #2)
Since it's springtime, our first date got rained out. The original dinner was slated for right smack in the middle of a rash of thunderstorms. (How the heck was I going to keep Ryan from eating the two dozen meticulously crafted lavender ice cream sandwiches in my freezer? And what was I supposed to do with 10 pounds of cucumbers?? These are the struggles I deal with. I made a lot of pickles and made Ryan promise to keep away from the ice cream while I was asleep.)

Dinner guests gathered at Walker Jones Farm at 6pm this past Saturday evening for the rescheduled feast. It was chilly. It was overcast. And in fact it rained not once but two separate times over the course of the 3-hour dinner. (Really, weather gods??) But our guests (and our helpers) persevered long enough to make it to the truffle course. That's my kind of spunk.

The gathering kicked off with some rhubarb and orange spritzers -- alas, no booze to keep us warm at this DCPS site -- and an overview of the history and purpose of the farm by Farmer Sarah herself:

After the appetizer course, guests went on a tour of the farm and snipped herbs that they would later mince for the salad dressing and herb butter.... The adventurous dinner guests were good sports. They worked in teams to make their own dressing out of the ingredients I handed out: lemon juice (squeezed by two guests who opted out of the herb harvesting due to poor choice of farm footwear), spicy mustard, creme fraiche (because we needed an emulsifier and wouldn't you know it I left the quart-sized bottle of olive oil on my kitchen countertop), salt, black pepper, and a mix of just-harvested herbs. Yep, here I am blathering on about my homemade mustard:

They marveled as Ryan churned up the cucumber almond soup on the bike blender. They laughed as they smooshed herbs into a bowl of butter, then decided to put the butter dish atop a cluster of candles to warm it enough to slather it on the bread. And, in some cases, they came back for seconds (and in one case, thirds) of risotto and carbonara.

The food was great. Our guests were great. I think we may have covered the cost of ingredients (or at least come close) for this labor of love of food. All in all, the dinner was a success, though one that would not have been possible without the help of two of my favorite people:

Jeff -- photographer extraordinaire, who managed to capture the beautiful meal in spite of low lighting and finicky camera settings, and may have saved me from a nervous breakdown about three times earlier in the day

And Ryan -- fearless sous chef, who almost lost a few fingers to frostbite while washing cucumbers in icy water, who humored me by wearing the chef's hat bike helmet while blending our soup course -- safety first! -- and tirelessly supported me through the whole evening.

Thank you. I owe you an ice cream sandwich.


  1. what a fabulous idea! Mind if I "steal" liberally from you so I can host my own similar event? As a Bicycle-Chef, this event project has my name all over it! Thanks for the beautiful inspiration and photos!

  2. Yep, I'd encourage interested chefs and home cooks to look into Feastly. My one piece of advice: keep it simple. Try not to be too ambitious for your first meal. (A second piece of advice might be: hold your dinner indoors, where the weather is more predictable. *sigh*) Good luck! :)


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